People You Meet ‘Long the Way

Coffee is steaming on the kitchen table. Birds are fighting over the seeds on the post outside, and the sun is starting to burn off the morning fog. The prefect way to start your morning. I look at results, stories and promising runners. The usual goings on of the morning turns into a Zen-like moment of quiet. – I used to get up gobble down something full of sugar and turn on the tube. I would try and read, but there are just so many things you can do at one time. This took me back to conversations long ago. Where my hair was thick and brown and my love affair with the sport of kings was just beginning.

Paul was a hard-core handicapper. Maybe that sounds a bit tough and gives you the vision of a man who bet every race offered. Far from the truth, as he would arrive late at the track and catch the last four races on the card. He lived in the same small town of Ludlow; as in most small towns he knew my entire family. Paul worked as an auditor in Cincinnati, and did some bookmaking on the side. The kind of low key bookie that flew under the radar except for the guys who called him for action. – He was known as “The Fox” by his friends and longtime acquaintances, and was a father and husband from our little town. – He used to see me at the track. Fellas like us would arrive after they stop charging for parking and the admission gates were open. – Funny thing about gamblers as they don’t mind betting $10 on a race, but try and peel that $2 out of pocket for the admission turnstiles and they would’ve rather gone home. – Fox used to see me betting. I would have a nice winner or three from the four races and we would talk about who we had after the race. Gamblers are a cagey sort and tipping your hand prior to the race was off limits. – I had just scored a very nice hit with $20 to win and place on a horse who paid $22. That was $220 on the win end alone and time has faded the place price. – After watching me go through a bad streak going 0 for 4 two nights in a row, he offered some sage like advice that comes from people who’ve felt the same. – ” Eddie, you like playing the horses and there is nothing wrong with that. You make good money, but when you bet $40 a race and lose, it won’t be long until you’ll be making less trips. Nothing wrong with coming every night for a single young man, but you may want to drop your bet amounts.” – Simple words from a far from simple man. His words of wisdom helped me gauge my betting plan. Thanks, Fox. I still use it today when I’m making wagers. When a 19-year-old young man learned to throttle back his wagers to stay alive, this was a sign that the learning process was growing along with a lifetime gambling education.

Dad has always played speed. Myself, I loved the closer. Two handicappers with completely separate styles. – The shorter the race the better according to my Dad. – He wouldn’t play the top-notch riders, and would find the low percentage jockeys looking for the big score. – For me the closer offered a plan to make up ground even with a compromised beginning. His speed runners would jump to the front and in his own words give him his money’s worth. He loved to use the phrase ” Catch me if you can.” – Words that may have hearkened from days as an all-star athlete. The kind of kid who would play from sun up to sundown. He honed his skills by playing with much older kids, and the younger player would soon become better than the older kids. – Catch me if you can were his words in action. Not only did it describe the small wager, but a declaration of his life. – I learned to keep an open mind from this style, and I keep an eye on the long-shot runner with the small percentage rider. When I see one jump to the front it takes me back to the guy who would run down the stretch chasing the horses. – It was as much about racing as it was his life. – “Catch me if you can.”

My Grandpa was a small-time bettor who always looked for a long-shot. If he took $25 to the races, he would’ve $18 bet in the Daily-Double. There were not as many exotic bets back then, and the DD was a staple of the gambler. – He met my Grandmother at the races at old Latonia Race Course. – There were some big horses who ran there over the years: Black Gold, Seabiscuit, and a long-shot named Wishing Ring who on June 17, 1912 paid a record breaking payoff to this day of $1,185.50 for a $2 win bet. They just picked out their horses and bet their two dollars on it. – He married my grandmother in the Carroll County courthouse on the way to the Kentucky Derby in 1938. The winner was Lawrin with Eddie Arcaro in the irons. I still have the program from that happy day in my racing cabinet. It’s the center piece, and when the cabinet is lit is shows the program in pristine order.  – He never employed complex betting strategies and was just a fan of the action.  – His words of wisdom were more than just having lunch. – “If you’re hungry at the track, go ahead and get yourself a hot dog.” – This was his way of putting things in perspective. If you had money to bet, don’t walk around hankering for a bite to eat. This was his simple logic of doing the right thing and it must have been hard. He loved to bet the big prices and also had a penchant for eating. Sometimes the truth lays just behind the words. – It’s all about priorities.

Bankroll Builders

The preps are in the books and the trail points to Louisville. You’ll want to keep up-to-speed on how the last workouts are going, and who may encounter a last minute problem. It happens every year as someone defects; is under-the-weather, or an injury is discovered. This year has many handicappers scratching their heads, and not many have a single runner to play. This may be the year where we get a little something extra if we’re lucky enough to cash. – Here are some ideas to keep in mind when you dig in and handicap.


Gang up on them

We hear about syndicates where people pool their money and take a shot. I’m a big believer in the group effort, and this year looks like a good idea to spread out a bit. Before you put your money in the hat, be sure to designate a team of at least two, no more than three handicappers to design the wager for the group. Now, before you get your self in a tussle. It makes good sense as it’s impossible to please everyone with the wager. – Designate the handicappers, pool the money, and jump on the wagon for the group win. – If it were up to me, I would want two members of the group making the wager. Let them do the work and don’t try to sway anyone. – You can always make a few smaller bets on your own and the big ticket wager has a bigger reach to nail down some big numbers.


In the Money

Toss any runners who did not finish in the top three in a Grade 1 or 2 event. This has always helped me downsize some runners and if you have to have them in they always make a nice boxcar price to finish your trifecta or super.


Three Weeks

Pay close attention to runners who made their last prep 21 days prior to the Derby. This has happened 16 times since 1929. – It may be impossible to find that perfect 21 day space, and use your best intuition with the number of days. Trainers always have a plan for the Derby trail and they want their runners peeking for the big day.


Unlucky Posts

Many trainers cry themselves to sleep if they draw the rail. Tell that to Ferdinand with the late Bill Shoemaker as they came right up the fence. The rail is tough as runners have to break and get into position as the track veers a bit inward and then takes a dog leg right. – Once upon a time many would worry about the auxiliary gate posts. They have won 5 of the last 9 editions. – Number 17 is the tough luck post as it has never produced a Kentucky Derby winner. – Records are meant to be broken and bad luck streaks don’t last forever.


Exacta Time

If you don’t like the bet think again. The average payoff is $822.26, the highest was $9,814.80 in 2005, and the low was $31.00 in 1997. – You better believe I’ll have an exacta brewing for this day !


California Dreaming

The left coast runners have a strong presence in the Kentucky Derby. They account for 4 of the last 5 runnings and look to have a couple tough guys this year.


Betting the Derby is one of the toughest events of the year. There are no connections not giving their “A” effort. The prestige of winning makes all of the money, early mornings and worries worth the trouble for all involved. – I would start my homework by following last works, shipping to Churchill , and any unplanned illness that may crop up. There are so many that have the credentials, and this may be the toughest I have seen in years. – You are in the right place and should look no farther. Winning Ponies always comes with the heat day-in-day-out. On the marquee days the E-Z Win Forms rise to the occasion. Winning Ponies is tried and true and the numbers speak for themselves. You need the proper tools with any job and having your E-Z Win Forms in hand gives you a distinct edge. They have $2,805,862 in exotic payouts to date. – At the time of this entry there are 15 days to the Derby. You have plenty of time and go back and watch replays right here on the Winning Ponies site for both the Oaks and Derby. You can see the point standings and begin the process. You’ll want to spend some time before getting in the ring for the biggest day of wagering. The pools will be swelled and the payoffs can be sweet. – Winning Ponies is your one-stop-shop for all of your Oaks / Derby needs. You’ll have free selections to build your bankroll, blogs about the sport of kings, and the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show with John Engelhardt. You’ll hear from the biggest names in the sport and be in the know. What more could a handicapper want ? – Start by taking a look at the FREE replays on the site, and put the finishing touches on one of the biggest weekends in racing. - Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies ! 


Derby Trail – 4/17/17

The preps are in the books, and the weeks ahead will be like waiting for Santa for horse players. It seems like yesterday when we began this long road and every year the process begins the same. You have to love this time of year as a racing fan and now comes the best part of making sense of all the preps leading up. You’ll watch replays, read charts, pay attention to barn notes and listen for that last minute defection of one of the marquee names. It always happens and it is never easy. – With only 19 days until the most exciting two minutes in sports there are a few things in addition to the above process you should follow. – Winning Ponies is the best place you can start. There is the one-of-a-kind E-Z Win Forms which show you how the race will take shape. They have a change of weather tab if Mother Nature gets ugly and you’ll receive a BRAND NEW set of updated E-Z Win Forms at NO CHARGE ! – Winning Ponies doesn’t tell you to bet this and watch. We like to show you how the runners in the race measure up against each other. There are the color coded easy-to-read tier levels which can be used at first glance. Rare in the world of handicapping data do you have a source where it can be used by new and seasoned players alike. – There are handy icons which alert you to late works, dropping in class, moving up in class, and monster workouts to name a few. The past performances offer every single item under the sun to allow you to see how the rider and trainer are doing at the meet and percentages on the year.





Race #9 – The G-3 Lexington Stakes – 1 1/16

Ten three year olds went to post to do battle in the Lexington Stakes. The morning line favorite was #10 West Coast at (3-1).


West Coast did everything correct shipping in from California looking to give Bob Baffert a victory. The post position looked to be no problem rounding the turn and going into the short stretch of the 1 1/16 distance looked to play into his hands. – No Dozing for Arnaud Delacour had an eventful trip waiting for room and tipped off the rail at the top of the lane and came motoring with a strong late run. – The late-prize goes to Senior Investment who exited the G-2 Louisiana Derby fighting it out with stretch running Girvin. Channing Hill fit this Kenny McPeek colt like a glove and got up in the shadow of the wire to get his picture taken.



Oaklawn Park



Race #11 – The 81st. G-1 Arkansas Derby – 1 1/8


A full field of 12 went to the starting gate and the morning line favorite was Classic Empire at (8-5). – The race was the last chance for getting a shot at coveted Derby points of 100 / win, 40 for 2nd, 20 for 3rd, and 10 points for fourth.


Classic Empire steadied at the start and received a patient ride from Julien Leparoux. The son of Pioneer of the Nile was 5/6 ITM lifetime, and faced some of the tough guys along the way. Toss out the G-1 Hopeful at Saratoga where he wheeled and lost the rider and his resume is impressive. He was the best on this day and only time will from here. – Conquest Mo Money showed the way and had some solid fractions on the board. This son of Uncle Mo had been racing solely at Sunland and this was a big move going forward for races later in the year. - Lookin at Lee is the “Silky Sullivan” of the field, and comes rolling from the back of the pack like gangbusters. “Lee” is a son of Lookin at Lucky and is the kind of runner who would need the perfect pace implosion to score. He’s exciting for sure and no matter where he runs he tries to give the players plenty to root for.


Winning Ponies is ready and waiting. – We offer blogs, free selections, stories, updates and the Winning Ponies Internet Show bringing you some of the best names talking racing. Add this in with the easy-to-use E-Z Win Forms and you have your complete one-stop-shop. We want you to be ready for the big score and for the next 19 days be sure to start your day by checking in with Winning Ponies. – The countdown has begun and with only 19 days to the first Saturday in May, you’ll want to stay close as we’ll be bringing you everything to have you ready. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies ! 



Winning Ponies – Free Selections – Saturday – 4/15/17

One of the last opportunities to make an appointment for the Derby starting gate happens Saturday afternoon. Hard to believe as it seems we just started. – That’s just fine as horse players will be locked and loaded for some super racing just ahead. Be sure to enjoy the weekend as there is plenty of great racing on the docket. - Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Oaklawn Park



Race #7 – The G-3 Count Fleet – 6f – 4:57 pm EST

#8 – Whitmore = Ricardo Santana in the saddle for Ron Moquett and this son of Pleasantly Perfect is shooting for a perfect 4/4 after last year’s Kentucky Derby. He’s a horse-for-the-course going 6/6 ITM and faced some very tough runners last year. – Use him with #9 – Apprehender and #6 – Holy Boss. 


Race #8 – The Northern Spur – 1 1/16 – 5:33 pm EST

#6 – Jerrid - Ricardo Santana in the driver’s seat for Scott Young, and they were a beaten favorite last out and seem to take to the track pretty well. They have the right man in the irons and he brings his “A” game every time.


Race #9 – The G-2 Oaklawn Handicap – 1 1/8 -6:09 pm EST

#3 – Midnight Storm = Mike Smith has the call for Phil D’Amato and this speedy son of Pioneer of the Nile looks the one to beat and at (1-2) on the morning line the public will be right there with you. He was just beat in the 1 1/4 Santa Anita handicap and the cut back in distance and a little class relief should have Smith dictating the pace and tough to beat. – Use him over = #4 – Madefromlucky, and #1 – Texas Chrome. 


Race #11 – The G-1 Arkansas Derby – 1 1/8 – 7:18 pm EST

#3 – Silver Dust = At (20-1) this son of Tapit gets first time blinkers and has been knocking on the door in the Rebel and Southwest. -#9 – Untrapped (6-1) = Mike Smith has the call and he wanted to wait to see how Untrapped did before announcing his Derby mount. Trainer Joe Sharp for Girvin made the announcement that Smith would take his runner and Smith agreed to be the nice guy. Keep your eyes peeled as Smith will want to give a good showing drawing a strong rider to have interest in the colt by Trappe Shot. – #12 – Malagacy (2-1) = Javier Castellano in the irons for Todd Pletcher and the son of Shackleford puts his undefeated 3/3 record on the line but will have to overcome the outside post. He’s been working well at Palm Meadows and notched an impressive victory in the (G-2) Rebel. – If you’re gonna bet ‘em, you gotta box ‘em !






Race #7 – The G-3 – Ben Ali – 1 1/8 – 4:24 pm EST

#2 – Eagle (5-2) = The horse-for-the-course has the services of Robby Albarado and this son of Candy Ride is a perfect 3/3 over the Keeneland oval and won the Ben Ali last year. He is third off the layoff and looked to have been pointing to the this race since the beginning of 2017.


Race  #8 – The Giant’s Causeway – 5 1/2f on the turf – 4:57 pm EST

#12 – Miss Katie May (12-1) = Jose Ortiz in the saddle for Graham Motion, and they are exiting the (G-3) Ken Maddy at Santa Anita and takes a drop in class and cuts back in distance. Ortiz is a very talented turf rider winning (26%) and Motion knows how to bring them ready with a layoff runner of 5 months. This daughter of Dark Angel should stalk in the second flight and make her presence felt at the top of the lane. – Use with – #7 Lady Aurelia and #10 – Pretty Perfection.


Race #9 – The G-3 Lexington Stakes -1 1/16 – 5:34 pm EST

#4 – No Dozing(4-1) = Joel Rosario in the irons for Arnaud Delacour and this son if Union Rags has faced some of the best runners of the year and by looks of the field they are not going to post in here. – He’s been well backed and knocking on the door against better. Delacour is a much better trainer than his Keeneland record reflects. - #3 – Senior Investment (5-1) = Channing Hill in the saddle and exits the (G-2) Louisiana Derby. Kenny McPeek is known for having an ace up his sleeve. – #2 – Souper Tapit (10-1). 


Tougher the Race the Better the Player

I know this sounds like complete bunk, but if you give it a good think you’ll find some truth. For me, when I have a six horse field in a nice allowance race it probably looks like shooting fish in a barrel. But seldom is the case. When I am faced with a daunting card filled with many players who have a shot. I find myself digging in deeper to get to find the best value runner.

While you’re still with me let me explain why. – There is a fallacy that a smaller field is easier. Now there are certain days this holds true, but if you’re in love with a payoff more than $3.80 you may want to seek the larger fields. – Many moons ago now defunct Beulah Park use to have $1 million dollar Mondays. Yes, you heard it correct. The little track outside of Columbus use to handle a million dollars or more on a cheap claiming card. – Why you ask ? – The bigger the field size, the tougher the capping, and the better the payoff. Hard to believe this ever took place, and even harder they could do it week-in-and-week out. The Beulah Twins Katie and Jenna were in full-swing and the handle was brimming. Many thanks to Mike Weiss who oversaw everything at the “Saratoga of the Mid-West” and they did it with bottom level claimers. 

Boutique meets are hard as nails to play. We love them because they are filled with top-quality runners for huge purses. – Keeneland is the best example as I’m not much of a fair circuit kind of player. Maybe I should as I’ve watched many fellow bettors nail them daily. But I digress. – You’ll want to do your homework coming into the 15 day meet. There is a bevy of info on the homepage under the racing tab. The connections, the riders, who does well with who. Many trainers target this meet in Lexington for more than the burgoo. – Some are on their way to Churchill shortly after and many look for a win at the prestigious meet. Here are a few names who fit the latter: Rusty Arnold, Graham Motion, Christophe Clement, Bill Mott, Ken McPeek, and Shug McGaughey. Be on the lookout for shippers from Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, and the occasional horse from New York. – If they loved the turf last meet, they’ll love it this meet as it’s one of the best in the nation if not the world. – The bigger fields offer up great value and it may take a little more time watching some replays, barn reports, and keeping daily tabs on the action.

The upcoming meet at Belterra Park may hold some good value. There has been a purse increase, and the stalls have been sought after for a packed house on the backside. Trainers report there may be capacity horses on the backside with 1,000 horses stabled on the grounds. Compared to last year with a little over 400, that translates to bigger fields and some great opportunities. I’ve been hearing for quite awhile that some pretty good riders are going to stay or at least ride the majority of time at the track. – It is hard to draw shippers to make the trek all the time, as the competition goes tooth and nail to battle for horses. – Keep an eye peeled as the meet is slated to open on 4/28/17 with a 1:20 post time Thursday – Sunday.

So what about the Derby picture ? – It’s as cloudy as coffee, and it’s not going to get much better. That my friends translates to a bumper payday if you’re willing to put in the time. Many just want  short fields and hopefully use it as free spot in multi-race gimmicks. – You may have to go back and watch replays and follow trainer reports. – For me this looks like a great opportunity for a pick-four which often holds a sweet guarantee. You are going to have to handicap a little in reverse hoping to catch a small number of horses used in one or two races and spread like crazy in the Derby. – Take a 3 X 3 X 5 X 8 ticket = $180 for a 50-cent ticket. Now, that may be above your bankroll limits and you’ll have to fine tune along the way to make it more palatable. The bigger the field the better the reward. It’s worth the swing, and you’ll thank yourself when you take down the prize.

Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms takes the guesswork out of the handicapping game. It allows you to spend more time using the color coded tier level runners to your bankroll level. Their system does not tell you bet the #2 and go to the windows. The proven E-Z Win system is a powerhouse tool that allows you to see how the race will take shape. Funniest thing. They come out loaded for bear for the marquee race days. Oh, they are solid day-in-day-out, but for the big days they come looking for the big score. They have over $2,314,896 in exotic payouts to date. How many sites can say the same ? – Winning Ponies is real-time, up-to-the-minute info which can be the difference of betting the races and winning. – It is the most user-friendly wagering info I have run across in my travels. - I have worked for Turfway, River Downs, Keeneland, and Belterra Park. I have NEVER seen a site that is easy to use for every level, and offers something for the newbie to the seasoned professional. – You’re already here, take a look. – Winning Ponies posts results as soon as the race is official and they show you how the tier level selections are doing. – If you decide to play mid-way through the card you are only charged for the races remaining. Many others have the same price for one race or ten. – Get in the game because you can’t win it unless you get in it. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !

Derby Trail – 4/10/17

The picture of the Derby trail looks like the black and white TV we had in our room. But at least we could see the action if my brother held the antenna on one leg facing west. – To say the run to Louisville is murky would be a nice way of saying you can see a thing. After the complaining subsides and the trail continues the payoffs could be blockbuster. With 26 days and counting, I would advise you to start seeking a large odds possibility. You are in the right place as Winning Ponies is always on task for marquee events and have $2,295,520 in exotic payouts to date. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !



The Toyota Bluegrass Stakes – 1 1/8

A field of seven went to post with the undefeated McCraken coming back off a 56 day layoff. This was a race supposed to come up the toughest of the season, and after the race went official it lived up to the billing making the Derby picture tougher to see.

McCracken showed glimpses of his old self and with the pre-race notes and interviews I was not sold the connections needed to see a run off win. As long as a solid effort was shown I think they would evaluate from there and try and make up for lost time. Jo Boys Echo bobbled and bumped at the start and ran a dismal 4th not showing much. This far down the road the winners in the Derby have the ability to shake-off bad trips. – Tapwrit looked to have peeked in the Tampa Bay Derby and a clunker did not surprise. Wild Shot looked like a player who could jump up and run a big just folded like a deck of cards as did It’s Your Nickle who should have run in the Spiral Stakes over the poly. – When the maiden (Irap) from Sunland jumped up to shock the crowd. I tossed this race. Maybe that will come back and bite me but you can’t bet them all.



The Wood Memorial – 1 1/8

A field of eight assembled in New York and lightly raced Battalion Runner led the field as the morning line chalk.


After watching this race there are plenty of “toss-out runners” and the race showcased the lightly raced Battalion Runner who ran a perfect effort and had to settle for 2nd money. He showed the way and dictated the pace going 23.2 / 47.1 / 1 11.4. – John Velasquez was aboard for his first start in two months. – The New Jersey-bred Irish War Cry came back in fine fashion. If you tossed the clunker in the FOY, you saw an undefeated colt by Curlin get better with time.


Santa Anita

Santa Anita Derby – 1 1/8

The gates were packed with 13 three-year-olds going to post. This was supposed to be the most wide-open prep with the luke-warm (7-2) morning line favorite Iliad breaking from post #9.

It looked like a pretty quick pace with three doing battle with fractions of 22.3 / 46.2 / and 1 10.4. - Battle of Midway did his thing on the front end giving a good account of himself battling with Royal Mo breaking from the #13 post. They battled it out tooth and nail and were tracked in fifth along the rail by the fast closing Gormley who had a clunker in the (G-2) San Felipe folding down the lane. Gormley showed another dimension settling off the pace and getting busy down the lane to score under Victor Espinoza. – The troubled trip runner was Reach the World under the guided hand of Mike Smith who was forced to steady at the 7/8th’s pole and was six wide. I think we’ll see this son of Tapit down the road.

I Stopped Gambling and Started Betting

If they sound alike and have the same feel most of the time they could be. But truth be told they couldn’t be further apart. Gambling for me creates an image where someone is making a drop of coins in any slot machine, the scratch-off ticket from behind the counter or a keno ticket filled out with a small pencil. For many years I thought the same of horse racing when i would see players run up and make a wager with 30 seconds to post at What-Ever Downs. Gambling always gave me a mental image of quick-draw wagers with little to no thought. I doubt there was any mention of money management because it looked like a venture of rapid-fire action.

I’m not about to sit here and say I’ve never pulled this trigger. How would you think I’d know about this practice ? – Yep, guilty as charged and it started many moons ago. I can remember the first was getting to scratch off $1 tickets with my dad. The lottery had just come into play in Ohio and we ventured over to get some tickets. It was rapid fire and quick, mindless wishing at it’s best. – Then came the jog into the track to bet the chalk in the small field or the middle odds selection looking for that $12 payout. – Your favorite color horse, number, or rider aboard. No diving into the program, just pick and pray. – At some time most of us have done this and many would not like to be named. – That is just fine. For the gambler, punter, or player. There has always been a journey of sorts. You start small and graduate to bigger plays. The more invested, the higher level of action junkie excitement.

For my pals at the track or anyone who knows me has heard the old batting average number. – If you have two identical 280 hitters and take away 25 at bats for one. His average would be slightly better than the other hitter. – Think about it. Fewer trips to the batter’s box and fewer times for a strikeout, pop-up, or getting nailed at first on an infield worm burner. – Yeah, it holds some truth unless you’re Mickey Mantle or Pete Rose. But I digress…

I started taking it a bit more serious by taking home the Daily Racing Form and doing my homework the night before. Maybe a quick glance at the weather long before the times of having an iPhone or computer to use. – I would burn the midnight oil and have a ton of ink on the big dirty newspaper. I used to love the big paper and now it has been replaced by a smaller version that is tough to read unless you have eagle eyes. – That was the beginning of the process. You could bet dollars to donuts I had every race picked and maybe a few simulcast races if they were offered. -That being said how many times have you run the entire card ? – Maybe a couple times if you are lucky or maybe just once. Either way has the odds stacked against you.

Over the years I began to love the handicapping process. The reading and using video replays. Add them in with up-to-the-minute weather and scratches and your game is starting to evolve. – But still the hat goes deeper and the bevy of books that surround my desk came into play. - “How to be a Winning Horse Player, The Exotic Player, and May the Horse be With You.” – It was a must for every handicapper worth their salt to own a copy of “Betting on Myself.” – The process continues and your level of understanding grows. You start telling others you’re a horse player and not a mindless gambler. No wild cherry poker machines for you. You’re all about thinking it out and taking a swing. – Good start.

Over the years I have grown fond of making spot plays. – If there are 12 races on the day I like, it was filtered down to eight. Of the eight plays, I try and filter it down to four. From the four good plays I’ve found, two are going to be good swings. The other two are going to be average plays. – That is a glance at my day. I used to fire on every race going to post as younger player and over the years walking to the car early in the day. Things have to change if you expect any change in the outcome. – I could go on and on about what I like and what I think. But were all different and that’s what makes racing. Here are a few ideas before starting your day. They are not in stone, but keep them in your pocket before making that next impulse play.

* If you don’t bet the pick-six, don’t jump because you hear about a carryover. – Sucker bet, and when it’s a one ticket win payoff. It’s even more a sucker bet. – With the exception of a must payout situation.

* Think about ladder bets. – If you are an across the board player, example – $2 to win, $4 to place, and $8 to show. See how they double for the next rung ?

* Parlays are great fun. Find your wagering level, and start a place parlay. – If you start off with $20 to place and roll it over 5 times without adding any more money and just carryover your win money. – Here is a glimpse of what you will have if your horse pays $3 to place after five races = $20 to place race #1 = $30, $30 to place race #2 – $45, $45 to place race #3 – $67.50, $67 to place race #4 – $101.25, and $101 to place on race #5 – $151.88. – Not bad for a little fun at the races all for the low cost of $20. – Great for making some money and you’ll find that stress just melt away.

* Don’t bet to show in races less than 7-8 horses, and make sure your price is 12-1 or better.

* If you like five tracks, drop back and follow three. Of the three, really dig into two ovals. Of the two, find your home track. There is no way in Hades you can follow five tracks with accuracy. Get rid of the idea of more is better. Whittle down the number of tracks you follow and watch your profits rise. – If you feel the urge to follow more, stick to your three and find that data provider who does this as a profession. They save you time and you’ll use your handicapping hours deciding how you’ll make your bet. – You are already in the right place with Winning Ponies and they’ll make your day at the day windows a success.

* Handicap a race as if all is according to the data. I have a couple acquaintances who are jockey agents and they leave their own riders off a ticket. – Now most would salivate at this info, but the reality is watching your rider score at a boxcar price while you were all over the chalk. – Bet no tips. If they were real you wouldn’t have heard. Even if they come from friends and good sources. Over the winter I must have had 20 sure-fire locks. If two of them won, that would be a high percentage. And how many times can you payoff the house with a $3.40 mutuel ?

There is no hard and fast rule to handicapping the races. If there were, there would be a handful of people who would make millions and the rest of us would watch. – I am trying to get you to fine tune your process. There are only a couple of games where money management and knowing your strong points payoff. Black Jack, Poker, and Horse Racing. – I like to spend time deciding who I like and what price is acceptable. Then I use as much time deciding how I’m going to play the race. – There has to be a process if you are looking to take your game to the next level. Think back to the old days of betting without info and firing away for the action. That is a sure-fire way to find yourself out in the cold. Oh, you’ll have a couple of good winning days, but it is impossible to keep this “tap-dancing” routine in action and expect to win on a consistent basis. – Just think it over and get ready to fine tune your game as the spring and summer ovals are in full effect. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Derby Trail – 4/3/17

Once the beginning of April comes around many are thinking of baseball, breaking out the fishing rods and losing the last ten pounds for swim pool season. For me, the start of April is a sprint to the wire for the first Saturday in May. – There is the boutique meet of Keeneland, the Belterra meet is weeks from opening day and the Kentucky Derby is in full sight. – This past weekend offered up two important preps and still the picture is not in focus. That only means one thing to this handicapper. – Start looking for a price.


Gulfstream Park


There were 10 three-year-olds lining up to battle for coveted Derby points and the $1 million purse. Gunnevera was the morning line favorite and sent off the odds-on chalk. The 11 post wasn’t too attractive but from what we watched of the “Gun” everything still looked good. All had made their last start in Florida and only one was at Tampa Bay Downs. – The 1 1/8th of grueling distance was supposed to give us a clear picture of the contenders from the pretenders. After a 1:47.47 was in the books there were many things that came into focus.

Always Dreaming gave us something to look forward to seeing. This son of Bodemeister is a perfect 3/3 in 2017 and has shown a great level of maturity. He looked good in 2016 and is 2 lengths from being a perfect 4/4 but whose counting ? – Johnny V looked chilly in the irons and pushed the “go-button” at the 5/16th’s pole. I really liked what I saw with this guy and look forward to seeing what’s next. – Gunnevera broke from the #10 post and had a good deal to take on. But this far down the road, runners should be able to overcome obstacles. He broke at the rear and dove right to the rail saving ground. Never a bad choice when facing added ground. He was pretty far back and the track was geared up not playing to the “Silky-Sullivan” type runners. He will be back and with a good work or two he’ll bring the heat. – The runner that showed good action was #1 – State of Honor. He was the colt who last prepped at TBD. He had two nice races running second to McCracken and Tapwrit. Julien Leparoux fought him into the run down the backstretch and got him in order. He tried to squeeze through the rail but had to gently tap on the brakes at the 3/16th’s pole and Always Dreaming had all the momentum. This was a much better race than the paper will show. Keep your eyes peeled.



Fair Grounds


A field of nine went to post featuring the favorite Girvin. This lightly raced son of Tale of Ekati has yet to toss a clunker. With his 3rd race under his belt and 3/4 lengths from being a perfect 3/3 coming in. That race was on the turf and you can toss that for now as trainer Joe Sharp has plenty in mind for this guy. Sharp along with his wife/ stable hand/ assistant and workout rider Rosie Napravnik are starting to get excited about the next few weeks.

Girvin drilled them just to plan. The public wasn’t disappointed and Brian Hernandez is in the catbird seat deciding if he’ll ride McCracken or Girvin. I guess there are worse places to be if you are a young and talented rider. – I liked the race and the best horse won in my opinion. But there was just one other who caught my eye as a gambler. #1 – Patch with Tyler Gafflione in the irons. He was in tight a couple of times and the rider patiently waited. He wanted that rail but was forced to wait until he was inside the 1/8th pole. Once he found a gap turned up the heat and came with a very nice charge. This guy would have to overcome the “Apollo-Curse” as he had not raced as a two-year-old and with only a maiden win and a hard closing second in the L.A. Derby. I am looking down the road. But who knows ??

Free Selections Florida Derby Card – 4/1/17

The 66th version of the Florida Derby takes place this Saturday and Mother Nature is going to cooperate in fine fashion with sunny weather and temperatures in the lower 80’s. – What more could you ask for except some free selections and pick-four with a guaranteed pool of $750,000. Looks like a solid race card on tap, and this is the best time of year to be a horse player ! – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Gulfstream Park


The Florida Derby is on a pretty good run of producing Kentucky Derby winners in recent years. Four of the last 11 Florida Derby winners have gone on to wear the roses. Barbaro started the stretch of success in 2006 before tragedy struck in the Preakness. Two years later Big Brown dominated the Derby and Preakness before forgetting to show up for the Belmont. There was a break until 2013 when Orb was a somewhat surprising Kentucky Derby winner. And last year Nyquist pulled off the Florida-Kentucky double before bombing in the Preakness. He was the first undefeated Derby winner since Big Brown. – With $1 million dollars on the line in this 1 1/8 test, you can bet the three-year-olds will have their mind on business.


Race #10 – The G-2 Honey Fox Stakes – 1 mile on the turf – 4:25 pm EST 

#5 – Celestine = Jose Ortiz in the irons for Christophe Clement and they are winning 60% and 80% ITM the past two months. She has been vacationing at Palm Meadows and this daughter of Scat Daddy is making her second off the shelf where the barn wins at a (19%) clip. She is 7/7 ITM over the GP oval and 7/7 ITM at the distance. Ortiz is one of the best turf riders in the nation winning (28%) and should sit close to keep an eye on the pace setters.

#6 – Mississippi Delta = Jose Lezcano is the reinsman for Mark Casse and this daughter of Giant’s Causeway is 3/3 ITM with two wins. She is making her second off the shelf and won her coming out party for 2017.

#7 – Linda = Julien Leparoux in the saddle for Ian Wilkes and she comes in off a 4 month layoff after a win at CD in the G-2 Ms. Revere. She has the look of a nice closer and if the pace is hot she’ll come running late in the lane under a (19%) winning turf rider.


Race #11 – The G-2 Gulfstream Oaks – 1 1/16 – 4:57 pm EST

#7 – Nonna Bella = John Velasquez has the call aboard a speedy daughter of Stay Thirsty. She hails from the Todd Pletcher barn and rider and trainer are winning at a red-hot (37%) as a team. Catch her if you can as she enjoys the added distance today.

#3 – Summer Luck = Patrick Husbands in the saddle for Mark Casse and she ran into problems last out in the G-2 Davona Dale. She looks to want more ground and will come stalking after the action.

#6 – Salty = Joel Rosario in the driver’s seat for Mark Casse and she gets second time lasix and stretches out in distance. Her works are impressive and she will come calling when the pace starts to take a toll.


Race #12 – The $100,000 Cutler Bay – 1 mile on the turf – 5:32 pm EST

#3 – Shiraz = Javier Castellano in the saddle for Mike Maker and the New York-bred goes from dirt-to-turf (20%) and ships back from a sprint at Aqueduct.

#6 – Inheritthewind = Leparoux for Casse and this son of Tapit won his only start on the GP weeds and looks to take it up the ladder.

#7 – Sir Sebastian = Paco Lopez is the pilot and is a very talented turf rider winning (18%) and (47%) ITM. He is 3/4 ITM over the oval and looks to be a versatile sort.

#8 – Dover Cliffs = Jose Ortiz in the irons for Clement and the rider is the most versatile rider in the saddle dictating the pace or closing like the wind. This son of English Channel cuts back from a 1 1/16, and should be a dangerous factor.


Race #13 – The G-2 Pan American Stakes – 1 1/2 – 6:06 pm EST

#2 – Sadler’s Joy = Julien Leparoux for Tom Albertrani. The son of Kitten’s Joy has been off for two months and his strong finish in the G-3 McKnight gives good vibes he’ll be a player.

#3 – Taghleeb= Jose Ortiz in the irons for Mike Maker and he is 6/7 ITM over the oval. He’s been off for a couple months and he fires well right off the bench.

#5 – Patterson Cross = Jose Lezcano in the driver’s seat for Bill Mott and this son of Arch is 4/4 ITM over the strip. Lezcano is a solid turf rider and he and Mr. Mott can spring up and score at any asking.


Race #14 – The G-1 Florida Derby – 1 1/8 – 6:40 pm EST

#11 – Gunnevera = This son of Dialed In is the one to beat. Javier Castellano in the saddle for Antonio Sano. He was ultra impressive winning the Fountain of Youth and looks to stamp his ticket for Louisville. He is 4/4 ITM over the course and looks to notch another win but will have to overcome the #11 post.

#9 – Battalion Runner = John Velasquez for Todd Pletcher and this son of Unbridled’s Song is 2/2 with wins over the strip. He was a $700,000 Keeneland sales purchase and has a versatile style. He gets the acid test today and if he is half as good as last out he’ll be a player.


A great day of wagering is just ahead and Winning Ponies will be locked and loaded for the big day. There is a $750,000 guaranteed pick-four and a late pick-five with a $500,000 guarantee. The Florida Derby carries a $1 million purse and 170 Kentucky Derby points with 100 to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth. – This weekend is sure to clear up some of the murkiness of the Kentucky Derby picture. Use these as an appetizer for the big day and be sure to download your Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms for the complete picture on how the races will take shape.

Derby Trail – 3/29/17

Another weekend in the books and the picture is still muddy. But the weekend on tap is sure to clear away the fog and get you in full-gear to follow the road to the Derby. – You are in the right place with Winning Ponies as we offer stories, blogs, free selections, the popular Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show with John Engelhardt bringing you the best players the world of racing has to offer. And just when you didn’t think it could get any better just download your Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms for a comprehensive view on how the races will take shape. With over $1,992,723 in exotic payouts you are sure to take your game to the next level. – Be sure to tune in this weekend for the Florida Derby and the Louisiana Derby. Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Turfway Park



Race #10 – The G-3 Spiral Stakes – 1 1/8 on the all weather

Kitten’s Cat entered as the luke warm favorite and bled this day while still showing a game effort. The lightly raced Parlor for the Eddie Kenneally barn and Soglio from the barn of Graham Motion was making his turf – poly switch for the ultra-talented barn. But as many runnings have shown, the Spiral Stakes sometimes leaves more questions than answers.

En Hanse for Mike Maker for owner Dr. Kendall Hansen played the rabbit breaking from the #12 post and crossing over to the rail before they reached the finish line for time. The entry mates were 1-2 at the quarter pole and the fractions were solid. PA-bred Fast and Accurate tracked closely to the leader and pounced at the 5/16th’s pole to get into contention before the fast closing runners would be heard from down the lane. A well-timed ride by Tyler Gafflione showed this son of Hansen is maturing at the right time. In the race you have to give added points to fast closing Blueridge Traveler who seems to be figuring out racing with every start. Also toss in Kitten’s Cat who clipped heels and checked and was found to have bled after the race.


Sunland Park



Race #9 – The G-3 Sunland Derby – 1 1/8 on the main

Bronze Age came into the race as the M/L favorite and trainer Bob Baffert has owned this race for many years. Irap for the Doug O’Neill barn and the undefeated Conquest Mo Money was going to have overcome the outside post. – This race is better than you would think at first glance and be sure and focus on the top two finishers down the lane.


Conquest Mo Money ran his race and had much to do from the outside post blazing away picking up the pace setters and making a strong bid. He still deserves a good hard look moving forward. – Hence did everything right and was ultra-impressive down the lane for the Steve Asmussen barn. The way he engaged and then moved off strongly shows a maturing runner who have caught the attention of players next time he hits the track.