Key Races & Bets for Saturday, February 16

John B. Campbell Stakes – Race 7 at Laurel – Post Time 3:30 PM Eastern


Unbridled Juan returns to his home base of the last year in the Northeast off a decent fourth place finish in the Hooper at Gulfstream, a one-turn mile which is not his best trip. Before that, he put in three superb efforts in a row, the best of which came in the Grover Delp Memorial last October with a 114 Equibase figure. Although earning a lower 106 figure next month, Unbridled Juan was very game winning the identical Richard W. Small Stakes in November. Cintron rode him in both those races and it appears in this field if he repeats either effort he can win.



Johnny Jump Up is the other horse I’d be willing to bet to win. He likes to win, with an 11 for 43 career mark including three wins in his last five races. One of those was in the Swatara Stakes in November with a 107 figure. He earned a 108 figure in victory last July, with both wins coming since joining the Graci barn and with Hernandez in the saddle as today. My main concern is his last four wins were earned when leading from start to finish but as he opens at 8/1 I would be willing to take a shot he gets the early lead he likes from the two post.



Discreet Lover opens at 3/1 odds which are based on the fact he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup last fall. That was a 10 furlong race and he has a 1 for 15 record at this 9 furlong trip. He has been facing much better so could run well on class and as such I’ll use him on some tickets but will be honest I’m trying to beat him with win bets on others. J



Monongahela finished second to Johnny Jump Up in the Swatara and third to Unbridled Juan prior to that in the Delp so is another not to be left out of exacta or trifecta tickets.



Bets: Unbridled Juan to win at odds of 9 to 5 or higher.

Johnny Jump Up at odds of 4 to 1 or more.



Note: 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: Box Unbridled Juan and Johnny Jump Up.



Trifecta: Unbridled Juan over Johnny Jump Up, Discreet Lover and Monongahela over ALL.

Optionally, play another trifecta with ALL in the second position and Johnny Jump Up, Discreet Lover and Monongahela in third. That way if two of the three finish 2nd and 3rd, provided Unbridled Juan wins, we win twice.



Pick 3: (three tickets)

Race 7 – Unbridled Juan

Race 8 – All

Race 9 – Late Night Pow Wow, Dawn the Destroyer, Ms Locust Point



Race 7 – Unbridled Juan, Johnny Jump Up, Discreet Lover, Monongahela

Race 8 – Uncontested, Colonel Sharp, Laki

Race 9 – Late Night Pow Wow, Dawn the Destroyer, Ms Locust Point



Race 7 – Unbridled Juan, Johnny Jump Up, Discreet Lover, Monongahela

Race 8 – All

Race 9 – Dawn the Destroyer


Optionally, play the first two legs of either or both of the top two pick 3 tickets above as doubles.



General George Stakes – Race 8 at Laurel – Post Time 4 PM Eastern


Laki has won seven of 15 career dirt races, every one of the wins coming at Laurel including a couple of stakes. Last summer he won the Polynesian by virtue of the winner getting disqualified after missing by a nose and he fired to win in December off a two month layoff like the one he’s coming back from today With very consistent figures ranging from 107 to 110 last summer and fall and a competitive spirit, I’ll give him slight preference here particularly as he could be in a great stalking position off some speedy types in the early stages.



Uncontested was pretty highly regarded as a three year old in the winter of 2017 when taking the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn then went four races in a row before running well again, winning in September. He’s had a couple of stops and starts since then but his comeback from nine months off in December, after having joined the Patterson barn, was a BREAKOUT effort with a 115 figure. He led from start to finish in that race so the figure could be inflated but he proved earlier in his career he didn’t need the led to win and McCarthy rides back all signs for an effort good enough to win if he can run back to that last race.



Colonel Sharp won two races in a row including the Dave’s Friend Stakes, both at Laurel, before a fifth place when venturing to New York last month, which we can dismiss as that grade 3 stakes was made up of a different field than this grade 3 race. Acosta was up for both wins, which earned strong 108 and 110 figures so he must be respected as a contender for all the marbles here.



I was thinking of messing around with exactas in this 14 horse field but would rather concentrate on getting the pick 3’s home started in race 7, or pressing with Doubles, which would consist of the last two legs of the pick 3 tickets recommended at the end of race 7.



Bets: Laki to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

Uncontested to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Colonel Sharp to win at odds of 4 to 1 or more.  



Note: 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.



Barbara Fritchie Stakes – Race 9 at Laurel – Post Time 4:30 PM Eastern


Three horses stick out by a country mile against the other eight, and of the three even one of them sticks out a bit against the other two. That one is Dawn the Destroyer, who turned into a top sprinter somewhere between her pair of horrible races in the fall of 2017 and her last two sprints. Returning from seven months off in November, she ran the best race of her life, by far, when winning by four lengths to earn a 112 Equibase figure in a decent field, then was flattered when the runner-up came out of the race to win. Two months later on 1/25, she won the Interborough Stakes with a 110 figure effort in a field of eight, powerfully mowing down three rivals in the stretch to draw off. Junior Alvarado rode her for the first time in that race and travels from New York for a stakes race at the same distance and even though the other two contenders, Late Night Pow Wow and Ms Locust Point, are multiple stakes winners, the latter having won this race last year, their best E Figures have not exceeded 102 so their work may be cut out for them if Dawn the Destroyer repeats either of her last two efforts.



Between Late Night Pow Wow and Ms Locust Point come 17 wins and nearly $1 million in earnings. Late Night Pow Wow has won eight races in a row including the only time she faced Ms Locust Point, in the Willa on the Move Stakes at Laurel (albeit in the mud) in November. There’s no doubt both have tremendous physical and mental ability and since “there’s no such thing as a sure thing” I will consider them both for my plays.



Bets:  Dawn the Destroyer to win at odds of 6 to 5 or higher, a true low odds overlay win bet.

Exacta: Box Dawn the Destroyer and Late Night Pow Wow. Box Dawn the Destroyer and Ms Locust Point.

Trifectas: Dawn the Destroyer over Late Night Pow Wow and Ms Locust Point over ALL.


El Camino Real Derby – Race 7 at Golden Gate – Post Time 6:54 Eastern


Eagle Song made his first eight career starts in Europe, three on all-weather surfaces like the Tapeta track at Golden Gate. Before importing to the U.S., Eagle Song won two in a row on the surface, both on left handed tracks like U.S. tracks. He was off three months before his U.S. debut on 1/11 and finished 4th in a turf sprint before improving nicely when stretched out to a mile and adding blinkers on 2/1, finishing second with a solid (for this field) 95 Equibase figure. As a grandson of Danehill, he should have no issues with the nine-furlong trip and the pattern for enough improvement to post the mild upset (opening at 5/1) in this race looks solid.

Kingly was entered in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds but it appears Baffert will opt for this spot, which is a bit odd as he’s never run on turf or all-weather in two starts. Still, in terms of his figure, he’s the fastest in the field, first earning a 99 figure winning a sprint in December then a 100 figure when second to exciting early Derby prospect Extra Hope. That was his first start around two turns and it appears Kingly has the style to either go to the lead or come from off the pace. Baffert won his share at Del Mar when it was all-weather so that’s not an issue either but he does open at 2 to 1 and jockey Roman is likely unfamiliar with riding at Golden Gate, both possible issues.

More Ice rounds out a trio I could see winning, having run on dirt once (in his debut) then on turf in his last five races, including two wins. The last two were decent enough, a win in November around two turns than an eighth to third finish in the Eddie Logan Stakes at the end of December. Both efforts earned the same 93 figure so it is possible this colt could jump up to a new best good enough to post the upset here, particularly since Jerry Hollendorfer is his trainer.

Two horses from the O’Neill barn intrigue me enough to use on exacta tickets. Both have raced in claiming races but have efforts good enough to get into the top three. They are The Creep and Weekly Call.



Bets: Eagle Song to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

Kingly has minimum odds of 5/2 so it is highly unlikely he will be playable to win as he opens at 2/1.

Consider a smaller win bet (than on Eagle Song) on More Ice at odds of 7 to 2 or more.  



Exactas: Eagle Song, Kingly and More Ice over Eagle Song, Kingly, More Ice, The Creep and Weekly Call

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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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