Key Races & Bets for Saturday, February 23


Hal’s Hope Stakes – Race 11 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:58 PM Eastern


You’re never supposed to fall in love with horses when handicapping a race and deciding on wagering opportunities. You are only supposed to fall in love with bets, or to put it more succinctly, with wagering opportunity. However, in this race I have to do both as Sir Anthony isn’t a stab at 20/1 on the morning line, he’s got a strong probability to win in a race with a number of suspect low odds horses. Fortunately or unfortunately, morning line favorite Breaking Lucky isn’t one of them, but other horse with low morning line odds such as Quip (4/1) and Copper Town (6/1) certainly are suspect, as might be Tale of Silence (5/1), who will be bet from 8/1 starting odds owing to the Pletcher/Velazquez combination in the same manner Copper Town will be bet owing to the Pletcher/Castellano combination. HOWEVER, they have significant knocks – Prince Lucky coming back from eight plus months off with a career best 99 Equibase figure earned in a three year old restricted race before the layoff that isn’t close to what it’s going to take to win here, and with Copper Town having finished 8th, beaten 10 on 12/1 albeit in a grade 1 but running just as badly over the track on 1/26 in a similar grade 3 race when 7th of 8 and beaten 14 lengths. Quip comes back from 9 months off, facing four year olds for the first time, and there’s no telling how he will run.



On the other hand, Sir Anthony is in the best form of his life and the reason why is easily identifiable. He took blinkers off for the non-graded Bruce D Stakes at this one turn mile trip in August and won by 2 lengths, winning three in a row since including the nearly identical Harlan’s Holiday Stakes on 12/15. His last two efforts earned 107 figures so the first of the two was no fluke, neither the second, and he’s come back to work a strong five furlongs so he’s fit. Hernandez rode him in the Harlan’s Holiday and rides back and there is NOT A HORSE in this race with a recent figure good enough to beat Sir Anthony, save Breaking Lucky, if Sir Anthony repeats either of his last two efforts.



Breaking Lucky changed trainers last summer, finished third in a highly rated classified allowance at Saratoga then ran HORRIBLY in the Lukas Classic. The difference between the two was obvious as the first was around one turn and the latter around two. Kept around one turn, Breaking Lucky won a classified allowance at this mile trip here at GP by eight lengths in December then finished nicely from 6th to 2nd in the Fred Hooper Stakes last month. The first of the two efforts earned him a 112 figure and the latter only 98 but Saez was up for both and rides back and in my opinion, Breaking Lucky is the other horse with the VAST bulk of the probability to win this race (in addition to Sir Anthony).



Bets: Sir Anthony to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher, adding a place bet at 4 to 1 or more.

Breaking Lucky to win at odds of 9 to 5 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 Sir Anthony and Breaking Lucky.



Trifecta: Sir Anthony and Breaking Lucky with ALL with Sir Anthony and Breaking Lucky. (This covers the contenders if they finish first and third).



Doubles: Sir Anthony and Breaking Lucky in Race 11 with R Boy Bode, Jackson, Standup and Gladiator King in race 12.

Optionally, play Sir Anthony in race 11 with the other five horses not mentioned above in race 12. This covers the field so we’re not left kicking ourselves if Sir Anthony wins race 11 at a nice price.



Texas Glitter Stakes – Race 12 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:28 PM Eastern


Gladiator King gets the slightest of preference among four pretty equal win contenders in this five furlong turf sprint stakes for three year olds. His 9th place finish in the Holy Bull three weeks ago only proved her hates two turns, having finished a badly beaten 6th in his only other two-turn race. At under a mile, Gladiator King has a record of 3-1-0 in five races and he’s a perfect 2-for-2 at this five furlong turf sprint trip. He gets a good outside post which is not of concern because three of the horses inside have no early speed at all so he can get to the rail or close to it before the turn while stalking likely sizzling early leaders Running for Riz and Yes I Am Free. As such, opening at 6/1, Gladiator King can make us some money here running back to his last sprint, on 12/15, a win in a stakes (on dirt) in which he earned a 96 Equibase figure.



Standup broke 8th of 10 in his debut on 1/17 at this trip in a maiden race, showed no early speed whatsoever, then kicked in the afterburners in the last 8th of a mile to go from 7th, nine lengths back, to be beaten ¾ of a length on the wire when 2nd. I’m not concerned about him being a maiden in a stakes as these are all lightly raced, newly turned three year olds, and considering improvement many Pletcher starters show from start #1 to start #2 (with a 31% win rate) this colt getting up in time to win would be no surprise particularly if he logically improves off the 87 figure earned in the debut..



Jackson broke 11th and last in the Swale three weeks ago and I am drawing a line through that race as he lost all position. Jaramillo gets back on and was up for this first four starts including two wins, the second in a stakes I which he finished very well from 6th in the early stages. Jackson finished 2nd to a seven length winner in his only turf try, rallying from 7th in the early stages and earning a competitive 85 figure. Opening at 8/1 he must be respected for any and all wagers we make involving this race.



R Boy Bode rounds out the quartet of win contenders. He won his only turf sprint, in November, then after nearly three months off returned to finish 2nd to a six length winner who came back to win again. Jose Ortiz rides, a very intriguing move as it’s for a trainer he’s only ridden for twice in the past year, winning once. The 88 Equibase figure in that turf sprint is as good as most of the main contenders here and opening at 12/1 this is another horse we must take seriously as a contender.



Bets: Gladiator King and Standup to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Consider smaller win bets on Jackson and R Boy Bode at odds of 5 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 Gladiator King, Standup, Jackson and R Boy Bode.


Race 13 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:58 PM Eastern


This is a wide open straight maiden race at a mile on turf for three year old fillies, with eight of the 12 in the main body (not including also-eligibles) of the race first time starters There really isn’t a horse I can toss out as a contender, BUT there are two horses I will point out that I personally will be using on pick 3, 4 and double tickets as well as wagering on if the odds are 5/2 or more.

The first is logical – Comic City, a first time starter owned and bred by Juddmonte Farm and trained by Chad Brown, who has his first time starters mentally ready for turf routes first out, resulting in 22 wins in his last 100 races. Sire City Zip’s foals also run very well first out going long on turf, with a 5 for 23 record debuting in turf routes. With Castellano riding, the filly appears well meant and talented.

The second is not so logical – Passing Out, who opens at 15/1. She’s a first time starter by Orb with good turf breeding but the key here is trainer intent. Shug McGaughey wins once in a while with first timers but usually give his horses the experience of a race. The signal here is first time Lasix, suggesting this gal is talented and needs no such experience. Jose Ortiz is engaged to ride, and the most recent workout is on turf. This IDENTICAL pattern was in play a couple of weeks ago and the debuting colt ran on big time just missing to a Chad Brown first timer at 14/1.

Personally, I will be playing Comic City to win at odds of 5 to 2 or ore and betting Passing Out to win and place at odds of 5 to 2 or more.


Buena Vista Stakes – Race 8 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7 PM Eastern

Although Vasilika loves the Santa Anita turf course, evidenced by eight wins in nine races including a perfect four-for-four record at the mile trip of the Buena Vista, I think Zaffinah has an upset chance. Looking at just her two-turn turf races since importing to the U.S. in the winter of 2017, Zaffinah has done little wrong either, winning three of seven and finishing second in two others. Her best effort came in her most recent start, on January 21 in the Megahertz Stakes, won by Vasilika, but one in which she was on the rail at a critical point in the stretch with no room to stretch her legs. While Vasilika was in the three path passing leader Ms Bad Behavior, Zaffinah continued to wait then spurted through the inside to miss second by a head at the finish. That effort earned her a career-best 110 Equibase Speed Figure. Considering Vasilika earned 113 figures in her last three winning efforts, with Zaffinah likely to improve in her second start following two months off, if she can secure a path in the stretch to allow her to begin her kick earlier than in the Megahertz, she may be able to turn the tables on Vasilika and post the upset win.



There’s not much to say about Vasilika which isn’t apparent from her past performances or tremendous record of 2018 when winning nine of 11 including eight in a row, three of those being graded stakes. It was a testament to the work done by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer to help the mare to hold top form from February through November, particularly in the fall when she earned 111, 113 and 113 figures while winning the John C. Mabee Stakes, Rodeo Drive Stakes and Goldikova Stakes in succession. Following her fourth place finish in the Matriarch Stakes in December, Vasilika took 49 days off and returned in top form, once again earning a 113 figure when winning the Megahertz Stakes at the distance of the Buena Vista. Jockey Flavien Prat rode Vasilika in her last nine wins and continues to know just where to place the mare for her best effort. As such, there’s no denying Vasilika is the one the other nine entrants have to beat to win this race.



Ms Bad Behavior, Fahan Mura and Compelled all have some degree of probability to be in the top four in the Buena Vista, and if neither Zaffinah or Vasilika runs their best, to win, but I’ll use them in second on exacta tickets only.



Bets: Zaffinah to win at odds of 3 to1 or higher, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Zaffinah and Vasilika.

Zaffinah and Vasilika over Zaffinah, Vasilika, Ms Bad Behavior, Fahan Mura and Compelled.

Doubles: Zaffinah and Vasilika in Race 8 with Kenzou’s Rhythm and Bedeviled in Race 9


Race 9 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7:30 Eastern


This may be a lowly 20K claiming race but two horses stick out in my opinion, and neither are favorites. Kenzou’s Rhythm has run three “A” races in a row, a pair of runner-up efforts then a big four and one-half length win last month. All came at this mile dirt trip and the last two earned 111 and 106 Equibase figure, excellent for this level. Apprentice Figueroa was up for all 3 races and all 3 races came following the Morey claim. There are no knocks and the gelding gets a good inside post and has the tactical speed to sit third early off need-the-lead types Impression and Little Scotty to win his 2nd race in a row.

Bedeviled is the other main contender, losing Figueroa to Kenzou’s Rhythm but picking up leading jockey Rosario. He returned from 10 months off on 1/19 and was in need of a race. It was a sprint anyway and he’s not a sprinter. Stretched out to this mile trip next out he finished 4th of 7, beaten less than a length for 3rd, and now he’s ready to run back to his big effort under nearly identical conditions last January (2018) over the track when he stalked in 4th and rallied to get up by a nose.



Bets: Kenzou’s Rhythm and Bedeviled to win at odds of 2 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.


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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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