Key Races & Bets for Saturday October 14th, 2023

Sands Point Stakes – Race 2 at Belmont at the Big A – Post Time 1:08 PM Eastern

Top win contenders: Eternal Hope, Neecie Marie
Other win contenders: Root Cause
Contenders for exacta tickets: Highland Grace, Alpha Bella

Eternal Hope brought a two for five record (with a pair of third place finishes) into her U.S. debut four weeks ago in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational Stakes, run at the longer distance of one mile and three-eighths. After being as far back as 23 lengths, behind a faster than average pace but not one which was sizzling hot, Eternal Hope commenced an impressive rally to get to two lengths of the lead with an eighth of a mile to go, before prevailing by a neck. That effort earned a 97 Equibase Speed Figure which is the second best last race figure in the field, and the best recent winning figure in the field. Likely to run even better in her second local start, Eternal Hope looks highly likely to add to trainer Charles Appleby’s amazing record in graded stakes turf routes in North America over the last four years, which stands at 20-10-6 in 48 races. With jockey Jamie Spencer back in the saddle just as he was for the win last month, this filly looks tough to beat.

That being said, considering Neecie Marie got within a head of Eternal Hope in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational, Neecie Marie must be considered a contender, especially as she opens at FOUR times the odds, 8 to 1 compared to 2 to 1 for Eternal Hope. Neecie Marie has won three of five career races on grass, missed by a neck in the other and finished off the board in one more. The one poor effort came on a soft course so is irrelevant when assessing her chances here. She’s improved from an 85 figure three races back, to 93, to the same 97 figure Eternal Hope earned and her pattern suggests even better today. In the Oaks Invitational, Neecie Marie was fifth, 21 lengths back, after a half-mile, whereas Eternal Hope was seventh, 23 lengths back, so she was out finished by the winner. Nevertheless, this filly has a lot of talent and is definitely a contender to win this race.

Root Cause may be just a step behind the top two in terms of the quality of races she’s run, and her figures, but as a lightly raced three year old could improve markedly enough to leap frog over the top two and post the upset. Root Cause has run only one poor race in five starts, when eighth in May. She finished second in her debut last summer then returned to the races seven months later with a strong win at this mile and one eighth trip. Then came the poor effort, but Root Cause improved to an 83 figure in June then following two and one-half months off, ran a big race when rallying from eighth to second, beaten a head, in the Virginia Oaks. That effort earned her a 92 figure and so in her second start off the layoff even better is possible. Opening at 10 to 1 odds which may be too high to pass up, Root Cause rounds out a trio of contenders to win this race.

Handicapper Picks

Win: BOTH Eternal Hope and Neecie Marie can be considered for win bets at 2 to 1 or higher, but I expect Eternal Hope to be below that threshold, so we will use her on exacta and trifecta tickets to extract better value than if we were to bet her to win.
Root Cause can be considered for a win bet at 4 to 1 or higher.

This should is a great race to take advantage of the mathematical edge provided by a “Dutching” tool, which prorates wagers for the best value. There’s a free dutching tool at, where you can set the amount you want to bet in total and the math is done for you to help achieve the best edge. This is just one of many tools, and perks, for bettors at

Exactas: Box Eternal Hope, Neecie Marie, Root Cause
Eternal Hope, Neecie Marie, Root Cause over Eternal Hope, Neecie Marie, Root Cause, Highland Grace, Alpha Bella

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Race 7 at Keeneland – Post Time 4:12 PM Eastern

Top win contenders: Kitten Mischief, Nineeleventurbo, Foreign Relations
Contenders for exacta tickets: Altazor, Sharar, Montauk Point, Quadra Island, Microphone

Kitten Mischief is one of only two horses in this full field who has won at this mile and one-half turf trip and that could be a significant factor. He earned that win at the one lower non-winners of one other than maiden level in January with a strong off-the-pace effort after racing about two lengths behind the early leader. Nearly four months later he ran in a race identical to this one, here at Keeneland, and was well-regarded at 7 to 2, finishing fourth of nine. He had also run well over the Keeneland turf last fall when third of nine. After the race in April at Keeneland, he moved to dirt for a stakes race at this distance and was fourth again. Then he cut back to nine furlongs for his most recent race and didn’t do much, ending up fifth of eight. With this race being a return to the distance and surface of his win, and with his fourth place effort at this class level in the spring at Keeneland also a decent effort, plus with a jockey change to Florent Geroux for trainer Thomas, who wins at a very high 25% rate in nearly every type of race this year, Kitten Mischief gets slight preference as he may go to post at high odds.

Nineeleventurbo is likely to be the public favorite because his most recent race was against tougher horses in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, where he led in the stretch and finished second of 11. That was at the distance of one mile and three-eighths, slightly shorter than this mile and one-half distance. He won at the mile and three-eighths distance prior to that, for his fourth straight win, and he missed by a neck in his only previous race at Keeneland (in the spring of 2021). Although he has run against tougher, and is in top form, his overall record of 4-6-3 isn’t so strong as to warrant betting him to win at low odds but he is certainly capable of winning and should be considered for wagers like the exacta as he could add to his consistent record of finishing first, or second.

Foreign Relations is also entered in Friday’s Sycamore Stakes as of this writing, but I believe his trainer will opt for this easier spot. He won easily here in the spring at this distance at the one lower allowance level, but was disqualified and placed last. He proved that win was no fluke by winning the Louisville Stakes the following month at the distance, at Churchill Downs, but is winless in three races since then. The last two of those three were in significantly higher class levels as both were graded stakes, so the change in class and return to a track he’s won over bode well for a return to top form good enough to win.

Handicapper Picks

Win: We should consider win bets on the two win contenders among the three – Kitten Mischief, Nineeleventurbo, Foreign Relations, at or above 3 to 1 odds.

This will be another race where prorating our wagers for an edge is called for, using the Dutching tool at

Box Kitten Mischief, Nineeleventurbo, Foreign Relations

Kitten Mischief, Nineeleventurbo, Foreign Relations over Kitten Mischief, Nineeleventurbo, Foreign Relations, Altazor, Sharar, Montauk Point, Quadra Island, Microphone (in this 12 horse field, with Nineeleventurbo not really a standout, the return is worth the risk for this kind of bet).

Race 7: Kitten Mischief, Nineeleventurbo, Foreign Relations
Race 8: Rarify, Pumpkin Scone

Race 7: Kitten Mischief, Nineeleventurbo, Foreign Relations
Race 8: Rarify, Pumpkin Scone, Accede, Dear Lady, Zietlos

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Race 8 at Keeneland – Post Time 4:44 PM Eastern

Top win contenders: Rarify, Pumpkin Scone
Other contenders: Accede, Dear Lady, Zietlos

Rarify debuted back in July of 2022 and finished second in a highly rated race, with both the winner and third horses having had some big efforts in top company since then. She came back a month later and finished second again. Both those races were at Saratoga, then after two months off, about 51 weeks ago, she ran at Keeneland and won handily by almost four lengths. Blinkers came off for that race and Rosario went on for the first time so either or both of those changes were what got her to run big. She’s been off since that race but has been in steady training for Ward for the pasts month, at Keeneland, and as a newly returning three year old, even this late in the year, she’s eligible to get Lasix, which although may not move her up can’t hurt since every other horse in the field is racing on it. Ward is exceptional bringing horses back from six months or more, winning nearly one-third of the time over many years, and best of all Rarify gets a good outside post to compliment her stalking style as there are up to SIX horses in the field who appear to be need-the-lead types and assure a fast and contested early pace which really helps this filly.

Also helped by the pace should be Pumpkin Scone, who rallied from third in her debut to make the lead then just got tired late, holding second gamely by a head. The horse just behind her improved a bit more than she did when winning on July 1, with Pumpkin Scone again settling for second. Then came a BREAKOUT effort on August 18 where Pumpkin Scone was ridden out to an easy seven length win. The difference may have been the jockey change to Corrales, who, although not riding as much for the Brad Cox barn as #1 jockey Geroux, still does very well for the trainer when asked to ride, evidenced by a sensational 40% win rate. Cox’s starters stay in top form as he wins about 30% back-to-back and so Pumpkin Scone is the other main win contender in this deep allowance field.

Accede won her debut in March at six furlongs and has only raced in stakes since, so on the drop to allowance company and with Irad Ortiz, Jr. getting on, having been aboard for the debut win and not since, she’s a contender. Also a contender is Dear Lady, who won last December at six furlongs in her second career start when rallying from third. She didn’t run well in two races since returning from a layoff in July but gets a made to order pace scenario for her late kick. Zeitlos rallied from eighth of 11 to get the lead in the stretch last month on turf at this distance, and she won a dirt sprint two before that, so she rounds out the contenders.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Rarify and Pumpkin Scone should both be considered for win bets at 2 to 1 or higher.

Rarify and Pumpkin Scone over Rarify, Pumpkin Scone, Accede, Dear Lady, Zietlos
Rarify, Pumpkin Scone, Accede, Dear Lady, Zietlos over Rarify and Pumpkin Scone

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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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