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.
What a great weekend this is in Thoroughbred racing, with meaningful stakes races happening at Keeneland, Belmont at the Big A, and Santa Anita with the Breeders’ Cup now just four weeks away. So many great stakes races will be run from coast to coast. I have picked out two of those to focus my bets on this Saturday, looking at 2-year-old filly turf sprinters at Aqueduct and hopefuls for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint racing at Keeneland. Enjoy all of this weekend’s action, and best of luck.
Belmont at the Big A, Race 6, $150,000 Matron Stakes, post time 3:16 p.m. ET
As a turf sprint for 2-year-old fillies, the Matron doesn’t have Breeders’ Cup implications but is still an interesting betting race, having drawn a full 12-horse field of young horses that have all shown ability. The most accomplished filly in the bunch is #2 Danse Macabre, who comes out of a lucrative stakes turf sprint stakes win at Kentucky Downs where she defeated Alluring Angel, who returned to run fourth in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo Stakes. Danse Macabre defeated a pair of today’s top challengers two races ago at Saratoga when she was second in the turf sprint Bolton Landing Stakes and this filly may not be facing anyone tougher in this race than the ones she’s already beaten. We’ll see.
Most of the others in the field ate turf sprint maiden winners, and the most impressive of those very well may have been #1 Dontlookbackatall for New York turf sprint king trainer Christophe Clement. She won her maiden at first asking in the clear after passing horses from mid-pack. For a third horse in exactas and trifectas, perhaps Monmouth Park’s Colleen Stakes winner #10 Sweet Harmony can shake loose up front, and if she does, she could rebound from her fifth-place finish last time behind Danse Macabre in the Bolton Landing.
The Play: Bet #2 Danse Macabre to win and box her in the exactas and trifectas with #1 Dontlookbackatall and #10 Sweet Harmony.
Keeneland, Race 7, $350,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, post time 4:10 p.m. ET
Saturday’s Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes will be run at six furlongs and will send its winner to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint with an automatic berth as a part of the “Win and You’re In” Challenge series. This year’s race has drawn a solid field of nine and as you would expect there is plenty of speed in the race, which projects to have a fast pace thanks to entrants like #2 Palm Cottage, #8 Joyful Cadence, and #9 Happy Soul. While one of those certainly could stick around for the exotics, the handicapping focus should be to look for the best horses that can rate just off the pace.
#7 Slammed is in good form for trainer Todd Fincher and has the speed to lead but prefers to rate and win from a stalking spot, as she did in most of her seven wins from eight outings between June 2021 and July 2022. Many of her wins were in New Mexico, but she stepped up with a win at Del Mar this summer and then was second last time in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap. Florent Geroux picks up the mount and can help the filly make her first trip east a winning one. The other horse in this race potentially in a good position pacewise is the stalker #5 Sconsin, who finally gets away from her career nemesis Bell’s the One today and can land back in the exactas if able to run back to her win in the Grade 3 Winning Colors Stakes earlier this year.
The Play: Bet #7 Slammed to win and play her in an exacta box with #5 Sconsin. Use both horses in the top two slots in trifectas, with the speedy trio of #2 Palm Cottage, #8 Joyful Cadence, and #9 Happy Soul in the third spot.