About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 14-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 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. 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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The Dubai World Cup, a Story of Horses and Money

Little Mike in Dubai

Little Mike in Dubai

The Dubai World Cup, a Story of Horses and Money

New York Times article was written prior to the 2018 Dubai World Cup but it’s an interesting look at the event and horse racing in Dubai.

Source: The Dubai World Cup, a Story of Horses and Money

Well That Was Something – According to Dew

handicapper Justin DewA New Handicap Star in the Making

by Justin Dew

It may have been a mild step down in terms of graded status, but City of Light’s win in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday has put the rest of the handicap division on notice that there is a new force to be reckoned with as we move towards the Grade 1 dirt routes for older horses to be run between now and November.

Previously just a sprinter, City of Light had won back-to-back Grade 1s at 7 furlongs in California. His win Saturday at Oaklawn was not only his first start out of California, but also his first beyond 7 furlongs and his first attempt going two turns. He won like he was born to do it all along, earning a career-best 107 Beyer Speed Figure. And while I have never been a huge Accelerate fan, you can only beat those who show up to face you. And looking ahead, it’s not hard to envision City of Light going heavily favored in some of this country’s top route and sprint races and possibly making a run at….dare I say it?…..Horse of the Year.

I think the early favorite for 2018 HOTY was probably West Coast on the basis of his solid efforts in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus Invitational. And many observers will chalk up his Dubai Wold Cup loss to the speed/rail bias that has been firmly established. He is justifiably still #1 on most handicap division rankings. But how good is he? His signature win to date is his romp in the Travers last August, and while it was a visually impressive performance, and while I have respect for Gunnevera and the ill-fated Irap who ran behind him, I’m not so sure that field was super-tough. West Coast might be a grinder with a higher cruising speed than we are used to seeing in grinders. He’ll get his share of wins in 2018. But if I may steal and slightly alter a line from There Will Be Blood, “When it’s time for the showdown, he won’t be there.” At least that’s my opinion.

Belmont Park horse racingI bet on Sharp Azteca in the Pegasus, and while the start certainly didn’t help him, that wasn’t his distance.  I think he’s going to be most effective this year going a mile. I think it’s fair to put Accelerate a notch below the best based on what we saw yesterday. He’s just not an elite horse in my opinion. And I feel like we know, at this point in their careers, what Mubtaahij and Hoppertunity are capable of. Yes, they are useful horses. But they aren’t going to scare anyone away from anything. Diversify and Good Samaritan also come with class, but don’t seem to bring their ‘A’ game often enough.

So who does that leave as the potential big guns in the handicap division? Can Army Mule stretch out? Will he even try? I tell you who could have made some noise this year. Forever Unbridled. It’s too bad she’s been retired. I would have loved to see her in the Stephen Foster and then a couple of those New York Grade 1s in the summer.

Ok. Prediction time. In this murky fog of a discussion where we’ve touched on Horse of the Year, handicap division leader, and Forever Unbridled, I’m ready to call it….

2018 Horse of the Year: City of Light (unless, of course, Justify wins the Triple Crown.)

Early Look at the 2018 Kentucky Derby Odds

Now that the final weekend of Kentucky Derby 144 preps have taken place, the Wynn Las Vegas future book odds give us a good idea of what we may see on the first Saturday in May.  Justify is the prohibitive favorite in Vegas to win the Kentucky Derby.  You can get him at the low odds of 5/2 at Wynn, as of April 16, 2018.

OPEN CURRENT
AUDIBLE 200/1 8/1
BLENDED CITIZEN 225/1 100/1
BOLT D’ORO 40/1 8/1
BRAVAZO 200/1 50/1
COMBATANT 175/1 75/1
DREAM BABY DREAM 150/1 200/1
ENTICED 150/1 20/1
FIRENZE FIRE 75/1 75/1
FLAMEAWAY 100/1 25/1
FREE DROP BILLY 65/1 25/1
GIVEMEAMINIT 250/1 300/1
GOOD MAGIC 100/1 7/1
GRONKOWSKI 100/1 45/1
HOFBURG 200/1 35/1
JUSTIFY 300/1 5/2
LONE SAILOR 175/1 45/1
MAGNUM MOON 200/1 5/1
MENDELSSOHN 150/1 7/1
MY BOY JACK 150/1 20/1
NOBLE INDY 125/1 16/1
PROMISES FULFILLED 250/1 75/1
RERIDE 125/1 125/1
QUIP 125/1 20/1
RESTORING HOPE 200/1 150/1
SOLOMINI 150/1 25/1
SPORTING CHANCE 45/1 300/1
VINO ROSSO 150/1 16/1

Monster horse. Monster price.

How I got 31-1 on star Mendelssohn

By Art Parker

As of today there is only one question remaining in my mind.

Before the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Mendelssohn caught my eye. His pedigree is very impressive. Putting the late Scat Daddy with Leslie’s Lady was a very good idea. As a broodmare, Leslie’s Lady has delivered three Grade One winners counting Mendelssohn. Leslie’s Lady gave us the great champion Beholder, which is enough for any broodmare’s resume. Mendelssohn was sold at Keeneland for the monster price of $3 million, the most expensive yearling in North America in 2016. Before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year I was anxious to see if the colt could live up to his pedigree and auction price. He did. After the race I was convinced that he would improve greatly with experience.

Mendelssohn’s Breeders’ Cup triumph was on the grass but I saw no reason why he could not be effective on the main track. I couldn’t resist the 31-1 offering in the November Kentucky Derby future pool. I told myself that he is surely better than that monster price, even on the dirt. I was happy to take those odds realizing that I could have a losing ticket if he failed to make it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Mendelsohhn by Gary TasichI was even happier with my Derby longshot when Mendelssohn embarrassed and obliterated the field in the UAE Derby a few weeks ago. The colt (I presume he was named for the famous German composer, Felix Mendelssohn) covered the 1 3/16th mile distance in track record time at Meydan in 1:55.18 and did it with incredible ease. He won the UAE Derby by more than 18 lengths. It was truly a monster effort.

In the big race for older horses a couple of hours later, Thunder Snow won the Dubai World Cup traveling 1 ¼ miles in 2:01.38. When comparing the sophomore Mendelssohn to his elders in the World Cup his time is very impressive, especially since he could have stopped the clock earlier if he pushed the issue.

Mendelssohn has won three straight races on three different continents and all on a different surface. He is conditioned by one of the finest trainers in the world, Aidan O’Brien.

I like Mendelssohn even though the game will get tougher for him in Louisville. He will meet some very good horses, including the probable Derby favorite, Bob Baffert’s Justify, another son of Scat Daddy.

As of today there is only one question remaining in my mind. Will Mendelssohn ship well? I know he has shown that traveling doesn’t affect his performance. But he has logged a lot of miles for a very young horse, and the trip to the states after going to Dubai may be too much. We will not know about the travel until his trip in the Derby is completed.

I think Mendelssohn is the real deal, potentially a monster horse, and I really like my monster price of 31-1.

Is Horse Racing Dead? Nearly $1 Billion in Handle at Gulfstream Park Meet

No, It’s Not

Gulfstream Park shattered total handle records during its 89-day Championship Meet, highlighted by The Stronach Group’s innovative $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) and $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1).

Total handle during the Championship Meet was $957 million, eclipsing last year’s record of $867 million by 10.4 percent. Handle including total simulcast was $1.021 billion. On-track handle was up $3.9 million.

pegasus world cup logoThe Jan. 27 Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the world’s richest race won by Horse of the Year Gun Runner, handled a record $41.9 million. That record was broken on Florida Derby Day when total handle was $49.9 million.

Gulfstream also become the first par-mutuel facility outside Latin America or the Caribbean to host the Clasico Internacional del Caribe, featuring horses from countries in the Confederacion Hipica del Caribe competing in five stakes races, including the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe.

“The Championship Meet was an extraordinary 89 days of world-class racing, exceptional dining and incredible events,” said Gulfstream Park General Manager Bill Badgett. “We want to thank the fans who witnessed many of the world’s greatest equine athletes and jockeys and we want to thank the horsemen and owners from around the world for supporting our meet.

“The Stronach Group is creating an entirely new way to experience the races while embracing generations of new fans through world-class entertainment and events. We look forward to our Spring/Summer meet and building on our year-round program and preparing for another memorable Championship Meet in 2018-2019.”

Audible’s victory in the Xpressbet.com Florida Derby highlighted an afternoon of seven stakes (five graded) worth $2.3 million. Audible will now attempt to become the 25th Florida Derby winner to win the Kentucky Derby (G1). Audible could also become the fourth Florida Derby winner in six years to win the Run for the Roses.

For the second consecutive year the Pegasus attracted the world’s best Thoroughbreds. Just two days after being named Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards held at Gulfstream, Gun Runner ran away from 11 others to win the Pegasus.

Horse racing: Australian mare Winx eases to record-equalling 25th straight win

Horse racing: Australian mare Winx eases to record-equalling 25th straight win Reuters Winx: Australian horse takes Queen Elizabeth Stakes for 25th consecutive win BBC Sport Winx Ties Black Caviar Win Record Thoroughbred Daily News Full coverage

Source: Horse racing: Australian mare Winx eases to record-equalling 25th straight win

California Stars Ready to Head to Kentucky

Source: Santa Anita

Justify, Bolt d’Oro and Midnight Bisou, arguably the leading three-year-olds in the land, will move their captivating acts to Kentucky next month where they will take center stage in the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks.

“He looks good,” Bob Baffert said of Justify early Sunday morning (April 8, 2018), less than 24 hours after the chestnut son of Scat Daddy repulsed Bolt d’Oro in the Santa Anita Derby, winning by three lengths to remain unbeaten and stamp himself as the clear-cut favorite for the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

“The track was really deep and loose yesterday and I was worried about that because he could have gotten really tired, but he acted like he wasn’t, and he handled it well.

“He’s still learning how to run, still a little green. He was out there (on the lead) by himself, looking at everything, taking it all in, but I like the way he responded when Bolt made that run at him (in mid-stretch).

“Those two beat the rest of that field by a wide margin (9 ½ lengths back to Core Beliefs in third), so they’re serious horses. You just need racing luck (to win like that). You’ve got to have the racing luck.

“Justify and Bolt are the two best horses, and you have to give credit to Bolt. He doesn’t quit. He’s right there every time.”

Baffert, too savvy to contemplate notions this early of a Triple Crown sweep for Justify, even though it has already struck the mindset of some race trackers, pooh-poohed the thought.

“Oh, no,” he said. “That’s a long way off.”

Bolt d’Oro also came out of the race well, save for a minor cut, and will head to Churchill Downs for a rematch with Justify in the Run for the Roses.

“After the race there was a little blood by his front quarter on the right side,” owner/trainer Mick Ruis said. “We washed it off and checked it out. It was like getting a splinter. No flesh came off, nothing like that. It just opened up a bit and in three days you won’t even know it’s there.

“We’re good,” Ruis told drf.com. “I’m excited. He got a lot out of it, and there won’t be three quarters in 1:12 in the Derby,”

As for Midnight Bisou, the filly who made a Zenyatta-type move to win the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks by 3 ½ lengths, trainer Bill Spawr has her bound for the Blue Grass State and the Kentucky Oaks on May 4.

Midnight Bisou was eighth and next-to-last, more than 10 lengths behind at the half-mile mark in the mile and a sixteenth race before unleashing her overpowering run.

“She’s bright-eyed, cheery, happy and ate up all her food, so we’re happy,” said former jockey Jeff Bloom, part owner of the daughter of Midnight Lute. “It’s on to Kentucky. The flight is booked. Actually, the flight’s been booked, but now it’s really booked.

“She’s just such a wonderful filly to be around, but the way she won yesterday just gives you goose bumps. I’ve talked to so many horsemen who have been in this game a long time, and they said the same thing.

“They’re fans who saw what she did. It’s remarkable.”

Why Trainer Bob Baffert is again seeking Kentucky Derby success with Oaklawn Park Trip

Logo Oaklawn Park racingTrainer Bob Baffert and the Zayat family have been down this road before. For their Kentucky Derby-bound horses, a trip through Hot Springs, Ark., has become a favorite route from Los Angeles to Louisville. It worked for Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, who used the Arkansas Derby as a steppingstone to greatness. Now, they’re gambling that… [Read more…]

Future Book Odds for 2018 Kentucky Derby

Direct from Wynn Las Vegas – as of April 13, 2018. This is prior to tomorrow’s G1 Arkansas Derby and the G3 Lexington Stakes.

OPEN CURRENT
ARCHED FEATHER 300/1 500/1
AUDIBLE 200/1 8/1
BEAUTIFUL SHOT 150/1 200/1
BLENDED CITIZEN 225/1 175/1
BOLT D’ORO 40/1 8/1
BRAVAZO 200/1 50/1
COMBATANT 175/1 60/1
DREAM BABY DREAM 150/1 85/1
ENTICED 150/1 20/1
FIRENZE FIRE 75/1 75/1
FLAMEAWAY 100/1 35/1
FREE DROP BILLY 65/1 35/1
GIDU 150/1 100/1
GIVEMEAMINIT 250/1 300/1
GOOD MAGIC 100/1 7/1
GRACIDA 500/1 500/1
GREYVITOS 225/1 75/1
GRONKOWSKI 100/1 45/1
HOFBURG 200/1 35/1
JUSTIFY 300/1 5/2
LONE SAILOR 175/1 45/1
MACHISMO 200/1 225/1
MAGICALMEISTER 175/1 500/1
MAGNUM MOON 200/1 9/1
MENDELSSOHN 150/1 7/1
MY BOY JACK 150/1 45/1
NAVY ARMED GUARD 500/1 500/1
NOBLE INDY 125/1 16/1
PLAINSMAN 250/1 300/1
PONY UP 250/1 250/1
PROMISES FULFILLED 250/1 75/1
RERIDE 125/1 175/1
QUIP 125/1 30/1
RESTORING HOPE 200/1 85/1
RUNAWAY GHOST 50/1 40/1
SEVEN TRUMPETS 300/1 300/1
SNAPPER SINCLAIR 300/1 125/1
SOLOMINI 150/1 16/1
SPORTING CHANCE 45/1 300/1
TELEKINESIS 200/1 250/1
TENFOLD 100/1 85/1
VINO ROSSO 150/1 16/1

Record Pick-6 Jackpot at Laurel Park Today

A Maryland state record 20-cent Rainbow 6 jackpot carryover of $295,762.95 will greet bettors when live racing returns to Laurel Park Friday, April 13 with a nine-race program.

The popular multi-race wager went unsolved for the 28th consecutive program Sunday, when $129,183 was bet on top of a carryover of $254,426.59 from Saturday’s card. Multiple tickets were sold with all six winners, each worth $304.60.

The previous state record for the largest Pick 6 carryover was $275,322, reached heading into closing day of Pimlico Race Course’s spring meet on June 6, 2015. A mandatory payout that day produced multiple returns of $12,518.28.

In the Rainbow 6, the carryover jackpot is only paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 60 percent of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners while 40 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.

No single bettor has taken down Laurel’s Rainbow 6 since it was solved for a $5,896.30 payout on Feb. 4.

Friday’s Rainbow 6 covers Races 4-9, highlighted by a $35,000 entry-level allowance for Maryland-bred 3-year-olds and up going one mile in Race 7 and a $45,000 second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up at 5 ½ furlongs in Race 8.

There will also be a carryover of $2,404.11 in the $1 Super Hi-5 for Friday’s opener. First race post time is 1:10 p.m.