Key Races & Bets for Saturday February 18th, 2023

Barbara Fritchie Stakes – Race 8 at Laurel – Post Time 3:58 PM Eastern

Main win contenders;
Union Lake and Pass the Champagne have each run six times, the least in the field, but they have won five sprints in nine races and are both making their second starts of 2023 following returns from layoffs. Union Lake won easily at Aqueduct in her most recent race, coming from off the pace in third, and gets a dream trip behind likely dueling leaders Liscolvin and Swayin to and Fro, who figure to go much faster than average from the start and at least through the first five furlongs. Improving off her last race 100 Equibase Speed Figure is highly logical for Union Lake, who ships down from New York for excellent trainer Terranova (21% wins this year and last) and she brings along Eric Cancel, missing a whole day at Aqueduct so she gets the slightest of preference over Pass the Champagne, who ships in from Florida and shortens up from a two-turn race where she battled head and head from start to finish, also earning a 100 figure she can improve upon. She won at this seven furlong trip 11 months earlier before the layoff, also after racing in third early, and she would be no surprise getting up on the wire to win.

Honorable mention goes to Fille d’Esprit, a well-named mare with 14 wins in 25 races including the What A Summer Stakes last month over the track. She’s won three of six at this distance and has won back-to-back, as well as gets a good post and has a fine late kick to benefit from the early pace duel. The knock is she opens at 5 to 2 but went to post at 8 to 5, 3 to 5 and 6 to 5 in three of her last four races so is unlikely to offer value as a win bet.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Pass the Champagne and Union Lake have minimum odds for a win bet of 9 to 5. I’d bet the one who is the higher of the two near post time, BUT I would bet them both if they are 50% overlays from fair odds, which means 3 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Union Lake and Pass the Champagne

Trifecta: Box Pass the Champagne, Union Lake, Fille d’Espirit

Race 8: Pass the Champagne, Union Lake, Fille d’Espirit
Race 9: Sir Alfred James, Eastern Bay, Factor It In

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Lightning City Stakes – Race 8 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:17 PM Eastern

This is one of two fantastic turf sprint stakes on the card, both with full fields and a number of horses likely to go to post at odds too high to ignore. With that in mind I’ll start with Trevess, who opens at 10 to 1 in spite of having won 10 of 44 races and going to post at odds of 7 to 2 or less in all but one of her last five races. She rarely runs on turf (just eight times) and has only one win on the grass, BUT that win came in her most recent start and it was one of the best efforts of her career. She was making her second start off a layoff and stalked in second then pounced to win by a length, and given this is her third start off the layoff even better is likely forthcoming. Jaramillo ventures from GP to ride for low profile trainer Cezares, who ABSOLUTELY knows how to train a horse for a turf sprint stakes, having saddled Yes I Am Free to a win last week in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint, for the second year I a row.

Poseidon’s Passion opens at half the odds of Trevess, 5 to 1, still high odds for a mare with 10 wins in 28 races, including six on turf and three at Tampa (from six tries). She shipped over from Gulfstream last month to win a highly rated race at this distance on turf at odds of 3 to 5 with Gallardo up for the first time and riding back and she can run even better here.

Train to Artemus rounds out the top contenders, the lowest odds of the trio starting at 3 to 1. She has won four of her last five, three turf sprints like this, and gets Lopez to ride. She gets the rail and can stalk the early speed and get up to win, adding to her already strong record of 4 for 6 on turf.

Handicapper Picks

Win: I will absolutely bet either or both Trevess and Poseidon’s Passion at odds of 3 to 1 or more. In the unlikely event Train to Artemus is 3 to 1 or more I will pick between her and Poseidon’s Passion as a bet in addition to Trevess.

The BEST way to maximize profit when wagering to win on multiple horses is to use a “Dutching” tool, which allocates wagers based on the odds. has a great and easy to use dutching tool which allows you to set the amount of money you want to bet, or the amount you want to win, then does the math for you. It’s just one of many great tools, and perks, available at

Exacta: There are a lot of horses we can use on some exacta tickets in this wide open race, especially those with a lot of second place finishes who may not be good enough to win, so we can play both exactas below:

Box Train to Artemus. Trevess, Poseidon’s Passion

Train to Artemus. Trevess, Poseidon’s Passion over Train to Artemus. Trevess, Poseidon’s Passion, Tracy Ann’s Legacy, Bahamian Moon, The Elle Train, Nikee Kan


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General George Stakes – Race 9 at Laurel – Post Time 4:29 PM Eastern

Trainer Norman Cash has three entrants in this race – Sir Alfred James, Pirate Rick and Eastern Bay. He owns all three and it is apparently obvious to me although Pirate Rick fits here as a horse which has won six of 20 dirt races, he is entered here SOLELY to be the rabbit (pace setter) for his stablemates. THE PROBLEM is there is another speedball in the race, in Beren, coming off a sharp win at Parx and winner of more than three-quarters of a million dollars including multiple stakes races. Beren’s last three wins and most of the rest have come when leading from the start and Pirate Rick will take away any early edge Beren has to set up his stablemates in addition to other possible closers. With Beren opening as the three to one second choice, that means a number of horses may offer good value for win bets.

First among those is Eastern Bay, who won 6 of 11 last year while finishing second in three other races, including five straight first or second place finishes to close out his 2022 campaign. He returns from nearly four months off and won his 2022 debut off a five month layoff by nearly five lengths. Jockey Humphrey rides him well, as he was up for the horse’s last four wins, and in his last start, the higher level Grade 3 Bold Ruler, Eastern Bay flew home from 8th of 10 to miss by a nose on the wire, likely a winning effort repeated here.

That being said, the 8 to 1 starting odds (compared to 3 to 1 for Eastern Bay) offered on Sir Alfred James make him impossible to ignore. He’s won 10 of 31 on the main track for over $800K including many stakes and he has a three for seven record at the distance. Acosta rode him to a strong win at Laurel when he shipped in from Kentucky on 1/29, following nearly four months off, before the horse ran fourth at Charles Town. Back to Laurel that 1/29 effort is as good as the best effort of any other horse in the field and he too gets a lively pace to run at.

Factor It In is another “WIN TYPE” with a record of 11 for 26 on dirt to back it up. He’s eight for 12 at Laurel and Cruz is two for two aboard, having won both the Dave’s Friend Stakes in December and the Fire Plug Stakes last month. He gets a good post to stalk the speed and would be no surprise, but offers the least value of the top contender trio, opening at just 5 to 2 and he did go to post at 3 to 5 odds last time out.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets: Minimum odds are 3 to 1 on Eastern Bay and Sir Alfred James, and I would absolutely bet them both if at or above those odds.

This is absolutely another race where prorating our wagering dollars to maximize profit is called for, using the free and easy Dutching tool at Amwager.

Exacta and Trifecta: I want to throw in Yodel E. A. Who, who has been first or second in 24 of 50 races and who opens at 10 to 1:
Box Sir Alfred James, Yodel E. A. Who, Eastern Bay, Factor It In

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Turf Dash Stakes – Race 10 at Tampa – Post Time 5:20 PM Eastern

In last week’s Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint, Full Disclosure was my top pick for the reasons below, but he scratched out of that race and now ships across the state to Tampa. Full Disclosure has run two “A” races in a row, the most recent at this five furlong trip and it proved he belongs in this stakes. He’s now won three of his last five, missing by a neck in the other, all since joining the Dobles barn. Reyes was up for two of the wins and rides back and the race he just won on 12/22 turned out to be a KEY race with multiple horses coming back to win including the runner-up. The 107 and 106 Equibase figures from those last two races are better (faster) than most of these and opening at 6 to 1 this gelding with a 5 for 12 record gets slight preference.

Panther Island starts first off the $62,500 claim for Laura Cezares, who I mentioned in my Lightning City Stakes analysis just won the GP Turf Sprint last week with Yes I am Free, who this colt lost to by a NOSE in his last start. That came after nearly three months off and as a colt who has NEVER been worse than second in six races, winning four and missing by inches in the other, he is very likely to prove a very astute claim for a very good trainer.

Sigiloso must be respected if he draws into the race, opening at 8/1. He shipped out from California after a poor effort in the much tougher G2 Joe Hernandez Stakes and he won a turf sprint prior to that, adding to his good record of 3-4-1 in 17 turf tries. There are up to FOUR strong need-the-lead types here and Ruiz can drop this colt back and make a strong run as he did when winning that turf sprint in October from seventh.

Fluid Situation must be respected coming off a win at the trip with Camacho up, who rides back. This is the colt’s third start as a four year old and third off the layoff and he put in a very strong half-mile workout (47 flat, 3rd best of 52) coming into the race.

Chess Master rounds out a quintet of contenders in a 12 horse field, offering value at 10/1 starting odds especially for a horse with a five for nine record on the Tampa Grass. He opens at high odds because he has run poorly in three races this year but that last was a turning point many handicappers will miss as he rallied fast in the final sixteenth to be beaten three-quarters of a length for the win in a six horse blanket finish. That was the same race won by Yes I Am Free before he won the GP Turf Sprint and Chess Master was just four noses behind Panther Island but opens at three times that one’s odds. Best of all, Chess Master won this Turf Dash Stakes in 2022 and hasn’t run all that badly since then.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets: Looking to maximize value, I’ll bet two, maybe three of the five contenders but only at odds of 4 to 1 or higher: Panther Island, Fluid Situation, Chess Master, Full Disclosure, Sigiloso

Exacta: Box Panther Island, Fluid Situation, Chess Master, Full Disclosure, Sigiloso

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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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