Saturday’s Race Selections


By Michael Patricks

Here we sit, just two more weekends until the Breeders’ Cup commences from Churchill Downs.  Doors will open at the Jockey Club for the Breeders’ Cup at 8:30 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday.

Breeders’ Cup tables at the Jockey Club are now on sale with four-seaters running $50. A limited group of special seats are available in the Turf Club for $15. The purchase of a Breeders’ Cup table provides your group a tremendous view of all the Breeders’ Cup races for both Friday, November 2nd and Saturday, November 3rd plus features table service.  Call the Sonoma County Jockey Club at 707-524-6340 for further details.

Like what you’re reading? Every week I post a racing-related article to The Grapevine, the official Blog of the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.  Visit for news and updates on all the events surrounding the Sonoma County Fair.  You can also reach me directly at


The Canadian International went to Desert Encounter at 9/1 who was making his United States debut while traveling  over the E.P. Taylor Woodbine turf course with Lasix for the first time.  Desert Encounter was my third selection in the race.  Top choice English Illusion (22/1) was side-by-side with Desert Encounter up the back stretch but appeared a bit tough to handle for jockey Rafael Hernandez and was unable to rally.  Second-choice Spring Quality had a smooth journey but lacked the needed kick when called upon, finishing a nondescript fifth.  Perhaps the two-week wheel back for him was part of his undoing, however, hats off to the well-deserved winner.


Horse to watch:

As a new feature to the article, each week I will post horses to watch in their next start based on significant trouble I believe they encountered during their most-recent race.  For those of you who have stable mail, my suggestion is to add these horses to your list.


10/18-Golden Gate Fields Race # 7, Splashing

Splashing was beaten just three lengths in Thursday’s last race from Golden Gate Fields and in my estimation was probably cost anywhere from four to five lengths of trouble having to steady from the 1/8th pole to the wire. If trainer Duane Offield enters this filly back in for the non-winners of two lifetime condition ($12,500n2L), as opposed to the non-winners of two with a clause ($12,500n2x) ((which she had seen at twice prior)), my non-legal advice would be to unbuckle the rubber band around your cash roll and have a significant punt on her.  Despite her trouble line…the 0-for-8 ledger on grass in conjunction with a blasé trainer-strike-rate should keep her price somewhat savory and fairly tenderized.




Belmont Park and Laurel Race Course each offer their state-bred, incentive-based programs for New York and Maryland-based breeders.  Some of these races are competitive on paper and should offer value at the windows if you’re looking to get down.


Since nothing in the stakes-racing realm is causing me to get too hot and bothered, I’ll instead focus on a few races which have caught my fancy where I believe value can be found.

Santa Anita Race # 6

Take: # 7 Swallows Inn Gal 7/2

Not the prettiest of affairs to kick off the late Pick-4 at Santa Anita on Saturday but I think you can get around the favorite in this heat.  Sharona Sunset is 5/2 and one of two horses entered here for trainer Marcia Stortz, who had a productive Fresno meeting.  This filly was dynamic as a two-year-old, even competing in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar.  However, she’s winless in her last 13 races and has burned money at 8/5, 6/5, 9/5, 5/1 and 3/1 at the N2L level.  Now, you’re asked to swallow (not to be confused with my top choice) 2/1 on a horse who is 0-for-6 over the strip?

Swallows Inn Gal was haltered for $12,500 in her last start and I really like how trainer Bob Hess has given her a full month to prepare for her return after putting her through his own training regimen for her comeback. He’s on the ownership line and she’s spotted for action off the claim with the hidden drop back into the conditioned claiming level.  Her form is not pretty either, but the inside five rivals all figure to wage battle for supremacy headed into the far turn to assist in setting up her run. Plus, she’s got a  couple decent half-mile maintenance drills heading into this.  This is the biggest freshening up she’s had since her first try off a layoff which resulted in her maiden win.

A quick note about Dressed in Prada, Baby Ice and Wicked Sunset:  I’m a handicapper who is of the mind that when it takes a horse a slew of tries in order to break their maiden that most of the time they are a good bet against in their follow-up race.  Based on that general principle, and their seemingly one-dimensional running styles, I’ll be trying to beat the aforementioned runners.

Golden Gate Fields Race 10:

Take: # 3 Pepper Crown 8/1

For those of you who are looking to roll what you’re up on the day, or in the alternative, looking to get out on a tough day at the races on Saturday, I believe I have found the perfect horse in the “Get Even Stakes” and that’s # 3 Pepper Crown.

It’s been a very long time between drinks for this grizzled veteran, in fact February 25th, 2017.  No doubt about it, he’s a true grinder and typically horses like this are very tough to back at the window but he does have a couple positives going for him which I think will serve him well on Saturday.

First off, Pepper Crown has never run this cheap before.  Even in his return to the races here in Santa Rosa, trainer Ed Moger thought enough to protect him from a potential claim by not making him eligible for purchase under the waiver claiming rule.  He ran evenly in his return and disappointed a bit in his second start back.  I liked his chances last time to step up in a wide open $6,250 claimer at Golden Gate but he lacked punch through the stretch, though it should be noted he was facing much tougher foes than he sees with this bunch.

Secondly, his last two works on his tab are major steps up in basis from what he’s used to churning out in the a.m. Two half-mile works which were 2/86 and 2/65 respectively absolutely grab my attention, plus the presence of Abel Cedillo tells me he will likely have this guy a bit closer up in a race which lacks a lot of true pace presence.  Perhaps if he can look his competitors in the eyeball at the top of the lane, he’ll be able to relive the glory days just one more time.  He’ll need to get the jump on Fort Cady at 4/1 who to me is his biggest threat, but with 10 lifetime wins and this drop down in for $4,000B, you must consider using this guy on your vertical and horizontal tickets.  Put Pepper Crown and Fort Cady on any multi-race wagers.

Keeneland Race 9–The Raven Run

Take: # 5 Alter Moon 7/2

If Chad Brown and company were willing to purchase Alter Moon for $675,000 at the Fasig Tipton “horses in racing sale” and then patient enough to back off on her in order to freshen her up after running in the Test at Saratoga, then you should definitely pay attention to her now.  Jose Ortiz is up, she’s got tactical speed to boot, and let’s face it… I’m due to finally hit one at Keeneland!  For a more extensive analysis, see Mike Watchmaker’s write-up in the Daily Racing Form which is always a great read.