06/19/2015 11:13AM

Fornatale: Contest player breaks down Bed o' Roses


Last weekend on BCQualify.com, Joe Johnson won a seat to the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge and a seat to the National Handicapping Championship. As a longtime cash player who has added contest play to his repertoire, Johnson is part of a new trend in contest play.

In this piece, he gives us an in-depth look at the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses Handicap at Belmont, an important race in Saturday's BCQualify.com and DRFQualify.com sequences, in which contestants have a chance to win an NHC seat and a BCBC seat or a seat to next weekend's Gold Cup Betting Challenge at Santa Anita.

If you want to follow along, free past performances are available on both contest sites. Take it away, Joseph.

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “The Winning Contest Player” by Peter Thomas Fornatale

Belmont Park
Bed o' Roses Handicap (race 8)

#1 Hot Rendezvous (20-1): Doesn't do much for me in this company. Might consider in a lesser race, but a quick scan of the Beyer Speed Figures and the kind of races she's competed in relative to her competition here makes me want to spend my time looking elsewhere.

#2 Medaglia d'Argento (20-1): I don't see much here either. She's nominally a little more interesting than Hot Rendezvous because of trainer Linda Rice's decent graded stakes record and because of the potent Luis Saez-Rice combo. I will still pass though.

#3 Room for Me (4-1): It's easier to find something to like with this one. She's won four out of five races with some of the best Beyers in this group. Her only loss this year was by a half-length to the likely favorite in this race in a wider trip. Note the Jacobson owner-trainer combo here as well. Still, I would prefer longer odds to make this a solid pick.

#4 Dame Dorothy (9-5): Impressive enough graded stakes performances by this horse and features the always-impressive Javier Castellano-Todd Pletcher jockey-trainer combo, but not impressive enough odds to warrant use as a contest pick. I have a hunch this one can be beat.

#5 Expression (12-1): Note that bullet last workout. She finished in the money in eight of her last 10 races, including several stakes races. She earned a decent Beyer in a Grade 2 race before losing by a head in her last race in the slop. She also has a likable jockey-trainer combo. This is just the kind of horse I look for in these contests. She should be a good price and has a reasonable enough chance against #6 La Verdad, who I think is the most likely winner but will not be pickable at 2-1.

#6 La Verdad (2-1): Winner of multiple graded stakes. Multiple bullet work outs. Jose Ortiz on board for Rice. What's not to like? The price.

#7 Tahoe Tigress (30-1): Has not raced since September 2014 but had some success in routes last year. Shows a bullet work from May, but there's no real reason to think she would succeed here. I will look to others, but under the right circumstances, I would take this one over the two 20-1 horses starting by the rail in this race. I could see using as a desperation move if this race were near the last one or two of a contest sequence in which I had a lot of ground to make up.

#8 Street Story (6-1): I like this one. She had success with trainer Steve Asmussen last year, and after a few months away, she returned to him to rack up a couple of good races. The last was a win in a Grade 3 in the slop at Churchill Downs last month. No rain forecast last I checked, but would be tempted by this horse, especially if she went off at longer odds.

Summary: I think La Verdad (#6) will win, but there would be no value there. Instead, I will likely go with Expression (#5) as a contest selection. If I were playing two entries, then I'd pick either Room for Me (#3) or Street Story (#8) as the second choice, depending on who had longer odds. This race falls in the middle of the contest sequence, so I would likely stick with my first pick, Expression – if she stays anywhere near the 12-1 morning line – and not be tempted to change unless the odds changed quite a bit. If a longshot (that I did not have) hit in one of the earlier races in the sequence and I were significantly behind, then I'd change my second entry pick to match my longer-odds first pick. Good luck to everyone playing on BCQualify and DRFQualify!