By Kevin Oklobzija
Spot Play Hot Plays for Friday-Saturday at Batavia Downs
No. 4 Ellen’s Streak (2-1 morning line). I don’t think there’s anything else in this race capable of trotting a sub-2:00-minute mile. Good luck getting anything but even-money though.
No. 4 Brody Hanover (7/2 morning line) AND No. 6 Shipps Xpectancy (5-1 morning line). I’ll use both in the back end of the double, and the Pick 5. The 1, Adversary Seelster, isn’t all that sharp and I really think he’ll be overbet with Jim Morrill Jr. driving. The 3, Terlingua, WAS really sharp in winning two straight at this level. But where’s he been for 34 days? How could he be ready to beat a quality field. I expect John Cummings Jr. to leave with Brody Hanover, and Shipps Xpectancy has been ultra-sharp and should get a dream second-over trip.
No. 1 Dodger Hanover (3-1 morning line). The 4, Artacus, certainly may be the favorite, and maybe he can win. But I’ve got two knocks against him: His 0-for-34 record this year, and the fact he stopped on the front end in Monday’s 9th race after despite reasonable fractions and despite a front-end bias that saw six wire-to-wire winners between races 5 and 12. Dodger Hanover should trip out from the cones.
No. 2 Vagra (3-1 morning line). This guy doesn’t win much anymore, but now look at the rest of the field. Wins are an even more rare commodity for the competition, such as 0-for-2 years, 1-for-the-year, 1-for-the-year and 1-for-the-year. An inside post, an ability to leave or stay close, and one of only two (maybe three) trotters in here that can break two minutes. If only Doug Ackley would put a catch-driver up. Then you know he’d win.
I’m not enamored with this card. In some races, the horses all look the same. In other races, there appear to be three or four horses that could win (that’s great for wagering value, if you can take a stand). Then there are the question marks: Has Trooper Jim (race 2) figured out how to trot a mile without breaking? Why is Maradona (race 3) in for $12,500 when he was claimed for $20,000 a month ago? As a result of all of that, I have just one play.
No. 7 Big Ricky. Plunges about nine classes and his last race wasn’t all that bad. He paces 1:55-and-change, or faster, every week. Lasix added two starts back and he raced better. Post 7 is the only reason he’ll be forced to exert himself.
Recapping Wednesday’s SPHPs
Almost the hat trick but we settle for two wins and second, with one of the victories the reason the Pick 5 was very rewarding.
Race 3 America Ferrera. Winner. I wanted Larry Stalbaum to leave and either cut the mile or enjoy the pocket journey. He did indeed leave, let Ray Fisher Jr. on the 1, Greystone Luck, retake and then Larry tipped out turning for home and was the easiest of winners. And paid $8.40. Nothing wrong with that price. I’m assuming this horse is also why the Pick 5 paid an exceptionally healthy $131.75, since the other four winners were all odds-on favorites.
Race 4 Mintiliscious. Second. I’m never a fan of filly or mare pacers taking on the boys, so I tried to beat the 1, Rockin Kasbah. Maybe the extreme front-end bias on the sloppy track was the difference, or maybe Rockin Kasbah (the 3/5 favorite) was just better than Mintiliscious, who ended up first-over for the final quarter mile but couldn’t get to the leader. Nonetheless, the must-play exacta of 1-6 returned $14.80. But if Mintiliscious does win at 9/2, what in the world was the Pick 5 going to pay. Another what if…
Race 5 Who Says That. Winner. I knew we’d never get the morning line of 7/2. She went off at 4/5, took up the first-over grind nearing the half and edged past Mean Pauline at the top of the lane. She was simply the best — and was bet like it (she paid $3.90).