Key Races & Bets for Saturday February 17th, 2024

Barbara Fritchie Stakes – Race 8 at Laurel -Post Time 4:02 PM Eastern

Top Contenders: Last Leaf, Disco Ebo, Intrepid Daydream

Last Leaf didn’t win her last race like Disco Ebo, nor was her last race a stakes like Intrepid Daydream, so I’ll start with her as she may go to post at the highest odds of the three contenders to win. Last Leaf ships in from Kentucky off a very strong second place effort by a neck and although she hasn’t won in more than a year she has been competitive, finishing no worse than third in her last eight races in a row including four stakes. She hasn’t run seven furlongs in a long time, but when running the distance in the summer of 2022 Last Leaf won a pair of stakes races, in Florida and in Kentucky, and with just modest improvement off her last effort, with the HIGHEST last race Equibase Speed Figure (96) in the field, she can win.

Disco Ebo loves to win, with 10 victories in 20 starts, including the last time she ran this seven furlong trip. Pennington has been aboard for her last seven races including FIVE wins and the 100 figure effort she put forth just two races before her last, at this distance, makes her a top contender, particularly as she is likely to go for the lead from the start and the three horses inside her in the gate have no early speed so she could get an easy lead and be tough to catch.

Intrepid Daydream has won nearly half her 15 career starts, seven to be exact, including two at Laurel. One of those was the Maryland Millions Distaff in October at this seven furlong distance with a strong 104 figure. Although she finished fourth in her most recent race, it was a grade 2 stakes in Florida so the change back to Laurel and the drop in class to this grade 3 stakes level could be all she needs to get back into the winner’s circle.

For the second spot on some exacta tickets, and for the third spot on trifecta tickets, Apple Picker and Bluefield should be considered.

Handicapper Picks

Win: These three fillies stand out and I think if we ran this race 100 times one of the three would win 80% of the time, so fair odds are about 5 to 2. We should therefore consider win bets on the one or two of the trio at the highest odds, but at 5 to 2 or higher.

If the opportunity presents itself to be more than one horse, we should consider DUTCHING the bet, which means to prorate 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.

Exactas: Box Last Leaf, Disco Ebo, Intrepid Daydream
Also Last Leaf, Disco Ebo, Intrepid Daydream over Apple Picker, Bluefield, Last Leaf, Disco Ebo, Intrepid Daydream

Race 8: Last Leaf, Disco Ebo, Intrepid Daydream
Race 9: Post Time, Nimitz Class, Seven’s Eleven

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General George Stakes – Race 9 at Laurel – Post Time 4:33 PM Eastern

Win contenders: Nimitz Class, Seven’s Eleven, Post Time

Just like in the Barbara Fritchie Stakes, in this race I’m starting with the horse I believe may be the highest odds near post time among a trio of strong win contenders. That is Nimitz Class, because he just finished eighth of 12 at 26 to 1. However, that race is totally irrelevant when considering his chances to succeed here at it was the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup. Prior to that he won five of nine, ALL STAKES, including two at Laurel. Nimitz Class also changed barns and was off for three months before the Pegasus. Excellent trainer George Weaver took over his training in December and ships him up from Florida to the track where he has won FOUR of SEVEN and finished second in two other races. Jockey Toledo was up for five wins in a row last winter and spring and gets back on board, and if Nimitz Class runs back to ANY of his races prior to the Pegasus, he can certainly win.

Seven’s Eleven also LOVES Laurel, with six wins in 12 starts over the track and he’s a PERFECT four-for-four at this seven furlong trip. He finished second last month to likely heavy favorite Post Time in a restricted stakes but before that won three of four, all with Cruz in the saddle as today. With back-to-back 109 Equibase Speed Figures earned in November and December to run back to, he could certainly turn the tables on Post Time (for reasons explained below) and if Nimitz Class runs back to his best effort we could be in for a heck of a stretch battle.

Post Time is likely to be the prohibitive betting favorite, as he was last month in the Jennings Stakes when sent off as the 3 to 5 favorite. He dominated to win by six lengths, bringing his career record at Laurel to a perfect five-for-five. He has only lost once in six career starts and although his last effort yielded a 116 figure that appears to be a bit of an outlier as he earned 103 figures twice before that. As such, although a contender to win he is not the standout suggested by his low odds and even though he must be used on double, pick 3 and 4 tickets involving this race, for win bets and exactas both Nimitz Class and Seven’s Eleven will offer better value.

Cowan should be considered for second on exacta tickets and for third on trifecta tickets. He’s finished first or second nearly half of his 23 races and is a cut below these but capable of rallying for a minor award.

Handicapper Picks

Win: All three contenders – Nimitz Class, Seven’s Eleven and Post Time, can be considered at 2 to 1 or more as they stand out against the others in the field. It being highly unlikely Post Time will be anywhere near those odds, I would consider win bets on either or both of the other two at 5 to 2 or higher.

If both Nimitz Class and Seven’s Eleven are above that threshold, the free DUTCHING tool at Amwager will help us to gain the best mathematical edge possible when making win bets.

Seven’s Eleven and Nimitz Class over Seven’s Eleven, Nimitz Class, Post Time and Cowan

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Royal Delta Stakes – Race 11 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:07 PM Eastern

Top Win contenders: Tizzy in the Sky, Yuki, Opus Forty Two

Tizzy in the Sky and Yuki both have good tactical speed and with the three horses inside of them in the gate having no desire to lead early should break first and second, unlikely to go too fast early so both are expected to have enough left to be around in the late stages. I’ll give Tizzy in the Sky the slightest of preference, as she comes back from a two month layoff and gets Irad Ortiz, Jr. for Todd Pletcher. Ortiz, Jr. rode her to her last win, in October in New York, where she was eased late to a nine and three-quarter length win with a 105 figure. One month later she nearly won the Turnback the Alarm Stakes with a 107 figure, missing by a neck at the wire to a very good horse in Interstatedaydream. Her recent works have been exceptional an returning to a two-turn race off a runner-up effort in the one turn Grade 3 Go For Wand Stakes gives her a big shot to return to winning form.

Yuki is another tough competitor, having imported from South America last summer then when stretching out to a route in her second U.S. start winning two of three, including a stakes win in September. She did not finish in her next start, in November, was given three months off and has been working well. The fact she comes back in a stakes shows the high regard she’s held by her solid trainer and although her best South American figures of 102 and 104 put her squarely in the hunt for a top spot if she runs back to those races, which seems very possible.

Opus Forty Two won her first start of the year five weeks ago at Tampa and at this distance. It was the Wayward Lass Stakes and she rallied strongly from fifth of six to get up near the wire. Centeno comes over from Tampa to ride and has been aboard for all four of her career wins. She is likely to take up a stalking trip behind early leaders Tizzy in the Sky and Yuki and if she runs back to her win last September at the trip, with a 98 figure, she could be right there at the wire with the top two, ending up in the exacta for the ninth time in her 12th career start.

Handicapper Picks

Win: We should consider a win bet on Tizzy in the Sky at 2 to 1 and consider win bets on Yuki and Opus Forty Two at 5 to 2 or more.

Exactas: Box Tizzy in the Sky, Yuki and Opus Forty Two

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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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