Stay Lucky Guide: Journey North to Woodbine

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Stay Lucky offers participants the opportunity to win great prizes by stringing together winners in Thoroughbred races. Unbroken streaks of five, seven, nine, 14, 17 and 20 reward the players with a prize or choice of prizes. Terms and conditions apply.

The object is simple: pick winners from North American graded stakes races that draw at least six entrants. Races will be scored in real time but streaks will be updated only once daily to make sure they are scored in the correct order.

Pick as many races each weekend as you like, but be sure to play at least one race every weekend or your streak will be reset.

This week offers a terrific slate of races to choose from. Woodbine will host six graded stakes on Saturday and Sunday, including the track's marquee race: the Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes. The Woodbine Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Two Woodbine stakes on Sunday also are “Win and You’re In” races:  the Summer Stakes carries a berth to the Juvenile Turf and the Natalma Stakes winner earns a spot in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. At Churchill Downs, juveniles on the rise will square off Saturday in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes and Grade 3 Pocahontas Stakes. Those two stakes are qualifiers for the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, respectively. 


Saturday, Sept. 16

Bold Venture Stakes (3:27 p.m. ET): This race drew a decent group of local runners, many of which have faced off on multiple occasions previously. But I landed on Good Bye Greg (#4), who has won three straight on the synthetic main track at Arlington Park and is 1-for-1 on the synthetic main track at Woodbine. He looks to be in career best form and should either dictate the pace or press from second.

Locust Grove Stakes (4:18 p.m. ET): Churchill drew a terrific card Saturday, but this definitely was not the strongest race. I guess I lean toward Tiger Moth (#7) because she’s in terrific form and has an edge on class, but she’s unplaced in three starts on the Churchill main track. I have to pass on this race.

Canadian Stakes (4:29 p.m. ET): I landed on Quidura (#1) here off a stellar runner-up finish to champion Lady Eli in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes on July 22, but I like a few other Stay Lucky selections a bit more. You can make a solid case for a few others in the Canadian. Elysea’s World (#5) enters off a sneaky-good fourth-place finish for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown and Starship Jubilee (#3) had won five straight before fading late in the Grade 2, 1 3/8-mile Sky Classic Stakes. Starship Jubilee cuts back to 1 1/8 miles, which should boost her chances.

Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash Stakes (5:10 p.m. ET): Whitmore (#4) is a top play for me despite a semi-disappointing third-place finish as the heavy favorite in the Grade 2 True North Stakes in his most recent start. Prior to that race, he’d won five straight and I think he’s one of the best dirt sprinters on the planet. The back class of Favorite Tale (#7) — multiple graded stakes winner who ran third in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint — worries me a bit in his second start off a 17 ½ –month layoff, but I think Whitmore gets back to the winner’s circle.

Iroquois Stakes (5:20 p.m. ET): I like the chances of six of the horses in this race a little bit but none of them a whole lot, so I’ll pass for Stay Lucky purposes. I lean toward The Tabulator (#9) with two wins in as many starts and a terrific workout in preparation for the Iroquois, but not with much confidence.

Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (5:31 p.m. ET): This race really comes down to how you think Hawkbill (#8) will fare in his North American debut. A Group 1 winner in Europe in 2016, Hawkbill won a Group 2 race in July at Newmarket and enters off a runner-up finish by a length in a German Group 1 race. By top U.S. turf sire Kitten’s Joy, I think he’ll love the firmer ground in North America and win this race with ease.

Sands Point Stakes (5:45 p.m. ET): Really tough race for Stay Lucky but a great handicapping challenge for horseplayers. I’m a big fan of Uni (#6), who has run third in a Grade 1 and second by less than a length in a Grade 2 in two U.S. starts for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown. Her stablemate Inflexibility (#10) enters off a win in the Wonder Where Stakes, part of the Canadian Triple Tiara for 3-year-old fillies. I also have tremendous respect for Marty Schwartz’s eye for European talent, so his French group stakes winner Vue Fantastique (#8) looms a significant threat in her U.S. debut. Multiple graded stakes winner La Coronel (#3) is eligible to improve in her second start after a trip to England, and Fault (#4) came home exceptionally fast to win the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes on the Arlington Million undercard. Great race, but too tough for Stay Lucky purposes.

Pocahontas Stakes (5:50 p.m. ET): There are four stakes winners entered along with a number of promising allowance and maiden winners trying two turns for the first time. I probably should just call this a toss-up and move on, but instead I’m going to make Firstmate (#2) a top play. Given the abundance of speed among the entrants, I wanted a filly coming from off the pace and what Firstmate did rallying from 20 lengths back in her debut in a stakes race was remarkable. Click the link to watch a replay of her nine-length win. I think she might be a future star.

Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes (6:34 p.m. ET): The Arlington Million third-place finisher for both 2016 and 2017, Deauville (#6), probably will be the heavy Woodbine Mile favorite. The more I play Stay Lucky, the more I realize that the key is determining which favorites to avoid, and I’m inclined to take a stand against Deauville. He’s plenty classy and could very easily win this race, but he’s won only one of six this season and he’s facing a quality group. It just doesn’t seem like he likes to win. I prefer World Approval (#1) and Dutch Connection (#11), but I don’t like either enough to merit a Stay Lucky play.


Sunday, Sept. 17

Summer Stakes (3:50 p.m. ET): I really like what I saw from Empirically (#8) in his August debut at Saratoga. For turf races, I usually just focus on the final quarter-mile or three-eighths of a mile and he showed great burst in his first start, even though he was disqualified for interference. It’s a tough field, but I like Empirically’s chances.

Natalma Stakes (5:24 p.m. ET): Capla Temptress (#7) makes her North American debut for owner Team Valor International, which raced 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, after winning her first two starts and then finishing third in the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes. Unbeaten closer March X Press (#3) worries me a little bit, but I think Capla Temptress has an advantage on class and boasts an experience edge over all but one of the entrants.


Monday, Sept. 18

Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (7:15 p.m. ET): If you exited the weekend with a nice winning streak, I think I would be careful about risking in on Monday in this race. It’s a pretty deep group of runners that includes a number of synthetic specialists capable of winning. If you are back at zero or one win, then by all means swing away. I think Ami’s Mesa (#7) is the play here. She’s never raced at Presque Isle, but she has five wins and a second in six tries on the synthetic surface at Woodbine and enters off a career-best win in the Grade 3 Seaway Stakes at seven-eighths of a mile. This race is a sixteenth of a mile shorter and should be right in her wheelhouse.

Top Stay Lucky Plays

(Top plays – 25 winners/57 picks)

1. Hawkbill (Northern Dancer Turf Stakes)

2. Whitmore (Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash)

3. Firstmate (Pocahontas Stakes)

4. Quidura (Canadian Stakes)

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