Value Shopping at the Sunland Derby

Sunland Derby Winner Will Qualify for Kentucky Derby

The road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Sunday, March 26 with the $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park, a 1 1/8-mile race in New Mexico that offers 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner. This race is worth watching, as some of the horses may run in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20.

The race has an abundance of speed from the 12 horses entered, and Sunland Park has a tendency to favor front-runners and speed horses. Trainer Bob Baffert, winner of three of the last four editions of this race, saddles one of the favorites in #3 Bronze Age, who has showed tremendous early speed in his first two races before tiring. He stretched out well when going a mile in modest fractions, and now has to carry his speed an additional eighth of a mile against more front-running pressing challengers. .

Shopping for value and betting #10 Balandeen (10-1) should be worth a wager. Balandeen showed significant potential as a 2-year-old, winning a couple of races at Del Mar and Churchill Downs before finishing second behind Kentucky Derby favorite McCraken in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes. He appeared a bit off in form, but Balandeen, like many others, didn’t take to the Delta Downs surface in the Nov. 19 Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).

Balandeen was freshened, and the second race was the March 4 Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which marked Balandeen’s first race in 3 ½ months. While he could only finish third, the race was clearly a prep for bigger races down the road, and Balandeen even received special permission to continue running past the finish line, essentially turning the race into a “paid workout.”

Now, Balandeen is making his second start off the layoff, and his pedigree suggests that he’ll have no trouble with the distance of the Sunland Derby — his sire (father) is Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini and his dam (mother) is Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes winner Mamma Kimbo. Balandeen is likely sitting on a big effort, and at 10-1 on the morning line, I think he’s worth playing on top and underneath in exotic wagers as well. .

Here’s a thought on how to bet the Sunland Derby for a decent score:

Wagering Strategy on a $32 Budget

$8 to win-place on #10 Balandeen ($16)

$2 exacta: 3,10 with 2,3,10 ($8)

$2 exacta: 3,10 with 4 ($4)

$1 exacta: 3,10 with 11 ($2)

$1 exacta 10 with 3, 12 ($2)

For a larger bankroll, wager a bit more on #10 Balandeen across the board and tie in with these horses in exacta on top and bottom with #10 Balandeen, and in trifeca’s and superfecta (1,2,3,4,5,12)


Fair Grounds Picks and Preview – Keith Gee Memorial

Zinger Could Zoom at a Price in Keith Gee Memorial

The 2ND running of the Keith Gee Memorial Overnight Stakes is set for Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Fair Grounds Race Course. A field of 9 is lined up for the nearly 1 mile race on the turf with a $50,000 purse. This is a race that many will overlook this weekend as there is an abundant of Kentucky Derby prep races carded from coast to coast.

We are very bullish on I’m A Chatterboxes little brother Zinger.  He’s a homebred from the Gray’s and has given very good account of himself at the current Fair Grounds meet. He’s regally bred for the turf and we like that Cowboy Larry Jones has elected to keep him over the weeds for now instead putting the son of The Factor over the main and trying to get him on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Zinger (10/1) is two heads away from being on a 3 race win streak. The only race in his 4 career starts that he hasn’t been on the wire was his debut race at Keeneland and he lost all chance in that race as he was steadied after being stuck down inside as the speed started to back up on him down the lane. He’s facing by far the toughest competition to date but the 10/1 morning line is very enticing on a newcomer that we feel has stakes quality to him. It always pays very handsomely to be one of the first on the bandwagon before everyone jumps aboard once he reels off two or three stakes victory in a row. This field is laden with speed runners and that is a big advantage to Zingers running style. We see Gabe Saez taking a very good hold of Zinger in the early stages of the race and when they turn for home we really feel he’ll be charging down the lane to the winners circle.

We feel that the only other runners that will hamper Zinger to the finish line are Cool Arrow (3/1) and Cowboy Culture (4/1). Cool Arrow is the morning line favorite from the Joe Sharp barn and he’s making his 1st start over the turf and will be hampered with all the other speed lined up against him in this nearly 1 mile race. He’ll be on the lead if he handles the turf, and Cool Arrow has six races under his belt with 3 wins at Laurel Park an Remington Park.  Cowboy Culture is 2-for-2 and the Quality Road colt is from the barn of meet leading trainer Brad Cox. He chased down the leaders at about a mile on the turf last out as the 3/5 favorite and leading jockey Florent Geroux will get plenty of betting action at the windows prior to the gates opening for race 5.

Other contenders running in the Keith Gee Memorial include Girvin (9/2), who won his only race to break his maiden at 6 furlongs at the Fair Grounds, Hot Dad (5/1) and Holly Field (6/1), who could also benefit from a fast pace as a closer. But a value opportunity to zoom home with Zinger in the lone stakes race at the Fair Grounds Saturday.

The Keith Gee Memorial is race 5 on Saturday, Feb. 4 at The Fair Grounds Race Course with an estimated post time of 3:13 p.m. local CST.

Kenny Schmitt contributed to this article. Follow him on Twitter @FBWinners. 

Smarty Jones Preview: Uncontested Has Unrelenting Speed

Uncontested Will Wire Monday’s Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn

The Smarty Jones Stakes is set for Monday at Oaklawn Park, and the MLK holiday race has drawn a field of 8 for $150,000 purse. Uncontested is the 2-1 favorite and looks uncatchable, while the top 2 challengers on the morning line break from the inside with Petrov (5/2) on the rail and Warriors Club (7/2) on his outside. Rowdy the Warrior (6/1) and Unbridled Eagle (8/1) are additional challengers who will need a fast pace to have any chance to catch the favorite.

Uncontested is the favorite in the Smarty Jones Stakes

The 10th running of the Smarty Jones is a 1 mile prep race for the Arkansas Derby April 15 at Oaklawn, with winners expected to move on to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Uncontested is one of three runners from the Nov. 26 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), and he led that race through a blistering quarter and into the far turn before fading to fourth. He broke from the far outside post that day, and jockey Channing Hill should be able to ration his speed and energy better out front this time. Uncontested possesses a great deal of natural speed, and will be the one to catch again. Warriors Club chased the early pace and finished a head in front of Uncontested in the Kentucky Jockey Club, while Romeo O Romeo (12-1 finished last in the 12 horse field.

Petrov comes out of the weaker 3-year-old sprint division in New York. Like the favorite Uncontested, Petrov is 1-for-2 and now stretches out. He did work a strong 4 furlongs Jan. 11 at Oaklawn breezing in 48.20 which was fourth fastest of 121 runners that day.

Warriors Club is a D. Wayne Lukas trainee who has made 7 starts with a 1-1-3 record. He’s continued to improve and showed more in his first stakes try in the Kentucky Jockey Club. He won a minor stakes at Churchill to break his maiden, and the horse he beat was well regarded Cool Arrow, who came back to win while beating Rowdy the Warrior and Cu Rahy, who is in here at 15-1. That race was very slow, and Rowdy the Warrior would benefit from a very fast pace.

Unfortunately for all challengers, Uncontested is not likely to give up the lead in this race. He looks primed to carry out his speed and utilize Oaklawn’s short stretch in this 1-mile race. Jockey Channing Hill should be able to ration out his speed and carry it through to the finish with expected improvement.

The Smarty Jones Stakes is Race 8 at Oaklawn Park on Monday, Jan. 16. The 1 mile race is set for post at 4:38 pm ET.

Anchor Down has Smoking Speed in Cigar Mile at Aqueduct

Anchor Down Tries to Speed Ahead of Connect, Economic Model and Divining Rod in Cigar Mile

Anchor Down is the speed of the speed as the favorite in Saturday’s $500,000 Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct. But the gorgeous gray son of Tapit will be challenged by Connect (5-2) and another Tapit colt, Divining Rod (8-1). Trainer Todd Pletcher saved Anchor Down for this race instead of running in the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Mile. Anchor Down beat Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tamarkuz in his last race, the Kelso Handicap Oct. 8 at Belmont, going wire-to-wire and just missing the track record with his 1:32.90 time.

Anchor Down
Anchor Down

“He’s got good tactical speed and it seems like he’s proven that a one-turn mile is his favorite trip,” Pletcher said. “Anytime you can run a solid 1:33 mile, you’re in rarefied territory,” Pletcher said.

Connect (5-2) is a very strong challenger for trainer Chad Brown, and has something to prove facing older horses in stakes company for the first time. He’ll try to chase after Anchor Down, but the Curlin colt showed his speed against this year’s top 3-year olds when he won the $1.25 million Pennsylvania Derby last time out September 24. His strong rail rally around the turn saw him sail past Cupid and favorite Nyquist and he outkicked Gun Runner in the stretch to win over a top-heavy field that also included Preakness winner Exaggerator.

Connect cuts back her from that 1 1/8 mile win and shoots for his 5th win in six starts this year for trainer Chad Brown.

“He’s fine to cut back,” Brown said. “He won on Belmont Day in a (1 1/16 mile) allowance race going one turn and he looked good doing it, so I don’t think the move to one turn will bother him.”

Brown will also saddle Economic Model and Threefiveindia, both 6-1 and contenders. Economic Model was 2nd behind Breeders’ Cup Spring winner Drefong in the Kings Bishop Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in August. He could benefit from the speed up front and showed a solid closing kick passing horses in the stretch in the Kings Bishop.

But a horse with value that will get overlooked a big in the field of 10 is Divining Rod (8-1), another Tapit Colt. Divining Rod chased Noble Bird around in the Fayette last out when Noble Bird set a track record at Keeneland going 1 1/8 miles. Divining Rod adds blinkers for trainer Arnaud Delacour, a strong conditioner who switches back to the jockey Daniel Centeno, who won both races aboard Divining Rod at Parx in September. Divining Rod also finished third to American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness., and should be in your exotics as a solid speed horse in good form. He’s finished in the money in 11 of 12 starts and is 2-1-0 in three starts this year.

Cigar Mile H. (gr. I)

Aqueduct Racetrack, Saturday, November 26, 2016, Race 10 (4:20 ET)



PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1

Anchor Down (KY)

Jose L. Ortiz 121 Todd A. Pletcher 2/1
2 2

Economic Model (KY)

Joel Rosario 116 Chad C. Brown 6/1
3 3

Realm (VA)

Paco Lopez 114 Barclay Tagg 20/1
4 4

Mylute (KY)

Eric Cancel 114 Ralph E. Nicks 30/1
5 5

Ocean Knight (KY)

John R. Velazquez 119 Kiaran P. McLaughlin 10/1
6 6

Tale of S’avall (KY)

Manuel Franco 114 Barclay Tagg 20/1
7 7

Connect (KY)

Javier Castellano 118 Chad C. Brown 5/2
8 8

War Story (KY)

Antonio A. Gallardo 116 Mario Serey, Jr. 50/1
9 9

Threefiveindia (KY)

Irad Ortiz, Jr. 116 Chad C. Brown 6/1
10 10

Divining Rod (KY)

Daniel Centeno 119 Arnaud Delacour 8/1


Stonetastic Takes Pumpkin Pie Stakes

Heavy Favorite Stonetastic Wires the Field in the Pumpkin Pie at Belmont

Stonetastic went wire-to-wire Sunday to win the $100,000 Pumpkin Pie Stakes at Belmont. The heavy 1-2 favorite showed the way in the six furlong sprint with fast fractions of 22.04 and 45.03 for the half mile, and then edge away and added to the margin to finish in a hand ride in 109.51.

Ridden by jockey Paco Lopez, the gorgeous gray 5-year-old mare by Mizzen Mast won for the eighth time and picked up $60,000 to increase her earnings to $876,062 in 21 starts. Stonetastic paid $3.10 to win and finished nearly 3-lengths in front of Saharan, who was second by a neck over Disco Chick.

Stonetastic, a multiple Grade 2 winner owned by Stoneway Farm, has finished first of second in seven of her last eight races. She is due to be bred next year.

“Now it’s a matter of trying to figure out if we race her one more time or not,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “We wanted her to go out a winner and now we’ll talk it over and see what we want to do.”

If Stonetastic races again, it could be in either the $125,000 Garland of Roses at Aqueduct on Dec. 10 or the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 17, according to Breen.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Breen said. “It’s getting to the end of a career of a really nice, talented filly. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Belmont’s 38-day Fall Meet concluded Sunday. The Pumpkin Pie Stakes and $100,000 Chelsey Flower for 2-year-old fillies on the turf were the final two stakes races of the meet. British-bred Create a Dream was the favorite in the Chelsey Flower and picked up her first North American stakes win in her second stateside start for trainer Chad Brown.

Shadwell Turf Mile Betting Preview

$1 Million Shadwell Turf Mile Highlights 5 Saturday Stakes at Keeneland

Last year’s winner, Grand Arch, will seek a repeat against 10 rivals in Saturday’s $1 million Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, a “Win and You’re In” offering for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile.

shadwell-turf-mileGrand Arch is 10-1 on the morning line, and the 7-year-old gelding is in tough here. A pair of 3rd place finishes since May including last time out in the
FourstarDave Handicap (G1) behind winner Tourist (3-1) shows he must improve to make the money. Tourist faces more familiar rivals but is a tough Tiznow cold who has three in the money finishes in Grade 1 races since April including the victory in the Fourstardave. He’ll be running near the lead while Miss Temple City (8-1) tries to come from off the pace while battling the boys. She romped in the Maker’s Mile but will need a very fast pace to get a piece. She passed on the First Lady Stakes where Tepin is expected to win as the heavy 2-5 favorite. Miss Temple City has a win and two seconds in three starts at Keeneland, where she posted her career-best Equibase and Beyer Speed Figures in the Maker’s 46 Mile.

keeneland-pick-5Ironicus (4-1) can certainly win this and is one to include in your exotics. The 5-year-old from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey is consistent and honest making him a worthy inclusion. He’s won six of 13 career starts and finished in the top two in each of his last nine races. In those nine races, he won or finished within a half-length of the leader eight times. Ironicus prefers to come from off the pace, which works very well as a tactic on the Keeneland turf, and his trainer and jockey (Jose Ortiz) have won at a 23 percent clip on the year when joining forces. Ironicus has been a favorite in four of his last five starts, and offers a nice payoff in a most competitive Turf Mile.

Other worthy contenders include Arlington Million winner Mondialiste (IRE) at 6-1, Ring Weekend (5-1) and What a View (6-1), who faces his toughest challenge and field from the far outside. Tower of Texas (20-1) is a longshot but was second to Tepin in the Woodbine Mile.

Here is Saturday’s stakes schedule at Keeneland, all part of the Pick 4 and Pick 5 betting action on a big day of racing at Keeneland. The Shadwell Turf Mile is the last stakes race and has an accomplished list of runners with a handful suggested as part of the Pick 5.

Race 5 – Woodford Stakes (G3). 5 ½ furlongs, Turf. 3-year-olds and up. Purse $150,000

Race 6 – Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2). 6 furlongs, Fillies and Mares 3-year-olds and up. Purse $250,000

Race 7 – First Lady Stakes (G1). 1 mile, Turf. Fillies and Mares 3-year-old and up. Purse $400,000

Race 8 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1). 1 1/16 miles, 2-year-olds. Purse $500,000

Race 9 – Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). 1 mile, Turf. 3-year-olds and up. Purse $1,000,000

Post time for Race 1 at Keeneland on Saturday, Oct. 8 is 1:05 p.m. ET, with Race 9 Shadwell Turf Mile scheduled for 5:45 p.m. ET

Deeply Undervalued is Best in Commonwealth Derby

Deeply Undervalued and Commonwealth Derby Day Payoff at Laurel Park

Saturday’s Commonwealth Day at was a big success at Laurel Park. And the featured race saw Deeply Undervalued take the outside path down the lane and rally from eight lengths back to win the $200,000 Commonwealth Derby (G2) by a length. Isoterm was second in blanket finish, a head in front of He’ll Pay, who was a nose better than the 7/5 favorite, American Patriot in fourth. Revved, the co-second choice finished fifth.

Deeply Undervalued, off at 6-1, is a Kitten’s Joy colt. She ran 9 furlongs on the firm turf in 1:46.63 for jockey Manny Franco. Making improvement through six starts, Deeply Undervalued made a big jump in class for Saturday’s Derby and delivered a top effort.

“It was a nice win,” said winning trainer Chad Brown. “I’m really proud of Manny and the way he rode this horse. We’ve been really high on this horse and it’s nice to win this following up his summer campaign. He got a great trip and a patient ride.”

Deeply Undervalued settled into eighth place, behind fractions of :23.58, :47.69, and 1:11.94 through six furlongs set by Franklin Towers. After a three-wide move in the final turn, however, the colt found room on the outside and surged by the frontrunners.

“I just let him be comfortable after he stumbled a little bit,” Manuel said of the trip. “I tried to be covered up, but when it was time to move, I took him to the outside and he made a big run.”

The winner paid $15.40, $7.60, and $4.80 across the board. Isotherm brought $5 and $4.20, and He’ll Pay delivered $8 to show.

Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Deeply Undervalued now has a 2-3-0 record from six starts with $213,132 in earnings.

Earlier in the card, Stuart Janney’s homebred My Impression put together one of the more impressive performances of the day with a 3 1/4-length victory in the $150,000 Commonwealth Oaks (G3).

Late-blooming 5-year-old Blacktype (FR) won his third race in a row and second straight graded stakes when he turned in a record-setting performance to beat longshot Top of Mine and favored Force the Pass by a half-length Saturday at Laurel Park in the Grade 2, $200,000 Commonwealth Turf Cup. Blacktype (7/2) rallied along the rail in the 1 mile race and hit the wire in 1:33.43 to break the 10-year old record by nearly one full second.

Bad Beat for Bettors as Fallen Leaf Rears Up at Wire

Cruising to Victory, Fallen Leaf Pulls up at Finish to Cost Bettors at Gulfstream

Saturday’s 11th race at Gulfstream looked like a first for Fallen Leaf, as the maiden was heading home to an easy win and her first victory in three tries. But a strange thing happened as she cruised to the finish with better than a 5-length lead.

The 5 ½ furlong maiden special weight race started well for Fallen Leaf, as the 2-year-old filly raced out and quickly took command. Off at odds of 7-1, it had been noted that Fallen Leaf has had trouble keeping herself together and has been prone to bad behavior and antics. As she moved around the far turn in front, the track announcer said “Fallen Leaf, minding her manners, has the lead by a length and a half.”

From there Fallen Leaf opened up on the field and took command to continue well clear in the final furlong. But as she moved towards the finish well in front, the tracked announcer called out “Fallen Leaf is sharp in victory. No antics of any kind.”

Then a very strange thing happened.

Watch and listen. If you bet on Fallen Leaf, you’re probably still in shock and telling your friends of the ‘bad beat’.

Fallen Leaf ducked sharply into the rail and reared up at the wire, tossing her rider Matthew Rispoli. She would be awarded a last place finish.

Few losses in horse racing can be as shocking, or frustrating. For the record, the race favorite Philly Mignon (5/2) won the race.