As usual for a day at Hawthorne, there were things I got right, and there were some things I got wrong. Yet again, however, it’s clear that my weakest spot is ticket construction. I’m hoping to get better at that, however…on recommendation from this morning’s episode of At The Races (and thanks to an Amazon gift certificate that was gathering dust in my account!), I have a copy of Steven Crist’s Exotic Betting: How to Make the Multihorse, Multirace Bets that Win Racing’s Biggest Payoffs ordered and en route. I need an injection of ticket construction ideas and knowledge, and it sounds like this may start pointing me in the right direction.
Anyway, time for some thoughts on this past Saturday’s card!
Race 1: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, five furlongs on the dirt
I thought I had it all figured out here: Voodoo Spell (2), the morning line second-choice, was going to be the inside speed, and it would likely be either Millionaire Storm (6) or Kentucky Bourbon (5) who would try to give him a run for his money, but possibly fall short. I was going to exacta box these three horses, until I went down to the paddock. Kentucky Bourbon looked terrible: he was sweaty, he was unruly, and he did not look like he was about to run a decent race. He looked so bad that it was even noted in the race chart that he was unruly down there. At that point, I was left with a 2,6 exacta box, which I should have just run with given that both of them looked decent in the paddock, no one else was really striking my fancy, and they really were the two best horses left after Kentucky Bourbon’s paddock anxiety.
Instead, I talked myself right off the two-horse exacta box. I did a $1 Daily Double, 2,6/1,6. This was not a terrible tactic. However, I then decided to do $2 to win and place on Millionaire Storm. Yes, you read that right, Millionaire Storm, and not Voodoo Spell. At about three minutes to post, Millionaire Storm was 7-1, and Voodoo Spell was hovering around 7-5. 7-1 was an overlay on Millionaire Storm, whereas 7-5 seemed maybe a little low on Voodoo Spell, though I thought he was the best of the field. I placed my bets, and wandered to my perch at the wire.
I looked up at the tote board, and absolutely hated what I saw. A dump truck full of late money had been unloaded on Millionaire Storm. By post time, his odds had plummeted to 7-5; Voodoo Spell went off at 2.9-1! Furthermore, the race went off exactly as I had envisioned. Voodoo Storm rode that rail to a 7 1/2 length victory, with the stalking Millionaire Storm in second. Kentucky Bourbon shot to the lead with Voodoo Spell, but faded back to dead last. Despite the fact that this was the second choice over the first choice in a six-horse field, the 2-6 exacta paid a whopping $28.00. This is an embarrassing example of a race where I had handicapped it perfectly, and then talked myself out of a whole lot of money by not sticking to my guns and trying to get cute with the tote a few minutes before post. It wasn’t a total loss, since I had a daily double live into the next race, but that $3.20 to place on Millionaire Storm didn’t even recoup the $4 I bet to do that win-place on him.
Race 2: $10,000 claiming, three-year-olds or four-year-olds who are N3L, six furlongs on the dirt
This was a wide-open race on paper. I liked Forest Elf (6) and Iolanda’s Perfect (1) best of the bunch, but didn’t see anyone who had absolutely no shot in the short field. I would have considered a little long shot show bet if a ton of show money was put on one of the favourites, but it was spread evenly enough that no horse provided a really good overlay. My Daily Double ticket from last race was still alive to Forest Elf and Iolanda’s Perfect. However, I also placed one new bet. I looked ahead to the third race, saw the daily double payouts were great with my long shot pick in the 3rd race, and did a $1 Daily Double all/3 for $5 total.
Little Kick and El Jake set the early fractions., with Forest Elf close behind. Champagne Tony and Iolanda’s Perfect were further back. As expected, El Jake wasn’t able to stay up there; he continued his pattern of not being great first off the lay, and faded to third beaten 3 1/4 lengths by the wire. Little Kick wasn’t able to keep the lead either; he faded to last. Iolanda’s Perfect, the anticipated closer, just didn’t fire down the stretch; the last race out likely took enough out that she bounced. Forest Elf was able to stay ahead of the early speed, but not the horse closing in. Champagne Tony, who I had expected to be no further than a few lengths back if he were going to run a decent race, was over half a dozen back early. His PPs implied that this would spell disaster, but he made a move through the far turn and blew past Forest Elf and El Jake to take the win.
I was alive to Forest Elf and Iolanda’s Perfect in my race 1/race 2 double, so that one didn’t come through. However, since I had all five horses in this race, the Daily Double I placed on this race stayed alive in case Boss Alley won the third.
Race 3: $12,500 claiming, four-year-olds and up, six and a half furlongs on the dirt
In this race, Boss Alley (3) was my long shot pick. He tends to prefer the turf or synthetic to the dirt, but given the lack of early speed, the track’s recent love of early speed, and his ability to do well off a lay, he was worth a punt at a price. The Daily Double from last race afforded that price. Lazylovin (4) and Go Doug Go (6) interested me a bit, the former because of the class drop and the latter because he liked the distance so much. However, I couldn’t figure out a better way to profit from my opinions on this race other than the long-shot Daily Double I had already bet. I just hung onto my live ticket from last race and hoped for the best.
As soon as the gate opened, I knew things didn’t look so great for Boss Alley. He didn’t get the early lead or stalk anywhere near it. Tapilu, Freedom First, Surf Cast, and Lazylovin were near the lead early; Boss Alley and Go Doug Go were farther back. Boss Alley was back near Go Doug Go early, and didn’t make any sort of move. Go Doug Go, on the other hand, found the same form he had his last out, when he had made an outside move to win at this level on a day otherwise favouring early speed. He did exactly the sort of thing one would expect from a 3-5 favourite with his running style: circle the field wide through the far turn, and win the race by seven lengths.
My prediction that Surf Cast would not have a great day panned out. He has bounced off wins in the past, and this time he was not only coming in off a win, but moving up from an $8,000 claimer to the $12,500 level. He bolted to the lead early, but faded badly through the far turn and the stretch to finish last.
Race 4: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N2L, 1 mile and 1 1/6 on the dirt
In this race, I really liked Chicago Ruhls (1). She had the inside post, and she was likely the better of the speed horses in the field. Even though that wasn’t saying much, I took the angles I had. The only other horses who interested me were Velvet Kay (6), who was on a big class drop, and Imagine I’m Easy (8). Imagine I’m Easy was on a class rise, but this looked soft for a $5,000 N2L — and she was coming from a barn who has been doing well with horses who look like they had no chance. She looked pretty good in the paddock, and her odds had plummeted from 8-1 morning line to 27.8-1 at post time: worth taking a chance on. I bet a $1 exacta box on 1,6,8, as well as $2 across the board on Imagine I’m Easy.
Chicago Ruhls did set the early fractions as expected. She didn’t get too loose, though; Che Serai was right on her, and then Velvet Kay stalked behing Che Serai. As the field approached the far turn she was losing a lot of ground, and once the field got to the stretch, most of the horses had passed him up. She faded badly and lugged in in last, beaten two dozen lengths. Strangely enough it was Che Serai — a horse beaten by double digit lengths in five of her seven tries at the $5,000 N2L level, who was the speedster who hung on to some extent. She finished second, beaten 5 1/4 lengths. Velvet Kay finished fourth: ahead of the badly tiring horses, but behind Che Serai and the two closers.
This was the second straight race that a closer brought home. Runaway Abaco lived up to her name. She was ten back early. However, she made a move through the far turn, found a hole inside down the stretch, and drew off late to win decisively. The other closer, Pushing Up Daisy, started from even farther back, made an outside move through the far turn, but didn’t have nearly as much left down the stretch as Runaway Abaco. She ended up crossing the wire third.
As for Imagine I’m Easy? I don’t regret taking a shot on her, but she ran more like a 27-1 shot than an 8-1. She was far back early, and never made any sort of a move.
Race 5: Allowance Optional Claiming ($25,000), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 twice other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred OR N3L OR claiming price $25,000, six furlongs on the dirt
On paper, I liked Royalrap (1), Browneyed Bachelor (3), and Chatfield Road (4). Ifoundmy Mojo (6) even interested me if I could get him at a price, though that was not to be; he was the 2.1-1 favourite by post time. I said I liked Chatfield Road and Royalrap on paper, because I absolutely hated them both in the paddock. Royalrap was bad for a bit, and even reared once early. However, he seemed to calm down a little bit as post time approached, though I still did not love him. Chatfield Road looked anxious and excitable the whole time he was in the paddock. He didn’t look ready to run. With all that I saw, I didn’t end up placing a bet in this race. I was trying to construct something that made sense, but the only two price horses were the two I thought had no chance: Dakota Digger and Rushin’ Rubietta. Before I could construct a ticket I liked, I was shut out at the window.
It ended up a blessing that I had to keep my dollars in my pocket. Chatfield Road and Royalrap got near the lead early, as expected. Royalrap must have expended even more energy in the paddock than I thought; he faded quickly, and finished fifth beaten 6 3/4. Chatfield Road, surprisingly, held the lead once Royalrap faded, and managed not to surrender it. He was lugging in late — it wasn’t pretty — but managed to hold on by a nose over Ifoundmy Mojo. Ifoundmy Mojo, who had done most of his better work from an early leading or stalking position though had closed successfully as well, was a good eight or ten lengths back early. He made an outside move through the far turn, fired down the stretch, and just barely fell short. Chatfield Road, however, was able to hang on a few more strides, stretch his head out there, and hit the wire first. It looked like that was what did it, in watching the replay: Chatfield Road’s head was down better than Ifoundmy Mojo’s was, and he won by a nose. Browneyed Bachelor stalked a few lengths back and got close coming into the stretch, but didn’t have quite as much left late as the top two, and finished 2 1/4 lengths behind the top pair.
Race 6: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, six furlongs on the dirt
In this race, I liked Even Fever (2), Wild Student (3), and J.Z’s Crafty Boy (4). Wild Student was my speed horse by default; even though he was in off a long lay, he had some decent runs at this distance in allowances at Prairie Meadows, and didn’t have any glaring red flags. This was enough to at least consider, given that it often seems folly to build an exacta at Hawthorne without any early speed. Despite the success of early speed on Friday and early today, I thought even then that Even Fever could have enough in the tank to catch up, especially given the dubious early speed situation here. J.Z.’s Crafty Boy I expected to run from a stalking place, and I liked because he has been so consistent on the Hawthorne track. I bet a $1 exacta box, 2,3,4.
Two horses shot straight to the lead early: Papa Smitty, who I expected to try to get up there, and J.Z.’s Crafty Boy, who was a bit of a surprise to see right on the lead that early. They dueled into the far turn. I was expecting Papa Smitty to give way at any moment, but he didn’t — he got ahead of J.Z.’s Crafty Boy going into the stretch, and won by a widening 5 3/4 lengths. That shocked me: Papa Smitty was a three-year-old running against mostly older here, and he had been demolished in a $25,000 claimer for three-year-olds at this distance last out. It was a class drop coming into here, since that last race was out at Santa Anita, but the only races out in California in which he performed decently were on the Hollywood Park cushion track. Either he found his dirt form, or the drop from a $25,000 claimer at Santa Anita down to a $25,000 claimer at Hawthorne is even larger than I anticipated.
Even Fever didn’t really close; he was four or five lengths back from the lead for most of the race, and had enough down the stretch not to lose much of that. He checked in second, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Papa Smitty. J.Z.’s Crafty Boy did fade down the stretch, but had enough to stay ahead of everyone but Even Fever and Papa Smitty, and do what he does best: hit the board at Hawthorne Race Course.
Race 7: Starter Optional Claiming ($12, 500), four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt
In this race, I liked Indian Artifact (3), Silky Sami (2), and to a lesser extent Uptown Babe (6). Silky Sami looked like the best choice of all, since there were so many early speed horses in this race; I hoped one of the speed horses would hang on, given the chalky price on Silky Sami, but thought that second off the lay, Silky Sami would probably have a good race. I did a $1 exacta box, 2,3,6. I also put $2 across the board on Indian Artifact. She went off at just shy of 6-1, and that seemed an overlay given that I thought she had a better chance than Uptown Babe, and Uptown Babe had been bet down to 1.7-1: just as low as Silky Sami, come post time. Indian Artifact had dropped in from allowance company to starter, and last time she ran first off a lay of a few months, she won. Her last time out wasn’t a great race, but she was overmatched, and had historically rebounded with a decent race directly after a clunker like that.
Instead, Indian Artifact fired another clunker. She never got near the lead, fell far back early, and finished over thirty lengths back. It was the other two horses in my exacta, Silky Sami and Uptown Babe, who had far better days. Uptown Babe and Baba Lucy were trading the lead early, and it was Baba Lucy who relented coming into the stretch. I would like to think Silky Sami was named as a nod to Silky Sullivan; her deep closing style makes that apt. She was around a dozen lengths back early, hustled hard through the far turn, came in wide into the stretch, and blew past the field at the sixteenth pole. She pulled away easily to win by 3 1/4 lengths, with Uptown Babe holding on for second.
This meant I finally hit an exacta, albeit a chalky one.
Link Card, the other closer in the field, was in over her head here, as expected; $5,000 N2L to $12,500 starter is a huge jump, and I expect to see her back in a straight claiming race next out.
Race 8: Allowance ($29,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, non-winners of $8,800 or a state-bred race other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L, six furlongs on the dirt
In this race, I liked Pale Hose (1) and Right Now Richie (8) on the speed, or Richard’s Tune (5) from a position farther back. All of them looked good enough in the paddock; there weren’t any red flags there. However, even though I told myself going in that I would not do this, I could not help but add Sweep E Prado (7) to my horses for this race. He looked great in the paddock, and even though he was racing at the same level at which he finished fifth last time out, he was getting an extra half-furlong. In retrospect, I probably should have ditched one of my other horses if I was going to add him in, but I just did a $1 exacta box, 1,5,7,8.
Pale Hose, Moreno’s Mine, and Right Now Richie all bolted to the lead early. This was expected from Pale Hose and Right Now Richie, less so from Moreno’s Mine. Richard’s Tune stalked a few back. Sweep E Prado, on the other hand, got a terrible start. Richard’s Tune bumped Smarty Boy coming out of the gate, sending Smarty Boy right into Sweep E Prado. He got about a dozen back early; even though he is a closer, his past performances suggested that this was too far back. He made up ground despite being wide out of the far turn, and then fired big time in the final furlong. Despite the terrible start, he still managed to get in only 3/4 length behind the winner, Right Now Richie: good enough for second, and good enough to make my bet profitable despite my best efforts to do something stupid like a four-horse exacta box.
Pale Hose, who I anticipated would do well, started to fade through the turn and faded even more through the stretch. He finished 7th, 11 back. It was Moreno’s Mine, the unexpected speedster, who managed to stay close; he finished third, just 1 3/4 lengths behind Right Now Richie. Moreno’s Mine did have some consistently good works at the Fair Grounds coming into this race, and had been dropping back from open allowance company to Illinois-bred. It should not have surprised me as much as it did that he could hang in this race.
Race 9: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners of a race since September 15, five furlongs on the dirt
Going into this race, I liked Epic Phelps (10) and Chantilly Outlaw (4). I wanted to get a closer look at a couple of shippers coming in off long layoffs, the ThistleDown/Mt. Pleasant Meadows shipper Black Patch (8) and the Fairmount shipper Studley Doright (7). Black Patch didn’t look great in the paddock. He was just really sweaty. He wasn’t unruly, but he just looked very nervous about being there. I passed on him.
Studley Doright? He was something else in the paddock. Given that Kentucky Bourbon got a race chart note for how badly he behaved in the paddock, I’m shocked that Studley Doright didn’t, because he was far worse. At first he was okay, maybe a little nervous, but then they started trying to put the saddle on him. He wasn’t having any of it. He started bucking, rearing — anything to get his handlers to stop trying to put the saddle on him. He was a head case, and I was amazed that they even managed to get Stephanie Slinger on his back. Hot barn or not, I was not betting a penny on that head case.
I ended up adding Win Tucker (2) to my exacta box with Epic Phelps and Chantilly Outlaw. Last out, Win Tucker ran a $5,000 conditioned claimer, but the field was tougher than this one. Lacking another credible choice, but not wanting to be limited to two horses in a ten-horse field, I put in a $1 exacta box, 2,4,10.
Studley Doright channeled that nervous energy from the paddock and bolted straight to the lead, just ahead of Black Patch and What Do You Mean. As befits their usual racing styles, Win Tucker and Epic Phelps stalked a couple back from the leading trio. As the far turn curved into the stretch, though, it was clear the Studley Doright had expended way too much energy in the paddock; he faded back. Likewise, Black Patch, couldn’t stay up there. What Do You Mean briefly led, but lost ground in the stretch to the two horses who had been stalking a few lengths behind, and turned wide to engage. Win Tucker, who has been stalking closer, took the lead first; Epic Phelps found a bit more in that last half-furlong, though, and got ahead half a length to win it from Win Tucker. Early speed horse What Do You Mean held on for third. Chantilly Outlaw, the other horse in my box, was never much of a factor. He started in mid-pack, found no rally, and finished fifth beaten eight lengths.
And, that’s what happened at Hawthorne on Saturday. I got a few things right, I got a few things wrong, and I made more than a few blunders at the window that I can learn from, from here on out.