Horse Racing Tips from a Top Race Handicapper

Horse owner, breeder and HRTV analyst Jeff Siegel also happens to be Southern California's premier handicapper. Check his blog each day before you play!

Handicapping, in short, refers to analyzing the race to come up with best predicted outcome, or pick. There are many angles when it comes to picking a winner. Using some of the help from the professional handicappers below, you can determine your own angle on placing a bet. For more information on how to bet or wager, click here.

Friday, January 21, 2011 - 11:37
This is a challenging first level allowance affair at a mile on turf and there are a few price possibilities to consider. Dahoud makes his second start in the States for Hollendorfer (excellent stats with second-off-layoff runners) and after getting his tightener at Hollywood Park last month the New Zealand-bred gelding should be set to stretch out and show us what he can do. He exits a live race, retains Rosario, is drawn comfortably inside and has come back to work very well recently. He’s been placed over a mile and three furlongs so the added distance won’t be an issue. Bring It Home has been off the track since August and he hasn’t been overly impressive in his comeback drills, but despite his 1-for-15 lifetime record he’s probably worth using in the exotics at 8-1 on the morning line. In the money in all four starts over the Santa Anita turf course, the Gonzalez-trained gelding has back figures that put him in the fray and Smith should have him running on strongly late. Alley Hondro isn’t particularly fast on numbers but he’s genuine and consistent and likely has further room for improvement good trainer Ellis. Clearly Rosario opted for Dahoud, so Talamo picks up the mount and he should have this Skimming gelding within striking range throughout. His morning line odds of 4-1 seem about right. If you need to go deeper in your rolling exotics (Pick-3, Pick-4, Pick-6) you might want to consider #10 Rauchenberg, who seems to be improving with racing for Jones. The outside box does him no favors, though he did break his maiden from the nine hole two races back at Hollywood Park. Tough race, to be sure, top to bottom a chance.

State bred maiden 3-year-old fillies contest this one mile nightcap and there are a few different directions you can go. For price players, consider #2 Frigid Bridget at 12-1 on the morning line. She has the classic stretch out pattern – two sprints with improving speed figures – and a pedigree that should allow her to enjoy the extra ground. She’s back with Flores, lands a comfortable inside post and continues to work like a filly who has more to give. Excessively Trick retains Rosario so we’re thinking there may be more than meets the eye. She also has a pair of sprint efforts underneath her and likely will try gate-to-wire tactics; her pedigree suggests she might be challenged by the two-turn trip but controlling speed is very dangerous on this track and her morning line odds of 8-1 are enticing. The logical favorite – she’s 9/5 on the morning line – is Bathing Beauty, a closing third in the productive California Breeders’ Champion Stakes and with a pedigree to suggest she’ll enjoy the stretch out in trip. Her speed figures have improved markedly with each outing and Gomez rides her back, so we expect another forward move today. Screaming Regal hasn’t been showing any gate speed and it’s possible – being by Old Topper – that she might be more comfortable as a late running sprinter but if she can project her one-turn form at this mile distance she’ll have a strong look with Espinoza staying aboard. Hard to say what the blinkers will do for her. We suggest you consider all four in your rolling exotics; clearly Frigid Bridget and Excessively Trick will offer the most value on the tote board.

Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 10:45
THIRD RACE - #6 WARREN’S GOT GAME This is a below average first level allowance router for state bred fillies and mares and seems like an ideal spot for Warren’s Got Game to regain her winning form. With a couple of good recent workouts following her even effort vs. similar on turf late last month, she returns to the main track for her first crack at dirt racing and is reunited with P. Val, who got plenty of run out of her when she was second (beaten a head) in a similar spot at Del Mar. She should show improved tactical speed today and figures to be within striking range throughout. Good enough to beat this field with her best effort, the Gutierrez-trained daughter of Ancient Art offers solid value at 3-1 on the morning line both in the straight pools and the rolling exotics.

This Jeff Mullins-trained gelding has two sprint preps under his belt and seems primed to stretch out and win from a modest maiden claiming band of sophomores. The Exchange Rate gelding improved dramatically in his second career start in a fairly strong race for the level, has come back to work extremely well since, retains Talamo, and should be on or near the lead throughout. In a field lacking in effective closers and at 3-1 on the morning line, Cookie’s From Tony seems like a logical rolling exotic single and an enticing straight play as well.

Monday, January 17, 2011 - 10:41
FOURTH RACE - #3 AMERICAS DREAMING x 7 BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN Americas Dreaming is dropped into a claimer for the first time after more than a dozen failed attempts at the first condition. Most recently she flopped miserably over the Cushion track at Hollywood Park, so Sadler has taken the opportunity to place her in a very realistic spot, one that could enable the Irish-bred mare to secure her first win in the States. She retains Bejarano, switches to the grass, and beats these with anything close to her Gulfstream turf form of last year. Admittedly, that’s a long way back, but she’s trained eagerly of late and may be set to regain her form. Beautiful American returns to her claim level for Hollendorfer, knows how to win races, and catches a field that she’s more than capable of dominating from start to finish. She’s back on grass as well, and it’s worth noting that she’s won half of her 14 career starts on turf. Beautiful American rates top billing and offers some real value if she leaves at close to her 5/2 morning line odds. Lert's use them both in all of our rolling exotics.

This is a wide open state bred maiden sprint and we suggest you spread in your rolling exotics using (at least) the three we’ve listed here. Warren’s Knockout debuted in an open maiden dash last month and had the misfortune of hooking The Factor. After showing good early speed to be within range for a half, he was left for dead and faded to be beaten almost 20 lengths; nobody in this particular field would have done any better. He’s come back to drill nicely since that race, makes the pivotal jockey switch to P. Val, and lands the rail, which seems to be the place to be over a track that has been very kind to speed types so far this meeting. He’s our top selection at 9/2 on the morning line, but we’ll also use Preferred Mandate, a fading fifth in a high priced maiden claimer in his debut last month but working like a better sort since that race, and Jack Reacher, who broke a bit slowly and then steadied at the furlong pole in his only outing before winding up well beaten in a California-bred affair at Hollywood Park. He’s probably a bit better than the line shows and also has come back to show some spark in the morning.

Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 10:37
Blind Luck will earn an Eclipse Award tomorrow evening in Florida; today she’ll be a short priced favorite to return to winning form in the El Encino Stakes. Freshened and working in superb style since rallying to be second in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, the Hollendorfer-trained filly came off a similar vacation last year to win the Las Virgenes Stakes and figures to fire her best shot once again. She deserves to be 4/5 on the morning line but #3 Malibu Pier might be good enough to upset her. The Carla Gaines-trained filly didn’t leave clearly in the recent La Brea Stakes but steadily moved within range and kept to her task to finish an excellent second behind Switch while perhaps wanting more distance. She gets her trip today, continues to sparkle in the morning and should find herself always within striking range of a pace that probably won’t be too intense. She’ll have to run her best race yet to defeat the champion, but at 3-1 on the morning she offers a bit more value. Use them both in all of your rolling exotics and consider a straight play on Malibu Pier if she leaves somewhere around her morning line price.

Resplendently returns to the bottom rung maiden claiming ranks following a respite of more than three months, and his condition must be questioned, but the work tab indicates he’s ready to roll and his back numbers would bury this modest group. The rail is of some concern and the distance might be bit sharp, but in a rather empty field he should be able to produce the last run. Stranger danger takes the form of Naturaliste, a first timer from the Richard Mandella barn who has worked well enough to be very competitive at this level. A nicely bred colt by Saint Liam, he finally makes it to the races at age 4 and must have problems, but his natural ability could carry him through and at 9/2 on the morning line he’s a “must use” in all of your exotic plays.

Saturday, January 15, 2011 - 07:55
Screaming Destiny exits a fast, highly-rated sprint in his first start in 10 month and seems sure to improve following that tightener. Bred for distance on both sides of his pedigree, the son of Street Cry should love the lawn and a healthy series of drills in recent weeks for Harty should have him right on edge. This does not appear to be a particularly strong maiden affair, so Screaming Destiny should have every chance to earn his diploma, and at 9/2 on the morning line he represents good value in both the straight pool and the exotics. Kumiva may be the one to fear most. He’s a five year old maiden now and his trainer suffered through a winless 2010, but he’s worked well of late, has back numbers that could win, and should be forwardly placed in a race that doesn’t appear to have much in the way of pace. We’ll use him in the exotics while still preferring Screaming Destiny.

This is a very interesting down the hill turf sprint and it’s tough to separate the two horses listed above. Earnednevergiven was a tad disappointing when third as the choice in a hot main track sprint last month but he’s perfect in two starts over this turf course and seems very likely to rebound with his best effort. He should be prominent throughout in a race that doesn’t figure to be terribly fast early. Connagher, freshened since Oak Tree, was in too tough when a non factor in the Morvich while being victimized by the race shape (slow early, fast late) but he switches to Gomez following a sharp recent work and should be storming home in the final furlong. There’s some real value here at 9/2 on the morning line. Best suggestion is to use both in any exactas or trifectas you might want to play and also in the Pick-3, the Pick-4, and the Pick-6.

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 11:48
These three are the main contenders (and first three favorites on the morning line) and they’re difficult to separate, but of the three we would slightly prefer Mutually Benefit. The daughter of Dynaformer ran very well under similar circumstance two races back when second while earning a solid 80 Beyer figure but regressed in her most recent race when unplaced in an off-the-turfer. She’s back on the sod today, continues to train in sharp style for Proctor, and retains Gomez, who may (or may not) have opted for her over Tashzara. She’ll be little value, though, if she leaves at less than her 3-1 morning line odds. Tashzara, in the money in all three of her starts since being imported from England, has improving speed figures, the good inside draw, gains Rosario, and sports a steady work tab for her first start since late November. She’s the 9/5 morning line favorite and deservedly so. Khendum gets the worst of the draw but she ran quite well over this turf course last year and is another whose recent workouts indicate she’s ready to fire her best shot. Tough race, and to be safe you’d probably be wise to include all three in your rolling exotics.

7th Race - #1 STACY’S HOPE x #2 MOONLARK
These two met Nov. 14 at Hollywood Park and Stacy’s Hope produced the last run to win going away in a visually impressive performance. Moonlark franked the form by earning a whopping 104 Beyer figure while dismantling a good field in an abbreviated sprint the following month while able to control the race from gate to wire. We like him right back, although he might have to deal with #6 Bradium, who switches to P. Val and likely will apply pace pressure throughout. If these two hook up in a speed duel again, Stacy’s Hope could once again produce the last run. We’ll use the best speed and the best closer in our rolling exotics and hope to survive. If you feel a need to go a bit deeper, consider #4 Square Eddie, who has been working up a storm for his first start in more than a year. He’s got plenty of back class, and has fired fresh in the past. We’re taking a stand against him, though, hoping that he’ll need a race to shake off the rust. We’ll see.