How to Wager on the Horizontals involving the Winter Challenge
by Scott Shapiro
The Winter Challenge headlined by 2014 Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year California Chrome is the Saturday feature at Los Alamitos Race Course.
The Challenge is the 9TH and final race on the card and is the final leg for a 50-cent Pick 4 that commences in Race 6, a late Pick 3 that begins in Race 7 and of course the Daily Double that is conducted over the final two races.
While beating California Chrome in the finale appears nearly impossible, there are a few vulnerable favorites in the races preceding the Winter Challenge. I will hope to beat a favorite or two and get to Chrome with a chance at some decent payouts.
Here is a quick analysis of Races 6 through 8:
The sixth is a $25,000 claimer for non-winners of two going six furlongs. #5 Forest Blue is listed as the 5-2-morning-line favorite on the drop in class for trainer Peter Miller. This four-year-old gelding has faced much better throughout his 13-race career and is the deserving top choice. However, his inability to finish the deal with perfect trips is alarming, as is my concern over whether six panels is too short for him. With an extremely short-priced single to close out the sequence I think it is worth taking a shot against Forest Blue in this spot.
#1 Big Champion comes off a dominant score at Del Mar against a very poor group of maiden claimers. He could make an easy lead from the rail making him tough to toss, but if he gets any pressure upfront he is an extremely vulnerable second choice. I will include, but I think there are options that provide greater value.
One of them is #6 Big Energy. This Terry Knight trainee returns to Southern California after a midpack finish against starter allowance foes at Golden Gate. His race two back at Del Mar is likely good enough to beat this group. #2 Jimmy the Juice failed in two tries going long on the lawn, but cuts back to one turn and moves back to the dirt for trainer Vann Belvoir. If this Speightstown colt can relax early he could get the jump on the late runners and hit the wire first at a nice price. #3 Red Car Mac is 20-1 on the morning line, but is worth including for trainer Martine Bellocq. He got caught up in a speed duel going a mile at Del Mar last month, but draws red-hot Martin Garcia for the first time. Finally, #9 Zarqa Star is worth a look for trainer Paul Aguirre. This four-year-old gelding makes his second start off the layoff and draws well to the outside in his first try over the Los Alamitos surface.
The seventh is a maiden special weight event for three-year-olds an upward contested at six panels. Bob Baffert trains the top two options on the morning line in the second leg of the late Pick 4.
#4 Americanize has not been seen since a runner-up effort in his first start at Santa Anita Park on June 4. His effort that day makes him the likeliest winner in this event, but one must wonder what took this son of Concord Point so long to get back to the races. Additionally it is concerning how little support this first-time gelding took at the windows in his debut. However, he has very little to beat in this spot and is nearly impossible to toss.
The other Baffert runner is #10 Lord Simba. This three-year-old son of Discreet Cat took longer than most Baffert conditioned colts to get to the track and disappointed as the 7-5-morning-line favorite upon debut on September 10 over this track. I have no interest in him at anything near his 3-1-morning-line price.
#5 Magic Miracle is the first-time starter that interests me most. The Twirling Candy colt is out of a Cat Thief mare that won her first two starts and has a steady series of works for trainer Phil D’Amato. I also give a shot to #9 Gosofar. This three-year-old took a ton of money in his debut way back in May of 2015 when he weakened late to finish fourth. Trainer Adam Kitchingman can certainly have them ready off the layoff making this gelding a nice value option.
The 8TH race is an optional claiming event at one mile. #1 Hoffenheim returns to the races off a nine-month layoff for trainer Bob Baffert. This money burner finally hit the wire first when last seen on March 6 winning a tight photo at odds of 4-5. The $900,000 colt will be running on late, but is a play against for me as the 7-2-morning line favorite. I prefer a few runners that have multiple wins.
#4 Indygo Holiday should sit a great trip off of likely pacesetter #7 Tough But Nice. He has fired in both of his tries over this unique configuration making him my top choice.
I also give a big look to #3 Mishegas. The Art Sherman-conditioned gelding was set to run in the featured Winter Challenge but did not draw in. If they go too fast early, I think he has the best chance of running them down late.
Here is how I will wager on the Pick 4, Pick 3 starting in Race 7 and the Daily Double beginning in Race 8.
$1 Pick 4
1+2+3+6+9 with 4+5+9 with 3+4 with 10 = $30
$2 Pick 4
1+2+6 with 4+5+9 with 3+4 with 10 = $36
$5 Pick 3
4+5+9 with 3+4 with 10 = $30
$50 Daily Double
3+4 with 10 = $100
TOTAL BUDGET: $196