Key Races & Bets for Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24


Cicada Stakes – Race 8 at Aqueduct – Post Time 5:37 PM Eastern


Fangirl won a race that was a KEY Race among Key Races, as the second, third and fourth horses ALL won their next starts, and with the fifth horse improving to finish second in her next start. Fangirl earned a 92 Equibase figure for that maiden win, which is BETTER than six of the other seven earned breaking their maidens and which is tied with Miss Imperial for her maiden score in November, also in her 2nd career start like Fangirl. One of the differences between the two fillies is Miss Imperial opens at 5 to 2 while Fangirl opens at 6 to 1 because Miss Imperial won again following her maiden win then finished 2nd in the Ruthless Stakes at the end of January. But, if you look at it another way, Fangirl has every bit as much of a chance to win two in a row as Miss Imperial did in her 2nd start, but is better odds. Although Fangirl led every step of the way in her maiden win on 1/19, she may not be a need-the-lead type with potentially faster “early” horses Forgotten Hero (who was bumped and pinched at the start last out but who led from start to finish in one of her two wins and nearly the same way in her second win) and Stonesintheroad (who led start to finish in her last two wins). With Lezcano riding back and with improving to do in her 3rd career start, Fangirl appears a solid win contender and a key to profit.


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


Exactas: Box Fangirl and Miss Imperial.


 Race 11 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:40 PM Eastern


I’m tackling this race because I think there’s a standout in the 12th race, the Hutcheson Stakes (and it’s not the favorite). Apreciado and Grand Journey get slight preference in a race in which none of the eight would be much of a surprise. Apreciado was 10th with a ¼ mile to go last month at a mile on this turf course, still 8th with an eighth of a mile to go, but rallied strongly to draw off by nearly 2 lengths. Claimed out of that race by Maker, the gelding has a BIG shot to win his 2nd in a row particularly because of the strength of Maker’s claiming ability and ability to spot his new claims. Over the last 2 years, Maker has won with 17% (of a LOT) of horse first off the claim and in a turf route, and he catches Apreciado on an improving pattern to add to those numbers, getting Reylu Gutierrez in from New York to ride, with a 4 for 7 record for Maker in the last year. Grand Journey has done nothing wrong in three career turf races (from four starts), winning one and finishing 2nd in the other, moved up to first last time out at the end of January via a disqualification and likely the winner if not carried out by the original winner. He 96 Equibase figure is 2nd best in the field, best this year and the best (99) was earned by Appealing Briefs last October, and he’s suspect coming back from 5 ½ months off in a turf route without a race under his belt and for a trainer who is just 2 for 18 with horses coming back from 2 to 6 months in turf routes over the last two years. Grand Journey gets the ground saving rail and has every right to be up in time or to be batting with the fast closing Apreciado on the wire.



Win Bets: Apreciado and Grand Journey to win at 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.


Doubles: Apreciado and Grand Journey in Race 11 with In the Loop in Race 12



Hutcheson Stakes – Race 12 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 6:10 PM Eastern


In the Loop stands out here in spite of opening as the third choice at 3/1. Favorite Federal Case has never run six furlongs and adds blinkers, both questionable moves for a horse who was seventh of nine with no excuse in the Holy Bull last month, while Topper T is winless since last August, in a race for Iowa Breds only at Prairie Meadows. In the Loop won his only start, one month ago, over the track and at this basic six furlong trop. The 93 Equibase figure is one point above Federal Case’s winning figure from one before the Holy Bull (in December) and there are MANY reasons to expect improvement on it in the colt’s second career start.



Win bets: In the Loop to win at 3 to 2 or more.


 Louisiana Derby – Race 13 at Fair Grounds – Post Time 6:13 PM Eastern


I’m including this because many people will be watching, but we must note Fair Grounds is not available for betting on Amwager. My detailed analysis of this race can be found at as it is the Weekly Feature Race.

Win contenders:


Limonite (win, place and show contender at high odds)

Country House

War of Will



Betting Strategies:

Win Bets: Sueno to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Limonite to win, place (and possibly show) at odds of 6 to 1 or more. (for a smaller amount than on Sueno).

Country House to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.


Exactas: Sueno over ALL and then the opposite which is ALL over Sueno (4).

Box Sueno, Limonite, War of Will, Country House and Spinoff.


 Sunday, March 24

 Sunland Park Oaks – Race 9 at Sunland Park – Post Time 6:27 PM Eastern


I’d be very surprised if neither Victim of Love or Bellafina won this race, and rumor has it Bellafina will scratch so in that case Victim of Love may be a low odds overlay because Chasing Yesterday will be BADLY overbet. Victim of Love is exceptionally well bred and that is why she cost $160K at auction in the fall of 2017 as a yearling. She’s a full sister to Benner Island, a multiple stakes winner, and she’s a half-sister to High North, also a stakes winner, with those two siblings combined having earned three-quarters of a million. Victim of Love won in her 2nd career start in December but was disqualified then romped by nearly 12 lengths on 1/22 before winning the local prep for this race, the Island Fashion Stakes on 2/24. Her Equibase figure of 73 wasn’t great but she has way more in the tank to show us. As for Chasing Yesterday, there is a lot of hype based on her winning three stakes in a row to end her 2 year old campaign but she beat nothing special in all three and she’s been off nearly four months, which was part of the downfall last weekend Improbable and Game Winner.


Win bets: Victim of Love at odds of 3 to 2 or more.

If Bellafina runs, play an exacta box of Victim of Love and Bellafina.


Exactas: Victim of Love over Backflash, K P Slickem, Chasing Yesterday and Enlisting.


 Sunland Park Derby – Race 11 at Sunland Park – Post Time 7:30 PM Eastern

 Wicked Indeed gets preference over another overbet Baffert starter in Mucho Gusto. Wicked Indeed had a race over the track when second to Hustle Up last month in the Mine That Bird Derby, a race in which Hustle Up was allowed an easy lead and coasted around the track in front. With Anothertwistafate and Diamond Blitz in the race, Wicked Indeed can make up the length he lost by last month, PARTICULARLY at the mile and 1/8 trip he’s running for the first time as a son of Tapit. Asmussen saddled the upset winner in one of the two divisions of the Rebel last weekend and is loaded to do the same here, as Wicked Indeed is not only a son of Tapit but he’s out of the mare that produced last year’s 9 furlong Gazelle Stakes winner My Miss Lilly.


Mucho Gusto is a win contender but will go to post much lower than his 8/5 starting odds. He won the Robert B. Lewis in the slop in a five horse field and the runner-up (Gunmetal Gray) finished a bad fourth in the Rebel while third place Lewis finisher Easy Shot checked in a bad fifth in the Rebel. Before the Lewis, on a fast track, Mucho Gusto hat his had handed to him by Improbable, who won by 5, so it remains to be seen if he’s a true Derby type but in this field he must be used on any and all tickets played.


Cutting Humor ships in for Pletcher and Johnny V rides so must be given a long look opening at 8/1. The colt showed talent in his last two starts of 2018 when 3rd behind eventual stakes placed Plus Que Parfait, then he won rather easily before taking two months off. In his three year old debut he finished 2nd then in the Southwest he was four wide when rallying early from 6th to get within a neck before fading badly. I think he deserves a look here if he repeats any of his three efforts before the Southwest.



Win bets: Wicked Indeed at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

Cutting Humor at 4 to 1 or more and for a smaller amount than on Wicked Indeed.


Exactas: Box Wicked Indeed, Mucho Gusto and Cutting Humor.

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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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