Key Horse Races & Expert Handicapper Bets – September 25, 2021

Turf Monster Stakes – Race 9 at Parx Racing – Post Time 3:51 PM Eastern

The win contenders in this race are Carotari and Firecrow. To a lesser extent Beer Can Man and Caravel can be considered contenders as well.

Carotari loves these short turf sprints, having finished first or second in four of his last seven, all stakes. By far the best effort of his career came last month when, returning from a two month layoff, Carotari nearly posted the 23 to 1 upset in the Troy Stakes at Saratoga after leading by two lengths with just an eighth of a mile to run. Beaten a half-length at the wire, he was flattered when the horse he beat for second by a length (Gear Jockey) came back to win the Grade 3 Turf Sprint Stakes at Kentucky Downs, defeating the winner of the Troy, Fast Boat, who ended up fourth. When making his second start off a layoff this past March, Carotari won the Silks Run Stakes at Gulfstream at this five furlong turf trip and improved nicely off his comeback effort, so I expect him to run even better today. Best of all, although he can win from off the pace, Carotari projects on top early, and with the best late kick in this field as well could be very tough to beat.

Firecrow won the Turf Sprint Stakes on Preakness weekend at Pimlico when last seen, in May. That was two months after his previous race and now he returns from four months off. That’s fine, especially with Rosario riding, who rode him for the first time in the Turf Sprint. Whereas Firecrow had gone for the lead in nearly every other start in the past two years, Rosario got him to relax in second in the early stages before a big push in the final 16th of a mile. The 109 figure was a career best and another top effort is very likely here.

Caravel opens as the 9 to 5 favorite and I’m not sure why. A filly facing males, she ran just okay against males last month in the Highlander Stakes at Woodbine, a Grade 1 race, but before that when beating her own gender in the Caress Stakes at Saratoga, she ran a LOT slower than Carotari did two weeks earlier, earning a 103 figure compared to his 114 figure in the Troy. She’s won seven of 10 so can’t be knocked on spirit but she doesn’t appear as fast as many in here and her three pound break in the weights as a filly isn’t going to change that. Still, she can relax off the pace and make a late run so I’ll use her on some exacta and pick 3 tickets. On the other hand, Beer Can Man is very playable at 8 to 1 starting odds. He’s a three year old facing older coming off a career best effort at Del Mar last month at this five furlong trip and he won the Grade 3 Cecil B. Demille Stakes last November so he fits at the level. He can rate off the pace and Flavien Prat comes in to ride a colt that may be ignored by many bettors.

Handicapper Picks


Win bets:

Carotari should be bet to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

Firecrow can be bet at 7 to 2 or more but he is likely to be lower than those odds near post time.

Beer Can Man can be bet at 5 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.


Carotari over Beer Can Man, Firecrow and Caravel

Optionally, play the reverse of that exacta as well, but for less (about half) what you play the exactas with Carotari on top.

Box Carotari and Firecrow



Box Carotari, Beer Can Man, Firecrow and Caravel



Race 9: Carotari

Race 10: Jackie’s Warrior


Pick 3:

Race 9: Carotari, Firecrow, Beer Can Man, Caravel

Race 10: Jackie’s Warrior

Race 11: Army Wife


Pick 3:

Race 9: Carotari

Race 10: Jackie’s Warrior

Race 11: Army Wife, Clariere, Leader of the Band, Maracuja, Always Carina

Race 10 is the Gallant Bob Stakes. Jackie’s Warrior is the 4 to 5 starting favorite who is likely to go to post at 1 to 5 odds or less. He is a legitimate favorite so we’ll skip betting the race, except in Doubles and Pick 3s started in race 9.

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Duchess Stakes – Race 7 at Woodbine – Post Time 4:30 PM Eastern

I included this race on this week’s blog and podcast  because I personally intend to bet it heavily, given the starting odds on my top two choices – Aug Lutes and Hazelbrook, are 8 to 1. The other contender is 2 to 1 starting favorite Lady War Machine.

Aug Lutes is a perfect three-for-three, with all three wins on all-weather, one at Woodbine last November, with her last win versus older and now facing just three year olds. The fact she’s 8 to 1 can only be attributed to the fact nearly every horse in this 10 horse field won or finished second in their most recent starts. Excellent trainer Mike Trombetta ships Aug Lutes up from Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania and has sent many starters from that track to Woodbine for wins, an example being the 2019 Duchess Stakes. Red hot Antonio Gallardo takes the call and this filly should improve markedly second off the layoff, so with one the best last race Equibase Speed Figures (88) in the field already rock solid versus theses, she’s well spotted to post the upset.

Hazelbrook lost her debut last November but has won both since, the last similar to Aug Lutes as it was versus three year olds and older. She showed a big turn of foot with a quarter mile to run going from sixth to lead and she too is making her second start off a layoff with a strong 89 figure to improve upon.

Lady War Machine can win but as the lowest odds contender of the trio I am rooting more heavily for the other two. She won the Alywow Stakes on grass from the rail at the end of July and like Hazelbrook is going for her third win in a row. Husbands rides back and the only knock (besides low odds) is she likes to be very close to the pace so will have to expend a bit of energy early to get position and hope to have enough late to hold off the stalkers and closers. She also earned an 89 figure and this being her third start off the year has improving to do.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets: BOTH Aug Lutes and Hazelbrook can be bet at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

This is a perfect race for using a DUTCHING tool, like the one at Amwager, to help you gain the best mathematical edge possible when betting two horses to win.


Box Aug Lutes, Hazelbrook and Lady War Machine


Aug Lutes, Hazelbrook and Lady War Machine over Aug Lutes, HazelbrookLady War Machine, Lorena, Miss Speedy and Bellissime

Aug Lutes, HazelbrookLady War Machine, Lorena, Miss Speedy and Bellissime over Aug Lutes, Hazelbrook and Lady War Machine

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Cotillion Stakes – Race 11 at Parx – Post Time 5:02 PM Eastern

Army Wife is a standout in my opinion but we will go a bit deeper on some double and pick 3 tickets and use ClariereLeader of the BandMaracuja and Always Carina.

Army Wife would likely have won the Alabama Stakes last month at Saratoga if the race were shorter, like the Cotillion is. She was five wide at the quarter pole (after a mile) and made the lead, holding it until the nine furlong mark, when she was passed by Malathaat and Clariere. Before that, at this distance in the Iowa Oaks, Army Wife drew off to win by nearly four lengths, the same way she had in the nine furlong Black Eyed Susan Stakes in May. Rosario was aboard for both wins but did not ride in the Alabama and gets back on here, and those are the keys with which Army Wife can return to stakes winning form.

Clariere is a good horse, but not a top horse, as she’s been beaten by Malathaat twice, by Maracuja, Travel Column and by Zaajel in her last five races. She just didn’t take the next step after winning the Rachel Alexandra Stakes this February, OR, she’s just been beaten by better horse. Just the same the 105 figure earned when second in the Alabama is on par with the 104 Army Wife earned and the 102 Clariere earned when third in the Mother Goose at this distance is on par with the 102 Army Wife earned winning the Iowa Oaks so if Army Wife falters Clariere could be the winner.

We have a nice price opportunity in Leader of the Band for the same reasons, as she has improved in her last three starts, with a career best 100 figure when beaten a half-length last month in a stakes over the track. She won the Monmouth Oaks prior to that so has just slightly lesser credentials as compared to Army Wife, yet opens at 12/1. If she takes another step forward and Army Wife does not, I would be kicking myself if I did not have a few dollars to win on Leader of the Band. Maracuja opens at 8 to 1 off a very poor seventh place finish in the Alabama when 6 to 1 whereas runner up Clariere was 8 to 1. She won the CCA Oaks at Saratoga around two turns (nine furlongs) prior to that with a very strong 107 figure she had not come close to before or since. Santana gets off to ride Clariere but Carmouche rode her in three straight before the CCA Oaks, including when second in the Gazelle Stakes, so if she can turn that one-good-one-bad-one-good pattern into a good race she might upset these. Always Carina is the one to catch, having wired the field in her first two starts and with the scratch of Private Mission. She faded to second in the Mother Goose and held off Clariere by a nose for the runner-up spot was a well-beaten fourth in the Test Stakes. This will be her first two-turn race and she’s bred for the trip, as well as calls the Chad Brown barn home, so opening at 6/1 deserves a little respect.

Handicapper Picks

Win betsArmy Wife 6 to 5 or higher, a true low odds overlay win bet.

ExactaArmy Wife over Leader of the Band

Box Army Wife and Leader of the Band

TrifectaArmy Wife over ALL over Leader of the Band

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Pennsylvania Derby – Race 12 at Parx – Post Time 5:49 PM Eastern

Trainer Bill Mott is in the Hall-of-Fame for many reasons, and one of those is his ability to know when a horse in his care is talented enough to compete at the top level. With that in mind, Speaker’s Corner is my top choice to win this year’s Pennsylvania Derby. Speaker’s Corner is the most lightly raced horse in the field, having run just three times. He debuted a little over one year ago and finished third then improved sensationally off the experience to win. Whatever kept him away from the races from last October until last month is irrelevant now, as Speaker’s Corner returned on August 14 to win impressively, beating older horses at the distance of seven furlongs, which is a difficult task off a long layoff. Jose Ortiz rode Speaker’s Corner for the first time last month and returns again with a colt that is highly likely to take a big step up second off the layoff just as he did in his second career start. Considering Speaker’s Corner earned a 107 EquibaseÒ Speed Figure with the effort last month, he could easily run faster than Hot Rod Charlie (113 in July) or Midnight Bourbon (109 last month). The key to this kind of improvement doesn’t just lie with a horse logically improving physically and mentally in his second start off a layoff, as we circle back to Bill Mott and his record when stretching a horse out from sprint to a route off in its second start off a layoff the past two years. Mott did this with Candy Man Rocket when saddling to victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes this winner, and with Art Collector just last month in the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga. Additionally, owner/breeder Godolphin, whose Essential Quality is one of the top three year olds of 2021, won the Summer Stakes and Natalma Stakes last weekend as well as the Pattison Canadian International and the Jockey Club Derby Invitational, so it may be very difficult to pass on Speaker’s Corner at high odds in this year’s Pennsylvania Derby.

Americanrevolution is also likely to go to the gate at high odds, even though he has a perfect three-for-three record in 2021. Moving to the barn of Todd Pletcher for his first start of the year and second of his career and following eight months off, Americanrevolution won a sprint then when stretching out to two turns improved dramatically for a seven length win in the New York Derby. Better still, in the Albany Stakes last month at Saratoga and at the distance of the Pennsylvania Derby, Americanrevolution won in a hand ride by five lengths to earn a 108 figure which is logically going to be improved upon on his current pattern. Jockey Luis Saez, who recently captured the Saratoga riding title against the strongest jockey colony in North American, has been aboard for all three of the colt’s wins to date and will be in the saddle once again. A son of Constitution, whose Tiz the Law won four graded stakes as a three year old last year, Americanrevolution has tremendous potential to run well in this race and I would not hesitate to bet him to win in addition to Speaker’s Corner if the odds are high.

Hot Rod Charlie is a street fighter of a horse, with a very strong competitive instinct backed up with great ability. First, second or third in seven straight races, Hot Rod Charlie has never lost his physical edge since last October when earning his first win. Beaten one length when third in the Kentucky Derby and earning a career-best 109 figure in the process, Hot Rod Charlie battled head-and-head for most of the last half-mile in the often grueling Belmont Stakes five weeks later, beaten a bit over a length and 11 lengths clear of third place finisher Rombauer, who had just posted the upset win in the Preakness three weeks earlier. Then, in the Haskell Stakes in mid-July, Hot Rod Charlie did everything asked when beating Mandaloun by a nose, but was disqualified and placed last for drifting in with an eighth of a mile to go and in the steward’s view causing Midnight Bourbon to trip and lose his jockey. That effort earned Hot Rod Charlie the best last race Equibase Figure in the field, 113, which if repeated would make him very tough to beat. That is, if Speaker’s Corner and Americanrevolution don’t continue their patterns of improvement and run faster.

Midnight Bourbon has only won two of 11 career races, finishing second in four others. The best of those four came in his most recent race last month in the Travers. After leading from the start in an otherwise paceless race, Midnight Bourbon dug in and went head-and-head with Essential Quality for the entire last eighth of a mile, coming up a neck short and earning a 109 figure. Certainly if he can repeat that effort in the Pennsylvania Derby, Midnight Bourbon could be in the thick of the action at the finish.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Speaker’s Corner AND Americanrevolution to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

This is another perfect race for using a DUTCHING tool like the one at Amwager to allocate your win wagering dollars for the best edge.


Box Speaker’s Corner, Americanrevolution and Hot Rod Charlie

Box Speaker’s Corner, Americanrevolution and Midnight Bourbon



Box Speaker’s Corner, Americanrevolution, Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon

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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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