Racing! Welcoming a new contributor

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we see how Santa Anita navigates these critical first weeks.

We couldn’t be happier to announce that veteran racing journalist Ron Flatter is joining the newsletter as a weekly contributor. Ron works for VSiN, the Vegas Stats & Information Network, located in, obviously, Las Vegas. He spent part of his career in New York, working for SiriusXM, CBS Sports Radio, WFAN and 1010 WINS. He spent time as a broadcaster in Australia and did stints at ESPN and Fox News Radio.

At VSiN, he’s both a host and reporter on all aspects of gambling but mostly horse racing. And, he produces the weekly Ron Flatter Racing Pod, which is a wealth of information, and I have repurposed it (with credit) in this newsletter.

As for him being here, I’ve pretty much given him a clean slate when it comes to topics. So, here’s Ron’s initial contribution. Take it away, Ron.


“Whether it is called recency bias or what have you done for me lately, the freshest images are typically what drive the odds in futures betting for the Kentucky Derby.

“There may have been an exception to that rule Wednesday, when undefeated Independence Hall won at Aqueduct in the Jerome Stakes, the first 2020 points prep for the Derby.

“Maybe it was the fact that he was on his toes in the paddock or slow to get out of the gate. Or maybe it was his four-length margin of victory, down from the 12 by which he won the Grade 3 Nashua on the the same course and distance two months ago.

“More likely, though, it was probably the exposure that most futures books already have on trainer Mike Trombetta’s colt that has started three-for-three. William Hill here in Nevada left him as its 8-1 co-favorite with Champagne Stakes winner Tiz The Law in its Derby futures. That has not changed since mid-November.

“William Hill is notoriously quiet about its racing odds, which are reputedly written primarily by media-shy CEO Joe Asher. So, whether they reflect smart money on those two colts or a position taken by the house, the numbers are left to speak for themselves. Frankly, they are not particularly attractive to anyone looking for a meaty price four months before the Derby, so it is no wonder that they did not budge after the Jerome.

“At the off-shore book Bovada, Independence Hall remained 12-1, which is where he has been since early December. Dennis’ Moment, last seen spinning his wheels in the Santa Anita starting gate as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is still shortest priced at 11-1.

“In Europe, the choices for the Derby are much leaner, but the value is generally better for the 3-year-olds carrying shorter odds. According to, which monitors bookmakers based in England and Ireland, there are 43 horses listed vs. 132 at William Hill and 117 at Bovada. But the six favorites – Independence Hall, Tiz The Law, Dennis’ Moment, Breeders’ Futurity winner Maxfield, Los Alamitos Futurity winner Thousand Words and, for some reason, two-time Grade 1 loser By Your Side – are all best-priced at 20-1. Independence Hall actually shortened from 25-1 just before the Jerome.

“Bovada did move Jerome runner-up Prince Of Pharoahs, trainer Linda Rice’s colt by American Pharoah, from 80-1 to 66-1. William Hill kept him at 75-1. But otherwise, the Jerome did not create a ripple.

“It could be very different at Santa Anita with Saturday’s Grade 3 Sham Stakes, which includes three colts that are in the William Hill futures – Authentic (50-1), Azul Coast (75-1) and Scoring (125-1). An impressive performance by any of them promises to shorten the odds. For those not yet listed, an in-the-money finish would vault them into the future books, but not necessarily at the most attractive prices.

Johnny Avello authored the pre-eminent Derby odds at the Wynn Las Vegas before his move 15 months ago to the DraftKings Sportsbook, which is not yet allowed to post racing futures. By now he would have had longer, more attractive odds for more than 400 horses on his sheets, including some that have yet to see their first races.

“What made Avello different was that he was not afraid to post long odds, and he used to pay for it. Two years ago he absorbed a $150,000 hit, taking a $500 bet in exchange for writing a 300-1 Derby for a horse that had yet to debut. Yes, that horse was Justify.

“Maybe that is why between William Hill, Bovada and the Europeans, no one is offering odds longer than 200-1 on any Derby hopeful.

“Then again, no one said that getting rich by picking the winner of a May 2 horse race was supposed to be easy on Jan. 3.”

Ron Flatter is a host and reporter who covers horse racing for the Vegas Stats & Information Network, which is available at SiriusXM 201 and to subscribers at His Ron Flatter Racing Pod is available Friday mornings via Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher and at

Santa Anita preview

Remember a few days ago when I was touting Santa Anita’s big fields. Ahhh, hold on as we see just a little bit of shrinking. Friday’s nine-race card begins at noon. There are four races on the turf.

I couldn’t really find a feature but there are two $57,000 purse races, but we’re going to pick the sixth as the feature because the third is Cal-breds, which generally have slightly inflated purses. Plus, the sixth race has five horses, the sure sign of a feature race (except last week.)

It’s a one mile allowance/optional claimer on the turf for 3-year-old fillies, which really means 2-year-olds who are three days into their new age.

The favorite, at 9-5, is Savvy Gal for trainer Richard Baltas and jockey Joel Rosario. She has won one of three and was second last out in an allowance. She was fourth in the Surfer Girl at Santa Anita. The second favorite, at 2-1, is Gingham for Bob Baffert and Drayden Van Dyke. She needed four shots to break her maiden and followed that up with a fourth in the Grade 1 Starlet at Los Alamitos. Post time is 2:38 p.m.

Here are the field sizes in order: 6, 5, 7, 6, 9, 5, 9, 9, 10.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE THREE: No. 3 Avalon Ride (6-1)

Avalon Ride is one for one here at Santa Anita and last out at a mile ran a closing fourth, missing by less than two lengths. On the gallop out the horse moved to the front with ease. Friday she gets a little more real estate to work with. The 6-1 morning line is great value for us. The favorite in this race, Rose Dunn, ran second in the same race. I prefer this price though as well as the five-pound weight break under apprentice jockey J.C. Diaz.

Sunday’s result: Mr Unusual broke alertly and was right in the mix and looked ready to win into the stretch but something happened and the horse was eased to last.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

Los Alamitos weekend preview

It’s time to turn things over to marketing and meda guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about the upcoming weekend at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Cesar Franco had an excellent opening week at Los Alamitos Race Course, winning with three of his first seven quarter-horse mounts. His red-hot start landed him at the top of the standings plus his two third-place finishes propelled him to an in-the-money ratio of 71.4%. Franco will look to keep the momentum going when he pilots a pair of talented quarter horses on Friday night.

“His first mount on will be Messanger, an Oregon-bred gelding by Favorite Cartel, looking for his first win in five starts. The Luke Lindsey-trainee will be in the sixth race against a group that includes Vegas Corona, who finished fifth in a trial to the Texas Classic Futurity at Lone Star Park on Oct. 19.

“Franco will then ride Randy Dickerson and CM Whatta About Me, the fourth-place finisher in last year’s Wild West Futurity, in the $11,825 eighth race at 330 yards. The Lindsey-trained gelding made only one start in 2019 and enters after a decent 18.30 second work at 350 yards on Nov. 5. He’ll be facing some solid opponents on Friday including Grade 2 Golden State Derby finalist Jess Motions and the allowance-placed runners El Soverign, The Divas Dynasty, Stel Chancey and Blaze Thru Fire.

“There are three allowance races on Saturday’s racing program beginning with the fifth race, a $12,000 race for quarter horses and thoroughbreds at 870 yards. The field will be led by Goldie’s Hills, who has finished second or better in his last three races at Los Alamitos. Brave Court, a four-length winner on Dec. 7, and local winner Royal Blue Grass will also compete in this event.

“De Capitator Bar, winner of the $75,000 Cherry Creek Futurity at Arapahoe Park, will make his Los Alamitos debut when he headlines the 300-yard allowance in the seventh race. The Colorado-bred colt by Capo De Capi has shown nice quickness in all three of his outings at Arapahoe Park and has two wins in three career starts. He’ll face a solid field featuring Golden State Million Futurity trial winner Royally Significant and Ed Burke Million Futurity finalist Ventura Jess JQM.

“The final allowance is the eighth race and will be headed by Favorite Mongoose, who finished second to Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity fastest qualifier Nomadic in the $30,000 Ed Burke Memorial Juvenile Stakes on June 23. Shez Divine, third in the John Deere California Juvenile Stakes, is among the other top contenders in this race.

“Los Alamitos will host the first open Grade 1 quarter-horse stakes race of 2020 on Sunday night when 10 fillies and mares face off in the $100,000 Charger Bar Handicap. The field will be led by Thermonuclear Energy, who won this race last year, and Tequila Sangria, who defeated older mares when winning the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap as a 3-year-old last year. As And Js, who finished second in the Mildred Vessels, and multiple stakes winner Tough To Figure are among the other top contenders in the Charger Bar, which is named in honor of the 1973 Champion of Champions winner and this track’s all-time leading mare in stakes wins with 18.”

Mark Jasso, an up-and-coming jockey who had been riding mostly at Turf Paradise, enjoyed his first ever victory at Los Alamitos when he guided Running Springs to victory last Saturday night. For his career, Jasso has won 49 quarter-horse races from 314 starts with his biggest wins coming with First Lady Perry in the $48,735 Turf Paradise Futurity and with One Famous Icon in the $33,440 AQRA Derby.

“A celebration of life in honor of Barbara Pica, wife of longtime horse owner Bernie Pica, will be held on Saturday at Tustin Ranch Golf Course from noon to 3 p.m. Barbara was an ever present figure in the Vessels Club at Los Alamitos and rarely missed a night of racing. Bernie and Barbara Pica enjoyed their biggest win 1998 when their quarter horse Two Steppin Alibi won the Grade 1 Marathon Handicap at 870 yards.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

RACE SEVEN: No. 1 Wrong Impression (8-1)

Perennial leading quarter-horse trainer Paul Jones will send out this big-bodied gelding for his first start in 35 nights. In his most recent outing, Wrong Impression became fractious in the gate prior to breaking slow and then losing his racing path to quicker rivals. After the tough start, this entrant finished fairly well while under a hold for a much-better-than-looked fifth-place finish versus slightly tougher rivals. Worth a look at this price and could enjoy a clear path from the rail tonight.

Final thought

If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter you can click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more. Tell your friends, or even people you don’t like that much.

Any thoughts, you can reach me at You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, January 3.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 4th day of a 60-day meet.


1 Mile. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Union StationJ.C. Diaz, Jr.119Eoin G. Harty5-212,500
2GryffindorEdgar Payeras124Richard Rosales8-112,500
3Tiz a SlayerBrice Blanc124Alexis Barba6-112,500
4R B EyeEvin Roman124Vann Belvoir5-112,500
5NorskiJorge Velez119Hector O. Palma4-112,500
6Fast as CassRuben Fuentes124Lorenzo Ruiz8-512,500


6 Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1ImagineiamfastestAbel Cedillo124Jack Carava5-116,000
2Toothless WonderJorge Velez119Anna Meah3-116,000
3I Belong to BeckyRuben Fuentes124Peter Miller9-516,000
4Black StormHeriberto Figueroa124Lloyd C. Wicker7-216,000
5Roaring ForkAaron Gryder124Sean McCarthy5-216,000


1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1QuinnieGeovanni Franco122Carla Gaines4-1
2Moonless SkyDrayden Van Dyke124Eddie Truman7-220,000
3Avalon RideJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Craig Anthony Lewis6-1
4Lucky Ms JonesTyler Baze124Philip D'Amato5-1
5Sapphire KidTiago Pereira124Steve Knapp6-120,000
6Brahms CommandEdwin Maldonado122Richard Rosales6-1
7Rose DunnFlavien Prat122Brian J. Koriner5-2


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Laker JetJorge Velez119Robert A. Bean5-112,500
2DiosaAbel Cedillo124Robert B. Hess, Jr.8-512,500
3BellazanoAssael Espinoza124Shelbe Ruis5-212,500
4Queen CarmelitaHeriberto Figueroa124Rafael DeLeon6-112,500
5Jabber NowTiago Pereira124Gary Stute5-112,500
6At the MarginFernandez Rojas124Jairo B. Monascal5-112,500


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $25,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Greater GloryMauro Donoe114Neil A. Koch20-125,000
2Harper's GallopIgnacio Puglisi124Jack Carava8-125,000
3Diamond of ValueRuben Fuentes124Alfredo Marquez8-125,000
4TinnieFlavien Prat124Richard E. Mandella3-125,000
5Dairy KidEdgar Payeras124Robert J. Lucas20-125,000
6Daddy's MelodyAbel Cedillo124Craig Dollase8-125,000
7Shelbydoodle Joseph Talamo124Aggie Ordonez8-125,000
8Invincibella Tyler Baze124Hector O. Palma7-225,000
9Point Hope Drayden Van Dyke124Ronald W. Ellis5-225,000


1 Mile. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $80,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1GinghamDrayden Van Dyke122Bob Baffert2-1
2Navy QueenTiago Pereira122Scott Rollins12-1
3Shanghai KeelyTyler Baze120Ari Herbertson3-1
4Rare FindAbel Cedillo122Richard E. Mandella3-1
5Savvy GalJoel Rosario122Richard Baltas9-5


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Coalinga RoadDrayden Van Dyke122Carla Gaines3-1
2Austin's BoyEfrain Hernandez122J. Eric Kruljac6-1
3Big BillyAbel Cedillo122Daniel Dunham15-1
4George Herman RuthJoseph Talamo122Philip D'Amato6-1
5World O LuckAgapito Delgadillo122Mike Puype8-1
6Bernie's Big BoyEvin Roman122Marcia Stortz30-1
7El Diablo RojoJorge Velez117Craig Anthony Lewis8-1
8LuvluvTyler Baze122John W. Sadler5-1
9Rookie MistakeMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill5-2


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $20,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1OsteriaJ.C. Diaz, Jr.119Clifford W. Sise, Jr.15-120,000
2VidaliaTiago Pereira124Bruce Headley20-120,000
3ChirpJorge Velez119Leonard Powell8-120,000
4ManresaBrice Blanc124Thomas Ray Bell, II4-120,000
5BuybackEdwin Maldonado124Jeff Bonde7-220,000
6Info's TreasureTyler Baze124Ian Kruljac10-120,000
7SuezaaanaFrank Johnson124Jesus Mendoza10-120,000
8Root Beer RagAgapito Delgadillo124William Spawr6-120,000
9KatsarosCerapio Figueroa124John W. Sadler2-120,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $33,000. Starter Allowance. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Red Bunting Drayden Van Dyke122Ronald W. Ellis8-1
2QuerelleJoel Rosario122Peter Miller3-1
3Untouched EleganceBrice Blanc122Richard Baltas6-1
4Bella Figura Jorge Velez119Alfredo Marquez8-1
5Shanghai TrufflesRafael Bejarano122Patrick Gallagher12-1
6PersephoneFlavien Prat122Peter Eurton6-1
7Trust Fund KittyAbel Cedillo122Val Brinkerhoff4-1
8Dulverton DarlingRuben Fuentes124Andrew Lerner8-1
9Flying to the LineJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Adam Kitchingman8-1
10SamandahMario Gutierrez122George Papaprodromou20-1