Archives for August 2017

Great Horse Racing Videos – Songbird

The star Songbird has been retired, effective August 31, 2017.  Here is one of her many spectacular performances, a replay of the 2016 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita in 2017.

Hollywood’s Seminole Hard Rock Rake in Over Half a Billion Dollars

racino slots machineSouth Florida racetrack casino owners merely shake their head when they asked how they can “compete” with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, and my recent calculations explain why. It’s because the Seminole Hard Rock’s haul for the past fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, totaled more than $579 million. That’s more than… [Read more…]

Apprentice Jock Caroline Quast Gaining a Reputation for Longshot Winners

Three jumps from the wire in Friday’s first race, jockey Caroline Quast looked like she had her third victory out of five mounts at Ellis Park. She wound up third, losing by less than three-quarters of a length. But what the heck? The Oklahoma-bred OU Make Me Happy was 45-1 and by far the longest shot in the field.

Source: Apprentice Quast Gaining A Reputation For Longshot Winners At Ellis

Is Horse Racing Dead? Saratoga, Timonium Report Big Gains

Saturday’s all-star Travers card at Saratoga saw a near-record figure in terms of all-sources handle, second only to 2015 when Triple Crown winner American Pharoah appeared. This year’s handle rang in at $47,870,984, a five-percent increase over 2016 but less than the $49,668,754 wagered in 2015.

On-track attendance was announced at 47,725, a 1.9 percent decrease from 2016. On-track handle of $10,862,094 was one percent higher than last year.

2017 Travers Day
August 26, 2017
  • All-sources: $47,870,987
  • On-track: $10,862,095
  • Betting interests: 108
2016 Travers Day
August 27, 2016
  • All-sources: $45,596,367
  • On-track: $10,778,993
  • Betting interests: 124

Down at the short race meeting at the Maryland State Fair at Timonium, there were also some great financial results.  Timonium opened with strong results Friday and continued on to a record-setting day Saturday, August 26. Handle (wagering dollars) on opening day of the fair was up 56%.

“We had a great day and handled over $1 million, which I was told is a record for this fair meet,” said Bill Reightler, coordinator of racing operations. “On behalf of our board at the Maryland State Fair, we want to thank the sponsors of the Coalition Stakes–the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, and Fasig-Tipton, Inc. Of course, a huge thank you goes to the connections all the stakes entrants, and all the trainers and owners that are participating at this race meeting, giving us full fields in all our races. It’s a fun place to race.”


FOX Sports Horse Racing TV Coverage Expanded

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced this week a three-year extension of the groundbreaking television programming deal with FOX Sports to broadcast NYRA’s flagship TV program Saratoga Live on FS2. With this announcement, live daily coverage of racing from Saratoga Race Course will be available to a national television audience through 2020.

“There’s no place like Saratoga and FOX Sports is delighted to be headed back to the Spa for three more summers,” said Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports Executive Vice President, Research, League Operations and Strategy. “We are very excited to extend and expand our partnership with NYRA, which provides high-quality live programming for FS2, and gives our fans access to insightful and entertaining daily coverage of the best race meet in North America.”

Saratoga canopy walk through“Partnering with FOX Sports has enabled NYRA to present the best race meet to horse racing and sports fans on a live and consistent basis,” said Tony Allevato, NYRA Bets President and Executive Producer of NYRA TV. “This extension ensures that people across the country will continue to be able to watch world-class thoroughbred racing on FS2.”

NYRA launched the critically-acclaimed Saratoga Live during the 2016 summer meet at Saratoga, which included 80 hours of live coverage. This year, FOX Sports expanded the schedule to include Saturdays from Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack, bringing the total amount of live coverage on FS2 to more than 100 hours.

In 2017, NYRA added new markets in California and Ohio via agreements with several Regional Sports Networks including FOX Sports Prime Ticket, FOX Sports San Diego, and FOX Sports Ohio.

Including all regional networks, Saratoga Live presented by Claiborne Farm and stallion Runhappy, now reaches more than 75 million homes. Saratoga Live airs at 4 p.m. on most live racing days.

This Saturday, Travers Day at Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Live will air on FS2 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will include the 68thrunning of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, featuring champion filly Songbird who has amassed a stellar record of 13 wins and one second-place finish in 14 starts.

AGOS Horses to Watch – Aug. 27, 2017

Horses to Watch for AGOS ( visitors

Belterra Park


Race #1 – Claiming – 5f on the main – #8 – Scotch is My Candy

#8 – Scotch is My Candy = Carson Sullivan in the irons for John Alexander Ortiz (22%). This daughter of Sidney’s candy was shipping in from Indiana Grand. She was taking a huge plunge in class and the barn is 9/9 ITM at the meet. She was off slow at the start and was forced to rush up quickly making a strong bid this day. The barn is solid and she’ll get it together next out.

Race #6 – O.C. $25,000 – 1 mile on the turf – #9 – In the Shoes

#9 – In the Shoes = Very solid gal coming off a win at BtP, and trainer Donna Taylor is winning (30%) at the meet. This daughter of Congrats ran into a little trouble during the race and was forced to check twice into the far turn and fanned six wide. After all the activity, rider Dick Cardenas got her rolling late and made a powerful late bid to be a bridesmaid this day. A little bit of racing luck and she’ll be getting a trip to the winner’s circle.





Race #5 – Mdn Sp Wt – 6f – #6 – Variant Perception

#6 – Variant Perception = This was a 1st-time starter by Curlin for the Chad Brown barn. His dam Mystery Trip has 5 winners from 5 starters and came in off some good works. – He broke in the air prior to the start and brushed leaving the starting gate.  Brown will have him ready for the races next up and wins at a solid clip 2nd trip out.

Race #6 – Alw $85,000 – 1 1/8 on the main – #5 – Hookup

#5 – Hookup = Manny Franco in the saddle and this son of Union Rags has been away from the races for 8 months. – He was knocked around the start and was taken out of stride. After being forced into another, Franco picked up the action and made a solid bid finishing up to be third this day.

Race #9 – G1 Alabama Stakes – 1 1/4 on the main – #1 – New Money Honey

#1 – New Money Honey = This was her first time on the dirt and has been a turf monster. She was looking three-in-a-row and her 3rd off the shelf. – Javier Castellano in the irons and Chad Brown the conditioner (33%). She was in tracking mode and forced to steady and tap on the breaks at the 1/4 pole weakening down the lane.



Race #5 – Mdn Sp Wt – 1 1/16 on the turf – #5 – Lemoona

#5 – Lemoona = Two-yr-old filly by Lemon Drop Kid, and she has the breeding that suggests she’ll relish the turf. – She was sandwiched and slammed leaving the starting gate. Junior Alvarado did a great job-saving ground and was forced to sweep 5 wide at the 1/4 pole making a late bid for 2nd money.

Race  #9 – $100,000 Summer Colony – 1 1/8 on the main – #4 – Romantic Vision

#4 – Romantic Vision = Javier Castellano in the saddle for Rusty Arnold. She’s been away from the races for 60 days since Churchill Downs and had a couple of works over the deep Oklahoma training track. This was not her day at all as she stumbled badly at the start, took up and bumped. After all this action she never regained her momentum and called it a day. Look for her to return at this level of the upper stratosphere of the allowance ranks.


Tournament Veteran Lam Captures Laurel Champions Handicapping Tournament

Press Release

Phillip Lam of Fresh Meadow, N.Y. finished with a bankroll balance of $4,359.70 to capture the fall session of the Maryland Jockey Club’s Champions Handicapping Tournament held Saturday at Laurel Park.

Lam earned $3,030 in prize money ended with a comfortable margin over runner-up Gwyn Houston of Fallston, Md., who ended the day with a bankroll balance of $3,106.80 and took home $2,020 in prize money.

The tournament was open to players for $300, which covered a $100 entry fee and $200 bankroll. In addition to prize money, the top four finishers qualified for automatic berths to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) or The BIG ONE.

A total of 201 entries were accepted from 139 players for the tournament, held for the first year in Laurel’s newly refurbished second-floor sports bar. There were no mandatory races during the contest but a $20 minimum wager on races from Laurel, Gulfstream Park, Saratoga Race Course, Monmouth Park and Woodbine.

Given his choice of four tournament berths, Lam selected the BCBC to be held Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar while Houston selected a berth in The BIG ONE Sept. 23-24 at Laurel Park.

Third place went to Michael Webb of Westminster, Md., who finished with a balance of $2,395.40 and earned $1,010 and an NHC berth. Jason Jubb of Pasadena, Md. was fourth with a balance of $2,248 and earned $606.

Since Jubb is not a member of the NHC Tour, fifth-place finisher Joseph McKay of Gaithersburg, Md. earned the final NHC berth. He ended with a balance of $1,594.50 and prize money of $606.

Rounding out the top 10 finishers were David Hertz with a tournament balance of $1,450, Roger Kurrus ($1,358), Barry Howard ($1,192), David Stone ($1,089.50) and Jeffrey Harryman ($1,000). Each player earned $606 in prize money.

The spring session of the MJC Champions Handicapping Tournament was won by Thomas Camann of Providence, R.I., who chose a berth in the BCBC. Other winners from the spring tournament were Frederick Cipriano (BIG ONE), Hewett Andrews (NHC) and Steven Scalco (NHC).

Nilsen’s Travers 2017 Recap

6 Winners on TOP from the 13 races, including:

Two out of Three spot plays, both with winning exactas

$8.60 Hazit with $15.60 exacta (spot play)

$19.20 Profiteer

$6.00 Practical Joke

$4.30 Defrong with $43.60 exacta (spot play)

$3.20 Lady Eli

$15.60 Mohican with cold $56 exacta to close out the card.

Congratulations to the connections of West Coast on an impressive score in the 148th Travers Stakes.

First Time in 35 Years this is Happening in the Travers Stakes

Source: NYRA

Attracting all three winners of the year’s Triple Crown races for the first time since 1982, and only the second time in the Mid-Summer Derby’s storied tradition, Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming, Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing, and Belmont Stakes hero Tapwrit will step into the starting gate in the 148th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Despite their lofty resumes, recent losses and an 11-week layoff for the Triple Crown winners have laid this year’s sophomore division wide open, leaving the Classic winners to overcome not only a full field of 12 but a less than favorable history of Travers matchups, as well.

walking horse through Saratoga crowdThe last time three individual winners of the Triple Crown races faced each other, Gato Del Sol, Aloma’s Ruler, and 2-5 favorite Conquistador Cielo, the respective winners of the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, lined up in the 1982 Travers to contend for the title of top 3-year-old, only to have their dreams of supremacy dashed by a last-to-first surge by the Ontario-bred Runaway Groom.

The 1918 class didn’t fare much better against each other in that summer’s hotly contested Travers when Sun Briar, the reigning 2-year-old champion, handed defeat to Belmont winner Johren, Preakness winner War Cloud, and stablemate Exterminator, the upset winner of that year’s Derby.

On Saturday, though, this year’s Triple Crown race winners will try to write a new, and hopefully more fruitful, chapter in Saratoga history, led by Tapwrit, installed as the tepid 7-2 favorite for his ownership group comprised of Robert LaPenta, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Bridlewood Farm, Whisper Hill Farm, and Gainesway Farm.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gray colt by Tapit will be making his first start since the Belmont, where he raced near the pace and dug in to post a two-length victory over the pacesetting Irish War Cry in the 12-furlong ‘Test of the Champion’ on June 10.

Prior to the Belmont, Tapwrit was second in his season opener to McCraken in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis in February before notching a 4 ¼-length score in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby one month later. He was firmly established on the Kentucky Derby trail as the 2-1 second choice in the Blue Grass in April when he finished fifth behind the 31-1 upset winner Irap.

“Everyone was in agreement that the Travers was the race for him,” said Pletcher, who won the Travers in 2005 with Flower Alley and in 2011 with Stay Thirsty.” We felt like if we ran in either the Jim Dandy or the Haskell, we’d leave a little something on the table that we wanted to save for the Travers. I think he’s been training exceptionally well and has put in some good breezes and I feel good that we have him fit enough and fresh enough to fire his ‘A’ race.

Pletcher will also saddle Always Dreaming, owned by MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, St. Elias, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds, and looking to rebound from a pair of losses since his 2 ¾-length Kentucky Derby victory.

The Derby was the fourth straight win for the speedy Bodemeister colt, who also won the Grade 1 Florida Derby by five lengths in his stakes debut, but two weeks after he was draped with the blanket of roses, Always Dreaming faltered in his attempt to sweep the Triple Crown, dueling for the lead through the opening stages in the Preakness, before packing it in at the top of the stretch to finish eighth. He returned two months later in a rematch with Cloud Computing in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 29 where, sent off as the narrow even-money favorite, he led early over the Preakness winner before giving way late to finish third behind Good Samaritan.

“We’ve done a better job with him coming into this race,” Pletcher said of Always Dreaming. “Honestly, I think we left him probably a little bit short for the Jim Dandy. I wasn’t anticipating quite as demanding of a racetrack that it turned out to be at that time. We put four works in between the Preakness and the Jim Dandy, so I think that race hopefully brings him forward, plus [he’s had] two good works since then.”

Tapwrit will be ridden by his regular jockey Jose Ortiz from post 4. Always Dreaming, 6-1 on the morning line, will have the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who has been aboard the dark bay colt for all six of his starts in 2017; the pair will break from post 7.

Like Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing is looking for redemption after a poor showing in the Jim Dandy, where he finished a dull fifth.

Breaking his maiden at 3, Cloud Computing won at first asking in his February 11 debut and proved competitive in a pair of Derby preps in New York, finishing second in the Grade 3 Gotham in March and third in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 8. The graded stakes placings earned the lightly raced son of Maclean’s Music enough points to make the Derby cut, but the colt’s connections opted to bypass the First Saturday in May, preferring instead to target the middle leg of the Triple Crown.

In the Preakness, the Chad Brown trainee settled along the rail as Always Dreaming and Classic Empire vied for early control and launched his bid around the far turn to reel in Classic Empire and win by a head.

Get Rich Nilsen’s full-card analysis for the 2017 Travers card

“The track was very demanding [for the Jim Dandy],” said Brown. “This horse has never let us down in a workout or a race except that one day. [He] just didn’t come out of that race like we’ve normally seen. Since the race I’ve thought about the Travers a little bit, he’s come back and worked great twice going to the [main] track and it’s tightened up nicely and he’s ready to run his race.

“This race is right at the top of the list [of ones I want to win],” added the native of nearby Mechanicville, N.Y.  “Since I’ve began training if someone asked me what race I really want to win it’s this one. My team feels the same way and with a horse training as well as he is, it’s hard to stay in the barn so we’re going to run.”

Cloud Computing, at 8-1 on the morning line, will be ridden from the rail by record five-time Travers winner Javier Castellano, newly inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Looking to lead the charge against the Triple Crown winners is Good Samaritan, the third choice on the morning line at 5-1, who made a successful switch to dirt to play spoiler to the Derby and Preakness winners with a 4 ¾-length win in the Jim Dandy, the traditional local prep for the Travers.

Only off the board once in six tries on the turf for owners WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners, China Horse Club, and SF Racing Group and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the Harlan’s Holiday colt changed to the main track following a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and earned his first victory since the Grade 2 Summer last summer at Woodbine.

“You got horses from everywhere [in the Travers], all the best,” said Mott, searching for his first Travers win with his eighth starter in the race.. You got the Derby winner, the Preakness winner, the Belmont; you’ve got everybody. It shaped up to be a really good field. So now, we’ve got to go out there and run our race. No issues at all. All is good up to this point.”

Joel Rosario has the return call aboard Good Samaritan, set to break from post 5.

At 10-1 for the Travers, Brad Grady’s Girvin will try to duplicate his winning effort in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 30, the Tale of Ekati colt’s first victory since posting back-to-back Derby prep wins this spring. Girvin was still recovering from a quarter crack when he finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby. He finished second to Irap in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby as the 4-5 favorite in his comeback race before running down McCraken in the final stages of the Haskell to win by a nose. Girvin will be ridden by Robby Albarado from post 6.

“He’s really done well over the Oklahoma track [at Saratoga] and carried himself well over the main track, as well, so we’re looking forward to it,” said trainer Joe Sharp, who is starting his first horse in the Travers. “He’s past his issues and I think it was more the trip than anything that affected him in the Derby. He was doing well aside from some minor setbacks he had, but he’s 100 percent.”

Prior to the Haskell, McCraken rebounded from an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 3 Matt Winn in June at Churchill Downs for trainer Ian Wilkes.

A homebred son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper, the Whitham Thoroughbred color bearer was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old, including a 1 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He carried his win streak into his 3-year-old seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs in February before a minor injury pushed his next start back nearly two months, eventually marking his return with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Blue Grass on April 8. McCraken, 12-1, will break from post 9 with Brian Hernandez, Jr. in the irons.

This year’s Travers field includes a talented pair of California invaders led by Gary and Mary West’s West Coast from the Hall of Fame barn of Bob Baffert, who sent the then-unknown Arrogate to a record-breaking victory in last year’s Travers en route to eventual 3-year-old champion honors. By Flatter, West Coast brings a three-race win streak into his first Grade 1 event and hasn’t been worse than second in six career starts, including an impressive 2 ¾-length victory in the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby on July 15.

Tabbed as the 4-1 second choice, West Coast will leave from post 3 with Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the irons.

Reddam Racing and Doug O’Neill will be represented by Irap as their first Travers starter. Since his 31-1 upset of the Blue Grass, the son of Tiznow has developed into a bona fide graded stakes contender, putting together back-to-back Grade 3 victories since finishing a troubled 18th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 6. Irap, 8-1, will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez from post 10.

Winner of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in February, Margoth’s Gunnevera will shoot to build on his five-length win in the Tangelo on August 6, the Antonio Sano trainee’s first race since finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness this spring. At 20-1, the Dialed In colt will be ridden by Edgard Zayas from post 11.

Mossarosa’s Jim Dandy runner-up Giuseppe the Great will try for his first stakes win after a pair of Grade 2 placings this year for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. Installed at 20-1, the Lookin At Lucky colt will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione from post 2.

Rounding out the field are L and N Racing’s Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, third last time out for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and Shadwell Stable’s regally-bred Fayeq, taking a big step up in class to make his stakes debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. A half-brother to Hall of Fame mare Rachel Alexandra, the Malibu Moon colt was a game winner of a 1 1/8-mile allowance on July 26 at the Spa, having already faced stakes-like competition, finishing third in his debut behind graded stakes winner Timeline at Gulfstream and misssecond by a half-length to fellow Travers entrant Giuseppe the Great. Fayeq, at 30-1 odds, will be ridden by Luis Saez from the outside.

2017 Travers Stakes Full-Card Analysis

with Wagering Strategies & Spot Plays by Rich Nilsen

Rich Nilsen handicapperRich Nilsen, founder of and one of the top tournament players in the history of the NHC, offers up his full-card analysis for Saratoga on Saturday, August 26th.  Last summer Nilsen crushed the Travers Day card, selecting Haveyougoneaway who upset the G1 Ballerina at odds of 10-1!   But Nilsen wasn’t done.  He followed up that score up by giving out top selection ARROGATE, track-record winner of the G1 Travers Stakes who paid an amazing $25.40 to win for followers of the sheet.  Another top pick ran 2nd at odds of 17-1 in race 3 on that day, returning a huge place payoff.

The analysis provides selections for every race plus three best bet spot plays.  Each race includes Nilsen’s detailed pace scenario which explains how the race will set up.  Nilsen has a value play selection for the Travers’ Stakes and he offers up his recommended straight, exacta and trifecta wagers for the big race.

Put an expert on your side as you attack Saratoga on their biggest day of the year. Get all 13-races.  Only $1 per race.

2017 Travers’s Day: 

Buy Now

Download instantly to any device. 10-page PDF document.

The Travers Day card features over $1.6 Million in Guaranteed wagers. The $1 Million Guaranteed Pick 4 begins on Race 8.

2016 Travers’ Testimonials:

“Great job, Rich!” ~ Jeff S.

“Rich: nice job Travers Day! Thanks to Arrogate, you gave me a good day. How in the world did you land on him? I suspect you’re doing some kind of voodoo pace analysis. If you ever decide to give lessons or a seminar, let me know.” ~ Kelley S.

Founder of, Nilsen is the winner of 6 major handicapping tournament and a 13-time qualifier to the multi million-dollar National Horseplayers Championship (NHC).  There are a lot of pretenders out there.  Get affordable, expert advice for this year’s amazing 13-race Travers card.

This sheet contains:

  • Top selections for all 13 races
  • Sophisticated Pace Scenario for all 13 races
  • Spot Plays (Best Bets) on the undercard w/ wagering strategies
  • In-depth Analysis of the Travers Stakes with Exacta & Trifecta strategies.

Get all 13 races on the Saratoga Saturday card.  Download now for only $13.97 to any device.