AmWager Key Races & Bets for Saturday, May 11, 2019

Ballade Stakes – Race 8 at Woodbine – Post Time 4:59 PM Eastern


Blurricane appears set to post an upset in this race she won in 2017 off the same long layoff since the previous year she’s coming back from today. She didn’t run in this race last year but again fired nicely off the bench, finishing second following six months off last June. She put in two very sharp four furlong workouts coming into the race and trainer Drexler has a strong nearly 25% win rate with horses coming back from layoffs over the past five years. There really are no knocks on this hard-knocking mare who has finished first or second in 20 of 33 career races on the Woodbine main track so opening at 10/1 we need to consider her strongly as a contender in this race.

 Summer Sunday opens at 6 to 1 and those odds may hold up even though she has won four of six career starts, including a perfect four-for-four record at Woodbine on all-weather. The reason she may be a bit ignored in the wagering compared to others is she finished sixth of six, beaten 14 lengths, in her comeback from a year on the bench last month. However, trainer Simon has done this before, with a FOUR for EIGHT record with horses at Woodbine the past few years making their second starts off layoffs, with two of those having run just as poorly at Keeneland prior to winning. Apparently he uses conventional dirt prep as a way to get his horses fit enough to win. Since that effort last month, Summer Sunday put in two exceptional workouts at Woodbine and with a jockey change to Hernandez, up for her win in the Fury Stakes over the track a year ago, Summer Sunday is another who has every right to win at more than fair odds.

 Scotty’s Model, who won this race last year, makes her second start of the year. Last year she ran in March on dirt at Oaklawn then missed by a half-length in the Grade 3 Whimsical Stakes at Woodbine before dropping in class to this restricted stakes level and winning the Ballade. This year she finished ninth in the Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream so even though she is taking the same drop, her effort coming into the race isn’t nearly as good. Just the same, McKnight is winning at better than a 33% clip and the mare’s best effort is good enough to win.

 Without a Doubt, who opens at 20/1, and Zestina, who opens at 9/2, are two more contenders to consider for exacta wagers although I think they are a cut below the top three listed contenders. Without a Doubt finished a poor sixth in her first start of the year in 2018 but may be a bit more fit this year. Last year she had some workouts on a farm before one four furlong workout at Woodbine which apparently wasn’t enough. This year she’s been in training at Woodbine since March, with two very solid four furlong workouts in April and a three furlong blowout coming into the race. She finished second in the similar Passing Mood Stakes last summer and the Victorian Queen Stakes in the fall of 2017 so she could help us profit by another similar effort. Zestina has never missed the board in 10 career starts, winning four times, but only once on the main track (the rest were on turf). She can improve off her third place finish in the Whimsical, the prep Scotty’s Model used last year when winning this race, but as it appears she likes turf better than all-weather it’s tough to give her a big endorsement as a win contender.


Silent Sonnet, who opens as the 2 to 1 favorite, appears vulnerable. She won five of 13 in 2017 and 2018 but hasn’t shown the same spirit in three races this year. As an exacta strategy, we should not play the two favorites Silent Sonnet and Scotty’s Model, but because the top two choices open at decent odds of 10/1 and 6/1 we should play some exactas keying them with Silent Sonnet as well and those are listed below.




Win Bets: Blurricane and Summer Sunday to win at odds of 7 to 2 or higher.


When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.


Exactas: Blurricane, Summer Sunday and Scotty’s Model over Blurricane, Summer Sunday, Scotty’s Model, Without a Doubt and Zestina.


Then also play the reverse of that exacta, which is Blurricane, Summer Sunday, Scotty’s Model, Without a Doubt and Zestina over Blurricane, Summer Sunday and Scotty’s Model.


Box Silent Sonnet and Blurricane and Box Silent Sonnet and Summer Sunday.



Big Drama Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:34 PM Eastern


Front Loaded returned to the races last month following six months off and won like a good thing in a classified allowance race over the track at six furlongs. He’s won at the one-turn mile trip at Gulfstream and at this seven furlong trip so the extra distance is no issue and he should improve nicely in his second start off a layoff, also his second since joining the Nicks barn. With Nicks winning at a strong 25% clip and with Zayas riding right back, and with a hot pace to set up his late kick courtesy of Kroy and Royal Squeeze both being need-the-lead types, that pair perhaps pressed by Sarasota County from the start, Front Loaded can win his second in a row and post the mild upset opening at 10/1.


Garter and Tie has run big in his last five one-turn races including a nose loss month. He’s a three year old facing older for the first time and it may be a bit early in the year to take on elders but he is very talented and could easily add to his five for 10 first or second career record.


Royal Squeeze could get into a battle with Kroy and possibly Sarasota County from the start but he’s coming off the two best efforts of his life, both following the Dobles claim. The last was a five length win at the distance with Camacho up for the first time, who rides back. On occasion the gelding has relaxed a bit early so if Camacho lets Kroy go but sits close he could go by to make the lead, perhaps holding off the closers Front Loaded and Garter and Tie for the win.


Another potential for the pace battle is Driven by Thunder, who returns to the main track after a pair of turf races. He proved only to be a need-the-lead type last winter and spring but two races back on April 6, with Berrios in the saddle as today, he rallied from fourth, three lengths back. Considering he opens at 20/1 I’d hate to not use him on exacta tickets just in case he gets a stalking position again and gets into the picture. One horse I’m leaving out entirely is Mr. Jordan, who in spite of having won 10 times in his career and over $800K, is just 1 for 20 on the main track at Gulfstream and whose last three races have been abysmal.



Win Bets: Front Loaded to win at 3 to 1 or more.

Although it’s unlikely Garter and Tie will go to post at 3 to 1 or higher, he can be bet to win at those odds.

For a smaller amount, Royal Squeeze to win at 4 to 1 or higher.


When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.


Exacta: Front Loaded, Garter and Tie and Royal Squeeze over Front Loaded, Garter and Tie, Royal Squeeze, Sarasota County, Driven by Thunder and Kroy.


Then, turn that around and play Front Loaded, Garter and Tie, Royal Squeeze, Sarasota County, Driven by Thunder and Kroy over Front Loaded, Garter and Tie and Royal Squeeze.


Runhappy Stakes – Race 9 at Belmont Park – Post Time 5:51 PM Eastern


Bon Raison, who opens at 8 to 1, has as much chance to win in my opinion as lower odds horses Skyler’s Scramjet (2/1) and Recruiting Ready (8/5). He gets a good outside post in a six horse field, just like he got three back on March 30 in the Peeping Tom Stakes at Aqueduct, a race in which he sat third early, six lengths back, before launching a bold bid to draw off by four lengths at the end. He’s won seven of 18 races on dirt and I like the jockey change to Rosario, who hasn’t ridden him since October, when over the track the horse rallied from fourth to draw off late, just as he may do today.


Killybegs Captain has never missed the board in 10 races, with five wins and four runner-up finishes. He won his 2019 debut in a little stakes at Tampa then missed by a half-length to Flameaway in another stakes, from which the third finisher came back to win the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland. Castellano gets on and another competitive effort should be forthcoming.


Of the two favorites Recruiting Ready and Skyler’s Scramjet, Recruiting Ready is the one I think can win but his starting 8 to 5 odds are too low to consider for a win bet. Skyler’s Scramjet can finish second but as happened last year when he ended up second, he’s a little too susceptible to being passed in the last eighth for my tastes. Recruiting Ready had some traffic trouble in the Commonwealth Stakes last month which cost him tactical position and he can win, but he’s no standout on any level.



Win bets: Bon Raison to win at 2 to 1 or more.

For a smaller amount (half to two-thirds of what we bet on Bon Raison), Killybegs Captain to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.


Exactas: We need to split the favorites here and will not be combining them on any exacta ticket to maximize profit, as follows:

Box Bon Raison, Killybegs Captain and Recruiting Ready.

Box Bon Raison, Killybegs Captain and Skyler’s Scramjet


Doubles: Bon Raison, Killybegs Captain, Recruiting Ready and Skyler’s Scramjet in Race 10 with Zulu Alpha, Arklow, Focus Group and Epical in Race 11.


 Man o’War Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont Park – Post Time 6:24 PM Eastern


Epical appears to be a lone frontrunner in this 11 furlong turf race and he fits on all counts, having just won the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita in wire-to-wire fashion. He won in November and December in the same manner so although he was just one for seven before his 11/15 race he’s three for four since and on a tear. As an improving four year old he may have not run his best and he can control the tempo here and post the upset, opening at 10/1. Even if that scenario doesn’t play out I’m not concerned, because Epical has shown he can relax early and finish late, as when second in the San Marcos Stakes right before the San Luis Rey.


Arklow’s last race can be ignored, as he lost the jockey at the start. There’s some reason to believe he wasn’t completely prepared and as a horse with a five for 12 record on grass (ignoring that race) including two big races at 12 furlongs last year, he must be respected. He was 7 to 2 in that tough allowance field and 2/1 last fall in the Sycamore Stakes, won by Zulu Alpha, with Arklow just a couple lengths back, so the fact he opens at 8 to 1 here compared to 4/1 for Zulu Alpha compels us to take advantage and bet Arklow as well as Epical because if any other horse does take on Epical, or if Arklow stays within range, he could out finish that one for the win.


Focus Group opens at 5 to 2 and may go lower given Chad Brown is his trainer and he won the similar Pan American Stakes last time out at the end of March. He has won five of 12 but when he doesn’t win he’s off the board most of the time and his 0 for four record on the Belmont turf (with just one third place finish) does raise a small red flag so he’s not a good win bet, but leaving him off of double, exacta and trifecta tickets is not a good idea.


Similarly, Zulu Alpha has turned into a marathon pro over the last seven months, winning three graded stakes at distances ranging from this 11 furlong trip to a mile and one half. Although he made the lead and was out finished, ending up third, in the Elkhorn Stakes last month, he still ran his race, and so his chances can’t be discounted for a second.


For exactas and trifectas we should also consider the filly Magic Wand, one of two from the O’Brien barn (the other Hunting Horn). Magic Wand ran pretty well when fourth of 14 last fall racing in the U.S. for the first time, in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, then second this January in the Pegasus Turf Cup behind Bricks and Mortar, who won again last weekend. She has no problem competing against males and jockey Lordan follows her from Europe to ride.


Channel Maker won a pair of graded stakes on the circuit last summer and fall and can improve off a fourth place finish behind Zulu Alpha last time out in March, while Kulin Rock is trained by Mike Maker the same as Zulu Alpha, and it must be noted since the claim by Maker last fall the gelding has run extremely well, for example when beaten one length at 44 to 1 in the Mac Diarmida Stakes in March. Considering Maker’s ability to turn these types of horses he claims into multiple winners at marathon distances on turf, leaving Kulin Rock off exacta tickets at double digit odds may prove costly. Village King isn’t as fast early as Epical in my opinion, but if he gets a stalking trip he could be part of the exacta or trifecta and considering he opens at 15/1 for Pletcher and Velazquez, he’s another to use on exacta tickets with the top two contenders at fairly high odds.



Win bets: Epical to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

Arklow to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.


Exacta: Epical and Arklow over ALL, then the reverse as well, which is ALL over Epical and Arklow.

Optionally: Focus Group over ALL (this is instead of a win bet on Focus Group at low odds).


Share This Story!

Ellis Starr

Ellis is a well respected handicapper and contributor of AmWager. He has been a public handicapper for more than twenty years, educating racing fans of all skill levels with detailed commentary few other handicappers provide.

Related Posts