Key Races & Bets for Saturday, January 25

W.L. McKnight Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:12 PM Eastern


This McKnight Stakes starts a sequence of three stakes races with a world of possibilities, even the Pegasus World Cup (dirt), Race 12 after the scratches of Omaha Beach and Spun to Run. This race brings together a field of 12 at the marathon mile and one-half trip and many have run at this distance or longer, some pretty well. However, there are slight separators in my opinion such that there are two groups of contenders here. The first group, consisting of Salute the Colonel, Red Knight and Spooky Channel, gets slight preference over the second group, consisting of Temple, Apreciado and Cross Border.

Excellent marathon turf trainer Maker has four here in Apreciado, Carom, Cross Border and Temple and that muddies things up a bit because he’s very good at spotting horses for these types of races, even though they haven’t yet proven themselves at the level. One of Maker’s quartet, Cross Border is entered in the similar marathon stakes at Sam Houston on Sunday as well.

In any event, I’ll start with Salute the Colonel, who opens at 12/1 in spite of winning a pair of marathon non-graded stakes at Gulfstream Park on the grass last May and July. After a couple of months off, he won a similar race on the course in September, then finished second on 12/1 at a much shorter distance in a race I consider NOTHING MORE than a prep for this. The reason I say that is Saez was aboard, even though the race was a starter allowance race. Stretching back out to 12 furlongs where he won back to back last spring and summer, Salute the Colonel has a big shot to post the upset in this race.

Red Knight opens as the 3 to 1 favorite and for good reason as he’s very consistent with 10 first or second place finishes in 15 career turf starts. He won at this 12 furlong trip in October at Belmont in a non-graded stakes and he won the (at the time) two mile Allen Jerkens Stakes on this course in December 2018. He gets Rosario and except for offering a lot less value for win bets than the other main contenders has every right to finish first or second and must be used on any and all exacta, pick 3 and 4 tickets we play involving this race.

Spooky Channel is my “sneaky longshot,” opening at 20/1. He’s going to be ignored in the wagering because his first eight races were at Turf Paradise in Arizona, which many, perhaps rightfully, consider to be a “c” level track. Just the same, he’s a Kentucky bred by English Channel out of a Kitten’s Joy mare, which means he will run as far a distance as they write races. He’s never been in a claimer and has won six of 11, with two seconds, on turf, including an 11 furlong race and the closing day feature every year, the Hasta La vista Handicap, a mile and seven eighths test of staying power. He made his local debut, following five months off, in the G3 Fort Lauderdale Stakes, won by Instilled Regard, who is running in the Pegasus Turf, and he was only beaten three lengths in that much shorter race. Leparoux stays on, similar to Saez staying aboard Salute the Colonel, and for a very good trainer in Brian Lynch this gelding has a right to run a lot better than his high odds suggest.

Temple closed from 10th to third last out in a shorter race, vs three year olds only, but Irad Ortiz, Jr., who was up for the first time stays aboard, and the Maker/Ortiz team is worth noting particularly in stakes. Apreciado has been first or second in three straight, including a 12 furlong race, and Lopez gets on so he’s another to consider, while Cross Border gets Jose Ortiz back after an odd effort in the Fort Lauderdale when he uncharacteristically went for the lead. Ortiz rode him to victory at 11 furlongs before that and the horse (another son of English Channel) has done little wrong since Maker took over his training last June.



Win: We’ll look to Salute the Colonel first for a win bet at 3/1 or more.
Red Knight also has minimum odds of 3/1 and should be bet at those odds or higher but it might be he will be bet down below those odds.

I will absolutely make a win and place bet on Spooky Channel so not to kicking myself later.

.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: Red Knight and Salute the Colonel over Red Knight, Apreciado, Salute the Colonel, Cross Border, Temple and Spooky Channel.

Optionally, play the reverse of the exacta above, if only for $1, which is Red Knight, Apreciado, Salute the Colonel, Cross Border, Temple and Spooky Channel over Red Knight and Salute the Colonel.

Pick 3:
With a minimum $0.50 pick 3 available, I’m playing a $36 ticket (if all the horses I am using run) as follows:
Race 10 – Red Knight, Apreciado, Salute the Colonel, Cross Border, Temple and Spooky Channel
Race 11 – Zulu Alpha, Arklow, Sadler’s Joy, Instilled Regard
Race 12 – Tax, Diamond Oops, War Story

Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes – Race 11 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:49 PM Eastern

Instilled Regard started his career as a top two year old, then three year old, finishing a respectable fourth in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. Two later he tried turf for the first time, which he has excellent breeding for as a son of Arch, and ran well to be third of 13 in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at the end of his three year old campaign. Returning four months later against older, he missed by a neck at a mile on grass. For whatever reason, the connections insisted on moving back to dirt last May, where he got his clock cleaned. Then came another layoff, until last November, and in a fine comeback he finished fast from seventh to third, missing the win by a half-length. Taking a logical step forward, Instilled Regard won the Fort Lauderdale Stakes over this course at nine furlongs with Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle then as now and with there being NO issue at all of getting the extra sixteenth of a mile particularly after finishing fourth in the Derby at 10 furlongs. Opening at 10/1, a mostly unheard of price for a Chad Brown trainee, and one ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., Instilled Regard gets top billing in this race.

Zulu Alpha won both the McKnight Stakes and Mac Diarmida over this course last winter so we know he likes the grass in South Florida. Stepping up to grade 1 company four times after that, he wasn’t disgraced when beaten a neck in the United Nations in June nor when fourth of 12 in the Breeders’ Cup Turf when last seen. A stakes winner four times in a little over a year since Maker claimed him for $80K, Zulu Alpha gets the rail and has every right to be competitive here.

Arklow finished eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but only a length further back than Zulu Alpha. Prior to that he beat Zulu Alpha when winning the Turf Classic at Belmont, his fifth “A” effort in a row. Brad Cox is much better than average at getting a horse ready to run well off a layoff and although Arklow may be bet down from his 6/1 starting odds, for whatever reason his odds are likely to be higher than they should be and this hard knocking horse who has been 1st or 2nd in 11 of 19 career turf races must be respected as a contender.

Similarly, Sadler’s Joy can be in the thick of the action if he runs his best race, which he did three straight times to end his 2019 campaign. He won the 2018 Mac Diarmida then lost 11 in a row, but not for trying, as he was narrowly beaten in a couple of those, such as when a neck behind Spring Quality in the 2019 Manhattan or a neck from Annals of Time in last year’s Sword Dancer invitational at Saratoga. He won the Red Smith in November and now returns off a freshening with Castellano aboard as he was for the horse’s last win.

We will include the mare Magic Wand on exotic tickets but her 7/2 starting odds are too low for a win bet. She has eight runner-up finishes to go along with just three wins in 22 races and although she’s banked over $4 million and enters the race off a nose defeat in one of the biggest turf races in the world, The Hong Kong Cup, she hardly every seems to get there, particularly in the U.S., where she was second in last year’s Arlington Million, third in the 2019 Man O’ War and second in last year’s running of this race.



Win: Instilled Regard and Zulu Alpha to win at 3 to 1 or more.

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.

Instilled Regard, Zulu Alpha, Arklow and Sadler’s Joy over Instilled Regard, Zulu Alpha, Arklow, Sadler’s Joy and Magic Wand.

Optionally, add Channel Cat, Admission Office, Mo Forza and Sacred Life in second place on the exacta ticket above as well.

Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes – Race 12 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:34 PM Eastern

Even with the scratches of Omaha Beach (who is now retiring) and Spun to Run (hives), there is value in this race. That is because new likely favorite Mucho Gusto is suspect on two counts. First, his paired 102 Equibase figures to end his three year old campaign don’t hold up to some of the others in here and he’s failed to finish well in his last three starts, losing ground in the last eighth in every one of them. Second, he has tactical speed and has only once been more than a length behind the early leader. He’s drawn outside and with Bodexpress an absolute need-the-lead type outside of him, and with Mr Freeze another horse with speed inside of him, I think Mucho Gusto is going to expend too much early energy to hold off any of a quartet of stalkers and closers. Next, second or third morning line favorite Higher Power is nearly phony in my opinion. He was just an allowance level winner before winning the Pacific Classic last summer, and he was a non-threatening third in two races after that.

There is absolutely NO REASON Diamond Oops can’t win the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in an upset. First, he’s only raced 12 times and he’s won five of those, including four stakes races, with all five wins coming over the Gulfstream Park main track. His four year old campaign last year was stellar, starting with a win in the Smile Sprint Stakes in June, followed by a bang-up second behind top sprinter Imperial Hint in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga in July, a race in which Diamond Oops earned a career best Equibase 117 Speed Figure. Entered to run in the Phoenix Stakes, a sprint on dirt, on opening weekend at Keeneland last October, trainer Patrick Biancone had also entered Diamond Oops in the tougher Shadwell Turf Mile although the horse had never raced around two turns or on turf. Choosing the latter race, Diamond Oops nearly pulled off the 12 to 1 upset with a valiant effort, finishing second and beaten under a length. One month later in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Diamond Oops lunged at the start and broke poorly to be away eighth, the same position he finished in after never showing any spark. Proving that race to be an exception, last month Diamond Oops duplicated his best figure of 117 when winning the Mr. Prospector Stakes back on the surface he loves, rallying from fifth of six in the early stages. With it very likely Bodexpress will go for the lead from the start as he usually insists upon, from the extreme outside, and with it just as likely Mucho Gusto and Mr Freeze will be in hot pursuit from outside posts, Diamond Oops can bide his time in the early stages. Likely to put in a strong late run as he did last month in the Mr. Prospector, and with three excellent workouts since last start to show he is in excellent physical condition, Diamond Oops could surprise a lot of bettors and racing fans by winning this race.

War Story is a “War Horse,” now with 38 races under his belt and nearly $3 million in earnings including the Monmouth Cup Stakes at the distance of the Pegasus last summer. He enters the race off a win in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes over the track with a 108 figure and he has the right late running style for the likely faster-than-average early pace scenario for this race. When second, beaten a head, in the 2018 Charles Town Classic Stakes at this nine furlong trip, War Story earned a 118 figure and as it appears he hasn’t lost a step since then, and with Joel Rosario taking the call for the first time, we could be kicking ourselves after the race for ignoring his chances at likely double digit odds.

Tax was added to my contender list after the defections. At first I was just going to use him in second on exacta tickets as he showed no fight in the Discovery Stakes last time out when rallying from fifth to second, only a half-length behind the leader, at the eighth pole, then ended up second, a length and one-quarter back at the wire. He may have needed that race however after three months off and he’s a newly turned four year old so has upside. Having won the Jim Dandy last summer we know he can get the nine furlong trip and with six first or second place finishes in 10 career races he appears to have a decent shot.


Win Bets:
Diamond Oops can be bet to win at odds of 3/1 or more.
For a smaller amount, War Story can be bet to win at odds of 5/1.

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.

In this case, if you use a dutching tool, because War Story will likely be higher odds than Diamond Oops, the allocation will be just the way it should with a smaller amount on War Story than on Diamond Oops.

Exactas: Box Diamond Oops, War Story and Tax.


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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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