One of the goals of the interactive handicapping exercises we engage in each week is to generate real-world examples of sound principles that will produce positive returns over the long run.
With that in mind, let’s revisit last week’s Sham Stakes for a situation that turned an all but unbettable race into a wagering opportunity. Then we’ll turn to this week’s challenges: the Jerome Stakes and the LeComte Stakes (Grade 3).
The Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie was a deserving favorite in the field of seven in the Sham (Grade 3), a $100,000 stakes race at a mile for newly turned 3-year-olds at Santa Anita. The colt was 2-for-2 after winning the Los Alamitos Futurity (Grade 1) via disqualification, and his accomplishments weren’t lost on bettors, who pounded him to 1-5.
If you’re ever tempted to reach for your wallet to back a lightly raced 1-5 shot, do yourself a favor and have a trusted friend nail your arms to your sides.
In the Sham, however, there was another factor that bettors ignored: Earlier Saturday, Baffert had scratched McKinzie’s stablemate, Mourinho, one of two horses that figured to contest the pace.
That left the Simon Callahan-trained All Out Blitz as the probable lone leader in the early stages of the race, a dangerous scenario even for a horse trying two turns for the first time off a maiden score.
There was no beating McKinzie on this day, as he cruised past All Out Blitz in the final furlong to win by 3½ lengths. But All Out Blitz (15-1), who set the pace with no serious pressure, held second, turning a $2.40 payout on the winner into a $7.10 return on a $1 exacta and topping an easily hittable trifecta ($24.60 on a $1 bet) and superfecta ($31.60 on a $1 bet) with the two other logical contenders in the race, My Boy Jack and Shivermetimbers.
The moral of this story is that late scratches require re-examination of races. Handicappers who do so will be rewarded.
#RJhorseracing featured races
The #RJhorseracing handicapping corps is again focused on the Triple Crown trail, tackling the $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct and the $200,000 LeComte Stakes (Grade 3) at the Fair Grounds on Saturday.
Our handicappers foresee an upset in the rescheduled Jerome, with Seven Trumpets, 3-1 second choice on the morning line, upending 3-5 favorite Firenze Fire. Factor This (12-1) will round out the trifecta, they say.
I also think Seven Trumpets’ speed makes him dangerous on what is expected to be a muddy or sloppy track and will pick him as well.
In the LeComte, at a mile and 70 yards, the handicappers are deadlocked between the filly Wonder Gadot (6-1) and Instilled Regard (4-1), with 5-2 favorite Principe Guilherme in third.
“Wonder Gadot is the only filly in the race and is in with a very good chance, as her only time missing the board was that awful trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; it says a lot that her connections are not afraid of the boys,” writes Ponypicker Joe.
I think the morning line is wrong and that Instilled Regard will end up favored off his runner-up effort in the Las Alamitos Futurity (Grade 1). But I’ll have my money on Kowboy Karma (6-1), who looks ready to roll after being freshened by trainer Larry Jones.
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Ellis Starr’s LeComte Stakes analysis
Instilled Regard finished third (moved up to second via a disqualification) in the Los Alamitos Futurity, earning a career-best 106 Equibase speed figure that is the best any horse in this field has earned to date. With McKinzie having come back to win the Sham Stakes last weekend, it is now Instilled Regard’s turn to improve out of that race and win a stakes race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Prince Lucky has won three of his four races to date, including his past two rather easily with gas left in the tank. His most recent win came in the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes in which he rallied from fifth to win going away under mild handling. Although he has never run farther than seven furlongs, Prince Lucky is bred to handle the added distance and it is notable that jockey Julien Leparoux takes over.
Believe in Royalty finished third in his career debut last summer, then won two straight races rather easily, earning a 92 figure in the best of the three races in November. As a son of 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can, there is little doubt Believe in Royalty can run this far, so he is another colt with a chance to win this race.
Zing Zang is one of three entries from the barn of Steve Asmussen. Even though the other two, Principe Guilherme and Snapper Sinclair, have two career wins and Zing Zang has one, I prefer him because of the manner in which he earned that win in a two-turn race at Fair Grounds.
Ellis Starr is the national racing analyst for Equibase. Visit the Equibase website for more on the race or to purchase handicapping products.