Trainer Profile: Mark Casse

by Art Parker, author of the bi-annual guide “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”

Few of Casse’s second time starters drop in class, in fact, more will undergo a distance change than a class drop.

Woodbine has been the foundation of Canadian racing for a long time. Each year the track holds a meet that lasts from approximately mid-April to mid-December, roughly eight months of the year.

Woodbine has favorable takeout rates and excellent racing surfaces. The polytrack has remained consistent for a long time and has always seemed to be fair. The turf surface seems to be one of the best in North America and is not overused. The stretch on the turf course is the longest in North America and, since so many turf races have horses bunch up, it allows for more competitors to have the time to have a fair run. The quality of racing may not equal to Saratoga or Keeneland, but it is well above average.

Wager on WoodbineThe Toronto oval offers a special Wednesday night card from May until the end of the meet. Woodbine also offers a 20 cent wager on all exotics other than exactas and doubles. The other thing about Woodbine is its commentary. The track has excellent commentators and analysts that I believe are the best anywhere. I’ve been playing the horses for decades and now almost all of my activity is via Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW), and I don’t hesitate to tell you that I rate Woodbine at the top when it comes to the overall, day to day, experience.

But where Woodbine is no different is when it comes to the winning trainers. Woodbine has many top notch trainers that do well with limited stock, but like most any other track, or circuit, there are a smaller number of trainers that garner a large percentage of the wins.

The top ten trainers at Woodbine in the last 5 plus years (April 2009 to present) based upon the number of wins at the track, which are noted in parenthesis, are: Mark Casse (503), Reade Baker (310), Bob Tiller (263), Sid Attard (234), Nick Gonzalez (196), Scott Fairlie (194), Roger Attfield (164), Josie Carroll (164), Malcolm Pierce (152), Brian Lynch (151). In the same time period, only three additional trainers have accumulated 100 or more wins.

Let’s take a look at the top trainer.

Mark Casse is the King of Canada when it comes to a trainer winning races. His 503 wins are basically at least double all others (except for Reade Baker). Casse needs no introduction to American players that pay attention to major stakes races since he has had several good horses invade the U.S. and perform well over the last few years. Even though Casse has been on top for quite some time he just reached what is perhaps the top milestone for a Canadian trainer when he won his first Queen’s Plate this year with the filly Lexie Lou, which was ridden by Patrick Husbands.

Speaking of Husbands, he has been the pilot for more than fifty percent of all Casse winners in the aforementioned time frame. Whenever I see a Casse entrant with Husbands riding I instantly write “Top Combo” by the name of the horse. From Casse’s 503 wins Husbands has ridden 261 of them. Other jocks you may see ride for Casse, but not all others, and the number of wins are Luis Contreras (64), Gary Boulanger (29), who has only been around Woodbine since April 2013 as far as these numbers are concerned, and Eurico Da Silva (21).

Casse wins most with horses coming off a layoff (at least 45 days away). Over 25% of his wins are first time layoff runners. Compared to other trainers, Casse does well with those that have extended layoffs – off for at least one year. You will rarely see a class jumper win for Casse after a layoff. With his first layoff horses Casse is notably dangerous with surface changes (15% of layoff wins), distance changes (21% of layoff wins) or class droppers (a whopping 64% of layoff wins). And, Casse’s runners shipping in from Keeneland and Gulfstream usually have their guns loaded.

Casse’s work regimen is mostly 6-8 days break in works with the last coming 6-8 days prior to race day. Casse seems to adhere to an equal time lapse before the race day if he works horses 9-12 days apart-those runners will probably have their last work 9-12 days prior to the actual race day.

One area where close attention is needed for Casse is inexperienced horses. Approximately 10% of his wins come from debut runners and about 12% of his wins come from second time starters. Over 3/5 of Casse’s debut winners are two year olds, and 1/3 of the two year old winners are for owner John Oxley. One can tell Casse develops plans for his horses considering that over 20% of his winners are either first or second time starters. Few of Casse’s second time starters drop in class, in fact, more will undergo a distance change than a class drop. When Casse changes distance for a second time starter it has always been from sprint to a route, and that appears to be a move by design.

Seven Reasons to Tackle Keeneland

Know thy Keeneland Trainers By Rich Nilsen

Gracing a picturesque stretch of Kentucky bluegrass that is surrounded by some of the country’s most beautiful farms, Keeneland Racecourse is unique in its beauty and history.  Visit Keeneland once and you will quickly see that it is an incredible social event. Every day, weekend or weekday, hundreds of co-eds, mostly from the University of Kentucky, make their way to their local track for an afternoon of partying.  Visitors come from all over the country.  Although they all make for a very crowded atmosphere, the hundreds of inexperienced racegoers present at Keeneland contribute to large wagering pools as well as the occasional overlay.

However, as handicappers, we require more than aesthetics when choosing which tracks to invest in.  We shouldn’t be playing a track just because it is glamorous or popular.  As handicappers looking to turn a profit, we need solid reasons to tackle a track that could easily be dubbed “the Saratoga of the Midwest.”

As Keeneland offers a unique meet, handicappers should first understand how the 16-day condition book is written. The racing cards cater to the high profile barns that ship in from out of state for the short meet. There are a few claiming races written, and the ones that are offer small purses in comparison to other tracks. The real reward to the Thoroughbred owner is winning a race at prestigious Keeneland.

The Racing Secretary does not card claiming races on the turf despite the fact that demand is high for these events. The only turf races are allowance events, maiden special weights and stakes. In addition to the winner’s purse, a pewter julep cup is given to the winning connections of all such races. To many owners, winning a race at Keeneland is equivalent to getting multiple pictures taken at another track.

Let’s look at a few of the valid reasons why we would want to tackle this oftentimes challenging meet.

 1- Low Takeout

Kentucky racing offers one of the best takeout structures in the country. Straight wagers (win, place, show) are ‘taxed’ at only 16%, meaning 84% of the handle is returned to the betting public. Where it really gets good is with the exotics, especially multi-race wagers. All exotic wagers have a low 19-percent takeout, well below the national average. Compare this to the fact that many of the top tracks in the nation have takeouts of 23% or higher for wagers such as Trifectas, Superfectas, Pick-4’s and Pick-6’s. Keeneland is bargain hunting for the shrewd horseplayers who factor in the price of their wagers.  This is one of the major reasons that Keeneland always ranks very highly in the annual HANA Track Ranking report.

 2- Quality Racing

Keeneland offers a 15-day condition book this spring that is jam-packed with great racing. In fact there are 16 stakes races totaling $3.75 million in purses. As mentioned, the racing cards cater to the high profile barns that ship in from out of state, so the condition book and daily cards reflect this. There is a stakes race nearly every day, always part of the popular late Pick-4 wager.

The Central Bank Ashland and Toyota Blue Grass are worth a hefty 100 points each to the winners on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1), respectively.

 “Our number one goal is to provide the best racing program in the country,” stated Vice President of Racing W.B. Rogers Beasley. “We are exceptionally proud of this schedule and the exciting racing and wagering opportunities it offers our horsemen and fans.”

Five graded stakes, including three Grade 1 events, worth a total of $1,625,000 will rank Toyota Blue Grass Day as one of the nation’s strongest race cards. The undercard will feature the $300,000 Madison (G1), for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs; the $300,000 Jenny Wiley (G1), for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf; the $175,000 Commonwealth (G3), for older horses at seven furlongs; and the $100,000 Shakertown (G3), for older horses at 5½ furlongs on the turf.  Racing cards don’t get a whole lot better than this.

3- Turf Racing

Opened in 1984, the beautiful Keeneland turf course is one of the few sand-based turf courses in United States along with Churchill Downs, Tampa Bay Downs and Turf Paradise.

The Keeneland grass course consistently benefits closers. One must be an exceptional horse, or find the rare field with absolutely no pace, in order to wire a turf field here. Most front-runners collapse at the 1/8th pole while the winner is often seen making a sweeping, strong rally on the outside.

Always be on the lookout for runners from top turf barns such as Glen Hills Farm and Augustin Stables.  It’s surprising how often they will score at a price.

Finally, look for horses that have run well over this grass course in the past. These horses for courses often run well again at Keeneland, winning or finding their way into the exotics at a price.

4- The Trainers

Many barns point for this meeting and arrive loaded for bear. There are also many fine local trainers who fare exceptionally well during the short meet, and knowing who they are behooves the horseplayer.  Every spring and fall, author and handicapper Art Parker updates his very comprehensive trainer database and he compiles the results in the bi-annual guide “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns.”

Parker’s digital book covers all the horsemen who have won races over the past eight Keeneland meets, and most importantly, how they did.  Were the winners making class changes?  Surface changes?  What kind of work pattern did they have coming into the race?  What jockey did they use and who were the owners? Parker details just how these horses were prepared by their winning trainer, providing players invaluable insight into the methods of these successful horsemen.

With Parker’s book, for example, you’ll learn not only how often trainer Tom Amoss wins with layoff horses (9 of his 17 winners), but also the workout patterns of those winning runners. Or how about local trainer Rick Hiles, whose three winners all sported the same handicapping pattern and won at odds of 9/2, 21-1, and 39-1, respectively.  If a trainer has won at Keeneland, you’ll gain insight into how they did it.  It’s a great guide for players that like to dive into the raw data.

Parker’s “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns” is available free to members of BetPTC.com [enter promo code “AGOS” when joining] or can purchased here at my website, agameofskill.com.

5- Track Bias on the Main

Exploiting the Keeneland track biases used to be one of the many reasons that professional players salivated at the thought of opening day. The old dirt oval could be one of the most biased courses in the country and ‘being tuned into it’ proved to be very lucrative.  Many handicappers believe that went out the window when management switched to Polytrack.  That is not entirely true.  The Keeneland Polytrack can oftentimes be very biased, especially when weather changes in the Bluegrass state.

One factor you can almost always rely on involves two-turn races on the dirt, specifically the 1 1/16-mile events. The starting gate for this commonly run distance is close to the first turn and the stretch run is short, ending at the first finish line, making it conducive to horses with tactical speed breaking from inside posts.

  6- Focus on the Premier Jocks

At meets such as Keeneland, it is not surprising that the high-profile riders win most of the races. The best jockey agents get the best mounts for their riders, and the result is a lot of victories for a select few number of jockeys.

The first few days usually set the tone for the remainder of the meet. Stay away jockeys who start off cold. These jockeys rarely recover from a poor start at Keeneland and will subsequently burn a lot of money.

7- Wagering Menu

If there is a wager you like, Keeneland pretty much has it. With rolling Pick-3s, dime Superfectas, and early and late Pick-4 wagers with guaranteed pools, Keeneland offers a comprehensive wagering menu.  It’s a far cry from one of the first times I visited the track in the late 1980s.  In one race I liked two horses ridden by Pat Day and Randy Romero, respectively, and both were juicy odds of 8-1.  Needless to say, this was a rare occurrence at this track for either rider.  There was no exacta in the race, and I had to sit there in frustration as the future Hall of Fame riders ran one-two.

Summary

Keeneland offer the best of everything, from low takeouts to just overall great racing.  If you are fortunate enough to attend this track in person, you’ll likely enjoy a wonderful day of horse racing.  Spending an afternoon in Lexington attending live racing can remind us why we fell in love with this sport in the first place.  Best of luck!

MISSED THESE GEMS?

A Profitable Idea for Trips & Trainers

13 Mistakes Horseplayers Need to Avoid in the New Year

A Method for Attacking Lightly Raced Horses

Interview with George Woolf winner, jockey Mario Pino

The Docket

A Horseplayer’s Starting and Ending Point

by Art Parker, author of the upcoming 2014 Spring Meet edition of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns

My occasional OTB location is a greyhound track that gradually built something of a customer base of horseplayers via simulcasting. I say occasional because for the last seven to eights years I have pretty much stuck to wagering from home or office with Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW). At first this OTB location offered a couple of lesser named tracks then expanded to four of the same. A couple of years after that, they got tired of listening to some of us experienced horseplayers complain about quality, so they started to simulcast most every horse track especially the top circuits.

One Saturday, about ten years ago, I was sitting at my usual table when a couple of guys came to the table next to me carrying what appeared to be a U-Haul full of programs. There were nine thoroughbred tracks running that afternoon, a couple of harness tracks and about a dozen greyhound tracks. Plus live greyhound races as well. The thoroughbred programs at the OTB were copied past performances sheets from some unknown source stapled together with a cover. The information was not too good and it was very limited. The greyhound programs were of traditional form for that sport. Most of the experienced horseplayers at the time were using either their own Equibase information, the Daily Racing Form or Brisnet information.

When these guys dropped all of the programs on the table they scattered and went everywhere, a few crashed underneath my table and of course I gathered up the AWOL programs and handed them to their rightful owners. The elder fellow, thanked me and then said, “We got so many damn programs we don’t know what to do.” I smiled and casually said, “You must have bought one for every track, for both of you.” He looked at me seriously and said, “That’s exactly what we did. We don’t get to come to the track but every few weeks, and we don’t want to miss anything.”

I quickly prayed for the poor souls sitting next to me.

The youngest said, “We spent over a $100 on programs, but we got them all.” They went on to tell me that they were father-in-law and son-in-law. I was curious and asked who corrupted who when it came to wagering at the track. The father-in-law said, “My son-in-law got me involved in the track and I love it,” as he slapped his son-in-law on the shoulder with love, admiration and pride.

I couldn’t help but think to myself… what a fool this guy was for letting his daughter marrying any idiot that tries to play every horse race and every dog race in an afternoon. You should have seen them-they looked like a pair of 3 year olds with Alzheimer’s attending a Barnum and Bailey Circus. They lost tickets. They lost programs. They looked at the wrong monitors. They bet the right horses at the wrong dog tracks. You name it and they did it. And all of the time they were talking about making money.

I’m just glad I never heard the old question, “Who do you like?” I would have had a nervous breakdown trying to figure out who I could like at 19 different cities across North America.

“A successful horseplayer must have a plan and must keep information for future use. “

That story reminds me of the many times I have written about track and wagering behavior. There is nothing wrong with someone who goes to the track and bets a couple of bucks on every race (at just one or two tracks). Going to the track and playing races can be good recreation and good therapy.

But on the days where making money is important, which should be almost every time you play (if not every time), then trying to do too much will kill you. On my typical day I review the entries and find the tracks that offer several of the type of races I play. Some days I may download information from only two tracks. Other days I may download information from five or six.

Regardless of the number of tracks you try to play, the important thing is to only play races that are comfortable to play, or at least only examine races with which you are comfortable. One of the things I do, which I recommend to anyone especially if you are going to examine more than a few races, is to use a docket. I chose that word because it is a list of those “cases” that must be examined. It is the word used in our judicial system for what comes before the court on a certain day.

I make my docket in chronological order based upon post times. Next to the time I place the track code and race number and a brief note as to the importance, such as “stakes race” or “short field” or “Daily Double possibility.” Any note that may encourage me or discourage me from examining a race based upon time or other impediments. When I first review the docket I eliminate races if I see a time conflict, such as two races going off a few minutes from one another with one appearing less inviting than the other.

When I make my final review I make sure that every race on the docket is a possible race to play. I also make it final in my mind that all of the racing I will consider is within the time frame on the docket. In other words, that’s it. It’s final. This is the job for the day.

The docket is also used for other things such as making trip notes or trainer notes. I go over the docket at the end of the day and, if something needs to be logged into a file, I have it right there. All of this may sound elementary and it is. But it works. A successful horseplayer must have a plan and must keep information for future use. Most of all I have found that using my little docket keeps me focused on the task.

Occasionally my wife will make the sad mistake of walking into my office at home, late on a Saturday morning, and ask me what I am doing. I usually hand her the docket for the day and say nothing. That’s when she says, “Never mind.”

A Profitable Idea for Trips and Trainers

Post Parade Gulfstream Park maiden race

STS at Gulfstream Park.
Copyright Agameofskill.com

by Art Parker, author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns

Now is the time of year to pay attention to maidens, particularly what we all call the First Time Starter (FTS). It doesn’t mean you bet on them, necessarily. It is a great time to observe them especially when they become Second Time Starters (STS). The majority of unraced horses are no longer two years old. Those two year olds remind me of human teenagers; young, stupid and unpredictable. The bottom line is that more unraced horses now have enough maturity to start racing and a poor performance is not totally attributable to youth.

The overwhelming majority of those in the FTS category fall into the STS category because only a limited number of horses can win, obviously. But those that move into the STS category often have excuses due to a bad trip in their first race. If you in any way depend upon trip handicapping or believe that horses can have excuses, then these races are the ones where you have pad and pencil ready. For the next few months there will be tons of maiden races that will yield great trip information that is invaluable.

A long time ago a coach told my football team not to underestimate our opponent in the second week of the season. “Most improvement in competitors comes between their first and second games,” he said. I believe it is true in horse racing, or at least the opportunity for the most improvement is between the first and second races of a runner’s career.

If you accept the premise that the second race may demonstrate the best improvement and a horse had a rough trip in his/her first race, then you are well on your way to cashing a ticket. Maybe.

After you made the trip notes and you feel sure that a horse is going to improve then you must look in the other notes to find the icing for the cake. The other notes tell you if the trainer is good with those we call STS, and if they are, what is their normal plan of attack?

Last week I decided to rummage through all of my Keeneland files looking for those trainers good with the STS. The following very recognizable and successful names have enjoyed multiple winners with STS at Keeneland over the last few years: Rusty Arnold, Wayne Catalano, Al Stall, Jr., Eddie Kenneally, Ken McPeek, Graham Motion, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans, Tom Proctor and Mike Stidham. I would be proud to have any of these guys train for me. But most important is understanding how these guys do it. What are the patterns to their winning second time starters?

All but two wins from all of these trainers with STS at Keeneland came after the horse was off for at least 25 days. Many of these did not run after their debut effort for at least 35-40 days. In other words, they did not rush their horses back to the track. I couldn’t help but jump in to my Woodbine file to check out the trainer, who in my opinion, is the best STS trainer in the business-Reade Baker. I noticed the same patience is exercised by Baker.

While each horse may be different, the best trainers regardless of their record with FTS, must obviously take the time to analyze, plan and determine the very best course of action with great patience for STS. An awful lot can be learned from a horse in its first race even if the trip is a clean one.

Now let’s put it all together. A FTS has a difficult trip and you have it noted, waiting for a possible play when he/she comes back. You know it is worth the note because the trainer has a good record with STS. Also, the trainer does not rush his horses. When the day comes you make sure it all adds up. And if it does, well then you have the makings of a good spot play.

And when you cash a ticket after all of this, you realize that the practice of handicapping can be worthwhile…and is a skill-based game.

How Leading Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey Play the Claiming Game

by Art Parker, author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”

In a couple of weeks most horse players taking in the Keeneland meeting will think of August 17, 2013 when they hear the name Ramsey. That was the day that thoroughbred owners and breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey stood high above the world of thoroughbred racing. It was the day they won three Grade 1 races in about one hour. They did this at two of the top venues in racing, Arlington Park and Saratoga Race Course. The Ramseys won the Secretariat Stakes and the Arlington Million in Chicago and the Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Many people were eye witnesses to the feat at those tracks, from all the simulcast parlors and OTB locations in the country and all of those that play the game at home with ADW. But there were more eyes watching as millions of television viewers saw the incredible feat without changing the channel.

Keeneland painter photo by Richard J. Nilsen

copyright AgameofSkill.com

As we move into the Keeneland meeting many will think of the Ramseys as only “big race” people. That, of course, is not true. Anyone waiting for the Ramseys to make an appearance only in the big Keeneland stakes races will miss a ton of action. At the 2013 spring Keeneland meeting, the Ramseys smashed an old record for wins by an owner. And one of the trainers they use (several trainers have the privilege of training for the Kentucky couple) broke the win record for trainers primarily with Ramsey horses. The trainer is Mike Maker.

In the last seven (7) Keeneland meetings Mike Maker leads all trainers with 62 wins. The closest thing to Maker is Ken McPeek with 56 wins and Wesley Ward with 53 wins. The special note on Ward is that 15 of his wins came with debut two year old runners. Ward does some training for the Ramseys and even though he is king of the first time baby starters, Ward has only one (1) victory for the Ramseys in this category. The majority of Ward’s wins for the Ramseys came with horses that shipped in from Florida for the spring meetings.

To show Maker’s strength at Keeneland just look at the mere mortals on the list and the number of victories they have since the beginning of the Spring meeting in 2010.

Mike Maker – 62

Ken McPeek – 56

Wesley Ward – 53

Todd Pletcher – 38

Graham Motion – 36

Bill Mott – 24

Wayne Catalano – 28

Rusty Arnold – 27

The Maker/Ramsey runners that win at Keeneland did not win the race at Saratoga from which they were claimed.

Other training notes related to the Ramseys. Chad Brown, who trained the Ramsey’s Arlington Million and Sword Dancer winners has 14 wins at Keeneland in the same period and two (2) of those have been with Ramsey horses. Wayne Catalano has been to the winner’s circle with 5 Ramsey horses in the same time frame.

But the real man for the Ramseys at Keeneland is Mike Maker. Of Maker’s 62 wins in the time period 32 were Ramsey owned runners, a little more than half. Overall, about 70% of Ramsey winners at Keeneland in the last seven meetings were trained by Mike Maker.

Let’s face it. The Ramsey stable is a big, big name in the business and they do more than just own horses. They are a force in the breeding business. So when one trainer can claim so much of their action at two of the most prestigious race meetings in North America, it signals a great vote of confidence.

When examining Maker wins for the Ramseys at the fall meet, one will notice several horses that won at Keeneland were winners first time after being claimed at Saratoga. The pattern line reads: L-1, C-1, which is first time layoff, first time claim. The timing for such makes perfect sense. The Ramseys claim a horse at Saratoga and it gets a rest of at least 45 days and the benefit of Maker’s training, then they show up at Keeneland and whip the competition. When examining a look at the spring meetings, one will see the same thing for Maker/Ramsey horses except they were coming from either the Fairgrounds or Gulfstream. But the most unlikely thing almost always appeared in the pattern line and that was the words class drop.

Most experienced horseplayers I know get a cold chill when they see a horse coming off a claim and dropping in class. It is normally a bad sign. But what the Maker/Ramsey combo have done is to claim horses at Saratoga and give them a very subtle drop in class; such as a claim for $20,000 and then run them at Keeneland for $16,000, or, claim for $25,000 and run for $20,000. Keeneland’s purses are good and if you have plenty of reasons to believe that you made a good buy, then you can take a drop, collect good purse money with a win and come out fairly good even if someone claims the horse. With Keeneland’s purses a second place finish can often make up the difference between the claiming prices if you lose the horse at the box. The key to remember is that the Maker/Ramsey machine play this game very well. It is advisable to pay particular attention if they get a horse that can fit into a lower price starter allowance race.

So, where does that leave us today with the upcoming Keeneland fall meeting? It is hard to tell how many horses Maker will train for the Ramseys. Maker has recorded a majority of his wins in the spring meetings at Keeneland. But there is another clue regarding this successful combo and I believe it sends a signal of what we may see at Keeneland in October, and we have already seen at Churchill Downs.

At Saratoga this summer the Ramseys claimed 32 horses. It turned out that the claim box sold 261 horses during the Saratoga meeting and the Ramseys were the biggest buyer and accounted for 12.2% of the claims. On all of the claims Mike Maker was listed as the trainer. Every single one. Of course the Ramseys could dump some runners off with other trainers at other locations but it is hard to imagine that they were not loading the guns for Keeneland, and even the new Fall meeting at Churchill Downs. In fact, the combo has already struck with a first time claim from Saratoga at the new September meeting in Louisville.

On September 6, 2013, the first day of the new fall meeting in Louisville, the combo sent out Wild Target in a $30,000 claiming race. The horse was claimed from Eddie Kenneally at Saratoga for $35,000. Wild Target easily whipped the field even after breaking slow. The winner’s share of the race paid $15, 420. The horse was not claimed, but if it had been, the Ramseys would still make a profit.

Here is another view of the Ramsey’s claims at Saratoga:

  1. Of the 32 horses claimed 22 are male and 10 are female. Of the males 16 are geldings, which mean they were claimed to run and make money as soon as possible since they have no breeding value.
  2. Only three (3) horses were claimed for $50,000 or more. Eight (8) were claimed for $35,000, nine (9) were claimed for $25,000, and twelve (12) were claimed for $20,000. The higher priced horses may wind up in allowance or low level stakes competition, and if they are Kentucky breds they can actually be eligible for their share of additional purse money (usually from $7,000-$8,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.
  3. Six (6) horses that were claimed won the race from which they were claimed. Fourteen (14) finished in the money in the race from which they were claimed.
  4. The Maker/Ramsey combo raided some good trainers with multiple claims in a short period of time, such as: Linda Rice (3 claims in 4 days), Rusty Arnold (2 claims in 4 days), Steve Asmussen (2 claims in 2 days) and Jason Servis (2 claims in 4 days).

In the past Maker has taken Ramsey’s Saratoga claims and usually worked them at Churchill’s training track which is listed as Cdt before they run at Keeneland. Also, in the past no Maker/Ramsey runner claimed at Saratoga has won at Saratoga and then won at first asking at Keeneland. The Maker/Ramsey runners that win at Keeneland did not win the race at Saratoga from which they were claimed.

Be sure you look for the names of Maker and Ramsey at the Keeneland meeting. Don’t just think you only see them on TV with big named expensive horses. They are right there with the claimers like everybody else. And, they are very good at the game.

 

Editor’s Note: The 2013 fall meet edition of Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns is due out soon.

Gaining the Edge on Trainer Handicapping

By Art Parker

A year ago March I wrote an article entitled, “What do I do best?” The idea was to encourage other horse players to determine what they did best when it came to handicapping, selecting and wagering on horses. This is not an easy task. It is difficult for many to retain objectivity while doing a self examination of one’s habits.

It is easier to examine another person than it is to examine yourself. Why not examine those involved in today’s races? In the grand scheme of things jockeys don’t mean much when it comes to handicapping, especially when one considers the impact of trainers. With that in mind let’s examine trainers and see if we can cash more tickets.

How to invest in horse racing. Learn at agameofskill.com

Few folks keep serious records about horse racing because it is time consuming and boring. In today’s racing world a tremendous amount of information is available that helps the horse player to avoid keeping records. I think it is great that so much is available and believe that any help is better than no help. Still, if you really want to increase your probability of winning you need to keep up with some things that are not readily available to all parties in the game.

Many players will take a quick look at a race and note something if it stands out. You may look at your buddy at the races and say, “I see where the trainer of the number four horse wins at 16% of his first layoff horses.” That may help you support the notion that the number four horse is a good bet. And while a 16% success rate is fairly good for a trainer with his runners when they first return to battle, it doesn’t tell you if that is what he does best. Don’t get me wrong. If you get 18-1 on a horse whose trainer stats say he wins one of six races under similar circumstances, you must take a hard look. The risk-versus-reward trade off demands you look at that horse very hard.

But what I am suggesting is that knowing where trainers succeed the most also shows where they are probably placing their greatest effort when it comes to preparing a horse to run.

One category that provides plenty of mystery is debut runners. Almost all horse players that have stats or read stats see that a trainer carries a certain percentage of wins with his first time starters. But they have no idea if the trainer does better or worse with his two-year-old first time starters. Take the case of one of the many trainers I have followed for quite some time. He has recorded 432 wins in the last 5 years. He has escorted 58 debut winners into the Winner’s Circle and wins with debut runners 13% of the time. Is his win percentage as good with babies as those that are age 3 and older? Yes, in fact it is much, much better. This one trainer has notched 40 debut wins with two year olds and only 18 with those older than two in the same time period. That is very important information. What is even more important is that about 75% of his two year old winners come with the same owner.

What did we learn? This one trainer is pretty good with firsters but he strikes much more with baby runners, and the large majority of those winners are owned by the same man. Armed with this info, we can now be more selective when we play this trainer.  Now we have a clear understanding of what he does best and that makes it much easier to examine risk-return positions.

Make it a goal to keep up with a little more information. Find trainers and situations that appeal to you and stay abreast with what happens. It will be worth it, and remember, playing the horses is not a game of luck, it is a game of skill.  A little extra works pays off.

— Art Parker is the author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns.”  The new Fall Meet edition will be out in September and available here at Agameofskill.com.  Sign up for our no-spam newsletter to stay informed of site updates.

Horse Racing Fans Need to Step Up to the Plate

by Art Parker

About the only time I go to a track is when I am on vacation, have a business trip or visit my daughter in the D.C. area. I’m definitely part of the growing Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) legion of players. Last week I took a few days off and visited my daughter, who lives on the Maryland side of our nation’s capital. She invited me to come since it was around Father’s Day time and, of course, she sweetened the invitation with the one line I love to here, “Dad, we can go to the track one day.”

My daughter, now 32 years old, was taught how to read a Racing Form when she was in the third grade and she is a good handicapper. Even though we are separated by 700 miles we “play the races together” online and in online tournaments. I can say that the love of horse racing is a family affair, so you can imagine the priority we place on going to the track together whenever possible.

Delaware Park walking ring, horses. June 2013. Photo by Art Parker for AGameofskill.com

copyright Art Parker & AllStarPress.com

When I visit her in the summer we go to Delaware Park (DEL). It is not too far from the D.C. area, and if not for the ridiculous road tolls in Maryland, it would be a delightful trip especially when the weather is nice. We went to DEL on the Saturday before Father’s Day and the weather was picture perfect. It was a great day to be outside and we decided to hang out in the picnic area. DEL is a beautiful track in a beautiful setting.

“Racing missed the original sports television era and then has tried to play ‘catch up’ ever since. It has been forced to fight a massive swell of casino operations that have covered the landscape far beyond the borders of Nevada where all of that started.”

We shared the track that day with many others. I don’t know if there was a special promotional day or not, but there was a ton of kids there. You could tell it was a day for mom and dad, or grandpa and grandma, to take kids to the track.  The track has a great outdoor area with plenty of “climbing” equipment that young kids love, which located next to the picnic area at the clubhouse turn. For those with kids it is a good area to watch the races especially when the race goes around two turns.

One could also tell that many in attendance were “rookies,” not just because of the kids but because of the long lines at the tellers and how slow they moved. It is safe to assume that many in the teller lines were rookies because the self service machines had no waiting lines.

For one race I strolled up to the fence hoping to see my horse win with ease, which didn’t happen. The man standing next to me was in a bad way and said with disgust, “I’ve never seen so many rookies in my life.” I asked him what he meant just to make sure I knew since he directed the line toward me. “All of these damn rookies get in the way, hold up the lines, and they probably brought all of these kids,” he growled. I just nodded primarily to acknowledge the fellow and avoid an argument. I came close to chewing his butt out, but I thought better of it and remained silent.

I thought it was a great day. I was glad to see the rookies and I was glad to see the kids. We need them. We need new enthusiasts. We need kids to come to the track and have fun and then pester their folks about coming back again.

Racing has not been wise when it comes to fan development. Racing missed the original sports television era and then has tried to play ‘catch up’ ever since. It has been forced to fight a massive swell of casino operations that have covered the landscape far beyond the borders of Nevada where all of that started. In addition to those near mindless games found in a casino, horse racing has had to fight the completely mindless games called lotteries. The fight is ongoing and it is a tough one. And the fight will remain tough if we do not open every possible door to potential newcomers. Having tracks open up for families to go to the track and take the kids is necessary for horse racing to continue the fight for its share of, not only the gambling dollar, but the entertainment dollar.

We have many great tracks in America like Delaware Park. And these tracks can be a great place to take the family. Let’s make sure we let all people feel welcome. We need new blood and new enthusiasts. Once they get there then we have to teach them how to play or we will lose them. Remember, our game is a game of skill, not a mindless game of chance.

If you see a rookie at the track be sure and welcome him or her, then offer to help. After all, that person may want to bring his whole family next week. And that’s not a bad thing. I promise.

When the Last Race Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

Handicapper Art ParkerBy ART PARKER

I try not to get involved in the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown hoopla prior to May for many reasons. I do admit that if I find a sophomore that impresses me early in the year then I may throw a couple of bucks on his nose-if his name shows up in the future pool.

That happened this year with a couple of horses. The first was Oxbow. The competition he faced was not considered world beaters in the LeComte Stakes (G3) in New Orleans, but Oxbow still got my attention. I looked at his breeding and saw Breeders’ Cup Classic written all over the Calumet runner. Oxbow was sired by Awesome Again, who won the Classic, and then Awesome Again sired Ghostzapper, another winner of the Classic. On the mare side I saw Cee’s Tizzy the sire of Tiznow, who won the Classic in two consecutive years. Oxbow was at 26-1 in the future pool and I couldn’t resist him with all of that going for the Wayne Lukas trainee.

Revolutionary was the other horse. Many of you will remember the moment Revolutionary became a Derby contender. It was his unbelievable win in the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. With a clean trip that day Revolutionary may have won by a dozen without breaking a sweat. I knew he would be bet in the future pool, but when he came up at 13-1, I thought that would be the highest price I would ever see on the beautifully bred son of War Pass out of an A.P. Indy mare.

As you know I didn’t cash a ticket on either of those two in the Derby. Revolutionary ran a good third and Oxbow, although far from the winner, was respectable in finishing sixth. A smaller field, a dry track and it could have been different. Who knows?

This year’s Derby confirmed what most of us know. It is hard to pick a winner in that race and so many good horses are immediately forgotten after an unimpressive finish in the Derby.

Then the Preakness confirmed something we should know. Too much focus is given to the Derby winner, those that finished real close to the Derby winner and any horse that is new to the scene with even a moderate amount of qualifications. Revolutionary passed the Preakness party in Baltimore and Oxbow was pretty much forgotten at 15-1.

The first two legs of the Triple Crown also confirm that many horseplayers place too much value in or fail to analyze a runner beyond his last race. The Preakness wagering is clear on this. Orb was a monster favorite and Oxbow was dismissed, and I am certain it is because of the results of one race – the Kentucky Derby.

I suppose that’s why they print up to ten races for each horse in the past performances. It makes sense to review as much of the past as possible before predicting the future. After all, none of us would catch ourselves reading a book by ignoring all chapters except the last. We would never know the whole story.

What Happened to Shanghai Bobby and Uncaptured?

Handicapper Art ParkerBy ART PARKER for AGameofSkill.com

Shortly before the Breeders’ Cup last year, a nice colt named Uncaptured invaded Kentucky from Canada and won the Iroquis Stakes (Grade III) at Churchill Downs, defeating the future Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze in the process. Overanalyze went on to run in the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Uncaptured bypassed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park, but stuck around Kentucky and once again proved his fondness for Churchill Downs by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) defeating Frac Daddy, the future runner up in the Arkansas Derby and a participant in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

While Uncaptured was making a name for himself, Shanghai Bobby was winning everything in sight including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Shanghai Bobby, who is trained by America’s top conditioner Todd Pletcher, was named the two year old champion for 2013. Uncaptured was named Canada’s Horse of the Year for 2012 and the first two year old to be voted Canada’s Horse of the Year since 1986.

The 2013 season started with defeats for what many thought to be the best colts in North America. Shanghai Bobby lost in late January in Florida and then lost in the Florida Derby. A few days after the Florida Derby, a press release from the Bobby camp said the colt would miss the Triple Crown and may be back in late summer or in the fall. Uncaptured lost in his 2013 debut at Turfway Park to a 15-1 shot named Black Onyx, a horse he should have run down in the stretch. Three weeks after that Uncaptured ran terribly in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, a performance that took him off the Triple Crown trail.

The day after the 2013 Kentucky Derby, Uncaptured was back home at Woodbine in Toronto in the Wando Stakes, a listed stakes event that seemed to be beneath Canada’s Horse of the Year and a Kentucky Derby hopeful. Uncaptured was defeated by a one time winner and barely managed second place.

What happened to these two colts? I don’t believe you can blame it on training. After all, Pletcher is good enough to have five run in the Kentucky Derby. He had so many horses in America’s premier race that the media referred to them as “Todd’s Squad.” Yes, Pletcher is that good. And Uncaptured is trained by the King of Canada, Mark Casse. In the last four years Casse has won almost 400 races just at Woodbine.

When horses are injured, a reversal of form is expected. But it is difficult to understand how some horses go in the wrong direction when they are not injured. It is even more difficult to understand when the horses in question are top notch stakes horses.

I have the answer and the answer is, I don’t know. And none of us should pretend to know the answer. After decades of playing the horses and being a dedicated student of the game, I can tell you that this happens all of the time and it always will. Every year I see some great prospects become also rans. Just like we see some that can’t run a lick and then, late in their three year old year or early in their four year old year, they start running and winning. I’m sure breeding may have something to do with some of this, but we can only predict the impact of breeding on an individual horse just so far.

I’ve been told that a thoroughbred is not fully grown until sometime between four and five years old. If that is true (or near the truth) then the difference between ages two and three, and the difference between ages three and four, is like a rapidly changing cycle. It is like dealing with a human from age 12-17. For those of you that are parents and your kids are this age or older, you know that dealing with kids is a near impossible task! Don’t get upset if you are one of those that bet on Verrazano or Goldencents in the Kentucky Derby. Remember, you placed your faith in an irresponsible teenager that cannot decide what to do with his life. What else can you expect?

On the other hand, the challenge of predicting form can play to our advantage. If one horse doesn’t run, it doesn’t mean they all stop. As one horse decides to loaf around there is another that decides to get going. There must be a winner in every race, and it is our job to find that winner. And there is a good chance that later this year or sometime next year, you analyze a race and may decide to bet on a horse that is “rounding into top form.” Don’t be surprised if his name is Shanghai Bobby or Uncaptured. Sometimes teenagers grow up and act responsible. 

Early Thoughts on Kentucky Derby 139

Handicapper Art ParkerBy ART PARKER

If it were not for the obligation to write about the Kentucky Derby, I probably would not be considering the race this far in advance (today is April 23, 2013). I do my best, as I have previously written, to avoid concentration on a race so far away. Oh sure, I always buy a few tickets in the future pools mainly for sport but never invest time into the practice. I guess it’s about time to take a look at Derby 139, and without making a specific selection, which would be truly foolish, let’s see what the future holds for the first Saturday in May. I must say this year’s field looks to be one of the better I’ve seen and the race, based upon my limited research, seems to be abnormally competitive compared to the many, many Derbies that have flashed before my rapidly aging eyes.   

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. For purposes of today’s discussion, I have looked at the current top 25 in the Derby point standings. 

Nothing is a replacement of 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. Of the many considerations when analyzing the Derby in search of a winner is to investigate where winners come from. For that answer we look to the Derby prep season, which reminds me 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, and the points mean you get more delegates that can get you to the big dance at Churchill Downs. 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 2013:

Florida Derby: Orb (Winner) Itsmyluckyday (second)

Wood Memorial: Verrazano (Winner) Normandy Invasion (Second)

Spiral: Black Onyx (Winner) Uncaptured (Second, but taken off the Derby Trail)

Arkansas Derby: Overanalyze (Winner)  Frac Daddy (Second)

Louisiana Derby: Revolutionary (Winner) Mylute (Second)

Santa Anita Derby:  Goldencents (Winner) Flashback (Second, but taken off the Derby Trail)

Blue Grass: Java’s War (Winner) Palace Malice (Second)

A total of 14 different horses finished first or second in these preps but only a dozen are on track to run in Louisville since Uncaptured and Flashback have changed their plans. A dozen of the twenty 20 runners that can leave the gate hold a major historical advantage over the balance of the field. 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.

Now to a “bunch of thoughts”…

For those of you that still pay attention to the “Dosage Index” it looks like all but one horse qualified as a Derby winner, which means a Dosage Index of 4.00 or less. The only horse that does not qualify is Super Ninety Nine with a DI of 4.09. Revolutionary has points in all five classifications; Brilliant, Intermediate, Classic, Solid and Professional, which is a big plus. Winning Cause has 29 points in the Classic category, the only horse with more than 20 in that important dosage category.

Continuing on the dosage conversation it is appropriate to mention the old rule of thumb. That is to be a Derby winner a horse must qualify with a DI of 4.00 or less AND be assigned within 10 points on the Experimental Free Handicap (EFH) as a two year old. To have a qualifying DI and a qualifying assignment on the EFH makes a horse a Dual Qualifier (DQ). Last year’s two year old champ, Shanghai Bobby (he is off the Derby trail), was the high weight on the EFH with 126 pounds. Only three runners on track to be in Louisville are Dual Qualifiers: Overanalyze (120 pounds), Frac Daddy (118 Pounds) and Normandy Invasion (118). It is interesting to note that all three of those qualify as a Derby contender with a win or second in the big Derby preps. Also, Overanalyze and Frac Daddy ran one-two in the Arkansas Derby.

On the subject of breeding we can only find two horses that have a sire that has previously produced the winner of a Triple Crown race. I did find that a bit strange since we have an impressive list of sires for the prospective Derby field. Overanalyze (that name keeps popping up) was sired by Dixie Union, who sired last year’s Belmont winner Union Rags. And Den’s Legacy, who is on the bubble on the points list, was sired by Medaglia ‘d Oro, the sire of the great Rachel Alexandra, the remarkable filly that whipped the boys in the Preakness in 2009.

The Florida Derby has as much impact on the Kentucky Derby scene as any other prep race. The winner of 2013 Florida Derby is Orb, who could be the favorite in the Derby this year. Orb is trained by Shug McGaughey, one of the best ever, and is owned by one of racing’s big name families, the Janneys. John Velasquez rode Orb in his last two wins, the last being the Florida Derby but jumped ship to ride Verrazano for trainer Todd Pletcher. That may seem to be a negative, but Shug just named Joel Rosario as Orb’s new pilot. Now, that could be a plus since Rosario is the hottest rider on the planet. But what is not hot about Orb is the Florida Derby race time. The following were the fractions and final time for the 9 furlong Florida Derby that was sent off at 5:43 in the afternoon:

24.24  48.56  1:12.89  1:37.79  1:50.87

The Gulfstream Oaks, which was won easily by Dreaming of Julia, was sent off at 4:01 the same beautiful afternoon. Here are the fractions and final time for the 9 furlong Oaks:

23.43  47.18  1:11.16  1:36.12  1:48.97

To add more believability to the Oaks, a filly name Emollient ran fifth at Gulfstream and then went to Keeneland for the Grade One Ashland. Emollient embarrassed the field in the Ashland taking the race coast to coast from post 13 in a super impressive performance.

Now this could mean that Dreaming of Julia is a super filly and should easily win the Kentucky Oaks, or, it means that Orb beat nothing and was damn slow about it to boot. The horse that ran second to Orb in the Florida Derby is Itsmyluckyday, a colt that many people still like.

Goldencents defeated all foes in the Santa Anita Derby. Only one other horse may get to the Kentucky Derby post that was part of the Santa Anita field and that is Super Ninety Nine, who is extremely suspect as a Derby contender. Trained by the Derby winning conditioner of 2012 Doug O’Neill, Goldencents is owned in part by Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville basketball coach that seized a national championship this year. Goldencents figures to be part of the early pace in the big dance in Louisville. Also from the west is Govenor Charlie trained by Bob Baffert, and may be the only horse Baffert has in Louisville. Govenor Charlie (which appears to be misspelled but isn’t) garnered enough Derby points by winning the Sunland Derby on the New Mexico side of El Paso. I’m not impressed with that, but I’m going to pass on making any judgment. After all, Mine That Bird couldn’t even win that race and then vanned to Louisville to win the Derby in 2009 (may that never happen again).     

Up in New York Vyjack won the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Overanalyze was in that field and he came back to win the Arkansas Derby with Frac Daddy running second. The Gotham was the first race as a 3 year old for Overanalyze and he obviously needed the race. As a two year old the only races he lost were to the champ Shanghi Bobby and Uncaptured the top 2 Year Old in Canada, who also won twice at Churchill in the fall. Vyjack did not run well in the Wood Memorial being defeated by Verrazano. But it turned out that Vyjack had some sort of an infection on Gotham Day and has been resting and recovery nicely. Don’t know where that leaves Vyjack, who looks to be a closing sprinter or miler to me. In the Wood Memorial Verrazano established himself as either the Derby favorite or second choice. He has tactical speed and has shown courage under fire. He is Todd Pletcher’s biggest gun in the holster and Pletcher’s top rider, Johnny Velasquez, has decided to take the big dark horse on Derby Day. The horse that ran second in the Wood with a good closing effort is Normandy Invasion. He has yet to win a graded stakes, which is a big negative from a handicapping point of view, but he did finish second by a nose to Overanalyze in last year’s Remsem Stakes. Since Vyjack was ill and Normandy Invasion has yet to win a graded stakes the question must be asked, “Who has Verrazano beat?” The only other horse to note is Java’s Gold, who beat a weak Blue Grass field after Verrazano whipped him in the Tampa Bay Derby.

The Arkansas Derby may produce as many as four Kentucky Derby runners: Overanalyze, Oxbow, Falling Sky and Frac Daddy. But before the Arkansas Derby there was the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Ever hear of D. Wayne Lukas? Lukas’ Will Take Charge won the Rebel by narrowly defeating stablemate Oxbow, a horse that is also participating in the Derby dance. The Rebel may produce a couple of Derby runners in Will Take Charge and Oxbow. For some reason or another Lukas decided to train Will Take Charge up to the Derby instead of finding a race for him the last couple of months before the Derby. It makes Will Take Charge harder to read, but it is hard to argue with a man that has a career better than just about anyone else in the business. The Arkansas Derby made us aware of Overanalyze once again. But the race also rejuvenated Frac Daddy and made it apparent that he simply didn’t like Gulfstream Park in his first pair of 2013 races. The other thing the Arkansas Derby did was expose Oxbow to another running style. The talented Lukas trainee will show up in Louisville with good breeding and a ton of experiences. A review of the Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby and the action in New Orleans may prove to be beneficial in selecting a Derby horse.

Way down south where the food is divine and the people talk funny, the legend of Revolutionary continues to grow. The beautifully bred son of War Pass won the Louisiana Derby after another eventful trip, just not as adventurous as he had in New York when he won the Withers Stakes. Revolutionary may be a strong force to deal with in Louisville, but his future looks brighter even beyond that destination. This is a colt that is obviously maturing fast and has as much potential or more than anyone in the Derby field. The Louisiana Derby could produce five Derby runners:  Revolutionary, Code West, Palace Malice, Mylute and Golden Soul.

In Kentucky we first look at Turfway Park and Spiral Stakes winner Black Onyx. The only horse in that race with big credentials was Uncaptured, who has now left the Derby trail after a pair of disappointing races in 2013. The rest of the Spiral field was, and remains, virtually unheard of. Black Onyx may turn out to be a longshot winner like Giacomo or Mine That Bird in the Derby, but as for now there doesn’t seem to be reason to look his way again.

Java’s War ridden by Julien Leparoux, won the Blue Grass after walking out of the starting gate and then running down the field late for the big prize at Keeneland. Palace Malice and Charming Kitten may exit the Blue Grass and make it to the Derby, but a close analysis of the Blue Grass field does not support the notion that Java’s War is a Derby winner. In the Lexington Stakes last weekend, Winning Cause, also ridden Leparoux, showed he is a late bloomer for trainer Todd Pletcher. He may not make it to the Derby but if I was Pletcher I would have my sights set on the Belmont with Winning Cause. He is bred to run all day long without breathing hard.

Plenty of time remains before the gates open on May 4. There could be an injury and someone will make a change of plans. The final Derby field will not be determined until the draw is complete. Many things must be considered. I don’t have firm recommendations now and may never develop a strong conviction about Derby 139. I do hope that this exercise will stimulate your imagination and/or provide you with information you did not have. Whatever road you take to the Derby, I hope it is a profitable one. Good luck!    

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