On Track With Johnny D: Host With Most & Risen Star Analysis

Gulfstream Park veteran host and analyst Ron Nicoletti picked 10 winners on Saturday’s 12-race card. That’s a huge afternoon for any public handicapper and great news for his loyal followers. Unfortunately, Nicoletti’s big afternoon was bad news for those squaring off against him in Beat the Host Week 6 action.


In concert with his torrid Gulfstream performance, Nicoletti tabbed 5 winners out of 10 mandatory Beat the Host competition races for total earnings of $82.50, based on $5 Win wagers. It’s the strongest performance by a ‘Host’ this season and wiped out all 4 players who were alive for a $6,000 beat the host prize offered to any player to defeat hosts in all 9 weeks. Steve Glynn, Lou Kotzman, Scott Shore and John Maskel were the last to lose to the host and share a $2,000 consolation prize.


Overall, Nicoletti’s Gulfstream winners came in the first 9 races: Girl Dad ($6.60), Hard Game ($8), Noble Empire ($3), Bourbon in May ($7.60), Augusta Melody ($3), Great Island ($2.60), Democracy ($15.60), Yodel E. A. Who ($4.60) and R Mercedes Boy ($5.60). In the 11th race, the Ladies Turf Sprint, he added Lady’s Island ($4.40).


Nicoletti’s Beat the Host competition picks included Gulfstream races 7 through 11 and he misfired only in the 10th race where his selection Bourbon Highway lost the rider. The hot ‘Host’ added Gr. 2 San Vicente favorite and winner Concert Tour ($2.80) in the 7th at Santa Anita.


Three players unimpressed with Nicoletti’s performance are Rick Millard, Dean Pignetti and George Turner. They picked up $1,000, $750 and $250 for posting Saturday totals of $144, $119 and $111.50, respectively.


The dash for top spots in cumulative earnings standings is heating up and just $33.50 separates the top four players. Craig Yoshino leads with $387.50, just $22 ahead of Andrew Ma. Adam Haskins is a mere $5.50 behind Ma and Tony Zhou rests $6 behind Haskins. Maria Cimino holds 5th place with $333, just $2 ahead of Steve Glynn.


Beat the Host resumes Saturday with Santa Anita’s Tom Quigley at the plate as the host to beat.  Quigley’s a veteran of the process and familiar to fans as host of the popular pre-race Quigley’s Corner broadcast which includes entertaining and informative track announcer Frank Mirahmahdi. Quigley also appears on the track’s simulcast show contributing multi-race exotic selections and analysis. Those who know him rate him as the lead #Sharpie.


It’s not too late to register for and to play Beat the Host this week. $2,000 in prizes are available and players only need to beat the host once to qualify for the Beat the Host Championship Round where rich, coveted handicapping tournament seats are on the line. ‘Live’ $5 win wagers on 10 mandatory races ($50 total) is all that’s required to play and, since contest wagers are ‘live,’ players keep what they win. Be correct a couple of times and your shot at $2,000 and a seat in the Championship Round won’t cost a thing.


With snow piled in places as high as an NBA rim it’s challenging to imagine that the first Saturday in May is right around the corner. But it’s true. Saturday, the first of 16 Kentucky Derby Championship Series races is presented with the mile and one-eighth $400k Gr. 2Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Below is in-depth analysis of that event, including a suggested wagering strategy. Check back throughout the entire Triple Crown series for this man’s analysis of the top 3-year-old races.


#1 Starrininmydreams           J. Hernandez               D. Stewart      12-1

Is unbeaten in 2 starts—both at Churchill Downs, one sprint and one route over a sloppy track. He’s been gone since Nov. 22 and has a solid series of works every 7 days, including 2 bullet 5-furlong moves—a great sign of fitness. Trainer Dallas Stewart, a 10% trainer with horses off 61-180 days, has a reputation for saddling dangerous longshots in big races. This son of Super Saver hasn’t done anything wrong yet, although he does lose twice-successful jockey Joe Talamo to #6 Midnight Bourbon, winner of the Lecomte last out. Don’t ignore this one off the bench in exotics at a price. Exotics Use.


#2 Proxy                                  J. R. Velazquez                        M. Stidham     8-1

Here’s a consistent son of Tapit with 2 wins and 2 seconds in 4 starts. Second last out to #6 Midnight Bourbon, Proxy has a few things in his favor this time around. In the Lecomte he broke outside of #6 Midnight Bourbon and they raced 1-2 around the track. This time Proxy has drawn inside that foe and can be expected to determinedly challenge for the lead under Hall-of-Fame jockey Johnny Velazquez, who replaces Mitchell Murrill in the saddle. Murrill moves to #13 Rightandjust. That may be a significant factor. For an explanation of see comments for #13 Rightandjust. Win Contender.


#3 Beep Beep                         M. Mena                     N. Casse          20-1

This colt has a 7-furlong Churchill Downs maiden victory to his credit and takes a big step up in class. He’ll need to run much faster than he has in his first two starts. Trainer Norm Casse has had a solid Fair Grounds meeting winning at 27%. Last out Beep Beep finished a well-beaten 4th to longshot #13 Rightandjust. Pass.


#4 Carillo                                J. Graham                   T. Amoss         15-1

Leading Fair Grounds jockey James Graham will ride this New York invader for 28% winning trainer Tom Amoss. Carillo won his only start going a one-turn mile over the Aqueduct oval. That afternoon, after breaking a bit slowly, the son of Union Rags was last in the field of 8. He steadily made up ground on the leaders between horses, raced wide on the turn, took over and scored definitively under Manny Franco. Amoss has a sterling 24% win-rate with horses first out under his care. Graham and Amoss combine to win at 25%. The trainer has been quoted saying that he figures this colt will press the pace. Nothing wrong with the way he won but this a step up. Pass.


#5 Senor Buscador                 L.S. Quinonez             T. Fincher        6-1

This son of Mineshaft is unbeaten in 2 career starts at Remington Park. One of those wins came in the $200k Springboard Mile Stakes by more than 5 lengths in fast time. The ‘Senor has no early speed but owns a powerful closing kick. At least, it’s been powerful at Remington. His rally from last, first out in a 5 ½ furlong sprint, was impressive and his Springboard Mile closing charge a thing of beauty. Trainer Todd Fincher knows what he’s doing (20% winners). If the pace heats up early, as it might, then this colt’s closing charge will fit nicely. Win Contender


#6 Midnight Bourbon             S. Asmussen               J. Talamo        6-1

This son of Tiznow was purchased as a yearling for $525K and appears to be worth every penny. He has the most impressive resume of anyone in the race– a Grade 3 winner who also was placed in the Gr. 1 Champagne and Gr. 3 Iroquois. So far, he’s banked $221,420, the bulk of that coming with victory in the G3 Lecomte Stakes last out at Fair Grounds. That afternoon, he was able to make a comfortable early lead, stalked by #2 Proxy and, further back, #11 Mandaloun. Things likely will be different this time as Midnight Bourbon now is drawn outside #2 Proxy and may get additional early pressure from #13 Rightandjust. This is a talented colt, trained by a Hall-of-Fame conditioner, but he’s going to have repeat his outstanding Lecomte effort under more strenuous circumstances. Win Contender.


#7 O Besos                              M. Pedroza                 G. Foley           12-1

This homebred son of Orb will try 2 turns for the first time in the Risen Star. A winner of 2 of 3 starts, O Besos has the bad habit of breaking slowly from the gate. So far, he’s had enough talent to overcome tardy starts, but today meets stronger foes at added distance. Jockey Brian Herandez, Jr., who’s ridden the colt in both starts, moves to #1 Starrininmydreams for the Risen Star. Pass.


#8 Sermononthemount         D. Carroll                    T. Dixon          50-1

This colt has 2 wins in 3 starts—both sprints at Delta Downs. He will need to run considerably better than he has in the past to be a factor in here. Pass.


#9 Defeater                            D. Saenz                      T. Amoss         12-1

Trainer Tom Amoss has suggested that this colt may scratch from this race to contest an allowance race. The colt’s an impressive winner of his only start—a Fair Grounds six-furlong sprint. The allowance race seems a better spot for him at this point. Pass.


#10 Santa Cruiser                   A. Bewschizza             K. Desormeaux           15-1

This son of Dialed In has improved in each of his four starts, with 1 win, 1 place and 1 show placing. Last out, he encountered trouble at the start of the Lecomte which put him well behind the early pace. ‘Cruiser did put in a solid late run to finish a well-beaten fourth. Leading jockey James Graham, who’s ridden this colt in all four starts, moves to #4 Carillo and will be replaced by Adam Beschizza, a capable replacement. Exotics Use.


#11 Mandaloun                      F. Geroux                    B. Cox              9/2

He’s one of four Risen Star runners coming out of the Lecomte. That afternoon, he stalked frontrunner #6 Midnight Bourbon and nearest pursuer #2 Proxy. He made a move at the leaders in the stretch, briefly passed #2 Proxy and then faded back to third late. Some might view this effort negatively. However, this was Mandaloun’s first start since November and his first try around two turns. Since the Lecomte, he’s worked twice, including a best-of-35 :59 4/5 five-furlong move. Jockey Florent Geroux (28%) and 2020 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox (25%) combine to win at 26%. Mandaloun has improved with each start, evidenced by his ascending Beyer Speed Figures (75, 82, 89). The pace scenario in here should be more advantageous to Mandaloun and, if he moves forward a bit more, he can win. Win Contender


#12 Keepmeinmind                D. Cohen                     R. Diodoro      3-1

This son of Laoban has been in the money in all four career starts, including a second and a third behind leading Kentucky Derby choice Essential Quality in the Gr. 1 Breeders’ Futurity and Gr. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, respectively—both at a mile and one-sixteenth. He hasn’t started since November and has been working roughly every 7 days for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Keepmeinmind comes from off the pace and this outer post position will be a challenge but his record can’t be ignored. He’s talented and has run fast enough against top competition to win this race. He’ll need some help up front to set up his closing charge. The morning line of 3-1 seems a bit short. Exotics Use.


#13 Rightandjust                    M. Murrill                   S. Wilson         15-1

This colt has won 2 of 3 starts–both successes around 2-turns. The first of those wins came in a maiden $50k race when he was claimed by his current connections. He then won a $50k optional claiming race by holding on to win after nearly blowing a 4-length lead in the stretch. Both of those 2-turn victories came in wire-to-wire fashion. That’s critical because breaking from this far outside post Rightandjust probably will be sent out of the gate by jockey Murrill. As explained earlier, Murrill was replaced aboard #2 Proxy. Human nature suggests that Murrill might want to send this colt from the gate to compromise the chances of #2 Proxy moving along at a comfortable easy early pace. What Murrill does from the gate with this colt could affect the early pace of the race and might influence the outcome of this race. Pass.


Bottom Line

The first 3 finishers from the Lacomte should run well again with #11 Mandaloun turning the tables on #6 Midnight Bourbon and #2 Proxy.

#2 Proxy

#6 Midnight Bourbon

#11 Mandaloun


Best of the New Faces:

#5 Senor Buscador


Exotic Considerations:

#1 Starrinmydreams

#10 Santa Cruiser

#12 Keepmeinmind


$1 Trifecta Play ($30)

First: 5, 11

Second: 2, 5, 6, 11

Third: 1, 2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12


$.50 Trifecta Play ($15)

First: 2, 6

Second: 2, 5, 6, 11

Third: 1, 2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12


Race On!







On Track With Johnny D: Host With Most & Risen Star Analysis

On Track with Johnny D |