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Wagstaff’s Picks: Belmont Stakes 2017 June 8, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Horse Racing.
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The house feels weird without my cat around. It seems bigger. It’s definitely quieter. And making some chicken salad yesterday without her pestering and bullying me for some felt very lonely.

So I’ve been keeping busy. I’m refining the story outlines for two more books and preparing another for publication in the next few months. Watch this blog for updates! This new book will be the start of a second series, a scifi adventure series for older kids, but certainly one that adults could also enjoy. As much as I bitch about living in the age of terminal adolescence, I may as well try to cash in on it.

And speaking of cashing in, I’ve gone through the lineup and past performances of this year’s Belmont Stakes entries, and have the following thoughts. (more…)

Wagstaff’s Picks: Preakness 2017 May 18, 2017

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Picking the Preakness is my least favorite part of the Triple Crown sequence, to be honest. The field is smaller (so much for big exotics pools) and the did-they-run-in-earlier-legs factor isn’t as strong (so much for nailing some Johnny-come-lately longshot).

I’m not sure if I’ll bet on this one, since I’d have to pick the 4/5 morning line favorite along with everyone else, Derby winner #4 Always Dreaming.

BUT – there are other horses that might sneak in there, so here are some brief thoughts on what I see.

I like #1 Multiplier, with solid speeds and closing, a well rested non-Derby runner stuck with the rail, but with Joel Rosario riding, that might not factor in as much. Multiplier won the G3 Illinois Derby and has never competed at the G1 level, but the works look great. Always Dreaming will want to set the pace for this thing and go gate to wire, but I could see Multiplier dueling from the start. And with a morning line of 30-1, an across-the-board bet might pay off here.

At the other end of the field, #10 Conquest Mo Money, should also get in on an early speed duel, and could have lasting power to the end. Works look good, and the horse can compete at this level, even if the trainer and jockey stats look weak. And he’s got a morning line of 50-1!

Wild card factor? I’d have to go with #2 Cloud Computing. This one’s a total jockey/trainer angle. Castellano and Brown are very often winners together, and the horse has the potential to hit the speeds necessary, although I’m questionable about his ability to close out over the speed duelers mentioned above. He’s at 12-1, I’d probably throw him into a trifecta or superfecta if I went in that direction. We’ll have to see how much I drink that afternoon. With 50 cent trifectas and 10 cent supers, I might not need much to take some chances here.

That sound you hear is the Wagstaff Retirement Fund going down the drain….

Wagstaff’s Picks: Kentucky Derby 2017 May 4, 2017

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a-day-at-the-races_tootsie-fruitsey

This year’s Derby gives us one of the most open fields in years. Add to that the weather conditions – 3 straight days of likely rain – and we get the random factor of sloppy track conditions to make it all the more unpredictable.

So I’ll go ahead and make some predictions. It’s the rebel in me.

After going through the past performances, I looked at speed, condition, jockey and trainer records… the usual sort of thing. I looked at which horses like to close, which like to lead, and which ones like stouts and porters as opposed to pale ales.

Twenty horses running on a sloppy track means a lot of mud kicked up in the faces of the horses off the lead. The majority of the horses running have no racing experience with that. How will they react?

Some horses have run in the mud before. Some of ’em did pretty well, too. Some of ’em came from behind to win, telling us that the mud-in-the-face factor only makes ’em MAD!

When I put it all together, I’d lean towards the following. I don’t have a definite winner like I did with American Pharoah & The Belmont, or like I did with the pasta I made last night. But I think I’ve got some good prospects here with some good odds to use in various combo bets that might pay well.

#8 Hence at 15-1 (!) looks fast, well conditioned and ready to go. He closes well, and has closed well in sloppy track conditions.

#5 Always Dreaming at 5-1 hasn’t run in the mud, but his overall speed is near the top, and he’s in great shape right now. If (and it’s always a big if) he can handle the mud, he should do fine.

#14 Classic Empire is the current favorite at 4-1, and usually when an opening line favorite is that high, it means there’ll be a lot of changing of that particular status come post time. He’s got the best speed of the bunch, but the only time he ran in mud was for a 4 1/2 furlong low-level race…. but he came from behind and won. I wouldn’t count him out here, not at all.

#2 Thunder Snow at a big 20-1 is my wildcard. He’s only been races overseas, I have no fraction times for him… but he wins. And he wins at decent times, and at least from the reports, he comes from behind and closes. No mud, but he’s one of the few horses who have run on turf, and he’s run & won on soft turf. That tells me the feel of a muddy track won’t bother him at all – it’s only the mud-in-the-face factor that might come into play. Still, I’ll have him in my combo bets, and 50 cent trifecta combos might be the way I go overall.

I had two other horses as possibles before cutting them on a second go-round, and they were #16 Tapcrit and #18 Gormley. I just don’t think the speed is there in either case, and I think trainer Todd Pletcher has a better shot with Always Dreaming than he does with Tapcrit. Could they finish 3rd or 4th for a trifecta or superfecta? Maybe, but I’m thinking my top 4 picks will out run them.

Will I bet a lot under these conditions? Probably not. But with the odds where they are, the idea of hitting a trifecta could potentially mean a big payoff for a small bet, my favorite score at the track every time.

It’s also supposed to rain here in sunny southern California on Saturday, a rarity for May. Maybe I’ll take that as a sign to stay indoors & gamble.

And on other days, I’ll remind myself that it’s probably raining somewhere.

Some Breeder’s Cup Picks (A Pick 6 Sequence) For November 5, 2016 November 4, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Horse Racing.
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marxbroraceWell, I don’t mean to brag…. but I’m ahead FOUR DOLLARS after making two bets on two different Breeder’s Cup races today (Friday). With that amazing amount of confidence on hand, I went ahead and handicapped the Pick 6 sequence in Saturday’s line up, culminating with the big 6 million dollar Breeder’s Cup Classic.

And the Pick 6 will be worth taking a shot at. There’s a half million dollar two day carryover going into it, which pretty much translates to a Pick 6 pool of at least 2 million dollars. And with all those pick 6 players (like me) also playing the late pick 4, the pick 4 pool ought to be north of a million, at least.

In these picks, I’ve listed the horse I most think will most likely win first, and second the horse I think will win if Horse #1 messes up. In one race, I’ve picked 3 for reasons I’ll go into.

Race 7: Breeder’s Cup Turf Sprint (2pm PDT): 2 Obviously, 13 Holy Lute

Race 8: BC Juvenile (2:43pm PDT): 6 Three Rules, 2 Syndergaard

Race 9 (also the start of the Pick 4): BC Turf (3:22pm PDT): 4 Flintshire, 10 Found

Race 10: BC Filly & Mare Sprint (4:01pm PDT): 2 Haveyougoneaway, 8 Carina Mia

Race 11: BC Mile (4:40pm PDT): 10 Limato, 2 Alice Springs & 13 Midnight Storm. Both Limato and Alice Springs are foreign horses with very identical profiles, so I’m throwing them both in. Out of the American horses (STAND UP AND SALUTE, MISTER!) my top pick would be Midnight Storm. I’ll use all 3 in my pick 4, mix ’em up for pick 6 combos.

Race 12: BC Classic (5:35pm PDT): 10 Arrogate, 4 California Chrome. Yeah, that’s right. Every handicapper I’ve looked at says to single California Chrome here, but I’m thinking Arrogate is a better bet. So there.

There’s no way I play a $196 monster pick 6 ticket for all of my picks. I’ll play different combos, not sure how I’ll mix them up yet. However, a $12 monster pick 4 ticket is certainly within the cheapskate Wagstaff betting bankroll budget.

The weather should be clear & beautiful. Races at this level, well… anything can happen, really. But it’s worth a shot. Here’s hoping I run the table….

 

Belmont Stakes Picks 2015 June 4, 2015

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edthesurfer

This year’s Belmont, I think, is the best chance we’ve had for a Triple Crown winner since before I’ll Have Another’s injury took him out of competing in the Belmont a couple of years back. 37 years is a long time, and while the two main Belmont elements that usually combine to scuttle Triple Crown hopes  – the longer distance & the presence of runners who have not run in either or both of the first two legs of the crown – are present,  American Pharaoh still appears as a clear favorite in this relatively small field.

Science also confirms how difficult, if not impossible, it is for horses to win the Triple Crown. And you can’t argue with SCIENCE!!!! (That is, unless you’ve been paying attention to the ever-changing dietary guidelines emanating from the morons who gave us the “food pyramid,” among other crap. But I digress!)

For what it’s worth (and you could scroll down to review my decent success in both the Derby & The Preakness, thank you very much), I don’t think any other contender beats Pharoah if and only if Pharoah runs his standard race and his standard pace. And if he did, he’d run this one practically from gate to wire.  The one horse in the field I could see challenging him early and possibly dueling him right down the line is Madefromlucky, and that’s who I’d pick as the most likely upset if anything goes awry with Pharoah’s standard trip. At a morning line of 12-1, it might be a worthwhile bet, and definitely one to add to any exotic bet.

Assuming a few things go wrong with Pharoah and he’s out of the picture, another horse I could see sneaking in there (that is, is everything goes perfectly for him) is the other Todd Pletcher entry, Materiality. He’d have to run as well as he did in the Florida Derby, and with his jockey switched back from Kentucky’s Castellano to Velazquez, who knows? Velazquez has never lost a race with him. (Castellano will be riding Madefromlucky instead). Materiality has a morning line of 6-1, another one worth looking at for exotics.

If Frosted ran the race of his life, he might also have a shot, but I only see him with a good chance of finishing in the money somewhere other than first, and I’d definitely have him part of any trifecta or superfecta play. I think he’d have too much to make up after trying to keep up with an early pace that’s a little too fast for his liking.

So, that’s my 1-2-3-4 in order, fwiw. In the past, I’ve usually bet exactas and supers on this race, but the fields were bigger and the pools were more spread out. Not sure how I’ll approach this one on Saturday. The idea of an all G1 stakes level pick 4 intrigues me as well – correctly calling an upsetter to Pharoah within it would most likely mean a decent payoff.

 

Preakness Picks 2015 May 15, 2015

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So, will the Preakness basically be a rerun of the Kentucky Derby?

I mostly think so – American Pharoah, the favorite despite getting the rail position, seems (again) to be the one to beat. Dortmund seemed to fade in the stretch in the Derby, while Firing Line could only duel & keep pace at second. The way Espinoza & American Pharoah outran those next-best two down the stretch would lead me to give him the nod here, although if ANYTHING went wrong, a bad trip due to the rail, a stumble…anything, really….. I think Firing Line would sneak in there.

As far as runners who didn’t run in the Derby, the only one I can see mustering a challenge or maybe pulling off an enormous upset would be Divining Rod, whose speed figures are somewhat competitive with the leading horses in the field. Not a bad play to think about, since he’s 12-1 on the morning line, but I’m thinking that people will be wondering (again) if American Pharoah will win the Triple Crown after winning this race. Maybe simply betting Diving Rod to show up in the money is the play here, although I don’t even know if I’ll be betting on this one.

And, as usual, I’m sure the answer will be “No” thanks to whatever entry in the Belmont there is who will not have run in this one or the Derby and will be better rested. Same story, different year, and I’ll prognosticate that race when we come to it.

Reckoning: I wasn’t going to bet this one, and when the rain came a’pourin’ down, I was even more determined not to, even if it meant re-handicapping the thing throwing out Firing Line, since he was the likeliest leader to be most negatively affected by having mud thrown in his face. Even with the weather, I turned out to get the winner, and my longshot pick ran 3rd. Not too shabby, but the potential payoffs still didn’t make it worthwhile to me. We’ll see what happens in the Belmont in three weeks.

Kentucky Derby Picks 2015 May 1, 2015

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I’m not sure how I’ll actually spread my bets on the Derby this year, but I think I can narrow the always enormous field down to a handful of likely candidates for finishing in-the-money, if not winning it outright. While I’ve been using a slightly different handicapping protocol for the current season of Santa Anita with mixed (but better than historic) results, I’m making these picks based on my usual parameters for a high profile high stakes race like this one. I’m mostly looking at overall speed, potential to maintain (or increase) speed at this distance, a distance new to the majority of the field, and whatever I can gather about their current condition & training.

So here it is: Like the opening odds, I would favor the two Bob Baffert entries in this one – American Pharoah and Dortmund. They’ve both got lightning times for races leading up to this and have not faded in stretches. They’ve also won at this level, and by a lot, gate-to-wire in numerous instances. I’d give the edge to American Pharoah from a numbers standpoint, but these two are really close.

One horse I could see sneaking  into an upset victory would be Firing Line. He’s lost to Dortmund twice by a head, but he just flew in his last race, and a repeat of that performance, I think, would give him the edge here. He’s 12-1 on the morning line and worth taking a shot at. My other long-shot wild card possibility (though lesser) would be Upstart, who has some great speed ratings (although erratic) and looks to be in great form. I also can’t resist picking a horse that’s also a gag in Duck Soup. And I also can’t resist including a long-shot possibility when he’s 15-1 morning line and seems to have a reasonable shot at it.

Bets? Still not sure. Probably some win bets on all of them and perhaps an exacta box of all four. I’m never comfy going into deeper exotics with a field of this size, and prefer to save my triple crown bankroll for the Belmont, which I always find the easiest of the three to handicap deep into the field. The only thing I can really guarantee is that I’ll be petting the cat while the race is on.

I’ve been toying with the idea of regularly posting Santa Anita picks on a separate blog page for anyone who might be interested in following my picks or betting along with Wagstaff.  After all, I’ll need company in the poor house for Scrabble games and trivia contests , so join in! Though to be honest, I’m up a few hundred bucks since the start of the year overall. I do about the same or better than the professional handicappers in the newspaper and at the Daily Racing Form. Why can’t they hire ME instead? With ME, you get picks you can trust, PLUS bonus  jokes!

Like this one: A little boy runs home from school and says “Mom! Mom! I got a part in the school play! Aren’t you proud of me?” And the mom says “Oh, that’s wonderful! The drama teacher must think the world of your talent! What part did you get?” The little boy answers “I play the role of the Jewish husband.” The mother gets angry and says “You go right back to that school and tell that god damn teacher you want a speaking part!”

You’ll be telling that joke tomorrow. And maybe you’ll win the Derby! See how valuable I am?

Reckoning Update: Well, I’m pretty valuable after all. Out of the 4 horses I gave you, I got the 1, 2 and 3 finishers.  I bet the exacta and made a $60 profit, which will soon be blown at Brent’s Deli, the best deli in Los Angeles. Stay tuned, we’ll see how I do with The Preakness or if I start posting my Santa Anita plays.

Wagstaff’s Football Picks – Weekend of October 5, 2013 October 4, 2013

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groucho-4

The return of Wagstaff’s picks! I know you all missed it dearly and just couldn’t sleep nights, crying your widdle eyes out over your confusion on who to bet on (legally, in Las Vegas, of course… I’d NEVER want anyone to gamble illegally on something that hurts absolutely no one.)

In the past I made tons of picks each week & kept a won-loss record. This time, I think I’ll edit myself down to a few virtual bets each week that I’d consider the cream of the crop.

So here we go: In the college games, I like Ball State plus 5 against Virginia, and Oklahoma to cover 9 against TCU. An iffier proposition is Idaho plus a fat 27 against Fresno State. They ought to lose, but I’d bet small on beating that spread.

In the Pros – I’d take the Saints by 1 over the Bears, and in what I think the best bet of the weekend is, I’ll go with the Broncos to cover only 7 over the Cowboys, in a game I’d figure they’d win by at least 2 touchdowns. Don’t start betting against Peyton Manning until it starts getting really cold outside & the oddsmakers spot him too much after a string of wins. It’s comin’, trust me…

The Pats take on the Bengals in a pick ’em game. I never bet for/against my team – it’s bad luck. I only hope they can fill the hole left by Wilfork & that the receivers keep their learning curve going. The Bengals led by Dalton (Hey, that’s who Patrick Swayze played in Road House!) are pretty good.

After rolling over & dropping dead against Harvard, Brown plays URI this week. They ought to win it, but as my alma mater descends further and further into insanity with crap like “naked week” (without the obviously needed requirement that only hot girls get naked, but OH NO, not with all the politically correct crapola there…) I’m starting to care less and less every time I open the alumni magazine and discover yet another one of my fellow alums is responsible for destroying the world.

End of rant. Time for a beer.

Kentucky Derby Predictions 2013 May 2, 2013

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horsedoc

It’s been crunch time for your humble Per-fesser lately… getting ready to move has meant signing my name to more documents than I ever thought I’d sign in my LIFE .

Well, except for the time I signed that pre-nup with Kim Jong-Un. We were going to be “The Odd Couple: The New Generation” next fall, but we tested poorly during pilot season. Alas, I’ll never be a sitcom star, I fear.

The idea of packing up Chez Wagstsaff’s numerous books & other chazerei has also been daunting… but thy will be done! A month or so from now I’ll be in new digs, with plenty of time off to acclimate the cat & get crackin’ on editing another book for publication as well as writing the next installment of the Professor Wagstaff mystery-thriller series.

EVEN WITH ALL THAT, I found the time to handicap this year’s Kentucky Derby. Let’s see if I can call the damn thing 2 years in a row, shall we?

I guess I’ll need Doug O’Neill to help me out on that one, since I picked his horse I’ll Have Another to win last year, and I’m going with him again this year. I think Goldencents has the best shot here. He’s flat-out faster than any horse in this huge field, his condition has been steadily improving has he moves up towards the length of this race, and I can easily see him reserving energy while keeping up just off the pace early on to burn up a late run and overtake the field. I think his current 5-1 odds will lower as we get closer to post time, and I would not be surprised at all if he became the post-time favorite.

My “B” group of possibilities, in order, are: Normandy Invasion, who at 12-1 is a nice bet & has the fastest stretch time of any horse in this race. If he’s near the front when they come into the homestretch and has an unblocked lane,  look out. His form has been improving, and even though he lost to my next B pick, Verrazano, I think Normandy could outrun Verrazano this time. Verrazano has been impressive, however, winning every one of his races by comfortable margins while leading or near-leading throughout. I can’t really count him out of this one. I also would place Mylute in this B group – great speed, and a great combo with Napravnik in the driver’s seat.

My two “C” picks, each long shots to win the thing but horses I’d include in any exotic combo bets, are Java’s War & Revolutionary. They’re 15-1 and 10-1 respectively right now, but they’re nearly as fast as any of the entries in my B group, are in decent shape, and either one have the potential to be the “it was just their day!” type of horse, especially with Leparoux and Borel riding, respectively. Java’s War might be way on the outside, but that hasn’t stopped him before in a large field, and Borel always does amazing at Churchill.

Not sure what sorts of betting combos I’ll be going with, to be honest. It’s tempting to put Goldencents as the key winner to a superfecta or trifecta box with the rest, but I might have to sleep on that. A wuss exacta box of ’em all might be one way to buy all my picks.  Like I said at the outset of this post, between wrapping up the academic year & designing two new courses & moving & planning two novels, my head is spinning. I’m not sure if I’m clear enough to do anything other than a few $2 win bets, to be honest.

The answer, clearly, is: more red wine. I’ll have some film blogging up after a few more bottles, promise!

Derby Day 2012 May 4, 2012

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Well, it’s been a while since your humble correspondent has offered some sports prognostications. I didn’t want to keep a blog record of my horse betting – not that the IRS would be chasing after me (trust me, that’s not a major problem), but I thought it would get tedious.  But with a big national race like the Kentucky Derby that gets lots of attention, I thought I’d offer my humble take after handicapping the thing today.

The morning line favorite, Bodemeister, seems a good bet – great speed & stretch performance, properly conditioned, and one of the best trainers in the biz, Bob Bafftert. He ran away with the Arkansas Derby at a pace that suggests even more potential for speed in a tighter race. I have him as my Number 2 horse, however, slightly leaning towards the possibility that Dullahan, who won the Bluegrass and looks in nice shape, might eke out a victory. My only issue with him is that he seems to prefer polytrack to actual dirt, but all his numbers indicate that he does well over long distances.

And think about this – the morning line favorite is 4-1. This is usually a wide-open race anyway, but a favorite with odds that high tells you just how wide-open this year’s field comes out.

My other two choices for upset-special are the two from the Santa Anita Derby. Both I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause have impressive speeds and stretch performances at distances close to the mile and a quarter they’ll run here. I’m also going to include the undefeated Gemologist – a horse with a record of fighting hard to outrun the others, even when falling back early. This one seems to want to win, so despite slightly weaker times & speed figures,  I don’t want to count him out. Another possibility is Daddy Nose Best, a Beyer pick for second, although I think he might be outclassed by some of my other picks.

So in the end, I’ll probably Exacta-box my top 5 of those for $20, and Superfecta-box them for $12, unless I get cute and decide to include Daddy Nose Best and narrow my picks for the top spot on the super ticket.

Here’s hoping I win enough to buy more cat toys…

UPDATE:

Well, I got my Exacta! In the shoulda-woulda-coulda dep’t, there was the Trifecta, but I’m never that comfy betting more than $50 on a combo with a field of this size. Ah well… my top 3 were the top 3, and my top 4 were 1-2-3-5. I guess I should be grateful that Churchill Downs suspends the ten cent superfecta for Derby day since it saved me $12.