Key Races & Bets for Saturday July 30, 2022

Niagara Stakes – Race 8 at Woodbine – Post Time 4:40 PM Eastern

Two of the three starting favorites in this 11 horse field going a mile and one-quarter are Mighty Heart and Town Cruise, who are ABSOLUTELY need-the-lead types. On paper, Town Cruise is capable of running faster but he will break from the 11 post while Mighty Heart gets post three and so it is highly likely Mighty Heart will have the lead and force both horses to go faster than average for the distance, and certainly too fast to have enough left to hold off the stalkers and closers, particularly as Primo Touch will be up close as will morning line favorite Frosted Over.

That sets up a pair of horses in British Royalty and Cibolian, who open at 6/1 and 8/1 respectively. They finished second and fourth in the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup on June 10, a two mile race on turf, with British Royalty coming back four weeks later to finish fourth in another tough stakes race won by multiple graded stakes winner Channel Maker. British Royalty gets a jockey change to Patrick Husbands, which sends BIG signals as Husbands rode the horse just ONCE previously, to a big four length win in last year’s Breeders’ Stakes at 12 furlongs on grass. This level is going to be a lot easier than either of his last two races and he puts lasix back on which he had for a runner-up finish right before those two stakes and for his win last October in the Breeders’ so he gets slight preference among the pair although I won’t hesitate betting both to win.

Cibolian runs on the Woodbine Turf for the first time but has earned $200K on turf and before his fourth place effort to much tougher in the Belmont Gold Cup he was beaten just a length and one-half in the Grade 3 Louisville Stakes, at 12 furlongs. Cibolian ships up from Kentucky and gets Declan Carroll to ride, who is heating up of late and gaining confidence, and the horse has the kick to win as evidenced by a strong victory last June at a mile and one-half on turf at Churchill Downs.

I’ll add Frosted Over as a contender for the exacta because if he can relax in third behind Mighty Heart and Town Cruise he can run well. He has NEVER run on grass so it’s tough to take a low price for a win bet but his 4-2-1 record in his last eight races and the fact he finished second in the 12 furlong Valedictory Stakes last December, as well as his ability to run strongly through the last quarter mile, make him tough to completely toss.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets:  British Royalty and Cibolian at odds of 4 to 1 or more.


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Exactas: Box British Royalty, Cibolian and Frosted Over


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Vanderbilt Handicap – Race 8 at Saratoga – Post Time 4:50 PM Eastern

This race, as well as the Jim Dandy (Race 9) are only interesting in that there are heavy favorites so that other horses which might normally be in the 3 to 1 range may go to post at 6 to 1 or more. Such is the case here with NY Traffic (6/1 morning line) and with Willy Boi (8/1), who between them have earned nearly $1.2 million while winning 12 of 31 races. The reason for their out of line odds is the presence of Jackie’s Warrior, who opens at 7 to 5 but who will be the odds-on favorite. Jackie’s Warrior is the leader in the sprint division in North America and perhaps rightfully so. He’s very fast and it might take an extraordinary horse among the other five to get the lead away from him in the opening strides. However, as was shown when he faded to fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, that is not out of the question and so the value in exactas and doubles with both NY Traffic and Willy Boi, BOTH who have run about as fast as Jackie’s Warrior (113, 111 and 109 Equibase speed figures compared to 113 and 111 for the favorite).

Handicapper Picks

Win bets: I will forego win bets in favor of exactas but for the sake of discussion if NY Traffic is 4 to 1 or more near post time and if Willy Boi is 6 to 1 or more near post time I will likely make the bet(s).



Box Willy Boi, Ny Traffic

Box Willy Boi, Jackie’s Warrior

Box Ny Traffic, Jackie’s Warrior



Race 8: Willy Boi, Ny Traffic, Jackie’s Warrior

Race 9: Tawny Port


Race 8: Willy Boi, Ny Traffic

Race 9: Epicenter, Tawny Port, Early Voting, Zandon

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Jim Dandy Stakes – Race 9 at Saratoga – Post Time 5:37 PM Eastern

Short field, great matchup. Derby and Preakness runner-up Epicenter, Preakness winner and Wood Memorial runner-up Early Voting, Blue Grass winner and Derby third place finisher Zandon, and Ohio Derby and Lexington winner Tawny Port make up four of the five entrants here, along with overmatched Western River. Given Epicenter, Early Voting and Zandon will all fight for public favoritism; Tawny Port should be a square price, probably less than his 8 to 1 starting odds but more than enough for a bet. There is absolutely NO REASON he can’t win, having just won the Ohio Derby at the same nine furlong trip with a 107 Equibase figure which is FASTER than the 103 Early Voting earned winning the Preakness, tied with the 107 Zandon earned winning the Blue Grass and higher than the 105 Epicenter earned when second in the Derby. He has improved (99 to 100 to 107) in his last three starts and we already know how highly regarded he is as Irad Ortiz, Jr. takes the call for the high percentage Brad Cox barn.

Handicapper Picks

Win Bet: Tawny Port at 3 to 1 or more.

Exacta: Tawny Port over Epicenter, Early Voting and Zandon

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San Diego Handicap – Race 10 at Del Mar – Post Time 9:30 PM Eastern

I sure hope everyone is still around, or bets early, because this race is going to be fantastic. Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer, Gold Cup 1-2 finishers There Goes Harvard and Defunded, last year’s Derby runner-up (placed first) Mandaloun are just four of the nine entered here.

In many races, there’s the “Best Horse” and then there’s the “Best Bet” and the two can be mutually exclusive. The “Best Horse” often means the one which is most probable, such as if you ran the race 100 times and this horse would win 33 times out of 100, hence its odds should be 2 to 1 and likely lower than any of the others. The “Best Bet” may be the second or third most probable horse, perhaps which might win 20 times out of 100, so its odds should be about 4 to 1, but this horse is likely to be 10 to 1, so it is a much better bet in terms of making a profit for the 20 times out of 100 it might win. We never truly know if that race is today or not.

In this case, Country Grammer is the most probable to win, but Senor Buscador, and to a lesser extent Parnelli, are better bets. Senor Buscador won the first two starts of his career, at the age of two in 2020, the second of which was an early Road to the Derby race in 2020. That was the Springboard Mile and it was his first route which he won by rallying from last of 10, more than a dozen lengths back, to win by almost six lengths. He returned two months later in the Risen Star Stakes (February ’21) and ran okay while seven wide on the far turn, finishing fifth of 11. Then something kept him on the sidelines for 16 ½ months. He returned in a sprint similar to his career debut, now a much more mature four year old, and rallied from sixth of seven to win going away. His second start off the layoff is going to be a HUGE effort, particularly as he’s stretching out. The dam has produced two multiple route stakes winners in Sherriff Brown and Runaway Ghost, the latter who earned nearly $800,000. Trainer Fincher does most of his winning in the southwest (New Mexico) but has won 68 stakes races in the last five years. Not only should Senor Buscador improve second off the layoff and on the stretch out, he will benefit from the fact three or four others like to lead or stalk in the early stages. For example, when Stilletto Boy won the similar Grade 2 Californian Stakes in April (same jockey as today), he ran the first six furlongs in 1:09.6. Defunded ran the first six furlongs on the lead in 1:10.8 when finishing second in the Gold Cup in May, and Country Grammer was first or second from the start in last year’s Californian and Gold Cup. As such, I expect Maldonado to have Senor Buscador in the back early and rolling late to run a lot better than his high odds will suggest.

Country Grammer was just two of six in his career before coming back from eight months off, as a more mature four year old (as Senor Buscador is now) last April. His first start back was a huge effort when second by a neck in the Californian, then six weeks later he won the Gold Cup. Off for nine months, he finished second of 14 in the Saudi Cup this past February when won the $12 million Dubai Gold Cup in a 10 horse field. The layoff is not an issue and John Velazquez travels from NY (giving up an entire day at Saratoga) to ride this horse who should run well enough to win but doesn’t have to win off the layoff such as what occurred last April when beaten a neck by Royal Ship in the Californian.

Parnelli is another horse who’s been an entirely different one since turning four, particularly since removing blinkers in his second start of the year on April 17. He dead-heated for the win with There Goes Harvard, with that pair ahead by almost five lengths. There Goes Harvard came back to win this year’s Gold Cup while Parnelli returned in a classified allowance at the distance of the San Diego Handicap and won by three lengths. Abel Cedillo rode both times and rides back and it sure appears now without the blinkers this horse is good enough to compete with these. Trainer John Shirreffs doesn’t start many horses in graded stakes but has won with 10 of 50 in graded stakes dirt routes in the past five years so when he does enter a horse at this level we must take note, and there’s no issue with Victor Espinoza getting the mount as he has teamed up with Shirreffs many times in those 50 races.

Handicapper Picks

Win Bets: Senor Buscador at 4 to 1 or more and Parnelli at 9 to 2 or more.

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Exacta: Box Senor Buscador with ALL
Box Senor Buscador and Country Grammer

Senor Buscador and Country Grammer over There Goes Harvard, Defunded, Senor Buscador, Parnelli and Country Grammer

There Goes Harvard, Defunded, Senor Buscador, Parnelli and Country Grammer over Senor Buscador and Country Grammer

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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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