Friday, February 5, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Donn Handicap G1

Welcome friends to The Turk and The Little Turk, now in our 8th season of providing not much service to very few readers.  I'd like to thank The Thorofan Handicapper's Corner for allowing me to share my thoughts with you today.

The Donn!  The Grade 1 Older Horse Division race that for me is the kickoff to any new racing season.The Turk tries not to get too wrapped up in the Derby Trail as I like the older horses and they fit my handicapping style better.  Why? Data.  I look at the past performances of a race like The Donn and I see data, I see 10 plus races of history, stats, pace, information.

What did I see on the Past Performances for this race?  Not much I liked, or better said, a very deep field that the degenerate gambler in me would normally pass on.  You can find easy marks on any card at any field, so why bet a stacked field like this?  Why does any track investor bet? For a return on investment.  It comes down to do I like a horse or two at a price that the betting public laid off a bit?  I don't need crazy long shots, that's for frat boys and movies, I need 4-6 to 1 odds and an exotic view on the race.

Do I have it here?  I dunno.  I'm doing this handicap and bet preparation on a Wednesday night before I know if there are scratches/changes or track conditions less that fast dirt.  I intentionally handicap without the knowledge of morning lines because that's bias I don't need.  Let me hit you with my thoughts and give you my opinion with the cavet that if I did bet this race it would be 10 mins to post after I watched the tote board a bit.

Let's go!

These two videos give you a pretty good feel for Gulfstream Park combatants Madefromlucky (who skipped the Hal's Hope), Mshawish (who skipped Harlan's Holiday for the Cigar Mile) Valid, and Mexikoma (who skipped the Hal's Hope for the Sunshine Millions Classic).

I think money will flow to Keen Ice and why not?  Well, Trainer Roman's is 6% off a 61-180 day break, with 93 chances, and the horse, for is $1.8 Million in earnings, has 2 wins in 13 starts, 1 win in 9 starts in 2015 and only 4 of 9 in the money.  Lightning may drop on me from the heavens, but I put no stock in what a horse does at Saratoga so quite frankly I don't care that he won the Traver's. Bet him, go ahead, I may be wrong but I'm laying off the win for Keen Ice.  I'm not even covering him in the money right now.  

It's a great time to get on my soap box about making decisions.  I don't know if I'm right about Keen Ice, but I have to make an informed decision otherwise when I make my bet selection up I'll cover everyone because I've tossed no one.  Have some conviction, take a stand.

My tepid chalk is Valid.  The 6 YO is 10 of 12 at GP, 4 of 4 in the money at the distance, 9 wins in 28 tries on fast dirt.  The jock colony shunned him with Saez jumping off for Pletcher's Itsaknockout,  Might be too much for him, he did get caught at 1 mile in the Hal's Hope, but he's game and he'll be driving, Win, Place or Show.

I feel pretty similar with Mshawish.  I have no reason to not expect him to be driving at the end, but this is a new distance for the 1 time winner on dirt.

Thinking of the pace, I can see Mott's Closing Bell closing hard in the last 1/16th.  The numbers say no, but he's been training well and my only concern is speed.  Guess we will find out.

Madefromlucky/Financial Modeling and even Closing Bell I'm tossing a blanket over. I think all will be moving forward except Financial Modeling who may drop sooner but will turn some fast panels early.

Itsaknockout is more than capable.  I most likely have underestimated him and he should most likely be in my Place or Show spot.

It's rare for me to truly toss anyone from the exotic ticket but this is a solid field and I have no strong feelings in any one way.

For the sake of the readers I'll make a theoretical bet based on this base handicap.

I'm going to place a $1 Trifecta which will cost $29 on:

4-3 OVER 4-3-5-7-2 OVER 4-5-7-2-8.  I brought Itsaknockout up but left Keen Ice on the outside.  I have two of my Also Ran's in my Bet Selection, Keen Ice and Mexikoma, just a reflection of how I'm feeling about the pace.

I think this is a dog with fleas so I'm leaving my remaining $71 dollars in my pocket which is sometimes a gambler's best bet.

Turk Out!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Post Race Analysis: Hal's Hope and San Pasqual

Mshawish by a neck over Valid: Photo Leslie Martin/GS Park

There wasn't much money to be made, but good handicapping is good handicapping, and I'm always trying to hone the craft.

A long time ago I made the decision that if I was going to take on the opportunity costs of a race I should also make the effort to review not only my handicapping post race, but also my bet strategy to see if what I did made sense, and more importantly, made a return on my investment.

Hal's Hope G3 Gulfstream Park Race 7: 9 January 2016

The key to my Hal's Hope strategy was plugging Grande Shores into Show.  I expected a different pace scenario and expected him to be moving forward and not backwards at the line, but regardless, he was 5th on the tote board and I had him third.  With Valid/Mshawish covered for Win and Place, and Grande Shores/Matrooh covered for Show a $2 Bet costs $8 and it offered a $33.40 return.   $8 for $33.40 is a good ROI for a 5 horse field.  The Superfecta wasn't worth the bet and seldom is in small fields, returning only $6.34 for $1 buck.    It's so easy and tempting to rip up the tickets and walk away when your bets don't work, but take the time now and then to think about the results and what you could have done differently and you'll improve.

San Pasqual G2 Santa Anita Race 8:  9 January 2016

Picking California Chrome isn't that hard, and the top four on the tote board finished in the top four here which doesn't bode well for wagers unless you single or use a matrix.  The matrix I assembled but didn't bet for The San Pasqual was  5/4 OVER 5/4/6/2/8 Over 4/6/2/8 OVER 6/2/8.  A $1 bet would have cost $30 and returned $57.20.  While still a positive ROI, you'll leave money on the table when you are being discerning.  I was more into the return of Chrome as a fan than a bettor and no regrets to pass on this wager.

Anyway's, it's a good start for the Turk and his red gel pen in 2016.  Happy Handicapping to Everyone.

Turk Out!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The G3 Hal's Hope and the Grade 2 San Pasqual

California Chrome: Photo AP
Hello Friends to the 8th year of The Turk and the Little Turk: Horses, Handicapping and Hijinks.

Must See TV.  Any race with California Chrome, a Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Santa Anita Derby winner, a champion, not gelded, who is still racing at age 5, is cause for celebration in my book.

There are plenty of folks on the other side of the fence that hold a grudge against the horse because his connections are a bit o' jackass but I never hate the horse for something the humans do, and God knows, human's do plenty of stupid things in this sport.

The Handicap Division is what the Turk is all about.  I love the older horses, the journeymen who toil away for their owners, more valuable racing that making more horses, or gelded and doing all they can do.  I dig the older horses.  I know most race fans are paying attention to the Sham or some other 3 YO race today, but I couldn't care less yet about the babies.  They will have their time.  I'll catch Derby fever soon enough but the hype machine is something I like to ignore as a handicapper and I'd prefer to see a bit of ink on the PPs before I place investment capital on the line.

Anyway, I'm looking today at Gulfstream and the Hal's Hope and at Santa Anita's San Pasqual.  I've been on handicappers holiday since The Clark Handicap the day after Thanksgiving so I may be rusty, but hey, the red gel pen has muscle memory. Let's get after it!

Valid: Equi-Photo/Taylor Ejdys
Mshawish, a 6 time Turf winner, tried to win his first on fast dirt.  He's a classy horse with very solid connections, yet the Turk is shading towards Valid, winner of 33% of his races on fast dirt, 4 of 11 starts at the distance and 6 wins in 11 starts at GP.  I like the gelded 6 YO's work tab and I think it's his to lose.

I'm taking Grande Shores over a better horse, Matrooh for Show. The 8 YO son of Black Mambo, Grande Shores likes to close on the pack and I'd hedging that he hangs around long enough to come a running for third.  This is the veteran's 22nd start at GP, 16 of 21 in the money, 29 of 38 in the money on fast dirt and 36 of 50 lifetime in the money.

At Santa Anita, the contrarian in me is looking for Hoppertunity to upset California Chrome for the win spot.  Chrome had 2 starts in 2015 and I don't care how good he was, I don't know how good he'll be until I see him.  His work looks good and I'd love to see him freak, so I'll cover the win spot, but the degenerate gambler in me would prefer place.

I like Hard Aces, a six year old Hard Spun, to hit the ticket.  He likes to come late, so I'm going with a similar pace idea as in the Hal's Hope and I'm looking for him to pull onto the ticket in the last 1/16.  Blingo, The Moss's 7 YO gelded Artie Schiller, faded in this race last year and hasn't won since last February.  I think he's right there above the trailers.  Imperative has no wins in 9 starts at Santa Anita, no wins in 3 tries at the distance  and 1 win in 14 tries on fast dirt and he was winless in six starts in 2015.  3 wins in 27 career starts but $1.7 million in winnings, starting to look like a lot of luck when he beat Game on Dude in the Charles Town Classic.

Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy yourself.  Forget the sheets of any color and instead read the works of guys like Brad Free and Tom Ainsilie and work on your 'capping without the pressure of gambling.  Never gamble more than you can afford to lose.

Turk Out!

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Clark Handicap G1 at CD

Thank you to The Thorofan for allowing this idiot, hack handicapper an opportunity to talk ponies with you all.

Poor Meriweather Lewis Clark. He did so much for our sport yet died by his own hand at age 53. The Clark Handicap is a part of my Thanksgiving tradition, tun across a route of dirt located on property donated and named for Meriweather's mother's family, the Churchill's.

 I remember Mr. Clark every year as the race named in his honor shouts THANKSGIVING to me as much as turkey, stuffing, gravy.

Anyway, we have a nice post holiday smorgasbord of runners in this event with 7 legitimate Grade 1 horses going head to head.  I don't know about you, but that alone get's my blood going.    Let's get it on!

When I look at the past performances, and I look at who likes to race within 2 lengths of the lead and who doesn't I have a mixed bag.  Who likes the lead:  Mr. Z (have you seen him race?) for sure, Race Day, Effinex, and Protonico  most of the time, and Hopportunity, Keen Ice and Frivolous, not so much.  Of my two tosses, only Shotgun Kowboy appears to be willing to add to the pace.

So what am I expecting?  While some bad weather is headed there, it looks like the rains may not start until around post time.  I expect Hopportunity to fire off the pace and retain his Clark Handicap title.  Alternatives?  The pace could go awry and then I think Race Day or  Effinex have the best win potential of the remaining group.  Filling out Place and Show and if you want to go into the exotic Superfecta you most likely will need some luck or alot of covers which I never advocate.  Remember, winning your wager at any cost, is not a good strategy for race track capital management.   While we might be gambling, their are river boat gamblers and there are shrewd gamblers.  Be shrewd!

Hopportunity, Protonico and Race Day last met in the Hagyard Fayette, G2 at KEE

I've never been big on betting Breeders' Cup contestants in their next race back.  Keen Ice comes in on 2nd off a long layoff and first off was Breeders' Cup Classic.  The 3 YO son of
already has $1.8 MM in winnings.  By the way Trainer Roman's is 13% off the break and he places Lanerie up from the jock pool, and together they win 26% of time at CD.  Locals!

Mr. Z. comes in off the Breeders' Cup Mile where he was rank early and faded late.  The 3 YO Malibu Moon will be a major pace player but expect him to crack around 8 panels.

Frivolous, the lone lady, comes in off the Distaff (let it be known the Turk never referred to it as a "ladies classic.")  5 of 7 in the money at CD, 5 of 8 in the money at the distance, but I think she's just not fast enough here.

Effinex was first loser, aka Place, against American Pharoah in the Breeders' Cup Classic, so so in Gold Cup and the Woodward and running at CD for the first time.  Plenty fast with tactical speed.

Race Day's best efforts have been on/near the lead.  I think the 4 YO will be sent out fast from the far end of gate and could wire the race.

Whatever you do,, have fun with it and keep your betting based in the realities of your bank account.

Turk Out!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Breeders' Cup Classic

Tonalist: image by Travis Lindquist

First of all, thank you to The Thorofan for allowing me to hack my way through the handicap of the richest race in North America, the Breeders' Cup Classic.  I am clearly not worthy!

The Turk's been on a blogging holiday since mid summer.  Sometimes I need a break from the game, and after a very emotional Triple Crown season, I needed some racing downtime.  At the same time I took a handicapping break I worked more on completing my MBA.  I've learned enough to know that handicapping and gambling on horse racing is a horrible investment, even for most of the best handicappers, so if you are reading this handicap and you lost more money than you should have this weekend, stop, this isn't a panacea for what ails you.  Seek Help! That's The Ol' Turk's public message.  I handicap because I enjoy the mental exercise and I've learned over the years I am good enough to stay near break even over the long run, punctuated by periods of incredible success and incredible failure.

Not much handicapping is really needed for a race like the Breeders' Cup Classic .  We have a Triple Crown Winner, American Pharoah, six million dollar plus earners, and no real wildcards like a freaky good filly such as Beholder, a scratch.  We have a classy 3 YO son of Galileo, Gleaneagles (Ire) who has never run in North American, never run on fast dirt and hasn't been past 1 mile.  I call this noise, a distraction.

Let's stop rambling and get after this!

I'm not as hung up on American Pharoah's Travers Stakes loss as I am that he's had a grueling year and while class and skill could still carry him to a win, a 4-5 odds or worse, do I really want to back that as a gambler?  If you want to be a fan, great, and we need more of them, but I'm a gambler, a race track investor, and I don't see much reason to risk capital on a bet like that.  All that said, I still think he's due to regress and it creates a real opportunity to find some value.  I like the work tab Baffert has put him through and I think he's still top 4.

Unfortunately for me, I've identified Tonalist as my chalk, and he'll most likely be bet down below 4-1.  I've made some very good money on Christophe Clement's turf runners over the past several years and I love the ride he's had with the 4 YO son of Tapit.

Stepping back, I have a group of five horses that I think are are possible for Place or Show.  I think Frosted, along with American Pharoah and Tonalist is the only other I may cover in the win spot.  Expecting 10-1 or worse, the 3 YO son of Tapit, this maybe purely a value insertion and most likely I will flip flop Keen Ice and Frosted in my actual bets.  I like Keen Ice better actually, with a good finish at the Haskell and the win at the Travers. I'd like to not see him drop to under 5-1.

Smooth Roller is my looney tunes idea.  A very raw 4 YO gelded Hard Spun, he ran a beautiful Awesome Again in late September and I'm willing to entertain him pulling of Show or the exotic 4th spot.

Did I skip Honor Code?  No, but I can't cover everyone.  I've got him in the RED/TOSS group but again in full disclosure, if his odds lengthen past 7-1 I misght be inclined to cover him in Show and 4th.

Who will screw me up?  Frosted and Effinex.  I like Effinex an awful lot.  His Suburban Handicap, beating Tonalist, was very very game.  His Woodward and his Jockey Club Gold Cup were both regressions for the New York Bred 4 Yo son of Mineshaft.  Back to Frosted, he hasn't won past 1 1/8 miles.  I think I have him too high and I have to put some thought into my final bets.

So I don't this very often, in fact I've never done it in 8 years of blogging, but I've got an alternative universe handicap I might actually like better than the one I led with.

What's different and what's the same?

I brought Keen Ice up to a share of the Win Spot.  I brought Effinex up to Place or Show, as well as Honor Code.  I dropped Frosted and Smooth Roller outside of the Top 4 and I left American Pharoah right where I had him.

Whatever you do, have fun with it!

Turk Out

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga

Squeeky likes Stephanie's Kitten and Kitten's Queen

Welcome Friends to the Turk and The Little Turk.  I'm usually not a big Saratoga player, I'm just not that good picking winners on the dirt track, but that doesn't stop me from trying.  I've had good luck and a respectable ROI on the turf course, especially when fast and firm, and hence today's handicap is a route across the grass, the Grade 1 Diana.

I have had good years at Saratoga.  I like dry weather years, and I've learned I  have to play it nearly every day to get the feel for the pace, closing positions and winning paths.  When I'm not prepared to fully engage at SAR I don't do as well.  It's not superstition or the racing Gods, it's about consistent handicapping and honest post race analysis of what you did right and wrong as a handicapper and a gambler.

On a turf course, I look for where the pace is going to come from and who has the best late turn of foot. I bet turf races consistently and that allows me to pick more winners than losers.  Picking the winner isn't always my end game as I'm an exotic player and who wins isn't always my primary concern.  I'm usually fixated on who's not going to be in the Top Four and how many horses I have to cover to get the top four right.  Anyways, this year is zooming by and I can't believe Saratoga is here, but it is, so let's get it on!

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
WinHard Not to Like/4A
ShowStephanie's Kitten/2B++
ExoticLady Lara (Ire)/7C+++
Also Ran'sMy Miss Sophia/6C++++++
Waltzing Matilda (Ire)/5C
Kitten's Queen/3C
Saratoga Race 10: Post Time 6:07 ETThe Diana G1
1 1/8 Miles on Mellon TurfFor F&M 3 YO and Up

A 19 race, $961,000 earning, 6 year old Mare from Kings Bishop Winner Hard Spun, Hard Not to Like has my eye.  From Clement's barn with Johnny V up, a winner in the Grade 1 Comely in May and well training since mid June.  I'd expect 5-6 to 1 at Post Time.  Lots to like and value.  11 of 16 in the money on Turf.  She'll be coming late off the hot pace from My Miss Sophia and Kitten's Queen.

Running hard and fast at the end with Hard Not to Like will be Tepin.  The 4 YO Bernstein, with Mark Casse training and turf specialist Leparoux, up, is four of six in the money on turf, 3 of 3 in 2015 and running exceptionally well when taking a break after a G1 win in early June.  Lots to like but will be heavily bet, I'd like in the Place spot or lower.  

Stephanie's Kitten, 6 YO now for Breeder/Owners Sarah and Ken Ramsey, will be coming off the pace, I'm just not expecting her to get to the win spot.  In the money in this race two years running, I'm expecting a third.  15 of 18 in the money on turf, 4 of 5 in the money at distance, 3 of 4 in the money at SAR, $2.7 MM in earnings in 21 career starts.  Yup!

Lady Lara (Ire) could steal this race  but I'm just not sure where the 4 YO's current form is.  I have her and My Miss Sophia, both Mott runners, downshifting and dropping in the last 1/16.  Yeah, I love My Miss Sophia, and she seems to be in wonderful  form right now, winning in a nicely placed 2X-N OC 62K in June, but she's lightly raced on grass and I want to see more first.  

I'm expecting Waltzing Matilda (Ire) and Kitten's Queen will provide pace, at least Kitten's Queen will.  Waltzing Matilda is a wild card to me, and off the pace late runner,  and the girl most likely to make me look silly.  

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Queen's Plate at Woodbine

Danish Dynaformer:  Photo by Michael Burns
Welcome friends to the Turk and the Little Turk, a horse racing blog written by a bald hack handicapper known as the Turk, with editorial comment and mostly sarcasm from my fifteen year old son, The Little Turk.  We'd like to thank The Thorofan for allowing us to provide our insights for their readers.

Queen's Plate Day.  The Canadian version of the Kentucky Derby is the lazy description usually assigned to this race.  This is a $1.0 MM restricted to Canada born runners, run on a fair running fake dirt surface, with a big field that on paper always appears slow and unaccomplished.  This is not the Kentucky Derby.  There are 20 wins total between the 14 entrants, a maiden, three without lasix, a filly, and a large shadow cast by the death in the Plate Trial of Danzig Moon, 5th in the Kentucky Derby, 6th in the Preakness, and a wonderful horse who was coming home before a fatal mid race breakdown.  So let's get this straight:  Don't be lazy, this is not the Canadian Kentucky Derby, its the oldest race in North America, since 1860, its quirky and uniquely Canadian.

Let's get after it!

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
WInShaman Ghost/1A
PlaceDanish Dynaformer/7A
ShowAmi's Flatter/14A-
Also Ran'sConquest Boogaloo/8B
Billy's Star/5B--
Breaking Lucky/9C++
Milwaukee Mist/12C+
Sweet Grass Creek/6C
Easy Indygo/10D
Bear at Last/13D
Woodbine Race 11: Post Time 5:38 ETThe Queen's Plate
1 1/4 Miles on Fake DirtFor 3 YOs

I'll start by saying that this is a terribly difficult race to handicap, even when a big favorite is running. There isn't a prep season like we have for the Triple Crown season, and these horses have spent their winter and springs running all around, so its hard to gage them against each other.  Races like the Marine Grade 3 and the Plate Trial, both at WO, are where I typically like to start my handicapping.  I'm not putting up the Plate Trial video because of the Danzig Moon breakdown that I can live without seeing again, but four of these runners went in the Marine, won by Shaman Ghost, and five went in the Plate Trial, won by Danish Dynaformer

I have a group of three as possible  in the Win spot: Shaman Ghost/1, Danish Dynaformer/7 and Ami's Flatter/14.  I think all three will be bet heavily so none of these represent a great price.  Shaman Ghost is a nice off the pace runner with decent Beyer's.  (Remember to adjust your thinking, a mid to upper 80's Beyer and a 2:03:45 is most likely what wins this race.)  I like him coming off the pace here and I like horses that have some rally in them.  Very light chalk.

Danish Dynaformer I reckon will be the post time favorite.  A Roger Attfield, Charles Fipke and Patrick Husbands collaboration (Mount Rushmore-like names in Canadian racing), this horse won the Plate Trial by also coming off the pace and he had a nice rally and ate up alot of ground late in a Show finish in the Marine.  A win on yielding turf at KEE shows class.  Lots to like!

Ami's Flatter, a horse the Turk Clan bets on name alone, as our since deceased cat Ami demanded as much.  Breaking from the far outside post, the 14 spot (this race does allow up to 17), the son of Flatter had a great spring on the Triple Crown trail with a 4th in the SF Davis at TAM, a Place in the Tampa Derby, a Show in the Florida Derby, but very flat and dull in his return to WO in the Marine. Trainer Josie Carroll has Contreras up, who left his mount on Danish Dynaformer for this.   Loyalty or belief in the horse?  I guess we'll find out. 

That's three horses, all of which should be chasing and rallying off the pace.  Where will that pace come from?

Academic, the lone filly and Woodbine Oaks winner, will be on or very close to the lead.  I think she hangs on for a minor prize, that's all I'm prepared to pick.  Fillies racing boys get bet hard by punters, don't be surprised by her price at post time.  

Rounding out my exotic pool is a grouping of four:  Conquest Boogaloo, Billy's Star, Breaking Lucky and Portree, with Milwaukee Mist just outside looking in but could have been included here.  
Honestly, I could ramble about these runners but when you look at the PPs they all have warts.  Conquest Boogaloo raced to Show in the Plate Trial but was well up the track in the Marine. Trained by Mark Casse with Alan Garcia up.  

So, what to do with this Turk?

The betting menu has 20 cent Trifectas/Triactors and 20 cent Supers available.   I think I'll do something like:

$1 Tri:  1-7-14 OVER 1-4-5-7-8-14 OVER 1-4-5-7-8-14 =$73 or $14.60 in the 20 cent variety.

A bit pricey.  Perhaps I look at a simple box:

$1 Tri Box:  1-4-7-8-14=$60

I think I'll be waiting as long as possible to see where the value is and I'll single someone and build a Tri something like this:

$2 Tri:  1 OVER 4-7-8-14 OVER 4-5-7-8-9-11-14 $50.  I like this combo the best.  In this I have Shaman Ghost on top.  

Almost any handicapping book will tell you bet consistently with your betting capital and try to block out having a good or bad feeling about a race influence you.  Build the best handicap you can and bet it.  I ignore this advice sometimes and if I'm not feelin' it, I don't bet.  What makes me feel better about a race?  Data.  I like more data on the PP's to guide me.  I like video and data, and that is just something I lack here.

Have fun with it yourself and keep it real.  If you have a betting problem, seek help.  If you have a handicapping problem, seek a better handicapper than this bald hack.  My regular readers should give you an indication of the hard core nature of this blog.  

Turk Out!