Key Races & Bets for Saturday March 23rd, 2024

Beyond the Wire Stakes – Race 8 at Laurel -Post Time 4:02 PM Eastern

Top Contender: Determined Driver

Determined Driver finished second in the similar Wide Country Stakes four weeks ago, three-quarters of a length from the winner and a bit more than a length over the third place finisher. The winner (Miss Harriett) does not return for this race and that makes Determined Driver the one to beat. After returning from a five month layoff in February, she won nicely at six furlongs on February 9 then just 15 days later improved to a career-best 90 Equibase Speed Figure when rallying from fourth into the runner-up spot in the Wide Country. No horse in the field has run as fast to date and she’s likely to improve third off the layoff, which is what makes her the one to beat.

Handicapper Picks

Win: We should consider a win bet on Determined Drive at odds of 6 to 5 or more, making her a likely low odds overlay if above those odds.

Race 8: Determined Driver
Race 9: Speed Runner, I Know Map

Race 8: Determined Driver
Race 9: Speed Runner, I Know Map, Point Dume

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Private Terms Stakes – Race 9 at Laurel – Post Time 4:33 PM Eastern

Win contenders: Speed Runner, I Know Map
Other contenders: Speedyness, Point Dume

In a race like this we have to discuss the likely favorite first, and that is Speedyness. It’s not that the likely odds-on favorite Speedyness can’t win, but it is very important that he is a poor win bet in this situation whereas others offer much better return and are possibly just as probable to win. Speedyness has won five of nine including four of his last five. He won the Miracle Wood Stakes four weeks ago rather easily at 4 to 5 odds in a field of seven, earning a 90 figure. He ran the best of any of this group on January 7 with a 100 figure effort, also at a mile the same as the Miracle Wood. HOWEVER, in nine races Speedyness has never run around two turns, which is what he’s doing today in this mile and one-sixteenth race. There is a old axiom which states “never bet a heavy favorite to win when he or she is doing something for the first time” and that applies here because no matter how fast Speedyness has been, this is a new thing for the colt. Therefore if he wins, he wins without my money as a win bet or even in the first position on exacta tickets.

Instead, we are focusing on both Speed Runner and I Know Map. Speed Runner is the ONLY horse in the field to have won around two-turns and one of only three to have run two turns among the nine entrants. He did so on December 8 in New York in a nine furlong race, getting up to win by a neck after stalking the pacesetter from the start, earning an 87 figure at the time which compares favorably with the 90 figure Speedyness earned in his most recent race. Entered in the Withers Stakes four weeks later, Speed Runner didn’t do much running when sixth of nine but did have a traffic issue. Shipping out of New York for Pletcher and repeating or improving off his other two-turn race, Speed Runner has a decent shot to succeed.

I Know Map has won three of five races and missed by a neck in another. Since returning from a two month layoff in February he’s won two in a row, improving from a 77 figure effort to 84 three weeks ago. Angel Cruz rode him for the first time in that win and got a lot out of him so is riding back and the pattern suggests another seven point (or more) improvement, putting him at 91 and in range of how fast Speedyness ran in the Miracle Wood. I Know Map may also benefit from a lively early pace, as Speedyness has earned all five wins leading from start to finish but there are a couple others who could test that one early and set up a stalker like I Know Map.

In addition to Speedyness having a decent shot to stick around for second if passed late, Point Dume is another to consider for that position on exacta tickets. He won two in a row in December and February then was second for the entire stretch run behind Speedyness last month in the Miracle Wood. He may not be good enough to win but he would likely offer value if checking in second once again.

Handicapper Picks

Win: There is significant value on both top win contenders, as Speed Runner opens at odds of 5 to 1 while I Know Map opens at very high odds of 30 to 1. Considering I think Speed Runner can be considered for a win bet at 3 to 1 or higher odds, while I Know Map can be considered for a win bet at 5 to 1 or higher odds, this means we should be betting both contenders.

With the likely opportunity to bet two horses to win, 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 allows us to set the total amount we want to win and prorates our wagers for the maximum edge.

Speed Runner and I Know Map over Speed Runner, I Know Map, Point Dume and Speedyness

Additionally, considering the high odds of I Know Map, even if he runs second there is value in an exacta instead of a place bet, as follows: ALL over I Know Map

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San Luis Rey Stakes – Race 7 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7 PM Eastern

Top Win contenders: Offlee Naughty, Planetario

Offlee Naughty won the 2023 San Luis Rey Stakes, making his second start off a four month layoff. This year he enters the race off nearly six months on the bench, which would possibly be of concern EXCEPT for the fact last year before the San Luis Rey, Offlee Naughty won the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes at 10 furlongs off a four month layoff. Horses that run marathon races (a mile and one-half or more) don’t need the kind of prep work which is needed for shorter distances, and considering leading rider Juan Hernandez has signed on, having never ridden the horse before, I see no problem with Offlee Naughty winning this race for the second year in a row.

Planetario is the ONLY other horse I think can win, given Balladeer and Missed the Cut have either run poorly at the distance or never run this mile and one-half trip. Planetario was second to Offlee Naughty in this race last year and won the Hollywood Turf Cup in November at the distance so has the credentials to succeed, and he makes his second start after three months off and after a nice finish from sixth to second behind Missed the Cut in the shorter San Marcos Stakes six weeks ago.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Minimum odds for a win bet on Offlee Naughty are 7 to 5, and they are 8 to 5 on Planetario. In this situation even though I think Offlee Naughty is a bit more probable to win, for making win bets I’d bet whichever of the two is the highest odds near post time.

Exactas: Box Offlee Naughty and Planetario

Race 7: Offlee Naughty, Planetario
Race 8: Yellow Brick, Don’t Swear Dave

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Race 8 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7:30 PM Eastern

Top Win contenders: Yellow Brick, Don’t Swear Dave

Yellow Brick is a PERFECT fit at this first allowance level (NW1X) coming off a strong win in straight maiden company four weeks ago. Although that win came in his eighth career start, it was his first after eight months off, first in blinkers and first with Kimura riding, who rides back. The colt did finish second twice around two turns last spring at Santa Anita so the stretch out from seven furlongs to one mile and one-sixteenth, in conjunction with making his second start off the layoff and off a career-best 101 Equibase Speed Figures, portends for his second win in a row.

The main competition to Yellow Brick will be Don’t Swear Dave, who has won four of seventeen starts. 12 of his starts were on turf but his win last month over the main track at a mile after four turf races this year showed he may have found a new home on the main track. That effort earned the same 101 figure as Yellow Brick did in his last win, and the horse was claimed by excellent trainer Knapp out of the race and is in for the optional $50K claiming price as he’s already won at this allowance level. Gutierrez rides back off the claim, which isn’t rare but isn’t commonplace either, and that’s a good sign too.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Both Yellow Brick and Don’t Swear Dave can and should be considered for win bets at odds of 2 to 1 or more, and I would not hesitate to bet both if both are 4 to 1 or higher odds, using the free Dutching tool at Amwager to do so and to help get the best mathematical edge possible.

Exactas: Box Yellow Brick and Don’t Swear Dave

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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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