As we know, handicapping a horse race is not an exact science and different horse race handicappers employ several different methods, techniques and processes. In this section of the website, horse race handicapper John Piesen allows some of his many connections to sound off on various topics, offering their expertise and perspectives on handicapping and horse racing in general.
BIG FIELDS… BIG UPSET PROBABILITY… BIG PAYOFFS EXPECTED FROM SARATOGA’S 5 STAKES RACE BONANZA… INCLUDING GUARANTEED $1 MILLION PICK 4
On June 20, 2015 at Belmont Park, in an Allowance/Optional Claimer on the Turf, a race eligible for non-winners of 4 other than or a $100,000 claiming price both CHARMING KITTEN and UNDER CONTROL made their first starts of the 2015 season.
This race was written specifically for older turf horses that had raced in Stakes Races and CHARMING KITTEN at 6-5 got a perfect trip and held off a late rallying UNDER CONTROL who lost by ¾ of a length at 5-1 despite getting stuck in traffic, bumped and needing to bull between rivals.
Neither raced again until they met in the LURE STAKES, one of the same 5 Stakes Races being run as part of Saturday’s All-Stakes Bonanza at the Spa.
A horse by the name of RELOAD, who was dropping out of a graded stakes so-so fourth place finish was sent off as the 7-10 favorite and once again the public jumped on CHRMING KITTEN and "ignored" UNDER CONTROL. The former was 2.2-1 and the latter 5.3-1. That the two favorites were from the barns of New York-centric Todd Pletcher and Shug McCaughey while UNDER CONTROL was conditioned by shipper Graham Motion probably had a deal to do with the public betting as well.
RELOAD and CHARMING KITTEN engaged early and as he did on June 20 UNDER CONTROL stalked the pace, only this time he got the trip and cashed in at $12.60 and with the two runners up got my clients off to a great start to the 5 Race Stakes Bonanza.
When it comes to finding the value plays the public will ignore I expect nothing less this year.
Why do we mention this? Because on Saturday they will run this year’s edition of the LURE STAKES. This one of 5 Stakes races on the day… and it opens the 5 straight stakes race run (Races 7-11) that includes running Daily Doubles and Pick 3’s as well as the GUARANTEED $1 Million Pick 4 Races 8-11.)
The LURE has a full 9 horse field to go the mile and a sixteenth on the turf. Featured players include SHINING COPPER (3-1) who drops in after 6 straight tries in Grade I company and FULL MAST (5-2) who is making his third NA start after finishing a troubled trip 4th as the 1.10-1 favorite in the Grade II King Edward at Woodbine in his last.
It will not be surprising to see as many as 6 horses go off at single digit odds. ECTAT (5-1), who shipped from France a few weeks ago, skipped a softer spot last week and will make his NA debut off some tough rivals in Europe. Also in need of attention is MARCH (9-2) who will be making his first start since November for Chad Brown (26% winners heading into Thursday racing) after running second in the Grade I Hollywood Derby before the break.
Brown also has OFFERING PLAN (8-1) entered off a good try in the Grade III Poker and SOLEMN TRIBUTE, who pulled the upset in the aforementioned Grade II King Edward at $18.90.
CONQUEST TYPHOON (12-1), BIGGER PICTURE (20-1) and JAY GATSBY (20-1) complete the field.
The LURE is followed by the Grade I TEST Stakes at 7 furlongs for 3-year old fillies. Last out Grade I Mother Goose Winner OFF THE TRACKS will attempt to justify her 8-5 favoritism but the second and third place Mother Goose finishers LEWIS BAY and LIGHTSTREAM are back for more after good efforts and the up and coming KAREENA. A 6 length winner of the Jersey Girl Strakes at Monmouth steps into the deep pool.
Next is the Grade III WAYA Stakes to be run at a Mile and a Half on the Turf. This race could blow up the tote board. Of the 10 four-year old and up fillies and mares entered 9 of them are either graded stakes winners or graded stakes placed, many of them multiple times. Only SUFFUSED, who will be making just her fourth NA start6 after shipping from Europe has not been placed in a Group or Graded Race but was a multiple listed stakes winner across the pond and has been installed as the third favorite at 7-2.
Race 10 is the featured Grade I Whitney Stakes… a $1.25 Million race that will have 5 brave opponents for the 3-5 ML Favorite FROSTED, whose 14 length romp in the Metropolitan Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day was arguably the most impressive performance of 2016.
It is not strange to think that 80-90 percent of bettors will single him in the Pick 3’s and the Guaranteed Pick 4. We will only leave you with this… FROSTED is going from one turn to two and in 3 starts at Saratoga he has yet to visit the winner’s circle. And his challengers are not soft competition.
The day wraps up with the $100,000 DE LA ROSE Stakes a One Mile Turf test for 4-year old and up fillies and mares who have not won a graded sweepstakes in 2016. If there are no scratches 12 ladies will meet the starter with the first and second ML favorites listed at 3-1 (ZINDAYA) and 4-1 (ROCA ROJO) which indicates how wide open this race is… a race in which 6 of the 12 are last out winners.
Short of what will occur on Travers Day on August 27, Saturday’s 5 Stakes race Bonanza will provide BIG PAYOFFS to the right ticket holders… and that is even if FROSTED runs to his expected Odds-On off price.