Key Races & Bets for Saturday December 16th, 2022

Via Borghese Stakes – Race 6 at Gulfstream Park- Post Time 2:39 PM Eastern

Top win contenders:
Treasure of War can absolutely run a lot better than her 15 to 1 starting odds suggest in this 11 furlong turf marathon. She’s run only six times, finishing first or second in three of five in which she has not worn blinkers as today. She won at nine furlongs on grass this past summer, then ran 14th in the Virginia Oaks, then rebounded to finish second when last seen at the end of October. I’m not sure why she opens at 15 to 1 off a runner-up effort at the NW2X allowance level, because Flying Fortress won at the level before a poor fifth place effort in a stakes, yet that one is 7 to 2 .Similarly Starship Mallomar was third at the NW2X level last out but is 8 to 1 and Lisheen was second in a NW1X allowance race yet is 4 to 1. Treasure of War’s win on 7/24 earned a 96 Equibase speed figure, which is IDENTICAL to the 96 figure 2 to 1 starting favorite Beside Herself earned, at the same NW2X level, winning in August. More on Beside Herself later. As Treasure of War is by Declaration of War, sire of multiple marathon graded stakes winner Gufo, there’s no doubt she can get the 11 furlongs here and that’s another reason she’s the top pick.

Beside Herself is the other horse with a lot of the probability to win. She won at a similar marathon distance in August and was fourth and eighth since, but in grade 3 company. She takes blinkers off and gets the rail, with a jockey change to Saez. Saez has been aboard for two of her three wins, and in each case she was hustled to the lead and led every step of the way, so we can expect the same tactics here. The only knock is she opens at 2 to 1 so is not nearly as good a win bet as compared to Treasure of War.

Lisheen and Good American will be used in second on exacta tickets, opening at 4/1 and 8/1, respectively. Lisheen rallied from far back in 11th to get second into a six length winner last month on turf and has won at this 11 furlong trip, while Good American makes her first start in the U.S. off a runner-up at the distance in England at the end of October and gets Gaffalione which is a very good sign she’s live.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Treasure of War to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.
$1 exacta: ALL over Treasure of War (this will pay much better than a place bet)

Treasure of War and Beside Herself over Treasure of War, Beside Herself, Lisheen and Good American

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H. Allen Jerkens Handicap – Race 9 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:11 PM Eastern

Top contenders:
Another Mystery, Reigning Spirit, Kinenos and Agitare all have a decent shot to win this two mile marathon on turf, but similar to the Via Borghese Stakes the 15/1 starting odds on Reigning Spirit are out of whack compared to the other contenders so we will look at him first for our win bets. Reigning Spirit is actually no worse (nor any better) than many in this field in terms of his record and his ability to run long distances. He earned career win #2 this past March in his eighth career start but his race in May in the very similar Louisville Stakes is what makes him a strong play here. In that 12 furlong marathon, Reigning Spirit rallied from ninth of 14 to get to within a neck of the lead at the top of the stretch and then battled down to the wire, beaten a head at 60 to 1. Returning in a tough 12 furlong event at Saratoga next he wasn’t disgraced when third, then two later he won at 12 furlongs. Something wasn’t right when 11th of 12 in the Red Smith Stakes at the end of November, but that was a grade 2 stakes and this is a non-graded stakes so perhaps just the change in class is sufficient for him to return to the form shown in Marth, May and October, particularly with Gaffalione getting on for the first time.

Another Mystery ran a very similar race in the Grade 2 Kentucky Turf Cup on 9/10 as Reigning Spirit did when missing by a neck in the Louisville Stakes, as he came up a neck short in a photo on the wire. He also missed by a narrow margin, a head, when last seen on 10/15 in the Pizza Man Stakes at a much shorter distance. Having won the 12 furlong John B. Connally Stakes in January, Another Mystery has proven to be a stayer as well, and his four to one starting odds might prove very fair if they hold up, particularly with Irad Ortiz, Jr. Riding for Mike Maker.

Kinenos is also trained by Maker, who has a strong knack for claiming horses and turning them into turf stakes winners as he is trying to do here with this horse who he claimed just one before last in August for 62,500. Kinenos finished third off that claim, at the shorter one and one-sixteenth mile trip, but the race he was claimed out of was a mile and one-half, and the horse has already run this two mile trip, not too badly when fourth of nine in a similar non-graded stakes in New York last summer. It’s a key sign of intent Saez will ride and since his best efforts (with 104 and 109 figures) stack up well with Reigning Spirit (106) and Another Mystery (106 and 110), Kinenos is another contender for all the marbles here.

Agitare made his U.S. debut on 10/15 at Far Hills, in an identical two mile, $100K stakes race on the turf. He rallied from sixth of 14 to win that day, powering off by nearly five lengths, and the 110 figure he earned tells us is he can repeat that effort he can win his second stakes race in the U.S. in a row.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Reigning Spirit at odds of 7 to 2 or more
Another Mystery to win at odds of 7 to 2 or more
$1 exacta: ALL over Reigning Spirit (this will pay much better than a place bet)

Minimum odds for win bets on the other two contenders, Kinenos and Agitare (who open at 9/2 and 8/1, respectively), are 9 to 2 and I would have no issue betting BOTH Reigning Spirit and Agitare to win if both are well above the minimum threshold.

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Box Another Mystery, Reigning Spirit, Kinenos and Agitare

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Jeffrey A. Hawk Stakes – Race 11 at Remington Park – Post Time 10:50 PM Eastern

Although this race occurs quite late in the evening I think it’s worth waiting for because it contains another horse opening at 15 to 1 which should not be the case. That horse is Tut’s Revenge, who has won or placed in 18 of 41 career starts and who has earned just shy of a half-million dollars. He nearly pulled off the mild upset at eight to one in the Evan Williams Turf Mile this August when stalking in third, leading late then beaten a neck on the wire and he’s just as tough on dirt, as when winning a stakes this past May around two turns on dirt. In his last start on 11/22 at Zia Park, in the Zia Sprint Stakes, Tut’s Revenge rallied from far back to get fourth, but sprinting is not his best trip and so on the rail and on the stretch out he’s very likely to run as he did in the stakes on dirt this past May when sitting second for the first six furlongs then taking over, hopefully outlasting the two favorites who are fairly legitimate but not standouts.

Rated R Superstar and Caddo River are those two, who we’ll key on exacta tickets with Tut’s Revenge. Rated R Superstar is a nine year old but he’s won three of eight this year including the Governor’s Cup Stakes over the track in August, while Caddo River is a much younger four year old with a 5-4-1 record in 14 race. His best effort came in May at Oaklawn in classified allowance race and if he’s ready to fire off a five month layoff he could have a say in the outcome as well.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Tut’s Revenge at odds of 4 to 1 or more
$1 exacta: ALL over Tut’s Revenge (this will pay much better than a place bet)

Box Tut’s Revenge and Rated R Superstar
Box Tut’s Revenge and Caddo Rivers

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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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