Piassek’s Plays: Sunday Stakes Action at Laurel

In his regular gambling blog, John Piassek presents his top picks for the upcoming weekend in horse racing, offering betting options at different budget levels. Piassek’s Plays is brought to you by Horseplayers.com, the official online qualifying site of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). Horseplayers.com offers low-cost feeders every day and BCBC and NHC qualifiers every weekend, and it’s the only site where you can qualify for the $1 million BCBC. It’s free to sign up – click here to get information about registering and how to enter contests.

Piassek has contributed to the horse racing sites The Racing Biz and Danonymous Racing and worked at Tioga Downs, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga Race Course. He joined America’s Best Racing in January 2021.

Sunday, Dec. 26

Laurel Park, Race 5, Willa On the Move Stakes, post time 2:20 p.m. ET

#3 Princess Kokachin: Anyone who follows Maryland racing even casually is well-acquainted with #6 Hello Beautiful. She’s been a dominant force in the state for a while, having won eight stakes races between Laurel Park and Pimlico. She’s won a Maryland Million event three consective years. However, she turned in a clunker in the Politely Stakes last out. As the 1-5 favorite, she couldn’t get to the lead and was well-beaten. Nonetheless, she was installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite for Sunday’s stakes, and bettors are likely to be forgiving of her last race and once again send her off as low odds. While she is no doubt a serious contender in this race, that last race makes me pause a bit. I don’t know if I can bet her at a low price, especially when there’s a possible future sprinting star in the race.

Princess Kokachin has been on a hot streak lately for trainer Jerry Robb. She’s won six of her last seven starts, including five in a row. In the Politely Stakes, she outran Hello Beautiful early on and went gate-to-wire for an impressive 5 1/2-length win. Despite her recent success, she’s 5-1 on the morning line. If she goes off anywhere near that price she’ll be a tremendous value. She’s going to have to deal with some speed to her inside, as #2 Dontletsweetfoolya is also very fast out of the gate. However, Princess Kokachin has better early pace figures, so it’s likely that she’ll be able to clear Dontletsweetfoolya early, establish early position, and go gate-to-wire once again. From there, the sky’s the limit.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$7 to win on 3

$3 exacta, 3 with 7

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$15 to win on 3

$5 exacta, 3 with 5, 7 ($10 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$30 to win on 3

$10 exacta, 3 with 5, 7 ($20 total)

Laurel Park, Race 7, Carousel Stakes, post time 3:20 p.m. ET

#8 Miss Leslie: Of the top three morning line choices in this race, two of them have serious flaws. #1 Smooth With a Kick, the 5-2 morning line choice, has not raced since January. This puts her at a disadvantage compared to her more recently-raced rivals, as it’s not likely she’ll be able to run a top-tier effort in her first race after that long a break. She’ll likely offer little value. #4 Belle of the North, the third choice at 9-2, won the Safely Kept Stakes last out at seven furlongs, and her connections have decided to stretch her out around two turns rather than stay sprinting in the Willa On the Move. She didn’t perform well in her two tries going a route of ground.

If both those horses take a lot of money, it’ll make the odds on Miss Leslie much more appealing. She was the comfortable favorite against similar company in the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes last out and came from behind to win by half a length. She keeps getting better as the year goes on and has excelled at two turns in her last few starts. As such, the 1 1/8-mile distance shouldn’t be a problem. Look for her to make a big move in the stretch and just get up to win.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$6 to win on 8

$2 exacta, 8 with 2, 5 ($4 total)

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$9 to win on 8

$4 exacta, 8 with 2, 5 ($8 total)

$1 trifecta, 8 with 2, 5 with 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 ($8 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$20 to win on 8

$7 exacta, 8 with 2, 5 ($14 total)

$2 trifecta, 8 with 2, 5 with 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 ($16 total)