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Bernier's Best

Weekend Stakes Previews for Jan. 8

by Matt Bernier
Updated On: January 7, 2022, 2:58 pm ET

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It may be a quieter weekend as far as stakes action is concerned in the world of horse racing, however that does not mean there are not quality betting opportunities that should be considered.

Saturday’s stakes action is highlighted by four events across the country, including races from Florida, New York, Arkansas, and California.

Below you will find what I would deem to be fair win odds for each runner, along with a wager, in each race.




1 – Largent   2/1
2 – Clear Vision   15/1
3 – Phat Man   12/1
4 – Value Proposition   8/5
5 – Flying Scotsman   8/1
6 – Call Curt   99/1
7 – Belgrano   50/1

LARGENT is the headliner in this year’s Tropical Turf for trainer Todd Pletcher, as the six-year-old gelding prepares to make his first start since being narrowly defeated in last year’s Pegasus World Cup Turf. Pletcher’s numbers at Gulfstream Park are remarkable, and it would be no surprise to see this son of Into Mischief return firing. His chief rival is Chad Brown’s VALUE PROPOSITION, the horse I will give the slight edge to on Saturday. Value Proposition has always been a slight cut below Brown’s best turf horses, but the six-year-old ridgling is still plenty fast enough to win a graded stake like this. The most recent start for this runner should be ignored entirely, as it was run at six-furlongs over an Aqueduct turf course that some horses love, and others hate. Stretching back to a two-turn mile should be exactly what Value Proposition is looking for, and he deserves to be viewed as the horse to beat. If any horse other than these two prevails in Saturday’s race, it could be FLYING SCOTSMAN, who looks to be the controlling speed.

THE PLAY: 4 – Value Proposition to win at odds of 8/5 or better (NO PLAY IF TAKEN OFF TURF)




1 – Alpha Chi Rho   7/1
2 – Chestertown   50/1
3 – Battle Station   50/1
4 – Lobsta   5/2
5 – My Boy Tate   1/1
6 – Saratoga Pal   15/1

On paper, the Say Florida Sandy shapes up as a two-horse race between LOBSTA and MY BOY TATE. Lobsta was able to prevail over My Boy Tate in their most recent matchup at Aqueduct on December 5, but that was with the luxury of a pace scenario that featured extremely soft interior fractions. My Boy Tate was forced to rally into the slowest part of the pace, and while it was disappointing for the eight-year-old gelding not to seal the deal in deep stretch, his defeat can be excused. Lobsta’s trainer, Gary Sciacca, also has an alarming statistic in these scenarios. Over the past five years, Sciacca’s horses making their second start following layoffs of 130 days or more are 0-for-35, with just five of them finishing inside the top three. It is possible a wild card like ALPHA CHI RHO ships in from Maryland and takes all the money, but My Boy Tate is the best horse in the race and should prevail, albeit at a short price.

THE PLAY: 5 – My Boy Tate to win at odds of 1/1 or greater



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1 – Coach   7/1
2 – Breeze Rider   8/1
3 – W W Fitzy   8/1
4 – Itsallinthenotes   50/1
5 – Josie   8/1
6 – Miss Bigly   1/1
7 – Wellington Wonder   50/1

Despite the morning line suggesting otherwise, MISS BIGLY appears to be a standout in this year’s Pippin. Trained by Phil D’Amato, this six-year-old mare has been knocking heads with some of the more talented fillies and mares in the country, putting her in an advantageous position in Saturday’s start against considerably weaker company. After making the lead in the Chilukki at Churchill Downs in November, Miss Bigly flattened out late, faltering to finish third. At face value it may look like a disappointing result, however that race was contested around a one-turn mile. Miss Bigly has proven repeatedly that she is a much better horse when racing around two-turns, a configuration she will get on Saturday. There’s also wet weather in the forecast for Hot Springs, Arkansas, something that Miss Bigly and her connections would relish (she is 3-for-5 lifetime on an off-track). Miss Bigly’s main rival is COACH for trainer Brad Cox, and while she won her comeback race on December 17 in fine fashion, it is not as though she has ever run particularly fast. Unless one of the other ladies steps up in a big way on Saturday, the Pippin is Miss Bigly’s race to lose.

THE PLAY: 6 – Miss Bigly to win at odds of 1/1 or greater




1 – Under the Stars   2/1
2 – Big Shamrock   30/1
3 – Big Switch   2/1
4 – Mimajoon   25/1
5 – Awake at Midnyte   3/1
6 – Miss Mattie B   20/1

This year’s Santa Ynez features three fillies who could wind up being among the cream of the crop of the three-year-old girls in 2022, as UNDER THE STARS, BIG SWITCH, and AWAKE AT MIDNYTE all warrant consideration. Under the Stars may be the filly with the most overall potential given her pedigree. The Bob Baffert trainee is a ¾ sibling to the brilliant Bodemeister, a horse that won the G1 Arkansas Derby and finished second in both the G1 Kentucky Derby and G1 Preakness in 2012. Under the Stars’ maiden win most recently at Los Alamitos was visually impressive, suggesting she will ultimately do better with additional distance. The same can be said about Big Switch, a three-year-old filly trained by John Sadler. Big Switch is built like a Mack Truck, making her a curious case; is she more precocious than anything, or will she continue to grow and develop into a powerhouse filly going longer? Not to be lost in the shuffle is Awake at Midnyte, who defeated Under the Stars in their career debuts at Santa Anita on Halloween. Trained by Doug O’Neill, the daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist tried a route of ground on grass for her second lifetime start, a race that resulted in a runner-up performance. Now, turning back to a one-turn, seven-furlong distance should give Awake at Midnyte the stamina she needs to be a contender in this spot. She projects to be the best price of the three main players in Saturday’s race, and she has proven herself over Santa Anita’s main track. For these reasons, she will get the nod from me.

THE PLAY: 5 – Awake at Midnyte to win at odds of 3/1 or greater



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Matt Bernier

Matt Bernier is a betting analyst for NBC Sports and host of "The Matt Bernier Show" podcast. His work has been showcased in the Daily Racing Form, on ESPN, as well as on TVG. Matt can be followed on Twitter @bernier_matt.