Key Races & Bets for Saturday February 10th, 2024

Minaret Stakes – Race 7 at Tampa Bay Downs -Post Time 3:43 PM Eastern

Top Contenders: Bazinga C, Dreaming of Snow

Although a case can be made for most of these to win or to be part of the exacta, there are TWO strong contenders, both at decent odds, to hone in on. Bazinga C has never ONLY gone to post at higher than 5 to 1 one time in 16 career races (and she finished second in that one) and it’s no wonder given her very consistent overall record of 6-5-1 in 16 starts. Yet, she opens at 15 to 1 here in spite of moving to the very strong Saffie Joseph, Jr. Barn and shipping over from Gulfstream Park where she’s stabled. Joesph has a strong record when racing at Tampa the last three years, 6-5-5 in 29 starts, and this filly who earned more than $200K in 2022 then only ran twice last year has a lot of upset potential. She was off from November of 2022 until last September and finished second in her comeback, then fourth, before being given three months off. Since joining the Joesph barn near the end of December she’s been working very consistently in the morning, every six to eight days, and her best efforts with 93 and 92 Equibase Speed Figures, line up just fine with horses at much lower odds.

Dreaming of Snow won in December over the track after shipping in from Gulfstream Park, then went back to Gulfstream and finished fifth. She comes back to Tampa and is reunited with Camacho, who rode her to ALL four of her career wins, three here on the Tampa main track, and she won the Suncoast Stakes on this day last year. Coming into the race, Dreaming of Snow put in a spectacular half-mile workout over the track and like Bazinga C, her starting odds, in this case 8 to 1, are betting us to take advantage for a win bet as they are way out of line with her probability to win.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Both Bazinga C and Dreaming of Snow can and should be bet to win at odds of 7 to 2 or more.

As we have TWO excellent win bet opportunities in this race, using a DUTCHING TOOL, which prorates our wagers for the best value, is quite useful. There’s a free DUTCHING tool at Amwager which I use all the time and which helps us gain the best edge possible when betting more than one horse to win.

Also, since both Bazinga C and Dreaming of Snow could be high odds near post time, we can play at least a $1 minimum exacta in lieu of a place bet, which would be ALL over Bazinga C and Dreaming of Snow

Doubles: Earn a 20% Payout Bonus, up to $50, on winning exotic wagers on this race when you opt-in and bet with AmWager. 
Race 7: Bazinga C, Dreaming of Snow
Race 8: Nakatomi, Caramel Chip

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Pelican Stakes – Race 8 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:15 PM Eastern

Win contenders: Nakatomi, Caramel Chip

As drawn, up to six of the eight runners in this field are NEED THE LEAD types, or, horses which have only run well when second in the early stages. Hurricane J (on the rail and who wears blinkers), Doctor Oscar and Super Ocho are the former type to be sure, with Mish, Little Vic and Sibelius also appearing to be the type who need the early lead to win. Although the latter three may be capable of sitting in second in the early stages still run well, they can’t be second in the early stages here with so many horses vying for the lead through the opening quarter mile and half-mile, and they really don’t have the needed kick to pass the tiring pacesetters and still hold off the two stalkers/closers.

Caramel Chip opens at ridiculous odds of 12 to 1 in spite of having won eight times in 15 races this year and last, including a one-for-one record at Tampa, and the fact Jose Ortiz rides is another plus. The horse has won two in a row, seemingly cheaper than at this stakes level as one was a starter allowance and the other was an allowance race, but they were FASTER than all but two other horse’s (in the field) last race. Two back Caramel Chip won by nearly four lengths at this six furlong trip with a stakes level 106 Equibase Figure then earned a 95 figure just 17 days ago. The only horses which have run faster recently are Super Ocho (108 in December, Mish (97 in December) and Sibelius (97 also in December) but ALL three have pace scenario issues. ON the other hand, Caramel Chip gets the outside post which allows him to relax as the inside horses duel too fast for their own good on the lead, and he could easily win for the 12th time in his 31st career start on dirt, posting the upset in doing so.

Nakatomi opens at much lower odds, 8 to 5, and might be considered a legitimate favorite as he was last seen finishing a fine third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Before that he finished well for second in the Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland, that effort coming off a layoff similar to the one he’s coming back from today. Those two efforts earned 109 and 115 figures which dominate if repeated, and he gets a jockey change BACK to Tyler Gaffalione, who rode him three back to a strong win sprinting in non-stakes company at Saratoga with a 102 figure.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Since Nakatomi doesn’t offer value for win bets, Caramel Chip is the only horse we can bet to win and we can do so at odds of 2 to 1 or more. Nakatomi also has fair odds of 2 to 1 but is highly unlikely to reach that threshold.

Exactas: Earn a 20% Payout Bonus, up to $50, on winning exotic wagers on this race when you opt-in and bet with AmWager.
Box Nakatomi, Caramel Chip

Trifectas: Earn a 20% Payout Bonus, up to $50, on winning exotic wagers on this race when you opt-in and bet with AmWager! 
Nakatomi and Caramel Chip over ALL over Nakatomi and Caramel Chip
Playing both the exacta and trifecta covers all outcomes where the two contenders finish 1st & 2nd, or 1st and 3rd

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Sam F. Davis Stakes – Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 5:15 PM Eastern

Top Win contenders: Change of Command, Agate Road
Secondary win contenders (offering more value): Tireless, Elysian Meadows

Change of Command has been brought along slowly by his Hall-of-Fame trainer, Shug McGaughey, who started him at six furlongs last summer then two races later in November stretched him out to a mile. That effort in his third career start earned the colt a career-best 86 Equibase Speed Figure even though he faded to second after leading in mid-stretch. That effort was no disgrace as winner Sierra Leone came back to lead late and nearly win the Remsen Stakes the next month. Meanwhile, Change of Command won his next race in December. Then, when stretched out two two-turns last month, the colt returned to top form winning by a neck after gamely battling head-and-head for the final three-sixteenths of a mile. Top jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who has been riding every day at Gulfstream and rarely rides at Tampa Bay Downs, comes across the state for a potential Kentucky Derby mount. With just slight improvement off his last effort, Change of Command can provide this top trainer and jockey a win in this year’s Sam F. Davis Stakes.

Agate Road moves back to dirt, where he missed by a nose in his debut last summer, off an excellent effort in the Dania Beach Stakes last month on the grass at Gulfstream Park. One of two saddled by Todd Pletcher, who has won this race three times in the past 10 years. Agate Road follows a similar pattern as that of 2018 Sam F. Davis winner Flameaway. who won the Kitten’s Joy Stakes, run on the same weekend that year as the Dania Beach was run this year. Last fall Agate Road won the Grade 2 Pilgrim Stakes on grass with an 80 figure and although fifth of 11 the following month in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, he was only beaten two lengths for the win and improved to a 104 figure which, if repeated, would make him the one to beat in this field. There is little doubt Agate Road can run as well on dirt as he has on turf as he’s a son of Quality Road, out of a mare whose other foal has earned more than $300,000 and has won four dirt route races. As such, Agate Road should be taken very seriously as a contender for all the marbles in this race.

Tireless is the other Pletcher trainee and on that count must be respected. Like Agate Road does for this race, Tireless moved from turf to dirt in November, earning a then career-best 83 figure with a fine runner-up effort. Making his first start at Tampa Bay Downs last month, Tireless ran even better, rallying from fourth to draw off a bit late and earning a new career-best 88 figure. This well bred colt who cost $875,000 at auction in 2022 has a bright future ahead of him and except for the fact he’s never run in a stakes race, appears to have what it takes to be competitive against this group.

Elysian Meadows is likely to be a longshot in this field, having drawn the sometimes disadvantageous outside post and trying two turns and stakes competition for the first time. However, it might be a mistake to ignore him given that Hall-of-Fame trainer Bill Mott would not have entered the colt in this race if he did not believe he was this good. In 2021, Mott saddled Candy Man Rocket to win and Nova Rags for the runner-up spot, with both entering the race off sprints. Although Elysian Meadows’ last race figure of 80 is a bit below the three contenders previously mentioned, he jumped from a 74 figure in his prior race and so if he moves up by a similar margin to an 86 figure that could mean he will run as fast as Change of Command (85 last race figure) and Tireless (88 last race figure), possibly at high odds.

Although I believe West Saratoga is a talented horse, I am taking a stand against him as a win contender in this field. This is because not only does his record of 2-4-0 in eight races suggest he’s just as content to finish second as win, I was not impressed by his comeback after three months off on January 13 in the Pasco Stakes. In that race West Saratoga was far from as fit as he was in the fall when winning the Iroquois Stakes with an 87 figure, as his figure in the Pasco was just 68. Additionally, both of his wins came at the distance of a mile around one turn at Ellis Park in August and then in the Iroquois. When tried around two turns for the first time in the Breeders’ Futurity last fall, West Saratoga looked to be a strong contender after racing in third for the first half-mile, but then faded steadily and ended up fifth, beaten 11 lengths by the winner. That being said, after he has another race under his belt in 2024, West Saratoga may be a strong candidate to run good enough to win another race on the Derby trail like this one.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Change of Command and Agate Road can be considered for win bets at 5 to 2 or more.
Tireless and Elysian Meadows can be considered for win bet at odds of 6 to 1 or more

This is another race where betting two horses to win provides a nice opportunity for profit. It could well be one of the top two may go to post at odds worth considering, with either one or both of the high odds contenders meeting their betting threshold. A DUTCHING tool, like the one at Amwager, becomes very useful in these cases at it allocates our wagers based on the odds for the best edge.

Exactas: Earn a 20% Payout Bonus, up to $50, on winning exotic wagers on this race when you opt-in and bet with AmWager.
As Change of Command and Agate Road are likely to be the top two betting favorites near post time, and even though they may run one-two, trying to split them with the other contenders to maximize our profit offers the best result, adding West Saratoga in the second position as well.

Change of Command and Agate Road over West Saratoga, Tireless, Agate Road, Change of Command and Elysian Meadows

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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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