Key Horse Races & Expert Handicapper Bets - May 15, 2021

Skipat Stakes – Race 9 at Pimlico – Post Time 3:25 PM Eastern

French Empire has won four in a row while moving through the allowance ranks in Kentucky and Arkansas and that apparently caught the attention of a number of people, who privately purchased her after her last race on March 26. Now in the hands of Brad Cox and with a trio of strong workouts since leaving Kentucky, the mare moves into grade 3 stakes competition with the BEST (by far) pair of recent Equibase figures, 106 then 110, as compared to the rest of the field. She was scratched out of the Grade 3 Vagrancy at Belmont to run in this non-graded race and opening at 3 to 1 she’s a KEY low odds overlay win bet on the day.

The 8/5 starting favorite, Chub Wagon, is a need the lead type in a race with two other need the lead types in Never Enough Time and Dontletsweetfoolya and I’m taking a stand against her completely.

Handicapper Picks

WinFrench Empire to win at odds of even money or higher.

ExactaFrench Empire over Club CarCasual and Call on Mischief.


Race 9: French Empire

Race 10: BoldorCompleted PassDubini

Pick 3:

Race 9: French Empire

Race 10: BoldorCompleted PassDubini

Race 11: LakiMuchoSeven Nation ArmySpecial Reserve

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Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes – Race 10 at Pimlico – Post Time 4:05 PM Eastern

Turf sprints are always interesting and often there are a few horses which excel at these types of races, some running fast in front from start to finish. However, in this case, there are FIVE horses (Grab the Gold, The Critical Way, Hollis, Push to Start and Firecrow) who have the same style and it’s only going to take a couple of them to sizzle early and fizzle late while the ones that end up in a pressing role may not know what to do and give up as they really have never passed horses late.

Completed Pass benefits tremendously from that hot early pace scenario. He missed by a neck in last year’s Turf Sprint (run in September) when Hollis lead from start to finish (which is highly unlikely today) and he won last month on the course at the distance in his first start after five months off. Likely to be even more fit second off the layoff, and with a good post to allow him to get mid-pack position before the far turn, Completed Pass appears very capable of notching his 10th career win today. By the way, he won this race in 2019.

Dubini returns from a layoff since last August when fifth in a similar stakes. Just prior to that he finished fastest of all to win, and he put three “A” races in a row together in similar turf sprints, including two stakes, in the summer and fall of 2019. Having finished first or second in half of his 24 career races, Dubini has a shot to be passing most if not all of these late to be part of the exacta and trifecta at the very least.

Boldor gets the rail and that’s my only concern, because in spite of being a stalker and closer if all five “early pace” types go he will be sixth in the early stages and jockey Santana will have to find a way through in the stretch to win. He finished second to turf star Maven last month in a highly rated race and won a stakes on the turf in the summer of 2019, with nearly every one of his races between then and last month on dirt. Santana getting on for Asmussen is a positive factor and I expect this horse who has been first or second in half of his 16 races to date to give a good account of himself.

Handicapper Picks

Win betsCompleted Pass at 8 to 5 or higher.

Consider a second, smaller (about half that on Completed Pass) win bet on Dubini or Bolder (whichever has the higher odds near post time) at 3 to 1 or more.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. A Dutching tool lets you set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, then based on the odds your bets are proportioned accordingly. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Trifecta (this is preferred over the exacta because of the 13 horse field):

Completed PassBoldor and Dubini over Completed PassBoldor and Dubini over ALL.

Optionally play Completed PassBoldor and Dubini in first and third, with ALL in second. This way we win if any two of the three finish first and third, and if the three finish first, second and third we win twice if we make both bets.

Double: (Optional if you played the pick 3 in race 9 and French Empire won)

Race 10: BoldorCompleted PassDubini

Race 11: LakiMuchoSeven Nation ArmySpecial Reserve

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Maryland Sprint Stakes – Race 11 at Pimlico – Post Time 4:41 PM Eastern

Strike Power is a very good horse with four wins and $450K in earnings BUT his last two wins have been earned on the lead from the start and that is very likely the strategy today. Breezy Gust has the same strategy, as likely does Lebda. That leaves Special Reserve in the exact same spot of being fourth in the early stages he was three races back when getting up to win in a race at Oaklawn Park. Claimed out of the race by Mike Maker, Special Reserve won very smartly on the lead in March then in his most recent race ran HUGE when second to Flagstaff in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Stakes, with Flagstaff coming back to win on Derby day. Irad Ortiz, Jr. gets on and the horse cuts back from seven to six furlongs which should give him some extra stamina in the late stages to go by the field and win.

Seven Nation Army gets a good post for this type of race, similar to his effort last November in a classified allowance race at Churchill Downs when he rallied from fifth of seven to win. He finished second in a stakes off a layoff in February, then fourth, then won his most recent and with Saez getting on this hard knocking horse with 13 first or second place finishes in 26 races figures to be a threat down to the wire.

Mucho and Laki have lower probability to win as compared to the top pair but have to be considered as contenders. Mucho also cuts back from the Commonwealth where he rallied to second at the top of the stretch before tiring. He won two before that at this six furlong trip when rallying from sixth and has the kind of late kick to be very dangerous here. Laki just won the Frank Whitely Stake at Pimlico last month at the distance and he also won the similar Frank De Frances Memorial last October. He’s won 11 of 33 to date and if he didn’t draw the rail I may have chosen him as my top pick. He can still win from the inside and Karamanos rides him very well but he will need a great trip in this 11 horse field to run his best, which is certainly good enough to win.

Handicapper Picks

WinStrike Power and Seven Nation Army to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

This is another race where a DUTCHING tool does us a lot of good and helps us to make a profit. A Dutching tool, like the one which is free to use at, saves us doing the math to determine the right wagering amounts.

Exacta: Box Strike PowerSeven Nation ArmyMucho and Laki.


TrifectaStrike PowerSeven Nation ArmyMucho and Laki over Strike PowerSeven Nation ArmyMucho and Laki over ALL. (Because the same four horses are used in first and second this is similar to an exacta box so if the trifecta is played the exacta need not be played, and vice-versa).

Optionally: Strike PowerSeven Nation ArmyMucho and Laki over ALL over Strike PowerSeven Nation ArmyMucho and Laki. (This covers the possibility of two of the three finishing first and third. If you bet both trifectas and three of the four finish first, second and third you win twice).

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Preakness Stakes – Race 13 at Pimlico – Post Time 6:47 PM Eastern
The win contenders are Midnight BourbonMedina Spirit and Unbridled Honor. I’m using Crowded Trade and France Go de Ina in second and third on exacta and trifecta tickets and I am taking a stand against Concert Tour because the combination of his running style and post are problematic in my opinion. My detailed contender analysis for the Preakness is available AMERICA’S BEST RACING or EQUIBASE. Handicapper Picks WinMidnight Bourbon at odds of 2 to 1 or more. Unbridled Honor to win at 3 to 1 or more. If betting both the FREE Dutching tool at Amwager will take care of the math in allocating your bets as Midnight Bourbon opens at 5 to 1 and Unbridled Honor opens at 15/1. Exacta and Trifecta: Midnight BourbonMedina Spirit and Unbridled Honor over Midnight BourbonMedina SpiritUnbridled HonorCrowded Trade and France Go de Ina

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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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