Key Races & Bets for Saturday April 8th, 2023

Commonwealth Stakes – Race 5 at Keeneland – Post Time 2:50 PM Eastern

Main win contenders:
Heart Rhythm has the same perfect 3-for-3 record as Nakatomi, but opens at 10 to 1 as compared to 2 to 1, and that doesn’t make sense. He won a $140,000 classified allowance race over the course six months ago, similar to a stakes, and he enters the race off a classified allowance win at Oaklawn, beating stakes winner Kavod. Bejarano was up for the win last month and rides back and the horse has a good stalking style so no matter the pace scenario should run big.

Nakatomi won at the same level Heart Rhythm did, last November on the Breeders’ Cup undercard, and he should improve off a third place finish last month as he was coming back from three months off and because that win last fall at Keeneland was second off a layoff as well. Gaffalione has been aboard for three of his four wins but I will say that his best effort (with a 102 Equibase Speed Figure when winning or a 110 when third last month) is really no better than the 106 figure Heart Rhythm earned winning last fall at Keeneland, so at 2 to 1 I can’t possibly bet him to win.

Similarly, Run Classic, who opens at 3 to 1, is a win contender but doesn’t offer requisite value for a win bet. He won his only previous start at Keeneland, last October, with a 109 figure at this distance, and he cuts back to the distance of that last win off a strong third in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Stakes in mid-February, where he led at the point this race ends before settling for third.

For second on exacta tickets, we’ll include two horses which are competitive but which finish second more than they win – Long Range Toddy and Here Mi Song, both at high odds.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Heart Rhythm at odds of 5 to 2. Those are the same fair odds on the other two but it’s unlikely either will meet that threshold.

Box Heart Rhythm, Nakatomi, Run Classic
ALSO: Heart Rhythm, Nakatomi, Run Classic over Heart Rhythm, Nakatomi, Run Classic, Here Mi Song, Long Range Toddy.

Race 5: Heart Rhythm, Nakatomi, Run Classic
Race 6: Pleasant Passage

Race 5: Heart Rhythm, Nakatomi, Run Classic
Race 6: Pleasant Passage, Beautifulnavigator, Alpha Bella

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Appalachian Stakes – Race 6 at Keeneland – Post Time 3:25 PM Eastern

Pleasant Passage hasn’t been seen since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly & Mare Turf, where she closed like a shot from 10th to 2nd but had no shot to beat the much more further along (and talented) Meditate. Prior to that this filly won the Miss Grillo Stakes in New York in only the second start of her career, after breaking her maiden at first asking in a turf route. Given she won first time out going long on turf, I’m not concerned about the layoff into a turf route, particularly with a very strong best of 43 half-mile workout signaling she’s in good physical condition. Trainer McGaughey is already in the Hall-of-Fame so doesn’t need much talking up BUT it must be noted he won this race in 2020 with a filly returning off an eight month layoff as well.

Beautifulnavigator offers nice return for the risk potential so although likely not as good as Pleasant Passage, if Pleasant Passage isn’t 100% ready to fire off the layoff this gal, who opens at 12/1, can do the trick. She has run twice this year, winning one before last to break her maiden in a turf route, then she almost posted the 13 to 1 upset in the LaCombe Memorial Stakes on the grass at Fair Grounds last month. Graham rides back and the rail isn’t bad for a filly with tactical speed or one who can drop far back early and make a strong late run.

Alpha Bella is another stakes placed filly, twice in a row to be exact, having finished second in the Sweetest Chant Stakes in February then again second (this time by a neck) in the Florida Oaks last month. She too has a good mid-pack early running style and a big late kick and she gets a jockey change to Rosario, so all signs are pointing to another fine effort.

For exactas, I want to toss in a couple of horses with a chance to finish second, Papilio and Cairo Consort, who just finished second and third, respectively, in the Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Minimum odds on Pleasant Passage are 2 to 1 but she may get bet down below that threshold even though she opens at 5 to 2. The better bets (minimum odds to morning line odds ratio) appear to be Beautifulnavigator and Alpha Bella, who I would absolutely consider for win bets at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

AND, if both Beautifulnavigator and Alpha Bella go to post at 3 to 1 or more, it’s time to remember when betting two horses at greater than minimum odds/fair odds, that presents a good opportunity to use the free dutching tool at, where you can set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, and the math is done for you to help achieve the best edge. This is just one of many tools, and perks, for bettors at

Exactas: Beautifulnavigator, Alpha Bella, Pleasant Passage over Beautifulnavigator, Alpha Bella, Pleasant Passage, Papilio, Cairo Consort

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Shakertown Stakes – Race 8 at Keeneland – Post Time 4:35 PM Eastern

Main win contenders:
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (here at Keeneland) winner, Caravel, returns in this race and as is very often the case, horses coming off long layoffs (five months in this case) are more heavily bet than they should be because the public often considers as if they have run last month rather than months ago. There’s no big knocks on this mare, who faces males just as she did in the Breeders’ Cup, but opening at 8 to 5 we absolutely HAVE TO find horses which are as good as she is, and there are TWO of those.

Baker’s Bay opens at 10 to 1 because his last four races have been on the all-weather surface at Turfway Park, and not on turf. SO WHAT? He won three on grass previously, banking over $200K, and since he moved to sprinting and the all-weather he’s been running the best races in his career. The last three were all classified allowance races and he finished second in the first two of those. Then, when taking blinkers off for his last race on March 23, Bakers Boy ran the BEST race of his career, with a 109 Equibase Speed Figure better than any figure Caravel ever earned save for the Breeders’ Cup. Talamo was aboard for the last two “A” races and rides again and I expect Baker’s Boy to get into the center of the track shortly after the top of the stretch and storm home, hopefully for the upset win.

Mister Mmmmm also ran the absolute best race of his career in his most recent start, on March 5. He had a good campaign back in 2021 when winning or placing in all three turf sprint tries, then he ran on dirt and poorly before winning last summer back on the turf. Moved to the barn of Wayne Catalano between November and January, Mister Mmmmm improved nicely in his first turf try on March 5, drawing off by six lengths with a 104 figure likely to be improved upon in his second turf sprint start in succession. He’s never been worse than second in five career turf races and his career record of 4-5-1 in 14 races proves his competitive on all surfaces, so he gets a BIG look at the outcome here.

Back to Caravel, who can win on the lead or from off the pace, but who will be better served taking up a third or fourth position early as Johnny Unleashed (on the rail), Nobody Listens (on the outside if he draws into the race from the also-eligible list), Artemus Citylimits and possibly Arrest Me Red all should want the lead from the start. If you’ll recall the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, favorite Golden Pal (arguably one of the fastest horses out of the gate in the world) jumped in the air and missed the break, allowing Caravel an easy and uncontested early lead. That might not be the case here, so except for exacta and trifecta tickets, I am looking elsewhere for a profit.

We should add Oceanic to the mix for some exacta tickets at the least, opening at 15/1. In the identical Woodford Stakes last October, Oceanic ran on fast late from eighth of nine to get second at 13 to 1. He’s been off since a bad effort when 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but he likes this course, is working well, and has potential to pass more than a few in the late stages.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets: I will absolutely bet BOTH Bakers Boy and Mister Mmmmm to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

This is another race where dutching is called for, because it’s essential to get the best edge we can. The free and easy to use dutching tool at Amwager is going to come in very handy in this race.

Box Bakers Boy, Mister Mmmmm, Caravel
Box Bakers Boy, Mister Mmmmm, Caravel, Oceanic

Bakers Boy, Mister Mmmmm, Caravel over ALL over Bakers Boy, Mister Mmmmm, Caravel
(This trifecta, in conjunction with the first of the two recommended exactas, helps us profit if any two of the three contenders finishes first and second, or first and third).

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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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