Welcome to Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners, the place to go for weekend best bets and spot plays from veteran handicapper and tournament-play pioneer Noel Michaels. Check back every week for a couple of highlighted selections designed to help you cash a few bets and make some money.
Noel’s selections have been featured just about everywhere horse racing picks can be found, including in print in the Daily Racing Form, The HorsePlayer Magazine and American Turf Monthly, online at DRF.com, Twinspires.com and USRacing.com, from the paddock on-track at Arlington International Racecourse, and on the air on HRTV, TVG, NYC OTB Extra, NYRA’s Talking Horses, and on broadcast TV on WAVE-3 Louisville, ABC KOLO-8 in Reno, Nevada, and channel 72 Long Island Cablevision.
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6 Beginner Betting Tools
- Start simple with an easy guide for how to bet on horse racing.
- Not sure what that word means? Horse racing terminology is a language of its own. Allow us translate for you.
- What the heck is a speed figure? This beginner’s guide to speed figures has everything you need to know.
- Betting on horse racing can be intimidating. Team ABR put together some Dos and Don’ts for the new fan getting started betting on racing.
- We all make mistakes when it comes to betting on horse racing, here are eight lessons learned from experience.
- Figure out how much each bet will cost in advance with our Gambling Calculator, presented by NYRA Bets.
Saturday, March 4
Saturday’s 12-race card at Santa Anita Park is a doozy, complete with four graded stakes races and high-quality racing and wagering through and through. While much of the attention will go to the 3-year-olds competing on the Road to the Kentucky Derby earlier on the card in the San Felipe Stakes, there also happens to be two Grade 1 races on the card and the San Felipe won’t be one of them. Older horses compete later on the card in a pair of highly bettable Grade 1 features, with the $500,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on the turf in Race 11 followed by the $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by Yaamava’ Resort & Casino in the nightcap. Here is a closer look at handicapping the Kilroe Mile and the Santa Anita Handicap.
Santa Anita Park, Race 11, $500,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile, post 8 p.m. ET
The Kilroe Mile has attracted a field of nine turfers topped by a lone standout, #6 Hong Kong Harry, who would be an extreme bargain if he were to go off at his morning-line odds of 9-5. Hong Kong Harry will be tough to beat based on his wins in his last two starts in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile Stakes and the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar, and he’s also 3-for-3 at Santa Anita and has nine career wins from 13 outings. Instead of betting against him, go ahead and bet this race with Hong Kong Harry keying trifectas over the other prime contenders. Many of the horses in this race seem to be misplaced from a distance standpoint at a mile, either pushed to their maximum limit for a horse like #4 Air Force Red, or perhaps going too short, as appears to be the case with #1 Gold Phoenix. Toss those challengers out of your trifectas and instead concentrate on #3 Masteroffoxhounds, who was third in the 2022 Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile Stakes; #5 Balnikhov, who just missed by a nose last time on opening day in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Mathis Mile Stakes; and #7 Du Jour, who exits a nose loss in the Grade 3 Thunder Road Stakes on this course for trainer Bob Baffert with Frankie Dettori picking up the mount.
The Play: Bet #6 Hong Kong Harry (9-5) to win and key him over three horses in trifectas with #3 Masteroffoxhounds (5-1), #5 Balnikhov (5-1), and #7 Du Jour (10-1) underneath.
Santa Anita Park, Race 12, $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap, post time 8:31 p.m. ET
The Big ’Cap is still one of the most prestigious races for older horses on the annual stakes calendar and has drawn an excellent 11-horse field for the latest renewal of the race run at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles that has been contested since 1935. The 2023 edition of the Big ’Cap features a loaded field and looks like a wide-open betting race with several serious contenders. The local prep came in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 28 and was won by #3 Newgrange, who prevailed by a length over a pair of today’s top rivals, #2 Parnelli and #8 Hopper. Newgrange ran his record to 3-for-3 on this track for trainer Phil D’Amato and seems capable of getting the distance to keep his Santa Anita record undefeated. Hopper, runner-up in the San Pasqual, is interesting, too, as one of two Baffert-trained runners in the race along with the more highly touted #5 Defunded. Hopper should set the pace and will attempt to go all the way. It’s unsure if he can make it, but it does seem very likely that he’ll go faster and farther today than he did last time, which was his first race back off a seven-month layoff. Speaking of Defunded, he’s another front-running type, but it seems unlikely that he will duel with his stablemate, so look for him to sit a step or two off the lead just as he tried to do in his second-place finish last time out in the Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes presented by Baccarat. Third in the Pegasus and also returning in this spot is #4 Stilleto Boy, who dances every dance and should be used in your Santa Anita Handicap exotic bets. Of the horses in this field that are exiting the Pegasus, the least attractive today seems like #11 Proxy. He didn’t fire last time and now must meet horses on their home track that beat him last time while doing so from post-position 11. The wild card in this field is #6 Warrant, who was winless in 2022 but had his best effort of last year when second by a head behind Express Train in the Santa Anita Handicap. He returned last time for a prep race win at Fair Grounds in his 2023 debut in a race meant to set him up for revenge in this spot.
The Play: Bet #6 Newgrange (6-1) to win and play Newgrange in a three-horse exacta box along with the Baffert pair of #5 Defunded (7-2) and #8 Hopper (8-1). Key Newgrange in trifectas above Defunded and Hopper along with #4 Stilleto Boy (5-1) and #6 Warrant (4-1).