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I worked at home yesterday and watched races on the computer, so I really don’t have much clue as to what happened in some instances.

I do know that RAGS TO RICHES is a rising star. The $1.9 A. P. Indy filly had everything against her yet still won the Las Virgennes. She was stepping up to meet Grade I company off a maiden win; she was trying two turns for the initial time; she was stuck outside (eight post) going a flat mile. Despite losing tons of ground on both turns, she still ran down loose-on-the-lead BARONESS THATCHER under hot-riding Garrett Gomez. The time wasn’t fancy but she acts like something special…make her the early favorite for the Kentucky Oaks.

Give credit to Michael “Whitey” McCarthy, whose 45 days in the sun as a head trainer are now over with the return of Todd Pletcher. He has done a great job with Pletcher’s West Coast string and puts a Grade I win on his resume. Congratulations.

In the other Grade I, the Santa Maria Handicap, SUGAR SHAKE was handed an easy lead when speedy SEAFREE broke in the air and lost all chance. ‘SHAKE took advantage of very soft splits to post her second stakes win of the meet for Bobby Frankel, who is inching closer to Charlie Whittingham’s all-time win mark at Santa Anita.

Three more winners for Gomez (48 for the meet, 12 in front of nearest “rival”) and two for Richard Migliore. That means super agent Ron Anderson batted .500 yesterday as his two jocks won five of the 10 races on the card.

A note at the bottom of the program read that maiden winner ABALANCHE (6th race) is a Bi-Lateral Cryptorchid. I’ve never heard the term and tried looking it up in the dictionary. Does anyone have a clue what that term means?

Watching the Risen Star from Fair Grounds on computer was quite an adventure. NOTIONAL looked good but it was impossible to tell how much trouble CIRCULAR QUAY encountered behind the fallen horse. I will watch it again on, but what was your opinion?

As the title says, more questions than answers this time around.

We finally got that rain that had been forecast for the last few days. It’s raining at Santa Anita on Sunday morning, so I would fully expect races 2 and 4 to come off the turf. Good luck today.

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

Not much to report from today’s lackluster card. After so many good ones through the first six weeks of the meet, we were due for some modest weekday cards. And that’s what we got today.

Eight different jockeys and trainers scored victories today.

On the horse front, I thought there were three notable wins: VOTSI (4th race) broke her maiden in impressive style for Neil Drysdale. The 4-year-old filly trailed early, made a swooping 4-wide move on the far turn (which is particularly difficult when the rails are out 30 feet), then continued her run through the lane to win going away. JACK’S KID (5th race) continued his razor-sharp form by defeating good horses like WIND WATER, GRINDING IT OUT and DATTICUS with a fast, perfect-trip tally. Bob Hess has done an excellent job with this 5-year-old gelding. And RED DIADEM (7th race) shortened up in distance and obviously took to the downhill layout with a sharp victory in 1:12.3. She won going long on Cushion Track at HP but might have found her calling as a turf sprinter.

Two very competitive Grade I’s tomorrow with the Santa Maria going as the 7th race on the card and the Las Virgennes going as the 9th. Bobby Frankel has cross entered SUGAR SHAKE in Sunday’s La Canada but word is that she will run tomorrow.

Hope we can keep the rain away.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 9

There must be something magical about working in the publicity office of the Santa Anita press box. First, PR Director Mike Willman’s MCCANN’S MOJAVE wins the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic a couple of weeks ago. Now today, Willman’s right-hand man, Jack Disney, gets another win with ON THE ACORN for his Indizguys Stable. The six-person partnership includes former Angels manager Buck Rodgers and Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan (L.A. Times), among others. It was great to see how excited this group was to be winning owners. Disney, a former Herald Examiner sportswriter who is well-liked and well-respected by everyone, was beaming in his post-race interview on HRTV.

Claimed for $40,000 three races back and gelded by new trainer Mike Mitchell, ON THE ACORN ran poorly first time when pressing the early pace. Reunited with Brice Blanc and taken far back next time, ‘ACORN won a desperate photo vs. optional claimers. But today’s win was something special. Last off a slow pace and encountering traffic trouble a couple of times, ‘ACORN got through on the rail, angled outside pacesetter A. P. EXCELLENT, then blew past that one for a very impressive victory. Next stop looks like the San Luis Obispo on Feb. 25. Don’t underestimate the karma that is coming out of that publicity office.

As a side note, two other members of the publicity staff were five-for-five on a $16 Pick Six ticket today. However, they had to settle for second with WAILEA GIRL in the finale and collected a measly $154 consolation instead of the $12,000 and change winner’s share had ‘GIRL gotten there. Still, I think I want to move my seat into that office for the rest of the meet.

Two winners for Martin Pedroza as eight different trainers scored today.

The SHOWVIVOR contest that began with 4,005 entrants is now down to six heading into tomorrow’s card.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 8

It happened again today. As the horses were in the walking ring for the 8th race, Trevor Denman made the announcement that BORN TO COMMAND was racing as a gelding. I believe he worded it as a “regular” gelding (meaning there was a mistake in the program) but after checking my old programs, that, too, was a mistake. ‘COMMAND raced as a colt in his most recent start on Oct. 6. In Sunday’s 2nd race, the late announcement was made that ARE YOU POSITIVE had been gelded since his last start. As handicappers know, this “equipment” change (known as the Ultimate Equipment Change) can be instrumental in turning around a horse’s form.

It is simply unacceptable that this continues to happen. Wagering has started. Rolling, multi-race bets are in full swing. Whether it’s the trainer at fault for not reporting or the racing office for screwing up the paperwork, someone needs to be held accountable. My first thought is that the horse should be automatically scratched, regardless of who’s at fault. If it’s the trainer, fine him $1,000. If it’s the racing office, suspend that worker without pay for a few days. After each of those happen one time, guess what? You will never have the problem again.

I’m told by CHRB spokesman Mike Marten that this issue will be addressed at the next board meeting on Feb. 21. Also, according to Marten, the board will never go for the idea of scratching a runner simply because of the late announcement. Along with Bob Mieszerski of the L.A. Times, I have been asked to speak on behalf of horseplayers at that meeting. I would love input from readers on possible solutions and remedies to the problem prior to going before the Board. Count that runner as an automatic “winner” in rolling bets, no matter where it finishes? Include in consolation payoffs for daily doubles and Pick 3′s? I have some ideas but want to come to the meeting armed and ready as I get the opportunity to speak for the betting public. Please post your ideas and comments!

Today, two winners for David Cohen, who, as we mentioned earlier, has parted ways with agent Nick Cosato. Little Nick will take over for Michael Baze, so look for that rider to get an opportunity with some of the bigger barns (aka Doug O’Neill).

Both Pick 4′s paid huge overlays today. The early Pick 4 returned $585, more than twice the parlay of $268. And the late Pick 4 paid $1,121, nearly twice the parlay of $565. There is still great value in this wager, especially with decent field size.

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

Sometimes a rider gets into such a groove that he makes it look all too easy as he dominates his competition. That is what’s happening right now at Santa Anita, as Garrett Gomez appears to be toying with the riding colony, coming from behind with perfect timing to seemingly win every photo at the wire.

Today, for example: 2nd race, Gomez rallies a spent YMUSTICHASETHECAT back along the inside to run down even more exhausted runners for a half-length victory. 4th race, he prevails with a lugging in, won’t-change-leads 3-year-old for Baffert named AIR COMMANDER (who is not much, by the way). 6th race, rallies from well off the pace to bring home favorite BLUES STREET as he runs by the leader in the final stages. 8th race, he picks up the mount on MOLENGAO (Victor Espinoza was injured earlier in the day when he bailed off BARDY WOMAN, who broke down going into the first turn of 3rd race), then gets that one up late to nail BALL FOUR in the final jump. Why Julien Leparoux never went to the whip on the runner-up is anyone’s guess, but that’s another story. Gomez’s stats: four winners and an unlucky second aboard STRONG FAITH, who might have won the 3rd race with a better trip. He’s in a zone right now and the jockey race is turning into a one-man show.

Agent Nick Cosato has parted company with David Cohen. He will start representing another rider in the very near future, a young guy who has a lot of upside. More on this when it becomes official. Â

Three trainers are tied at the top with 15 winners: John Sadler, Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill. O’Neill got off to a slow start but is picking it up lately and probably has too many bullets not to win another title.

I ended an excellent week of handicapping by picking the first six winners ($32.60 in mutuel returns) on today’s card. I had grandiose ideas of the elusive “sweep” but couldn’t find any of the last three winners.

Services for Kellie Cerin will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Church of the Good Shepherd, 400 W. Duarte Road in Arcadia.

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


Quick thoughts on Saturday’s coast-to-coast racing:

Really liked the way RAVEL won the Sham Stakes, going 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.4, just a tick slower than 4-year-old ARSON SQUAD’s winning time in the Strub. RAVEL is a $950,000 son of Fusaichi Pegasus that has won both of his route races on the West Coast for Pletcher/McCarthy. He might be a serious Derby contender if he keeps moving forward.

SWEET RETURN ended a long losing streak by wiring his foes in the Thunder Road. He got things his own way and dug in gamely when it looked like BAYEUX was going by. By the way, what was Garrett Gomez doing on favorite CHARMO, moving way prematurely to press the winner into the far turn. I know ‘RETURN was walking on the front end but the leading reinsman completely took CHARMO out of his game.

ARSON SQUAD got the best trip and took the Strub against a very ordinary group of 4-year-olds. BROTHER DEREK again was well-bet but had no excuse when finishing in a photo for second, and MIDNIGHT LUTE flattened out after a wide trip. He doesn’t want to run nine furlongs. LAVA MAN has absolutely nothing to worry about if anything from this group is heading to the Big Cap.

Gomez won three, Gryder two. Trainer Doug O’Neill had two wins with cheapies but finished second in the big ones (LIQUIDITY and SPRING AT LAST).

At Gulfstream Park, INVASOR was awesome winning the Donn, overcoming traffic trouble and getting stopped at the top of stretch before rallying strongly along the rail to blow away his overmatched competition. He is one nice racehorse.

NOBIZ LIKE SHOWBIZ won as expected in the Holy Bull but he still has a tendency to lug in through the lane. Shouldn’t he have outgrown that habit by now? This grand-looking colt looks the part but is his lugging in more than just a bad habit?

First post at 11:00 a.m. for Super Bowl Sunday card.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 3

This has been a sad week in racing–for both horse and human. First, BARBARO was put down after his lengthy battle. Then shocking news today that Kellie Cerin, wife of trainer Vladimir Cerin, died while the couple was on vacation in Mexico. Details are conflicting–I’ve heard three different accounts–but she died last night in a apparently freak accident. My condolences to the Cerin family.

Another Pick Six carryover (12th of the meet) into Saturday’s excellent 10-race card. With double digit winners in four of the P6 races, and only one winning favorite, no wonder there is $123,000 up for grabs on Strub Day.

The early Pick 4 paid a whopping $20,483 and the late Pick 4 came back at $4,333.

Jose Valdivia won a pair ($19 and $28 winners) and Alex Solis got a win aboard impressive OLD THUNDERÂ in the 7th. Unfortunately ‘THUNDER wasn’t able to make it back to the winner’s circle and had to be vanned off after the race. REDSTONE ARSENAL got the money for the always dangerous Avila-Berrio team. To say that this horse wasn’t persevered with last time would be an understatement.

Sophomore COURT THE KING (first-time gelding) was an impressive winner in the 5th. He got kind of a setup but went by the leaders in good style. TENFOLD isn’t improving but MARGENOT has upside despite tiring to third. He had missed some time and was stretching out around two turns after his debut win sprinting.

Great card in Florida tomorrow, showcashing INVASOR and NOBIZ LIKE SHOWBIZ in their respective races.

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Feb. 2

Nick “Sarge” Hines has had a slow start to the meet but scored a training double today with favorite C. T. ZEE ($6.00) in the 3rd race and bomber DIXIE’S RULER ($53.40) in the 6th. Sarge was low-key in winning with the first and more logical of his two winners but came unraveled when the Martin Pedroza expertly got home the second winner. Hines hugged and kissed everyone within sight, including HRTV host Scott Hazelton. For all his hyperbole (especially when the TVG cameras are on), Hines is a good guy. I’ve known him since his days as an assistant for Bob Hess and I take full credit for coming up with the nickname “Sarge”. In those days, he had a buzzcut and was so fit and trim he looked like an Army recruiting poster.

But here’s the skinny:Â I liked DIXIE’S RULER. I picked him second in my Graded Handicap (why didn’t I have the huevos to put him on top?) and suggested him as a Win Bet on my Premium Plays. He had a brutal trip last time, stopped dead cold at the 1/4-pole to lose all momentum, then he actually tried to re-rally through the lane. Route-to-sprint. Wide-open race. Sometimes all the tape watching does pay off.

Huge day for Garrett Gomez, knocking down four winners as he increased his lead over Victor Espinoza to 36-31. Gomez is in a groove–no one else on this circuit even comes close right now.

In Friday’s Form, Alex Solis says he would like to ride for another 10 years. With rides like he put up on GENERAL BUENO in the 1st, Solis should instead think about riding for another 10 days. He had effectively eliminated his mount’s chances (guzzled early, angled wide) by the time they hit the first turn. Solis is one of the nicest guys in racing but let’s face it, he is a shadow of his former self. He rides like a guy who has taken one too many bad spills–and the trainers have picked up on it. He rides just a few horses each day and not many live ones at that.

I hit the Pick 4 for $370 ($72 ticket) on my Premium Plays but had opportunities to hit one out of the park. I had two horses in the 7th and three in the 8th but got short-priced favorites in both legs.

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

NOTE: Anyone reading all the way to the bottom will be offered Friday’s Premium Plays for FREE. Simply email me at and type FREE PREMIUM PLAYS on the subject line. I will then email you the selection sheet after 9:00 a.m. (Pacific)

Today at Santa Anita, Daily Racing Form handicapper Brad Free almost pulled off a clean sweep of the eight-race card. But for a nose loss with MS ZENNA’S ROYAL, Free would have pulled off the elusive feat, the Holy Grail for public handicappers. It’s been done before, including not too long ago by Jack Karlik and Mike Superstein (on different days) but it’s still a hell of an accomplishment. Free made his selections on Sunday (72 hours before post time), without knowing track condition, scratches, potential biases, etc. He had good opinions on seven winners, only four of which were favored, and got beat a dirty nose in his lone defeat.

As a group, we public handicappers work hard to give out winners, along with value and, hopefully, some insightful commentary. But Brad works as hard or harder than any of us in the press box. He keeps great records and puts in a ton of research to come up with his daily selections and analysis. His column is consistently filled with pertinent statistical tidbits that can be very useful to the player. On his segment of the nightly replay show called “Additional Advantage”, he has nailed a number of good winners at this meet, including a $28.60 winner named EYE CANDY SANDI on Jan. 6.

Ironically, Free’s huge day came right after some corwardly morons in the Del Mar forum had ripped him about never giving out a winner. His picks were automatic throw outs, one said. First of all, what an idiotic statement from some wannabe handicapper who wouldn’t know the first thing about making selections for print 48-72 hours in advance of the actual race. Secondly, how brave some of these chat forum people are, hiding behind anonymous user names and sophomoric pictures. Here’s a suggestion to those “brave” souls out there. Use your real name, put your own picks up for public scrutiny 48 hours in advance, then keep track of your results for everyone to see. If any one of these chat room whiz kids can beat Free for a meet, it’s dinner on me at Pamplemousse Grille this summer.

Can someone in track managment explain to me why the 3rd race taken off the turf today? Especially after the track was “hit” with less than a quarter inch of rain? Wouldn’t a good dousing from the sprinklers put that much water on the grass? Don’t get it.

Eight different trainers and jockeys won today.

NORWAY HOUSE was claimed out of his sixth straight race, this time by Jeff Mullins. Speaking of claims, DA SVEDONYA is in desperate need of a freshening. She has been campaigned hard without a break and it is starting to show. Will she get the needed time off from new trainer Steve Knapp?

To view a Free Sample of today’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Jan. 31 Â


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