[intense_lead]Years ago on a fine Saratoga morning I was walking through the lot at Siro’s waiting for the beginning of the seminar then sponsored by DRF and hosted by the great Harvey Pack.[/intense_lead]
[intense_dropcap]C[/intense_dropcap]omputer carry bag slung across my shoulder, my many colored pens for marking up past performances stood out in the pocket designed to keep them separate and easily reachable. Midway across the lot, the legendary handicapper known to his friends as “Stew Beef” stopped me.
I knew who he was. I knew him to be a dirt sprint specialist. I knew him to be the principle poacher of the quinella pools because he felt the public put less thought into quinella bets because it was an automatic “box” and a separate betting pool. “Stew Beef” felt he would profit more because the money in the pool was from less skilled, lazier players. I very much appreciated his approach to the game.

“Beef” stopped me and made a simple but grand query: “Which color wins?” He was, of course, referring to the multicolored writing implements exposed from my carry bag. I’m certain I looked back at him with an expression of “say what!” until I realized the poignancy of his question. [intense_blockquote border_color=”#231273″ author=”Tom Amello”] Which color wins? I really had to think about that.[/intense_blockquote]
No matter how much I access handicapping information through the internet, I remain a paper and pen guy, marking my past performance to highlight or distinguish that which I deem useful from that which I deem less so. We all develop our approach and process. We choose from a variety of informational tools: speed figures, pace analysis, trainer stats, jockey/trainer combos, owner/trainer combos, and pedigree information to list a long few. We weigh the information; look to make decisions supported by it and relate that to the risk/reward of odds. All in all, “Stew Beef” had it right. We are all engaged in trying to figurate out “which color wins”?

What follows, in the context of “Stew Beef’s” big question and for your edification, is a passage from Richard Russo’s novel THE RISK POOL:
Betting the horses is not something I advocate, but there is a great deal to be said in defense of handicapping, and I have often thought, and occasionally argued with people who considered themselves educators, that courses in handicapping should be required, like composition and Western civilization, in our universities. For sheer complexity, there’s nothing like a horse race, excepting life itself, and keeping the myriad factors in balanced consideration is fine mental training, provided the student understands that even if he does this perfectly there is no guarantee of success. The scientific handicapper will never beat the horses, but he will learn to be alert for subtleties that escape the less trained eye. To weigh and evaluate a vast grid of information, much of it meaningless, and to arrive at sensible, if erroneous, conclusions, is a skill not to be sneezed at. Since my days in the Mohawk Grill, I have known many great handicappers, and not one has ever preceded an Ayatollah into battle or become a Born Again anything. The handicapper is a man of genuine faith and conviction: there will be another race in twenty minutes.

Hall of Fame – G2 $200K

August 2, 2019

(3-1) Casa Creed returned May 4 from a March layoff to a resounding defeat in the G2 American Turf at Churchill Downs. He showed tactical speed from post 7 but was done early. Trainer Bill Mott send him next to the G2 Penn Mile where, over yielding turf but had no resistance for winner and today’s rival, Moon Colony. Dropped again in class to an overnight stake, he showed willingness against a good field to earn a career figure while falling short a ½ length. Trainer Bill Mot has had five runners in this race over the last five years with two seconds and a third.
(7-2) Award Winner was sharp early this spring before earning a freshening from trainer Bryan Lynch. He returned to just miss a neck as the odds-on favorite in the G3 Kent at Delaware Park. This colt is blessed with tactical speed. The pedigree is solid and, after two close efforts at 9 furlongs, the cut back to 8f should be to his advantage.
(7-2) Moon Colony will cut back from 10 furlongs after stopping badly in the G1 Belmont Invitational. He and favored Casa Creed took turn defeating each other in their previous two efforts. It was unusual to see this runner on the lead last out. Look for a return to rating tactics on the cutback.
(9-1) English Bee exits that same G1 Belmont Derby where he delivered a no factor non-effort. The colt’s prior efforts have come versus lesser and show him to be a late runner. Graham Motion is a favorite trainer, the colt has upside and Javier Casellano is enlisted to ride.
(6-1) Global Access was competitive over turf at Tamp Bay downs this winter, then showed versatility in two efforts over synthetic at Woodbine. Although he lacks a win at today’s distance, he bring sharp form has tactical speed to the fray

Test Stakes – G1 $500k

August 3, 2019

(2-1) Bellafina will cut back to this 7 furlong distance after a win in the G2 Santa Anita Oaks at 8.5 furlongs and a near career poor effort in the G1 Kentucky Oaks. This filly is a G1 winner at the distance as a juvenile and G2 winner in her return race as a sophomore. Trainer Simon Callaghan wins 41% with runners making the switch from route to sprint and 57% (7-4-1-1) cutting back to 7 panels. Bellafina has speed to lead or press early and run on. She does, however, sport the pattern of and “in and outer”, running good races followed by less good races followed by good one, etc.. She appears to be sitting on another good one.
(5-2) Covfefe, according to TimeformUS Pace Projector, has earned the fastest early pace rating in this field of 130. She has not been outrun to the lead from the break in 4 of her 5 career starts. She enters off a non-winning effort in an overnight stake at Pimlico and tries a new distance. The big Beyer figure followed by an “off” effort leaps off the page. Has she had enough time between races to battle with (1) Serengeti Princess, put her away and hold off the closers?
(3-1) Royal Charlotte crushed rivals at 6.5 furlongs in the G3 Victory Ride at Belmont on July 5. She enters undefeated in four starts and tries this 7 furlong distance for the first time. She is on a forward cycle of steady improvement, pairing up or earning higher speed figures in each start. She appears capable of earning the “new top” figure she will need to contend, and her stalking style should help her. Trainer Brown is 36-9-3-1-3 in graded stakes a & furlongs, 14-3-1-3 at Saratoga, and 4-1-0-0 in the Test Stakes
(7-2) Serengeti Princess has proven herself to be a one-dimensional, need-the-lead to win, front runner. Her TimeformUS pace figure of 116 suggest she might be outrun to the lead by (3) Covfefe. She did stalk when on debut in a 5.5 furlongs sprint. If unable to outrace Covfefe to the lead, she may be compromised chasing. She did rate when on debut versus maiden special weight; she might need to apply that same tactic today.
(12-1) Trenchtown Cat ships north after delivering a solid effort in the G2 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park. A shipper from the Princess Rooney run over the deep, tiring main track at Calder was nearly always a contender shipping in to test NYRA runners. Since Calder closed, Gulfstream shippers have done less well. This trainer has started one runner on the NYRA circuit, without success. Winner of her last, Stormy Embrace is 9 x sprint winner and 7f specialist. Reunites with Irad Ortiz, Jr.

The Whitney Stakes – G1 $1million

August 3, 2019

(7-5) Mckinzie (11-6-4-0) has done little wrong outside the debacle in the 2018 Breeders Cup Classic. He earned a win and place in only tries at today’s distance. He has faced G1 or G2 company since March of 2018. He brings tactical speed and stamina to sustain a stalking strategy and perhaps kick on over what is not his best distance Trainer Baffert wins 31% shipping for graded stakes, and is 8-4-3-0 shipping to Saratoga with top jockey Mike Smith.
(3=1) Thunder Snow has done everything expected of him, less winning the Kentucky Derby. He should relish getting back to a2-turn route after chasing the very good Mitole in the Metropolitan. His 7 furlong work for this was sensational reeling in his workmate with consummate ease. Distance cutting back from 10 to 9 furlongs should suit.
(3-1) Preservationist had it his own way in the G2 Suburban, crushing a field of 11 at Belmont Park, defeating the well regarded Catholic Boy. This is a tougher bunch, although he should sit a perfect trip galloping outside rivals through the early part of the race. His last earned figure is the op fig in the field and earned in New York.
(6-1) Vinno Rosso has always been an “ouchy” horse with hoof issues. He is dead solid and fit on most recent performance. That said, his recent form is good, if not sharp, and on his absolute best he might be able to contend. The narrow loss in the 2018 Jim Dandy bodes well for another good performance. But it’s all or nothing as his career record illustrates: 12-5-0-2.