Thanksgiving. ‘Nuff said.
The word alone conjures feelings of warmth and images of plates heaping with delicious food: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, apple pie ala mode (your images may vary); family and friends gathered around the table (pre COVID, of course) and football on the tube (three NFL games, although we’re not completely sure the Dallas Cowboys versus the Washington Football Team contest qualifies).
Just thinking about Thanksgiving makes the mouth water. The belt tighten. Eyelids droop.
Turkey Day also is when we give thanks for what we have, whatever we have. And this writer has plenty to be thankful for. Too much, in fact. More than anyone should.
Sadly, that’s not the case for all. Not even close, especially this year.
In this toughest of recent times, worldwide, our family, friends and neighbors have been adversely affected—physically, financially and/or emotionally by the pandemic. Those damaged by losses of loved ones, ravaged incomes, missed educational opportunities and more will find it difficult to enjoy this holiday.
During this COVID pandemic, we’ve all experienced some level of discomfort, disappointment, inconvenience, deprivation and more which begs the obvious Thursday question, ‘This year, what’s anyone got to be thankful for?’
The answer? If you haven’t been personally touched by the ravages of COVID; visited a loved hooked to a ventilator in a hospital or been forced to miss the funeral of a close relative, well, that’s a great place to start!
Work backwards from there.
At a time when stick-shaking at horseracing’s troublesome issues is at an all-time high, the sport/business/industry deserves noteworthy credit for continuing to operate safely at a high level throughout a worldwide pandemic. Effective protocols were established early on, fans excluded, major races shuffled, etc. so it could all work. And it did, while delivering an entertaining season through Breeders’ Cup.
This writer gives thanks for that and also for a truncated June 20, Belmont Stakes; a first Saturday in September Kentucky Derby and a Preakness in October composing an unsweepable Triple Crown—although, if events had occupied usual calendar spots, Tiz the Law probably would have won ‘em all. In May, Derby winner Authentic wouldn’t have been ready to run and Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver was nowhere as good then as she was in the fall. Plus, Tiz the Law seemed to regress a bit while attempting to capture a unique Travers/Derby double.
Looking back on this difficult year, yours truly is particularly thankful for the Advance Deposit Wagering business. That includes wagering operations like Xpressbet which enabled the sport of racing to continue without fans in the stands contributing handle through on-track wagering windows. As a participant in the birth of the ADWs I felt a bit like a proud parent in the stands watching as my 30-something offspring pitches a perfect game.
Of course, nothing would be possible without horseplayers. Their wagering dollars fuel the engine that runs the sport and, in a way, actually pay my salary. And for that, I’m grateful—every two weeks. At Xpressbet, we know you have choices about where to play the races. We’re thankful you choose us and we’ll do whatever we can to make your wagering experience the best it can be.
Thanks! And here’s a happy and safe Thanksgiving wish to you and your family.
Below is one man’s opinion of the Saturday, Del Mar late Pick 4 (selections made before scratches and before workout information was available).
Here’s hoping you’ve digested that Thanksgiving feast in time to take a swing at a fantastic, deep and challenging Pick 4 sequence.
#1 Connection takes a class drop, will be ridden by top jock Joel Rosario (30% with trainer John Sadler) and has been working every seven days for a first start since March. Rosario rode this 3-year-old to his only victory in April at Oaklawn Park. The rail post position isn’t a bonus sprinting at Del Mar, but this one will come from off the pace so it’s not a complete deal breaker.
#3 Great Power tumbles in class, has had a recent race Nov. 7, starts for a 30% trainer 2nd off a layoff and won his only sprint. His Beyer Speed Figs tower over this group.
#10 Bedrock is drawn outside and doesn’t have much speed. That’s normally a prescription for a wide trip. His last two outs were at this level and one of them sort of fits. The 3-year-old has won just 1 of 10 races.
#11 Cal’s Gem actually has won 2 races but was disqualified from victory second time out. He’s also dropping in class off a poor, troubled effort in a first-level Cal-bred race. 7-pound apprentice Jess Pyfer rides and she won on this guy two races back. Nice, cozy outside box is a positive for a stalk and pounce trip. Not without a chance.
#3 Spirit Animal is one of many here for the weekend from the east coast. He hails from the powerful Chad Brown stable and will be ridden by Manny Franco. He’s won half his starts (4-8), is an improving 4-year-old, has a series of half-mile works, and was favored in his last five races. Two question marks are: Irad Ortiz rode him to victory four races back but rides #12 Flavius (also for Brown) in this race. Also, this colt was claimed for $50k in June and the claim was voided. That suggests physical issues, but the colt has a win and a close second-place finish since.
#5 Count Again is a lightly raced 5-year-old making a first start for 19% Phil D’Amato. The gelding is an honest type with 3 wins and 6 in-the-money finishes out of 7 starts. He shows a bullet 5/8ths turf work at Del Mar and won the Grade 3 Singspeil at Woodbine two races back.
#7 Blitzkrieg is a Grade 3 winner who’s liable to attempt to go wire-to-wire in here. Last out he set very fast fractions and faded late to Mo Forza, a highly regarded SoCal runner. There’s not a lot of speed in here so this 5-year-old that spent the winter in the UAE will be in front for a while.
#8 Anothertwistafate is a 4-year-old doing some new things. This is his first start for trainer Peter Miller (from Blaine Wright) and his first turf start. Miller is 21% with new acquisitions and he’s put two mile works into this guy. Joel Rosario is recruited to ride (24% with Miller). This colt was on the 2019 Triple Crown trail and started in the Preakness. He’s got enough speed to stalk #7 Blitzkrieg early.
#10 One Bad Boy also has speed and top jock Flavien Prat. He’s 7 of 8 in the money with 3 wins. Trainer Richard Baltas is 24% at the meeting and 28% with Prat. He won the restricted Lure Stakes at Santa Anita last out in wire-to-wire fashion. He needs to improve a bit but will be part of the pace.
#12 Flavius has drawn poorly for this race. Good thing he has the talented Irad Ortiz, Jr. to help him around the bends. Chances are this 5-year-old will be overbet based on his strong Beyer Speed Figures, connections trainer Chad Brown/jockey Ortiz (25%) and Juddmonte Farm ownership. They’re all positives and he should get plenty of pace to run at. Still, this post and his late-running style are handicaps.
#13 Bowies Hero is a 6-year-old that has an awful post position and is as steady as they come. He’s faced the best competition of anyone in the field and often is part of the final photo. Amazingly, in 26 starts he’s never tried a mile and one-sixteenth. That shouldn’t be an issue if jockey Umbeto Rispoli can work out a trip form the far outside—no small feat.
Here’s where Pick 4 players will attempt to get ‘skinny’…and with Thanksgiving leftovers calling from the fridge that won’t be easy. From this chair, it looks like a 2-horse race. Some players may even take a stand against one or the other to lighten the mutuel ticket load.
#7 Curry romped by 12 last out at this distance at Santa Anita against Cal-Bred maidens and takes one step up in class. He’s got speed, a 7-pound weight break with Jess Pyfer, and three bullet workouts in the holster courtesy of trainer Bruce Headley. Catch him and win.
#9 Colt Fiction is a lightly raced 5-year-old starting for trainer Bill Spawr. He won an open optional $50k/Starter allowance by nearly 4 lengths last out Nov. 8 at Del Mar. He drew perfectly outside of #7 Cury and should be stalking that one throughout. This gelding never has been off the board in 5 previous starts and has 2 wins, both coming at Del Mar! Trainer Spawr is 19% with runners off a win in their last start.
This is an absolutely outstanding renewal of the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. It’s a deep field with many graded stakes winners, including a solid contingent of runners from the east coast. Sit back and enjoy the show…especially if you’ve got a live ticket heading into this glorious finale.
#2 Smooth Like Strait is a multiple graded stakes winner who’s won half of 10 starts, including 2 of 2 at Del Mar and 1 of 1 at the distance. He’s got some early speed and will use it to ride the rail from a favorable 2-hole post position. Jockey Umberto Rispoli is 2 for 2 on the colt. He’s impossible to ignore.
#3 Scarto doesn’t have the resume to match others in here but he loves Del Mar. He’s won 2 of 3 starts over this turf course and has 4 wins in 8 starts overall. He also has a pair of bullet works since his last race for trainer Mike Puype.
#5 Storm the Court in interesting because he’s the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 2-year-old Eclipse Award winner. Unfortunately, those are the last times he’s actually won anything. He’s 0-6 since that BC triumph and will try turf for just the second time. He’s working well, but this is about the most difficult spot of the season to attempt to win a turf stakes.
#8 Domestic Spending is one of several east coast invaders that make this Hollywood Derby a fascinating handicapping puzzle. This lightly raced gelding has made just 4 starts and won 3 of them while improving Beyer Speed Figures each time. Another forward step puts him in the thick of things on figs. Irad Ortiz is here for trainer Chad Brown and has ridden this gelding to 2 of 3 wins. Expect him to launch a late bid from about 10 lengths back early.
#10 Decorated Invader is one of 2 in here for trainer Christophe Clement. The Declaration of War colt is a Grade 1 winner and a model of consistency. He’s won 5 of 9 starts, has been worse than third just twice and never has been beaten by more than one and one-half lengths! Regular rider Joel Rosario is here for the engagement. Difficult to take too much of a stand against a runner with this kind of a resume.
#13 Gufo is the other Christophe Clement entry and he drew horribly for this. He’s a star with 5 wins from 7 outings—failing by a mere head to #8 Domestic Spending and missing by less than 2 lengths first out going a mile and one-sixteenth at Aqueduct. He’s a Grade 1 winner that’s 2 for 2 at the distance and seems to still be improving. He comes from off the pace and jockey Flavien Prat will have no choice but to drop back early and attempt to save some ground out of the long chute and into what amounts to two early turns. Some may find the post position offensive enough to leave Gufo off tickets but they are more brave than us.
$.50 Del Mar Saturday Late Pick 4 Ticket ($42)
1, 3, 11
3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13
2, 8, 10, 12