Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs

Happy Thanksgiving and Welcome to The Turk and the Little Turk.  I'd like to thank the good people at The Thorofan for allowing me to share the musings of an old school handicapper with you today.  I've been blogging the Clark Handicap for many years and I'm reusing a post of mine from 5 years ago, 2011.  I figure if the Zayatt's can reuse a runner from that day, Prayers for Relief, I could reuse this as well.

Before I go too far,  I am thankful for the economic means that allows me to raise my family; I thank my employer. I thank my loving family. I cherish my friends, even though the introvert that I am doesn't make me a very social friend. I thank my pets.  I of course, thank my God.

Baseball fans get all misty eyed talking about Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, and as a hockey fan, I was saddened to see our Buffalo Memorial Auditorium condemned and knocked down in the name of luxury suites and more concessions. There is something special about these old places; places you shared highs and lows with, maybe with your father, your friends, your girlfriend, now your wife, your children.

Fenway and Wrigley were built in 1911 and 1914 respectively. Churchill Downs has existed since 1875, with the iconic twin spires going up in 1895. The driving force behind the creation of the track was Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, grandson of the famous American explorer, General William Clark of the William and Clark expedition of 1804-1806, the first transcontinental expedition of the United States, and whose mother was from one of Kentucky's first and leading families, the Churchill's.

At the age of 29, Meriwether Clark saw the first edition of this race run. As in all things in life, you don't really own something unless you really own it, and his mother's two brothers left the land to others after their death and Meriwether found himself as nothing more than a race steward by 1897. Already hurt deeply by poor financial investments, and followed by the loss of the track, Meriwether committed suicide in 1899 at the age of 53 years old. One can't help but think he stands along the rail along with all the other horse players we've said goodbye to over the years, players like Shawn Murphy, Rose Rizzo and Tiznow Reynolds.  Our dead horse players  watch these equine heroes run over the same route of dirt in South of Louisville like they been doing for the past 141 years.

I love old racetracks. I stare out at the track and I see and hear the ghosts of races past thundering up the stretch. The Clark Handicap is a tradition of mine, a wonderful post Thanksgiving Day event that I look forward too, an echo of the season that has essentially concluded, a harbinger of the coming winter, and a hint of handicap division to come once the sun returns.

Let's get after this!

I'm leaning towards Noble Bird being my fairly tepid Chalk.  3 of 4 in the money at Churchill Downs, 3 wins in 6 starts at the distance, a trainer-jock combo clipping along at a 29% win rate at CD, this on the lead runner has my nod and we'll see if he can hold what should be his lead at the top of the stretch.

Here's Noble Bird winning the G2 Hagyand Fayette  at KEE in late October setting a track record in the process.

I sure like Gun Runner an awful lot, just another great son of Candy Ride (Arg).  He won the G3 Matt Wynn here in June, his first back off Show in the Kentucky Derby.  I'm not a big fan of first race back off Breeders' Cup efforts but I like the horse alot, he likes this track and he's 9 of 9 in the money on fast dirt.

Hopportunity is no stranger to the race and he's coming in off an outclassed Breeders' Cup Classic. I think you have to respect Baffert bringing him here as well as his Jockey Club Gold Cup G1 win in early October.  He'll be coming late, which the Belmont stretch played well to his strength,  and he should have enough speed in front of him to make a late move.

Shaman Ghost, the Ontario bred 4 YO, has been on the shelf since winning at 9-1 in The Woodward G1. first start at CD, 4 wins in 8 starts on fast dirt, 1 win at the distance in 1 try, 6 wins in 12 lifetime starts.

Do I have last year's winner, Effinex, too low? he came off a stalking trip in last year's edition and if he's in that spot again this year of course he'll be dangerous. I'm covering him in multiple spots.

The last horse I'm going to consider is a bit of a wildcard, Roger Attfield's Are You Kidding Me.  No wins in two dirt starts, winless in only attempt at CD, the modestly bred 6 YO has a combined 29 turf and fake dirt starts, mostly at Woodbine, and he is running very well but this seems like a very odd placing for him.  I like him showing up in the ticket, as I suspect he will be on the lead and dropping like a stone near the wire.  Here he is at Churchill Downs running a flat effort in the Stephen Foster Handicap.

So what to do with all this? First of all, I love the big field of handicap division warriors.  This race would be an example of what I describe to people as to why I love horse racing.  I love the stories, I love seeing a 44 start 6 YO still doing what he does.  Everyone loves the triple crown races, but this level of Grade 1 action is what does it for me.  I'm tossing at my own peril Breaking Lucky, Mr. Z, Prayers for Relief and Hawaakom.  Murphy's Law: One of them will screw us up.

I'm really torn, and while a horse racing fan can be torn, a bettor cannot be.  My base bet (below) isn't even worth me pricing out as I'm never going to make such an investment in a wide open race.

After mulling about a $69 bet $1 Super and a $50 bet $2 Exacta I settled on $1 Tri bet for $20 which I would be OK with taking to $2/$40.  The bet forces me to single Noble Bird and put the rest of my survivor pool under him.  Regardless of the horse I single, the bet construction will be what I settle on.  What do I mean by that?  I'm not sold on Noble Bird and I'm not sure if he's going to get smaller or bigger than 4-1, so if Gun Runner down  to 8-1, perhaps I flip flop Noble Bird and Gun Runner.

Watch the tote and only invest what you are prepared to lose.  My exotic hit rate on Tri's has been hovering around 25% but my IRR is positive, albeit slightly.  That's over many years.  I have had stretches where it is mind numbing horrible and also savant like fantastic. Welcome to horse racing!

To bet or not to bet?  When you sit down with a card, certain races will pop out to you, after you have invested the time and effort to develop the craft, that are much easier marks than this race.  As a horse player, why bet a hard race when you can take advantage of a no brainer race on the same card or a different track.  Don't fall into the trap of betting every race but if you handicap, take the time to build out your bets, review what coulda shoulda woulda when its over, and be honest with yourself.

Have fun with this friends.  Happy Turk(ey) Day.  Turk(s) out!

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog.  I'd like to begin by wishing the many horse players I know who served in our Military a Happy Veteran's Day. I myself am I veteran of the first Gulf War and a proud former submariner.

My nickname, The Turk, was a common nickname given to the best handicapper in a military man's unit.  Those nicknames stuck with the person, and I have read several obituaries over time of former "Turk's" who served our country proudly and just enjoyed the peace and quiet of the track the rest of their days.  This has been a tumultuous week in our Country, and this Blog is not being political, just expressing the sincere hope that average American's can embrace the differences of opinion and come together to grow jobs and be respectful of the personal choices we all make.

Today's blog is written for The Thorofan's Handicapper's Corner.  Today's target is a very nice 11 horse, 3 YO turf Grade 3, the Commonwealth Turf, at Churchill Downs.  I avoid 3 YO Turf racing like the plague until late in the year as it allows some historical perspective to develop on the past performances.  You typically get a funny mixture of direct to turf runners, modestly bred animals, triple crown trail rejects coming off the dirt, and future turf stars.  Today is no different and the field is both challenging and lacks  and heavy duty chalk which should make for an exciting race with money to be made.

Let's get after it!

Check the track conditions always when preparing your handicaps.  You can find Churchill Down's conditions here.  The weather does not appear to be an issue, with only a 10% chance of rain today and tomorrow.  Expect the turf to be firm.

Let's start with the base handicap and then develop some bet strategies off of that.  My two readers can tell you that sometimes my base handicap is pretty straightforward and I can bet directly from it, or I'll deviate.  With 11 horses, I have them in stratified layers of class and ability, and the bet construction has to take some educated risks and place a few high prices more forward or we might as well bet the tote board order.  33% of chalks win, a metric that has been very consistent for decades.  With big fields, you can get carried away with covering multiple horses Win, Place Show and the bets can get very expensive.  Avoid that trap and only bet what you are willing to lose.  This is not batting average:  Don't worry so much about picking winners that you are afraid to take a chance on putting a 15-1 in the Place Spot.  Public handicapping like this was very hard for me for a long time because, lets face it, no one likes to look stupid.  With that fear I found the handicaps I blogged lagged severely in ROI that the ones I didn't blog.  It was a horrifying prospect.  I had to get past the idea I was going to get a part of the prize, even a minor part, on every bet, and instead focus my handicap on identifying who should finish, and in what order, if the race was raced on paper, and the bet construction takes that base handicap and makes the best educated guesses possible to maximize the risk-reward relationship.  I'm OK with winning 3 out of 10 if those three cover the seven losses and makes me 15% on my money.  That is not always what unfolds but it's what I am always aiming for. Have something you aim for, your betting capital should be treated with deep respect.

Ok Turk, stop rambling and get on with it.  Ok ok...

I have Canadian bred (A shout out to my neighbors to the North courtesy of the Hip) Sir Dudley Digges in my win spot, light-ish chalk I may add.  5 pf 6 in the money on turf, he should handle the firm turf OK and he should like the distance.  He's with a serious group of connections, with The Ramsey's as owners, Trainer Michael Maker and J. Leparoux, up.  He's got class, he's got experience, he's been training over Churchill turf since late September.  I'm covering him in Win and Place on most of my tickets.

Tizarunner is a big stretch for me, both in the base handicap and the bet.  The A--- means he's really a B, but I see a horse who last time out set a 90 Beyer over a firm 1 1/8 miles at KEE winning with a nice late turn of foot. 4 of 5 in the money, a high price at the March 2015 OBS sale of $325,000, classy Tizway son may just be a late bloomer.  Trainer Casse is 17% winner over the turf and I think I'm going to like his price at >6-1 for the Place and Show spots.

Bondurant  is a War Front making just his sixth start, all over grass.  He's never gone past 1 mile and he's taking a big step up in conditions.  I may have him too high and will cover Show/Exotic only.

One Mean Man carries the race high weight of 123 pounds and I may have this modestly bred Mizzen Mast son too low.  He had an OK, somewhat slow summer over grass, with some success at Arlington and CD.  Making Dirt/Turf swap, something Trainer Flint wins 12% of the time.  5 wins in 12 turf starts, 9 of 123 in the money over turf, no wins at the distance and 1 in in two CD starts.  Win isn't unreasonable, Place and Show very possible.

Surgical Strike had moderate success this summer after coming off some nice Spring runs at Turfway and Arlington.  Similar Beyer as many of the runners here, 80-84 with one 90+.  Place/Show/Exotic possible.

Scholar Athlete is a son of a Turk favorite, Einstein (Brz).  This video, the Arlington Million from 2009, has no relevance other than to watch Sir Dudley Digges sire, Gio Ponti sweep to victory over, among others, Einstein.  Scholar Athlete is another Ontario bred, trained by Graham Motion who takes the blinkers off, an angle  he's won 22% on 9 tries. This horse gives way late fairly regulatory.  No better than Place or Exotic, but he has talent.

Finally from the group of horses that will make up my bet selection, Black Out (Fr).  A third Casse entry.  4 wins in 9 turf starts and a field best 92 Beyer.  Ran an exceptional N1X $77K ALW at Belmont over good turf at 1 mile in mid October, his second North America start.  Something makes me wonder that I should have flip flopped Tizarunner and Black Out (Fr) as i get the feeling he's live and Casse is looking for an under the radar score.  I'll be covering in Win down.

I tossed the 1,9,11 and 4 at my own peril.

So what do we have?  We have a pretty level playing field without much separating these runners. Class is my tie breaker: Sir Dudley Digges, Bondurant, Tizarunner, and Scholar Athlete bring the class and I'll hang my hat on them.

a $1 Trifecta Bet costing $46 might look like this:

2-3 OVER 2-3-5-7-8-10 OVER 3-5-6-7-8-10

That may be too pricey and you may not like the risk-reward.  I don't blame you and you can try something with a bit more risk but more reward.

A $2 Exacta for $36 may look like this:

2-10-3 OVER 2-10-3-8-7-5-6

and for $18

2-3-10 over 2-3-10-7-8

These are fun races to bet and I would expect the payouts will be handsome.  Enjoy!

Turk Out.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Happy 8th Birthday Turk and the Little Turk Blog!

I'm throwing my own birthday party, but I don't care.  Happy 8th Birthday to my blog, The Turk and the Little Turk.

This blog began when I was 42 years old.  I was, and still do, travel extensively for work.  I was sitting in the O'Hare Airport during a weather delay and I reached out for a fellow Western New Yorker and Blogger, Equispace who provided me advice and encouragement to start my own blog.  I've been slogging along ever since, amassing 588 posts that my rapid audience of hard core gambling readers lap up.

I've enjoyed my time as a horse racing blogger.  I've never really had an aspirations to grow the reader base, nor do I have the patience or the desire to do the things that would allow my blog to be more widely read.  We are what we are here at the Turk and the Little Turk, and we hope to continue writing our old school handicaps and hack bet constructions for a long time to come.

If you've ever commented here, thank you very much.  If you've ever liked a blog post of mine at Facebook or Twitter, muchas gracias.  If you've taken the time to follow me or friend request me, I appreciate it very much.  I thank the blogging groups I have been a part of, I thank the agregators that republish my blog, I no longer hold a grudge to the aggregators that sneered at my blog and said it wasn't good enough, and I thank The Thorofan and the Handicapper's Corner for giving my blog a wider voice.

I'd like to introduce all the new and innovative things I intend to bring to the blog but I'd be lying: I'm going to handicap based on the methods I've learned over the years, methods that are a derivative of my favorite handicapper/authors Tom Ainsile, Brad Free, and the Happy Handicapper,  the late Mr. Robert J. Summers.  I'm going to continue to be a fan first and a gambler second.  I'm going to leave "important" blog subjects to better bloggers than I and I'm going to continue to offer my free advice which will be presented in a bragadoccio free manner.

Finally, I'd like to thank my wife, my son, my God and my boss (in that order!)  Without any one of them the humble, arduous and incredibly rewarding life that I lead would not be possible

Thank you for reading and Happy 8th Birthday Turk and the Little Turk!

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Woodbine Mile Grade 1

Woodbine's Long Stretch on Turf

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, a horse racing blog that has been providing handicapping advice since 2008.

Before I go to far, I'd like to stop and thank the fine people of The Thorofan and the The Thorofan Handicappers Corner for allowing me to share my thoughts with you about Saturday's Woodbine Mile.

As a horse racing fan first and foremost I get excited looking at the Past Performances of this quality.  This is a race that always attracts top quality turf horses, ideally spaced 7 weeks  before Breeders' Cup weekend.  After spending some time with the numbers it was apparent to me that Tepin is the class of this race but...The "but" for me is Tepin may go to the post wildly overbet, her first race back after a trip to the UK, carrying the heaviest weight of the race,  and by my count there are at least five horses that could come up and win at long and longer prices.  This is a fan's race and a degenerate gamblers race all mixed together.

Let's take some time to look at the field in action.  The first video isn't relevant for anything other than to familiarize yourself with the race over this immaculate turf course with its long stretch. Tower of Texas and Mr Owen were well back of the impressive Mondialiste.

Tower of Texas and Full Mast (the race chalk) fall to Dimension (GB) in July at WO at 1 mile.

A month later, and one panel less, Tower of Texas and  Passion for Action chase the local claimer, Glenville Gardens.  What a nice claim from Ottawa Senator's owner Melnyk by the Attard's.

The 5 YO gelded son of Sea the Stars (Ire), Mutakayyef (GB), in the 1 5/16 LH Juddmonte G1.

Bill Mott's Full Mast  in the 1 1/16 Lure Stakes at SAR.  Trainer Mott is one of the best at picking his spots in the conditions book.

Passion for Action winning at 6f in the Grade 2 Highlander at WO in July.

So, I'll say it, Tepin is  special.  Seven straight wins, 13 of 15 in the money on turf with 10 wins, 7 of 7 in the money at the distance with 6 wins, 16 of 20 in the money lifetime.  The race's lone mare has excellent connections, a top shelf Trainer in Mark Casse and one of the best turf pilots in the game in Leparoux, up.  She's coming into this race after completing a tough journey to the UK.

Training at SAR for six weeks with two sizzling 5f bullets, is she ready to resume her dominance is the only question left.

My base handicap is just that, an all things equal, fair surface ranking of Class, current Condition, and ultimately the horse's range of finishes.  The bet construction sometimes mirrors the Base Handicap but I do deviate  when i'm looking for a price.  In my last posting for the Handicapper's Corner I handicapped a similar situation with The Woodward at SAR.  My alternative strategy of betting that Frosted would Place instead of Win netted well over $350 for me on a pretty cheap $2 Tri.  I'd love Tepin to win as a horse racing fan, but I'm betting adult money and the adult thing to do is to take a stack of $20's and make the stack bigger and not smaller.

If I have more or less settled on a contrarian view that Tepin won't win, who will?  As a handicapper I'm less concerned with who and more interested in establishing how many are possible.  If I have the right number in the win spot I'll process it as a fan after I count the winnings and record the ROI.

Full Mast is interesting to me.  Trainer Mott brought the 4 YO here in July where he put on a game effort.  He brought him back which should suggest he liked his late turn of foot over the course.  No wins in 3 attempts at the distance, 6 of 8 lifetime in the money, 5 of 7 in the money lifetime on turf, comes in with Rosario up again off a minor stake at SAR in the Lure Stakes (above). Will his late turn be enough to catch Tepin?

Mutakayyef (GB) is a solid stakes runner in the UK, not grade 1 but solid. 2 wins and a game Show in the Grade 1 Juddmonte International in mid August.  I'm thinking he's in the money in this field unless he really didn't travel well.

Passion for Action is a local who has ran 9 times over the WO turf winning 3 and Placing 3.   No wins at the distance but he was really flying at 6f in July here in the Grade 2 Highlander.  This is 2nd off 45-180 layoff, a jump that Trainer DePaulo wins 18% of the time.  Sure this is the deep end of the pool but that's why its called gambling.

Glenville Gardens is a really nice Woobine story after being claimed last September.  six wins in last 9 starts and three straight including the Grade 2 Play King at 7f here at WO in late August.

Mr Owen and Arod (Ire) will go off at better odds than most of the others I mentioned.  Mr. Owen ran here determinedly last year in the Woodbine Mile over yielding turf.  I'm not sure this is his race at this time based on how he's running and how the pacing should unfold.  Arod (Ire)  goes on Lasix for the first time and the 5 year old has not had a very good 2016 at all, winless in four starts.  His last start at 1 mile was a Show finish and a better effort.

At my own peril I'm tossing Roger Attfield's Tower of Texas.  You can't cover everyone and I could have easily made the case for him over Glenville Gardens or Passion for Action.  Tower of Texas is winless in 2016, only one win in 7 starts on turf and one win in 7 starts on WO turf.  He's coming late so possibly include him Show spot.

What to do?  I'm going to play with something like this:

5-2-6-4-3 OVER 8 OVER 5-2-6-4-3, a $2 bet for $40.

I don't know if this is my final incarnation of this bet but you get the idea of what I'm trying to do.

If you want safe go 8 OVER 5-2-6-4-1 for a $2 exact that costs $10.  Maybe only include the >15-1 horses.

Whatever you do, have fun with it!  Turk Out.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Woodward Stakes Grade 1 at Saratoga

Frosted winning The Whitney; Photo Adam Coglianese

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk.  Today I'm writing this blog entry on The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga for both my hard core readers  and the Thorofan Handicapper's Corner.

Frosted!  Did you see the Met Mile and The Whitney? I've never been that high on horses returning from Dubai, but wow did this horse blow up that stereotype of me.

He checks every box for me:  13 of 17 in the money lifetime, 9 of 13 in the money the last two years with 5 wins. 5 of 5 in the money with 3 wins at the distance.  12 of 16 with 6 wins on fast dirt. Trainer McLaughlin and Jockey Rosario are 45% winners at Saratoga.  Class breeding and premier barn and connections.

I can try and be a wiseguy but that's not me.  My handicapping, perhaps old school in this day of analytics, is based on class, pace, past performance and conditions.  I'm not going to waste too much time making a case while Frosted will lose and instead focus on who I think will be able to hit the ticket.  Bet construction will focus on some exactas with Frosted singled and then maybe one Trifecta with Frosted in place and my Win and Show horses boxed in both spots.

Let's get after this!

Who other than Frosted can win? I see two possible candidates in Bradester and Mubtaahij.
Bradester is the modestly bred, with a Classic's pedigree, six year old son of Lion Heart.  9 wins in 22 starts on fast dirt, 16 of 22 in the money on fast dirt, 18 of 24 in the money lifetime.  1 win in 3 starts at the distance and only one appearance at Saratoga, a Place in 2013.  Three straight wins, including the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap and the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup over slop.

Trainer Kenneally keep Jock Bravo, up.  Expect him to be on the lead all the way.  My base handicap assumes Frosted catches him.

Mubtaahij (Ire) returned from Dubai and got one tuneup in the G2 Suburban.

Five straight published workouts at SAR since the Suburban, all at 4f, all about :49 even.  Trainer McLaughlin enters him and hard to tell what the expectation is other than a tracking trip.  I think he'll be close and could win if Frosted falters.

Shaman Ghost and Breaking Lucky are the others I'm considering for the Trifecta ticket and I'm tossing Samraat at my own peril from the top three.  It's fairly rare for me to talk about two horses at a Saratoga race that previously competed at my home track of Fort Erie, but these two did in the 2015 Princess of Wales Stakes as both are Ontario bred.

Shaman Ghost ran a bullet :48 4/5ths, top of 61 horses on 28 August.  He exited the Suburban too where he tracked wide most of the trip and fell off.  He's on Lasix for the first time today, an angle Trainer Jerkens has done 23 times this year, winning a paltry 4%.  Jerkens and Castellano are winless in six tries at SAR.

Breaking Lucky, the 4 YO son of Looking at Lucky (I feel old suddenly!) is slower than most here and in a speed battle I don't think he can win but i think he's game enough to be in the jet stream.

Game, yes.  Tactical speed, a bit with a late 2f burst of  :23 and 4/5ths.  Still looked wonky to me near the finish in Grade 3 company.

I don't feel too much concern tossing Catholic Cowboy (love the name, Mrs. Turk would pick em'), Tapin Mojo or Tale of Verve.  They will all be long prices which is a good thing/bad thing.  I'm not interested in bet construction that hopes for an incredible fluky finish but someone is and they will have a good day at the track if it happens.  My long term ROI is built on avoiding "scratch off ticket" styles of bets.  Samraat at least belongs in the conversation of this race, especially off his spring Belmont campaign for Trainer Violette.  You can cover alot of horses and overbet or you can make tough choices.  I'm making a tough choice and tossing him at my own peril.

My suggested bets are along these lines:

$2 Exacta:  3 OVER 4-1-2 for $6

$2 Tri:  3 OVER 4 -9-1-2 OVER 4-9-1-2 for $24

And/Or (I think OR)

$2 Tri: 4-9-1 OVER 3-2-4-9-1 OVER 3-2-4-1  for $60

I like the Exacta and the Tri with Frosted on top, while the $60 lottery ticket offers the most reasonable pizzazz.

Whatever you do, keep your bets reasonable and enjoy the races.

Turk Out!

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Alabama Stakes Grade 1 at SAR

2009 Alabama Stakes Winner Careless Jewel; Photo Budmeister 26.2

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, a horse racing blog that focuses primarily on handicapping.  I'd like to start by thanking The Thorofan and their Handicapper's Corner for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.

The Alabama Stakes is typically a highlight race for me at Saratoga.  I've had conflicts with this weekend over the past few years and the last time I was able to be there for it, my son and his grandfather joined me in 2009 to see the absolutely gorgeous Careless Jewel win in a romp.
It looked like the sort of performance that could catapult the filly to super stardom, but it just wasn't to be and the second best filly of 2009 behind Rachel Alexandra was retired soon after.

Songbird, today's stupid-crazy heavy chalk favorite has skyrocketed to super heights already, winning nine straight and absolutely dominating all comers. Today's focus will be on figuring out if she can be beaten and by who, as well as just embracing the heavy chalk as a single and seeing who can bring value into the Place and Show spots on an exotic ticket.

Three Turk Generations at the Spa: Travers Stakes Day 2007
Today's race is not named after a person or a famous horse, but instead for the home state of William Cottrill, a former Confederate officer.   The race track was trying to remember the efforts of Mr. Cottrill who is credited with helping to revive horse racing in the North following the American Civil War.  Mr. Cottrill owned a farm near Lexington, Kentucky and bred a Kentucky Derby winner, 1884's Buchanan (Hale 2001).

Horse racing remembers.  A few years back I was deeply disturbed when many of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park meet's races were renamed by the Stronach Group.  I still don't like it and one of the most appealing things about horse racing to me besides the horses themselves is the tradition.  When I look at this picture of my father and son, together at the 2007 Travers Stakes, it means something to me, it's my roots, horse racing roots, the thing that ties one generation of fans to the next.  Imagine the hacks at the NYRA one day just deciding to rename The Alabama Stakes. I get heart palps just thinking about that.  I'm sorry, I digress, and I just want to end this thought with this: Horse Racing Remembers.

I've been babbling a bit too much already, lets get after this race with a bit of video handicapping and then a peek at the fractions these horses are capable of. Let's get after it!

24 July2016 CCA Oaks G1 SAR  1 1/8 Miles; Fast Dirt

16 July 2016 Indiana Oaks G2 IND; 1 1/16 Miles; Fast Dirt

20 May 2016 Black Eyed Susan G2; PIM; 1 1/8 Miles; Fast Dirt

9 April 2016 Ashland G1; KEE; 1 1/8 Miles; Fast Dirt

Just some simply dazzling performances highlight in these few videos.  I could post all of Songbirds and what you see is complete consistency.  The Weep No More back to front finish at KEE in the Ashland was one of the memorable races of 2016 already, but nothing really from her since.

The chart below shows a small sample size of races at 1 1/16 and 1 1/8 of a mile.  Surprisingly Flora Dora ran a similar speed in an OC $62K at BEL in early Julyas compared to Songbird's Summer Oaks G2.

At 1 1/8 miles there was a shocking disparity between Songbird, with the next closest horse Flora Dora finishing 8 lengths behind based on 1/5 of a second per length. Songbird is often slowed in the final 1/16 and that skews the data as this girl has tactical speed and Hall of Fame Jock Mike Smith knows how to use it.

Songbird.  I'm not sure I need to say much else.  She won at SAR, she's 9-0 lifetime with $2.4 MM of earnings already, a 5 Time Grade 1 winner, a Breeders' Cup Champ, she's the complete package.  If it means anything, she has the lowest Tomlinson Number at the distance with a 269.  I expect her to soar.

Family Tree, with hot jock F. Geroux up for trainer Wayne Catalano, comes in off two impressive outings in the mid west, in the Iowa Oaks in June and the Indiana Oaks 2 weeks later in July.   While the class in those races isn't terribly high, she was impressive.

Going for Broke is making a big jump in class for trainer Chad Brown who places Ortiz up.  That combo has struck for 30% wins in 90 tries at SAR this meet.

Go Maggie Go is on a layoff since June 11, something trainer Romans only wins 9% of the time.   A :58 4/5ths 5f bullet with 76 others in the workout tab on 12 August shows she's fit.  Black Eyed Susan winner wasn't visually impressive and ran a better, but out of the money, Kentucky Oaks a few weeks earlier.

Flora Dora I think is too low in my base handicap.  Blinkers On, this First Dude daughter has two very fast bullets at SAR this month in morning work, I'm expected a focused and possibly career best effort to get in the money.  I'll be covering her from Place to 4th.

Weep No More had alot of speed to run at in KEE.  She'll be running at alot of speed here too.  I'm not expecting a repeat performance.  No Place or Show finishes in her career yet.  Feast or famine and she's in the deep water today.

I'm tossing Dark Nile at my own peril.

I'm leaning towards two very different bets:

Primary:  Songbird singled with 5-3-4-7-2 covered from Place to 4th in some combination I haven't fully thought through yet.  I don't think I'll cover that many horses in Place but a 6 OVER 5-3-4-7-2 OVER 5-3-4-7-2 $2 Trifecta will cost $40.

Secondary/Hedge Bet:  Exactas with Songbird in Place and the 5-3-4-7 in WIN spot.  $2 bet for $8.

I'd like to end this post by again saying that I think Arlington Race Track is a wonderfully run, fan friendly place that I highly recommend to my horse racing friends.  They make it easy to buy tickets on their website and the track experience in the club seating is fantastic. I wish Illinois racing would get their act together and attract better talent with better purses, but you cannot beat Million Preview and Million Day at that track.  NYRA could learn a few things about race track experience from the team at Arlington.

2016 Arlington Millions

Have fun with it friends.  Turk Out!

Works Cited

Hale, Ron (2001). "William Cottrill Stakes?" Racing. Retrieved 17 August 2016.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga

Signing Line

Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, I am the Big Turk and my son, The Korean,  is the Little Turk.  At 16 years old The Little Turk has been to plenty of Grade 1 races and hit plenty of cold exactas.  The kid has the stuff.  Me?  I'm a internet hack handicapper, old school, with a style that is a derivative of the techniques taught by my favorite handicappers, men like Brad Free and Tom Ainsile, Steve Davidowitz and Alan Shuback.  My blog, The Turk and the Little Turk, has been producing handicaps for people who never asked for them since 2008.  No self promotion, no pink sheets, no subscriptions, no high brow prose, just plain talk, handicapping based on form factors I consider key drivers and bet construction that is often too conservative, yet has produced  positive ROI over a long period of time.

Thanks to the good people at The Thorofan who allow me an opportunity to talk horses with you.  I'm a bit of a loner.  I like to go to the track, but when I go, I'm seldom working as a handicapper.  When I go, I'm a fan, there for the horses, the people, the relaxed nature and the rhythm of race day.    I do my best handicapping away from the track, in solitude, at my kitchen table, late in the evening.  Meets like Saratoga appeal to the fan in me.  I love Saratoga and it's really the track that became ground zero in my horse racing romance when I used to live on Jumel Place and walk to the track, summer of 1986.  It's been 30 years since I was a resident of Saratoga, a young man with a Skiddy Kiddy girlfriend, a fast car, plenty of cash, a mean grove dancing at The Metro and time to kill.  The city has a special place in my heart even if the track seems designed to stab me in the heart.  You see, I'm not that good at Saratoga.  My ROI at Saratoga is just so-so, negative over time.  I love the track but for whatever reason I've never played it well.  You've been warned!

So what are we doing today?  The Jim Dandy is a 3 YO handicap prep for The Travers Stakes.  A six horse Grade 2, with five of six entrants being Triple Crown nominated, a Grade 1 winner in Creator, two Grade 2 winners with Mohaymen and Destin and a fairly even group of runners.  My first reaction is that as a betting opportunity I'm not sure what we have here: four of the six runners will have short prices and the other two might be a bit long, and I don't see upset possibilities with the bigger prices, but possibly Place or Show.  Let's not jump ahead yet to the bet construction, lets just break this down first into a base handicap.

Let's start with Mohaymen's Fountain of Youth at GP.

Shutdown after an exotic finish in the Kentucky Derby, Trainer McLaughlin is 22% off the 60-180 day break.  Five Wins in six Fast Dirt starts and five wins in seven career starts. Smoked by Nyquist in the Florida Derby on an off track and the Kentucky Derby.

I'm not going to give Mohaymen too much of a pass for the trip: at the top of the stretch he had no response even though he went wide most of the way.  He was just beaten and Nyquist's acceleration was phenomenal. It would have been great to have Nyquist here but I always respect Haskell runners.

I thought Mohaymen looked pretty game at the top of the stretch where again he was wide most of the race.  Exaggerator just blew past him as he chased down Nyquist.  I'm thinking in this company, Grade 2 company, he looks good.  He's my chalk.

I typically toss Belmont performance. Sometimes I'm right to do that, sometimes I'm wrong. I think Destin deserves consideration as a high class runner.  Watch this gutty fight in the last 1/16th to win the Tampa Bay Derby.

This might be blasphemy, but the Belmont Stakes is typically a yawn for me.  I loved Rags to Riches, and of course American Pharoah's, but this year's edition was pretty, pretty good.

Owner of the top Beyer on fast dirt, Destin is five of seven in the money lifetime and Trainer Pletcher has maybe the best pilot in the race, Castellano, up. Tactical speed may win this race.

I've been a big Arkansas Derby race respect giver and Creator gets that praise this year.

Does wow cover it?  Last at first call, a dazzling move through traffic by previous pilot Santana (Ortiz up today as he was on Belmont win) and a driving win.  He's not going to be within three at the top of the stretch unless the pace really plods, which I'm not expecting, and I'm not sure I like his running style here.  Steve Asmussen knows a thing or two about horse racing, and he likes him here so maybe i'm right, maybe I'm wrong, but handicapping is about being decisive and I have him shaded down a bit.

I may have Governor Malibu too high in my base handicap, and in my bet construction I may flip flop him with Creator on some tickets and Race Me Home on others.  This New York bred may not win the Class competition but I'm a big fan of Clement's barn and I like the tactical speed here too.  Five of six in the money on fast dirt and seven of eight lifetime in the money.  I like tough, game, speedy Malibu Moon's.

I liked this effort in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at BEL in May.  Game, smart, gutty in final 1/16th.

Race Me Home (Ire) represents a horse that will run at a good price and may spice up some pretty blah tickets if he can sneak into the top three or two.  He'll be coming off the pace, like Creator.  They should have plenty of speed to set their sights on.  This Easy Goer Stakes , an ungraded 1 1/16 race at BEL had some pretty good horses in it and Race Me Home doesn't embarrass himself with this effort.

I'm tossing Laoban, owner of a :46 2/5ths bullet (1/86) this week at my own peril.  He's been slow in races and I'd like to see a bit more before I sign up for that. This Uncle Mo is a maiden still, seven races into his career, not sure he was worth the $260,000 fee yet.

I don't know what I'll do with this yet.  I'm thinking my base handicap will look similar to the tote board with maybe the exception of Creator being too low and Race Me Home and Governor Malibu being too high.   I'm most likely going to single Mohaymen and then build a matrix of possibilities for Place and Show.  I'm not planning on spending too much as the risk-reward for my bet construction methods, is seldom there in a six horse, top heavy card.  I'll tweet out my bet from my handle @turkandlilturk after checking the tote board, the scratches and changes and the track condition.

Have fun with it friends, Turk Out!