Fair odds selections for Hambletonian Day
Going beyond just making picks for Saturday’s huge card at The Meadowlands.
by Brett Sturman
I saw a Tweet earlier this week from a user named @thoreval on Twitter, though I suppose the platform is now known as ‘X’. This comment has been liked nearly 40 times and caught my attention. It read, “It boggles me to see public handicappers assign every annotation imaginable to qualify their picks rather than offer fair odds estimates. Picks are not bet-able without an associated fair price.”
That was a completely valid comment. For myself, I may sometimes point out where there are unreasonable morning lines in my analysis, but I seldom have listed what closing odds I would be willing to accept to play the horses that I’m selecting. In other words, I may play a horse I like at assumed odds of 5-1 but would not play that same horse if the associated price were 9-5. That additional context is rightfully needed, and as a service to that Twitter user along with anyone else who will find it of interest, my estimated fair odds are included here in my Hambletonian Day analysis.
RACE 12, $1 MILLION HAMBLETONIAN FINAL
Getting right into it with harness racing’s signature event, the morning line for Celebrity Bambino of 2-1 aligns neatly with what I would consider fair odds if you like the horse. He was excellent in the Reynolds when coming back after a month off where he surged past the top pair late in somewhat of a surprise. I felt he wasn’t as strong in the Dancer, but he left no doubt in his Hambletonian elimination win last week. No one was going to catch him that race and that 1:50.4 win is a personal best as well as being faster than anyone else in here for that matter. On the opposite side, Ghostly Casper has longshot potential. He rarely seems well positioned even going back to those Woodbine Mohawk Park races, but he was moving well on the outside in the late stages last week when coming from an impossible spot and now picks up Sears. He is trending in the right direction and 12-1 would be fair. Following two tripped-out wins from the rail, Winners Bet was brave last out when racing parked first-over from post 10 into the faster of the two eliminations and held relatively well. Osceola got his act together last week and was splitting through traffic late at a huge price. Oh Well had every chance to get to longshot elimination winner Point Of Perfect in their elim and couldn’t. It’s still top connections, however, and an inside post. Maybe 5-1 would be fair. Point Of Perfect will pick up David Miller as Yannick Gingras opts as expected to the other Ron Burke elimination winner Celebrity Bambino.
Picks (with my fair odds): Celebrity Bambino (2-1), Ghostly Casper (12-1), Winner’s Bet (6-1)
RACE 10, $500,000 HAMBLETONIAN OAKS
Walner Payton was an overlay in her Oaks elimination win last week and would be justified in taking further support now. She did have a valid excuse in losing two back when she had to come first-over from sixth into the 8-5 favorite on the lead and still just barely missed. Last week, her class showed when she fended off the favorite the length of the stretch. Odds of 5-2 from the rail would seem like a fair proposition. Railee Something was favored last week over Walner Payton and gave it her all to try to reach through the stretch. She’s been remarkably consistent having been no worse than second in any of her eight starts this year. The wild card here is Bond. Untouchable just two starts ago, she went through wild fractions on the front-end last week, tired late and was very lucky to just hang on and qualify for the final. It’s highly subjective but I’d rate fair odds for her at 4-1. Last year’s brilliant 2-year-old filly from Canada, Righteous Resolve, was outkicked late in her elimination but maybe was up too close to that fast pace. Same could be said for Secret Volo who was still grinding late though now moves to the outside and I wasn’t crazy about her loss two back as the even money favorite. Post 10 is going to produce a price on Heaven Hanover. She’s a more than capable filly and could figure with some Tetrick magic. Heart On Fire finally showed a flash of that 2-year-old form when she was raging up the inside to shock in her elimination after having those super-fast fractions set it up for her. Even with that win, I’d still consider fair odds for her somewhere in double digits.
Picks: Walner Payton (5-2), Heaven Hanover (12-1), Bond (4-1)
RACE 6, $200,000 NJSS FINAL 2-YEAR-OLD COLTS & GELDINGS TROT
Magic Hill rates 8-1 on the morning line and I’d go as low as 6-1 as fair odds on him. Gingras must think highly of him by sticking here last out in a Kindergarten series race over a Burke horse and subsequent winner of that race, TCI. Two back this one came home in :26.4 and is certainly worth a swing if the odds are there. Sig Sauer was extremely impressive in his debut win. He looked like he was still powering away with no signs of slowing in that easy 1:54.4 pari-mutuel debut. The sky could be the limit. Lord Ritchie was short of room in the stretch in his most recent and now picks up Dexter Dunn. My Way traded changes on the lead throughout in his most recent NJSS race and Tim Tetrick never seemed like there was a doubt when he waited to re-engage and easily pass by Poof Of Record. Mars Hill has paid well in both career starts and should continue to offer another price once again.
Picks: Magic Hill (8-1), Sig Sauer (6-5), My Way (4-1)
RACE 7, $171,400 LADY LIBERTY
Test Of Faith should attract attention off her 5-1 programmed line and I’d even go as low as something like 7-2 on her as fair odds. As has been her MO, she was conservatively handled from poor posts in her first two starts of the year, but should be prominent now from a far more workable post. She was impressive in holding off Bythemissal in that recent 1:49.1 qualifier; anxious to see what she brings now. Grace Hill is 0 for her last 2 at The Meadowlands following her amazing Roses Are Red win in Canada. She got the second over trip two back in the Haughton but was outkicked by Mikala that night. Mikala, who was over 40-1 that night, brought her ‘A-game’ and was continuing to pace up a storm through the wire. I recognize how sharp she is right but feel like a price of at least 6-1 would be required. For Silver Label, it’s a question of what the odds are she runs back to that race in the Perfect Sting. Max Contract is generally double digits against these but does surprise on occasion.
Picks: Test Of Faith (7-2), Grace Hill (5-2). Mikala (6-1)
RACE 8, $128,750 SAM MCKEE MEMORIAL
This looks like Ruthless Hanover or bust, and it comes down to what odds would be acceptable on that horse from the outside post. I think he’s a couple steps better than anyone in here and would be willing to go as low as 3-2 as fair odds coming down from the 5-2 morning line. He’s just three races removed from that 1:46.4 performance in the Brower, and two races back he was parked early temporarily before getting into a cut-throat duel with Abuckabett Hanover. He was surprised last out at Chester but that will happen sometimes; his best is more than good enough.
Picks: Ruthless Hanover (3-2), I Did It Myway (10-1), Mad Max Hanover (12-1)
RACE 11, $278,000 JOHN CASHMAN MEMORIAL
Southwind Tyrion might be an interesting upset prospect to consider. His 8-1 morning line doesn’t seem far off, though something around 12-1 may be feasible too. His odds of 15-1 from the Crawford despite having post 10 didn’t seem terrible and then he demolished lesser last out in a new lifetime best of 1:50.2. It’s Academic remains in super form and after wearing down Venerate when racing first over two back in the Crawford, and he was similarly relentless last out at Plainridge. Even with those successes, he’s still starting on the outside looking in and I’m not sure if odds of 3-1 would be asking too much. Venerate making just his third start of the season, but he generally makes the most of them; a big qualifying win over Alrajah One It looks imposing. Asteroid makes his third start in North America and was aggressively handled last out in the Spirit of Massachusetts. He could be there, and I think 8-1 would be fair. Jujubee comes off an all-time track record performance at the Meadows but it’s back to the wolves now.
Picks: Venerate (5-2), Southwind Tyrion (10-1), Asteroid (8-1)
RACE 13, $240,000 NJSS FINAL 2-YEAR-OLD COLTS & FILLIES TROT
I think Svanstedt may have gotten a little cute last out with Sunkist Beauty as the big 2-5 favorite, taking her first over only to be caught by the filly on her back. But she can make amends starting from the rail once again; her debut win was noteworthy. This will be the fifth career start already for Allegiant who has the look of a very nice one for trainer Vernon Beachy. A dominant 1:53.2 winner three back at Oak Grove, she was beaten next out by Sunkist Beauty before then winning confidently two weeks ago. Soiree Hanover moves outside for the first time. The unbeaten filly is yet to show early speed, but that may change now. Walcango sprung the upset last out and that cover trip continues to work out for her; odds will be determined by whether you think she can work out a similar journey once again. Special Talent gave it a good try on the front-end last week and two back closed in :26.4. A good trip seems in line from here as an intriguing price play.
Picks: Sunkist Beauty (5-2), Special Talent (8-1), Allegiant (5-1)
RACE 14, $315,700 CANE PACE
Meadowlands Pace winner Confederate has supplemented to this race and it seems futile to try to make a case elsewhere. Christchurch has speed but was overtaken in that Pace final. Similarly, Hungry Angel Boy has really come alive in recent weeks, but he couldn’t track with Confederate late in the Pace though he did wildly overachieve that night. Confederate is deserving of an ultra-low price.
Picks: Confederate (1-5), Hungry Angel Boy (10-1), El Rey (12-1)
RACE 15, $130,000 SAM MCKEE MEMORIAL
Taurasi exploded when last seen to a 1:47.2 mile and it came in a race where he tracked cover but never saw the rail. The favorite in that race was Lou’s Pearlman, a starter in the other McKee division so there was some decent level of competition in that race. His morning line is 12-1 but I’d even go down to 8-1; might be this good right now and aside from the next horse coming up, not many others scare me. Bythemissal never seems to draw well in these big races and was hampered in the Haughton when having to race wide throughout from a similar bad post. Obviously, he’s fast enough but you never know how the trip will go from here. Does 2-1 seem fair? Tattoo Artist looked home in the Haughton following his wide move and though he got caught. He’s still been very honest these past couple of months and should be taking advantage of post edge. Natameri continues to overachieve and shocked against Ruthless Hanover here in June.
Picks: Taurasi (8-1), Bythemissal (2-1), Tattoo Artist (4-1)