Newsletter: Racing! Another handicapping lesson from Rob Henie


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we start to wind down the Santa Anita meeting.

What’s better than one handicapping lesson from Rob Henie? It’s easy: two lessons in one week.

Our handicapping lesson


Here’s our weekly contribution from Rob Henie of the WCHR (West Coast Handicapping Report) and the ECHR (East Coast Handicapping Report). The thinking is if you can know and understand the strategies, it will make you a better handicapper.

This one analyzes the eighth race at Santa Anita.

“A minor stakes race at 6½ furlongs on the turf. Top selection is DOUBLE TOUCH (#1). He’s a great example of a horse who fires fresh, as some horses just can’t string races together, usually because of a health issue. A trainer will make sure they pick their spot carefully, knowing it may be the last time for a while that they’ll be able to run the horse. So, when the placement off the time away is in a nice race like this one, it’s an even better sign, telling us the horse is doing well. We know this runner well, our top pick in his U.S. debut when second at 23-1, and also our top pick last time out when winning at 11-1. One other note regarding his jockey Gary Stevens here: At this point in his career, we much prefer him riding horses from mid-pack or from further back because he’s just not as physically strong as he was 30 years ago. (Yes, it’s been that long, he won the 1988 Kentucky Derby aboard Winning Colors.) He’ll offer a better effort ‘scrubbing’ hard the final ⅜ as opposed to a front runner from gate to wire. A good effort seems likely once again. B SQUARED (#6) can run well today despite the open company he’ll be facing, and as a general rule, this downhill layout, which is so unique, often evens things out with regard to state breds facing open company, meaning, a sharp state bred runner down the hill here can still run well against open company with the particular liking for the course in their favor. Trainer Doug O’Neill’s been on fire over this downhill course of late as well.

“Win Contenders (order of preference): 1-6

“X Out Runners (eliminating on the win end): 2,4

“Negative Notes:

“2 Tiz A Billy - Just do not like the way this race sets up for this one today.

“7 Bombard - Not convinced he’s quick enough the final ⅛ here, especially with a shorter price attached.

“TOP PICK: DOUBLE TOUCH (#1 6-1 Stevens)

“SECOND CHOICE: B SQUARED (#6 4-1 Gutierrez)”

The West Coast Handicapping Report can be found at It has been endorsed by leading trainers, handicappers and industry sources.

Santa Anita review


In Saturday’s first stakes race, River Boyne easily won over a short field of four to take the $100,000 Rainbow Sakes by 2¼ lengths. The race was for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles over the turf. The win extended the colt’s record to four-for-four at Santa Anita. With such a short field, there was no show wagering. River Boyne paid $2.80 and $2.10.

Blame the Rider was second and Arawak was third.

“The race didn’t set up perfect for him, because [jockey] Flavien [Prat] was fighting trying to keep him off that other horse (Blame the Rider),” said winning trainer Jeff Mullins. “Three quarters of the way around there, he was fighting him. … That was worrying me, because a lot of times you fight the race out of them, but he ran great. Flavien got him to relax and did a great job. He likes firm ground, that’s the main thing.”

In Saturday’s main stakes, the Grade 2 $200,000 Summertime Oaks, Ollie’s Candy won the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies by a neck. Under a smart ride from Kent Desormeaux won a tough stretch duel with favored Thirteen Squared.

“I’ve worked her a few times and the way she’s been working told me that she was ready,” Desormeaux said. “At the quarter pole, I knew I had a battle in front of me. She sprinted [home] there and she was able to hold it.”

The William Morey filly paid $9.60, $4.00 and $2.80.

Santa Anita preview

Santa Anita has put together a 10-race card starting at 12:30 p.m. It’s not a great card, but it’s OK, with half the card filled with turf races. There is a minor stakes, the $80,000 Siren Lure Stakes, for 3-year-olds going down the 6½-furlong hillside turf course. There are 11 horses entered, which is good considering the stakes usually have fewer rather than more horses. Bombard is the favorite at 7-2.

The turf races are the first, third, sixth, eighth and 10th. Half of the day’s races are claiming races, three of the races are restricted to maidens.

Here’s are the field sizes, in order: 8, 5, 11 (3 also eligibles), 8, 6, 6, 8, 11, 8, 11 (2 AE).

Big Races review

A look at graded stakes or races worth more $100,000 or more on Saturday.

Gulfstream: $100,000 Ginger Punch Stakes, Fla.-bred fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles on turf. Winner: Bitacora ($10.00)

Delaware: $100,000 Obeah Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Winner: Teresa Z ($9.60)

Santa Anita: $100,000 Rainbow Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles on turf. Winner: River Boyne ($2.80)

Woodbine: $100,000 Steady Growth Stakes, Ontario-breds 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Mr Havercamp ($5.10)

Belmont: $100,000 Dancin Renee Stakes, 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Winner: Picco Uno ($12.40)

Santa Anita: Grade 2 $200,000 Summertime Oaks, fillies 3-years-old, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Ollie’s Candy ($9.60)

Churchill: Grade 3 $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: King Zachary ($26.60)

Churchill: Grade 2 $200,000 Wise Dan Stakes, 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles on turf. Winner: Mr. Misunderstood ($7.60)

Churchill: $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Winner: Blue Prize ($6.60)

Churchill: Grade 1 $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Pavel ($15.60)

Churchill: Grade 3 $100,000 Regret Stakes, fillies 3-years-old, 1 1/8 miles on turf. Winner: Beyond Blame ($9.00)

Big races preview

A look at graded stakes or races worth more $100,000 or more on Sunday. All times PDT:

2:28 Monmouth: $100,000 Pegasus Stakes, 3 year olds, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Forced (3-1)

2:30 Woodbine: Grade 3 $125,000 Trillium Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Gable’s Ghost (5-2)

2:50 Belmont: Grade 3 $300,000 Poker Stakes, 4 and up, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Oscar Performance (5-2)

Bob Ike’s SA play of the day

FIRST RACE: No. 5 Gone to Bali (4-1)

Older mare from the Jeff Mullins stable faded when facing much better in her sprint return but stretches out in distance, takes a huge class drop and catches a field without much early pace. Tab in wire-to-wire fashion.

Saturday’s result: Big long shot Saburai went evenly to finish a non-threatening fourth in 10th race.

Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of (here’s a video) and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).

Ed Burgart LA play of the day

FIFTH RACE: No. 3 Zoomilicious (4-1)

She had a brutal trip in last fifth-place try at higher level when getting bumped off stride early after veering out at the start. Her rider eventually checked sharply from tight quarters near the 1/16-pole and filly was loaded with energy thereafter. She is far better than her two past performance lines indicate.

Final thoughts

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And now the stars of the show, Saturday’s results and Sunday’s entries.