The above caricature of a race tracker has been a representation of my alter ego for many years. A former student drew it for me some twenty-five years or so ago. I love everything about the jacketed DRF-holding, sandwich-eating, computer-checking figure you might have encountered on any bench or picnic table at Saratoga Race Course. He is, of course, Howie Pixum…and everybody, even horses in the paddock, wants to know Howie Pixum.

Enough has been said and written about this uniquely and historical race meeting… I will not belabor the point. As we head into it, however, I remain convinced that analysis of a race, any race, must begin with the morning line favorites. Of course, many handicappers start their process in advance of morning line. Others totally dismiss the line, either making their own or preferring to avoid letting the line influence their notion of contention. But…

The morning line begins what evolves into the “live odds” identification of the type of race the betting public faces. Just think of the number of races in any season where a Chad Brown turf runner, regardless of class or distance, was the predicted line favorite in a race at short odds. The line indicated the race might be a one-horse race or, if the 2nd line favorite was also short odds, a two-horse race. The idea of race type should inform one’s approach to the race.

“Howda ya pick’em?” and “Who da ya like?” These are the quintessential personal and “mutual” aspects of most discussions of Thoroughbreds about to race. Once we “Pixum”, it’s off to the pari-mutuel window or on-line device to wager our individual opinions into the betting pools…either with or against the betting crowd.

Luck always. Be well. Stay safe and most informed about our game with



July 18, 2020

Stakes Preview

Race 3 Hall of Fame – G2

7 {1-1} In what on paper appears to be a two-horse race, favorite Decorated Invader is West Point Thoroughbreds’ current stable star. This colt should have won on debut here at Saratoga in 2019 but came up a bit short after a wide trip. Since then, he is undefeated except for a lost in the G1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf. He has done little wrong, demonstrating ability to gain tactical position and deliver a strong finishing kick. The odds are short, but for lacking a win at today’s distance, a distance he certainly is bred to handle, it is difficult to knock this deserving favorite.

5 (5-2) Gufo and Decorated Invader are stablemates trained by Christophe Clemente. Gufo rides a 4-race win streak including a win in the G3 Kent at Delaware Park. This runner breaks at the rear of the field, gallops along, then unleashes a strong late finish. (3) Get Smokin is the clear speed in a field of stalker/closers. Pace has not foiled Gufo in the past; pace should not foil him this afternoon. In two wins at today’s 9f distance, Gufo has blitzed the final eighth in 11.34 & 11.46. He has (7) Decorated Invader to catch.

1 (7-2) Domestic Spending will get a class test today. This Chad Brown runner is 2/2 over turf at 8 furlongs with narrow wins as a heavy favorite. He has 2-turn experience having won debut at Tampa Bay Downs. The pedigree suggests he is capable of handling 9-furlongs. Domestic Spending should get first run on the speed but can he rebuff both Decorated Emperor and Gufo late? He will be the clear 3rd choice and the longest price of his short career.

2 (8-1) Moon Over Miami looks very much like the top two in running style but lacked any effort when defeated by both (7) Decorated Invader & (3) Get Smokin. In Florida.

3 (10-1) Get Smokin is the lone speed and is always dangerous in a relatively paceless affair. But class laughs at pace and the top two have class.



Race 10 CCA – G1 $350k

1 (9-5) Tonalist’s Shape will break from the rail while adding blinkers for the first time in her 8-race career. Perhaps the connections are looking for a sharper move from the gate, but it is an odd change for a runner with an 7-6-0-0 racing record. She will be pushed early by Irad but others in here have gate and tactical speed as well. The other question is the 9-furlongs at this short price.

6 (2-1) Paris Lights exploded when sent over a distance of ground, is bred to relish this trip, has speed and tactical speed and is a January foal. The maturity of age might be a subtle edge. While (1) Tonalist’s Shape has been facing perhaps better, Paris Lights most assuredly has upside potential. Hall of Famer Mott knows has given her time to develop; he rarely spots his stock frivolously.

5 (4-1) Crystal Ball hails from currently suspended trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert runners rarely fail to fire on the ship east, and many are speed horses that just take the field as far as they can. He last won this race with tactical runner Abel Tasman. Look for this runner early. Castellano gets the mount, as Mike Smith may not travel from his California base to ride in NY.

3 (5-1) Altaf will certainly be tested moving from her Maiden Special Weight victory to this G1 stake. Chad Brown does not waste races and must feel she has a chance if the main track plays fair. She has run twice as a deep, deep closer which is usually against the grain of the main. As the lone loser, she might make some noise if the pace is contested.

6 (6-1) Antoinette has faced stiffer competition than stablemate (6) Paris Lights. She is twice Graded Stakes placed without threatening in either heat.  She has speed and tactical speed and might press the pace while the other Mott rates some to run on late. My father would exclaim, “She’s due!” Perhaps.