Key Races & Bets for Saturday, September 7

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Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes -Race 6 at Kentucky Downs-Post Time 4:05 Eastern / 3:05 Central

I like the incentive involved in purchasing a horse privately, or claiming it, with a stakes race in mind and in this stakes there are TWO which fit that criteria, both owned by the same connections of Barber, Wachtel and others. They don’t race coupled because of the big purse so if we bet one we must strongly consider the other. They are Alcools and Scocciatore, both opening at 6/1 and both coming off impressive wins. Alcools earned that win in his career debut last month at Woodbine on all-weather for Wayne Rice and Arienne Cox. This is not a disparagement on either but for this horse to win for those connections first out, and as impressively as he did, particularly with Cox aboard, SCREAMS he has talent. Since the win and private purchase he worked a strong half-mile and the trainer is Peter Miller, who won a stakes at double digit odds at Churchill Downs in July off a high priced claim so this is not much different. In the win, Alcools showed maturity rallying from third to draw off to a “ridden out” win and then was flattered when the third finisher came back to win. I expect improvement off the effort and he’s bred to adore the grass.

Scocciatore ran huge when second in his debut at the end of June, regressed to finish fourth in his turf debut, then won as he pleased last month. Purchased since then, he gets Joel Rosario and is a half-brother to multiple winners including one who made over $1.5 million. Although Scocciatore won wire-to-wire he doesn’t appear to be a need-the-lead type and the win came at 7 furlongs, making him one of just a few to have run farther than this 6 ½ furlong trip.

Souper Dormy got up by a nose to win his debut in stylish fashion in July at Ellis Park and that race has turned out to be an ULTRA-KEY race as the second horse won in his next start, the third horse finished second next out and BOTH the fourth and sixth finishers won. This one could be something special as well.

Likely worth small win bets at high odds and definitely worth considering for exacta and trifecta tickets, Cambria and Invader both open at double digit odds and both hail from the strong barn of Wesley Ward, the TOP trainer of two year olds in the field and one of the top trainers in North America. Over the last few years, Ward has won with eight of 30 runners in two year old turf sprint stakes, better than 25%. Cambria is two-for-two and put in a huge half-mile work coming into the race. The only reason she opens at high odds is both wins came on all-weather. Invader didn’t do much when sixth of 10 in his career debut in July BUT he was the 2 to 1 favorite that day, is bred to adore the grass a son of War Front out of a Galileo mare and gets Ward’s go-to Veteran Jockey Julio Garcia, to which I say “BEWARE.”

Win Bets: Alcools and Scocciatore to win at odds of 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.

I would also consider a small ($2 to $5) win, place and possibly show bet on Cambria and on Invader at odds of 7/1 or more.

Exacta: Box Alcools, Scocciatore, Souper Dormy, Cambria and Invader.

Consider a $0.50 trifecta box as well on those five, for a cost of $30.

Ladies Turf Stakes – Race 8 at Kentucky Downs – Post Time 5:28 Eastern / 4:28 Central

Simply Breathless has been superbly handled by veteran Neil Drysdale since coming to the U.S. and making her North American debut in April following seven months. She had won a handicap at Ascot last summer in a field of 10 then took time to acclimate, returning as if she’d never been away when victorious in a little $75K stakes at Golden Gate. Returning less than one month later she made short work of a 10 horse field in the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap, at a mile, then found the 1 3/16 mile trip of the Modesty Handicap in July just bit too far, fading to third after being second from the start until near the wire. The 109 Equibase figure earned in the Wilshire is one of the best figures in the field and she’s the best in the field at this mile trip, with four wins in eight starts Geroux takes the call and has been riding the course very well so back at the mile this filly may be the one to beat.

The other with the bulk of the probability to win is Mitchell Road, who I absolutely loved as a legitimate favorite in Preakness weekend in the Gallorette Stakes. She did not disappoint as she wired the eight horse field with ease to earn a 107 figure. That was her fourth straight win and to that point she had not been worse than second in seven races. Similar to Simply Breathless finding the distance of her last race too far, Mitchell Road found the grade 1 level too steep, finishing fifth to the likes of Sistercharlie and Rushing Fall, the former having come back to win a grade 1 stakes again since that race. Back at a level where she will be very tough as well as reunited with Rosario, up for the Gallorette when aboard for the first time, Mitchell Road should be very tough in this race as well.

Kallio, Viva Vegas and Storm The Hill are three to use for exactas and trifectas, all having a decent shot to split the two contenders and finish second, but likely a cut below Simply Breathless and Mitchell Road. Kallio ran the best race of her career last month in the prep stakes for this race at Ellis Park. Gaffalione rides back and the 106 figure was decent. Viva Vegas also ran the best race of her career last time out, in July, winning the Indiana Grand General Assembly Distaff, but before that beaten pretty easily when third behind Mitchell Road. Storm The Hill missed by a nose after leading to near the wire in the Yellow Ribbon Handicap last month but was no match for Simply Breathless prior to that.

Then, for some exacta and trifecta tickets, we’ll toss in Sensitive and Ms Bad Behavior, both horses who don’t have a lot of fight when headed late but still who are very competitive, with a combined record of 5-11-3 in 25 combined races on grass.

Win Bets: Either or both Simply Breathless and Mitchell Road at odds of 2 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.

Exactas: Simply Breathless and Mitchell Road over Simply Breathless, Mitchell Road, Kallio, Viva Vegas and Storm the Hill.

Trifecta: Simply Breathless and Mitchell Road over Simply Breathless, Mitchell Road, Kallio, Viva Vegas, Storm the Hill, Sensitive and Ms Bad Behavior over Simply Breathless, Mitchell Road, Kallio, Viva Vegas, Storm the Hill, Sensitive and Ms Bad Behavior.

Ladies Sprint Stakes – Race 9 at Kentucky Downs – Post Time 6:01 Eastern / 5:01 Central

Oleksandra appears to be a legitimate favorite, opening at 3/1, but as we know about these exceptionally big field races at Kentucky Downs anything can happen to there are three others I will consider almost as likely to win, and definitely likely to hit the board, ALL three at higher odds than Oleksandra. Oleksandra is five for seven in turf sprints since coming to the U.S. last fall, including the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga last month under Rosario, who is three-for-three aboard the mare. She’s won at the distance and her last race 106 Equibase Figure may not be the top in the field but is one point below the horse with the best figure in the field (Tiny Tina) and tied with Coexistence for the second best. Oleksandra has a mean late kick and is very likely to be in the thick of the action at the finish.

Tiny Tina opens at a fairly ridiculous 10/1 particularly considering she’s won three in a row and gets Jose Ortiz, fresh off winning the Saratoga title in the toughest jockey colony in the world. She cuts back from routes so should have no problem with the trip and the 107 last race figure she earned in a tough allowance field is the best in this race.

Painting Corners, like Tiny Tina, was last seen running very well in California. She won the Daisycutter Handicap in July at Del Mar with a 101 figure and last year put in a 108 figure effort winning at this six and one-half furlong turf trip. Although third in her most recent race, she ran well to a couple of very tough turf sprinters and I expect another top effort good enough to win.

Ruby Notion won this race last year as the 3 to 1 second choice, gamely by a neck in a three horse blanket finish. She hasn’t won in five since but appears to be turning a corner as she finished fast from sixth to third behind Oleksandra last month in the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga. The connections of Silverton Hill Farm and Darrin Miller won a race on opening day and their horses appear in top shape.

Win bets: Oleksandra to win at odds of 5/2 or more, then consider up to TWO more win bets on the two of these three at the highest odds, with minimum odds of 7 to 2 – Tiny Tina, Painting Corners, Ruby Notion.

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.

Exactas: Oleksandra, Tiny Tina, Painting Corners and Ruby Notion over Oleksandra, Tiny Tina, Painting Corners, Ruby Notion, Coexistence, May Lily and Cool Beans.
Note: In a 12 horse field with lots of profit potential, I feel this exacta, although not cheap, has potential to be well worth the risk.

Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes – Race 10 at Kentucky Downs – Post Time 6:35 Eastern /5:35 Central

Although Arklow deserves tremendous respect for his body of work, which includes five first place finishes and four runner-up finishes in 16 career races on grass, his stablemate Factor This is a bit more intriguing from a betting perspective as he is likely to go to post at higher odds than Arklow. Both are trained by Brad Cox, who has proven himself one of the top trainers in the country. Currently fifth in the Trainer Division on the North American Racing Leaders list, Cox’s stakes stats this year are as good as those of division leader Chad Brown. Cox has started 121 horses in stakes races this year, winning 27% of those races. I think those statistics show Cox is a trainer who knows when his horses is ready for top levels of competition and in this case Factor This has a good shot to compete although he’s never raced at this level. When returning from five months off between last September and March, Factor This ran on dirt, finishing seventh. Moved back to turf on April 24, Factor This controlled the pace to win easily and earned a career-best 105 Equibase figure. He bettered this figure two races later winning the Kentucky Downs Preview Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes last month at Ellis Park with a 109 figure. In 2018, Arklow won that same race with a 111 figure, so the 109 figure Factor This earned looks very similar on paper and can be bettered just like his stablemate did last year when earning a 114 figure in the Turf Cup. Jockey Florent Geroux was aboard Factor This for all three victories this year and has decided to ride Arklow in this race but I’m not concerned one bit about the jockey change to Shaun Bridgmohan. Bridgmohan has been another of the trainer’s #1 riders over the past year, teaming up to win 49 of 132 races (37%) together. Another reason I think Factor This can run as well or better in the Turf Cup is based on a STATS Race Lens statistic which shows trainer Cox has kept his charges in top form to win back-to-back in Turf Route races in 34% of 151 starts over the last two years. Even if Factor This doesn’t get the early lead as he did in his first two wins of 2019, he proved capable of coming from just off the pace to win the Preview so he could be tough in this situation and post the upset to win over Arklow, who earned a 118 figure in the Bowling Green Stakes at the end of July and who will be closing very fast in the stretch in this year’s Kentucky Turf Cup.

Similar to Arklow and Factor This calling the top barn of Brad Cox home, Zulu Alpha and Bigger Picture call the barn of excellent trainer Mike Maker their home. Maker also trains Noble Thought. Zulu Alpha joined the Maker barn last summer and immediately won the Sycamore Stakes at this marathon trip in October. Two races later he won the similar McKnight Stakes and Mac Diarmida Stakes in January and March. In two of four races since, Zulu Alpha has come very close, missing to stablemate Bigger Picture in the Elkhorn Stakes in April and missing by a neck in the United Nations Stakes in June. Even though finishing further back in the Bowling Green Stakes in his most recent race, Zulu Alpha earned a career-best 117 figure and was just a half-length behind third place finisher Arklow. Recent Saratoga riding title winner Jose Ortiz takes the call and rode Zulu Alpha in the Elkhorn, a race in which Ortiz moved the horse mid-race from seventh to take the lead before being passed and ending up third. If Ortiz can help Zulu Alpha save that kind of kick for the stretch drive in the Turf Cup, he could be right there at the finish. Bigger Picture rallied from seventh to miss winning by a half-length in last year’s Turf Cup behind Arklow and could run as well or better this year. Since that race he has won the John B. Connally Stakes and Elkhorn Stakes at this 12 furlong distance on grass and was fourth of eight in the United Nations, albeit one and one-half lengths behind stablemate Zulu Alpha. With 12 career wins and $1.6 million in earnings on turf in his career and with top form not far away, Bigger Picture rounds out a quartet I feel has the bulk of the probability to win this race.

For exactas and the like, there are a quartet of horses to consider who may be just a cut below the top four. Botswana earned a career-best 109 figure when beaten a head by Factor This in the Preview, while My Boy Jack was just another head back in third. Although neither is proven at this level on grass yet, considering those figures and how last year’s Preview winner Arklow also won this race, I think it would be a mistake to totally ignore their chances to be in-the-money. Similarly, Pillar Mountain won two in a row at 11 furlongs on turf earlier this year, the best with a 106 figure, before trying stakes competition for the first time and finishing sixth in the Sword Dancer Stakes last month. In 2018, Bigger Picture finished eighth in the Sword Dancer before nearly winning this race so this colt may have a look at a minor award as well. Campaign has won five of 11 starts in his career including a race at this 12 furlong distance on both turf and on dirt. He was overmatched in the Pacific Classic in his most recent start but won the Cougar II Handicap on dirt just prior to that with a 111 figure which stacks up nicely with the main contenders in this race if repeated.

Bets: Factor This and Arklow to win at odds of 5/2 or more, adding a place bet on Factor This at 5/1 or more.

Exactas: Box Factor This, Arklow, Zulu Alpha and Bigger Picture.

Factor This, Arklow, Zulu Alpha and Bigger Picture over Factor This, Arklow, Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture, Botswana, My Boy Jack, Pillar Mountain and Campaign

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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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