Key Races & Bets for Saturday September 2nd, 2023

Gun Runner Stakes – Race 8 at Kentucky Downs – Post Time 5:21 PM Eastern

Analysis and main contenders:

Wadsworth has won two similar stakes on grass for three year olds in a row. Although he opens at 5 to 2 and his odds could go lower, we can still make money in the exacta and possibly the trifecta because there are a couple of horses with high morning line odds that have a big shot to hit the board and aren’t without a chance to upset given these are three year olds capable of taking giant leaps forward from one race to the next. Geroux has been aboard Wadsworth in three straight, the first of which was a nose defeat in the Caesar’s Handicap at Horseshoe Indiana, with the other two wins at Ellis Park. Cutting back from nine furlongs to a mile helps his chances to run better than last time out when opening up by a length and hanging on by a head on the wire and the 105 Equibase figure earned last out is good, but not a standout, given a few other horses have run as fast this year. Therefore he gets slight preference as far as probability to win goes but not so much as a win bet.

The horses which have much better value for win bets are Highway Robber and Gaslight Dancer. Highway Robber was the one cutting into Wadsworth’s margin with every stride in the race last month. He was last of 11, was six paths wide on the turn and ran big. He tried turf for the first time right before that and won, and his 105 figure was the same as Wadsworth but he might have more upside for improvement as he’s more lightly raced. It must be noted, however, that he is also entered in the Dueling Grounds Derby on Sunday. Gaslight Dancer is one of two from the Maker barn and Maker is very dangerous in these races, particularly with a horse like this opening at 15 to 1. Gaslight Dancer nearly won the Futurity on the grass last fall at Belmont, as the 8 to 5 favorite, coming up a neck shy on the wire after battling the length of the stretch. He then won the Palisades Stakes after five months off, in April at Keeneland, then finished third in another stakes. Last out on 8/13, after three months off and shipping to New York, Gaslight Dancer rallied from seventh to get within a length of the leader in the stretch but didn’t make any further progress. Just like when winning in the second start of his career, incidentally here at Kentucky Downs last September, Gaslight Dancer can improve a lot second off the layoff, and the jockey change to Corrales (up for that win one year ago and not having ridden since) gives this horse a decent shot of running well at high odds.

Talk of the Nation has been first or second in all four turf starts, three of those stakes, and must be considered for any exacta wagers, doubles, pick 3 or pick 4 tickets we play involving this race. Communication Memo opens at 30 to 1 and likewise can’t be ruled out as he was meant to run on turf last month and stayed in the race after it was moved to dirt, running the best race of his career to win by a neck. He’s got strong turf breeding and it might be a mistake to let an Asmussen trainee get away at these odds. Major Dude has won four of 12 but faded to fourth after making the lead in the similar Secretariat Stakes last month. He’s run races in the past which would make him competitive here if repeated.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Wadsworth and Highway Robbery can be considered for win bets at odds of 2 to 1.
Gaslight Dancer should be considered for a win bet at odds of 4 to 1 or more.

Highway Robber and Wadsworth over Highway Robber, Gaslight Dancer, Talk of the Nation, Communication Memo, Wadsworth and Major Dude

Additionally, even if for the $1 minimum I’d play an exacta KEY BOX of Gaslight Dancer with ALL.

Race 8: Highway Robber, Wadsworth, Gaslight Dancer, Talk of the Nation, Communication Memo
Race 9: Mammas Girl, L J’s Emma, Playlist

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Music City Stakes – Race 9 at Kentucky Downs – Post Time 5:54 PM Eastern

Mammas Girl makes her North American debut for a strong European trainer in Hannon and gets a good local jockey in Geroux to ride. She’s been facing MUCH TOUGHER competition in Europe and her last effort, when fourth of nine in a group 2 stakes, wins in this group if repeated. Even prior to that when beaten three lengths in a group 3 stakes (equivalent of a grade 2 in the U.S.), she ran well enough to win here with that effort.

L J’s Emma posted the 17 to 1 upset in the Galway Stakes last month at Saratoga in a decent field of 10. She has now won three in a row and her Equibase Figure keep getting stronger, from 80 to 93 to 100. To put that in perspective the last two figures earned by Mammas Girl were 104 and 103. That puts L J’s Emma in line for a big share, perhaps the winning share if Mammas Girl isn’t ready to repeat either of her last two efforts. Lanerie rode the filly to a win one before last and replaces the injured Saez so there are no concerns and this filly may be coming on the fastest of them all in the stretch.

Playlist gets a big look if she draws in from the also-eligible list. She too has won three in a row, the last two on grass under John Velazquez, who rides her here. Although those last two were allowance races, the 107 figure earned one back and the 96 last out both give her a square shot of being right there at the finish today.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Mammas Girl should be considered for a win bet at 5 to 2 or higher, while L J’s Emma and Playlist can be considered at 3 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Mammas Girl, L J’s Emma and Playlist

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Pacific Classic Stakes – Race10 at Del Mar – Post Time 9 PM Eastern

Analysis and main contenders:

In a wide open edition of the Pacific Classic, as opposed to last year when Flightline was the logical choice and prohibitive betting favorite, there are likely to be some very interesting horses at high odds. One of those is Senor Buscador, who posted the 15 to 1 upset when last seen (July 29) in the San Diego Handicap, which serves as the local prep for the Classic. Set up by a hot early pace where Brickyard Ride ran the opening half-mile in :46.2, jockey Geovanni Franco helped Senor Buscador launch a rally from last of nine after a half-mile had been run. Moving to fourth entering the stretch, Senor Buscador made up three lengths to win going away, earning a career best 115 Equibase Speed Figure in the process. Given the three winners of the Classic prior to Flightline earned 111, 113 and 117 figures, repeating his San Diego Handicap effort could be good enough for his second graded stakes in a row, bringing his record to seven for 13 as well.

Katonah is likely to be overlooked by many bettors and could end up around the same high odds as Senor Buscador was when winning the San Diego Handicap. The reason is Katonah has never run in a graded stakes race. Nevertheless, there is a lot to like. After being claimed by Doug O’Neill for $40,000 in November of 2021, Katonah was away from the races for 14 months, returning as a gelding in January of this year. He won two dirt races in a row on the comeback, then ran poorly on turf before returning to dirt and finishing second, third and first. The win in that three race set, in May, earned him a career best 105 figure, which he bettered to 112 winning the Pleasanton Mile in July and in powerful fashion among a field of 10. Since returning to Del Mar, Katonah has been working steadily and appears to be in tip-top shape based on a strong six furlong workout in 1:12 flat coming into this race. Projecting improvement from the 105 figure effort two back to 112 last out, Katonah appears to be in line with the 115 figure Senor Buscador earned in the San Diego, and that could be good enough for a first or second place effort in this year’s Pacific Classic for the trainer who won the 2006 Pacific Classic with Lava Man.

Geaux Rocket Ride is another horse on an improving pattern of races, and speed figures. After a strong maiden win in his debut in January, Hall-of-Fame trainer Dick Mandella was high enough to enter the colt in the San Felipe Stakes, where he finished second to eventual Santa Anita Derby winner Practical Move. After skipping the other Kentucky Derby preps, Geaux Rocket Ride won the Affirmed Stakes in June with a 95 figure. Mandella saw something special in the colt so he shipped him to New Jersey for the Haskell Stakes on July 23 where Geaux Rocket Ride ran the best race of his career, beating Kentucky Derby winner Mage, and tying the 104 figure earned in the San Felipe. Now very likely to continue to improve in his third race off a layoff, Geaux Rocket Ride can save ground in mid-pack from the ground saving rail and certainly be a factor in this year’s Classic.

There are a number of horses which deserve honorable mention, but I’ll just discuss two of them – Slow Down Andy and Stilleto Boy. Slow Down Andy was out-finished by Senor Buscador in the San Diego as he was second on the turn whereas Senor Buscador was eighth, but he was courageous nevertheless and earned a career best 113 figure. Stilleto Boy earned a 105 figure winning the similar Santa Anita Handicap in March before coming up a head and a nose short of winning the Oaklawn Handicap in April. Although he finished sixth with no excuse in July when shipped to Kentucky for the Stephen Foster Stakes, if Stilleto Boy returns to the form shown in March and April, he could be a factor.

The reason there are so many ways to go in this race and a number of horses which will offer good return for the risk is due to the presence of a pair of starters from the Bob Baffert barn in Defunded and Arabian Knight, both likely to be bet heavily. Defunded won the Hollywood Gold Cup in May with a 108 figure, while Arabian Knight won the Southwest Stakes in January with a 106 figure. Even if repeated, neither holds up to the 115 figure Senor Buscador earned in the San Diego or the 108 figure Katonah earned in July. Additionally, as with many Baffert trainees, both have a “Need the Lead” running style, and considering a fast pace is what helped Senor Buscador to win the San Diego Handicap, and that both Katonah and Geaux Rocket Ride have the ability to stalk the pacesetters in third to fifth in the early stages, it is going to be tough for either Defunded or Arabian Knight to hold off the closers in this year’s Classic.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Senor Buscador should be bet at odds of 3 to 1 or more
Katonah should be bet at odds of 4 to 1 or more.
Geaux Rocket Ride has minimum odds of 3 to 1 as well, but opens at 5 to 2, too low for a win bet.

Exactas: Senor Buscador, Katonah and Geaux Rocket Ride over Senor Buscador, Katonah, Geaux Rocket Ride, Slow Down Andy, Stilleto Boy

Senor Buscador and Katonah over Defunded and Arabian Knight
The bet above is made because of the return for the risk and also we want to avoid any exactas using the three lowest odds horses, which are Geaux Rocket Ride, Defunded and Arabian Knight

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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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