Key Bets & Races for Saturday, February 24-25


Texas Glitter Stakes – Race 6 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 2:30 PM Eastern


This is a 5 1/2 furlong turf sprint for 3 year olds which could turn out to be an exceptionally profitable race, the reason being one of the top stakes winning turf trainers in the country, one who has shipped horses to win group 1 races in England, has a horse opening at 12/1. That trainer is Wesley Ward, and the horse is Shangroyal. Like most in the field, he’s very lightly raced, in his case having run just twice previously, the same as Todd Pletcher’s Salmanazar, who also opens at high odds to be taken advantage of (6/1). In the case of Shangroyal, the colt ran just okay last May in his debut then seven weeks later in July he was brilliant, breaking last of 7 and rushing up to control the pace, opening up by four lengths and coasting home. More mature now both physically and mentally, Ward has worked the colt exclusively on turf over the last couple of months, and he takes blinkers off to insure he’s not too fresh as there will be other early speed in the field, particularly Reed Kan. As a son of Shanghai Bobby and a half-brother (on the dam’s side) to local turf stakes winner Cali Thirty Seven and Winning Colors Stakes winner Southern Honey, Shangroyal could reward us handsomely. Salmanazar broke his maiden at first asking last April with brilliant speed, beating Copper Bullet in the process, who won next out and also won the Saratoga Special three races later. Similar to Ward, Pletcher is exceptional at bringing horses back from long layoffs, and also similar to Ward, Pletcher would not be placing a horse with a 1 for 2 record with just a maiden win in this stakes if he didn’t believe he could win. Last of three overlay win contenders is Wildcat’s Legacy, who won the first two starts of his career last September by an average of 5 lengths, both with maturity off the pace. With a strong series of works and bred to handle the turf, and best of all with red hot Saez getting on for the first time, this colt at 6/1 on the morning line is another we might consider for a win bet.


Favorite Barbarossa is a nice horse but his 2/1 starting odds is a big of a joke as his 8 length maiden win in October came against NY Breds only and he was beaten a neck on the wire last out on 12/23 as the heavy favorite with no excuse. He can win and should be played on exacta/trifecta tickets however. All the others have a shot to run 2nd so with a lot of value on three contenders, we can take a shot with some exactas.


Win bets: Shangroyal, Salmanazar and Wildcat’s Legacy can ALL be bet to win at 3 to 1 or higher.

A dutching tool, like the one at, comes in very handy in these situations as it automatically helps allocate the amount you want to bet to win among multiple horses to help you make a nice profit.


Exacta: Play an exacta of Shangroyal, Salmanazar and Wildcat’s Legacy over ALL.


Daytona Stakes – Race 4 at Santa Anita – Post Time 5:00 Eastern (2 PM Pacific)


Tombelaine made his U.S. debut in the winter of 2016 after importing from Ireland, where he had run six times even though he was bred in Kentucky. After acclimating to U.S. racing in his first start, at a mile on grass, Tombelaine preceded to run six top races in a row. Tombelaine won two times and was beaten a length or less in the other four of the six races, the best of those earning him a career best 112 Equibase Speed Figure. Last October, Tombelaine was placed in a high level claiming race for the first time and risked for a hefty $100,000 price. He was claimed out of that race, which he won gamely by a half-length (111 figure) and from which he was flattered when the runner-up returned to win the Artie Schiller Stakes shortly thereafter. Following a poor try in November, on an all-weather surface he had never run over previously, Tombelaine was given a couple of months off by his new trainer, Catherine Day-Phillips, running exceptionally well in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint as he was 10th of 11 with a quarter mile to go, closing strongly in the last eighth of a mile to be fourth with a 108 figure. With the runner-up from that race having come back to win, Tombelaine can be expected to improve markedly on a number of counts. First, Mike Smith was in the saddle for the first time in that race and rides back. Second, Tombelaine is making his second start off a layoff. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Tombelaine should really like the about six and one-half furlong distance as three of his best career races came when he ran seven furlongs. As such, Tombelaine is my pick to post the upset win in the Daytona Stakes.


Calculator is a perfect three-for-three down this unique downhill turf course with a right hand turn shortly after the start and was should never discount the chances of a horse that loves this trip. Last March, following seven months off, Calculator ran down the hill for the first time and earned a solid 107 figure, bettering that in July with a 111 figure in his second race at the distance on turf. After a move back to dirt for three races, Calculator returned to the downhill turf course for the Clocker’s Corner Stakes in January and nearly tied his previous best effort with a 110 figure under Flavien Prat, who rides him again in the Daytona. With the ability to win on the lead or from off the pace, and with no question of being in form or coming off a layoff as there is with Stormy Liberal, Calculator must be taken very seriously as a contender.


Stormy Liberal has only been worse than second two times in 12 career races at this unique trip at Santa Anita. Shortly after being claimed for $40,000 in the fall of 2016, Stormy Liberal reeled off six straight “A” efforts including a win in this race last year when it was run in May. During that streak, Stormy Liberal earned 116, 112 and 109 figures. Following a poor effort in New York last June, Stormy Liberal was given nearly four months off and returned in the fall to post the 30 to 1 upset in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (with a 125 figure), which was run at five furlongs on turf. Stormy Liberal then tried some of the best turf sprinters in the world in the Hong Kong Sprint and finished finishing 11th of 13. Rested since then, Stormy Liberal began serious training in mid-January and certainly can be a contender, but the 125 figure earned in the Turf Sprint may have been an aberration given the 108-116 figure efforts in most of his 2016-17 races, or that it may have been related to that particular situation. If so, although a contender to win with his best effort, Stormy Liberal may have a number of horses who have potential to beat him in this race and whose connections would love to have the words “beat a Breeders’ Cup winner” on their resume.


Win bet: Bet Tombelaine to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.


Exacta: Play an exacta box between Tombelaine and Calculator and another between Tombelaine and Stormy Liberal.


Also, play an exacta consisting of Tombelaine over Calculator, Stormy Liberal, Conquest Tsunami and Perfectly Majestic and then also turn that around and play the reverse as well.


Trifecta: Play a trifecta consisting of Tombelaine, Calculator and Stormy Liberal over Tombelaine, Calculator, Stormy Liberal, Conquest Tsunami and Perfectly Majestic over Tombelaine, Calculator, Stormy Liberal, Conquest Tsunami Tombelaine, Calculator, Stormy Liberal, Conquest Tsunami.


Hal’s Hope Stakes – Race 12 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:35 Eastern


Maybe the morning line maker is right and the public will bet Irish War Cry like he’s a strong contender. He opens at 5 to 2 and I hope that really happens because in my opinion Irish War Cry has VERY LITTLE chance to win here. After winning the Holy Bull and Wood Memorial last winter and spring, he ran poorly in the Derby then although second in the Belmont it wasn’t much of an effort. Next came disappointing efforts in the Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby and a five month layoff. He will be bet on “HOPE, NOT FACTS” in this race and even if he’s fit he’s giving a lot of recency to horses as good as he is, and he’s totally unproven against older.


The vulnerability of one of the betting favorites makes this an exceptionally playable race, starting with Conquest Big E, who makes his third start since coming back from a three month layoff and who woke up last month when second, beaten just three-quarters of a length, by Tommy Macho in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes. Moving back to the form that saw him win back-to-back in June and July last year over the track, both at this mile trip, Conquest Big E fits on all counts to post the upset, opening at 8/1. Send It In is another Pletcher trainee coming back from a long layoff, in this case nearly 11 months off, who is likely to fire a big shot. It is amazing to look at Pletcher’s stats with horses coming back from six months off or more, as he continues to win with a full ONE-THIRD of those starters, better than 1/3 of the time in one-turn races. Likely to get a great stalking trip under Velazquez from the outside, Sent It In could easily be a low odds overlay anywhere near his 7 to 2 starting odds. Economic Model won the equivalent of a stakes when last seen on 10/12 and taking a classified allowance at Belmont. He hadn’t won since June but many of the races in between were grade 1 stakes. The last win came off a 2 1/2 month layoff so coming back from a four month layoff is not an issue. However, he opens at 3/1 and although I will used him in many exotics I won’t be betting him to win.


For second and third in the exacta and trifecta, we can also use Malagacy, the other Pletcher trainee, who won the first three starts of his career last year including the Rebel before a fifth place finish in the Arkansas Derby and a layoff. This is the 2nd race back after being off for seven months and he finished second at six furlongs as the odds-on favorite last month without much excuse, but can improve.


Win bet: Bet Conquest Big E to win and place at odds of 5/2 or more.

Consider a second win bet, on Send It In, at odds of 5/2 or more.


Exacta: Play an exacta consisting of Conquest Big E, Send It In and Economic Model over Conquest Big E, Send It In, Economic Model and Malagacy.


Doubles: Great opportunities exist in doubles with the final race on the card, race 13, a maiden special weight race at a mile on grass.


Play Conquest Big E, Send It In and Economic Model in Race 12 with Zephan, Rhode Island and Vegas Kitten in Race 13.


Play another double of Conquest Big E, Send It In, Economic Model and Malagacy in Race 12 with Zephan, Rhode Island, Vegas Kitten, The Green Mo’ster and Musical Heart in Race 13.

Race 13 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 6:06 Eastern


Rhode Island is a first time starter, at a mile on turf, and personally it’s a very rare occasion I will bet a horse to win running two turns on turf first time out. The exception is warranted here for many reasons, first which is the trainer is Shug McGaughey, who has won with his share of first time starters going long in the last couple of years, two of them paying $22 or more. This is the sixth foal of the dam, who has produced some nice turf runners, and the colt debuts o Lasix which is notable because the barn normally waits a race or two to add Lasix. Being a son of Giant’s Causeway and with Gaffalione riding (4 for 11 for McGaughey at Gulfstream over the last year), I’ll take a shot as he opens at 6 to 1. Zephan opens high at 8/2 even though Castellano rides a horse who ran just fine in his only starts, battling head and head for the first half mile before fading a bit to 4th. Given nearly three months since to mature and saddled by a top trainer in Josie Carroll, we might expect significant improvement in this situation. Vegas Kitten is a first timer saddled by Chad Brown, with Jose Ortiz riding, and considering Brown wins with a very high 18% of his first timers in turf routes, this son of Kitten’s Joy bred to love the turf could give a good account at first asking.


Musical Heart must draw in from the also-eligible list but has a shot if he does coming off a 3/4 length defeat under similar conditions three weeks ago, while The Green Mo’ster didn’t show much in his last start when sixth and beaten double digit lengths but finished 4th of 12 first out and is bred to run a lot better around two turns and on turf. Add to that Romans trains and Saez rides and I just can’t completely discount the colt’s chances.


Win bet: Bet Rhode Island and Zephan to win at odds of 4 to 1 or higher.


Don’t forget to check out the Key Races & Bets Podcast, this weekend featuring a couple of very interesting betting races from Sunland Park in New Mexico, among them the Mine That Bird Derby.

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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.

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