Free Selections – Turfway Park / Spiral Card – 3/25/17

With $500,000 and a spot in the Kentucky Derby field on the line, plans are in full swing for the 46th running of the JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday, March 25. The race, which offers points toward the legendary Derby, is the highlight of the Thoroughbred racetrack’s season. – The Grade 3 Spiral Stakes is a designated points race for the Kentucky Derby, which determines starters by points earned across 37 races in the United States, Dubai and Japan. The companion Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks, run the same day, is a points race for the Kentucky Oaks. The two graded races and the black type Rushaway Stakes highlight the day’s 12-race card.


Turfway Park


There may be a good shot of rain and storms for the day and temperatures in the 70’s. – One good thing about the all-weather poly-track. It is always fast and the rain may help tighten it up.


Race #8 – The $100,000 Rushaway Stakes – 1 1/16 – 4:33 pm EST

The early speed should set up honest fractions and look for stalkers to enjoy the cat-bird seat.

Cool Arrow, Capture the Glory, and ultra-speedy Hansenation will ensure a good clip will be set going into the first turn. If the time goes around 23.4, you can rest assured you’ll see someone in mid-flight enjoy the garden trip and pounce around the 5/16th’s pole.

#5 Royal by Nature = Robby Albarado in the irons for the red-hot Brad Cox barn winning (27%) on the year. The colt will be making his first start in 4 months and he has faced some solid players. – His races include the $75k Sunday Silence, (G-3) Bourbon Stakes, and the $100k Awad stakes. – Nice resume and he has made some nice middle moves coming up a bit empty nearing the wire. His works in the morning have been regular and makes the move from the turf-to-all weather where the barn wins (25%) and (25%) with his non-graded stakes runners. Albarado is a patient rider and coming in fresh may work to his benefit down the lane.


Race #9 – The (G-3) Bourbonette – 1 mile -3-yr-old fillies – 5:09 pm EST

#8 – Gilded Lily = Tyler Gafflione ventures up from Gulfstream and he climbs in the driver’s seat for Mike Maker. The filly by Speightstown is a perfect 2/2 over the track and she should be right off the speed. Maker is winning at a white-hot (33%) at Turfway Park and she showed me a versatile style where she can set back in mid-flight or jump closer to the lead if the fractions are pedestrian. – This guy can flat out ride and going back to his early days, I was chatting on-line with track announcer Pete Aiello. I told him I thought he looked good in the saddle. and promising for an apprentice.  Pete is an excellent handicapper who gave me some words of wisdom from Florida when he said: “Ed, this guy is going to be really good.” – Today can be a excellent chance to strut his stuff.


Race #10 – The (G-3) Spiral Stakes – 1 1/8 – 5:55 pm EST

#9 – Parlor = Jesus Castanon in the irons for Eddie Kenneally on this lightly raced son of Lonhro. He is a neck short of being a perfect 3/3 with wins and has been working a solid clip at Palm Meadows in Florida.  He is a closer and will need a half-way solid pace to run down. I like his chances and making his second start of the year should have him right on target.

#10 – Bronson = Son of Medaglia d’ Oro is in the hands of veteran Manny Franco shipping in from New York for the Todd Pletcher barn. He has been enjoying the sun in Florida and has the look of a mid-pack stalker. Franco is a solid rider and the barn wins (35%) going from dirt to the all weather.

#1 – Blueridge Traveler = Channing Hill has the call for Ken McPeek who always has an ace up his sleeve. The son of To Honor and Serve looks to be getting it together late and after four races broke his maiden at FG under the guidance of Hill. His last three efforts of his four race career show he’ll come running late and once they got him off the turf he’s looked better with every race. McPeek is 1/1 at the meet and is a (20%) winning trainer going from dirt to all weather.


There are some really interesting races on tap and you’ll want to use these as a barometer. Download the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms as the final determination of how the races will take shape. They are always dialed in and ready but they really hit the target at Turfway of marquee days. - Enjoy the races and best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Derby Trail – 3/20/17

With every passing weekend the first Saturday in May comes into view. – I have to admit the picture is still a little fuzzy but it is starting to take shape. I’m still leaning toward a long-shot payoff, but that’s why they run the races. There are only 47 days left till post time, and you’ll want to be dialed in right here to Winning Ponies. We’ll have blogs, stories, updates and the Winning Ponies Internet Show with John Engelhardt bringing you the best names in racing. – As always you’ll want to keep your Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms handy as they have over $1,838,065 in exotic payouts. And if you’re still on the bubble. Go back and check the results page as you’ll see Winning Ponies had the winner of the (G-2) Rebel Stakes as their TOP tier selection. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Oaklawn Park


The G-2 $900,000 Rebel Stakes – 1 1/16

Coming into the race was the (2-1) morning line favorite American Anthem for the Bob Baffert barn. Baffert has owned this race the past number of years and with Mike Smith in the saddle made the son of Bodemeister look double-tough. The race appeared to have boatloads of speed and plenty of late running three-year-olds.


Malagacy was super impressive just laying off the speed and pouncing when asked. 3/3 with wins is this nice son of Shackleford and I’m really scratching my head. Will distance be a problem, or were his first two efforts sprinting just taking it slow and allowing him to develop. Far be it from this handicapper to question Todd Pletcher and his works have been very nice at Palm Meadows in Florida. – I have to admit I overlooked him, but the E-Z Win Forms had him nailed all the way. Maybe there is a “push-button” runner right here and we better not question anything about the colt.

Untrapped ran a winner’s race around the 5/16th’s pole and I would have doubled my wager. But he went a smidgen wide and looked to lose interest. I am really impressed with this son of Trappe Shot and Steve Asmussen must be respected at every turn. Pay close attention to where he broke his maiden impressively. I’m sure many others are aware of his big effort breaking from the 11 post drawing off with authority.

Silver Dust didn’t run his race this day and ran into a little trouble. – If you’re looking for a solid closer look no further than this son of Tapit who loves to mow them down late. He’ll need to find a spot to rebound for some needed Derby points if he’s going to be a contender and time is of the essence. Another runner who broke his maiden under the Twin Spires and going a mile that day looked to be easy work as he split horses and inhaled the field.

Lookin At Lee is about to make my “looks good and just doesn’t have the tools” list for runners. I won’t count him out and if the pace is hot he can come rolling from the clouds. This son of Lookin at Lucky is solid and Mr. Asmussen will find him a perfect spot to strut his stuff.


After the dust cleared and the official sign was posted. The questions are still mounting and the Derby picture is not clear. It is starting to show some nice runners but will they be there on the first Saturday in May ? – Time will tell and be sure and keep your eyes posted on who comes out of the preps in good order. McCracken is settled in the peaceful surroundings of Keeneland and Classic Empire finally worked at Ocala after having second thoughts about not doing his morning jog. – I love Tapwrit and how he looked over the cuppy surface at Tampa which is famous for “legging” up runners and having them ready to fire. – Still plenty of time and you’ll want to really pay attention. This upcoming Saturday you’ll see the (G-3) Spiral at Turfway Park as well as the (G-3) Bourbonette Oaks. On April 1, you’ll see the (G-1) Florida Derby and the (G-2) Louisiana Derby. – There is plenty on the horizon and you’ll need to be right on top of your game. You’re in the right place, so just stay tuned and let Winning Ponies get you ready to make your way to the winner’s circle. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !

Free Spot Play Selections – 3/18/17

I’ve always enjoyed a free lunch, and even though I was told it didn’t exist. I’m here to tell you the best things in life can be free. – Here are some free spot plays that deserve a good look and as always be sure to check out the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms before pulling the trigger. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !



Race #8 – The $125,000 Correction Stakes – 6f

#1 – Kalabaka (6-1) = J.D. Acosta in the irons and they draw the golden rail. The daughter of Trappe Shot is going for three-in-a-row and is 10/10 ITM going 3/4 of a mile. – The Richard Violette barn is winning 18% and she is 4/5 ITM over the “Big A” surface.


Fair Grounds

Race #3 – Mdn Claiming $30,000 – 1 mile on the turf

#7 – Wild Will (7-2) - Marcelino Pedroza in the saddle for Mark Casse and they are dropping in class from the mdn claiming $50k level. His works are solid and stretching out from 6f – 1 mile on the sod and the trainer has been hot going 3/6 ITM the last 14 days.

Race #7 – Mdn Claiming $30,000 – 1 mile on the turf

#2 -Spicoli(7-2) = Florent Geroux in the irons and this guy just missed last out, and ‘Flo the Jockey” is ready to “Party” with Spicoli all the way to winner’s circle.

Race #8 – Mdn Sp Wt – 1 mile and 70 yards

#6 – Multiplier (2-1) = Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call  and has been knocking on the door his last two. Today is graduation day.

Race #9 – O.C. $40,000 – 1 mile on the turf

#7 – King’s Ghost (9-2) = Florent Geroux in the driver’s seat for the Brad Cox barn (27%). The daughter of Ghostzapper has been off for 8 months, and take a look at her running lines. She comes back in good order first time back and she is 3/4 ITM over the course.


Santa Anita

Race #4 – O.C. $62,500 – 1 1/8 on the turf

#5 – Rye (5-2) = Kent D in the saddle for Wm Morey (21%) and he exits an impressive win off the shelf looking to notch another one under his belt.

Race #7 – The $100,000 Irish O’Brien – 6 1/2f on the turf

#6 - Bert’s Melody (8-1) = Brice Blanc in the irons and she has been on the shelf for 9 months. She is cutting back from 1 mile and ran in the same race last year. Her works are solid in the morning.

Race #9 – The (G-1) Santa Margarita – 1 1/8

#2 – Vale Dori (9-5)= Rafael Bejarano in the saddle today and she is shooting to make it 5-in-a-row. – Mike Smith is the usual rider and he is at Oaklawn today. Bejarano is a great sub-rider and she is 4/4 ITM over the SA strip.


There is plenty of great racing on tap and the Oaklawn card is spectacular! – Winning Ponies is always dialed in for the marquee races and with three incredible stakes with two graded featuring the (G-2) $900,000 Rebel Stakes. – A field of 11 go to post and the favorite is American Anthem from the Bob Baffert barn (he has owned this race the last five years). – Mike Smith in the irons and he looks to be the one to beat as he is working well and exits the (G-3) Sham as a beaten favorite facing Gormely. – My selection is #5 – Untrapped (10-1) with the Irad Ortiz shipping in from New York for the Asmussen barn. His race in the Risen Star at FG was a little deceiving. He was in perfect striking position after being wide and forced to weave through traffic. He tipped off the rail opening the door for Girvin and he finished up strongly once he got his momentum back. – The change in riders from Santana to to Ortiz may be the answer as the rider and trainer have teamed up to win (21%). – Best of luck from your friends from Winning Ponies.


How Do You Like to Bet ?

The walk into the track was exciting. – A day full of promise, as you see humanity taking long strides with the confidence of a gambler. Going to the races was a day to enjoy. Your program in hand, and maybe a tip sheet bought from one of the barker’s promising the daily-double as they had it cold yesterday. The day awaits as you pulled open the doors, and the sights and sounds of the track fill the air. No doubt about it. You are at the races.

You pulled the car into a long line waiting as the attendant made change and placed a parking ticket on your dash. Over the years you got to know the names and faces, and if you parked valet, knowing the attendant was one of the first names you would mention as your car was parked in a secure place close to the door. – As you paid your $2 to enter, you were greeted with a smile from the admission clerk or gave them a daily pass to make your way through a special marked entrance. Now you were ready to start your day. – It was time to purchase a program or Daily Racing Form and head out to your the seating area. – If you wanted a box seat in the grandstand, it cost a few bucks and a tip for the usher; or you could stand in one of your favorite locations where friends would gather. – Looking back, you were probably out $10 before you made your first wager. Horse players are funny folks. They don’t mind making a $20 win bet and tossing the ticket 5 minutes later. But making them pay to park, enter, and have some racing info was a joke. – If you wanted to go to the races, this was the only way to get your day started unless you had a bookie.

The track had a handful of players who accounted for around 30% of the daily handle. The rest of the players who made small – medium size wagers keep the lights on. Or that’s how management used to see the average player. – They kept the lights on and paid the salaries for the day. – When there was no simulcasting, the entire take was made on-track with large crowds. As OTB’s and inter-state wagering began, you would see less and less of the out of county plates as they could get their bet on close to home. The breakdown was about 60-40. 60% on-track and 40% from in-state OTB outlets. At first, tracks loved the idea of thinning down the overhead and were happy to get the handle. – But nothing stays the same. – ADW’s (Advance Deposit Wagering) sites like Twin Spires, TVG, Xpressbet, Betfair, and a host of others came to life. This made it even easier than going to the track, and from the comfort of your home or office you could watch and wager on every track on the menu. You would get free PP’s and it was being at the track without the cost of going. – Bookies who mainly took racing wagers went out of business, and the track was now a 95-5 breakdown, where 95% of your daily handle was from off-track sources.

The small player found it easier to bet by phone or computer and the whales didn’t come out anymore. – Why would they battle the crowds when they could bet with off-shore companies who paid them a handsome rebate of 10% or better ? Track can’t compete with numbers like that, and many times the races were run in empty buildings to scarce crowds. – There were plenty of players betting, and maybe they would play your track if you had Hi-Def signals with H.D. quality. – There is now more importance placed on distinguishing your signal with the pretty paddock hosts, and well-known handicappers talking about the bias on track and what to look for. – Think about it. Why go to the track as much ? You had it right at your fingertips and you could play sunny Florida in your sweats at home while the snow was falling.

Here’s an example of what tracks were facing from an article in 2008 in “The bigger the bettor, the bigger the rebate. The average racetrack’s house take is 20 percent. You’re subject to that bite whether you bet at the track or over the phone. The difference is that the highest-rolling players—who have the clout to negotiate rates—are refunded 10 percent of their wagers by the phone hubs. That cuts their disadvantage in half. Suppose you’ve been betting $5 million a year at the track and only breaking even. If you bet that same amount of money through a hub, you’ll get a $500,000 rebate. Suddenly, instead of spinning your wheels, you’re a professional horseplayer earning a fabulous six-figure income.” Since rebates were first offered at Las Vegas sports books in the mid-1990s, they’ve changed gamblers’ habits immensely. Maury Wolff, a professional horseplayer in Virginia, quintupled his action once he started getting rebates. He also stopped going to the track almost entirely—you’ll see him there 10 days a year. “I’m exclusively out-of-the-house now,” says Wolff, who was a 200-day-a-year racetrack regular a decade ago. “It’s way more efficient.”

For my own use, I have two sites that I use to wager. – I’m a mid-average player for most of the year, and for the Derby and Breeders’ Cup, I tend to go a little deeper. My desk is a personal ADW. I have many windows open with my Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms, and a couple of screens with my favorite tracks. – With the click of a mouse I’m betting Gulfstream, Aqueduct, and Santa Anita. I occasionally play Oaklawn and sometimes I’ll play some Sam Houston. – I sit there in my shorts as the temperatures are in the mid-twenties and I have the best seat in the house. – No lines to bet, the restroom all to myself, and lunch can be grabbed from the fridge between races. – On TwinSpires I get tremendous service, and on NH Play I get monster-size rebates. These are my two betting parlors, and they send me emails and texts about getting Derby tickets and money deposited right back into my betting account. Not too bad for not leaving the house. – I get to do what I love and never start the car. – At the end of the day, I can request a check or a direct deposit into my banking account and go about my day. – For many, there is no more telling the wife you’re working late.

I work in racing, and you probably see this as talking out of both sides of my mouth. – But tracks have their hands tied and work with a small margin. It’s not their fault they can’t offer more, as the 20% taken in is split with the horsemen in the form of purses. – As I watch from my vantage point, there are a few things tracks can do to stem the tide. But with new ownership’s popping up across the country, the tracks have a tall order. – Tracks have alternative gaming, slots, VLT’s, bingo, and full-scale casino operations under the same roof. – If you could get three or four more trips a month back to the track from your loyal patrons, you have the opportunity to start making strides in customer loyalty.

* In the times of ease-of-motion gambling, track can have two takeout rates. One for the ADW’s and OTB’s around the country and a much reduced rate for players on-track only. – Give them a reason to be there.

* I have watched as tracks have blocked Wi-Fi and computer access. – Let them bring the computers to study and have wagering info. Just block the off-track wagering function. – IT can handle this for you, and it makes sense to allow them to use what they are comfortable with. – For instance, Am Tote has something called M-Bet where you can add money to a voucher and bet directly from your smart phone or device.

* Tracks used to be aggressive with on-track promotions. – Have random drawings, second chance drawings and on-track handicapping contests for players. – Give them more than they expect.

* No more charging for parking, admission, or seating ever again. – On marquee days, you can offer special tickets or reserved seats for loyal players. – Make them feel important because they are still keeping the place in action.

* For the new players coming to the races, have special places with QR codes where they can download a free tip sheet or on-track program to their phone or device for free. – You can capture the data and send them special offers about upcoming concerts, events and marquee racing events. – Tracks do a poor job at communicating with players. New players are on the move and the new demo want no restraints.

* For tracks there must be an active Twitter and Facebook presence. – Twitter can give free selections for handicappers and stimulate conversation. Facebook can allow players to plan ahead for events or chat with others about racing. -Also try and drive traffic to your website where fans can learn about the track history, upcoming events, and have a library where new players can learn how to wager. New fans like to learn at their own pace and there is nothing better than arriving ready to take part.

Road to the Derby – 3/14/17

Another weekend has passed and the road to the Derby is murky and cluttered. That doesn’t mean it won’t come clean in the wash and we’ll see as far as an Irish Spring commercial. Only time will tell. – You need to keep to task and watch the replays, comb over the charts, and read about the morning workouts. With only 53 days until the Kentucky Derby, you’ll want to focus on not who has peeked, but who has shown solid efforts and has more in the tank for the next couple months. Here are some prep races from the past weekend. Keep them handy and refer back to them when you’re in question. - Best of luck from your friends at WinningPonies!


Tampa Bay Derby – 1 1/16

Ten runners lined up to battle the even-money favorite Tapwrit. This son of Tapit had the look of a colt getting good at the right time in the Sam F. Davis against the ultra-tough McCraken. – “Mac” was sidelined with an ankle injury for this effort and if you liked him you would have to love Tapwrit by those rules. At (1-1) he looked like a gift and at the 3/4 when the timer hit 1:10.2, he inhaled the field. Jose Ortiz went to the stick to keep his head in the game. Strong effort race fans, and you’ll want him on your short list of horses to watch. I’ll worry about the long distance a little later, and we’ll keep track of his work tabs and where he points from this effort. – The cuppy surface at Tampa gets runners “legged up” and ready to roll. Think of it like jogging on the beach and you have to work twice as hard. – The owners feel he has plenty to learn, and training straight to the Derby may not be in the cards. Don’t be surprised to see him one more time before Louisville. – I hope it’s not the Bluegrass, as it seems like everyone is pointing to Keeneland to grab one of the last shots at points.


San Felipe – 1 1/16

A compact field of seven went to post with Mastery the (4-5) favorite. – Mastery was a perfect 3/3 and the son of Candy Ride was seeking to give Baffert his 6th win in the race. – Well, he did just that and Mike Smith had to get after him as he looked a bit lazy at the top of the stretch and immediately went back to work impressively. The 80th running was bitter sweet when we watched the young runner strut his stuff. – Smith jumped off shortly after the wire sensing something wrong with the colt. – As of 8:33 a.m. today, The Paulick Report had reported he had surgery and all went very well. He has returned to his stall in Baffert’s barn. Only time will tell, and we hope he comes back fit and ready. If we see anything close to this effort, he’ll be double tough.



You’ll want to be sure to check back with Winning Ponies. – We offer stories, blogs, free selections and the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show with John Engelhardt. You’ll hear from the movers and shakers in racing and the best handicappers and connections pointed to the Derby. Winning Ponies offers up the best in racing data that will show you how the race takes shape. The E-Z Win Forms won’t tell you who to play but clearly identify who fits the race and why. They are easy to use and color coded with handy icons to make handicapping the races easier and profitable. – Some data goes out 48-72 hours in advance and tells you who to play at the windows. WinningPonies offers up-to-the minute changes in real time and if the track gets a dose of rain or changes, no sweat ! – You can change the track condition tab for a whole new set of E-Z Win Forms tailored and ready to adapt. If you’re playing late and want to purchase, you’ll only be charged for the races used. Most data providers charge the same price for all races even if there is only one left on the card.

If you’re still not on board, be sure to check out the results section. WinningPonies will post results as soon as the race is official and show how the E-Z Win Form selections fared. Nothing better than following along before jumping on board. But don’t wait too long, as you’ll miss out on a great wagering opportunity. This is a great time to be following the races and with over $1,712,821 in exotic payoffs to date, you’ll want to download your data and be ready to do battle. – Best of luck from your friends at WinningPonies!

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Free Selections – Saturday – 3/10/17

It’s Big Cap weekend and there are some other preps that are calling you to action ! – As always, use these as some food for thought before downloading your E-Z Win Forms and receiving the best handicapping data to make your day a winner. This is when the tempo picks up and the preps mean more than ever. Peruse these free selections and be sure to download your Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms for a full and comprehensive picture on how the races take shape. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Tampa Bay Downs

The forecast calls for highs in the 80’s and sunny. – There are five stakes and three are graded featuring the G-2 Tampa Derby.


Race #11 – The G-2 $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby – 1 1/16 – 5:27 p.m. EST

Look for plenty of pace with The Money Monster, Basha, Sonic Mule, State of Honor, Wild Shot, and Beasley up close to battle it out set the fractions. oard

#5 – Tapwrit = Jose Ortiz in the irons for Todd Pletcher and the barn has done well in this race in the past. This son of Tapit is a good up close stalker and can give them fits down the lane. He was stopped about 3-4 times during the Sam F. Davis and tipped off the rail closing stoutly against McCracken. This is his second of the shelf and Pletcher wins (25%) on this move. Two solid maintenance moves at Palm Beach Downs and he looks like a maturing colt peeking at the right time. – Take at his action late in the lane chasing the winner McCracken. He picked up his action very quickly and showed a good run out past the wire. – Use with the dangerous #9 – Wild Shot who finished 4th in the same race and is making his second off the shelf with two nice morning works. Take a look at the Sam F. Davis for a solid picture of the players.


Santa Anita

The weather is going to be perfect in the mid-80’s and sunny.


Race #5 – The G-2 $400,000 San Felipe – 1 1/16 – 5:00 p.m. EST

The Derby trail has taken some detours and handicappers feel the likely Derby favorite will come from the left coast. There is some real talent in this race, and once the official sign is on the board many answers stand to come to light. – After Gormley, Iliad, and Mastery lock horns and the smoke clears. The Derby picture may start taking focus.

I love Iliad’s speed and second off the shelf for Doug O’Neill has him one to fear every time he sends one to post. Gormley has a versatile look for the talented John Sheriff’s barn. Toss out the BC Juvenile and he is a perfect 3/3 with wins. – That only leaves Mastery and that is where my money will be.

#4 – Mastery = Mike “Money-Man” Smith in the irons for Bob Baffert. That alone make this son of Candy Ride the chalk in most players’ heart. This is his first start in 2017 and he has been training lights out over the course. His victory in the Los Al Futurity was Baffert’s 9th and he steps back into the ring ready to stamp his ticket for Louisville. – According to The Handicapper’s Edge; Baffert put blinkers back on for the Futurity and Mastery closely tracked pacesetter Bobby Abu Dhabi in second through opening splits in :23.37, :45.65 and 1:09.53. He took the lead turning for home and after facing a brief challenge from Irap in upper stretch, easily accelerated away in the final furlong.“He relaxed very well, but I think a key point today was Bob (Baffert) putting the blinkers back on him today,” Smith said. “When he hit the front, he didn’t know where he was at and he put the brakes on there for a minute; it kinda worried me. Once I got into him and reminded him ‘it ain’t over, we ain’t done yet,’ man he jumped back into the bridle and finished really strong. – Bet with both hands in multi-race wagers and if you get anywhere near (6-5) go to windows early and often.


Race #10 – The G-1 $750,000 – Santa Anita Handicap – 1 1/4 – 7:30 p.m. EST

This race showcases the older runners as they strut their stuff in the “Big Cap.” – You could make a case for about anyone in the field, and if you listen very closely to the echos of the past. You can still hear Seabiscuit thundering home.

#2 – Shaman’s Ghost = Javier Castellano in the irons for the James Jerkens barn and this son of Ghostzapper is making his second start in 2017. He ran in the Pegasus World Cup last out and he was trying to chase the powerhouse Arrogate. He is stretching out from a 1 1/8 to a 1 1/4 and he is 2/3 ITM at this distance. Once upon a time he won the Queen’s Plate going this distance but that race is long in his rear view mirror. – The addition of Lasix the last three efforts has been just what the doctor ordered and he looks strong in his stride. You can count on a decent pace with #1 – Midnight Storm with the returning back to the saddle Rafael Bejarano. “Shaman” looks to play the role of the stalker in here and as you’ll see in his last race his turn of foot shows strong promise to move when the rider pleases. Box #2 – Shaman’s Ghost, #1 – Midnight Storm and #5 – Hard Aces.





Superstitious ?

Do you find yourself stepping over the large crack in the sidewalk ? How about the lucky coin in your pocket ? Is there a lucky shirt hanging in your closet ? – Gamblers have always been a bit cautious and that extends to the backside as well. For a sport that is based in hard work, preparation, and diligent care. It surely couldn’t hurt to do a little overtime work to ensure your luck is on the mend.

If you’re on the backside you’ll see a swirl of humanity working quickly in the early hours of the morning. Cold, heat, rain or snow won’t keep these dedicated people from getting to the barn and taking care of the horses in their charge. There is no such thing as a vacation and a day off is just as rare. That goes along with the territory and they bought that deal when they first showed up. But here are a few that have caught my eye over the years and I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.

* Don’t pack an old broom when your moving to a new track. – I guess we would have wanted to save a few bucks and toss the broom in the back of the truck. No, just leave the broom. We’ll get a brand new one when we ship and set up the barn area at the next stop. – Trainers have been a little hesitant to bring any of the old ways to the new location. Even if they had a good run, you might be bringing along the bad mojo and didn’t even know it. “Take the horses and leave the broom” in a “Godfather” style of speaking.

* Try and find barn #13 at Saratoga. The stalls go from 12 – 12A – 14. – You won’t find barn 13, and that’s just fine with many conditioners. There used to be a stall 13 at Saratoga.  That stall was once occupied by the legendary racehorse Secretariat, prior to his running in the 1973 Whitney Handicap. Following his record-shattering performance in winning the Triple Crown.  He lost to a four year old gelding named Onion in horse racing’s most shocking upset ever.

* The barn cat and the goat in the stall are two of the most important players in the barn. The cat keeps rats and mice away from the sweet feed and the goat is a calming partner welcome by most horses. They have a special relationship and one doesn’t go without the other. I once knew a trainer who shipped to another track where he left his barn cat Lucky. – Lucky had no tail and one eye, but he was magic. The trainer drove 500 miles back to his old barn where Lucky was sitting in his perch. Nothing like taking a little “luck” with you as you set up shop.


Horse players have always been superstitious. I’ve seen about everything when it comes to the betting side of racing and nothing ever surprises me.

* I knew a player who wore the same shirt everyday. He claimed he washed it and kept it in his closet all alone. He didn’t want the luck to rub off. If you got too close or were down wind of the gent, you know for a fact he didn’t wash that hideous Hawaiian shirt. If he didn’t want the luck to rub off in the closet, I’m pretty sure he felt detergent would be the end of the magic.

* Players are creatures of habit. They enjoy sitting in the same seats or as close as possible. – Now, when I watched a gent walk in all smiles and greet friends along the way. He looked as if he was ready to wager and win. He bought his Daily Racing Form and went to sit in his favorite seat. – When he arrived at row B seat #1, there was a man and his wife eating lunch making quite a mess. – The bettor tossed his paper in the garbage and turned around and walked out.

* Nasty cigars can be noticed from a mile away, and if you’re not a smoker you could swear they are right next to you. – I know many who smoke the cheap stogies and do so only at the track for luck. Others just chew them into a mushy mess where they are tossed and another popped in their mouth when it becomes too gross.

* Back in the good old days you had to get to the track early to find your perfect parking spot. – This is a must for certain players and if they are a valet customer. They could be driving a hunk-of-junk but tip the best of the day. They love the spot and the treatment and after-all good beginnings can lead to great endings.


I’ve seen lucky trolls at the bingo hall, lucky seats for video poker fans, and the track is filled with every type of item under the sun. – I even have one. In my booth at the track, I have an authentic voodoo doll from a spooky shop in New Orleans. It is called the “God of Success” and he keeps a watchful eye on the track and the races. – I have been offered up to $25 for my lucky doll, but he’ll hold court as long as I’m there.




Road to the Derby – 3/4/17

As the preps come and go, Derby dreams fade in and out like an old TV. You remember ? The TV your grandpa used to watch baseball games. Sometimes it came in as clear as day, and other times it took a while before you see what’s happening. That’s the thought rolling through my head as the past weekend left more to question than providing answers. I’ve seen many over the years as a horse player and these are the ones where the winner pays boxcars. It’s been a while and maybe this is the year. Or, maybe we haven’t seen the chosen one strut their stuff. Either way, just sit back and take mental notes. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Gulfstream Park


Race #13 – The G-2 $400,000 Fountain of Youth – 1 1/16

Irish War Cry came into the race as the 5-2 morning line favorite. A New Jersey-bred son of Curlin came in from the barn of highly respected conditioner Graham Motion. Joel Rosario had the call and this lightly raced colt was a perfect 3/3 and looked to stamp his ticket for Louisville on the first Saturday in May.

The race didn’t shake out well for Irish War Cry but did show a peaking Gunnevera who swept around the pace setters and opened up at will under Javier Castellano. – I was really excited about Practical Joke from the Chad Brown barn. This was his first start since the Breeders’ Cup and is working great in the morning. Keep and eye on both moving forward as both exited the race in good order.




Race #8 – The G-3 $300,000 Gotham Stakes – 1 1/16

El Areeb entered as the 6-5 morning line chalk looking to make it 5-in-a-row. – A field of ten went to post and for the betting public it looked over before it started, but that’s why they run the races.

El Areeb did all he could and gave it up after a bit of a speed duel. Usually not the makings of a Derby winner. - J Boys Echo from the Dale Romans barn was just off the pace in 4th and started moving at the 1/2 in 47.3 – By the time they hit the 5/16th’s pole he was four wide and inhaled the field to draw off. The son of Mineshaft was making his 2nd off the shelf and was 4th in the Delta Jackpot (the same key race where Gunnevera won). This colt is maturing nicely and Romans knows how to get them to fire.


Santa Anita


Race #6 – The G-3 Santa Ysabel – 1 1/16


Unique Bella was the 1-5 chalk coming into this race. Jerry Hollendorfer and Mike Smith team up well together and having the rail made this daughter of Tapit pretty darn attractive.

Bella didn’t come off too hot and ran into trouble in the first turn. – When the fans thought she may be in trouble rounding for home. They forgot just how good Mike Smith is when he is riding a very special filly. – She hasn’t found her bottom gear yet and may be something to fear down the road.


Turfway Park


From the file of a little something extra. – Take a look at this race and see if it’s worth following. – The John Battaglia Memorial.

It’s Your Nickle may be a late maturing colt. This son of Dialed In was making his 2nd start of 2017 from the Ken McPeek barn. As James Graham came flying late over the all-weather, keep a mental note runners usually don’t accelerate this quickly on the poly.  He is pointed for the Spiral later in the month or the Bluegrass. – And for a little extra, if you listen closely that was Mike Battaglia back in the booth as this is the only race he’ll call every year as it’s named in honor of his late father John Battaglia.







Free Weekend Selections – Gulfstream – 3/4/17

The card at Gulfstream should be a great opportunity to watch and wager on incredible races. Think of the FREE selections as an appetizer of great things to come. Use these as food-for-thought, and be sure to check back for the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms for a comprehensive look at the race card. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Gulfstream Park


The weather looks to be sunny in the 70’s and a perfect day to be at the races. – 13 races, and six are graded stakes. First post is 12:00 pm EST.


Race #4 – The G-3 Herecomesthebride Stakes – 1 1/16 on the turf – 1:30 p.m.

#4 – Coasted = Irad Ortiz in the irons and this is her 1st start in three months. She is a daughter of Sky Mesa and has been working over the track. – She looked solid in the BC Juvenile Turf coming off the key race in the G-3 Ms. Grillo. – Miss Money Honey isn’t in here and she should get a solid pace to run down with the speedy India Mauntuana with Jose Ortiz, and he may be one of the best speed riders in the country. She’ll see the late closing Dream Dancing coming off a win in an O.C. $75,000 race over the turf. Box them up and bet Coasted to win.


Race #5 – The G-3 Fred Hooper – 1 mile – 2:00 p.m.

#8 – Green Point Crusader = John Velasquez for Todd Pletcher making his second start of 2017. This son of Bernardini is shooting for two-in-a-row over the track and has been working at Palm Beach Downs. Pletcher wins 25% with the second start off the layoff.


Race #7 – The G-3 Very One Stakes – 1 3/4 on the turf – 3:01 p.m.

#3 – Suffused = Jose Ortiz in the saddle and he is up for HOT trainer Bill Mott. – She is by Champs Elysees and making her second start of the year. She has been ultra tough since shipping to the states and this race looks no different. She is 5/5 ITM at the distance and has a 20% winning turf rider in the irons. – If she doesn’t bring her “A”game, I would look to #1 – Olorda to wire the field and be a repeat winner from last year coming off a 10 month layoff for the Chad Brown barn.


Race #9 – The G-3 Palm Beach Stakes – 1 1/16 on the turf – 4:03 p.m.

#1 – Cowboy Culture = Florent Geroux is shooting to make a perfect 4/4 with wins for this son of Quality Road from the red-hot Brad Cox barn. – He beat Girvin last our in the $50k Keith Gee stakes and Girvin came back and won the Risen Star last week at FG. He has the rail, “Flo the Jockey,” and his record is perfect. Trainer Brad Cox wins 24% with shippers and 28% off a last race win. You’ll want to use him with #9 – Ticonderoga who has Joel Rosario up and will come rolling from the clouds off a 4 month layoff, and #5 Snap Decision with Irad Ortiz exiting a very impressive maiden win at GP.


Race #10 – The G-2 Davona Dale Stakes – 1 mile – 4:34 p.m.

#12 – Pretty City Dancer = Julien Leparoux in the saddle and this filly by Tapit tries the 7f – to the one turn mile switch. She has good stalking ability and the duel between Miss Sky Warrior and Eloquent Riddle should set her up nicely. Be sure and keep an eye on the #1 – Summer Luck with Leparoux in the saddle who goes from 7f to 1 mile. The rail is winning at 20%, and this gal broke her maiden at CD on the one turn mile.


Race #11 – The G-3 Canadian Turf – 5:05 p.m. – 1 mile on the turf

#3 – Heart to Heart = Speedy son of English Channel with Julian Leparoux in the irons. He is 3/4 with wins over the GP grass and has been on the shelf for 49 days. He looks for a repeat win in this race and should have a big say in the pace of the race. – Catch him if you can !


Race #12 – The G-2 Mac Diarmada Stakes – 1 3/8 on the turf – 5:35 p.m.

#4 – Wake Forest = Javier Castellano in the driver’s seat for Chad Brown. He has been off for three months and Brown wins 27% with his layoff runners. The rider and trainer have been 46% ITM the past two months, and was a beaten favorite in the G-3 Red Smith in New York. This guy has faced some of the tough guys on the sod. – Use with #9 – Taghleeb and #7 – Bigger Picture.


Race #13 – The G-2 Fountain of Youth – 1 1/16 – 6:05 p.m.

This race showcases the ultra tough Irish War Cry and Gunnevera. They both are super strong and offer good shots at moving to the next level. I’m leaning toward another runner. He had a great 2016 season and this is his first effort in 3 months.

#6 – Practical Joke = Jose Ortiz as the call for Chad Brown and they have been working lights out at Palm Meadows. With two bullet works from his last three efforts this son of Into Mischief looks to play the spoiler. – With 50 Kentucky Derby Points on the line, there could be no better feeling than coming in with a fresh runner who is working well. Add in the barn wins 27% with layoff runners and is 4/4 ITM lifetime. – I am secretly rooting for this to be the year of Chad Brown in Louisville the first Saturday in May. – Use with: Irish War Cry, Gunnevera, and Takaful.


There are good things that come with a free ribbon ! – Use these to get started but download the entire Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms for a complete look at how the race will take shape. – The easy-to-use E-Z Win Forms are double tough on marquee days and it a valuable tool for every handicapper. It’s that time of year when the prep races start showing who is peaking at the right time. Let Winning Ponies be your guide for a super card of 13 races and 6 graded stakes. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !







Road to the Derby – 2/25/17

There was more going on in the “Big Easy” than Mardi Gras. A field of eleven runners assembled at Fair Grounds and like the party in New Orleans. This was a coming out party to celebrate new faces, and question for some tried and true players. – As we’re 69 days away from the first Saturday in May. There is plenty to watch, and wager as we finalize our Derby hopeful list.

The 1 1/16 G-2 Risen Star was a glimpse at some new faces this past weekend. As horse players it is up to our inner-handicapper to decide if this was a fluke, a stroke of luck or a sign of very good things to come. Mo Town came into the race as the (7-2) morning line favorite.  The son of Uncle Mo was 2/3 with wins and training strong in the morning. His last effort in the Remsen was questioned by the wagering public and many doubts about the strength of the race were called into play. – Tony Dutrow brought his runner to New Orleans to catch the glimmer of the party and take down 50 points for the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

Girvin from the Joe Sharp barn was an outsider that had an odd glimmer. A son of Tale of Ekati had the services of Brian Hernandez Jr. and drew the rail post. At (6-1) on the morning line this caught my eye as he had two starts with a win and second place effort. His lone win was on the turf in the $50,000 Keith Gee stake, and the barn wins 15% on the change of surface. His two starts both in late 2016 may have been the late stages of growing into himself. For some reason he caught my interest. Hernandez is a very good underrated rider, and he’s one you can’t count out.

Untrapped had the look of a typical Asmussen trainee. Two starts in 2016 to break his maiden and a solid effort on the stretch-out in the G-3 Lecomte where he was forced to tap on the brakes and wait for clear sailing. Ricardo Santana was aboard and he is a go-to rider for Steve Asmussen winning 19% the past couple months as a team. This son of Trappe Shot appears to enjoy the added distance from 2016.

Local Hero had the look of a wire-to-wire runner for Asmussen with the services of Florent Geroux. They have been on a big run as late winning 41% as a team. Two races in 2016 showed good speed sprinting 7f and the come-out party for this son of Hard Spun was ultra impressive winning by 7 1/4.

Guest Suite from the Neil Howard barn was attractive 5/5 ITM with three wins. The son of Quality Road owned two bullet works and has the look of a good runner who may encounter distance limitations down the line. Three back at Churchill he ran a tough effort against McCrakin and looked the part of a runner to be followed.


After the winner was crowned and the runners headed back to the barn. I was impressed with the lightly raced Curvin under the guidance of Brian Hernandez. – The runner who really impressed was Untrapped. He floated off the rail for clear sailing and was a little wide. Take a look at his final five strides once he got his momentum in full gear. If the Wagering Gods smile kindly on this colt, he’ll give us good things to watch moving forward off this solid effort.