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In February 2000 five out of six favorites won the U.S. Grade One horse races. It can’t always be so easy?

You need consistently good horses to bet with any confidence. The horses taking part in Grade One races are the most likely to reproduce past performances. The horses running in the these contests at Gulfstream Park, Florida and Santa Anita, California in the first quarter have to be those to look at for bets that give you a long-term advantage. Bad horses cannot run truly excellent races once, never mind twice.

At Gulfstream Park concentrate on the Donn Handicap, Gulfstream Park Breeders Cup Handicap, the Gulfstream Park Handicap and two three-year-old colts races, the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby.

During the last five years the winners of the Donn Handicap have included Cigar, Behrens and Skip Away. Good racehorses. The Handicaps are all contested by horses of at least four-years-old and have race histories open to inspection in the Daily Racing Form. A winning trend has emerged at the track for horses running up with the pace and quickening at the end of race. It’s been worth avoiding horses laid off the pace behind the field. If you want to win, learn how not to lose.

The Fountain of Youth stakes is a good trial race for improving colts. Using this race to look for a good horse for the future makes sense. The field is still on the upgrade and has yet to show their best race condition preferences. Wayne Lukas has trained two of the last three winners in High Yield and Cat Thief. His stable has a reputation of developing good class performers and traveling nationwide to find the right races. Think about having him on your side.

The recent results of the Florida Derby suggest that horses who had previously ran in the Fountain of Youth are worthy of close inspection. In ‘99 Vicar won both races. Whilst in 2000, High Yield was second to Hals Hope who had finished three and a quarter lengths behind him in the trial.

Ground conditions have been mainly dry on turf and fast on dirt. Track bettors have the advantage over simulcast players as they can see the horses going to the starting gates before the race. This is the best chance to learn whether a horse will act on the ground. On firm turf and fast dirt, look for horses who move their legs long and straight. When conditions are sloppy on dirt or soft on turf, horses should bend their knees and arch their legs so they don’t get stuck in the surface.

On the West Coast at Santa Anita, the Santa Anita Handicap is open to colts over four-years-old. The other Grade 1 races for mares and fillies include, the Santa Maria, and Santa Margarita Handicaps, and the three-year-old fillies races, the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks.

Wayne Lukas has trained eight winners of the Santa Anita Oaks. Many of his runners had won races at the track, including the Las Virgenes Stakes. Handicappers keen for winning action overbet them, irrespective of the odds. Three-year-old fillies often follow a good race with a bad one, so it’s worth betting the underbet fillies, especially when the odds are greater than the chance you give them. This betting policy might have led you to bet Bobby Frankel’s 55/1 winner Keeper Hill in the ‘98 running of the Las Virgenes.

Betting mares in the Santa Maria Handicap (Feb 15th) has been a more conservative proposition. In the last four years, Manistique and Jewel Princess both won having been winners in the previous year of the Santa Margarita Handicap (March 6th). It’s possible that a filly could emerge to win both of these races in the same year. But, two really tough races only three weeks apart is a hard act for any horse, never mind a filly.

For bettors who might like betting the 1-2 exactas, and 1-2-3 trifectas, the Santa Anita Handicap is an interesting race and Richard Mandella is the trainer to watch. In 1997 Mandella, landed the trifecta when saddling the first three, Siphon, Sandpit and Gentleman; they had all previously been trained in South America. Watch out for these horses when traveling from the East Coast, they could make a good underbet.

Mandella followed up in 1998 with Malek when his hot favourite, Gentleman, bled and trailed in last. They’re only horses after all.

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