Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Kentucky Derby

Reed Palmer/CD
The Turk is not dead, nor did he give up on the horses.  The Turk is working long hours and going to school at the same time, so while handicapping continues, blogging time is at a premium.  Alas, as the semester comes to a close, and The Turk inches 4 credit hours closer to a Masters Level Education, I return to blogging with today's Kentucky Derby and my annual quest at the holy grail of my betting universe, the Super High Five.  The only horse I really developed an emotional attachment to over the Winter was El Kabeir.  I can't explain it, who can explain their race track romances, but the grey/roan Florida bred son of Scat Daddy, just did it for the inner fan in me.  The inner handicapper, the cold, investment banker side of me is not at all saddened that I won't have the burden of emotional attachment clouding my handicapping.   With three scratches already, El Kabeir, International Star and Stanford, Frammento joins the field at very long odds and most likely the first toss of my handicap.   
Enough rambling, let's get it on! 

Race 11 Churchill Downs

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
PlaceCarpe Diem/2A+
ShowAmerican Pharoh/18A+
Also Ran'sMubtaahij (Ire)/6B+
Firing Line/10B
Far Right/20B-
Danzig Moon/5B--
Keen Ice/14C+
Mr Z/17C+
War Story/16C-
Ocho Ocho Ocho/1C-
Churchill Downs Race 11: Post Time 6:34 ETThe Kentucky Derby G1
1 1/4 Miles on DirtFor 3 YOs and Up

The Super Hi-5 can be a very expensive bet.  A $1 seven horse box would cost $2,520.  I would call it a lottery ticket more than anything.  I've won the Super Hi-5 three times in 20 years, but all with singled huge favorites on top and the 10 cent variety of bet that allowed the investment to be much smaller.  I'm at a point in my handicapping life where I get incredible satisfaction for my handicaps and bets that minimize covers. It that vein of thought I propose the following off of my base handicap:

WinPlaceShowExotic 1Exotic 2
2Carpe DiemCarpe DiemCarpe DiemCarpe DiemCarpe Diem
18Am. PharohAm. PharohAm. PharohAm. PharohAm. Pharoh
10Firing LineFiring LineFiring LineFiring LineFiring Line
20Far RightFar RightFar RightFar RightFar Right
A one dollar bet on this base bet would cost $768.  That's not happening!  I'll play with it but I'll most likely go with something like this:

WinPlaceShowExotic 1Exotic 2
2Carpe DiemCarpe DiemCarpe DiemCarpe DiemCarpe Diem
18Am. PharohAm. PharohAm. PharohAm. PharohAm. Pharoh
10Firing LineFiring LineFiring LineFiring LineFiring Line
20Far RightFar RightFar RightFar RightFar Right
This one dollar bet is a more reasonable $205.  

This bet is NOT for everyone.  It's something I do knowing that the odds of hitting are very low. That's not my business model friends, but it's the Derby and I like the challenge.

For fun, I'll play some of my favorites with long shots in an exacta.

Enjoy the day, thanks for reading.

Turk Out!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Santa Anita Handicap Grade 1

Welcome Friends to this edition of The Turk and the Little Turk, today featuring the Santa Anita Handicap, or more fondly and widely known as "The Big 'Cap."  Today's handicap is written for The Thorofan and the Handicappers Corner, and we thank the fine folks there for allowing us to share our thoughts on today's race.

As a handicapper, you dont get to pick the horses that are running.  Like in cards, you read the hand you are dealt, and when you've analyzed your options, you either fold or keep going. I usually reach the fold point right after building a base handicap, my reordering  of the horses in a fashion similar to how the morning line odds are produced, except instead of odds I use color and I try to build the layers of horses that will come across the finish line, slotting them into a range of possible finishes.  From there I construct a bet.  I try not to have a preconceived notion about the bet until the handicap.  You cant cover everyone.  That's one of the axioms I try to stick with.  I build exotic handicaps, sometimes singling the top horse, and then I cover Place Show and one or two Exotic Slots.  I make a determination on the expense of the bet and what it could possibly return, and then I make an investment decision.

That's the Turk's methodology.  I'd like to tell you some cool cat story of me and my fedora and cigar, looking at copy of the Form, and quickly spitting out winners, but that ain't me, at least anymore.  I spend hours each weekend focused on one 3 or 4 race sequence, sometimes blogging my thoughts on one or all races, sometimes just engrossed in building the Pick 3 or 4.  My kitchen table is my hip spot and coffee instead of bourbon fuels my analytical approach that I spare my readers of.

Bottom line:  What works for me, won't work for you, and there are a lot of different ways to pick the horses.  Its my opinion that methodical players with a system do best in this game.  The system doesn't have to have a bunch of funky acronyms and sound like NASA developed it, but it should be a time honed system.  Anyhow, I'll stop rambling about Process and get on with it.

This is an interesting field.  If you pulled Shared Belief it might not be considered a good Grade 3.  After building the base handicap I came away with one of two bet construction ideas:  Single Shared Belief and try to find value in an exacta or Tri, OR find an alternative to Shared Belief and hit a nice take.  The later is more fun and edgy and I wouldn't want to bore my readers with a 3-5 chalk. Let's get after it!

Shared Belief is a beast, no doubt about that.  The gelded son of Candy Ride has won two straight at SA since the mess that was the Breeders' Cup Classic.  9 of 10 lifetime,  4 of 5 on fast dirt, 1 win at the classic distance on this track, a Trainer/Jock combo that has won 31% of starts at SA in 29 starts. You know what you are getting.  That said, the classic distance should be within his grasp, but not his bred preference.  A 24:73 final 1/4 in the Pacific Classic and a final 25:26 in the BC Classic are OK, the final 1/8 in 11:83 in the San Antonio was pretty nice.

I'm going to skip over the obvious upset candidate in Moreno and focus on Dick Mandella's runner, Catch a Flight (Arg); a lightly raced 5 YO son of Giant Causeway.  7 wins in 12 career starts, jumping up in class from a N1X win in mid February at 1 1/8 at SA.  In contrast his final 1/8th was 12:85 and he won by a game neck.  Mandella and Stevens are 30% together in 33 races at the Great Race Place.  I'm covering him in the Win spot as long as he's at least 10-1 or higher near Post Time.

If I don't cover Catch a Flight in WIN, I'm covering him in PLACE/SHOW with Imperative and Moreno.    Imperative, a $1.3 MM lifetime earner with 3 wins to his resume in 22 starts, 1 of 9 on fast dirt, 0 for 4 at the distance, 0 of 7 at Santa Anita, and 1 win in last 12 starts.  That's pretty sad and yet I have him pretty high in the base handicap in this field.  Trainer Papaprodromou is 17% in the 2nd off a 45 day layoff.  While not a successful winner, he's run over 10 straight G1 or G2 races and he's 6 of 11 in the money.

Moreno, a $1.8 MM earner with 3 wins in 23 career starts, 2 of 18 on fast dirt, 0 of 7 at SA, 0 of 6 at the distance, 3 wins in last 20 starts.  Getting the idea?  Off since the Breeders' Cup Classic.  He is speed and he will be at the front.  Does he carry it all the way?  His record doesn't say he will:  he went 26:18 in final 1/4 in Jockey Club Gold Cup, 13:40 in last 1/8 of Woodward, 25:38 in last 1/4 of Suburban.  Get the idea?

In the next layer back, I have Bronzo (CHI), Hard Aces and Sr. Quisqueyano in the Show/Exotic slot.  The 6 YO Bronzo has 11 career wins in 22 starts, ran a 12:17 final 1/8 in the San Antonio and a 24:65 final 1/4 in the Breeders' Cup Mile.  He;s a good candidate to flip flop in my handicap with Catch a Flight and whichever has the worst odds at Post Time most likely will get covered in Place.

Hard Aces, a 5 YO Hard Spun (how is that even possible?) is 3 of 12 on fast dirt, 5 of 19 lifetime, no runs at the distance and this is first trip to SA.

Sr. Quisqueyano has 8 wins in 29 career starts, no wins at distance, and no starts at SA.  Get the idea? Comes in off 20-1 game win in Sunshine Millions Classic.  Huge class jump for this claimer.

So what do we do with this?

I started by making the best base handicap I could and I'll have faith in it.  With that, I'm tossing Cool Samurai, Diamond Bachelor, Dynamic Sky, Patrioticandproud, You Know I Know and Crimson Giant.  There are some horses that are just as good as the ones I am including, so don't think I have any special sauce:  make your decisions and stick to them.

I'm think I'm going Exacta only and I'm going to want to keep my investment reasonable as I had a hard time feeling optimistic about the field's chances.

$2:  5-12-11 OVER 5-12-10-6-11-13-3=$36

I'll slip in or out of the top spot at post time based on tote board odds and I'll keep my options open.

I think you could reasonably drop the 3 horse that drops the bet to $30.  Depending on who wins the bet should at least cover the investment if Shared Belief and Moreno finish 1-2 and it could pay very nicely if value hits the board.

Have fun friends!  Turk Out.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park

Lea winning the Commonwealth G3- Reed Palmer Photography

Welcome friends to the Turk and the Little Turk.  I'd like to start by thanking the good folks at The Thorofan for allowing this hack internet handicapper to write for the Handicapper's Corner this weekend for the Donn Handicap, a Grade 1, $500,000 purse race that for me, and most handicappers, is the first truly special race of the new race season for colts, fillies, horses and mares  4 years old and up.

In a ten horse field you might be able to make a case for six of the horses here to win the race, some of them at very good odds of 6-1 or greater.  I'm thinking the top spot will be pretty chalky, but that doesn't mean the exotic bets can't have some value.  Let's build a handicap and then figure out a bet structure.

This is always a challenging time of the year as a handicapper as its sometimes hard to gauge which of the runners coming off of breaks or making their second race off a break will be ready.  I lean heavy on the work tab and recent race form to guide me.

Let's watch a couple of recent races at Gulfstream Park, the G3 Hal's Hope and the Sunshine Millions Classic (and lets use that term Classic in this case loosely) to get a feel for some of the key runners, as well as the Clark Handicap, the last good Grade 1 race for the handicap division held the day after Thanksgiving at Churchill Downs.

Hal's Hope G3 GP 1 Mile

Sunshine Millions Classic $250K GP 1 1/8

Clark Handicap G1 CD 1 1/8

Glean from these what you like.  I like to evaluate form, trip, compete level in the stretch, and strength of field.

I like Lea quite a bit and the home bred came off the injured reserve looking very sharp with one burst run to take the Hal's Hope in early January. Trainer Mott's is 34% on the second start off a long break and 30% won last start.  7 wins in 13 starts, 3 for 3 at GP and 3 for 3 on fast dirt.  I think I may single.

I'm leaning towards East Hall for Place which would bring real value to bet.  Trainer Kaplan's runner wasn't exactly driving for Place in Sunshine Millions Classic and barely held off Catholic Cowboy and lost to an inferior horse. The four year old seems to be improving although he is winless in three starts at the distance, 13 of 20 in the money and $772,000 in winnings for the 4 YO gelding. Feast or famine, he could easily finish outside top four.

A more likely horse is one of three Trainer Pletcher entries, Constitution, last year's Florida Derby winner.  Pletcher has been bringing him back easily since his return to running after injury in the Florida Derby took him off the Triple Crown trail.  I'd like to see him do a bit more but I do like the bullet at 5f on January 26th but I still need to see something before I swoon.

Commissioner is a colt who looks the part yet doesn't have great results and hasn't won in 13 months, a 75K Optional Claimer at this distance on this track.  Johnny V is up for Pletcher, a combo that wins 30% of the time at GP.  Not sold yet on him either.

Protonico, Pletcher's third entry, seems like the sleeper to me and may be worth a win bet flyer.  Training regularly since the Clark H., he has flashed lots of potential.

Sloane Avenue is a wildcard colt and the 4 YO Candy Ride (Arg) from Apt (AP Indy) has the bloodlines to be something, even though that something is hard to figure out.  Two low level Kempton wins at one mile in RH direction and he does have a LH win as well.  Would be a shocker for big value.

I'm tossing Elnaawi and Prayers for Relief at my own peril but you can't cover everyone. I'm not accusing anyone of anything, but I would like to see the journeyman Prayers for Relief retired soon. It's been a looooooooonnnnnggggg time since he won and at 36 starts and nearly $2.0 MM of earnings I think he deserves a pension.  I'm not taking Catholic Cowboy or Blue Note very seriously.

So what to do with all this?

I'm leaning towards a simple Trifecta with Lea singled on top and quite a bit of coverage just below:

 $2 Trifecta:  4 OVER 1-2-3 OVER 1-2-3 5-7-9-10 =$36 bet

$2 Super Hi 5:  4 OVER 1-2-3 OVER 1-2-3 OVER 2-3-7-8 OVER 2-3-5-7-8-10= $120 bet

I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet but with the base handicap done, I can use the toteboard as well as observations from the paddock and post parade to finalize my bet.

Have fun with this friends!

Turk Out.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Post Race Analysis for Race Day 10 January 2015; The G3 Sham Stakes at SA

A good handicap and a well crafted bet constructed gives me reason to celebrate with a meaty stick and two fingers of bourbon.  Unfortunately, I'm off the cigars and bourbon as I round myself into the best shape I have been in since the late 90's, but I appreciate the lovely Dita having a cigar to celebrate winning a trifecta based on the Turk's input.

Today was very similar to last week's blog posting, where a heavily favored but not yet fully proven chalk took on a field of mixed quality.  Last week it was El Kabeir in The Jerome, and this week it is Calculator in The Sham.  A sprinter going two turns and running away with it:  I question this field as much as I questioned The Jerome's.

Calculator made an impressive run up just before the top of the stretch and ran away with it.  Mile and quarter, I dunno but don't think so.  Two turns, mile to mile and eighth and boy did he move fluidly under Trujillo.

Take a look!

What did I do well:
  • Had Rock Shandy covered into Place.  The bettors had him 7th on the board.  I saw sharp work at SA.
  •  I had Pioneerof the West covered for Show.  The bettors had him 6th on the board.  Good SA pedigree and big Tomlinson at the distance.
  •  I tossed the 3rd horse on the tote board, Unblunted
  •  I tossed the 4th horse on the tote board, Hero Ten All.  

On the negative side of the ledger, I missed on St Joe Bay.  Looking back at the PPs I can make the pace scenario case that breaking along the rail he'd speed to the front and try to hold on.

Pre race I proposed the following:

$0.10 Supers and $1 Tri's are on the menu.

We could Single Calculator in something like this:  $1 Tri:  7- OVER 2-3-5-6 OVER 2-3-5-6-8= $16  This would have paid $110.40 or Net $94.40


$1 Tri:  2-3-5-6-7 OVER 2-3-5-6-7 OVER 2-3-5-6-8= $68  This would have paid $110.40 or Net $42.40


$0.10 Superfecta:  2-3-5-6-7 OVER 2-3-5-6-7 OVER 2-3-5-6-8 OVER 2-3-5-6-8=$16.80 BUST or ($16.80)

Betting the Turk cold would have cost you $100.80 but earned you $220.80 or $120 profit.  The ROI is pretty high and not worth calculating.  

Have fun friends, the Derby Trail is about to begin.  

Turk Out!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Sham Stakes G3 at Santa Anita

Sham on the far outside  at the Start of the Belmont Stakes with the Great Secretariat at the far inside

Define greatness.

 Greatness is assigned by in our society to so many things.  In the caption above I assigned the adjective of Great to Secretariat.   Was Sham "great"?  His career highlight was a Grade 1 win in the Santa Anita Derby, a Place in the Wood Memorial, an approximate  2:00 Kentucky Derby Place and a Place in the Preakness.  He was a physically large horse and imposing. I'm calling him a damn fine horse, worthy of remembrance, but in my humble opinion not great. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being in the class and caliber of Sham.  He will be remembered long after Super Saver for example, no offense intended at all to the Winner of the 2010 Kentucky Derby, but neither great or particularly memorable.  

Today's Sham Stakes may or may not have a great amongst its field.  About the only way we'll know is to watch them today and over the next several months and see if any of them will pass the Turk Litmus test.

Let's get after it!

Calculator, the Florida bred Maiden trained by Peter Miller, has been training very sharply since mid November after missing the Breeders' Cup.  He ran second to American Pharaoh losing by a combined 8 lengths.  Miller is 6% off of a layoff this long, is 5% in Graded Stakes and he has Trujillo up, with the two of them 23% at SA. Tepid chalk, regardless of the fact I appear to have him singled in BLUE.

I have a three horse group ranked just behind Calculator:  Rockinatten, Papacoolpapacool and Rock Shandy fill out this group, with Pioneerof the West possibly deserving.

Rockinatten is also 1st off a long layoff, and first with new Trainer, Doug O'Neill.  O'Neill is 10% with first timers, 2% off the break, and somehow 2% in Graded Stakes over past year.  First time racing at Great Race Place for the Florida bred son of High Cotton.

Papacoolpapacool is a lame name, just for the record.  The Temple City son tries dirt for first time, with Trainer Jeff Mullins 5% turf to dirt and no graded stakes wins in past year.  A nice :58  1 out of 100 hand ride bullet training session on 28 December.

Rock Shandy (Peter Miller has three horses today with Rock Shandy and a tosser, St Joe Bay) tries dirt for the first time as well and also  has been training nicely at SA.

Pioneerof The West, trained by Mark Casse, returns to dirt after a clunker on turf at the start of this meet in late December.  Casse is 16% turf to dirt and 13% in Graded Stakes over past year.

At my own peril I'm tossing from contention Unblunted and St Joe Bay and I may consider Hero Ten All in Superfecta bets.  Hero Ten All, also trained by Jeff Mullins has closed exceptionally well and I see him still coming at the end of the race, maybe nipping some of the higher rated horses for the Exotic fourth place and possibly Show.

So, what to do with this?

$0.10 Supers and $1 Tri's are on the menu.

We could Single Calculator in something like this:  $1 Tri:  7- OVER 2-3-5-6 OVER 2-3-5-6-8= $16


$1 Tri:  2-3-5-6-7 OVER 2-3-5-6-7 OVER 2-3-5-6-8= $68


$0.10 Superfecta:  2-3-5-6-7 OVER 2-3-5-6-7 OVER 2-3-5-6-8 OVER 2-3-5-6-8=$16.80

I'm not sure I like any of them but I'll reserve the right to watch the tote board and make a few tweaks based on any tweets from horse players I know and trust regarding the appearance of the animals in the paddock and post parade.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Post Race Analysis for The Jerome at Aqueduct

El Kabeir winning Jerome: Photo by NYRA/Adam Coglinese

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk.  Saturday's handicap was a good example of taking what a race offered, both in the handicap and with the bet construction.  OK, what do you mean by that dribble? I'm trying to say that this was a pretty easy race to decode and bet.  I think El Kabeir is a pretty nice horse, Cairo Prince I don't know, but a nice horse and the field had just a few competent runners and then a bunch of horses that had no business running in a graded stake. I gave out four possible exotic bets pre race and one Super and Tri would have won cash.  Let's recap from the pre race handicap....

a $0.1 Super:  7-9 OVER 4-7-8-9 OVER 1-2-4-6-7-8-9 OVER 1-2-4-6-7-8= $11.20.  The $2 Super paid $559.00 and the ten cent cashed $27.95.

7-9 OVER 4-7-8-8 OVER 1-4-7-8 OVER 1-2-4-6-7-8 =$6.00 BUST ($6.00)

Trifecta:  $0.50  4-7-8-9 OVER 4-7-8-9 OVER 1-4-7-8-9= $18  (Bust $18)

Trifecta $1.00 7-9 OVER 4-7-8-9 OVER 1-4-6-7-8=$22 or $11 for a $0.50 lottery ticket which paid $90.75.

Just betting the four bets dumb would have returned $118.70 with a net return of $72.50.

As I said pre race, I was more interested in watching the race than having ROI, but I don't invest to lose so a nice 156% ROI on one race is icing on the cake.

So what went well?

  • I didn't value Ostrolenka as high as the bettors did.  I'm not sure what Pletcher's Musket Man son will become, but I hated the Remsen and wasn't sold today.
  • I should have singled El Kabeir but a newly minted 3 YO doesn't deserve that sort of respect.  I looked for value but had him covered.
  • I had General Bellamy in the show spot discounting Royal Burgh.  Pletcher's Street Sense runner also had a poor Remsen and I discounted him at my own peril in my Tri's.  

For anyone new to my blog, The Turk doesn't follow 2 YOs at all, so this is a wondrous time of discovery for me.  "A time of discovery" and "betting cash" isn't always a good mix and often this presents the investor a chance to turn $50 into $25, but racing is also about patterns and pattern identification.  The mixture of quality in this race set up for me a classic scenario with the best horse near the front in my bet construction, the best of the rest covered and the rest tossed.  It doesn't always unfold like that but when it doesn't in hindsight it seems so obvious.

Yes, Kentucky Derby points were awarded blah blah blah...There are MUCH better blogs to address that sort of thing.  Come to think of it, there are much better blogs period, but you must have not got that memo.  I'm glad you didn't and thanks for reading.

Enjoy Friends this Feast of the Epiphany.

Turk Out!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Jerome Grade 3 at Aqueduct

El Kabeir: Photo by Reed Palmer Churchill Downs
Happy New Years friends and readers of The Turk and Little Turk.  This is the eighth year of this blog, and while never a "must read", I like to think that it has been a consistent no bullshit, no ego, handicapping analysis forum.  I modeled the blog in the image of three of my handicapping heroes, Brad Free, The Happy Handicapper, Bob Summers, and Steve Crist. I'd be remiss in not adding an honorary fourth member to that list, as my Aunt Rosie was the one who introduced me to the horses way back on 19th Street on Saturday afternoons.  Aunt Rosie loved the grey horses and she'd like El Kabeir, pictured to the left winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Grade 2 at Churchill Downs in late November.  The running line reads "...lasted late, all out."  We like that sort of effort, and this Scat Daddy son may have a bright future.  In my eighth year I plan to continue to bring the heavy hitting handicapping that my demanding readers expect.

Let's get after this!

El Kabeir is a serious 3 year old right now.  4 of 5 in the money, a big price tag at sale, a Grade 2 winner, an accomplished and still peaking sire in Scat Daddy, this Florida bred still needs to learn to rate, still has much to do, and will be at the far outside on a funky track.  I like him but I'll be betting for him to get nipped at the wire.  So who then....

I'll be backing Ackeret, more of a sprinter but this is short enough for him I think and the barn goes 17% in sprint to routes.  Ortiz Up for Rodriguez and they clip along at 26% together at this track.  Feast or famine, not singling.

Nasa and Ostrolenka are in my next tier of runners.  Nasa has the races biggest Tomlinson number at 394 but has also been used as more of a sprinter. The PA bred is trained by John Servis who has no stakes wins in past 12 months and is 12% on sprint to routes.  Ostrolenka is a Musket Man son, a Turk favorite, and had a forgettable G2 Remsen last time out after having a good fall at Belmont.

Mini Cosmo, Royal Burgh and General Bellamy make up the rest of the contenders while I tossed Now We Are Free and Tencendur at my own peril.   I'm torn on what order, but I'm mostly favoring Mini Cosmo and General Bellamy and essentially have tossed Royal Burgh in Tri's.

So what to do with this?

My real interest here isn't ROI, it's Derby Trail reconnaissance.  That said, I think I see an opportunity to assemble a cheap investment that gives me a chance to check my handicapper and bettor boxes.

a $0.1 Super:  7-9 OVER 4-7-8-9 OVER 1-2-4-6-7-8-9 OVER 1-2-4-6-7-8= $11.20.  That's a bit too pricy for me for at ten center so.....

7-9 OVER 4-7-8-8 OVER 1-4-7-8 OVER 1-2-4-6-7-8 =$6.00

and a Trifecta:  $0.50  4-7-8-9 OVER 4-7-8-9 OVER 1-4-7-8-9= $18

a bit pricey so....

Trifecta $1.00 7-9 OVER 4-7-8-9 OVER 1-4-6-7-8=$22 or $11 for a $0.50 lottery ticket.

Have fun with it friends.

Turk Out!