Pimlico and Keeneland Horse Racing Picks for Saturday, September 26, 2020

Laurel Futurity – Race 8 at Pimlico – Post Time 3:22 PM Eastern

For multi-race wagers like the pick 3 and 4 there are two ways to go here. The first is to just use Hidden Enemy, which allows for using “ALL” in the next race for tickets started here or with this race as part of a sequence started in an earlier race. However, if you started a pick 3 in race 6 I would try to use ALL in this leg as there were only two horses to use in race seven and because two year olds can all move forward markedly from one race to the next and there’s not much separating these to begin with.

This being a stakes race for two year olds, all lightly raced, I’m not concerned with the fact three of them haven’t won yet. As an example, Hidden Enemy actually ran the best race in the field last time out on 9/5 when second at Saratoga. That was a nice improvement from his fourth place debut one month earlier. The 91 Equibase figure is top in the field and this son of world class sire Galileo should have a very bright future winning stakes on the grass so I prefer him as a win bet over the others.

Pivotal Mission, Wootton Asset and Nautilus all have some things in common and should all be considered if we consider any one of the three. Pivotal Mission is trained by Graham Motion, who also trains Wootton Asset and the latter is owned by Madaket Stable, who owns half of Nautilus (trained by Brad Cox), with it noted that the first two worked in company on 9/26 at Fair Hills. Pivotal Mission gets the ground saving rail and, like Hidden Enemy is also a maiden. He finished sixth in his debut in July third in August then second in September and adds blinkers. As mentioned in an earlier race, Motion has solid acumen in deciding horses which will benefit from blinkers and the additional equipment may put this colt over the top. He’s also extremely well bred, similar to Hidden Enemy as he is by Noble Mission, a son of Galileo Wootton Asset just ran in late August in France. He won the first two starts of his career in May and June, both on turf, before too poorer efforts when fourth and fifth but he was not disgraced in either. Paco Lopez riding is a big sign he may be able to rebound to top form. Nautilus tried turf just once, one before last on July 18, and ran big even though he came up a half-length short after leading late. He stayed in an off-turf race last out and won gamely so his best effort is likely competitive here as well.


Win: Hidden Enemy at 2 to 1 or more, a LOW odds overlay

Exactas: Hidden Enemy over Pivotal Mission, Wootton Asset and Nautilus

Then, for half the amount as above, turn it around and play Pivotal Mission, Wootton Asset and Nautilus Over Hidden Enemy


Race 8: Hidden Enemy

Race 9: Sunsation, Vanzzy, Bye Bye Melvin, Don Juan Kitten

Race 8: Hidden Enemy, Pivotal Mission, Wootton Asset and Nautilus

Race 9: Sunsation, Vanzzy, Bye Bye Melvin, Don Juan Kitten

James W. Murphy Stakes – Race 9 at Pimlico – Post Time 4:02 PM Eastern

I absolutely have a LOVE-HATE relationship with this race. I believe this race is wide open, which is why I hate it, but on the other hand I love it because it’s possible the winner may pay $50 or so. With that in mind I’m starting with Sunsation, who won at 55 to 1 one before last in May and then who was involved until the last 16th of a mile in the Kent Stakes in June at 5 to 1 before fading to fifth. The reason that is significant is that was a KEY RACE which proved very productive. Winner Gufo missed by a head in the $1 million Saratoga Derby after that, runner-up Pixelate won the Del Mar Derby after that and third place finisher Vanzzy (who is entered here) won the Jersey Derby after that. Sunsation had won two of four and finished second in another turf race after his fourth place career debut last December and after the three month freshening he’s come back to work sensationally well. He has good early speed so from an inside post I expect the plan will be to go to the lead and try to play “come catch me” and that’s entirely possible as no other horse has the speed to stay with him unless that horse and jockey wants to commit pace suicide. The win on May 20 earned a 96 Equibase figure, within six points of the best figure in the field (Monday Morning QB, earned on dirt) and so I think this colt has a good shot to continue the productive nature of that Key Race and post the upset.

Vanzzy ran poorly when eighth in the Saranac following the Jersey Derby win but we can draw a line through that as it was run on soft turf. The Jersey Derby win came the only time Lopez was in the saddle, who gets back on today, and it appears to be a repeatable effort.

Bye Bye Melvin and Don Juan Kitten might be ranked more highly if not for potentially disadvantageous outside posts. Still, they both have tactical speed to may use a little of that to get to mid-pack before the turn and not be caught too wide. Bye Bye Melvin posted the 19 to 1 upset in the Saranac owing to the addition of blinkers, liking the soft turf, or both, but considering he had run second to Vanzzy in the Jersey Derby prior to that his Saranac effort can’t be ruled a fluke. Don Juan Kitten had missed by a neck in June in a turf route, then won smartly at Saratoga in July before coming up a head short to Bye Bye Melvin after leading by two lengths late in the race. In the win on July 25, Don Juan Kitten rallied from 14 lengths back (granted, into a hot pace) so he’s not a need-the-lead type as the last race might make it appears.


Win: Sunsation and Vanzzy at odds of 4 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. A Dutching tool lets you set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, then based on the odds your bets are proportioned accordingly. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exacta: Box Sunsation, Vanzzy, Bye Bye Melvin and Don Juan Kitten

ALL over Sunsation (this serves as a better play then a place bet on Sunsation, who opens at 20/1)

Breeders’ Futurity – Race 9 at Keeneland – Post Time 5:24 PM Eastern

Upstriker ran very professionally with a visually impressive victory by five lengths in debut. He stretches out in distance as do four of the other eight but strong pedigree for the trip. First year sire upstart has had five different horses each run a route, with three wins, one second and his debut Equibase Speed Figure (89) second best in the field already and likely to be improved upon.

Calibrate was also impressive in his only start, winning by four lengths with field high 91 Equibase Speed Figure. North American leading trainer Steve Asmussen is very good with these types, winning 33% back to back while stretching out. The pedigree suggests he will like the added distance as well as sire Distorted Humor produced Restless Rider, winner of the Alcibiades (Friday’s equivalent two year old race) in 2018.

Founder impressively rallied from last of nine and far back to win by a neck in his debut with an 89 figure. Chad Brown is really good with these types with a 29% win rate with maidens to stakes and sprint to route. Like Upstriker, Founder is a son of Upstart so those same stats apply, making him a strong contender.

Essential Quality earned an 85 debut figure, which is on par with other three particularly as improvement is likely. He showed a lot of maturity when blocked and had to lateral out for room then finished fast. He’s from another top barn, that of Brad Cox, who has won with 25% of his starters in dirt routes stretching out from sprints in the past two years.


Win: Upstriker and Calibrate 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. A Dutching tool lets you set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, then based on the odds your bets are proportioned accordingly. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exacta: Box Upstriker, Calibrate, Founder and Essential Quality

Preakness Stakes – Race 11 at Pimlico – Post Time 5:36 PM Eastern

In spite of Authentic winning the Kentucky Derby rather easily and gamely by a length and three-quarters, I think an upset is brewing and the horse which is capable of that upset is Pneumatic. In recent history, the Derby winner has won four of the last 10 editions of the Preakness when they have run in the race. However, that means there have been six occasions the Derby winner has been beaten. I’ll take those odds, particularly this year where the number of horses who didn’t run in the Derby appear to be every bit as fast as the Derby winner. Pneumatic is the most lightly raced horse in the Preakness field and I think that gives him an edge.

Starting his career in February, Pneumatic won first out in a sprint and has continued to improve, mature, and run faster in each race since then. After stretching out to a mile in his second start in April, Pneumatic improved again when third in the Matt Winn Stakes and even when fourth in the Belmont Stakes in June took another step forward. His pattern of Equibase Speed Figures from his debut through the Belmont (90, 96, 98, 101) denotes a three year old getting physically and mentally stronger with each and every race. Then, in the Pegasus Stakes in mid-August, Pneumatic took a drastic step forward to earn a 113 figure. Putting that figure in perspective, Authentic earned a 109 figure in the Derby while Swiss Skydiver earned the same 109 figure when runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks. Thousand Words’ 107 figure in the Shared Belief and the 104 figure Art Collector earned in the Ellis Park Derby were both lower as compared to Pneumatic. Then there’s the matter of this mile and three-sixteenths distance. Aside from the fact Swiss Skydiver won the Alabama Stakes and Authentic won the Kentucky Derby at the distance of one mile and one-quarter, no other horse has won at the distance. However, Pneumatic is by Uncle Mo, and per STATS Race Lens Uncle Mo has sired the most stakes race winners at distances from nine and one-half to 10 furlongs compared to all the other sires of Preakness entrants. Trained by North American leading trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Preakness in 2007 (Curlin) and in 2009 (Rachel Alexandra), if Pneumatic continues to improve as it appears he should, he could win the Preakness at high odds.

Art Collector, who was likely to be the second betting choice behind Tiz the Law in the Derby, did not enter the race when sustaining a mild injury to his heel prior to the race. That might have been the best thing to happen to this immensely talented colt, as he’s come back to put in three superb workouts. This suggests Art Collector is in the same top form he has demonstrated since returning from five and one-half months off in May and winning four straight races. After a dominant victory in the Blue Grass Stakes in July with a 102 Equibase figure, he ran even better in the Ellis Park Derby with a 104 figure. In both those races, Art Collector was drawing off at the end, suggesting he’s a horse which should have no issues with the added sixteenth of a mile in the Preakness. Having the ability to win on the lead or from off the pace, Art Collector is likely to be in the thick of the action in the Preakness from the start and right down to the finish line.

Authentic has been nearly perfect in his career, winning five times and finishing second once. After taking the Haskell Stakes with a career-best 109 figure in July at one mile and one-eighth, Authentic repeated the effort with the same figure in the Derby while leading from start to finish. Considering his last four wins have been earned when leading from start to finish, there is some concern as to what will happen if other horses decide to contest him for the lead. Stablemate Thousand Words (also trained by Bob Baffert) led from start to finish in the Shared Belief Stakes last month and might try to battle for the lead in spite of Baffert’s strategy to the contrary, particularly since he is adding blinkers. Art Collector, Ny Traffic and Swiss Skydiver could all be hot on Authentic’s heels from the start as well. Still, his Derby effort was very good and any improvement off that race could make him a formidable opponent in the Preakness.

Swiss Skydiver will try to repeat the feat of another filly, Rachel Alexandra, who won the Preakness in 2009 after competing in the Kentucky Oaks. Rachel Alexandra won the Oaks, while Swiss Skydiver finished second in the race this year, but Swiss Skydiver ran the best race of her career in doing so, earning the same 109 figure Authentic did one day later winning the Derby. Prior to that, Swiss Skydiver won the 10 furlong Alabama Stakes in handy fashion and it’s possible the return of a 19 day layoff may have been too quick of a turnaround. Rested four weeks this time, Swiss Skydiver has come back to put in two very strong workouts and I expect the filly to be very competitive in this race.


Win: Pneumatic at odds of 4 to 1 or more. If Art Collector is 3 to 1 or higher near post time he should be bet as well.

This is the kind of race where a “Dutching” tool like the free one at Amwager really comes in handy as it proportions your bets based on the odds so you don’t have to do the math for yourself.


ALL over Pneumatic (this is instead of a place bet)

Box Pneumatic, Art Collector, Authentic and Swiss Skydiver


Box Pneumatic, Art Collector, Authentic and Swiss Skydiver

Art Collector and Pneumatic over Art Collector, Pneumatic, Authentic and Swiss Skydiver over ALL

Art Collector, Pneumatic, Authentic and Swiss Skydiver over ALL over Art Collector, Pneumatic, Authentic and Swiss Skydiver

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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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