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.


Saturday, Jan. 15

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes, post time 2:50 p.m.

#8 Strategic Bird: A field of eight 3-year-old fillies will compete in this seven-furlong race. Strategic Bird, for trainer Mark Casse and leading jockey Antonio Gallardo, broke her maiden in impressive fashion on debut at Gulfstream Park, and then turned in a gutsy effort to win the Sandpiper Stakes last out. She set a very fast early pace, including an opening quarter in 21.93 seconds and a first half in 44.91 seconds, but she held off the challenge of Devine Charger down the stretch and prevailed by a head. She looks like a filly with a big future and should be tough to catch on the front end once again. It wouldn’t surprise if she emerged as a serious contender for the Longines Kentucky Oaks.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$5 to win on 8

$5 exacta, 8 with 5

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$11 to win on 8

$7 exacta, 8 with 5, 6 ($14 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$24 to win on 8

$13 exacta, 8 with 5, 6 ($26 total)

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, post time 3:55 p.m. ET

#4 Patriot Drive: This second-level allowance optional claiming race on grass features two horses coming off long layoffs who are likely to take lots of money. Hidden Stash finished second, beaten less than a length, in last year’s Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, but he hasn’t been seen since posting a 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Kuramata, the 2-1 morning line favorite for trainer Chad Brown, was impressive last spring. He’s making his first start since last May’s Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico. Both of these horses are up against it first off the bench.

Patriot Drive, by contrast, has good rcent form. He made his first start off a brief layoff last out at this level and closed well while racing wide to get second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths. He finished ahead of several horses in this field in that race. This is his second start for trainer Dennis Ward, who has enjoyed success so far at the Tampa Bay meet. He should offer great value in a race with some vulnerable favorites. 

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$6 to win on 4

$2 exacta, 4 with 5, 6 ($4 total)

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$9 to win on 4

$5 exacta, 4 with 5, 6 ($10 total)

$1 trifecta, 4 with 5, 6 with 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 ($6 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$18 to win on 4

$10 exacta, 4 with 5, 6 ($20 total)

$2 trifecta, 4 with 5, 6 with 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 ($12 total)





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