Welcome to Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners, the place to go for weekend best bets and spot plays from veteran handicapper and tournament-play pioneer Noel Michaels. Check back every week for a couple of highlighted selections designed to help you cash a few bets and make some money.
Noel's selections have been featured just about everywhere horse racing picks can be found, including in print in the Daily Racing Form, The HorsePlayer Magazine and American Turf Monthly, online at DRF.com, Twinspires.com and USRacing.com, from the paddock on-track at Arlington International Racecourse, and on the air on HRTV, TVG, NYC OTB Extra, NYRA's SatuTalking Horses, and on broadcast TV on WAVE-3 Louisville, ABC KOLO-8 in Reno, Nevada, and channel 72 Long Island Cablevision.
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Six Beginner Betting Tools
- Start simple with an easy guide for how to bet on horse racing.
- Not sure what that word means? Horse racing terminology is a language of its own. Allow us translate for you
- What the heck is a speed figure? This beginner’s guide to speed figures has everything you need to know.
- Betting on horse racing can be intimidating. Team ABR put together some Dos and Don’ts for the new fan getting started betting on racing.
- We all make mistakes when it comes to betting on horse racing, here are eight lessons learned from experience.
- Figure out how much each bet will cost in advance with our Gambling Calculator, presented by NYRA Bets.
Saturday, Dec. 9
It’s opening weekend at Oaklawn Park and the meet is wasting no time getting into full swing with an excellent 10-race program scheduled this Saturday including a pair of $150,000 stakes races. While Saturday’s entire card will offer excellent racing and wagering opportunities, we will focus in on the day’s two stakes races for this edition of Weekend Winners, including the Ring the Bell Stakes and the Mistletoe Stakes. Good luck this weekend and enjoy the races from Oaklawn Park.
Oaklawn Park, Race 6, $150,000 Ring the Bell Stakes, 3:50 p.m. ET
The six-furlong Ring the Bell Stakes has drawn a graded stakes-caliber field of nine hopefuls and includes some familiar names. The morning-line favorite is #6 Tejano Twist, who exits a win in the $300,000 Bet on Sunshine Stakes at Churchill Downs last time out with an excellent come-from-behind effort resulting in a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. That was earned in his first race after a four-month layoff. He is already proven as a multiple winner at Oaklawn Park and earned a Grade 3 win in Hot Springs last season in the Whitmore Stakes, which he won with yet another 101 Beyer figure. Notably in his victory in the Bet on Sunshine, he defeated record-setting Churchill Downs horse for the course Bango as well as Miles Ahead, who has already come back out of that race to win his next start in the Thanksgiving Classic at Fair Grounds. Tejano Twist is a deserving favorite and the horse to beat. The most interesting challenger in the race is the Jekyll-and-Hyde #7 Ryvit, who is a multiple stakes winner including the 2023 Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn but who also recently endured a three-race streak of fifth-place finishes. He rebounded nicely last time to win the $300,000 Steel Valley Sprint Stakes at Mahoning Valley last time with a new closing running style. He could find success again at Oaklawn where his career record is 3-for-4, but this field will be tougher than the one he just beat and there’s no value in betting him if you are also betting the favorite. Instead, use a pair of horses between 12-1 and 15-1 on the morning line for your exactas and trifectas including #3 Ultimate, who exits a toss-out loss in a one-mile race last time but is proven to run well fresh and had run a huge speed figure last summer in the $100,000 Iowa Sprint Stakes at Prairie Meadows. The other price horse to consider is #4 Top Gunner, who picked an extraordinarily tough return spot off a 10-month layoff last time when losing the Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes, but is a stakes winner with a good lifetime record at Oaklawn who will be ready to improve in his second start off the layoff.
The Play: Bet to win on #6 Tejano Twist (8-5) and play a three-horse exacta box along with #3 Ultimate (12-1) and #4 Top Gunner (15-1). Key Tejano Twist on top in trifectas using #3 Ultimate, #4 Top Gunner, and #7 Ryvit (2-1) underneath.
Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $150,000 Mistletoe Stakes, 5:14 p.m. ET
The Mistletoe Stakes drew an 11-horse field of fillies and mares set to go one mile and features an evenly matched field where you can make a legitimate case for several of the entrants to win. The post position isn’t great, but the horse to beat is #10 Ice Orchid, a recent two-turn winner at Churchill Downs under rider Ricardo Santana, Jr., who has the mount in the Mistletoe. Ice Orchid has been a live contender in similar stakes races all year long in 2023, including posting a runner-up finish in the $150,000 Pippin Stakes right here at Oaklawn back in January. Today’s #4 Lovely Ride won that Pippen Stakes earlier this year and is a contender in this spot, but Ice Orchid has better recent form than Lovely Ride and therefore gets the edge in this race. The other top contender in the field is #6 Coastal Charm, a horse with three career wins in five past outings at Oaklawn Park including a victory in the $150,000 Dig a Diamond Stakes in April. Coastal Charm comes in off nearly a four-month layoff here but has run well fresh in the past and goes out for new trainer Steve Hobby, whose runners usually excel with time between races.
The Play: Bet #10 Ice Orchid (7-2) to win and box him in the exacta with #6 Coastal Charm (9-2). Finally, play a three-horse trifecta box with #10 Ice Orchid, #6 Coastal Charm, and #4 Lovely Ride (4-1).