Handicapping races is one of the most interesting and challenging pastimes that a person can ever do.  And, no matter what the venue — whether it be at Saratoga, Del Mar or Mountaineer (the site of this week’s West Virginia Derby) — there are always nuances and track bias issues to, first, discover, and, then, take into consideration.  Today, we go back to where I have had my most success this year, so far: Ellis Park.  I love the place, and both the dirt and turf surfaces are fair and good.

So, let’s have some fun.  And, make some money.

1st: 2-6-4-3-5…Karmic Destiny (2) would have been my heavy favorite in this spot today, but she will be scratched.  Keep an eye out for this one, if she shows back up soon.  Could be a good one at this level.  Jersey Heist (6) gets the blinkers off after one try that didn’t work for a solid training operation.  Get a nice class drop, which should help key this one up, too. Darion’s Dream (4) had a fast-closing victory in her career debut at Churchill Downs in May.  Came back in June and caught a sloppy racetrack, but appeared to be running a good one when she hit the rail into the turn.  Why the jock is still riding her shocks me, but if he can keep her between the two rails today, I think she has the ability to run right past all of these.  Sprinkle Time (3) gets a huge rider switch to this meet’s top jock, in Corey Lanerie.  An Ohio-bred in open company is normally not a good angle, but I stick with the connections. Pretty Greeley (5) comes from the same connections — all the way back to the sire — for my “Gary Thomas Picks” of last week.  Huge prices and nice pay days on two of them. Got to keep using them, right?  I bet the 6 to win/place and then key the 6 over/under the rest.  I also box the 6-4-5 in another exacta.

2nd: 4-7-1-3-6…Title Ready (4) is my top pick in a very nice field of 2YO colts.  This one is by More Than Ready, who is a solid turf sire, and trained by Steve Asmussen.  He got off to a slow start here, but is heating up nicely.  Attracts Lanerie to ride, too.  Good works over this track and seems ready to roll.  Potential Danger (7) goes for Greg Foley and has trained well at Churchill Downs.  I would prefer a more aggressive rider going this short, but could find this duo showing up late.  The X (1) goes for a trainer that does not crank them up for the first out, but this one is training well and the sire is a son of War Front.  His progeny should love the turf, too.  I bet the 4 to win/place and then key over/under all the rest.  May take a little across the board on the 6 (Attorney Al). Don’t know the trainer, but I like the way it has trained. Watch the tote board on this one.

3rd: 6-3-1-4…Secret Trick (6) gets back to the dirt in here and that is her preferred surface — where she had won three in a row before a try on turf (why?). Could also return to form and be a tough one. I Am Miss Brown (3) goes for trainer Chris Hartman — who has hit the board with 6 of 11 starters here — and this one looks to fit right in here.  Has run behind Secret Trick (6) a couple of times, but has the potential to possibly turn the tables. Yooou Den (1) nearly pulled off the win in her last out here, after being haltered by JR Caldwell two races back.  Possible return to the circle in this spot.  Princess Dinah (4) keeps Lanerie up and they have a first, second and third in their last three tries.  Hard no to use again.  I go with the 6 to win/place and then box the 6-3-1 and the 6-3-4 in the exactas.

4th: 5-7-2-8-11-10…Divining Change (5) is a career maiden, having tried unsuccessfully to get to the circle in 18 previous tries.  Today’s the day?  Why not.  Missed by a neck last time out against a Buff Bradley rookie and comes right back for a cheaper price.  Today’s the day! If not, there are plenty of suitors willing to step right on up and right on by.  In Focus (7) goes for my main man, Stephen Lyster — one of the best young horsemen in the Midwest.  This kid is one good horse away from being on the national stage, and I hope to give him one soon.  In Focus drew even with the top two in her last and tired in first try on the grass here.  Should benefit from that one and keep running today.  Imallaboutthatbass (2) has a horrible name (after a bad song), but still may overcome all that at this level.  I will be using the 11 (Stormfield) and 10 (Unbending), too.  Both longer shots with a shot here.  I bet the 5-2 to win/place and then key the 5-2 over/under all the other numbers listed.

5th: 3-1-2-7-9-4…Nautia (3) gets the nod here after hitting the board in her last two.  Seems to be getting better with experience and should be ready to graduate in her 6th try today.  Abboccato (1) drops all the way from a MSW to MC10 with the return to the dirt today.  A similar effort with the race two back makes her a contender.  Frigidish (2) goes for a really hot barn operation right now and has a big shot, too.  I bet the 3 to win/place and then box the top 3 in the exactas.

6th: 4-10-11-3-2-5-9-12 (13-1A)…Wide open race here, and watch to see if the two from the AE get in.  If they do, they both have a real chance.  If not, here is how I go…Giant Payday (4) has been a horse I have watched and played (some) all spring.  Connections thought enough of this one to nominate for the Triple Crown series, but has found the grass more to his liking.  Goes for top connections.  I think he closes well on this course, and, with a clean trip, kicks some serious butt today.  My Best Bet of the Day. Not much speed in this tilt today and that may compromise some, but Next Shares (10) should be sharper after his run on July 4.  Has faced some good ones before and a little improvement in the conditioning today could help go a long way.  Honor (11) is another one that may find himself a little closer to the pace today than previous.  If so, new rider Channing Hill will need to conserve until running time. Had a wide trip that compromised him in the last effort.  Southern Wild (3) is a traditional closer and will coming running hard in the end.  Gets a good rider up.  Nice Not Nice (2) brings his game nearly every time and Buff Bradley is having a good meet.  I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key over/under all the others listed.

7th: 10-9-4-5-1-7-6-8…Another good one here. I go outside with Rhythm Park for the connections of Asmussen and Lanerie.  They have the speed and pace to find a good spot near the front of this calvary charge and should be able to mile distance. He’s run the 1 mile on 11 previous occasions with 6 wins, 1 second and 1 third. Tarps Zapper (9) is another one who likes the front, but will back up to a mile and that should help.  Has tried this distance twice before with a win and a second.  Trainer Dale Romans picks up his friend from Hong Kong to ride (Yeung), again, and that duo did well the other day.  Thirstforlife (4) was cut out to be a good one and will try to get back on track against older horses today.  Shut the Box (5) had a huge run to win his last, but moves up today.  I go with the 10 to win/place and key the 10-9 over/under all the other numbers.  I box the 10-9 in one exacta, too.

8th: 5-6-1-9-4-10…Alpha Project (5) comes off a layoff for a trainer having a cool year, but should fit in this spot.  Guilty Streak (6) gets class relief and that may benefit this one.  Demands Attention (1) could be on the improve. I bet the 5 to win/place and box the 5-6-1 in one exacta and key over (only) the 9-4-10.

Good luck &

All the Best/Gene