Key Races & Bets for Saturday, February 9

Suncoast Stakes – Race 9 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:15 PM Eastern


Her Royal Highness gets the rail for this two-turn race while in search of her third straight win. She shipped down from Motion’s Fair Hills base for a work over the track on 2/1 and has the right stalking style to be in a great spot and get up in time. Vargas has been aboard for all three races and rides back. The other two foals of the dam are both route winners on dirt as well and she is a two-turn winner likely to continue to improve in her 2nd start as a three year old.



Lady Kate lacks two-turn experience the top pick has but that’s really the only difference between the two. Lady L

Kate rallied from 7th of 8 early to win and Jose Ortiz rides back as she ships in from Gulfstream. She’s by a great mare in Princess Haya, whose only other foal to race won around two turns both on dirt and on turf. The 82 Equibase figure she earned is as good as the 83 and 80 figures Her Royal Highness has earned in two of three career starts and so she must be respected as a contender.



Tapit’s Princess didn’t run much in her sprint debut on 12/22 but improved a ton in her first route, second start, as a daughter of Tapit is bound to do, on 1/17 when dominating by nine lengths. The 94 figure is likely inflated as the effort was earned leading from start to finish but otherwise she’s a fit on all counts and rounds out the trio I think as a group has the best probability to win.



I’m taking a stand (insofar as win bets are concerned) against morning line second choice Winning Envelope, whose last win came on turf and whose other win came on an all-weather track, neither as relevant for this dirt race as the previous form of Tapit’s Princess, Her Royal Highness or Lady Kate. Similarly, morning line favorite Sweet Diane gets a potentially disadvantageous outside post although she won one of her three starts by 13 lengths and lost her other two by inches.



Bets: Her Royal Highness and Lady Kate to win at odds of 5/2

Consider a smaller win bet on Tapit’s Princess at 3/1



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: Her Royal Highness, Lady Kate and Tapit’s Princess over Her Royal Highness, Lady Kate, Tapit’s Princess, Winning Envelope and Sweet Diane.



Pick 3: (two tickets)

Race 9 – Her Royal Highness, Lady Kate and Tapit’s Princess

Race 10 – Get Explicit, Bonnie Arch, Conquest Hardcandy, Hawksmoor, Viva Vegas and Rymska

Race 11 – Knicks Go, Cave Run, Kentucky Wildcat



Endeavour Stakes – Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:45 PM Eastern


Viva Vegas, who opens at 12/1, appears to be the key to profit here as a win/place bet or in exactas with five other horses who have a shot. The 12/1 odds are impossible to ignore as she’s earned all 3 of her career wins at Tampa on turf. Following nearly three months off on January 6 Viva Vegas ran exceptionally well in a classified allowance (just shy of stakes level) when making the lead in the stretch and coming up ¾ of a length shy at the wire, just a nose from the runner-up, as the 4 to 5 favorite. Castanon stays on and was up for her strong win on the Tampa turf last January (2018) in her 2nd start back from a similar layoff and it won’t take much more than logical 2nd off the layoff improvement for this gal to post the upset in this grade 3 stakes, already having proven capable at the level when 2nd in the Violet Stakes last summer.



Get Explicit has been 1st or 2nd in three of her last four, but three of those were runner-up efforts, so she’s no lock. Neither is Hawksmoor, who finished 2nd and 4th, respectively, in her last two grade 3 turf stakes. Morning line favorite Rymska won the grade 3 Athenia in August, off a layoff like the one she’s coming back from today and that was her last grade 3 try, so she must be respected but doesn’t offer nearly the value as Viva Vegas as she opens at 5 to 2 and is likely to go to post at even lower odds. Bonnie Arch and Conquest Hardcandy are two more that have run well enough on occasion to be first or second in the exacta.



Bets: Viva Vegas to win and to place at odds of 3/1, and/or exactas (which I actually prefer) as follows: Viva Vegas over Get Explicit, Bonnie Arch, Conquest Hardcandy, Hawksmoor and Rymska, THEN ALSO the opposite which is Get Explicit, Bonnie Arch, Conquest Hardcandy, Hawksmoor and Rymska over Viva Vegas



If you didn’t play the pick 3 in race 9, or if the contenders in race 9 didn’t win, play a double consisting of Get Explicit, Bonnie Arch, Conquest Hardcandy, Hawksmoor, Viva Vegas and Rymska in race 10 with Knicks Go, Cave Run, Kentucky Wildcat in Race 11.


Sam F. Davis Stakes – Race 11 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 5:15 PM Eastern


Early pace scenario: With Going for Gold already having shown a need-the-lead running style in two sprint races to date and adding blinkers, there is little doubt his intentions are to go to the front, perhaps on a much stronger than average pace. Also adding blinkers for the Sam F. Davis is Well Defined, who could be a pace factor as well. Still Dreaming has raced in second in the early stages of both races to date, around one turn, and from the outside it is likely he will have to use some early energy to gain a similar position which may only serve to heighten the nature of a fast early pace scenario. Add to the mix Five Star General, who won the Central Park Stakes leading from start to finish in his most recent race, and there is every reason to believe all the horses with an “early” or “presser” pace style will be vulnerable to the stalkers and closers in the field.



Cave Run appears well suited to earn his first stakes win in that he closed from third to win his debut by six lengths before rallying from fifth to third in the Pasco Stakes last month. The Pasco was run at Tampa Bay Downs and the experience of a race over the track should help the colt improve, not to mention tremendous breeding for two turns as his sire is 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and he is out of a mare by Bernardini. In his debut, Cave Run earned a 98 Equibase Figure which is tied with the figure Knicks Go earned in the Breeders’ Futurity for the best figure in the field. Although Cave Run earned a slightly lower figure (94) in the Pasco, I believe the colt will move forward nicely and improve with the added distance to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes.



Kentucky Wildcat appears to be sitting on a career-best effort and although he is just a maiden winner to date could post the slight upset in the Sam F. Davis. Following a sixth place finish in his debut sprinting in August, Kentucky Wildcat improved markedly when sent around two turns in October, going from a 59 figure to an 86 figure with a third place finish. Two months later he returned to win at a mile with a 95 figure. Flattered when the runner-up returned to win, Kentucky Wildcat has perhaps the best breeding for the Kentucky Derby trail in the field, being a son of Tapit, sire of 2017 Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapwrit. If able to improve off his last effort as he did from the one previous, Kentucky Wildcat could be a tough competitor in this race.



Knicks Go burst onto the scene last October when posting the 70 to 1 upset in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, leading from start to finish in a field of 13 and giving no other horse a chance while earning a 98 figure in the process. Pretty much proving that to be no fluke, one month later Knicks Go finished second to Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 40 to 1 odds with a respectable 96 figure. Off those two big efforts, Knicks Go was sent to post as the 3 to 1 favorite in the 14 horse Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in December, but disappointed when checking in 11th with no excuse. Given two months off to mature, Knicks Go has put in three workouts at Tampa Bay Downs in the last month in preparation for this race. On January 19, his half-mile workout was the best of 72 on the day and he followed that up with a best of 39 workout on January 26 and a fourth best of 64 drill on February 2. Considering those three workouts as a group suggests Knicks Go is in top physical condition. As such, he could be able to run back to either of his top efforts last fall and if that occurs he would have a say in the outcome of the Sam F. Davis.



Bets:  Cave Run and Kentucky Wildcat to win at odds of 5 to 2 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: Cave Run, Kentucky Wildcat and Knicks Go.


San Marcos Stakes – Race 9 at Santa Anita – Post Time 6:42 Eastern


There are lots of ways to go in this race, because 13 are entered for the 10 furlong turf trip, and because two of the four lowest odds horses on the morning line are suspect. Those are Beach View and Dabster. Beach View earned his most recent win last July on dirt and before that in an allowance race in March, 2017, with many of his other turf races nothing to write home about.  Dabster has been in-the-money in six straight, all stakes, but all on dirt, and no matter how good Baffert is overall and on dirt his turf record is truly awful – 1 for 16 in Turf Route stakes the last five years.


With two of the four entrants which open at 5/1 or less highly suspect, there are some good price possibilities here, starting with Unapologetic. The horse has earned $252K in his career, $231K of that on grass. He’s only run in two turf stakes race in his entire career, once three years ago (irrelevant) and the other in the Del Mar Handicap last August, a COMPLETE toss-out as he broke in the air at the start to lose all chance and if that weren’t bad enough he was steadied in traffic with 5/8 of a mile to go. His last two races, well-spaced on 10/12 and 11/22, were two of the best of his career, first a loss by a neck on the wire at nine furlongs on the SA turf and the other a win with a big rally from 7th last November. The latter effort earned a 111 figure and was the first race in which Franco rode. Franco rides back and trainer Spawr now the gelding needs space between races. With the ground saving rail and a kick that will benefit from a likely early pace battle between Indian Mantuana, Epical and possibly Roman Rosso, maybe Dabster as well, Unopologetic gets top billing here, opening at 10/1.


If that weren’t enough, Prince of Arabia opens at 30/1, with a late running style and moving back to turf after four races on dirt, three graded stakes including one in which he rallied for 2nd. Before that runner-up stakes effort, Prince of Arabia closed from last of seven to win at 35 to 1, and on the grass last March and April he finished 1st or 2nd in three straight turf races on this course, the best of which earned a 114 figure good enough to get a big piece here if not to post the massive upset.


Flamboyant rounds out the trio of double digit morning line horses, having won this race in 2016 with a decent 105 figure and although not winning many races since, popping up with big ones once in a while like when victorious with a 10th to 1st rally in the San Francisco Mile Stakes last March at 11 to 1. Blanc rides him well and since we never know when he’s going to run an “A” race and as he opens at 12/1, I feel it would be a mistake to not at least bet a few bucks to win and to include him on our exotic tickets.


Both Chicago Style and Epical have credentials to win. Chicago Style won the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup on the Del Mar sod in November but we must note that was at a mile and one-half. He won at 1 3/8 miles in the summer of 2016 and so this 1 ¼ mile trip he’s trying for the first time is likely within his range. He earned a 116 figure in that 11 furlong win in 2017 and a 117 figure when fourth, beaten just over a length, in the San Gabriel Stakes in January, so he has to be respected when we consider our wagers in the race. Likewise, Epical wired the field in two straight races, in November and at the end of December. Neither were stakes but the best of the two earned him a 114 figure and as one win came at 11 furlongs and the other at 9 furlongs it appears this 10 furlong trip is not an issue.



Bets: Unapologetic to win at 7/2 or higher, adding a place bet at 5/1 or more.

For a slightly lesser amount, Prince of Arabia and Flamobyant to win at 5 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 7 to 1 or more.



Exactas: Box Unapologetic, Prince of Arabia, Flamboyant, Chicago Style and Epical.


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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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