About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 12-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He recently won a $24,000 package into the 2016 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 12-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He recently won a $24,000 package into the 2016 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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Here are my most recent posts

Blaise Brucato Completes Rare Back-to-Back Tournament Wins

 Ohio Handicapper Captures Grade One Gamble and Spring Challenge at Keeneland

 April 22-23, 2017

 In the storied history of Keeneland Race Course, many patrons have had memorable (and profitable) weekends.  We would venture to guess, however, that not many have equaled the weekend that Blaise Brucato just experienced at this venerable racetrack.

RoughlyKeeneland Green Logo 24 hours after winning the inaugural Keeneland Spring Challenge, a $400 buy-in tournament held on Saturday (4/22/17), Blaise topped that performance with a dramatic win in Keeneland’s Grade One Gamble, a $3,000 buy-in tournament that has become one of the most prized titles on the NHC Tour.

On Saturday, the Cleveland native bested a field of 258 players by hitting a $500 exacta on the last race, winning a $10,000 BCBC spot and $3,500 in cash.  Mike Maloney of Lexington captured 2nd and 4th places in the tourney, earning an NHC spot and $3,500 in prize money.  NHC qualifiers Paul Hoffman of Chicago (3rd place) and Mark Haidar of Northville, (5th place) joined lucky 6th place finisher Ali Aksoy of Toronto, who benefitted from the NHC rule that prohibits any player from scoring 2 NHC spots in one tournament. [AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen finished a distant 21st].

After winning the Saturday tournament, Blaise revealed that April 22 was his Dad’s birthday.  Bill Brucato introduced his son to horse racing at a young age, and even though Bill passed away in 1988, it is clear that his spirit and love for racing lives on through Blaise.

TheNTRA NHC logo incredible story continued on Sunday, as Brucato closed again in the final race, cashing a $250 exacta to vault past former NHC Tour champion Jonathon Kinchen by a mere $200 to claim back-to-back victories, with another BCBC spot, an NHC berth, and $13,000 in cash.   In the Grade One Gamble, a record 170 entries competed for 7 BCBC spots, 10 NHC spots, and over $40,000 in cash prizes.  The 2nd place finish by Austin, TX native Kinchen earned him a BCBC and NHC spot plus $6,500 in cash. Third through 7th finishers Bob Traynor of Oceanside, CA, Joe Kramer of Fargo, ND, Marshall Gramm of Memphis, TN, Randy Gallo of Palm Beach Garden, FL and Kenneth King of New York, NY all earned BCBC and NHC entries, in addition to cash prizes.

Brian Johnson of Biloxi, MS, Ali Aksoy of Toronto, ON and Mike Maloney of Lexington, KY finished 8th through 10th and earned a berth to the 2018 NHC, in addition to cash prizes.  For Aksoy and Mahoney, it was the 2nd NHC berth in as many days.

To recap the weekend, totaling his bankroll winnings, cash prizes, and BCBC/NHC berths, Blaise Brucato cashed for over $50,000.  Not a bad way to spend a weekend at Keeneland, and not a bad way to celebrate your father’s birthday.  Somewhere Bill Brucato has a wide smile on his face.

Final Standings for Grade One Gamble (with Bankroll)

  1. Blaise Brucato $8,434.00
  2. Jonathon Kinchen $8,234.50
  3. Bob Traynor $7,000.00
  4. Joe Kramer $6,546.80
  5. Marshall Gramm $6,493.50
  6. Randy Gallo $6,412.00
  7. Kenneth King $5,968.00
  8. Brian Johnson $5,780.00
  9. Ali Aksoy $5,590.00
  10. Mike Maloney $5,151.00

Classic Empire a Pro in Half Mile Drill for KY Derby

Standing alongside his son and top assistant, Norman Casse, Mark Casse watched his best ever hope for a classic victory stride out down the Churchill Downs stretch and finally, deeply exhaled.

Source: Classic Empire a Pro in Four-Furlong Move

AGOS Horses to Watch – April 28, 2017

Complimentary horses to watch for AGOS (AGameofSkill.com) visitors.  Put these two runners in your Stable Mail service.

Keeneland Racecourse

4/14/17

Race #9 – #1 – Blacktype – G-1 Maker’s Mile Turf

Joel Rosario the pilot for Christophe Clement. He was coming in off a 4 month vacation and working well at Payson Park. He drafted behind a rapid pace and kicked off the rail at the 1/4 pole seeking clear sailing. As they turned for home he was kept in tight along the rail by eventual winner American Patriot under Castellano. He didn’t get out for the big move and was wrapped up tightly by Rosario. He had no place to go, and you can follow this runner right back with confidence.

4/15/17

Race #6 – #6 – Perro Rojo – 1 1/8 dirt

Nik Juarez in the saddle for Nick Zito (20%) and they had a strong son good looking son of Birdstone. He was only 1/7 ITM lifetime but had faced some of the tough guys multiple times. Names like; Irish War Cry, Gunnevera, Classic Empire, and McCracken. It was the old story of the company you keep, and this (25-1) shot looked the value play. Juarez was stock-still in the saddle and started making a move in the final quarter mile. He made an explosive late move only to be immediately snatched up and checked strongly. This colt will score and light up the board. Just keep your eyes peeled.

Trainer Ian Wilkes Retains Confidence After Blue Grass Loss

Trainer Ian Wilkes had his humor intact and his perspective on point on the Sunday morning following McCraken’s third place showing in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), the colt’s first loss in five career starts.

Source: Wilkes Retains Confidence After Blue Grass Loss

The Queen at Newbury

The Queen celebrated her 91st birthday at a place she loves the best

LONDON (AP) — Britain marked Queen Elizabeth II’s 91st birthday on Friday with gun salutes, as the monarch herself enjoyed a family day and a trip to the races. The queen, who owns and breeds racehorses, was spotted smiling broadly and chatting animatedly Friday with jockeys and staff at Newbury Racecourse, not far from her Windsor… [Read more…]

This Track Will Offer Monster-sized Purses

Press Release

Highlighted by two new graded-stakes events and a record $8.4 million in purses and supplemental Kentucky-bred monies, Kentucky Downs will offer one of the world’s most lucrative racing programs during its five-day, all-turf season Sept. 2 – 14.|

With the $400,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint and $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf enjoying Grade 3 status for the first time, three of the track’s 13

stakes are now graded. The stakes duo joins the Grade 3, $600,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs, which along with New York’s Belmont Park were the only tracks to gain more than one newly-graded stakes.

Graded stakes are those judged the best in America by the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association’s American Graded Stakes Committee. The Turf Sprint and Ladies Turf are among only eight in the United States and Canada that received new Grade 3 rankings for 2017.

A record $8,404,000 will be offered in purses and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements at the meet, for an average exceeding $1.68 million a day — tops in the country. Even horses that aren’t registered Kentucky-breds will compete for some of the biggest pots in the country.

The mushrooming of purses is fueled by what horsemen earn through historical horse racing, an innovative pari-mutuel technology that allows patrons to bet on previously-run races for a different type of wagering experience.

“By working with our horsemen and embracing historical horse racing, Kentucky Downs is able to offer unprecedented purses. The owners and trainers have responded and now we’re getting over the hump to attract graded status for our stakes,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager. “Success will breed success, we believe exponentially. Additional graded stakes are so important, because that provides trainers from across the country more reasons to come for a short meet. And as they make plans for their Kentucky Downs’ contingent, we encourage them to put additional horses on the flight or van to go after our $130,000 maiden races, with allowance races $140,000 and $145,000 offered for Kentucky-breds, which comprise the vast majority of our horses.

“We want to be the prototype, to demonstrate how historical horse racing can be a game-changer for the good as an alternative gambling opportunity based on horse racing and which intrinsically is our product.”

The 1 1/2-mile Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, for which Skychai Racing’s Da Big Hoss is the two-time defending champion, will be conducted on the same blockbuster card Saturday, Sept. 9, as the 6 1/2-furlong Turf Sprint, mile Ladies Turf and $350,000 Ladies Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs. The Turf Sprint received a $50,000 purse hike over 2016.

Kentucky Downs added a 3-year-old stakes: the $250,000 Franklin-Simpson to be held at seven-eighths of a mile on Thursday, Sept. 14, which is closing day.

Two stakes have new names paying tribute to past winners. The $400,000 Tourist Mile, formerly the More Than Ready Mile, honors WinStar Farm’s winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile, Eclipse Award finalist and current WinStar stallion. Tourist won the stakes now bearing his name in 2015 off a 10-month layoff.

The 1 5/16-mile stakes for fillies and mares formerly known as the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon now is the $350,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes, recognizing the track and Kentucky’s all-time winningest owner in Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Nicholasville farm. The Ramseys won the stakes last year with Al’s Gal, who in her next start captured Woodbine’s Grade 1 E.P. Taylor. The Ramsey Farm also is on the closing card.

The Tourist Mile has been moved to Saturday, Sept. 2, which features a stakes quartet on the opening card. Also that day: The $350,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile, $350,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies and $150,000 One Dreamer for fillies and mares.

Kentucky Downs is staging two additional $75,000 starter-allowance races for a total of four on Sunday, Sept. 10 that will serve as automatic qualifying races for the Claiming Crown in December at Gulfstream.

The Claiming Crown, which totaled $1.1 million in purses last year, serves as a Breeders’ Cup-style championship for claiming horses — the work horses of American racing.

The new Claiming Crown Canterbury Stakes Prep at Kentucky Downs, at 6 1/2 furlongs, will be for 3-year-olds and older horses that have raced for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2016. The Claiming Crown Distaff Dash Stakes Prep at Kentucky Downs is the filly and mare counterpart. Also back for the second year are the Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes Prep at Kentucky Downs and Claiming Crown Tiara Prep at Kentucky Downs, both a mile and 70 yards.

Winners of the qualifying races are guaranteed a spot in the corresponding Claiming Crown race, with Kentucky Downs providing a shipping stipend of up to $1,000 and the $100 nomination fee.

“We are putting out our stakes schedule and condition book 4 1/2 months in advance to give horsemen plenty of time to chart out their summer and fall schedule,” said racing secretary Tyler Picklesimer. “We constantly work to improve our entire racing program in order to attract horses and horsemen from across the country and even overseas. We also appreciate that our bread and butter is the Kentucky horsemen, who have consistently proven that their horses hold their own no matter who shows up.

“Our Claiming Crown qualifiers provide big-money steppingstones to the championship for our blue-collar horses, allowing those owners and trainers their own day in the spotlight.”

Kentucky Downs’ 2017 stakes

Including KTDF supplements for Kentucky-breds

Saturday, Sept. 2 — $350,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, 2yo fillies, 7 furlongs; $350,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile, 2yos, 7 furlongs; $400,000 Tourist Mile, 3-year-olds & up, mile; $150,000 One Dreamer, fillies & mares 3 years old & up, mile and 70 yards. Thursday, Sept. 7 — $150,000 The Old Friends Stakes, 3-year-olds & up, mile and 70 yards. Saturday, Sept. 9 — $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, mile; $400,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3), 3-year-olds & up, 6 1/2 furlongs; $600,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup (G3), 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles; $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint, fillies & mares 3 years old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs. Sunday, Sept. 10 — $350,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby, 3-year-olds, 1 5/16 miles; $200,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 5/16 miles. Sept. 14 — $350,000 Ramsey Farm, fillies & mares 3 years old & up, 1 5/16 miles; $250,000 Franklin-Simpson, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs.

Over $4 Billion in Total Handle Wagered on PariMAX Historic Horse Racing

Historic Racing game slot machinesHUNT VALLEY, Md., April, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — AmTote’s historical horse racing brand PariMAX, has surpassed the $4 billion-dollar mark in total dollars of handle wagered since the introduction of historical horse racing in January of 2000. Since this time over $330 Million has been returned to the horseracing industry, through commissions paid to local operators… [Read more…]

Churchill Downs Expands After Record-Setting Attendance

Churchill winner's circle There are few American sporting events with as much tradition and fanfare like the Kentucky Derby. From the lavish hats to the mint juleps to the many parties, there’s plenty to experience at horse racing’s most prominent event. This year’s race will take place on Saturday, May 6, with “the most exciting two minutes in sports,”… [Read more…]

AGOS Horses to Watch – April 19, 2017

Complimentary horses to watch for AGOS (AGameofSkill.com) visitors

Aqueduct

4/8/17

Race #9 – #2 Tommy Macho – 7f dirt – G-1 Carter Stakes

Luis Saez had the call for Todd Pletcher. Trapped on the rail down the lane making his first start in 56 days. Saez tipped off the rail for clear sailing and tried to split runners in the final 1/8th. Green Gratto and Unified slammed the door shut and he didn’t make the gap. An inquiry didn’t help his case, but we saw there was some promise. I think we’ll see big things from this son of Macho Uno this year.

Keeneland

4/12/17

Race #7 – #4 – Alasaal – 1 mile on the turf

Joe Bravo in the irons for Kiaran McLaughlin as they brought this son of War Front to post. – He led all the way and set some pretty quick fractions. Down the lane Bravo tried to take his mount as far as he could and started weaving a bit down the lane. He drifted into the paths of some other runners and the objection sign hit the board. After a few minutes, there was no action taken. “Jersey-Joe” is a 4% winning rider on the turf, and that is not a true reflection of his ability on the sod. I’m looking for the speedster to take em’ to the winner’s circle at a square price.

4/13/17

Race #4 – #10 Major Force – 6f dirt

Javier Castellano in the saddle for Arnaud Delacour and they were sandwiched and pinched back badly at the start spotting the field at least 10 lengths. He made an “Arazi-like” move around the far turn making up a quick 15 lengths in a few strides. He began weaving in and out of traffic and his fast closing fourth is a promising sign. Hopefully we’ll see a return in the final days of the meet.

4/7/17

Race #4 – #1 – Roustabout – 1 1/16 dirt

Miguel Mena in the saddle for Al Stall. The Fair Grounds shipper is a son of Harlan’s Holiday and was in pretty tight at the 1/4 pole. Once Mena broke free he was beaten by a dirty nose right at the wire. If he comes back this meet go to the windows with both hands !

 

Keeneland

4/9/17

Race #2 – #6 – Our Girl Abby – 4 1/2f dirt

Jose Ortiz in the saddle for Mike Maker. Two-year-old daughter of Majestic Warrior had been training over the poly at Turfway Park. Her dam My Paige’s Jewel is 1/1 with her poly runners. She saved ground and commenced a bid earning the show spot. Look for her right back at the boutique meeting.

Race #7 – #5 – Plueven – 1 1/16 turf

Corey Lanerie in the driver’s seat for Phillip Sims. This son of Turtle Bowl was on the class drop and making his bid for the first time in four months. He made a strong move but came up a little leg weary down the lane. They’ll probably target Churchill Downs as he loves the Louisville sod.

Santa Anita

4/9/17

Race #2 – #3- Papaslilprincess – 1 1/16 dirt

Bryan Pena had the call and was fresh off the claim for trainer Steve Knapp. She is 6/14 ITM at SA, and was squeezed back at the break costing precious ground.

Race #4 – #5 – Tiz Jolie – 7f dirt

Tyler Baze in the irons fresh off the claim and blinkers off for this run. This son of Tiz Wonderful was making a 2nd start off a one month break and and hopped at the start costing the runner some needed ground. Better things are coming his way next time to the races.

Race #6 – #8 – Rocketann – 5 1/2f dirt

Santiago Gonzalez in the saddle making her second start of the year. She usually dukes it out with Cal-bred stakes runners and the welcome drop to maiden special weight looked good. She was forced three wide on the final turn and may have added to the ground she covered. Maybe a better trip is just what the doctor ordered and we’ll have a runner who can make amends for her last race.

Early Look at Kentucky Derby 143

Handicapper Art ParkerBy Art Parker

If were not for the obligation to write about the 143rd edition of the Kentucky Derby, I probably would not be considering the race this far in advance (this was penned on April 18, 2017). I do my best, as I have previously written, to avoid concentration on a race so far away. I guess it’s about time to take a look at Kentucky Derby 143, and without making a specific selection, which would be truly foolish, let’s see what the future holds for the first Saturday in May.

[Before I go further please note that the final Derby field is yet to be determined. Some horses mentioned here may not make it to the post position draw.]

Nothing is a replacement for sound historical data, especially when one is considering making an investment, be it real estate, the shares of a corporation, or a pari-mutuel wager on a thoroughbred. Where winners come from is a prime consideration when analyzing the Derby in search of a winner. For that answer we look to the Derby prep season, which reminds me of a presidential campaign. First there are primaries and eventually a convention. The deal with the Derby is similar; we have prep races and then we have a race at a big venue called Churchill Downs. In the presidential primaries so much is made of winning certain primaries because of the number of delegates available. The same is true of the Derby preps especially since points have been awarded to the highest ranking finishers. Without getting into the specifics of the point system, let’s just look at the most important piece of pre-Derby history.

In the last several decades over 80% of the Derby winners finished either first or second in one of the following major prep races: Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Spiral Stakes, Arkansas Derby, Louisiana Derby, Santa Anita Derby or the Blue Grass. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, most of these races serve as the last “big prep” before the Derby and almost all serious contenders will run in one of these, plus the purses of these races are very appealing. Secondly, the cream of the crop shows up at these races, which are generally held four to five weeks before the Derby making these races the best indicator of current form.

Here are the winners and second place finishers in the critical prep races in 2017:

Florida Derby (Gulfstream Park in Miami): Always Dreaming (Winner) State of Honor (second)

Wood Memorial (Aqueduct in NY): Irish War Cry (Winner) Battalion Runner (second)

Spiral (Turfway Park in Florance KY): Fast and Accurate (Winner)  Blueridge Traveler (second)

Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, AK): Classic Empire (Winner)  Conquest Mo Money (second)

Louisiana Derby (Fairgrounds in New Orleans): Girvin (Winner) Patch (second)

Santa Anita Derby (Santa Anita Park in LA):  Gormley (Winner) Battle of Midway (second)

Blue Grass (Keeneland in Lexington, KY): Irap (Winner) Practical Joke (second)

A total of 14 different horses finished first or second in these preps. If you want to look in the direction of high probability when selecting a Derby winner then I can’t think of a better place than those that ran first or second in these select races.

Others worth noting:

McCracken won the Tampa Derby (Tampa Bay Downs) and finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Gunnevera won the Fountain of Youth (Gulfstream Park) and finished third in the Florida Derby.

Malagacy won the Rebel Stakes (Oaklawn Park) and finished third in the Arkansas Derby.

Thunder Snow won the United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai.

Easy pickings, right?