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Champagne Picks

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Free Horse Racing Picks at Tampa Bay Downs - Wednesday November 25

Top handicapper Andrew Champagne runs through the meet at Tampa Bay Downs on Wednesday


I try to profile different tracks on a consistent basis in this space, and that's easy to do this week since several venues are kick-starting their meets. My Thanksgiving Eve travels take me to Tampa Bay Downs, which opens its winter meet with a nine-race program Wednesday. The late Pick Four starts in the sixth race, and my ticket has a best bet that should be a pretty solid price. Here's how I'll play it!

RACE #6: The first of three full fields in this sequence comes in the opening leg, a claiming event for older sprinters. My top pick is one of two also-eligibles, and if he runs, it wouldn't surprise me if he went off favored despite a very long layoff.

#14 LITIGANT hasn't been seen since running third at Gulfstream in January against slightly higher-level opposition. However, his lone win came in a seven-furlong race over this track back in 2019, and he earned a 72 Beyer Speed Figure in that win. Is he capable of a similar effort? Maybe not, but if he draws in and can replicate that performance, I think he'll be pretty tough to beat.

If Litigant doesn't draw in, I'll be three-deep, and two runners I'm using are big prices on the morning line. #10 FIRST DEGREE will get support at the windows after a decent third in his first start since June, but #1 SEATTLE COUNCIL and #9 STORM RISK could be live at longer odds. The former makes his second start off a very long layoff and won over this track in May of 2019, while the latter attracts top local rider Daniel Centeno, who doesn't ride much for this barn. His turf figures aren't terrible, and he may not have to be a whole lot to run well here.

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RACE #7: Here's where I'll take my stand. This is a turf sprint with many horses that look quite similar to one another. #5 BUSTIN HEARTS is the lukewarm 7/2 morning line favorite, but she goes away from a top-tier barn and hasn't been facing the strongest competition of late.

I'll try to beat her (and the other runners in this field) with #3 MY SISTER'S KEEPER, who hasn't run a poor race in eight starts this season. She was a late-running fourth last time out against a decent group at Monmouth Park despite a very wide trip, and I love that Antonio Gallardo retains the mount for this barn. She wants to sit a few lengths off the pace and make one run, and it certainly seems like she'll get that kind of setup here with plenty of early zip signed on.

With so many wide-open races in this sequence, I need to single somewhere in order to keep my ticket at a reasonable cost. I like My Sister's Keeper a lot in this race, and the 9/2 morning line odds mean that if she wins, we'll knock a fair amount of tickets out. Anything close to that price would also induce a win bet as well.

RACE #8: This optional claiming event drew a field of nine, and while I respect morning line makers and the work they do, I feel the need to point out that this line seems wrong. My top pick is 5-1 on the morning line, and my guess is he'll be about half that price come post time.

#2 HIGH FIVE COTTON has won his last two starts at Monmouth and returns to the barn of Jose Delgado, who claimed him back from Wayne Potts last time out. He loves Tampa Bay Downs and has won four times in seven tries here. Add in that this 6-year-old gelding seems to be in career-best form, and I think there's a lot to like.

I'll also use #4 EXPENSIVE STYLE, #5 SINGINGINTHEJOHN, and #7 HAUNTEDBYTHEMUSIC. Singinginthejohn is an interesting horse at a big price. His lone start going short on dirt led to his only win, and his connections saw fit to take a shot in a $75,000 stakes race two back at Gulfstream. Perhaps he peaked early, but he wouldn't need to improve that much to be competitive here, and maybe he's getting back to the route he wants.

RACE #9: We finish with a puzzling claimer for older fillies and mares going long on the grass, and this is another spot where I think the morning line favorite is vulnerable. #4 MIJET has a lot of early speed and ran fairly well earlier this year at Gulfstream, but the last several starts haven't been great and she's far from the lone early speed in this event.

I'm four-deep, and my top pick is a big price. #10 WONDER BLONDY ships in from Mountaineer Park, but had some experience at Gulfstream earlier this year and hit the board several times before finally earning her diploma three starts back in her West Virginia debut. She goes back to the turf here, and she'd benefit from a speed duel up front. That 64 Beyer Speed Figure she earned three back stacks up very well against this bunch, and a repeat may very well get her the money.

I'm also including #1 MAGDALENA, #3 MAHKATO, and #9 LAKE PARIMA. All three of these runners are set to drop in class, and I'll focus on the inside filly. She broke her maiden over this turf course in April, went away for six months, and tried optional claimers at Laurel. This is probably the right level for her, and I think she'll be far sharper second off the bench for a trainer-jockey combination that's hit at a 21% clip over the past two years.


R6: 1,9,10,14

R7: 3

R8: 2,4,5,7

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