Comments by Drew Coatney:
Matt Miller is a great handicapper and all-around gentleman, and we’re fortunate enough he is willing to share some of his thoughts on this great race. He goes over where he’s taking a stand, how he’ll bet the race, and his value line that might help him find a price on top. Again, these posts are meant to be an incubator to share ideas and provide a glimpse into how fellow handicappers attack a race or sequence. Enjoy!
Intro – Standing Against Him
I was thrilled to see Bricks and Mortar entered in this year’s Arlington Million. I was disappointed to see a morning line of 8/5, but given that I perceive there to be a bias at Arlington to avoid making morning line favorites too overwhelming from an odds perspective, I can’t say I was surprised to see 8/5. I sure wish there was a way to bet on what the final odds will be. My money says this superstar will be less than even money…..and I sure hope that’s the case. I’m betting against him.
Arlington has seen more than its fair share of highly touted horses with terrific careers come up short on its oval. I’m not sure why that is or if my perception is statistically significant compared to what happens at other racetracks. I think this field is filled with solid horses and that there is a good story to tell about many of them. This feels like one of those races where a massive favorite will disappoint the public, and when one goes back to the program to make sense of what one just saw, the result will be easily explainable and make one feel badly for not seeing that in advance.
My Top Pick: Robert Bruce (ML 7/2)
I’ll qualify that pick right away by saying that I would only bet this horse at 3/1 or more (more on that below). Robert Bruce ran the best race of his life at Arlington in this race last year. It was visually stunning, and he looked like a monster. No one on that day would have guessed that he wouldn’t win another race after that. Well, he hasn’t. He had a decent run in his next Grade 1, got crushed when facing Enable in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, took off some time before coming back to a stunning defeat at 3/5 for what seemed like a layup, and ran a very respectable second to Bricks and Mortar in his last start in the Manhattan. I think he is primed for a peak performance, and I couldn’t ask for a better place for him to deliver that than Arlington. He’s no lock, but if he is as ready as I think he is, I think he has a much better than 25% chance of circling the field again and blowing by them all down the lane.
Prime Bets: Win bet on Robert Bruce at 3-1 or higher
If you paid attention to Drew’s blog posting last week, you might remember me being the Matt who told Drew that the foundation of my betting is the win bet (or as PTF calls it, the ol’ pick one). That’s going to be the main way I play this race. If the Arlington crowd wakes up on Saturday to realize that Javier Castellano made the trip to Chicago and they figure that he wouldn’t have done that if he knew this horse was running for second or third place money at best, I wouldn’t be shocked to see 5/2 or 2/1. If we see that, I would either skip the race or look for value elsewhere.
As far as the vertical opportunities are concerned, there are lots of other horses in this race that I think are very capable of achieving place or show. There are so many, in fact, that I recommend avoiding all of the vertical exotics. The payouts will be rotten if Bricks and Mortar comes in second or third, and that’s obviously very likely to happen. (I’m sure many of you think he is very likely to win, too. You’re probably right, but I still don’t think that makes him a good bet here.)
I plan to play all of the horizontal betting opportunities all day at Arlington. I’m expecting to see some nice price shots win, and I want to position myself for some nice scores if I can catch them. I expect that Bricks and Mortar will be seen as the “easy single” in many of those pools, and I therefore think that the implied odds on the other horses in this race will be far better than their win pool odds. As far as this leg of those bets is concerned, I would play this as a spread race. On my caveman tickets, I plan to include Robert Bruce, Bricks and Mortar (because I don’t need to knock myself out of all of these bets just to prove a point), Catcho En Die, The Great Day, and Intellogent. I would probably hit Robert Bruce a few extra times on my more targeted tickets. I might do the same with Intellogent and/or The Great Day. Given that I think the other races in the pick 4, 5 and 6 will present some great betting opportunities, I don’t want to lose my chance at some nice payouts by forcibly excluding Bricks and Mortar, but I don’t plan to use those multi-race bets as a way to bet him heavily either. Believe me – I’ll be disappointed if he wins but glad to at least be alive on those tickets (hopefully).
Value Line: The Great Day (8-1 or higher) or Intellogent (10-1 or higher)
A third way to bet this race is look for value by comparing my value line to the morning line. I generally create my own betting lines before I take a look at the morning line (not as a means of predicting the morning line, but more as a value line for what I think to be an accurate representation of a horse’s probability to win). My goal here is to find a horse that odds drift higher than that of my value line (i.e. I believe the horse has a better chance than the public has bet).
Robert Bruce (ML 7/2 — VL 5/2)
See above. I’m hoping for 3/1 or more on this one.
Magic Wand (ML 5-1 — VL 10-1)
I would consider at 10/1, and I see virtually no chance of that. I don’t like her here. I hate the 0-6 for 2019 and the 2-16 career numbers. She is cross-entered in the Beverly D. I hope she runs in the Million and takes some money to improve the price on Robert Bruce, but I suspect she won’t appear in the Million.
Bricks and Mortar (ML 8/5 —- VL 2-1)
See above. I’m hoping for 3/5 to make him a compelling bet-against because I believe he has no more than a 33% chance to win this race.
Catcho En Die (ML 30/1 —- VL 25-1)
I think this horse has a reasonable shot at grabbing the lead and setting the pace. I know that many people are predicting Hunting Horn will do that. I’m hopeful that this horse’s connections agree that his best chance to win is on the front end – just as he did last year in the Grade 3 Stars And Stripes at Arlington. This horse has two solid starts on this track and could pull off a shocker. I think he’s worth playing at 25/1 or more, and I’m expecting to get that.
Hunting Horn (ML 12-1 —- VL 15-1)
I would consider at 15/1, and I doubt I’ll get that opportunity. 0-7 for 2019 isn’t confidence inspiring, but I think this horse has a chance of being the pacesetter, and that alone is worth something to me given how close he came to leveraging that strategy into a victory in the Grade 1 Man O’ War.
The Great Day (ML 12-1 —- VL 8-1)
I would play this one at 8/1, and with a morning line of 12/1, I think I’ll likely get that. No one was catching Bandua on July 13th at Arlington, but this one made a solid go of it. I think the extra sixteenth of a mile in this race will help his chances. I like the fact that this is the third start of his 2019 campaign and think that he should be primed for a day that will indeed be “great”.
Pivoine (ML 15-1 —- VL 50-1)
I’ll pass. I’m no expert on European form, but this one doesn’t seem to have a super impressive record. I think he’s in way over his head and don’t envision getting a price high enough to make it worth taking a wild stab with him.
Captivating Moon (ML 20-1 —- VL 25-1)
While I believe this horse to be in over his head, I think it’s dangerous to underestimate the quality of this horse’s local jockey and trainer. Each of them is a true force of nature on the Chicago racing scene, and I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see this horse fighting with a world-beater like Bricks and Mortar at the end. I feel almost silly saying that, and yet I believe that to be possible. If we see 25/1 or more on this horse, I wouldn’t think someone was crazy for betting him to come in second and third behind Robert Bruce and/or Bricks and Mortar.
Intellogent (ML 12-1 —- VL 10-1)
The first thing I did when I opened up my Saturday program was to look for the horses lucky enough to be ridden by F. Geroux. This man was an absolute star when he was a regular rider at Arlington. He was just as dominant (in my perception) as other Chicago greats like Pat Day, Mark Guidry, and Rene Douglas. Simply put, there is no way that I’m letting a horse ridden by him beat me and knock me out of my horizontal bets. I’ll include him in all of those, and if I can get 10/1 or higher, I’ll perhaps bet a little on him to win, too. By the way, I don’t think the horse is too bad! He definitely isn’t one of my favorites in this field, but his last effort was solid, and he has a sprinkling of impressive races over his last 10 or so.
Bandua (ML 6-1 —- VL 8-1)
Given the monster performance we saw from this one last time, I’m guessing he will go off at 9/2 or so. I hate his post here and think he could be in for a rough trip unless he really hustles out of the gate. Even then, he may not find the spot he wants (like he got last time). At 8/1 I could get very interested in this one, but I’m not expecting to see that.
*Photo Credit: NYRA