Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 31

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Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes-Race 9 at Kentucky Downs-Post Time 5:47 Eastern/4:47 Central

This race, and race 10, the Gainesway Farm Juvenile Stakes, are fantastic betting races. With horses shipping in from everywhere, most only with a maiden win, whoever is the favorite near post time will likely be as high as 4 to 1. As such, multiple win bets and some exactas bets we wouldn’t normally make are called for because the investment is worth the potential return. In this race I’ll start with Fly So Pretty, who has two starts under her belt. The first was a turf sprint at Churchill in June and the second was a turf sprint last month at Saratoga. In that race Fly So Pretty rallied from eighth after encountering enough trouble to cover a couple of paragraphs. Since then, she was flattered when the third horse won and since that effort earned Fly So Pretty the BEST last race Equibase in the field, she should improve as the third horse did and run even better so it would take a BIG jump up by any of the others to beat her if she doesn’t get in traffic trouble she can’t overcome this time. Sire Sky Mesa is the sire of the 2017 One Dreamer Stakes (the seventh race on today’s card) so there’s no question this filly can get the added distance either.

Lemon Scat and Jezebel’s Kitten both broke their maidens at a mile on turf at Ellis Park in their most recent starts and both appear very talented as it’s very tough to win a turf route first time out. Lemon Scat rallied from seventh of nine early and won going away then was flattered when the third horse won right back. Her 74 figure was a nice improvement off her 69 debut figure and she’s moving in the right direction. We all know Kitten’s Joy is a tremendous turf sire but seeing the record of his progeny over the last five years at Kentucky Downs really makes the point. They are 16 for 73 over the track including a 5 for 18 record in stakes. I mention that because Jezebel’s Kitten could add to that number. Since breaking her maiden three weeks ago at first asking, she put in a 47.2 half-mile workout to show she’s getting better every day and the high percentage Cox/Geroux combo gives us more reasons to consider her a contender for all the marbles.

Weekend Fun has sprinted on dirt twice to date so is trying a route and turf for the first time. I’m not concerned about the changes as she’s a daughter of More Than Ready, who had a winner in the More Than Ready Mile (oddly enough) over the course in 2014, trained by Asmussen the same as this gal. She put in a nice work on turf before leaving Saratoga and Leparoux is one of the top jockeys year after year on this unique course so those are more reasons to consider her as well. We’ll round out a quintet with Ask Bailey¸ because when I see the chart caller comments “Drove Past” it means the effort is very impressive. That’s just what Ask Bailey did on 8/11 breaking her maiden at this mile trip, also at Ellis Park, and as a horse with a good deal of improvement possible in her third career start and second route she’s got a shot to be there at the end.

Win Bets: Fly So Pretty is the KEY BET to win at 2 to 1 or higher.
Consider a smaller win bet on Lemon Scat at 3 to 1 or more, and perhaps minimum win bets on Weekend Fun at 4/1, on Jezebel’s Kitten at 5 to 1 and on Ask Bailey at 5 to 1 or more.
When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exacta: Fly So Pretty over ALL
Box: Ask Bailey, Weekend Fun, Jezebel’s Kitten, Lemon Scat and Fly So Pretty.

Woodward Stakes – Race 11 at Saratoga – Post Time 6 PM Eastern

Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat finished second and first, respectively, in the Alydar Stakes over the track at the same nine furlong trip of the Woodward. Tom’s d’Etat was the even money favorite that day while Wooderson was 13 to 1 and although they were separated by a length there’s an odds disparity here as well because Tom’s d’Etat opens at 4 to 1 while Wooderson opens at 12/1. Certainly Wooderson is not as accomplished as Tom’s d’Etat, BUT NOT BY MUCH. Wooderson has a 3-3-0 record in nine races with three of those stakes and only one decent, that being the Alydar. Tom’s d’Etat has a 7-2-1 record in 13 races with five of those stakes, BUT his only stakes win came in the Alydar. In terms of Equibase figures they both earned career-best figures in the Alydar (118 and 116). Leading jockey Jose Ortiz rides Wooderson for the first time, which I think provides more reasons he can turn the tables on Tom’s d’Etat and post the upset here.

Mr. Buff and Bal Harbour are two more with out of line starting odds, particularly as I am not enamored of either morning line favorite Vino Rosso or second choice Yoshida. Vino Rosso has no excuse for the Whitney and has just two third place finishes to show for three races at Saratoga, while last year’s winner Yoshida ran okay, but not fantastic, in the Whitney. Their figures were 108 and 115 so not superior to Wooderson or Tom’s d’Etat by any means. Mr. Buff loves to win and doesn’t really know as a NY bred he may not be that good in open company. He adores this nine furlong trip where he’s six-for-eight with two of those wins at Saratoga including August 7 earning a 111 figure. He earned a 114 figure winning at the trip in January and has the ability to set the pace or stalk the pacesetter so could be in the thick of the action start to finish. Bal Harbour is a lightly raced four year old with a great 5-4-2 record in 16 starts. His best race ever came last month at the trip when a head shy of winning the Monmouth Cup. Castellano gets on and has ridden him to victory previously so opening at 15/1 he can’t be ignored.

For some exactas I’ll also use Preservationist, who ran badly with no excuse at 2 to 1 in the Whitney but who ran sparklers in the Suburban and in an allowance race prior to that. He could rebound to top form but with a 111 best figure that top form may not be good enough to win.

Win Bets: Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.
When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Definitely consider win bets on Mr. Buff and on Bal Harbour at odds of 9 to 2 or more. Place bets can be made on any of the contenders at odds of 7 to 1 or higher.

Exactas: Tom’s d’Etat over Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Preservationist, Yoshida and Wooderson.

Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat over Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Preservationist, Yoshida, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat.

Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Preservationist, Yoshida, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat over Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat. (Note the reason for the first exacta in addition to the other two is we have more combinations if Tom’s d’Etat wins owing to his lower odds and lower exacta payoffs than if any of the other three win).

Gainesway Farm Juvenile Stakes – Race 10 at Kentucky Downs – Post Time 6:22 PM Eastern/ 5:22 Central

Automate gets slight preference in another wide open stakes for two year olds, because he opens at 15/1. He broke his maiden four weeks ago at a mile on dirt at Ellis Park and the fact that race was on dirt is the ONLY reason he’s not 4 to 1 to 6 to 1 as some of the horses are who broke their maidens on grass. Automate was stretching out from a sprint and ran that race the way a horse runs on grass, rallying from fifth early and powering off late. The 75 Equibase figure is the second best route figure in the field, with only Peace Achieved having run faster, but his 80 figure, although earned on turf, was earned leading from start to finish. That’s going to be very difficult to repeat here because both Night Time and City Front are stretching out from sprints on dirt and appear to be very fast early. That brings us back to Automate, who was flattered when the runner-up improved nicely to win his next race, as did the SEVENTH place finisher. He’s got the breeding to run big on grass and his trainer, Keith Desormeaux, is one of the most underrated big race trainers in North America, in my opinion.

Are You Kitten Me is a son of Kitten’s Joy, whose progeny stats at Kentucky Downs over the last five years I extolled when discussing the race before this one. He broke his maiden at first asking in a route, at Saratoga, in a 10 horse field, so he could be any kind and win this race for fun with any kind of improvement. Doc Boy broke his maiden at a mile on grass at Laurel and although he beat only three horses it was a very impressive effort with a 74 figure on par with the figure Automate earned. He rallied early from four back then continued to draw off and for a top trainer in Mike Stidham this colt is another we must take very seriously in this race. The Gray Blur added blinkers for his second career start and off a seventh of 12 debut, trying turf and two turns or the first time three weeks ago, and was a different horse as he controlled the pace from start to finish. He does not appear to be a need-the-lead types at Night Time and City Front do because his pace/speed figure combination of 48/68 suggest he put in a nice kick in the last quarter mile. He opens at 15/1 and although a bit less probable than some of the others those odds still appear out of line and warrant including this colt in our wagers. Memorable was highly regarded after breaking his maiden on dirt at first asking in May, running in the Tremont and Sanford Stakes, also on dirt, but running badly. He ran in a stakes for two year olds at Saratoga off those two efforts and ran a lot better, finishing fourth of eight. He gets the rail and Leparoux here and opens at 10/1 as a horse who could move up considerably around two turns for the first time.

Bets: Win bets on two of these three depending on odds, choosing the two at the highest odds of the threeAutomate, Are You Kitten Me and Doc Boy at odds of 7 to 2 or more.

A small win bet is not out of the question on The Gray Blur and on Memorable at odds of 6 to 1 or higher.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exactas: Memorable, The Gray Blur, Are You Kitten Me, Automate and Doc Boy over Memorable, The Gray Blur, Are You Kitten Me, Automate, Doc Boy, Night Time, Peace Achieved and Longclaw.

John C. Mabee Stakes – Race 7 at Del Mar – Post Time 8:15 PM Eastern/5:15 Pacific

With Vasilika, queen of the Southern California female stakes division, having her bubble burst four weeks ago in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes when third at four to five odds with no excuse, there’s a horse here to get it done, or at least finish second, at likely double digit odds. That horse is La Force, getting a huge jockey change to Smith (no disparagement to Van Dyke intended). La Force opens at 12/1 mostly because she’s 1 for 12 on grass in her career. However, she does fit at the level, having finished second to Unique Bella on dirt in the Beholder Mile and Clement Hirsch Stakes last spring and summer. Then she was second, beaten less than a length in the G1 Zenyatta before a poor eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, followed by a layoff. She came back and ran a respectable second to 10 length winner Paradise Woods, then won the G2 Santa Maria before a third place effort in this year’s Hirsch. Aside from Vasilika, there are no monsters here and her stakes credentials match any of the others so with a trio of turf works since the Hirsch showing us she’s pointing to this race, with efforts on dirt which would win this kind of race if transferred to turf, with prior turf form and with Smith riding, I think La Force is a great bet in this race.

Aside from Vasilika, Toinette, Ahimsa and Juliet Foxtrot are horses I’ll use with La Force on exacta tickets as all three come off nice wins on the grass.

Bets: La Force to win and place at 3 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box La Force and Vasilika, then play La Force over Vasilika, Toinette, Ahimsa and Juliet Foxtrot.
Play the reverse of that exacta as well, which is Vasilika, Toinette, Ahimsa and Juliet Foxtrot over La Force.

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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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