Key Races & Bets for Saturday, December 29

Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes – Race 7 at Laurel – Post Time 3 PM Eastern

Forever Liesl shows up nearly every time, this year off the board just once in seven races. She ships in from New York for Nevin and the last time she came to Maryland she won, in August, at this one turn mile trip here at Laurel. Carrasco rode her then as well as to a six length win two starts later in September and the filly wasn’t disgraced a bit when second to a six length winner in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap, herself six clear of the next horse. Carrasco rode Lady Vicky to a win three weeks ago over the track and chooses this filly which is another sign for a big effort. With the favorite, Sower, a contender but not a standout, but opening at 2/1 and likely going to post at those odds or lower, we may get around the 5/1 morning line on this gal and that would make her a good bet.

Lake Ponchatrain may be underbet as well, opening at 6/1, as she ships in from Mahoning Valley. She ran 2nd in a similar stakes at Laurel in July and was 5 to 2 that day and she won her last start nicely. Like Forever Liesl, Lake Ponchatrain shows up nearly every time, evidenced by 11 first or second place finishes in 13 races this year. Rosado rode her beautifully the last three times he was in the saddle, winning twice and missing a nose in the other race.

Sower is 4 for 8 in her career and ships in from Belmont for Rice, who does very well with shippers to Maryland, particularly with Karamanos aboard as here. The jockey rode the filly to her first two wins this spring in Maryland, before she went to New York and won a stakes. She may not be as good now as then as she’s only 1 for 5 since and her mediocre effort earlier this month when third in a non-graded stakes similar to this one would see her beaten here if repeated, so she’s going to need to run the race she ran before that but that was in the mud and she’s going to need to prove she can win at a mile as she’s trying the distance for the first time, whereas Forever Liesl has won at the trip. I’m defensively using her but mostly trying to beat her.

Bets: Forever Liesl to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher, AND Lake Ponchatrain at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you. Amwager provides a free “Dutching” tool, among other great benefits for the handicapper and bettor.


Forever Liesl and Lake Ponchatrain over ALL.
Box Forever Liesl, Lake Ponchatrain and Sower.

Doubles: Forever Liesl, Lake Ponchatrain and Sower in race 7 with Cautious Giant, Midtowncharlybrown, Laki and Colonel Sharp in Race 8.

Dave’s Friend Stakes – Race 8 at Laurel – Post Time 3:30 PM Eastern

Colonel Sharp is 4-for-8 this year and in my mind has won two in a row. He won his most recent race, at Laurel on 11/16 and he won on 9/1 at Timonium. Before the last win he ran on turf and before that he was overmatched badly in the DeFrancis Stakes. The 9/1 race was a stakes like this one and last out he beat a classified allowance field easily. He can win on the lead or from off the pace and Acosta, who was up for both recent wins, rides back. The cut back from seven furlongs to six doesn’t hurt and he’s earned four of his seven career wins at the basic six furlong trip as well. Opening at 5 to 1, he could definitely be a great bet.

Midtowncharlybrown just posted the 10/1 upset in the $200K Fabulous Strike Stakes at the trip, beating a solid group of sprinters. He won back to back last fall and is 8 for 16 in his career. Like Colonel Sharp, Midtowncharlybrown has the capacity to win on the lead or from off the pace. I think morning line second choice Altissimo is vulnerable because even though he’s 13 for 32 the wins have been earned in Ohio versus Ohio Breds and his trainer is just 3 for 38 with shippers the past two years, none in Maryland. With a potentially overbet second choice in the race, Midtowncharlybrown, who opens at 9/2, gives us a decent return for the risk with a horse who has every right to earn his 9th career win.

Cautious Giant is a must use on any exacta tickets because he’s been first or second in 13 of 19 races this year and last. He ships in from Gulfstream where he won at 75K stakes one before last so he fits, while Laki is another must use off his win three weeks ago over the track. However, that win came in a stakes for Maryland breds only and his other two wins this year came when moved up to first via a disqualification and in an allowance race. We’ll throw in a nice longshot for 2nd in Team Tim, who opens at 20/1. He’s not much for winning but he puts in a late kick to pass many horses a lot.

Bets: Colonel Sharp and Midtowncharlybrown to win at 5 to 2 or higher. Consider a win bet, for a lesser amount, on Cautious Giant at 3 to 1 or more.

Always try to use a “Dutching” tool when making multiple win bets as it provides help with maximizing profit. Amwager offers you one for free along with many other perks.

Exacta: Colonel Sharp, Midtowncharlybrown, Cautious Giant and Laki over Colonel Sharp, Midtowncharlybrown, Cautious Giant, Laki and Team Tim.

Alex M. Robb Stakes – Race 8 at Aqueduct – Post Time 3:47 PM Eastern

I usually forego statebred stakes, unless there’s value to be had, and I think Winston’s Chance offers superb value in this race, opening at 8/1. Favorites Mr. Buff (2/1 morning line) and Control Group (9/5 morning line) are just two of FOUR horses who appear incapable of rating off the pace as all I see are “1s” in their pp lines in the early stages. Mr. Buff draws the two hole and will go, but Black Tide will have to go from his outside post and Control Group just doesn’t have anything but a need-the-lead style as well. Hit It Once More has shown speed on occasion and considering his trainer (Sciacca) also has deep closer Testosterone in the race, the early pace, no matter how slow, should be hotly contested. Winston’s Chance rallied from fifth to win a sprint for NY breds only (like this one) in October and finished second to nine length winner Gold for The King (a very good horse) last out at seven furlongs over the track. He won his ONLY nine furlong race, in the summer of 2017 at Saratoga, and the stretch out from seven to nine furlongs is a pattern I really like, therefore I expect Winston’s Chance to be gaining with every stride in the stretch and post the mild upset.

I’ll also consider a win bet on Testosterone, who finished well from seventh of 11 last out to win at a mile and who is likely to benefit from the pace, as well as has won at this distance and has earned nearly half a million dollars so he’s no slouch but just was off form for a long time before his win 13 days ago. He opens at 20/1, which makes him hard to ignore.

Bets: Winston’s Chance to win at 2 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 3 to 1 or higher, a true KEY BET on the day.

Make a smaller win and place bet on Testosterone at 5 to 1 or higher.

Robert J. Frankel Stakes – Race 4 at Santa Anita – Post Time 4:34 PM Eastern (1:34 Pacific)

Excellent Sunset should be a low odds overlay, opening at 7/2, with every right to win this Grade 3 race just as she won the non-graded Crosby Stakes last month at Del Mar. Although overmatched off that win in the Grade 1 Matriarch, she managed to rally nicely from 13th to be beaten four lengths at the end. She’s run very well in all four U.S. starts after importing from England in July, winning two and missing by a neck in the other. She gets a good post to sit in second early off the speedy Fahan Mura and can return to winning form in this situation.

Fahan Mura, as usual, is the one to catch as she likes to lead from the start. She too was overmatched in the Matriarch and faded to 12th of 13 BUT she was 2nd in the tougher G2 Goldikova Stakes one month earlier, here at SA, and won the Swingtime Stakes which was the same level as the Crosby so she has the same probability to win as Excellent Sunset here and would be no surprise.

Amboseli shipped from Cassidy’s home base at SA in October to run in a pair of races in Kentucky, the first a 5th of 9 finish but the 2nd much better when rallying from 10th to 2nd to miss by a half-length at this 9 furlong trip. That was just about the best race of her career and she could run as well BUT she really doesn’t like to win, evidenced by a 2-4-8 career record, so although she must be used on exacta and pick 3 tickets we must get decent odds before betting her to win. Escape Clause has won 9 of 12 this year, all on dirt except her last two on turf. She was moved up to 1st in the Crosby after Excellent Sunset was disqualified and the was beaten a pair of half-lengths in the G3 Red Carpet Stakes last month at the longer distance of 11 furlongs. Cutting back to 9 furlongs she could be rallying strongly once again and be in the thick of the action on the wire.

Bets: Excellent Sunset to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.
Consider a second win bet, for a smaller amount, on Amboseli at 4 to 1 or more.

Trifecta: With three of the four contenders also being the lowest odds on the morning line, I prefer playing the trifecta over playing the exacta, as follows (two tickets):
Excellent Sunset over Escape Clause, Fahan Mura and Amboseli over Escape Clause, Fahan Mura and Amboseli.

Fahan Mura and Amboseli over Excellent Sunset over Escape Clause, Fahan Mura and Amboseli.

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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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