Key Races & Bets for Saturday December 18, 2021

Suwannee River Stakes – Race 5 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 1:54 PM Eastern

This is an awesome betting race with a field of 12 going a mile on turf and a 3/1 starting favorite in Shifty She, who is not entirely vulnerable but who can be beaten.

The horse I think can beat the favorite is Alms, with a four for eight career record, all on turf, including three straight stakes wins in the second through fourth starts of her career, including two grade 3 stakes like this one. She almost won the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes in the summer of 2020, missing by a nose and a head on the wire, but something went amiss after that and Alms was away from the races for nearly 16 months after that, returning at the end of October of this year and in a sprint which was nothing more than a prep. Moving up considerably just three weeks ago second off the layoff, Alms missed by a neck in a non-graded stakes on the turf at Fair Grounds at a mile and one-sixteenth, which will turn out to be a KEY RACE. The winner in that 11 horse field was Breeze Rider, the ONLY horse to have run back, and that filly won the My Charmer Stakes one week ago and easily by almost five lengths. Alms is only the second horse to come back out of that race and is sure to improve markedly, and as she’s already a multiple grade three stakes winner and as she gets red hot Luis Saez for the first time, is the one to beat in my opinion.

Shifty She has won six of 10 including three of six this year. The first of those was at this mile trip at GP in the non-graded Powder Break Stakes then she won the statebred Ginger Punch Stakes before third and fourth place finishes. The wins came with Gonzalez in the saddle and although Irad Ortiz, Jr. rode her subsequently those were her two defeated but when Gonzalez got back on for the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Stakes in October, Shifty She returned to winning form. She appears to need the lead to win and may get pressure from Princess Causeway, and potentially others, but she has a better post and she did come from off the pace under Gonzalez to win the Powder Break so the pace scenario is not that big of a concern.

Keeper of Time and Princess Causeway have a bit less probability to win as compared to the top two listed contenders BUT their odds make them worth the risk for inclusion on exactas we play at the very least, and possibly for a small win bet in the case of Keeper of Time, who opens at 15/1. Keeper of Time won a Group 3 Stakes in April in a field of 15 and at 80 to 1 odds, getting up in the last jump to win by a head. Importing to the U.S. and moving to the strong Brendan Walsh barn, Keeper of Time ran well especially after four months off to be third of nine in the Riskaverse Stakes at Saratoga at this mile trip, her first ever two turn race. After a really poor effort one month later, perhaps coming back too quickly, she rebounded to third while wide from a very poor post in the Glen Cove Stakes at Belmont In October, where she was beaten a neck for second. With Gaffalione getting on and with a VERY strong half-mile turf workout (47.6, fourth best of 27) coming into the race, Keeper of Time could easily run a lot better than her double digit odds suggest. Princess Causeway has won six races in her career just like Shifty She, but in 19 starts (compared to 10). However, her three for 11 record on turf is what really matters, including a 1-1-1 record in four starts this year. The best of those came in a stakes quality classified allowance race in October at Keeneland where she led from start to finish and beat a couple of nice horses in Dominga and Our Bay B Ruth. Like Keeper of TimePrincess Causeway put in a very strong turf workout (58 flat and best of 23) coming into the race and must be respected.


Win bets: Alms to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more

A smaller win bet on Keeper of Time at 9 to 2 or more is called for as well.

As I have a much stronger opinion of Alms I want to be more to win on her, but with Keeper of Time likely to go to post at high odds we can bet much less to win the same amount. This is where proportioning our bets comes in very handy, and using the “Dutching Tool” at accomplishes our goal, and at no cost. A Dutching tool lets you set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, then based on the odds your bets are proportioned accordingly. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.


Alms and Shifty She over Alms, Shifty She, Keeper of Time and Princess Causeway

Box Alms, Shifty She, Keeper of Time and Princess Causeway

Alms and Shifty She over Alms, Shifty She, Keeper of Time, Princess Causeway, In a Hurry, Classic Lady, Summering and Sweet Melania

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Harlan’s Holiday Stakes – Race 9 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 3:59 PM Eastern

As there is a decent amount of value in race 10, the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes, and because there’s a SINGLE (only one horse) to use in the first leg of doubles to the next race, this becomes a race to get involved in although only six are entered. The favorite (8 to 5) is Fearless, who has a 4-3-1 record in 10 races including the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile in February. That was a ONE-TURN mile, not the two turn trip of this race, and although Fearless finished second in the Oaklawn Handicap at nine furlongs (two turns) in April, he didn’t make up any ground, nor did he when third in the Pimlico Special in May. That makes be believe he’s vulnerable to a “Lone Front Runner” in this race, and that is Mighty Heart, who although opens at 9 to 5 odds should be a lot lower based on how likely he is to win this race if he gets the early lead.

Mighty Heart just won the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes at Woodbine last month so is dropping a notch in class and lest you think he can’t run as well on dirt as he did on all-weather, he proved that to not be true taking the Blame Stakes (with the same $150K purse as this one) in May at Churchill Downs and at nine furlongs. He came from off the pace in the Blame but his best races have come when allowed to lead from the start, as when winning the $1 million Queen’s Plate in 2020 and the Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes this July as well as the Autumn Stakes last month. John Velazquez takes the call and if Mighty Heart runs the same race as he did last month, he will not be caught.


Win Bet: My preference is to play the same amount I would bet to win on Mighty Heart in doubles and get a much better return then we would anywhere near his 9 to 5 starting odds but “IF” he goes to post at 9 to 5 or higher I would bet him to win.

Exactas: Mighty Heart over Eye of a Jedi and South Bend.

I am avoiding the logical and poorly paying exacta of Mighty Heart over Fearless


Race 9: Mighty Heart

Race 10: Atone

(This is the one I’d play multiple times)

Race 9: Mighty Heart

Race 10: L’Imperator, Atone, Space Traveller

(I’d play this one multiple times as well)

Race 9: Mighty Heart

Race 10: L’Imperator, Renasiance Frolic, Analyze It, King Guillermo, Atone, Space Traveller

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Ft. Lauderdale Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:32 PM Eastern

Atone gets slight preference among a trio of win contenders, the other two being Space Traveller and L’Imperator. The reason for this is that Atone has won two of his last three races and finished second in the other, all coming shortly after being privately purchased from Godolphin and moved to the barn of Mike Maker. His first start for Maker in August was interesting as he pressed a fast pace while battling head-and-head with the leader from the start and until an eighth of a mile to go, before fading to sixth. Next time out in September when closing tactics were used Atone ran one of the best races of his career, rallying from eighth of 12 with a quarter mile to run before getting up to win by a neck. Facing tougher foes one month later in October, Atone rallied for second and improved to a strong 104 Equibase Speed Figure which he bettered to 106 in his most recent race when winning easily by two and one-half lengths last month on the Aqueduct turf course. Likely to be in third or fourth early, but with the ability to rally from far back as well, Atone will benefit from the fact up to five horses may want the early lead in this race. With very consistent jockey Jaramillo (18% wins on 975 races this year) in the saddle, and for a trainer in Maker who gets his horses to hold top form at a higher than average rate than most trainers, Atone appears ready to step into graded stakes company and post the mild upset by repeating either of his last two efforts in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes.

Space Traveller has never run in a grade 2 stakes like this one since coming to North America last summer. A group 2 stakes winner at a mile in the summer of 2019, Space Traveller finished fourth in the Mr. D Stakes (formerly the Arlington Million Stakes) last August before a huge run to end up second of 10 in the Woodbine Mile one month later. Next, in the Keeneland Turf Mile (formerly the Shadwell Turf Mile) in October, Space Traveller put in a big run to be beaten just two heads for third and three-quarters of a length for second. Those three efforts earned 108, 103 and 105 figures which are some of the best in this field. Rested three months, Space Traveller put in an exceptional five furlong workout in :58 seconds flat on turf eight days ago to tell us all he’s in tip-top shape. As such, this small drop in class from grade 1 to grade 2 could be just what Space Traveller needs to earn his first win in the U.S.

L’Imperator has won five of nine races in his career, including two of five since importing to the U.S. in the summer of 2020. I think we can disregard his U.S. debut as it was on a soft course he obviously hated and which led to one year away from the races. Since then, L’Imperator has won two of four starts, the most impressive of which was his most recent on November 19 when winning by almost three lengths at the distance of one mile and three-sixteenths, very similar to the one and one-eighth mile trip of the Ft. Lauderdale. That effort tied his career best figure (105) which is the same as the figure Space Traveller earned in his most recent race and identical to the average of the 106 and 104 figures Atone earned in his most recent two races. That makes L’Imperator a strong contender and rounds out a trio I feel have an edge over the other 10 in this field.

Honorable mention goes to Renaisance Frolic, Analyze It and King Guillermo. Renaisance Frolic has won four of 16 turf races at Gulfstream including the Mr. Steele Stakes in July with a 105 figure. He ran poorly in the Mint Million Stakes at Kentucky Downs after that but some horses do not take well to the uphill and downhill nature of that unusual course so back on his home track Renaisance Frolic could be good for a share of the purse. Analyze It is one of two from the barn of top trainer Chad Brown, the other being L’Imperator. Analyze It led from start to finish when last seen in a high level allowance race at Belmont and earned a 100 figure. In the summer of 2018 he was a top turf star earning the bulk of his $939,850 in career earnings with big efforts in the Transylvania Stakes, the Pennine Ridge Stakes, the Belmont Derby and the Secretariat Stakes. King Guillermo has won one of two on turf and moves back to turf for the first time in two years since breaking his maiden in the second start of his career. That effort earned a 105 figure and two races later he earned a career best 110 figure posting the big upset in the Tampa Bay Derby. King Guillermo finished second in the Arkansas Derby that year then went off form, losing badly in three straight races, but after seven months off put in a big effort to be fourth after battling head-and-head for the early lead in October. Getting top jockey Paco Lopez and with two sensational workouts coming into the race (the second best of 149 and the best of 140), King Guillermo is sending all the right signals for a competitive effort.


Win bets: Atone at 5 to 2 or more.

(Note: If we are alive to well-paying doubles from race 10 the win bet can be passed)

L’Imperator and Space Traveller both can be bet to win at 5 to 2 or more but that’s unlikely.


Box Atone and L’Imperator

Box Atone and Space Traveller

(There’s little value in the exacta between L’Imperator and Space Traveller)

Atone, L’Imperator and Space Traveller over Atone, Renaisance Frolic, Analyze It and King Guillermo

L’Imperator and Space Traveller over ALL (This is in lieu of a win bet at low odds on either of those two contenders)


Atone, L’Imperator and Space Traveller over ALL over Atone, L’Imperator and Space Traveller

(This covers any two of the three coming in first and third. We can win this bet and also win the exactas above as well).

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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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