03/23/2016 5:07PM

Some Saturday opinions


Let's take a look at two price horses to consider on Saturday at Fair Grounds and Meydan.



POLAR RIVER, undefeated from four starts, will take the lion's share of the wagering. She boasts a strong tactical gear and proved herself over this track and trip when winning the UAE Oaks in "ridden out" fashion on March 3. Simply brilliant at times, Polar River is definitely the horse to beat.

America's UAE Derby hope is FRANK CONVERSATION, who will attempt to transfer his good synthetic form to dirt. It appears he's caught the right field in order to grab some more Kentucky Derby points as most of the competition is suspect at best.

Those two horses look tough, but I'll give Vale Dori another chance at solid odds. Sidelined by injury after winning a Group 1 in her native Argentina on May 1, she returned to the races with a second to Polar River in the UAE Oaks. I don't think she was cranked up 100% for that start and Christophe Soumillon didn't beat her up once she was passed by Polar River at the three-sixteenths pole. Vale Dori has the pedigree (by UAE Derby winner Asiatic Boy), the connections (trainer Mike de Kock has won this race six times including the 2015 edition with Mubtaahij) and the early speed to be dangerous. She's quoted at 9 to 2 in overseas betting and that seems like a fair-enough price in a short field.



Take the Stand showed hints of potential last year for trainer Bill Mott, but could never really get over the hump. You have to throw out his race two starts back in the Tropical Turf Handicap as the race was run over a boggy course that he didn't like at all. Last time out, in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes, Take the Stand finally ran a big one. Dismissed as a 61 to 1 chance, he set a fast and pressured pace, shooed away his early rivals and dug in gamely to drop a neck decision.

I don't think he makes the lead in the Muniz Memorial, but he is proven from off the pace, and can stalk and pounce under Edgar Prado. He's 6 to 1 on the morning line and that seems like a playable price. In multiple-race wagers, one could certainly use contenders like WORLD APPROVAL (10), CHOCOLATE RIDE (4), CAN'THELPBELIEVING (5) and CLOSING BELL (5)


Many handicappers believe there was a strong rail bias in play at the Fair Grounds on February 20 and that the nature of the track propelled GUN RUNNER and FOREVAMO into the Risen Star exacta. It didn't hurt to be inside, that's for sure, but I wonder if the bias was as powerful as some think.

Perhaps MO TOM was aided by remaining on the rail for the majority of the race, but he sure wasn't helped when he checked terribly in the midst of a strong stretch rally. I'm of the opinion he was best that day and that he remains the leading light of the local division. Unfortunately, his one-run style from the back of the pack isn't conducive to the best of trips. He'll need a setup and a clear run, but his usual performance puts him squarely in the hunt.

He's my Louisiana Derby pick over Gun Runner and GREENPOINTCRUSADER, but I wouldn't take much less than Mo Tom's 5 to 2 morning line price.


Here are some quick selections for a few other big races:

Dubai World Cup:
California Chrome

New Orleans Handicap:
International Star
Majestic Harbor

Fair Grounds Oaks:
Land Over Sea
Dream Dance


Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 3/15/16 - 3/21/16:

1. SMOOVE IT - 100 - Irish O'Brien Stakes - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 19Mar16-2SA
2. CLOTHES FALL OFF - 99 - Correction Stakes - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 19Mar16-3AQU
3. ROYAL SAINT - 96 - OC 20k/N1X -N - 6 Furlongs - 18Mar16-6OP
3. SEEKING THE SHERIF - 96 - Clm c-(50-45) - 6 Furlongs - 20Mar16-5SA
3. SHARP ART - 96 - OC 35k/N2X -N - 6 Furlongs - 18Mar16-8OP
3. STONETASTIC - 96 - Inside Information Stakes (G2) - 7 Furlongs - 19Mar16-12GP
3. TARA'S TANGO - 96 - Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - 19Mar16-9SA
8. COIN BROKER - 95 - OC 40k/N2X -N - 1 Mile - 20Mar16-8OP
8. CUPID - 95 - Rebel Stakes (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - 19Mar16-10OP
8. DEFER HEAVEN - 95 - OC 62k/N2X - 6 Furlongs - 20Mar16-3GP
8. FANTASTIC STYLE - 95 - Las Flores Stakes (G3) - 6 Furlongs - 20Mar16-3SA
8. SMOKEM KITTEN - 95 - OC 25k/N1X -N - 7 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 20Mar16-1GP
8. VIGOROUS TITAN - 95 - Colonel Power STakes - 5 1/2 Furlongs - 19Mar16-8FG
14. EIGHTY THREE - 94 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 20Mar16-8AQU
14. STALLWALKIN' DUDE - 94 - Alw 60840NC - 6 Furlongs - 21Mar16-7PRX
16. MAGNIFIER - 93 - Md Sp Wt 60k - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 17Mar16-6AQU
16. SECOND SUMMER - 93 - OC 40k/N1X -N - 1 Mile - 19Mar16-4SA
18. UPSTART - 92 - Razorback Handicap (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - 19Mar16-8OP
19. DIRECT MESSAGE - 91 - Md Sp Wt 40k - 1 1/8 Miles - 19Mar16-9GP
19. FOURTH OF JULY - 91 - OC 20k/N1X -N - 1 1/16 Miles - 19Mar16-6OP
19. IRON ROB - 91 - San Pedro Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 20Mar16-8SA
19. J S BACH - 91 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 1 Mile - 19Mar16-10GP
19. LITTLE CURLIN - 91 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 1 Mile (Turf) - 20Mar16-6SA
19. RED RAZZO - 91 - Alw 67820N1X - 6 Furlongs - 21Mar16-5PRX
19. SONNY INSPIRED - 91 - Ben's Cat Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 19Mar16-8LRL

*SMOOVE IT's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.

*SEEKING THE SHERIF was claimed for $50,000 by trainer David Jacobson from Ron Ellis.


Video stakes analyses for many of the weekend's major stakes will be available later this week at http://www.drf.com/videos

You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.

Matt Bernier, Mike Beer and I will be on for free and fun live handicapping analysis for Fair Grounds, Santa Anita and Gulfstream beginning at 3pm ET on live.drf.com.


Congrats to Annie for winning last week's HandiGambling challenge.

Annie selected Saturday's Louisiana Derby from Fair Grounds for this week's exercise.


Rick M and SR VEGAS' HG scoreboard spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this blog post.

SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to update all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...

HANDIGAMBLING version 2016:

Let's remember WHY we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.

The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses and why we're betting them the way we are. We are not asking for a novel but SPARE A SENTENCE OR TWO outlining your HANDICAPPING ANGLES and/or THOUGHT PROCESSES about WAGERING .

1. Start your post with HG or HANDIGAMBLING to find your entry in a thread.

2. You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose that is available for that HG race. Anyone going over the $100 limit will be DISQUALIFIED.

3. Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog prior to the start of the designated race. SIGN OFF WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF YOUR POST. Remember that posts may start as 'anonymous' or an 'alternate name'. You MUST SIGN YOURSELF AT THE END (even if it is the same) This enables the scorekeeper to identify who you are.

4. (1) ONE ENTRY per person for the Handigambling contest. If you have multiple email addresses, use just ONE for contest purposes. Multiple entries will be cause for disqualification.

5. Separate your analysis from the wager and use the PROGRAM # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.

**  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. Dan reserves the right to approve or deny any entries.

** The winner will receive a "60-Card Quarterly Formulator Past Performance Plan"

As an example :

HG 2016
The speed in this race are #1 Alpha, #2 Beta, and #8 Ocho. I like the works for layoff horse #5 Cinco who can sit off the pace. Lots of speed in here, so this could set up for a closer like  #6 Six Flags and I like the trainer's stats in these conditions. I’ll put the closer over the speed.

HG wager:
$10 EX   6 /   1,2,5, 8  = $40
$5 TRI   6 /   1,2,5,8  /  1,2,5,8  =  $60
Total $100

Thanks Dan!




SMOOVE IT.pdf759.04 KB
Copy of HG 3 19 16 The Rebel Oaklawn Park.xls51.5 KB
Penguin ymous More than 1 year ago
On Day? Late Happy Birthday to Steve T.

Hope you are doing well
Biggar W More than 1 year ago
Mike A
Steve may be right if he is addressing your chances of changing the mind of dedicated unbelievers. However when you share an opinion that has been formed from years of astute observation many of us can benefit from evaluating and using the information that we deem useful.
I have found the recent discussion informative rather than heated, and hope that no one sees fit to stir any flames.
mike turfmonstr More than 1 year ago

           I agree with Steve too.....beating one's head against a wall and getting nothing but bloody takes a bit of a "loose screw".....I understand wanting to see "the numbers" to back up a claim....I've never been a numbers guy though...I see what works and where and i don't forget.....I apply it accordingly. That is why Steve would exhaust himself with charts, graphs and numbers...too many to remember because I wouldn't....I really didn't care if folks believed me or not...to me results count. If I'm right why would anyone argue....I see that a lot.....Steve realizes most people want to see the numbers.....The man's exhausted, no one listened anyway so he stopped, that's why he thinks I'm crazy because people don't believe and if they don't believe they don't listen...simple enough. Recently I wrote to David about trainers and horses and how people sometimes create the illusion of cheating because their horse got beat. I mentioned Chocolate Ride, because he was entered that weekend...my exact words fail me but it went something like this."If anyone thinks Chocolate Ride is a Grade one horse other than maybe at the FG's they are kidding themselves".....Not many ways to interpret that. Yet come Friday and Saturday there was a host of folks bemoaning the attributes of CR.....Now maybe people didn't read what I wrote because they think I'm full of it, maybe they wanted to prove me wrong...silent vindication, or maybe they think they are better price and turf handicappers all I know is he ran 4th.....and not exactly a good 4th.......I doubt anyone even considered why he lost.....the reason was easy, he's not that good.....I didn't care what the numbers said. People played him at 2-1 and got what they deserved.....The horse had shown he couldn't beat horses of the caliber the top three were...yet they bet him anyway....maybe they thought the FG's was the trick.....Here's my point...I didn't need numbers or stats to tell me that...I just new because I know the horses and that is and always has been the key. I said he wasn't that good and he wasn't.....what number would you like me to put on an "abstract" thought? When someone inquired about Whippo I said he would lose, the only shot he had was if Patricia Farro took Gudiel off.....she didn't, he lost....twice. In the post I wrote to Okie about Whippo I said I wouldn't go hog wild on him....if gudiel was up you'd better cross you fingers, but in the same post I told him there was a horse that came out of that same race that he could bet and that was Zipi Zape.....I know he paid attention because he wrote me when Zipi was entered......did anyone else? I doubt it....and trust me Zipi's running lines wouldn't have been on anyone's radar.....again...No stats...just results......know the horses you win, don't and you will have a hard time winning....stats or no....Mike A
mike turfmonstr More than 1 year ago

             I've no doubt Romans cares......but being a guy who basically is based in Kentucky sending horses stabled in NY and Gulf where it's more than a  van ride away from his base just who are these people he speaks of? Since most of his horses only end up running cheaply after exhausting every option the only place he could be talking about is Florida.....they just don't run that cheaply in NY spring summer and fall. I doubt he's talking about the trainers he faces in those better races.....in Florida or NY. So we're talking the claiming trainers and I agree.....they always look for an edge and that's where the cheaters will be...sad but true. But to say you are applying for a license  to train horses in Asia tells me it's more than being beaten in a 16,000 claimer on a Wednesday at Gulf. Just my gut feeling.....

            I figure overall Roman's hasn't done poorly for himself.....He's had horses that made his clients money. His comment about Keen Ice coming back and making folks forget about AP was either after the Travers or the BC classic.....I remember him saying it because I thought it was ridiculous at the time...still do...though he isn't talking much these days. Also after talking up a horse like Keen Ice and being so wrong he may be just a bit jaded.....I'm sure The horse lost in Dubai because the track favored speed.....which actually may be partly true....My guess is he went to Dubai to show everyone who doubted the horse and him.....that would only add to the fire.....I need to leave and go to Asia. The game certainly isn't crooked in Dubai....I know it must be frustrating for a good trainer to watch Pletcher, Baffert, Brown and the like trot out 6 and 7 figure horses when they have to develope horses they pay cheaper prices for.....what was it that Moquett said after his horse ran second yet again, this time to a Baffert horse that had only just broken his maiden in Cupid..." I'm sick of Baffert, as bad as I felt all day and all night, I'm more sick of Bob Baffert".....probably half kidding, but probably not too.....
           It's a tough game for everyone but especially tough on the people who put on the show.....I never feel bad for the uninformed handicapper, I do feel it for the others though. 

               I claim ignorance to knowing exactly how well Romans is doing overall.....I know CD's he does well....I only judge his stock against the horses he runs with where I bet....I'm sure he makes money..otherwise why would anyone give him horses.....I judge trainers by the stock they have to work with and how they do against the better trainers.....though saying better is a misnomer, lets say good trainers with better stock......I don't delve too much into the everyday claiming game other than turf races and then only when it suits me......If Navarro has a horse entered and he's 6-5 I pass...unless I think I can beat him....my usual comment to Steve is "I don't care what they stick in that horses arse, he isn't winning"...which shows that I too know the score, My way of evening things is to beat them when I can.....and even with a 28% first off the claim it means he loses 72% of the time...those are facts I can handle....

                    I'm glad someone had that Roman's horse....Mike A
pat More than 1 year ago

All this back and forth about stats, trainers and perceptions. Yikes.....fire is flying off keyboards across the globe. Good stuff...but when fire is flying...sometimes our passion gets the best of us....and we go a little far afield in hyperbole. Blame and shame are standards of this type of argument. It misses the point. Persuasive writing is something that is to be admired and I think it is great.

To RonZ's points and stats.....100% accurate. COLD HARD FACTS are difficult things UNLESS you don't think they are being applied. I like his linear approach as it differs from mine. I am more of a dreamer and I like to use anti-logic and what if scenarios. I have some reality based plays as I spend a good amount of time assessing the FAVORITE...as it(and must be) is OFTEN the most important factor in the race. Tossing the favorite either based on what I see in front of me or the placing or the perceived declining of form is what makes my day.

Roman's declarations are not sour grapes. The sport needs a bit of a cleansing......and as always what is not known is the biggest key. I almost celebrate an overage of a "allowed substance"......the thing that can't be known is WHAT is undetectable. It provides a bit of a boogeyman....as proving the unprovable is often folly. I watched a movie on Independent Lens last night about The Amazing Randi....who is debunker of psychics, charlatans, cheats, faith healers and other con men. PEOPLE want to believe is a big theme......Randi was able to duplicate Uri Geller's trick of bending spoons........YET Geller was still able to fool people....as he said Randi was doing magic while HE WAS REALLY BENDING SPOONS WITH HIS MIND POWER. Transfer that theme to what the superfeed trainers accomplish........PEOPLE WANT TO BELIEVE that these guys JUST TRAIN BETTER. Romans knows that something is up....that he can't prove it is on him(or maybe it would destroy the sport)....difficult to know as we are not chemists, vets or charlatans or faith healers or magicians.

One thing about the Aqueduct stats.....ITM and Win % is a bit misleading. Short fields and these trainers dominating the entry box is the reality. I am not spending time to crunch the numbers but I would tend to think that the trainers listed are supplying a HUGE % of starters .....and is a case of an unhealthy racing jurisdiction. I went to college with some pretty crazy guys(myself included).....there were these 5 guys who played POKER all night long almost every night of the week. THE SAME FIVE......they basically passed the money around the table night after night. No one was winning and no one was losing.....it was nuts.....the only casualty was that 3 of the guys flunked out due to staying up all night and not going to class.

DavidM9999 More than 1 year ago


You see sour grapes while I see a trainer that “possibly” cares about the sport. Funny how folks view things a bit differently. It is a large diverse world. The truth is probably in the middle. I never heard the Keen Ice comment but if every trainer and owner was chastised for being hyberbolic that would be a long list. I agree on some of your points. A lot of trainers do not spot horses that strategically. For example our old pal Robbie Davis.

Romans is not a 30% trainer, never has been to my limited knowledge, and likely never will be.  As to his horses “not winning” not sure what that means these days. Solid trainers at competitive meetings with good field size are usually in a range of 12%-18%. I think he has some owners who like to take shots. I know one personally. Romans obliges but it very likely is part Dale too. Supersized personality and he likes the supersized stage. Let’s call him DW Lukas Light. On second thought that does not fit. But he is a “gotta be in it to win it” guy. I am not personally but to each his own.  I agree 100% with you that he points his horses to the CD meeting. He has said that publicly. He can win at GP or KEE but is based in Louisville. You have to pick your spots with Romans. I have cashed on him large at GP. Biggest lick I had in years was Romans driven at 30-1+ in a first turf MSW at GP.

I looked at his stats the last five years. Confirms your thinking, about what I expected and have seen for years.  I then looked at top trainer lists in America,average win percentage, average ITM percentage, lots of money won.  Here are three well known trainers over the last five years.  I picked five years out of fairness as sometimes a trainer can have a single big horse or single big year. Five years is a good sample. Without researching I will let the community tell me where Romans stands or even if he is in the list below and who the other two are:

Money Earned – 55,000,000, 17% win, 45% ITM,ranking 6.

Money Earned – 35,000,000, 14% win, 41% ITM,ranking 14.

 Money Earned– 27,000,000, 18% win, 47% ITM, ranking 22.

Funny you mention the 20-1 with Gafflione. Redboarding but I had that one in my horizontals, old Ellis Park back side information came thru…for once.

For the 10th time I am stating the following withone hand on the Bible and one had in the air and in CAPS so it won’t be misinterpreted :





Penguin ymous More than 1 year ago

Through the years, I am sure I have missed some of the points you are trying to make.  From my side of the pond, I think you miss more of my points.  I will blame that on my writing style and inability to clearly make my points.

You mentioned you thought I was cherry picking results.  That is not my definition of cherry picking.  The first thing that came to mind of 3 year olds racing against older in the fall, was the Breeders' Cup, so I just checked the results of the last three years and took all the three year old winners against older.  I wouldn't call that cherry picking.  Those winners are cold hard facts for those three BC's.

My definition of cherry picking is when you mention 10 horses you have bet on, with nine of them winning at over 20-1 and only one loser.

You stated:  "Plus I can say statistically without knowing the numbers the greatest portion of three year olds beating older are in sprints".  This was a point I was trying to make in a recent post that as I get older, my mind, my old grey matter mare, ain't what she used to be.  I can't rely on my memory to make a statement like the above.  First, you can't say "statistically without knowing the numbers".  Your impressions of your opinions are not statistics.  I had requested in that earlier post for you to supply me with studies or statistics.  I purposely pointed out your memory wasn't perfect with the Nyquist example of being a bay and not a chestnut.

You asked  "what if the average paying price is say 15-1....what kind of hit rate then?"  
To break even you need to hit 6.25 per cent winners.  Anything above that is profit.  that is a mathematical fact, not a statistic.

I think one of our points of disagreements might be our respective definitions of statistics.
When I make a statement like the above, that is just pure math.  It is a mathematical fact.  That means that it is possible for someone to hit 7% 15-1 shots and make a profit.  Just as it is possible for someone to hit 39% of 8/5 shots and make a profit.  

If someone hits 48% of their show bets that pay an average of $4.76, wouldn't that be about the same as making money betting 6/5 shots ($4.80) to win?
You take exception to the pure math and say that it can't be done, only because you know no one who is doing it.

I will agree with you that statistics only tell part of the story.  
"that's where your stats fail.."   If stats are based on facts, the stats don't fail, but the interpretation might.
"Would you agree that for every stat you trot out as a positive stat it is also followed by a negative stat?....I mean for every 10 horses that Pletcher sends out 7 lose....see positive and negative."  I get what you are saying here, but I wouldn't call it a negative, just a different interpretation of the facts.   

Like you, I am trying to get folks to think a bit, you included.
I appreciate this blog because it gets me to thinking too and re-examining some of my handicapping beliefs and techniques.

By the way, I agree with Steve!!

Penguin ymous More than 1 year ago
GBL asked some questions about the current meet statistics at Aqueduct.
"How genuine are these statistics?"
My answer is that they are absolutely genuine.  They are based on facts.  Those facts being how many starters, how many winners and how many horses in the money.

I think your question is more meant "how to interpret those statistics"?
If you use Formulator, you can get into the trainer patterns section and pretty much look up almost any question you might have about a trainer, like "how does a trainer do with 3 year olds in June, July , August at 1-1/16 mile at only NYRA tracks"?

Preconceived notions without facts can "give the wrong idea or the impression to the others" as you stated.  Take Linda Rice, the "Queen of the Turf sprints. "  Queen, implies a woman.  Now she might very well have the most winners or the highest win percentage of a woman in turf sprints.  I don't know.  What I remember is that she had one good year, I believe 2013 to earn her reputation.  My recollection is that she is adequate across the board.

I use the words recollect and remember because I have not purchased a form for the upcoming weekend, even though I purchased a few last weekend, DRF does not allow me to use the Formulator features that I paid for, after the race day is over.  I am unable to access the trainer patterns until I buy a new form.  Thank you DRF.  BANG!! BANG!! Once again.  Or else I would look up Linda Rices' statistics and break them down.

"So when statistics-driven folks refer to something like "Hey Rudy is a 28% trainer for the year... ", is it not sort of misleading?"  Of course it is.  Just ask any politician who can take a fact, twist it around and intentionally mislead.  It is incumbent on the user of statistics to find out what their basis is, how big the sample is, how those statistics were derived.  
For instance on the derivation, if Linda Rice had three good turf sprinters in 2013, and they all won 4 races, they could have all won 4/5 races and if she had 9 other turf sprinters who ran once and they didn't win and she would have had a winning percent of 50%.  If those numbers were true, would that make her a Queen or just fortunate.  Of course , those are made up numbers, but I am trying to make a point that interpretation of statistics is crucial.  

"Any statistical opinions?"  No, but I do have an opinion on most subjects.  Sometimes my opinion on a race is that my opinion is not a strong one, so my opinion is to pass that race.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Little Deb,

Although your post invited responses from "experts", I hope you don't mind this non-expert offering a long distance opinion.

I have said before that I don't always get the US nuances and this is a case in point.

If NYQUIST has had only one "sprint race" since October, surely it makes absolute sense to stretch out a little in early April..  Don't racing fans want to see the best  horses testing themselves against their rivals?

Of course you don't want to see those horses tear their guts out in a prep race, but any sensible Trainer / Jockey combination should be able to avoid this.  Even from a pragmatic betting point of view (I hold small Kentucky Derby futures vouchers on MOHAYMEN and NYQUIST) I want to see top class racing, not clever connections doing their utmost to avoid meaningful competition.

Apologies if I haven't understood your question.

Best Regards - Bernard Downes
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
well, well.. while I was away there is a new Formblog format .

...and my MKB GIFT BOX finally decided to show up on the worktab. Yeah!
3/20/16 Bel  4F 0:50. 94  breezing  dirt/fast
2/26/16 Bel  4F 0.50.20   breezing  dirt/fast

and my new MKB SMOKEY IMAGE   worked  3/26/16  SA  5F 0:59.60 Handily  dirt/fast
...looks like he is getting ready for those BIG points in the Santa Anita derby  :) 

SR Vegas