Key Bets & Races for Saturday, February 3

Cross-Country Pick 4

This bet has a $0.50 minimum. It starts with Race 9 at Aqueduct (5:05 PM ET), then continues with Race 11 at Gulfstream Park (5:16 ET), Race 5 at Santa Anita (5:30 ET) and Race 12 at Gulfstream Park (5:49 PM ET).

Leg 1 – Daring Destiny, Tammany Giant, Catapult Jack

Leg 2 – Speed Franco, Untamed Domain, Gidu, Renaisance Frolic, Machtree

Leg 3 – Pepe Tono, Dark Vader, Peace

Leg 4 – Master Manipulator, Audible, Pony Up, Mississippi

The cost of the ticket above at the $0.50 minimum is $90


Forward Gal Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park – Post 4:43 PM Eastern Time

Heavenhasmynikki is perfect in two starts and although neither were stakes she did beat winners in an allowance race over the track 19 days ago, that win following two and one-half months off. She earned a 92 Equibase figure in that win, as good as the figure Sultry earned winning a three year old stakes last fall and just shy of the 96 figure favorite Take Charge Paula earned winning a stakes at Gulfstream in her most recent start on 12/9/17. Prior to that, Take Charge Paula won a stakes at Laurel with a 91 figure and earned a 92 figure when second in the similar Matron Stakes at Belmont in October. I compare Take Charge Paula‘s efforts and figures with Heavenhasmynikki because the latter opens at 6 to 1 compared to 3 to 1 for the former, so although both have about the same chance to win in my opinion, Heavenhasmynikki is the much better win bet of the pair. Miss Mo Mentum appears next most probable, her most recent effort an eight and three-quarter length win in a stakes over the track on the same date Take Charge Paula won in December.  Sultry tried two turns after her stakes win, ran poorly, and has been rested since, with a fast half-mile (2nd best of 64) and a shot to return to competitive form around one turn.



Win Bets: Bet Heavenhasmynikki to win at 3 to 1 or higher.


Exacta: Box Heavenhasmynikki and Take Charge Paula, then box Heavenhasmynikki, Take Charge Paula, Miss Mo Mentum and Sultry.

Double: Heavenhasmynikki, Take Charge Paula, Miss Mo Mentum and Sultry in Race 10 with Speed Franco, Untamed Domain, Gidu, Renaisance Frolic and Machtree in race 11.

Pick 3: Consider a pick 3 using the horses above in the first two legs and then using Master Manipulator, Pony Up, Audible, Enticed, Free Drop Billy, Tiz Mischief and Mississippi (11) in race 12.

Note about the Pick 3 as opposed to the Cross-Country Pick 4: As you will see in my Holy Bull (Race 12) analysis later on the blog, I am taking a stand against Enticed, Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief for the most part and that’s why they are not included in the Cross Country Pick 4 ticket above. However, I don’t want to be left out of a decent payday if one of the longshots wins either the 10th or 11th races and one of the favorites wins the Holy Bull.


Holy Bull  Stakes – Race 12 at Gulfstream Park – Post time 5:49 Eastern Time

Master Manipulator is on a pattern to run the best race of his career, good enough to post the upset in this year’s Holy Bull Stakes, with none of the questions of recent form shadowing some of the other entrants. After a poor effort when 11th of 12 in the Champagne Stakes last fall (while still a maiden), Master Manipulator took a little of two months off, returning as a much more mature three-year old and finishing fourth in his comeback race on December 16. 18 days later on January 3, when trying two-turns for the first time, Master Manipulator was a different horse as he led from start to finish on relatively fast fractions and was never threatened, earning a career best 98 Equibase Speed Figure. Putting that effort and figure in perspective, Enticed earned a 94 figure winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall and the best figure among the rest of the Holy Bull entrants is 102 by Pony Up on grass. With a lot of improving to do in his third start off the layoff and second two-turn start over the track, Master Manipulator should also benefit from Eclipse Award winning jockey Jose Ortiz riding him for the second time. With Aequor likely to go for the lead from the start on the stretch out to two-turns, Ortiz can use the tactical speed of Master Manipulator to drop him to the rail and save ground from the start before taking over in the stretch and holding off the closers.



Pony Up also makes his third start off a layoff, having finished second in both the Pulpit Stakes and Kitten’s Joy Stakes on turf since being away from the races from October 22 to December 9. He improved to a career-best (and field high) 102 figure in the Kitten’s Joy, missing by a neck at the finish after being seventh with an eighth of a mile to go. Pony Up can transfer that form to dirt as he continues to improve because he did finish second (beaten a half-length) in his only dirt start and because he is a half-brother to a couple of very nice horses who have won around two-turns on dirt, one being  S’maverlous, who earned nearly $700,000 in his career. With Javier Castellano moving to Audible (who may need a race before showing his best off two months away), John Velazquez takes over riding Pony Up for the first time and that is certainly fine as the team of trainer Todd Pletcher and Velazquez won nearly 30% of their races together in the last 12 months.



Audible is the other Pletcher trainee and is another Holy Bull entrant on an improving pattern of efforts and Equibase figures. After a big finish in his September debut, from 19 lengths back early to four lengths back at the wire, Audible improved to an 89 figure when breaking his maiden in November by nearly two lengths. In his next start on December 6, Audible improved a lot when winning by nine and three-quarter lengths and earning a 99 figure. Castellano was aboard for the first time in that December 6 win and rides Audible again. While I have concerns about some of the other horses in the field returning from 60 days or longer on the bench, I don’t have the same concerns with Audible because according to Stats Race Lens, Todd Pletcher’s runners have won nearly one-quarter of the time over the past two years from this type of layoff.



One more horse to mention as a possible contender, at least insofar as exotic wagers like the exacta are concerned, is Mississippi, who improved from a 98 figure effort in November when winning in his second career start to a 100 figure on January 8 finishing second and beaten less than a length at Gulfstream Park and at the distance of the Holy Bull. With the extreme outside post and having early speed, Mississippi could be forced to go quite wide or expend a lot of energy in the early stages as he and jockey Leparoux try to gain a forward position and that ground loss could be a factor late.



Although Enticed (94 best figure), Tiz Mischief (94), and Free Drop Billy all proved themselves stakes quality as two year olds last year, I must take a wait-and-see approach in their first starts of 2018 as they attempt to run two-turns without a prep race first and against horses who appear to be capable of running as fast as they are, but who have raced in the past month.


Win & Place bets: Master Manipulator and Pony Up at odds of 4 to 1 or higher.

Consider a win bet on Audible at odds of 5 to 1 or more.

Exacta: Master Manipulator, Pony Up, Audible and Mississippi over Master Manipulator, Pony Up, Audible, Mississippi, Enticed, Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief.


San Marcos Stakes – Race 7 at Santa Anita – Post time 6:30 Eastern Time

Editore was one of my KEY BETS on the day last month (January 6) in the similar San Gabriel Stakes and in my opinion he would have validated my expectations at 17 to 1 with an upset win if NOT STOPPED in traffic when rallying on the rail in the stretch. As it was, he ended up third, beaten just three-quarters of a length for second, and although we won’t get double digit odds today, he is once again a KEY BET opening at 6 to 1. Having put in two sensational “A” races in a row since an August to October layoff, Editore gamely won on this course by a head with a stakes quality 113 figure then validated that when shipped to Golden Gate for a win in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap (on all-weather) in November with a 114 figure. In spite of traffic issues in the San Gabriel, Editore earned a 115 figure which is better than last year’s San Marcos winner Isotherm (111) earned then or since and just shy of the 117 and 118 figures favorite Itsinthepost earned winning the San Gabriel and the John Henry last fall. With an outside post today, it’s much less likely Brice Blanc will put Editore on the rail during the race, particularly considering his last win at Santa Anita came from the seven post, so I’m hopeful this gelding can post the mild upset in this situation.

Itsinthepost and Flamboyant are the other two main win contenders, with Isotherm and Hayabusa One to be used in second and third on exacta and trifecta tickets, respectively. Itsinthepost is a fairly legitimate favorite off his last win, but did lead late and get passed in the final strides when second in this race last year so is no lock. Flamboyant rediscovered competitive form when second in the San Gabriel, rallying from last of 10, and he won this race in 2016.


Win Bet: Editore at 2 to 1 or more, a TRUE KEY BET on the day.

Exactas: Editore, Itsinthepost and Flamboyant over Editore, Itsinthepost, Flamboyant, Isotherm and Hayabusa One.

You can also play the above exacta as a trifecta using the same horses in second and third position.

Double: Editore in race 7 with ALL in race 8.

Double: Editore, Itsinthepost and Flamboyant in race 7 with Pavel, The Lieutenant, Prime Attraction and Top of the Game in race 8.


San Pasqual Stakes – Race 8 at Santa Anita – Post time 7 PM Eastern

Pavel makes his first start as a four year old and second off a layoff, last seen finishing fourth in the opening day Malibu Stakes. He has a l of of upside and many of the others have big question marks, particularly two of the other morning line favorites in Mubtaahij and Accelerate, the former a non-threatening third as the favorite behind Prime Attraction in the lower class Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at the end of November and the latter having finished second in the San Antonio on 12/26, that race turning out to be a dud as both winner Giant Expectations and runner-up Collected ran horribly in the Pegasus Cup last weekend. Accelerate won just one of eight last year and beat no one special when he won, and Mubtaahij may have won the Grade 1 Awesome Again over the track last September off a six month layoff but his last win before that came more than two years earlier. Pavel  proved himself as very talented when third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last fall in only the fourth race of his career, nearly beating Keen Ice for second, before a dud in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Off the seven furlong prep, he’s going to be very tough to beat here. Top of the Game inexplicably opens as the three to one favorite even though he has only run twice in graded stakes and very poorly at that. His last win came at the end of October in a non-graded stakes and the 118 figure was solid but his other two wins only earned 109 figures. He’s a five year old and those are likely the best figures he can put forth, whereas Pavel earned 111 and 107 figures as a three year old and a 106 in the Malibu he’s bound to move forward off. Prime Attraction posted the 7 to 1 upset in the Native Diver, after a big runner-up effort on turf in the John Henry Stakes behind Itsinthepost (running one race before the San Pasqual). He’s got tactical speed and there’s not much in this race so if Pereira chooses to go for the front the cold could be tough to catch, opening at 6 to 1.


Last but certainly not least, The Lieutenant opens at 20/1 odds with one of the top jockeys (Prat) on the circuit aboard for the first time since the horse broke his maiden in May, 2016. Since then, The Lieutenant took 14 months off, winning two of three route races since the comeback, the most recent a classified allowance with a 111 figure that, if improved upon, would be good for a big piece and possibly an upset win. Trainer Mike McCarthy, a Pletcher protégé, has really got hot of late and this horse is definitely coming in under the radar.



Win Bet: Pavel to win at odds of 3 to 1 or higher.

Also consider a win bet on Prime Attraction at 4 to 1 or more and a win bet on The Lieutenant at 5 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 10/1 or higher.


Exacta: Box Pavel, Prime Attraction, Top of the Game and The Lieutenant

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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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