Key Races & Bets for Saturday February 24th, 2024

Lightning City Stakes – Race 7 at Tampa Bay Downs -Post Time 3:23 PM Eastern

Top Contenders: Howboutdemapples, Play the Music

HOT HOT HOT should be the early pace scenario in this field and even though speed does well at five furlongs on grass much of the time there are just TOO MANY “Early” pace types for any to hold on late to the pair of stalkers and closers in the form of Howboutdemapples and Play the Music. Regarding the early pace, Boo Boo Kitty is one of up to FIVE need-the-lead types and as she draws the rail and is returning from a long layoff (more than a year) will be very fresh and fire for the lead from the moment the gate opens. However, Delta Charm AND Fulminate also have only shown they can win while leading early. Opening as the 3 to 1 second choice, that makes Fulminate vulnerable and opens the race up nicely for profit on others, especially since Jordi’s Dream is another need-the-lead type drawn inside, and She’s My Warrior appears to have the same running style.

That puts Howboutdemapples and Play the Music in great spots to succeed, particularly Howboutdemapples, who cuts back from a two-turn seven and one-half furlong turf race to this one turn five furlong trip. Shipping to Florida and changing trainers to Saffie Joseph, Jr. before her 12/26 start at Gulfstream, also a two-turn race, the mare got within a neck of the lead with an eight of a mile to go before settling for second, then last out she rallied to lead with an eighth of a mile to go and settled for third but was beaten a total of three-quarters of a length for the win. It might seem she’s stepping up in class into the stakes ranks but that Classified Allowance race last month at the same level as this non-graded stakes and with a strong 99 last race Equibase Speed Figure to repeat or improve upon, Howboutdemapples is one of two horses I think stands out in this field.

Play the Music is another, having earned a career best 101 figure when winning the same classified allowance race around two turns in which Howboutdemapples was third. She rallied from fourth in that 12 horse field and will also have as much, or more, stamina and a late kick than she had four weeks ago.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Howboutdemapples and Play the Music should be considered for win bets at 2 to 1 odds or higher.

Personally, I’ll bet the one (from the two above) which is the highest odds a few minutes to post time. However, if the opportunity presents itself to bet more than one horse at above the 2/1 fair odds listed, 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 Howboutdemapples, Play the Music

Trifecta: Howboutdemapples and Play the Music over ALL over Howboutdemapples and Play the Music

When playing both the exacta and trifecta (even if just for the $0.50 minimum) we will win if the two contenders finish first and second, or first and third.

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Miracle Wood Stakes – Race 8 at Laurel – Post Time 4:02 PM Eastern

Win contenders: Point Dume, Copper Tax, Speedyness

The Miracle Wood was once (and still might be) considered a prep for the Federico Tesio Stakes later in the meeting then the Preakness at Pimlico. This is a one-turn mile so allows sprinters to see if they can run this far, while also allowing for two-turn horses to hone their speed or stamina.

There appears to be at least three, and up to six horses, which may want the lead from the start. Cool in Blue added blinkers two races back and draws the rail so may have to use his speed for position, and without a doubt Startswithadream and Had to Have Him will want to try for the front as the former led from start to finish in his only start, a win, while the latter adds blinkers. Regalo also adds blinkers and has been second after a quarter and half-mile in all four career starts to date.

Point Dume should be in a great early position off all those “early” pace types, just like he was three weeks ago when fourth in the early stages before making a nice move on the turn to be in front by three lengths with an eighth of a mile to run. He coasted home by nearly four lengths and earned a 94 Equibase Speed Figure, a five point improvement from the 89 figure earned five weeks earlier when winning by 11 lengths. Toledo was up for the first time for the win on 2/4 and rides back and the colt’s ability to relax early and roll by the pacesetters late bodes well for his chances to win his third race in a row.

Copper Tax shipped into Laurel from Delaware Park last November and won the similar James F. Lewis Stakes as the heavy 1 to 2 betting favorite. He then stretched out to nine furlongs and stepped way up in class in December when running in the Remsen Stakes and ran poorly, then after two months off shipped down to Florida for the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes and finished 10th of 12. Now that it appears he’s not a two-turn horse, trainer Capuano returns Copper Tax to 1 turn and returns to Laurel, so we might expect a rebound to the form shown in November in the Lewis Stakes, where the colt earned a 98 figure good enough to win here if repeated.

Although potentially another need-the-lead type, Speedyness may prove my pace analysis in the first paragraph to be all wrong, as he has the potential to out break all the other “early” pace types and have an easy lead after a few yards, exactly as he did last month at this one turn mile trip at Laurel when winning by 14 lengths with a very strong 100 Equibase Figure. Rodriguez has been in the saddle for the horse’s last three wins, all wire-to-wire, and as I expect his 9 to 2 morning line odds to be much lower, at the least we should consider him for the win position on exacta tickets played.

Among the others, Circle P, who opens at 12 to 1, can be considered for exacta bets as he could be last early and rolling into the money late. He’s never been worse than third in four races, three at Laurel, including a win in the Maryland Juvenile Stakes when last seen in December.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Point Dume (who opens at 6 to 1) should be considered for a win bet at 3 to 1 or more.
Both Copper Tax and Speedyness can also be considered for win bets at 3 to 1 or higher, but that may be unlikely so we will try to make a profit if they win on exacta tickets below.

Exactas: Box Copper Tax, Speedyness, Point Dume

Copper Tax, Speedyness, Point Dume over Copper Tax, Speedyness, Point Dume and Circle P.

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Turf Dash Stakes – Race 9 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:21 PM Eastern

Top Win contenders: Smithwick’s Spice, Thealligatorhunter
Other contenders: Extendo, Storm the Court, Yes I Am Free, Sky’s Not Falling, Mounsieur Coco

After making a list of contenders, a quick look at the morning line sometimes results in an easy strategy of keying on one or two horses (sometimes three) because of their high odds relative to the rest. Such is the case here as Smithwick’s Spice opens at 12 to 1 and Thealligatorhunter opens at 10 to 1. Both are as probable to win as horses at much lower odds and so win bets, as well as keying them in exactas with other horses, is the best way to bet this race for profit.

Smithwick’s Spice has finished first or second in 19 of 39 career races, nearly 50% of the time, including all three turf races at Tampa. The last time he ran here, in December, Smithwick’s Spice was sent to post as the 5 to 2 favorite and missed by a neck under Centeno, who rides today. The last time he ran this five furlong trip on turf, he won, last June, with a very strong 108 Equibase figure and that representative effort makes him a strong play in this race as he is in top form off a head defeat three weeks ago and as he cuts back in distance from a much longer race.

Thealligatorhunter has won 11 of 26 career starts including stakes races on turf. He returns from a four month layoff and fired to win at this five furlong turf trip at Tampa last March in his second start off the layoff. He’s been working consistently at Tampa for his comeback and has every right to earn career win #12 today.

There are no knocks on any of most of the other entrants in the race, particularly Extendo, Storm the Court, Yes I Am Free, Sky’s Not Falling and Mounsieur Coco but the value presented by the high odds on Smithwick’s Spice and Thealligatorhunter suggest the best way to maximize profit is to key those two with these other contenders, as an example in the exacta listed below.

Handicapper Picks

Win: We should consider a win bet on Smithwick’s Spice and Thealligatorhunter at odds of 3 to 1 or more and this race absolutely presents a fine opportunity for DUTCHING the win bet by allocating our wagering dollars using the free Dutching tool at Amwager.

Smithwick’s Spice and Thealligatorhunter over Smithwick’s Spice, Thealligatorhunter, Extendo, Storm the Court, Yes I Am Free, Sky’s Not Falling, Mounsieur Coco

Then, also play the opposite ticket of the one above, which is Smithwick’s Spice and Thealligatorhunter, Extendo, Storm the Court, Yes I Am Free, Sky’s Not Falling, Mounsieur Coco over Smithwick’s Spice and Thealligatorhunter


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Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes – Race11 at Gulfstream – Post Time 5:07 PM Eastern

Top Win contenders: Candy Man Rocket, Dean Delivers
Other contenders: Run Classic, Long Range Toddy

With one exception, Swirvin has gone fast from the start and led in five of six career starts (winning three) while Todo Fino almost always tries for the lead from the start That sets up Candy Man Rocket and Dean Delivers nicely, with Run Classic and Long Range Toddy just slightly less probable to rally and win, but with good chances to finish in the money.

Dean Delivers gets a good outside post to stalk the speed, similar to when sitting in third early to win the Big Drama Stakes last May or when rallying from fifth to miss by a neck in the Sir Shackleton Stakes one month earlier. He’s been off two months and been working well, and Jaramillo was aboard for his last five races including two wins and a neck defeat. Now first or second in 12 of 16 races at Gulfstream, including the tougher Grade 3 Smile Sprint last July, Dean Delivers figures to fire with a big shot.

Candy Man Rocket hasn’t been seen since July but shows up in a stakes off the layoff for Mott, telling us all he’s ready to pick up where he left off last spring and summer when he first won in January off an 11 month layoff then won two of four other races including the Grade 3 Runhappy Stakes in New York last May. He also won off a layoff in February, 2022, here at Gulfstream and has won four of six at this basic six furlong trip. The 110 figure effort he put forth in the Runhappy last May when relaxing in third off a hot pace then taking over in the stretch is the race he can repeat today so he’s the other horse, along with Dean Delivers, who has the bulk of the probability to win.

Run Classic and Long Range Toddy are a bit less probable to win but must be considered, especially for exacta tickets played. Run Classic might be more probable if he drew an outside post as he runs better from those, but he returns off a layoff since last May and won off his last layoff and has been working well for his return for the high percentage D’Angelo barn. Long Range Toddy changed trainers before his comeback race last July here at Gulfstream and won two in a row before four months off and a poorer fourth place finish, but in the higher level Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes. He has a good stalking style and is reunited with Paco Lopez, who was up when he nearly won the Grade 2 Phoenix Stakes at the trip in 2022.

Handicapper Picks

Win: We should consider a win bet on Dean Delivers and Candy Man Rocket at 2 to 1 or more.

Dean Delivers, Candy Man Rocket over Dean Delivers, Candy Man Rocket, Run Classic, Long Range Toddy
Dean Delivers, Candy Man Rocket, Run Classic, Long Range Toddy over Dean Delivers, Candy Man Rocket

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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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