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Hard to believe but we have passed the half-way mark of the Santa Anita meet.

Two-for-one blog postings as we review the weekend:

Today, with a Pick Six carryover of more than $188,000 to shoot at, bettors poured in $1.4 million. With 55 winning tickets, the payoff was $15,792 on a tough but handicappable day. My $144 ticket went up in smoke in the first leg when I doubled the ticket but did not include the “other” Baffert horse, first-time starter PRIME CATCH ($13.80). Does any trainer win more often with the longer price of his two horses?

I came back and crushed the 5th race (see Free Sample below), giving out HOCKEY THE GENERAL ($12.00) as one of my Best Plays, which keyed the trifecta for $725. I also had an exacta box that hit, returning $86.20 for a buck.

Missed again with BRIGHT DESIGN (which ended my Pick 4 hopes as well) in the 6th, didn’t care for OBRIGADO in the featured San Luis Obispo, was dead wrong about “single” IGRAINE in the 8th, and had the last race winner on top. What’s the lesson here? Sometimes being right once is enough to make for a very profitable day…money management is more than half the battle.

Bob Baffert saddled three winners today to move into a tie with John Sadler for second place in the standings. This was a throwback to one of those days from a few years ago as Baffert won with a maiden, a turf horse and got an allowance win with a decent 3-year-old filly. Two riding wins for Aaron Gryder, who took down the bookend races on turf. Incidentally, according to turf stats supplied by Brad Free of DRF, these were Gryder’s first two turf wins of the meet (from 58 mounts).

OBRIGADO won the San Luis Obispo today but got some help from stablemate ONE OFF, who herded ON THE ACORN out badly through the lane. The winner held on by a half-length as ‘OFF was correctly disqualified back to third on a no-brainer call. ‘ACORN, who was moved up to second and might have won with a clean trip, is proving to be some claim by Mike Mitchell and the Indizguys Stable.

Two days into the ShowVivor contest and I’m KO’d. I’m just playing for fun on the Free Picks portion of the website but I sure didn’t last long when I went with SAIL ON SUNSHINE in the 3rd. The saddle slipping halfway through the race didn’t help matters but that’s racing. In two days, about three quarters of the original 5,676 contestants are already eliminated. I’ll keep posting my ShowVivor horse each day despite the quick hook.

Congratulations to Terry Turrell for whipping me in the Fans’ Forum handicapping contest today. The meet-long contest is run in tournament style, and Turrell now advances to the Final Four. He made his money right off the bat with GARY’S GOT RHYTHM, who is owned and bred by his son Toby (publisher of Winner’s Card). Nice job.

On Saturday, Michael Baze got a riding double, including pulling off the big upset on HELLO LUCKY in the featured Las Flores. I like this rider, who is getting on some live mounts for new agent Nick Cosato. HELLO LUCKY, along with bomber SELF INSURED in the 10th caused the big Pick Six carryover.

FETE did it again, taking his second straight downhill race in the 5th, which was his sixth win from his last seven starts (Saratoga, Delaware, Hollywood Park on Cushion Track, Santa Anita turf). Talk about the ultimate professional–he is now eight for 17 lifetime.

Tough beat of the day: A friend of mine played a large Pick 4 ticket that spread the the first and second legs, singled OLYMPIC MILER in the 9th and had nine of 12 horses covered in the last. You know what’s coming right? One of the three uncovered horses won the finale as the Pick 4 returned a whopping $64,919. The worst part? He had the runner-up LEGATE, who was a flying second at 29-1. On my suggested P4 ticket I used eight of the 12 and missed. Moral of the story: If you need to use more than 75% of the field to feel comfortable, just spend the extra money and buy the race. You obviously don’t have a feel for the race when using that many runners, so there is nothing wrong with using the ALL box once in awhile. Just cut down somewhere else, if necessary.

Congratulations again to Noble Threewitt on his 96th birthday and official retirement. I joined a number of well wishers at his house after the races and had a good time celebrating his big day.

Take two off and see you on Wednesday.

To view Free Samples of Premium Plays from the past two days, click on the links below:Â Premium Plays for Feb. 25Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Premium Plays for Feb. 24

Not a whole lot of note happened at Santa Anita yesterday.

GETBACK TIME dropped back into the allowance ranks and outgamed ARGENTINISIMA late to win the 7th race. What a claim she has proven to be for Rafael Becerra, winning four times and never finishing out of the money in 10 starts for her connections.

Jorge Chavez won a pair, currently running seventh in the rider standings while establishing a spot for himself on this circuit. I didn’t think he had a chance when he first came West but he’s grown on me. He doesn’t look pretty on a horse but gets the job done.

Trainer Roger Stein popped again in the last race of the day, this time with longshot MY MAN SAM ($39.60). He got the money with MEAN HEAT last Sunday and his barn is definitely heating up right now.

After picking great on Thursday (six winners), I hit the brakes yesterday with one top choice winner. So after tying Brad Free at the top of the handicapper standings two days ago, I got left in the dust yesterday when Free exploded for his own six pack…111-106, advantage Free. In a couple tough beats, I picked and bet LANG FIELD in the 2nd (lost to favorite OUT OF CONTROL) and ARGENTINISIMA in the 7th, who ran very well but couldn’t hold off the winner.

It’s time for the stewards to put FORGIVABLE BOB on the vet’s list due to his inability to come out of the gate with his field. He’s broken poorly in six straight races while spotting his field about five lengths each time, so it’s time for the public to be protected. He’s become UN-FORGIVABLE BOB.

The jockeys got whipped by the Holy Angels seventh and eighth graders 43-30 on Thursday night. Coach Kurt Hoover didn’t have much to work with (now that Desormeaux is gone, slim pickings) but ESPN reported that his job is in jeopardy after a number of losses in the last five years. Speculation is that Jerry Tarkanian, Bill Frieder and Bob Boyd will come out of retirement for next year’s game.

Speaking of hoops, congratulations to my alma mater, Occidental College, on winning their second SCIAC championship in the last five years. Despite getting “homered” by the scoring table, Oxy defeated the hated Poets of Whittier in a double OT thriller. On to the Division IIIÂ playoffs.

To view a Free Sample of yesterday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 23

Yesterday was a good day for public handicappers to raise their batting averages. With five very logical favorites winning (now 32% for the meet), it was hard not to rack up a lot of winners in the paper/online. But I was most happy with my 8th race selection of ONENINTYEIGHT LAKE ($14.00), who returned in a maiden claimer and went virtually wire-to-wire in a wide-open finale. And if you were one who took advantage of my two-for-one Premium Plays special (Thursday-Friday), you connected big-time in the finale. I played the trifecta keying the winner along with ANY AFTERNOON and YOUAREMYLUCKYSTAR, who finished in a dead-heat for second. Now the investment cost a few bucks ($66 to be exact, after scratches) but the result was hitting each trifecta combination twice, for a total return of $496 to go along with the Win Bet on ‘LAKE. That’s a good way to walk out of the track.

Two $100,000 claims in for 5th race maiden winner AMAZIN BLUE, who went to Jerry Hollendorfer in the shake…THE YELLOW SHEET, owned and bred by Toby Turrell of Winner’s Card, was taken out of the 7th race by Warren Stute for $32,000. Well sold, I think.

Two training wins for Rafael Becerra (TRICK A CAT and CELTIC FABLE, both of which are now leaving his barn. ‘CAT went to Jack Carava in a 6-way shake and ‘FABLE was taken by Mike Marlow–not sure about shake status).

Eight different riders won on Thursday, including William Antongeorgi, who got his first win since losing his apprentice allowance. Martin Pedroza was off all mounts after being shaken up in a car accident on Wednesday night.

Congratulations to Jon Court, who will receive the 2007 George Woolf Award by a vote of his peers. The presentation will be made at Santa Anita on Mar. 25.

Hollywood Park President Jack Liebau has committed the Inglewood track to operating through September, 2008.

To view a Free Sample of yesterday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 22

The last time CONVEYOR’S ANGEL ran she was disqualifed at 48-1 after “winning” the Tuzla Handicap. Today, dismissed at 22-1, ‘ANGEL did it again, closing from far back to beat a good field (including runner-up SINGALONG, who was moved up last time) in the Buena Vista. Poetic justice for her connections after being DQ’d back to seventh in her most recent. The victory marked the first career stakes win for jockey Saul Arias.

Two riding winners each today for Garrett Gomez, David Flores, Martin Garcia–and Alex Solis, who combined with trainer Paddy Gallagher to take down two victories after a very slow first half of the meet. Solis rode aggressively today, saving ground inside while sitting behind horses (SHEM in the 1st race and SWINGER DOLL in the 4th race) and it paid off with narrow wins in both heats. I don’t think it was any coincidence that the ground-saving trips made the difference–let’s just hope he puts up more rides like these instead of the safe, wide-trip variety we have been seeing from him.

Trainer Jeff Mullins ran one-two in the 6th race with ONLY ONE WAY and SWISS LAD. I went the wrong way in my picks but ‘ONE WAY just wants to win more than the other guy.

INDIAN CHANT ran too well to lose in the 8th but the early pace duel took its toll as Chilean import HARALDO got the money under another perfect Gomez ride. BIG PICTURE, the horse that dueled with ‘CHANT through :21, :43.3 fractions, was basically eased through the lane.

Nice debut win in the finale by SOUTH COAST, who is late getting started (4-year-old) but he can run some for Marty Jones.

Fifth race winner STRUT YOUR STUFF was worth the money ($50,000) but there were no takers.

No racing until Thursday…see you then.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 19Â

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When a jockey wins three in a day it’s a nice accomplishment but nothing totally out of the ordinary. When a trainer does it, especially one with limited starters, it’s a great accomplishment. David Hofmans went a perfect three-for-three on the Sunday card, sending out winners GREG’S GOLD, LEVEL RED and DESERT CODE. All three won comfortably as Hofmans jumped into the top 10 in the standings. Congratulations on a great day.

David Flores rode three winners on the card, starting with GREG’S GOLD in the 2nd race, followed by BEDLAM BERTIE (my radio play, along with Jonathan Hardoon, on Mike Willman’s show) in the featured Sensational Star and concluding with first-time starter HONETTE, who overcame some traffic trouble to break her maiden in impressive style (6th race). Flores, who is riding with extreme confidence, ranks third in the standings and second in stakes wins at the meet.

Another jockey who deserves a mention is Richard Migliore, who rode a pair of winners today and currently ranks fourth in the standings with 21 winners. The Mig is a rock-solid rider who adds a touch of class to the jock’s room. The personable New Yorker reportedly wants to stay in California on a year-round basis if he can get his wife and kids to sign off on the deal.

Leading man Garrett Gomez, who is suffering from a flu-like illness, was off all mounts again today after taking off after Saturday’s first race. He is named on eight horses tomorrow.

Here’s a tidbit to leave you with, done in the old Jim Healy radio show format: Which prominent trainer, who consistently claims that he doesn’t gamble, recently left a $27,000 voucher in one of the self serve machines and didn’t realize it until he had left the track? By the time this prominent trainer called the mutuel department the ticket had been cashed and paid out to an unknown patron (oooh eee). This prominent trainer will try to get some of his money back in tomorrow’s Buena Vista Handicap. Â

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 18

Saturday was the first of three 10-race cards over the holiday weekend.

I worked at home but watched a few races on the computer. I liked PROUD TOWER TOO going into the San Carlos, but when LATENT HEAT got hammered to even-money, I jumped all over PROUD TOWER TOO at 4-1. I don’t like to criticize riders after a losing bet, but I really thought David Cohen messed it up aboard the Sal Gonzalez-trainee. Cohen outbroke ‘HEAT but the rider was content to stalk off a very soft pace, kept looking behind him when the only horse he had to beat was in front of him, then allowed his horse to drift out into the stretch and was unable to get by through the lane. Switch riders (Edgar Prado aboard the winner) and you switch winners.

Another questionable ride was Tyler Baze’s aboard VICTIM OF LOVE in the 8th race. I know this is a fast horse but did he really need to go 20.99 and 43.53? The horse hung in there until late in the going despite the blazing early pace.

Besides LATENT HEAT, Frankel also trained winner NIGHT CHAPTER (7th race) to draw within six winners of tying the great Charlie Whittingham. ‘HEAT’S win in the San Carlos was Frankel’s eighth stakes victory of the meet.

Two more winners for Doug O’Neill (SOMETHING SONIC and YOU ARE THE ANSWER) as he moved three in front of John Sadler in the training standings. The O’Neill barn has taken off lately after a very slow start to the meet.

Two winning mounts for Jose Valdivia, who is slowing creeping up into the rider standings.

Congratulations to the Occidental Tigers in defeating the Redlands Bulldogs in front of the biggest crowd in Redlands history. The crowd came to honor retiring coach Gary Smith but my alma mater won the shootout 116-106 in a game that had the best atmosphere of any small college game I’ve ever seen.

To view a Free Sample of yesterday’s Premium Plays, please click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 17

Normally Santa Anita is run very professionally by quality people who have served in the racing industry for decades. Today, however, wasn’t one of those days. From the conclusion of the 6th race on, it looked like the Keystone Kops had taken over.

First, TIJERAS, a gelding that had been away for 17 months and was returning off a very short work tab for trainer Rafael DeLeon, collapsed after the 6th race near the tunnel where the horses enter and exit the track. It appeared to be a case of heat exhaustion, which is not entirely uncommon on hot days like this. The usual steps were taken and the horse was finally removed from the track, alive but not on his own power. He had to be rolled onto a tarp, which was then dragged via pulley system into the horse ambulance. The delay took about 30 minutes but the horses for the 7th race were able to come onto the track and get in a brief warmup.

A few minutes before the 7th, an announcement was made that UP IN THE GODS (3-1 second choice in the 8th race), who earlier in the day had been announced as a first-time gelding, was actually a full horse. Apparently he grew back his testicles sometime during the day (that’s a joke just in case anyone thought I was serious!). Then followed another announcement saying that the horse had been scratched out of the finale. As we have been harping about here, late gelding announcements SHOULD result in a horse being scratched in order to protect the betting public.

In the meantime, # 5 in the 7th race (!), QUICK AS RAY, was being shown as a scratched horse on the tote board. As the horses were loading into the gate, you could hear Trevor Denman’s phone ring in the background. He quickly made the announcement that QUICK AS RAY was NOT scratched but rather #5 in the 8th race was the correct scratch. ‘RAY’s 30-1 odds were posted back on the board and the horses went about their way, with the big longshot getting up for second at the wire. Complete chaos. Who was at fault? Probably someone working in the tote room who misheard Denman’s announcement. It wasn’t exactly The Great Race Place today.

On a more positive note, Clinton Potts rode three winners today, including pickup mount SPECIALIST MORGEN J (for Mike Mitchell) in the 5th race. This Polish Numbers gelding acted like he absolutely loved the turf. Another impressive turf winner was French import RICHE AMERICAINE for Julio Canani. She looked like she was just getting warmed up going nine furlongs, so she could develop into one of the top marathon turf distaffers around here.

Back-to-back winners for owner Bob Bone and trainer Art Sherman as they scored with SOUL CITY SLEW ($27.00) and BULLISH YIELD ($4.80) in races 3 and 4.

The ShowVivor contest ended today as two of the final three contestants got KO’d when DALICIA ran out in the 7th. The winner, Michael Jacavage from Pennsylvania, had picked TALE OF THE SCALE, who finished third in the day’s opener. Another round of the popular contest will start in the next few days.

Frustrating day for me on the my Premium Play selections. I gave out a $128 Pick 6 ticket that “singled” three horses. Well, those three all won (BULLISH YIELD, VORACIOUS and RICHE AMERICAINE). And I had last race winner CHIEF STORM CLOUD ($22.40). However, I missed price horses SOUL CITY SLEW and SPECIALIST MORGEN J and had to settle for four, which pays exactly the same as having zero winners. In the Pick 4, I missed the first leg but had the last three, which only counts if you came back and played the late Pick 3. If so, the return was a healthy $86 (on what would have been a $16 investment).

Good card tomorrow…10 races also on both Sunday and Monday. Good luck.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 16

After going into hibernation for awhile, the Pick Six carryover has returned. More than $106,000 will await players into Friday, with a pretty competitive card on tap.

Rapid fire thoughts: Trainer Jeff Mullins won two today, as did jockey Martin Garcia…Peter Miller got back on the winning track with LA TORMENTA (7th race) after a number of his most recent starters had run poorly…congratulations to good friends George Hicker, Doug McClure and Alex Venneri as their AMERICAN OFFICER won the 5th. Hicker, a former teammate of Dave Bing, Jim Boeheim and Frank Hamblen (Laker assistant coach), remains an avid Syracuse supporter…Eddie Truman loves to reclaim horses after he has lost them through the claim box. He did it again today with OSHINSKY (5th race).

Two horses that had unlucky trips today were FOREST DANZ, who raced very wide throughout before getting run down in the 2nd race; and CATEGORIZE, who broke slowly and never really had a clear run through the lane in the 7th race. Both bear watching next time, although I’d feel more comfortable betting ‘DANZ back had he not been claimed away from Mullins (by Melody Conlon).

All three remaining contestants in the the ShowVivor contest remained alive today.

Good luck on tomorrow’s carryover card.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 15

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One trainer and one jockey ended prolonged losing streaks on Wednesday.

Gary Mandella saddled his first winner of the meet when French invader SWEET TRAVEL took the 3rd race over unlucky favorite THEVERYTHOUGHTOF U. Mandella ended a zero-for-24 skein after running second four times at the meet.

Tyler Baze, who incidentally rode (to use that term loosely) THEVERYTHOUGHTOF U, finally busted out of his 0-for-30-something streak (one for 70-something) when first-time starter READY MAID romped home in the 5th. As I mentioned in Saturday’s posting, Baze has been terrible lately but I had no idea that his losing streak had reached such proportions.

Victor Espinoza won a pair, one aboard sharp JUST A TWITT, who paid quick dividends off the Monteleone claim and was tagged out of the race by Bob Hess, Sr. Espinoza still trails leading man Gomez by 11 winners (50-39).

COBALT BLUE returned to the races in smart style, scoring from slightly off the pace for owner Merv Griffin and trainer Doug O’Neill in the 2nd race. The son of Golden Missile acts like he wants to run long but it seems too late in the going to get on the Kentucky Derby Trail. O’Neill has had big-time success in races like the WinStar and Indiana derbies, so perhaps that’s the path ‘BLUE will take.

Art Sherman on SIREN LURE, who will run in Saturday’s San Carlos: “He’s got to sit and make one run, and it would help if he could save some ground,” Sherman said. “You’ve got to save ground around the turn. You can’t be four and five wide and give another horse that many lengths. You’ve got to ride a heads-up race. I rode for 23 years and if you’re wide turning for home, that can mean five lengths. You can’t keep riding the same kind of race and get the money when it’s going to be close. I think racing luck and riding a good race is going to be a big factor.” Pretty good explanation of why Migliore will be taking over for Solis.

In Sunday’s post, I noted that the O’Neills claimed SLOW N EASY off Ron Ellis. There was a three-way shake for the horse, which explains a lot. Claiming off friends is kosher when you know there are other claims in for that horse.

Racing lost a good friend with the passing of Trudy McCaffery. Owner, breeder, horse enthusiast, member of the Oak Tree board, supporter of Kids to the Cup. She will be missed.

To view a Free Sample of yesterday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 14

Yesterday’s early morning rain wiped out the two turf races (2nd and 4th races), which were probably the most interesting races on the card, at least from a gambling perspective. Although there were two stakes races on the card, let’s face it, it was pretty boring out there. Here’s a quick recap:

2nd race–Turf to dirt as only a field of five remained. GRAND POINT followed up his maiden score with an easy victory over a weak bunch. The next level will be a whole lot tougher.

3rd race–I liked AUGMENT a lot going in (he was the Free Pick of the Day on my website) but he was life and death as Gomez carried him home. He appeared to be going nowhere on the far turn but Gomez just kept riding until the Gallagher-trained gelding finally prevailed in the final 70 yards. Talk about a rider making the difference.

4th race–Guillot-trained first-time starter SOUTHERN INVASION (under Michael Baze) pulled off the upset in the first leg of the Pick Six. Odds-on favorite ASCARI couldn’t have run worse, hanging badly through the lane. I know he had never been on dirt before but he’s a bum–dirt or turf.

6th race–SLOW N EASY overcame a slow n easy start to win first off the claim for Ellis (had been a Danny V). Heavy favorite and suspicious dropper OUT OF COAL was eased through the lane. Interesting sidenote: in the winner’s circle after the race were Dennis O’Neill’s kids, who are friends with the Ellis kids. Amy Ellis was one of Tammy O’Neill’s (Dennis’ wife) bridesmaids . Guess who claimed ‘EASY? That’s right, Doug O’Neill with Dennis listed as one of the owners. Interesting game we play.

7th race–NOBLE COURT won the San Vicente in all-out style over LAW BREAKER. We weren’t impressed. Slow time, visually unimpressive, low-rated heat.

8th race–BALANCE got back on the winning track by taking the La Canada over a very weak Grade 2 field. BAI AND BAI tried her best but wasn’t good enough in finishing second.

9th race–Dropper SUPERSTAR JUSTIN dominated in the finale. Don’t know what his issues are but he looked like he was worth the money for new trainer Becerra.

Two other observations: the Peter Miller barn has really cooled off lately. And should have mentioned how bad Tyler Baze was yesterday, particularly his ride on RED NECK GAL (4th race) and not much better on HERE COMES RAY RAY (1st). Expect the O’Neill barn to start using a different Baze–Michael–much more in the future.

Thanks to a couple of readers who answered my question about Saturday’s 6th race winner ABALANCHE being a “Bi-Lateral Crytorchid”. It basically means that the horse has undescended testicles (did not drop from his abdomen) and is not fertile. Â

See you on Wednesday.

To view a Free Sample of yesterday’s Premium Plays, click on the line below: Premium Plays for Feb. 11

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