Key Races & Bets for Saturday March 11th, 2023

Challenger Stakes – Race 8 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 3:33 PM Eastern

It is highly notable that Luis Saez, who is in from Gulfstream to ride Tapit Trice in the Tampa Bay Derby first and foremost, has chosen to ride Business Model although he’s never ridden the horse before in 12 previous starts. The reason is because although his last two races were poor, his effort three back at this 1 1/16 mile dirt trip was more than good enough to win here. In that race he rallied from seventh of eight early and won drawing off, and his two recent works since the most recent poor effort, third best of 24 and third best of 56, tip his hand that he’s going to run one of the best races of his career.

Skippylongstocking opens as the favorite as he drops from the Grade 1 Pegasus and won the similar (to this race) grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday before that, at this distance, He had been off three months prior to that and Irad Ortiz, Jr. who rode him for the first time ever in the Harlan’s Holiday, as well as the Pegasus, takes the call. Still, last year the colt was spotty in his form, winning in March then losing three straight before winning in August then losing in September. As such, particularly at low odds he’s a poor win bet but we can use him in exactas and multiple race bets because we have value in other contenders.

Classic Causeway won the Tampa Bay Derby on this date last year, off a win one month earlier in stakes over the track. He ran poorly in the Florida and Kentucky Derbies after that but moved to grass for his final five starts of the year and ran okay, winning the first then finishing second in the other two. Back on dirt and with a strong workout for his comeback, as well as getting Lasix for the first time in his career, his liking for Tampa is good enough a reason to view him as a contender.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Business Model at odds of 3 to 1 or higher.

Exactas: Box Business Model, Skippylongstocking, Classic Causeway

Race 8: Business Model, Skippylongstocking, Classic Causeway
Race 9: Temple City Terror, Gam’s Mission, Shantisara

Pick 3:
Race 8: Business Model, Skippylongstocking, Classic Causeway
Race 9: Temple City Terror, Gam’s Mission, Shantisara
Race 10: Mission of Joy, Alpha Bella, Free Look, Ticker Tape Home

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Hillsborough Stakes – Race 9 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:04 PM Eastern

Main contenders;
Temple City Terror won a trio of stakes races on the grass last year, two of those grade 3 stakes, but at longer distances. However, there’s no reason she can’t handle this mile and one-eighth trip considering the last two times she ran a mile and one-sixteenth she was beaten just a length and one-half, and a length, for the win. Top local jockey Gallardo gets on for a strong trainer in Walsh, and opening at 6 to 1 she’s the one we should look to first when considering our wagers in this race.

That being said, Gam’s Mission also opens at 6 to 1 and those odds, or even lower, are out of line with her probability to win based on her really good career record of four wins and three runner-up finishes in 10 races. Two of those were grade 3 stakes and even though she returns off a layoff since last June she can run big as she finished second in a stakes last March following four months off and won off a six month layoff in the spring of 2021.

Likely favorite Shantisara rounds out a trio of win contenders, having won and placed in Grade 1 stakes in her career to date and with a perfect two-for-two record at this distance on turf. She came back from nearly three months off in the Pegasus Turf on 1/28 to finish second but oddly enough last November right before that she ran her worse race since importing to the U.S. when fifth as the even money favorite. Similar to Skippylongstocking in the previous race, Shantisara is a poor win bet at likely very low odds but we can use her on exacta and multi-race tickets because the other contenders are not low odds.

For the second spot on some exacta tickets we will also use Surprisingly and Scottish Star, the one-two finishers in the Grade 3 Endeavour Stakes over this course five weeks ago, but who appear a bit less probable to win than the three main contenders above.

Handicapper Picks

Win: I will consider both Temple City Terror and Gam’s Mission for bets at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

Box Temple City Terror, Gam’s Mission and Shantisara
Also – Temple City Terror, Gam’s Mission and Shantisara over Surprisingly, Scottish Star, Temple City Terror, Gam’s Mission and Shantisara

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Florida Oaks – Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:45 PM Eastern

Main win contenders:
This is one of the few races in the U.S. labeled “Oaks” though run on grass, but it is a very good race with a full field of horses in good form, some who may be very surprising to bettors when they run well at high odds. Although a couple of low odds horses in the form of Free Look and Alpha Bella can run well, those are out shadowed by the double digit odds likely to be available on Ticker Tape Home and on Mission of Joy, so we’ll start there.

Ticker Tape Home gets the extreme outside in this turf route but is not likely disadvantaged as this race starts from the infield chute so the run to the first turn in longer and allows for jockey Jaramillo to help the filly get good midfield position as she did in her final two races of 2022, one on grass which was a winning effort. I’m not sure whey trainer Casse chose dirt and the Suncoast Stakes for her three year old debut but it is a race we can completely ignore now that she moves back to grass where she has a win and a runner-up effort. She closed her two year old campaign with a runner-up effort on all-weather at Woodbine and so making her second start as a three year old, back on grass, and with first time Lasix, her best two year old races give her a big shot to upset here if repeated.

Mission of Joy gets the opposite post as Ticker Tape Home, as she draws the ground saving rail. After an irrelevant sprint debut last summer, the filly took three months off to mature and came back in a turf route where she dominated by eight lengths, before winning just as easily in mid-January, in another turf route. Gallardo rides back and the pattern for more improvement is obvious, plus she gets first time Lasix and is trained by Graham Motion, all signs for another top effort.

Free Look opens at 2 to 1 even though she hasn’t run in four months so she’s a poor win bet. After a turf route win last summer in her second career start, the filly finished second in the grade 2 Miss Grillo Stakes in New York then was fifth of 14 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Although off for a long time she will be bet as if that Breeders’ Cup effort was last month and it wasn’t, and she still may need a race before showing her best as she finished third in her career debut last July, but with two double digit horses to key with her on exacta tickets, there is no complete reason to take a stand against her.

Alpha Bella finished second in the nearly identical Sweetest Chant Stakes last month at Gulfstream Park and won in her turf debut before that. Saez was up for both and rides back and she’s got a good chance to be first or second again today so rounds out a quartet of contenders.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets: I would absolutely bet BOTH Ticker Tape Home and Mission of Joy to win at odds of 7 to 2 or more.

Exactas: I want to split the favorites so we can play these two exacta boxes trying to maximize profit:
Mission of Joy, Ticker Tape Home, Free Look
Mission of Joy, Ticker Tape Home, Alpha Bella

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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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