Key Races & Bets for Saturday February 12, 2022


Sam F. Davis Stakes – Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:54 PM Eastern

The top two win contenders and key horses are God of Love and Classic Causeway. Three other contenders which have to be used on exacta tickets at the least are Howling TimeStrike Hard and Make It Big.

God of Love will get top billing among five horses who I feel have the bulk of the probability to win this year’s Sam F. Davis Stakes. The reason is he has won two of three two-turn races, both stakes, and his final effort of 2021 was a strong victory in the Grey Stakes at the end of November. Although run on all-weather, the Grey Stakes has its place in Road to the Kentucky Derby history, as 2008 Derby winner Mine that Bird won the 2007 edition of the race. Prior to the Grey, God of Love stretched out to two turns for his second career start last fall and won with a rally from ninth of 11 after hopping in the air at the start. Two races later in the Grey, he rallied from ninth of 10, circling the field four paths wide and in visually impressive fashion before pulling away late. Jockey Rafael Hernandez has been aboard in all four of his starts and certainly knows how to get the colt to run well. The 95 Equibase Speed Figure God of Love earned when winning the Grey Stakes is near the top of the field and is very likely to be improved upon as the colt is a more mature three year old as compared to when seen last fall. There is little concern about coming back from the layoff since the end of November, considering White Abarrio came back from an identical layoff (his last race having been in the Kentucky Jockey Club) to win the Holy Bull Stakes last weekend and God of Love’s trainer, Mark Casse, won the 2021 Tampa Bay Derby with Helium off a layoff from the previous fall. Another comparable factor exists between Helium and God of Love, in that Helium had won the Display Stakes at Woodbine in his last start as a two year old just like God of Love won the Grey Stakes in his last start as a two year old. Back to the comparison between 2007 Grey Stakes winner Mine that Bird and God of Love, it can be recalled that returning off a three month layoff in February, 2008, Mine that Bird finished second in the Borderland Derby then two races later posted the 50 to 1 upset at Churchill Downs. God of Love may not be that good yet but he may be good enough to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes in his three year old debut.

Classic Causeway is also returning from a layoff since the last week in November, when second in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Prior to that Classic Causeway finished third in the Breeders’ Futurity, earning a 92 figure, which he improved to 95 in the Jockey Club. That race has become a “key race” because it has been quite productive to date, with seventh-place finisher Call Me Midnight winning the Lecomte Stakes earlier this year and with third-place finisher White Abarrio winning the Holy Bull Stakes last week. Considering Classic Causeway was nearly three lengths in front of White Abarrio in the Kentucky Jockey Club, it is logical to assume this colt will run as well or better in his three year old debut and as such he must be taken very seriously as a contender to win this race.

Howling Time faded to fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club after leading through the opening seven furlongs. He had changed tactics in that race when going for the lead because in his two prior efforts, both wins, Howling Time had rallied from off the pace and drawn off from the field in the last eighth of a mile. One of those wins came in his second career start and first race around two turns (also at the distance of the Sam F. Davis) in which Howling Time won the Street Sense Stakes easily by three and one-quarter lengths and earned a 96 figure. Although he faded to fifth in the Jockey Club, the fact that race has turned out to be so productive bodes well for Howling Time returning to top form, particularly as he put in a very good five furlong workout in 59 seconds flat one week ago and considering trainer Dale Romans won the 2018 Fountain of Youth Stakes with Promises Fulfilled, who was coming back from a layoff similar to the one Howling Time returns from.

Strike Hard and Make It Big deserve mentioning as well. Strike Hard finished second to Simplification in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes last month and was seven lengths clear of the third horse. Simplification came back to run extremely well in the Holy Bull Stakes last week when second after breaking poorly. Considering Strike Hard has earned competitive 92 and 93 figures in his last two races, he deserves some respect in this situation. Make It Big won the Springboard Mile Stakes in December in his most recent race, bringing his record to a perfect three-for-three. That was his first two-turn race and he passed the test with flying colors because he had to fight off a bid which started with three-sixteenths of a mile to run. In the end, the colt prevailed by a half-length and earned a career-best 89 figure which can be improved upon.

Handicapper Picks

Win betGod of Love at odds of 7 to 2 or higher.

Fair odds on Classic Causeway are also 7 to 2 or higher, but his odds start at 7 to 2 so it’s unlikely he will be as good a bet to win at God of Love. Nevertheless, if both Classic Causeway and God of Love have odds of 7 to 2 or more near post time, betting both to win appears to have a positive expectation.

If that is the case, this is a good race in which to proportion our bets accordingly for the best mathematical edge. This can be best accomplished by using a “Dutching Tool” like the one which is free and easy to use at 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.


God of Love and Classic Causeway over God of LoveClassic CausewayMake It BigHowling Time and Strike Hard

God of LoveClassic CausewayMake It BigHowling Time and Strike Hard over God of Love and Classic Causeway

(If we make both bets and if God of Love and Classic Causeway finish first and second, we win both bets).


God of Love and Classic Causeway over God of LoveClassic CausewayMake It BigHowling Time and Strike Hard over God of LoveClassic CausewayMake It BigHowling Time and Strike Hard

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El Camino Real Derby – Race 8 at Golden Gate Fields- Post Time 7:30 PM Eastern

Boise and Mackinnon are the top win contenders in this race.

This year’s El Camino Real Derby is non-graded stakes but with an 11 horse field and Road to the Derby points on the line it’s a very playable race with potential for profit particularly is Boise runs as expected, opening at 9 to 2. The colt won the first start of his career on turf in a sprint then stretched out and missed by a total of a half-length in a four horse photo in the Qatar Gold Mile at Del Mar last November, also on grass. Shipping to Golden Gate for his first try on the all-weather, Boise exploded late from sixth to first to win the Gold Rush Stakes in a field of nine. Sent back to Southern California and back to turf for the Eddie Logan Stakes the colt finished seventh of nine when well-regarded at 3 to 1. However, that was a very SALTY field because most of the top horses came back to win or run big in stakes, such as winner Cabo Spirit coming in second in the Robert B. Lewis last week and Maglev destroying the field in a stakes race two weeks ago, as well as the third horse winning, the fourth coming back to end up third and the fifth coming back to end up second. Even the ninth horse improved for a big third place effort and so with Boise moving back to the all-weather where he won the Gold Rush with a strong 91 Equibase figure, reunited with Evan Roman who was up for the win, and from the leading Jonathan Wong Stable, a mild upset looks likely.

Mackinnon might be the one to beat as well as a legitimate favorite “IF” he had at least one race on all-weather, which he does not. Still, ignoring his irrelevant try on conventional dirt when fourth in the Sham Stakes on New Year’s Day, the colt appears to be very capable of winning. He won the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes and Zuma Beach Stakes on grass back-to-back last summer and fall then rallied from 12th of 13 to get third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf before trying dirt and his turf form should hold up on all-weather so he could be tough here. Still, opening at 8 to 5 he’s not a good win bet but we need to use him as one of two win contenders on exotic bets like those below.

One thing which makes this race playable is the fact likely second betting choice Blackadder may be vulnerable. NO matter how good Baffert is with three year olds, and that he did win this race once in the recent past, Blackadder is taking a huge step up from the maiden ranks and trying all-weather for the first time. Therefore his odds should be about 6 to 1 but instead they’re going to be in the 5 to 2 range, which pushes up the odds of our other two contenders and some nice prices for the exotics.

Handicapper Picks

Win BetsBoise at 2 to 1 or more.


Box Boise and Mackinnon

Boise and Mackinnon over BoiseMackinnonDr PescadoC’Mon ManIl Ballator and Del Mo

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Sweet Life Stakes – Race 9 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7:45 PM Eastern

OuraikaBaby Steps and I Got a Gal are the win contenders.

Ouraika imported from France last November, into the top Graham Motion barn, and was entered in the two-turn Chelsey Flower Stakes at Belmont. Decently regarded at 8 to 1, she ran fourth from start to finish and didn’t show any kick at all. Shortened up to six furlongs on grass and put in against MALES for her next start, on 12/3, Ouraika ran huge to move from fifth to a neck from the leader mid-race, then made the lead with under an eighth of a mile to go, before being beaten by a half-length. That really showed her talent and now given two months off and shipped cross-country by Motion, back in against her own gender and with hot riding Juan Hernandez in the saddle, Ouraika appears to be the one to beat in this field.

That being said, Baby Steps could help make us a HUGE profit with a big effort, opening at 20/1. She gets Hall-of-Fame jockey Mike Smith and comes off a better-than-looked effort at six furlongs on turf in a highly rated allowance race won by Half Past Twelve, who is also entered here. Baby Steps had won her only previous turf start, in October at five furlongs here at Santa Anita, battling gamely after leading and losing the lead before reasserting herself late. Then she shipped to Golden Gate to run in the Golden Gate Debutante Stakes, pressing a really hot pace early then tiring to fourth. Back on turf last out at Santa Anita, she was held early, moved up inside, was blocked a bit and surged late for third. Considering trainer Hanson likely had this race in mind all along, and considering what I think is her potential to run big based on that last race, she’s a very good horse to bet to win and use as an exotic key in this field.

I Got a Gal opens as the 7 to 2 second morning line favorite, based on a big effort for her first win in her fourth career start, her first on turf, at the end of December. Hernandez moves to Ouraika but there’s no issue with Rispoli riding here. Cutting back from a mile to six furlongs makes her a strong closer and we should expect her second “A” race in a row.

There are a number of other horses here which look good on paper and I wouldn’t be surprised if they run well, such as 5 to 2 staring favorite Urban and third morning line favorite Kitty Kitana, who just won and finished third, respectively, at six and one-half furlongs on this course. However, that was on the flat and this will be on the downhill and it was just a maiden win. As such, I’ll give preference to the two horses (Ouraika and Baby Steps) which have already run well versus winners.

Handicapper Picks

Win betsOuraika at 5 to 2 or higher.

Baby Steps at 9 to 2 or higher.

Fair odds on I Got a Gal are 5 to 2 but she’s not as good a bet as either of the other two so unless one of them has lower odds near post time than their fair odds we will just use I Got a Gal on exacta tickets.

Still, we will likely end up betting both Ouraika and Baby Steps to win and therefore This is another race where, when wagering on two horses (or more) for the best mathematical edge, a DUTCHING tool like the one at Amwager, really helps us maximize the value for our win bets.


Box Ouraika, I Got a Gal and Baby Steps

Baby Steps over ALL and (the opposite) ALL over Baby Steps

I Got a Gal and Ouraika over OuraikaI Got a GalHalf Past TwelveBaby StepsKitty KitanaImpeachd AlexanderUrban and She’s So Shiny.

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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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