Key Races & Bets for Saturday, November 17

Race 7 at Aqueduct – Post Time 3:17 PM Eastern

This could get a little complicated because of the snow and rain that fell Thursday through Thursday night but with a day and one-half of fair weather, I’m hoping the race stays on the turf as scheduled. Greek Alphabet gets preference because in a field in which at least five horses have a decent probability to win, he opens at ridiculously high 15/1 morning line odds. Like most, Greek Alphabet won a maiden special weight and NW1X allowance level race to belong at this NW2X condition and like many, one of his wins came on grass. That was his maiden win and it was his ONLY turf start to date among five career races, in July at Belmont and in that race Greek Alphabet ran professionally, leading from start to finish on solid fractions in a field of six with Maragh aboard. He won next out in an off-turf race by 5 lengths with Maragh up then ran last of 9 in September before taking two months off. The turf win in July came off a layoff since the previous September so this two month rest is of no concern, and this royally bred son of Medaglia d’Oro who cost $875K at auction and who is handled by very good trainer McLaughlin has every right to run a winning race today.

Gucci Factor and Dr. Edgar finished 2nd and 1st, respectively, on July 11 at this distance on grass at the one lower NW1X allowance level a big effort for both. Dr. Edgar came out of that race to win on 8/26 only to be disqualified to 2nd then won powerfully and without being dq’d on 9/16. Meanwhile, Gucci Factor moved into New York bred stakes company for the Cole Stakes on 9/23 and closed well for 3rd, beaten a half-length by next out winner Offering Plan. With Gucci Factor dropping from stakes back to allowance company and having won three of his last four non-stakes races in a row on turf and with Dr. Edgar having won three of his last four (not counting the DQ), these two could have a big say in the outcome here.


 Clyde’s Image returned from a lengthy 20 month layoff last month to win as if he had never been away, at the one lower NW1X allowance level at this trip on turf by a nose. He had finished 1st or 2nd in three straight before the rest and as he should be stronger physically in his 2nd start off the layoff, he must be given a lot of respect as his 8/1 morning line odds are a bit high given his probability. Adonis Creed also opens a bit too high to ignore at 8/1. Even though he just won a non-winners of 3 lifetime claiming race rather than an allowance race, Adonis Creed did so with authority.

“IF” this race gets taken off turf, without doubt Greek Alphabet and Gucci Factor are win contenders as both have excellent form on dirt. In addition, Lunaire would be a contender off a win in an off-turf race last month.

Bets: Greek Alphabet to win at 7 to 2 or higher odds, adding a place bet at 6 to 1 or more.

Consider win bets on Clyde’s Image and Adonis Creed at 9 to 2 or more.

It’s unlikely either Gucci Factor or Dr. Edgar will reach the odds necessary for a win bet worth the risk in this field, but if either happens to be 7 to 2 odds or higher near post time, they can be bet to win as well.

For dirt, Lunaire is playable as win bet at odds of 4 to 1 or higher.



When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you. Amwager provides a free “Dutching” tool, among other great benefits for the handicapper and bettor.

 Personally, I will be passing exacta bets in favor of doubles to race 9. You are certainly able to play them but I feel there are a lot of “ifs” about this race and would rather play doubles.


 Doubles: Greek Alphabet, Clyde’s Image, Adonis Creed, Gucci Factor and Dr. Edgar in Race 8 with Zulu Alpha, Soglio and Bigger Picture in Race 9. 

“IF” race 8 moves to dirt due to weather, add Lunaire to the horses to use in doubles with the contenders in race 9.


 Red Smith Stakes – Race 8 at Aqueduct – Post Time 3:47 PM Eastern

 Zulu Alpha won three of the first 16 races of his career through May of this year. However, starting in August when blinkers were removed, he has become a different horse entirely winning three of four races and missing by a neck in the other. Along the way, trainer Michael Maker claimed the horse for $80,000 in September and immediately rewarded new owner Michael Hui with $60,000 of that claim price with a win in the Sycamore Stakes at a mile and one-half, earning a 111 Equibase Figure in the process. Cutting back to a mile and three-eighths is not an issue, and considering Zulu Alpha earned career-best 116  figure when winning in September just before the Sycamore, he fits here perfectly as last year’s Red Smith winner (Spring Quality) earned a 109 figure in victory. Additionally, having beaten the 2016 Red Smith winner Bigger Picture in the Sycamore, Zulu Alpha has already proven capable of performing well enough to win at this level.

 Bigger Picture is a pro, having won 10 of 31 career starts on the grass and having earned $1.3 million in the process. On the other hand, he is winless in seven starts since taking the John B. Connally Stakes in January and he was no match for Zulu Alpha in the Sycamore last month when checking in a non-threatening third. One race before that, Bigger Picture missed by a half-length in the Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes, earning a strong 118 figure and finishing a neck ahead of Soglio, who came back to win one month later. In 2016, Bigger Picture missed by a nose in the Sycamore before winning the Red Smith and so it would be no surprise if he steps up with his biggest effort of the year in this situation.


Soglio has won three of nine races this year and although none were stakes, he’s proven to be very tough in his four year old season. He won at this 11 furlong turf trip in May with a 118 figure that is good enough to win if repeated and he’s run very consistently since then. Following the win in May, Soglio finished third in three straight races, two of those stakes including when just a neck behind Bigger Picture in the Kentucky Turf Cup.  His figures for those efforts of 120, 113 and 118 are all strong enough to have him in the thick of the action on the finish line if repeated.

Three more horses deserve honorable mention and should at the least be considered for exacta tickets as they can finish second if they run their best. Call Provision has been first or second in 11 of 19 career races including seven of eight at this 11 furlong turf trip. He rallied from eighth to finish second in last year’s Red Smith to earn a 108 figure and he’s earned 121 and 118 figures since then, the latter when beaten a nose on the wire by Focus Group in the John’s Call Stakes in August. Postulation was a dual stakes winner last year when victorious in the Cape Henlopen and American St. Leger then went off form.  However, since changing trainers to Michael Matz he has put in two good efforts, especially his most recent when second in the Point of Entry Stakes at a mile and one-half with a career best 118 figure. Focus Group won the John’s Call Stakes at one mile and five-eighths in August with a 118 figure, then wasn’t disgraced a bit when third of 11 in the Canadian International last month so rounds out this trio of potential contenders for the exotics.

Bets: Win bets on whichever two of these three have the highest odds near post time, of at least 5 to 2 or more:

Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture, Soglio.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you. Amwager provides a free “Dutching” tool, among other great benefits for the handicapper and bettor.

Exactas: Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture and Soglio over Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture, Soglio, Call Provision, Postulation and Focus Group.

Then also play the reverse of the above exacta to cover the three main contenders finishing 2nd. We also win twice of two of the three main contenders finish 1st & 2nd: Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture, Soglio, Call Provision, Postulation and Focus Group over Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture and Soglio.

Optionally, you can play the first exacta as a trifecta as well, because at the $0.50 minimum it has a cost of $18. That bet is Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture and Soglio over Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture, Soglio, Call Provision, Postulation and Focus Group over Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture, Soglio, Call Provision, Postulation and Focus Group.

 Bob Hope Stakes – Race 8 at Del Mar – Post Time 7 PM Eastern / 4 PM Pacific

 Sparky Ville is already a stakes winner, having won the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita last month at 6 1/2 furlongs. This seven furlong trip is insignificantly longer and in the Sunny Slope he ran a very mature race when sitting in fourth early before rallying to draw off. In this race, Sparky Ville will also be able to rally nicely as I don’t see any other early pace scenario except one wherein Mucho Gusto and Savagery (both who earned their only wins leading from start to finish and both who wear blinkers) duel on fast early fractions. The 96 Equibase figure is the second best last race figure in the field, with Extra Hope having the best (101) but earned against maidens and not winners as Sparky Ville earned his against. So with improving to do and with Stevens riding back after being up for the stakes win last month, Sparky Ville gets top billing in this year’s Bob Hope Stakes.


Sueno may look overmatched on paper and as he opens at 15/1 but he has a shot to upset here. Not only does he have a stalking style that should benefit from the pace scenario, as well as a good post to sit and watch the other six jostle for position, he gets a jockey change Kent Desormeaux for his brother Keith and that is a very sneaky angle that has paid well in the past.


Metropol is one of two from the Baffert barn, the other being morning line favorite Mucho Gusto, whose chances may be compromised by the pace battle with Savagery. Metropol closed from 2nd early to win in his debut last month with a 93 figure which can be improved upon and Baffert won this race last year with Mastery off a debut maiden win so perhaps the only thing that needs to happen for Metropol to give Baffert another win in this race is to break well and establish position. The rail may not offer the best opportunity for that so that’s why  he’s rated as third most probable, but he can’t be discounted as a win contender.


Extra Hope can be included in the exacta, which will use Sparky Ville as a key in first and second position.


Bets: Sparky Ville to win at odds of 9 to 5 or more, a true low odds overlay key bet.

For a smaller amount, Sueno to win at odds of 5 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 7 to 1 or higher.

To finish off the three win contenders, Metropol can be bet to win at 3 to 1 or higher.

 Don’t forget, when making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge.

 Exactas: Sparky Ville over Metropol, Sueno and Extra Hope. Play the reverse of that wager as well, which is Metropol, Sueno and Extra Hope over Sparky Ville.

 Doubles: Sparky Ville, Metropol and Sueno in Race 8 with Go Ghetto and Baby Bear’s Soup in Race 9.

 Race 9 at Del Mar – Post Time 7:30 PM Eastern / 4:30 Pacific

 This may be just an $8K claiming race but there are two vulnerable, if not false, favorites in Matriculate and Vending Machine, which makes the race playable. Matriculate comes back from six months off after finishing second and being claimed but with the claim being voided, likely because of an issue. He has won 2 of his last 8, gets the rail which isn’t great for this distance, and may be overbet. Vending Machine was claimed for $40K in June, finishing 12th, 8th and 6th in three starts since then, most recently at the $32K claiming level just 23 days ago. He’s dropped to the bottom 8K level, suggesting even a trainer like Mullins doesn’t know what to do to get him to run well and just wants someone to claim him.

 On the other hand, Baby Bear’s Soup is the likely “lone frontrunner” in this otherwise paceless race and with seven pound apprentice jockey Fuentes riding can lead this weak group from start to finish. Off for 2 1/2 months from August to three weeks ago, Baby Bear’s Soup showed speed for the first five furlongs through 21.6 and 44.8 fractions before tiring and in his 2nd start off the rest and with the apprentice aboard he may get an easy lead and never stop. If he does stop, Go Ghetto is the one to run him down, just as the horse did three back on 8/15 here at Del Mar when rallying from 5th and missing by a neck on the wire, at this identical 8K claiming level and with jockey Payeras riding as today. Go Ghetto won at 7 furlongs in January so this 6 1/2 furlong trip is of no concern, and the horse put in a sharp 47.6 workout in preparation for this race for a trainer (Clark) who also owns the horse and who has won nearly 25% of his claiming races in the past year.  

For the exacta, I’ll throw in Louden’s Gray, who finished second under similar conditions last month but who I think has distance limitations as his two wins this year came at the shorter distance of 5 1/2 furlongs.


 Bets: Baby Bear’s Soup and Go Ghetto (either or both) to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Of course, if you played the doubles to these two in race 8 and are live you can skip the bets.


Exactas: Box Baby Bear’s Soup, Go Ghetto and Louden’s Gray.

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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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