2016 resolution: Concentrate more on stakes

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

January 1st, 2016

After a solid first half of 2015 when my wagering activity resulted in a profit approaching 12 percent, I suffered an agonizing meltdown in the final six months of the year. While my records also include wagers placed on behalf of others but not those placed at racetracks and simulcasting facilities, I still estimate my losses for the year approached 20 percent.

Even in an era when the blended takeout is roughly 20 percent, that financial punch to the gut is unacceptable. I chalk up most of the second-half misery to too many action bets on races I had no firm opinion on and not scaling back my play fast enough in the midst of the hemorrhaging.

As the calendar turns to 2016, I think I'm finally ready to implement a wagering program I've been contemplating for years. Except when I'm enjoying a live day of racing at Keeneland or elsewhere, the goal is to limit my play to stakes, graded and otherwise. As an editor/blogger for this and others in the Churchill Downs Inc. family of websites, it's the stakes action across the country that I tend to pay closest attention to. Thus it's no surprise that my firmer opinions, right or wrong, are to be found in high-class events.

As a general proposition, selectivity is crucial for success in the game. I'm hoping the implementation of this resolution will produce more satisfactory results.

With Flexibility (Jerome [G3]) and Awesome Speed (Mucho Macho Man) looking too tough to oppose at short prices in the classic preps, here are horses I'll be looking at instead in some of the other stakes action on Saturday.

Module - $100,000 Ginger Brew (GP Race 5, 8-1) - The Juddmonte Farms homebred counts as her second dam multiple Grade 1 winner Tates Creek, a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Sightseek, and hails from the family of dual highweight and Guineas winner Special Duty as well as noted broodmare Six Crowns. While not as accomplished as some of her opponents, I like that Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is testing her in a stakes rather than taking an easier route through an allowance. The addition of John Velazquez is another plus.

Isotherm - $100,000 Dania Beach (G3) (GP Race 7, 6-1) - Arguably misplaced in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) last time, this son of Australian champion Lonhro proved much more adept winning on grass in a Saratoga maiden and in the the Pilgrim (G3) at Belmont, albeit by narrow margins. He's already defeated the Chad Brown-trained pair of Life Imitates Art and Ray's the Bar, both of whom are among the morning line favorites here.

Forever Darling - $200,000 Santa Ynez (G2) (SA Race 3, 7-2) - Like Module, she's very interesting from a pedigree perspective. Her dam, Darling My Darling, won twice in stakes company at Keeneland in events that are now Grade 2 and Grade 3 level, and also placed twice in Grade 1 events at two. Darling My Darling is out of Grade 1 heroine Roamin Rachel, who is also the dam of Japenese star Zenno Rob Roy. While Darling My Darling has yet to produce a black-type earning offspring, this filly broke her maiden over this track and distance in fine style and then was overmatched in a longshot stab at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). Trainer Richard Baltas started the meet off hot, winning with three of his first four starters.

San Onofre - $100,000 Midnight Lute (G3) (SA Race 6, 7-2) - Lightly-raced six-year-old had finished first or second in eight consecutive starts before fading to fourth in the Triple Bend (G1) last June. That was also his most recent outing, which suggests he developed an infirmity in the aftermath of that race. Narrowly beaten in the Kona Gold (G2) and Los Angeles (G3) here last spring, it would be no surprise to see him last a long time in this showdown against his Los Angeles conqueror Distinctiv Passion.

(Isotherm photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photograpy)