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My brother’s name is Derek. The horse Brother Derek broke his maiden on the day of my brother’s 40th birthday. In fact, for the only time in my handicapping career, I picked the then 2-year-old colt because of his name and the date on which he debuted. Just way too much coincidence at work here, I thought. With my brother’s $50 on his nose, Brother Derek rallied from way off the pace that day to break his maiden at 9/5 odds (after being hammered down from the morning line). Needless to say, my brother, who is not in the racing business and only makes it to the races at Del Mar once or twice a season, has closely followed the career of the equine Derek.

But I’ve been off the bandwagon for quite some time now. I jokingly said on radio host/publicity director Mike Willman’s show last weekend that I would parade him around the infield on my shoulders the next time the horse won. Well, I don’t have to worry about any heavy lifting tomorrow. After a perfect stalking trip, BD was outrun again in the San Fernando, finishing third behind AWESOME GEM and MIDNIGHT LUTE. Tell me there won’t be more excuses after Derek was squeezed slightly by ‘Lute at the top of the stretch. BD was third best and that’s where he wound up. After a fantastic start to his career, Derek is winless since last year’s Santa Anita Derby.

Then came excuse after excuse. Fourth in the Kentucky Derby after a wide trip. Fourth in the Preakness after steadying around Barbaro when that one broke down. Fourth in the El Cajon at Del Mar because he needed the race. Second in the Goodwood behind Lava Man, which, in retrospect, was his best effort in months. Fifth in the BC Classic against the best in the world. Finally, seventh in the Malibu after being blocked behind horses (forgetting the fact that he had no run and lugged in repeatedly when clear). However, anyone paying close attention knew this wasn’t the same horse we had seen earlier in his career. Or else the other ones had caught up. He was a “bet against” today…the only problem for us was that he held third, drastically reducing our winning trifecta that used ALL in the third spot.

Three winners today for Espinoza, who tied Gomez at the top of the standings. These two are turning into a procession, especially with the absence of P.Val.

NOTIONAL was impressive in winning the San Rafael, so now Doug O’Neill has the enviable problem of having to separate his three talented sophomores (Liquidity and Great Hunter are the other two), all owned by Paul Redham.

Bob Baffert unveiled a fast debut winner in TEXAS VOYAGER, who ran away and hid while running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.3.

Another Pick Six carryover after more double digit winners in full fields. Tomorrow’s pot starts at $178,390.

Good luck, it looks much more “handicappable” than today’s card.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Jan. 13

The most embarrassing thing as a public handicapper is pitching a shutout. Blanking for the day. Goose egg. Not managing to pick a top choice winner on the entire card. Definitely not a good feeling. In fact, a number of us make a bet at the beginning of the Del Mar meet to see who can go the longest without getting the infamous no-no.

Well, I lasted 12 days at Santa Anita before getting shut out today. Let’s take a look at how it happened, call it an anatomy of a bad day:

1st race–Picked AIR COMMANDER, who looked like a winner but got run down near the wire. OK, that happens. No excuse, second best.

2nd race–I tried TOPPER’S MOMENT (hammered down from bad 8-1 morning line). Thought she would make the lead and possibly control the pace. She didn’t but sat second in a good spot, came up empty at 1/4-pole, then “re-rallied” to be second over bad animal HAPPYHOUR ATTHEBRIG.

3rd race–I picked ROCKELLA over CHEYENNE QUEEN. The result was flip-flopped when ‘QUEEN ran down my top pick on the wire. That would be as close as I came to a winner on the card.

4th race–I liked SHEZBAD stretching out after finishing well in her sprint debut. Broke a cardinal rule of mine to not fall in love with a stretch-out horse after only one start. Gave up a winner when favorite BADOUTOO ran down her stablemate VOTSI on the line.

5th race–I thought WICKERSHAM was a better filly now that when she last competed at Santa Anita. She was getting a confident double jump in class from a top barn after a sharp win across town. She once again proved she hates this main track (now 0-for-7 at SA), so we’ll have to wait until Cushion Track to play her back. I took a stand against the winner BETTERSWEETMOMENT, who I thought would regress off the Knapp claim. Wrong again.

6th race–With an abundance of pace coming down the hill, I thought it might set up for late-running LARRY BY THE LAKE, who was trying turf for the first time. He raced between horses down the lane and didn’t fire as proven turf commodity BITTER BILL took heat and still came away at the end.

7th race–I knew I wanted to pick against Argentine import CARLA STRIPES (who would be overbet for low-percentage barn), so I tried SILVER HIGHLIGHT at a price. She was in the race early but stopped badly through the lane as track-loving RIVER SAVAGE pulled off the upset. Nice pick by Bob Mieszerski of the LA Times, who analyzed this race perfectly. By the way, ‘STRIPES looked fat as a cow on the track, so I don’t know if she will race herself into shape or if she is just overrated.

8th race–Tried new face PALM BREEZE for the hot Sadler-Gomez team to try to beat the obvious favorite REMEMBER MAGGIE. Gave up another winner here. I ignored the fact that ‘BREEZE had been a program scratch for a much higher claiming price on Nov. 15.

There you have it. Broken handicapping rules, ignoring vital information like a program scratch two months ago, trying to get cute in races where I should have taken the obvious.

Luckily they run nine more tomorrow.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below:Â Premium Plays for Jan. 12

Kind of a lackluster day following yesterday’s Pick Six mania. Only 3,679 on track watching a very ordinary weekday card. The feature race turned into an exciting stretch drive between LIKE RUNNING WATER and CRESTED, with ‘WATER holding sway at the wire. However, the stewards quickly put up the inquiry sign and correctly changed the order of finish after the original winner came out and bothered the favorite twice through the lane. Gomez could get a few days for the infraction. Note to stewards: the DQ cost me money in the exacta and Pick 3 but I agreed with the call. Usually whenever one voices a dissenting opinion, the first question asked is, “Did you bet the race?” Or, “You must have bet the other horse.” It is possible to have an objective opinion on a race even when having money on the line.

Alex Solis won a pair today, as did Victor Espinoza, which brings him to within two of leading rider Gomez. Looking over the Saturday entries, Solis has only two mounts on the card (Brother Derek being one of them in the featured San Fernando) despite full fields all day long.

One winning ticket in the Pick Six today ($97,231) when OLIVER TWISTED (or Oliver Twister as Trevor called him) ran down badly overbet trial maiden BROADWAY PLAYER in the finale.

Jockey Gerry Olguin won his first race at Santa Anita since 1991 when longshot PROUD RINGER ($83.00) pulled off the stunner in the 3rd.

Trainer Noble Threewitt will retire on his 96th birthday, February 24. Born the year before the Titanic sank, Threewitt has been a tireless worker for backstretch employees throughout his career. He was the youngest trainer to win a race in North America when be began at Caliente at age 21 and was the oldest trainer to ever saddle a winner last year at age 95.

Should have mentioned impressive maiden winner FURIOSO STAR from yesterday. The full brother to Bordonaro came back a gelding and graduated in impressive style. He might have a future despite having started just twice as a newly-turned 4-year-old.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Jan. 11

One of the tough realities of playing the Pick Six is that it is a very low-percentage bet. You don’t go out and hit it everyday–or even once a week. Maybe once a month if you’re a semi-regular to daily player. But when there is a double carryover of more than $623,000 in the pool and two days off to freshen the brain and get fresh money, one is required to play. Well, that was the mentality today at Santa Anita, where $2.7 million in “fresh money” was bet, over four times more than the carryover pool. In fact, the $2.7 mil represented nearly 25% of the total handle ($11.3 million) that was wagered on the entire card.

Knowing that players would come and bet with both hands today, I promoted heavily to my email listers that I would be putting together a suggested Pick Six play on today’s Premium Play Selections. Here’s how my original $144 ticket did:

3rd race–I spread and used four horses and got the winner, favorite FORTUNATE EVENT ($5.40). Not a great start, especially since I also used runner-up WHITE AURA at 8-1.

4th race–I “singled” favorite BRANDI’S STARLITE but she took early pressure and faded through the final furlong to finish third. Solid second choice MAMA LULA got the money on the class drop while making her first start for the red-hot Brian Koriner barn.

5th race–I used three in here and missed when longshot RIVAL ISLANDS pulled off the $31.60 upset. This was the “separator” race and, in hindsight, you can make a decent case for the winner. First, he had been gelded since his last start. Second, he showed speed when chasing stronger last time (exiting the same race as favorite LAUROLYMPIO) before eventually fading to last. However, that race had already produced three next-out winners, indicating that is was a very live heat.

 6th race–I “singled” RISEN RIVER and he got the money as the 3/2 favorite.

7th race–My ticket used two runners but after the scratch of RAMSGATE, we were left with a single of odds-on FAST PARADE, who made short work of his opponents at 2/5.

8th race-I used three in the race and got home with favorite TRIBAL PRINCESS.

So, four of six on a revised $72 ticket (after scratch), which, of course, gets us back a big, fat goose egg.

Two winners today for trainer Koriner, both ridden by Aaron Gryder, who is third in the jockey standings. Martin Pedroza also won a pair.

FAST PARADE was impressive in victory (his sixth in nine career starts), especially since he had shipped back and forth to Hong Kong since his last win in Canada. He did not run overseas because of some kind of medication snafu. His trainer, Peter Miller, has had an outstanding year based from the San Luis Rey Downs training center.

Breeders’ Cup has added three $1 million races to the menu while now making it a two-day event starting this year at Monmouth. I need to read up on the all the details, but my gut reaction is that this is a bad idea. Why dilute a great event by spreading it over two days? More on this later.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Jan. 10

Finally. For only the second time in the first 10 days of the meet, my Free Pick of the Day hit. CITRONNADE ($11.20) got the front-running trip I envisioned and easily handled her opponents to take down the San Gorgonio. She was also a Pick 4 and Pick 6 “single” on my Premium Play sheet, but I wasn’t able to capitalize on either.

Actually, I didn’t participate in the Pick 6 because I thought it was way too tough and would double-carryover into Wednesday. Good decison, as it turns out. Since nobody hit the Pick Six again on Sunday, we are treated to a massive $623,000 carryover into Wednesday. Give horseplayers two days off and a chance to get fresh money and look out, the pool will be gargantuan.

E Z WARRIOR returned in good style to win the San Miguel in 1:08.4 for Baffert. The undefeated son of Exploit is plenty talented but just doesn’t strike me as a route horse. He’s on the small side with a sprinter’s stride, so I can’t see this one as a serious Derby-type colt.

Good day for Clinton Potts, who won with back-to-back price horses in STRATAGEM ($11.20) and FAST CORREDOR ($37.80). He rode both winners identically, cutting inside of horses in mid-stretch to make the winning moves. For whatever reason, that strategy doesn’t work too often. Horses appear much more comfortable when rallying outside and often lose their punch when shifted inside, but it worked well for Potts, who now has five winners at the meet.

Even better day for David Flores, who took down both feature races and is sitting third in the rider standings behind Gomez and Espinoza. In fact, Flores won three of the four stakes run over the weekend.

Congratulations to Michael (Whitey) McCarthy for officially winning his first race as a trainer in Southern California. He was listed as the trainer of record for promising RAGS TO RICHES since Pletcher is serving a 45-day suspension. Whitey is one of the great storytellers in the game…ask him about the time he lost a horse (literally) one time at Churchill Downs.

The Mike Mitchell barn continues to do poorly out of the detention barn. Thanks to statistics provided by Brad Free of DRF, Mitchell has won with only two of his last 13 starters since running out of the penalty box beginning on Dec. 17. ROMANCE IS DIANCE (Dec. 17) and IMITATION (Dec. 30) are the two winners…his last five runners have finished 10th, 6th, 3rd, 11th and 10th. Ouch.

Get ready for Pick Six mania on Wednesday.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Jan. 7

I didn’t go the track today but just got done watching the replay show. More huge prices to make for a juicy Pick Six carryover of more than $137,859. Through 77 races at the meet, favorites have won only 19 times (25%). With huge fields in races 4, 5, 6 and 9 tomorrow, there is every chance for a double roll into the Wednesday card.

Exciting feature races today as BARONESS THATCHER held off a slightly unlucky RUNWAY ROSIE in the Santa Ysabel and DIXIE MEISTER got the nose decision over longshot ARMENIAN SUMMER in the San Pasqual. My selection, CHEROOT, got outclassed and was finished at the top of the stretch and ’04 juvenile champion DECLAN’S MOON is completely done. He simply doesn’t want to play ball anymore.

Trainer Julio Canani took down the late DD with ‘MEISTER in the 8th and ALL MAN in the 9th, who held off stablemate (and trial maiden) THE BIG ONE.

We gave a slight knock to trainer Ron McAnally here the other day (had been winless since Oct. 22) but he got off the schneid with impressive Cal-bred maiden winner TOLL ROAD in the 2nd.

Nine different jockeys won today, which emphasizes the top-to-bottom balance in the jock’s room…just three mounts tomorrow for Alex Solis, although one of them is morning line favorite THREEÂ DEGREES in the San Gorgonio.

Reportedly, jockeys Agapito Delgadillo and Ramon Guce are OK after a nasty spill in the 5th race.

The meet-long Showvivor contest starts at Santa Anita on Wednesday. Pick one horse a day to finish in the top three and stay alive…top prize is $10,000.

I nailed a nice trifecta for $254 (6th race) on my Premium Plays…good luck tomorrow.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Jan. 6

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In close finishes between the two strongest finishers in the Southern California riding colony, Garrett Gomez got the best of Corey Nakatani two out of three times.

In the 3rd race, Gomez gave Nakatani a bit of a schooling when he kept heavily favored ANGEL CRAFT pinned in and waiting for room on the far turn, then had enough horse left to hold on with Frankel-trained BARYNYA. In the 4th race, Nakatani got the jump with FULL IN and held off a late charge from CITY STORMER to prevail as the only winning favorite on today’s card. And in the 7th, Gomez scored the split decision victory by ralling BIG PROMISE past favorite NAUGHTY RAFAELA near the wire. Three good races, three good riding performances.

Our man Jorge Periban struck again today, this time with BIT OF FOLLY ($13.80) in the 6th. That’s three winners at the meet, all at nice prices. Speaking of hot trainers, Paddy Gallagher took the 7th with ‘PROMISE and now has five winners at the meet.

No morning workouts today as heavy winds blew down the inner fence near the 1/4-pole at around 5:00 a.m.

19 winning tickets in the Pick Six produced a nice payoff of $23,844.

Owner John Liviakis finally got some of his money back when LEAD STEALER took the 8th. Liviakis has been pouring it in with both fists, starting with his Captain Kurt at Del Mar. After three or four bloodbaths, he recouped some of it when ‘STEALER returned $8.80 while giving trainer Melody Conlon her first winner in over 12 months. Not exactly great betting value in our book.

First post at 12:30 tomorrow featuring two very difficult stakes, with perhaps vulnerable morning line favorites in both. It looks like make it or break it time for DECLAN’S MOON in the San Pasqual.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Jan. 5

Thursday brought more longshot winners, a Pick Six carryover of nearly $100,000 into tomorrow and rain that started falling after the conclusion of the races.

We mentioned trainer Jorge Periban in the Blog the other day and, sure enough, he struck again, this time with $61.00 winner GOTTA GO GAL in the 6th race. She was one of five double-digit winners (four in Pick Six races) on the card.

The late Pick 4 returned a whopping $9,612 and I wasn’t too far off on my suggested $72 Pick 4 ticket from the Premium Plays (view Free Sample below). I doubled the 5th race and got home favorite ROCKINSTOMPER. I used four horses in the next leg and caught ‘GAL (strictly off the barn change) at $61.00. In the 7th, I used three horses, purposely throwing out favorites TRUE XENA (Solis on the rail) and SMART CROWD (Lisa Lewis had been winless in California since coming here for HP fall meet). Tough beat when ‘CROWD ran down one my Best Plays on the card NAUGHTYLILHOTTIE (8-1) near the wire. And I had three horses in the last, including runner-up BRITE BOBBY, who got a perfect stalking trip but couldn’t go by the winner. Close but no cigar.

Victor Espinoza won a pair today to join Garrett Gomez at the top of the rider standings…P.Val’s scheduled return has been moved back a week to Jan. 17.

Trainer Talk: Bill Spawr was rightly P.O.’d when his BORDONARO was not among the top three Eclipse finalists in the sprint division. However, to say that he’d “love to run against those horses any time” is crazy. DISCREET CAT, who is probably the best horse in the world but shouldn’t have been one of the sprint finalists, would beat BORDONARO going any distance from 4 furlongs on up. And Ron McAnally dismissed his prolonged slump by saying, “Apparently, everybody seems to be worried about it but me.” Yes, Ron, we horseplayers (at least the good ones) do worry about trainer slumps that date back to Oct. 22.

I will be on HRTV tomorrow at 11:45 a.m. as part of a regular Friday segment with Jon White and Sean McCarthy.

Good luck tomorrow.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Jan. 4

Doug O’Neill nailed it on the head after watching his HARVARD AVENUE rally from last to nail stablemate AREYOUTALKINTOME in the final jump of the El Conejo. “That Garrett Gomez, he’s the modern day Eddie Delahoussaye.” Celebrating his 35th birthday, the leading money-winning rider from ’06 put on a clinic today. One race later he came back to rally classy SOCIETY HOSTESS from last to win the Monrovia going away. Not only were both winners last down the backstretch, but they were last turning into the stretch, with seemingly impossible tasks in front of them. Gomez leads all riders with eight winners in the first six days.

Speaking of O’Neill, he broke out of a one-for-25 opening-week slump when running one-two in the El Conejo. Bob Baffert leads the trainer standings with six winners.

The public got it right today: DOCTOR SMART bet down to favoritism from 5-1 morning line to win the first; SHERWOOD PARK bet down to 2-1 from 10-1 morning line to win the sixth; and SOCIETY HOSTESS bet down to 9-5 from 4-1 morning line to win the 8th.

Ninth race winner PLENTY JADE might be worth the money. After acting up badly in the gate, the Cal-bred gelding broke well to make lead, turned away heavy favorite MONEYPLAYSJOSE and kept going to win in good style. Trainer Bill Spawr claimed both but the winner has more upside.

Two days off…see you on Thursday for 1:00 p.m. first post.

To view Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Jan. 1

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