10/07/2009 12:00AM

Big-name invaders create value plays

Email

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The presence of star athletes sells tickets to ball games, as fans flock to see these elite players.

Star jockeys sell tickets, too, though more so at the mutual windows than at the gate. When there is a premier race at a smaller track and a big-name, out-of-town jockey comes into ride, the odds on the horse typically plummets and the horse starts as an underlaid contender.

These horses win races, but short odds typically make them less-than-rewarding wagers in the long run.

I have found the presence of these big-name riders and the mutual attention they entice often creates betting opportunities on other runners, and this weekend in particular, with stakes across the country, there should chances for bettors to capitalize on betting against these horses with the high-profile jocks aboard.

One such opportunity exists in the $500,000, Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup Saturday - a race that drew California invader Awesome Gem, with California rider David Flores in for the mount. Admittedly, Flores is having a quiet year by his standards, but he has won enough big races over his career that horseplayers will likely zero in on Awesome Gem more so than they would if he were ridden by a Hawthorne-based rider.

In contrast, I'm hopeful the public will underestimate the chances of Marty Wolfson-trained Calder shipper You and I Forever, who has Jesus Castanon up.

As even jockeys will tell you, it is the horse who usually wins the race. And You and I Forever is a good horse, and certainly the value of the Hawthorne Gold Cup at 12-1 on the morning line.

Personally I think that line is off - this colt is much more likely to be 6-1 or 8-1. Yet even at those prices, he would warrant respect.

You and I Forever is a 4-year-old who is coming around and looks to be sitting on a breakout race after a runner-up finish in the Iselin, a race contested in the slop.P

Indiana Derby

Similarly, I see the potential for an overlaid winner in the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park on Saturday - with Victor Espinoza and Bob Baffert, the jockey and trainer, respectively, of Misremembered.

Their names seem to jump out of the past performances and will likely result in Misremembered going off as the favorite, bet down from his 9-2 morning line price.

Winner of the Grade 2 Swaps before finishing 10th in the Pacific Classic, he could win, but he's not a lock.

My value-priced alternative is Flat Bold, who is 5-1 on the line but likely to drift much higher following a 15-length thumping over sloppy ground when he was seventh in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga.

Corey Lanerie, a Kentucky-based rider, has the mount for New York-based trainer Tom Albertrani.

Lanerie is a skilled, hard-working rider, but not a jockey who is going to get bet like a Kentucky Derby-winning rider like Espinoza.

Two starts ago, Flat Bold ran a flat-out good race, finishing a close fourth behind Kensei in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Aug. 1.

Jockey Club Gold Cup

So where are most of the big-name riders that could be on You and I Forever and Flat Bold in the Hawthorne Gold Cup and Indiana Derby, respectively? At Belmont Park - where there are five Grade 1 races Saturday.

Quality Road, third as the favorite in the Travers, is my choice to rebound in the big race of the day, the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Although not reflected in his running line for the Travers - which notes only that he had a "rail trip, weakened" - I felt he had a difficult trip given how he wants to run. Off awkwardly, he was shuffled back a bit and found himself eating dirt on the inside behind horses - not the path of success for a horse whose strength is his fast, sustained speed.

In watching the race as the field hit the far turn, I thought he would throw in the towel and finish unplaced. But Quality Road showed something in defeat that day that you might not have guessed from his blowout earlier wins.

This horse won't quit.

And now, well drawn on the outside in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he can settle in a comfortable rhythm by setting or pressing the pace. That spells trouble for his opponents.