Saturday afternoon, CNBC has live coverage of the “1/ST Racing Tour” – live horse racing from both Gulfstream Park in Florida and Santa Anita in California. The cards are fantastic. Thirteen stakes races across both tracks, an average of 10.1 entrants per race, and a Coast-to-Coast Pick 5 with ALL graded stakes that will air, in its entirety, during our CNBC coverage. Not much more you could ask for as a horseplayer!
My wagering dollars are focused on 3 of the 7 races that will be carried live on CNBC (4-6P ET).
HONEY FOX STAKES
GULFSTREAM, RACE 11, POST TIME 4:05PM
Let's kick things off with our first live race on CNBC, the Honey Fox, for older females on turf. Most of the wagering attention will focus on #3 Speak of the Devil, and rightfully so – she is from the barn of top turf trainer Chad Brown and was a $2.2 million purchase in 2021. She won a Grade 2 race at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day in jaw-dropping fashion but has raced just once since then due to injuries. She has the highest ceiling of any horse in the field, but she will be massively over-bet here. This is her first race in 9 months, and trainer Chad Brown has admitted this is merely a “starting point” for her campaign - I doubt she will be fully “cranked up” for this Grade 3 event, as Brown is focusing on Grade 1's later in the year. Plus, most bettors will have that fantastic performance at Churchill Downs front and center on their minds. However, it became clear over the subsequent weeks that the renovated Churchill Turf course is a very funky one – some horses hate it, while others, like Speak of the Devil, absolutely love it. She is going to be bet based on one awesome performance, and I think it partially had to do with her affinity for a fluky surface. At anywhere near her morning-line odds of 7/5, she is a massive underlay.
I am much more interested in the 2nd-choice on the morning line, #4 White Frost. She has had some major injury problems throughout her career, making just six starts in three years. She seems, though, to finally have put those issues behind her. That allowance win at Gulfstream last time out (which was her first start in over a year) was fantastic. She stalked the pace before cruising through the stretch to win by 2 ¼ lengths, a huge margin in a one-mile turf race. She clearly loves Gulfstream – she is 2-for-2 in her career at the track – and I could make the argument that, with one race already under her belt this year, she is the most likely winner of this race. An over-bet favorite like Speak of the Devil creates betting overlays elsewhere, and I plan on taking full advantage with a win bet on this Bill Mott trainee.
WIN: #4 White Frost, at 5/2 or Higher
BUENA VISTA STAKES
SANTA ANITA, RACE 5, POST TIME 5:00PM
Let's get a little wild in the Buena Vista, another turf race for older females. I do respect the morning-line favorite, #6 Quattroelle, as she unleashed a devastating late kick to win a Grade 3 stakes last time out. To make it even more impressive, she unleashed that kick despite having to rally into a slow pace. Usually a slow early pace is terrible news for a late closer such as herself. I just think last time was the time to have bet on her (her post-time odds of 10-1 was a huge overlay) and I am not that interested in betting her at a short price. This is a very evenly matched field and I want to shop for higher odds.
I settled on #3 Tik Tok Famous. This will be her 2nd start in California for trainer George Papaprodromou, who has sneakily become one of the top trainers on the West Coast in the past year or so. She ran fine in her most recent start, setting a fast pace in an allowance race before tiring late to finish 3rd. As it was her first start in 4 months, she is very likely to improve in this race. Plus, she is cutting back in distance, from 1 1/8 miles to a flat mile. I think that is going to suit her very well – she has won two of five races in her career at this distance, while finishing 2nd once and 3rd once. There is not a ton of early speed in this race, so I am hoping jockey Umberto Rispoli sends her to the early lead and is able to slow down the pace, so she has enough gas in the tank to hold on late.
Will I do a “Tik Tok Dance” if she wins? Maybe…
WIN: #3 Tik Tok Famous at 15-1 or higher
SAN FELIPE STAKES
SANTA ANITA, RACE 6, POST TIME 5:27 PM
A field of 10 Kentucky Derby hopefuls square off in a fantastic edition of the San Felipe Stakes. Bob Baffert, suspended from the Kentucky Derby, has transferred 4 of his runners to trainer Tim Yakteen, and the betting public will likely focus on the two most talented of those - #2 National Treasure and #7 Hejazi. But I am skeptical. National Treasure is talented, but he is currently on a three-race losing streak and has not shown the ability to finish off races in the stretch. I will be frank. I do not think #7 Hejazi, a $3.55 million purchase – is very talented. He will get bet because of his lofty price tag and because of his connections, not because of anything he has done on the racetrack. I want no part of that.
#8 Geaux Rocket Ride is intriguing to me – his debut victory on January 29 was ridiculously impressive, as he set a pressured pace before kicking away in the stretch and galloping out like he could have run another lap. Plus, the fact that Richard Mandella, a famously conservative trainer, has chosen to put him on the Derby trail in just his 2nd career start is a good sign. I am just worried that he could get caught up in a hot early pace – Hejazi and National Treasure are likely to be forwardly placed, as are longshots Genius Jimmy and Bluegrass Go Go.
I think the race sets up for a closer, specifically, #10 Skinner. A lot was expected of this $510k auction purchase, and he was kind of thrown into the deep end last year, making 2 Grade 1 starts when he was not quite ready for that level. But he has clearly matured as a 3-year-old, blowing away his competition in a 2-turn maiden race last month and earning a lofty speed figure while not even being asked for his best. I think the lightbulb has gone on for this son of Curlin (whose progeny tend to improve with added distance), and I would not be surprised to see him take another step forward in his 2nd start of the year.
I also want to bet a daily double, linking my picks in Santa Anita races 5 and 6.
WIN: #10 Skinner, at 9/2 or higher
DOUBLE (SA R5-R6): 3 /10
Enjoy the afternoon at the races on CNBC.