|Instilled Regard wins the 2020 Fort Marcy Stakes at Belmont Park|
Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher
Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk Blog, a horse race handicapping blog that has been handicapping online since 2008.
A big thank you to The Thorofan and the Handicappers Corner for allowing me to share my thoughts with you today.
So much has happened in 2020 on a global stage. I handicapped six races in January/February 2020, as I like to watch the turf racing in the early season in Florida and California as it helps me prepare for when the big races come and I'm looking for value. While the world, and then the United States, went into a free fall beginning in March, my world went upside down with the death of both my Father in Law on March 12 and my own Father on April 8. I had no interest in horse racing, I was forced to continue working alone in an office all by myself, and the best therapy for me was my work. Day in and day out, 12-14 hour days. My work got me through my grief. It's time for horse racing to bring me back the feelings of pleasure. Let's get after this!
My initial reaction was just how even a race this was, even with an albeit small field. It's a four horse race by my fair line odds, with my top 4 consuming 80% of the win percentage while the Morning Line uses five runners on a corrected basis (the percentages divided by 100% + Takeout) to get to 80%. I don't think weather will be an issue and expect firm turf.
Let's start with looking at some video.
Belmont Park; 6 June 2020; 1 1/8 Miles Inner Turf (Square around T for newbies on PP) The Fort Marcy G2
Belmont Park; 4 June 2020; 1 3/8 Firm Turf (Circle around T for Main Turf); The Tiller Stakes $80K
Fairgrounds; 21 March 2020; 1 1/8 Miles on Turf; The Muniz Memorial Classic G2
I feel a bit rusty. I have been handicapping for, hard to believe, 35 years this year, so rusty is relative, but I'm torn on my position on this race. That's not a bad thing. When you watch racing long enough you start to spot patterns, archetypes, a recurring pattern. This movie seems very familiar. I'm also not the type of race fan or handicapper that bemoans the quality of the field; handicap what you are given to work with and if you don't like the action, walk away. It's that sentiment that allows me still have a roof over my head and a twenty eight year year marriage.
What to make of all this? Instilled Regard is going to get bet hard. Winning the Fort Marcy over this route of grass for Trainer Chad Brown who has Ortiz Jr up, does not hurt. Brown sends three into a gate of eight, it almost doesn't seem fair or equitable. I like Brown, I've been a fan of his for a very long time, but someone has to challenge is growing dominance on turf just to keep the dynamics of racing fair: 25% Graded Stakes winner in 241 starts, 27% Route Winner in 789 Starts, 26% Turf Winner in 666 Starts, 30% Won Last Start in 240 opportunities and 28% with the 2nd off a >45 day layoff. Shocking numbers, and he dominates the top of the board here also saddling Rockemperor (Ire) and Devamani (Fr).
Archetypes. Favorites for decades hovered as 30% winners from the gate. That number is going up. Does Instilled Regard come out of the gate, rate slightly off the flank and to the outside of early speed Cross Over before handily passing and finishing by a length or two in front of a charging Rockemperor or Sadler's Joy? Admit it, you've seen this movie too. Let's not be too jaded though. Let's assume all Brown runners are allowed to compete fairly against each other, and we have no reason to believe he's dishonest (i discount his fine last year for back OT- the laws are slanted to protect workers, not employers, rightfully so, even if Brown was following standard practice on the backstretch), then is there value to be found in this race? That's the only question a gambler has. Yes, horse racing fans have other interests and concerns, but a gambler, the lifeblood of this sport, should have a narrow focus: Is there money to be made? Possibly, but not betting Brown horses Win Place Show.
My base handicap is in the chart. It confuses some, but just because I handicap a winner doesn't mean I'll bet the handicap, its not sound gambling practice. I'm leaning, tote board dependent, towards Devamani (Fr) on top, my tepid chalk. While coming up short against Instilled Regard at 1 1/8 miles in June's Fort Marcy G2, Instilled Regard has a pretty low Tomlinson (309) for the extra furlong and has only one try at it in 17 lifetime starts. Devamani has a field best 385 Tomlinson and his Class is off the charts, bred by Aga Khan Studs and selling for $322,000 (against only $294,000 career earnings). The gelding may be a late bloomer, although conditioned by turf genius, Christophe Clement and Rob Atras, he is very sharp now in Brown's barn. I'm hoping for 3-1 or better.
If you can't tell, I'm not estatic about this race from a gambling perspective. Too much Brown, too much good Brown. It's not top say crazy things don't happen, it's just not this gambler's business plan to hope for crazy. I don't think it's crazy to think Sadler's Joy is starting to fade. 1 win in last 12: Last 12 back to June 2018: 1 Win, 2 Place, 6 Show, 3 6th place finishes. No longer a Grade 1 horse (except in fields like this), perhaps i'm wrong, and I have been before on older Champions, but I don't like the pace of this field for him. He will get bet though, that's good. So will Instilled Regard and Rockemperor. That's good. I'm going to keep my betting conservative and put Devamani on top with Dot Matrix and Cross Border to Show, a $2 bet for $4. Plausible, not crazy, is the business plan.
It feels good to be back. Thank you Thorofan.