Key Races & Bets for Saturday, January 12

Tropical Turf Stakes – Race 9 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 3:45 PM Eastern

Heart to Heart might win. He might not. Opening at 4/5 we have incentive to take the latter opinion and try to beat him. Although his best effort can win this grade 3 stakes, he is coming back from three months off and was badly beaten in his 2018 debut last year at 3/5 over the course. He’s an 8 year old now and we all know where he can be found after the gate opens, in front, but there are some serious questions of condition and his ability to win off the layoff.

With a vulnerable favorite the race becomes very playable, starting with Doctor Mounty, who opens at 10/1. The jockey change from Boyce to Castellano is HUGE (no knock on Boyce) and the horse’s winning effort in the similar grade 3 Baltimore Washington Turf Cup in September at this mile trip (with a 109 Equibase figure) beats all of these on the square if Heart to Heart doesn’t show up.

White Flag is just about as probable to win, except he’s only run a mile or more a few times in his career and none were very good efforts. On the other hand, Jose Ortiz gets on for Clement and the horse has only run 12 times on grass, winning five including a 100K stakes like this one (although non-graded). That effort, in the Allied Forces Stakes in 2017, earned a 108 figure and he comes into the race off a win in a 125K stakes on turf, although at 6 furlongs.

Since we’re adopting the strategy of “go big or go home” by trying to beat Heart to Heart, Mr Freeze and Your Only Man will be used on some exacta tickets and some pick 3 tickets. Mr Freeze (opening at 15/1) is trying turf for the first time and coming back from nearly four months off. The former is NOT an issue as ALL FOUR other foals of his dam have had success on the turf, most in stakes including Capitano ($576K) and Dilemma ($367K). Winner of the West Virginia Derby last summer, the colt may need a race but if not, or even if not ready to win but in good enough shape to hit the board, he could help us make a profit. Your Only Man opens at ridiculous odds of 30/1 as he’s getting a jockey change to 2018 North American leading jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. He may appear cheap on paper as he raced in claiming races this spring and summer, but since moving to the Vitali barn he’s run very well, second in his last two races, both over the course, with 106 Equibase figures good enough to in the money if repeated.

Bets: Doctor Mounty and White Flag to win at odds of 3 to 1 or higher.

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.

I’m also making a token win and place bet on Mr Freeze at 6 to 1 or more and a win, place and show bet on Your Only Man at 7 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Doctor Mounty, White Flag, Mr Freeze and Your Only Man

$0.50 Pick 3 ticket: Doctor Mounty and White Flag in race 9 with ALL in race 10 (a wide open maiden race) with Bellavais, Bombshell, Valedictorian and Rose Tree in race 11. (If all 11 run in race 10 the cost of the ticket is $44 but remember if we beat Heart to Heart the payoff could be huge).

Marshua’s River Stakes – Race 11 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:47 PM Eastern

There’s a suspect favorite in this race as well, just not one which opens at 4 to 5. La Signare won the similar grade 3 Wonder Again Stakes last June off a two month layoff and in her 2nd U.S. start. She had won one of two (a maiden race) in Europe before a runner-up effort prior to the win and then she finished 10th off the win before going on the bench. There is NOTHING to suggest she’s a standout here particularly as the Wonder Again effort earned her a 94 Equibase figure which is marginal at best in this field. Bombshell may be the most likely to win, having nearly won four in a row since joining the Delacour barn last July. She missed by a nose and a neck in one and won the other three, two on turf. For her return off less than two months, she gets red hot Saez and the win in July was off a four month rest so firing with a win off a layoff is in her wheelhouse.

Bellavais moved to the Pletcher barn last fall and off an 11 month layoff won a classified allowance at Belmont as if she’d never been away She took two months off and was 4th in the similar My Charmer Stakes here at GP last month BUT that was in a 14 horse field. With only seven others to contend with here she could return to the form shown right before that with a 105 figure effort rock solid among this group.

Valedictorian has won or placed in her last four turf starts, all routes. Two of those were minor stakes but her win in the 150K All Along Stakes last September was very strong and if repeated gives her a shot to earn her 10th career win. Rose Tree was 2 to 1 when winning easily on the main track here at GP last month. She’s earned $325K, all on dirt or all-weather, but has fine turf breeding and is handled by veteran Jonathan Sheppard, so she cannot be ignored when considering our wagers in this race as she opens at 20/1.

Bets: Bombshell and Bellavais to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.

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 Bombshell, Bellavais, Valedictorian and Rose Tree.

La Canada Stakes – Race 8 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7:04 PM Eastern/ 4:04 Pacific

K P Wildcat shipped into Santa Anita from New Mexico last week and put in a workout over the track to get familiar with it under the watchful eye of Jeff Mullins, who is listed as her trainer for the race. The mare comes back from just under two months away and won the Albuquerque Distaff Handicap off a similar layoff in August with the second best Equibase figure (100) of her career. She won another stakes the next month before a runner-up effort in October before being shortened up to a sprint for her final start of 2018, where she finished third. Jockey Roimes Chirinos, one of the top jockeys on the New Mexico circuit which includes Sunland Park, Zia Park and Ruidoso downs, has ridden K P Wildcat in 13 of her 21 career races, including nine of her 13 wins, and comes in to ride her in the La Canada which helps ensure another top effort good enough to win.

Escape Clause is another mare with an excellent winning spirit, evidenced by a 9 for 13 record in 2018 and an 8 for 11 record the previous year. Most of those races took place in Canada, but since coming to California in November she has held her own. When trying turf for the first time in the Kathryn Crosby Stakes in her Southern California debut, Escape Clause finished second but was awarded the win via a disqualification, before third and fourth place finishes in graded stakes. Her last three efforts yielded 105, 104 and 112 figures and her best previous effort on dirt earned her a 106 figure so Escape Clause has every right to be in the photo on the wire in this group.

True Royalty deserves respect as the only graded stakes winner in the field. In August at a mile on dirt, True Royalty earned a career best 96 figure when winning the Torrey Pines Stakes easily by three lengths. After that, True Royalty tried and failed when sixth in a turf sprint. She then stepped up to grade two company while trying some tough sprinters in the Raven Run Stakes, finishing 12th behind eventual Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Shamrock Rose. Considering the career best effort and stakes win in the Torrey Pines came the only time True Royalty raced in a two-turn race on dirt, she must be considered strongly as a win contender in this year’s La Canada Stakes.

Bets: Bet one or two of these three which are at least 5 to 2 odds near post time: K P Wildcat, Escape Clause and True Royalty.

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.

Double: K P Wildcat, Escape Clause and True Royalty in race 8 with R Cha Cha, Lauren’s Ladd, Incensed, Cool Green and Baby Bear’s Soup in race 9.

Race 9 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7:34 Eastern / 4:34 Pacific

It appears Tough But Nice, Storminside, Elwood J and also-eligible Silver Summer will all want the early lead at any cost, setting up any number of stalkers and closers. R Cha Cha won at this downhill sprint trip under apprentice Figueroa three back in October and has finished 2nd in two since so rates top billing as he continues in top form and is proven at the trip and level.

Lauren’s Ladd moved back to the Baltas barn after Jacobson left California in November and the trainer made the odd choice to race the horse a mile on dirt (originally scheduled for turf) even off a 3 month rest. I view that as a workout as the horse pressed the pace for 7 furlongs then tired. He has run big at the trip, winning in June then finishing 2nd, and now making his 2nd start off a layoff and shortening up after that tightener could be very tough.

Incensed has won twice down the hill, as recently as June, and won his last start, scheduled for turf but run on dirt. He’s got a good stalking style and good post and Roman got him to relax in 4th early last out so if the same tactics are employed he could be getting first run on the tiring leaders and hang on today.

Cool Green gets the disadvantageous rail for the trip but won from the 3 post at the distance in May and when Kent Desormeaux gets on for his brother Keith, as is occurring here, we must take note as that is a profitable angle. Kent rode the horse to his maiden win 3 years ago on the SA turf so I would not want to leave this horse out as a contender and be kicking myself later.

Baby Bear’s Soup has never raced at the trip and only twice on turf in 22 races, but he missed by a neck the last time he did and he’s in excellent recent form with two wins and a third place finish. He gets a good post and rounds out a quintet of contenders in the nightcap.

Trifecta: Box R Cha Cha, Lauren’s Ladd, Incensed, Cool Green and Baby Bear’s Soup.

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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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