Thursday, March 6, 2014
I'd be remiss to not thank the good people of The Thorofan who indulge my love of the handicap division and allow me to handicap for their Handicappers Corner some of my favorite races of the year. The Thorofan is an organization run by race fans, for race fans. While The 'Ol Turk is not the most socially active person in the world, I know many Thorofan members and I know personally what a wonderful experience it is to meet and spend time with like minded folks, and us horse fans all know how rare it is to meet horse racing folks in everyday life.
I was happy to see at least 8 horses in this field, and I would have liked to have seen a few more, as the quality at the top is really good and a few more horses may have helped make the value a bit more appealing. I'll be honest, with a 2-1,9-5, and a 5-2 morning line on three horses, I'd typically walk away from this race. Why Turk? I just don't see the value. If you are going to play it, keep it real.
Let's get after it and figure out what to do with this.
Right off the bat, remember to check the weather and the track conditions before you consider your bet. I think it will be dry and fast.
When I look at the Past Performances the unmistakable first blush take away is that Will Take Charge, Mucho Macho Man and Game on Dude have an impressive collection of Grade 1 wins amongst themselves: Clark, Travers, Breeders Cup Classic, Pacific Cup Classic and Hollywood Gold Cup, and $14.3 MM in earnings. One of the things I love about the Handicap Division is the track record of these animals, with the big three having a collective 70 starts with 40 wins between them, I know what to expect and there is enough of a sample size to guide an information handicapper like myself. I'm worthless with 2 YO's because I have no numbers to work with. As in life, and handicapping, Know Thyself, and I know and bet my strengths and I try to pass on the things I don't do well.
I say all that because I think one of the big three will win. Where to slot them is where things get interesting. I worked backward from the pace: I expect to see Game on Dude set the pace. I'd expect :46 and change in the first 4 panels with perhaps Imperative going with him. I haven't liked the Game on Dude on dirt for a bit now: two poor SA starts in a row, a solid Clark on a gutty ship in by Baffert, before that two fake dirt wins, and his San Antonio-Santa Anita Handicap-Charles Town Classic back to back to back dirt excellence. 7 Wins on 10 SA starts and his 2nd off the layoff after the Clark, something Baffert wins 18% of the time. Baffert and Smith are 31% together at SA. I have him setting the pace but failing short, the continuation of a trend that's formed. I have him fourth.
That's a hell of a way to start a handicap, but I unfolded it from the pace scenario I envision, and while not winning, I pencil Game on Dude as the key runner. He'll provide the groovy brush work on the tom tom for others to jazz off of. Others, hmmm.
I have Mucho Macho Man on top. Breaking from the 2 post, a post that wins 23% of the time in races beyond 1 mile, the top winning percentage of all the posts. A romp last time out, the Breeders Cup Classic at SA and the Goodwood, errr, the Awesome Again, also at SA. Training well, he's my pick.
I like Will Take Charge and I have him in Place. I enjoy the way D.Wayne campaigns him and sends him out anyplace, anytime. One of my favorite story lines in 2013 was the renaissance of Trainer Lucas. In a sport devoid of real charismatic (pun intended) figures, having the swagger of this man back is exciting. Training very well, wouldn't be surprised if he won. I'll be covering him in the win spot.
I like American Blend, coming late, to sneak into the top thee. His long odds will add some value to the bet if things unfold like I hope. His late running style encourages me even though the six year old gelded Quiet American runner has never gone the classic distance.
I think Blingo could rock the boat and break the top four. If I'm hedging I flip flop and cover Blingo in the American Blend spot. Blingo, in the Moss colors, is no Tiago, but he's a Grade 2 winner last time out at SA.
As I said, I'd most likely not bet this race because there is risk without alot of reward, unless of course the big three puke on themselves and someone like American Blend freaks. I don't see it. I built a 5 horse superfecta matrix that will cost $24 on a $1 bet. It's a risk I'd be willing to make even though I'm not sure if the reward justifies it. I think I'll watch the tote and hope Game on Dude gets bet heavy.
Have fun friends: Bet responsibility, drink mostly responsibly, and enjoy the day.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
|"The Turk reflecting on 2 Year Olds"|
Friends, its time again for the esteemed collective of horse racing minds gathered by The Wire Players, long with one idiot, bald hack handicapper named ye' Ol Turk, to get together and take the temperature of the Triple Crown expected nominees and vote on the Kentucky Derby Top 12. When I say I have NO CLUE about two year old race horses, I mean it, and it was especially true this year. I've spent some quality non family time watching video and studying pedigrees just to get familiar, and with the exception of my insertion of Hartford and Indianapolis and my ignoring of Tapiture and Samratt, I see I have pretty much the same thoughts as the group. I do have Shared Belief much lower as I take a wait and see with Candy Ride's.
I loved the Triple Crown season last year and I'm intrigued by this year's early favorites. Combined with some returning four year old's and what looks like a restocking of the Handicap Division, starting with today's Donn Handicap in Gulfstream Park, perhaps this will be a year that piques my interest fully.
We vote every three weeks: Have fun with it friends, Turk Out!
The Donn Handicap is named after the Donn family that owned and managed the track for sixty years, starting with James Donn, and then James Jr and finally Douglas. While they might not recognize the place anymore, the track is still magic this time of the year when most of the Eastern United States is suffering through polar vortex's and such.
I'd be remiss in not thanking first the good folks at The Thorofan for allowing me to share my thoughts today with you in their Handicapper's Corner. You can find out about Thorofan's Goals from this link and there is South Florida chapter waiting to make you part of the group.
You can take a few different views on horses: They start the next season in the same form as they ended the last OR some of them go back to the farm and don't come back the same, at least not right away. There is always a bit of mystery how they will perform early in the season, but by the Donn most of the runners have either been working regularly or on their second starts off the break. When I think of The Donn, I think of The Hal's Hope, a Grade 3 event at Gulfstream in early January that is often the first race off the break for the trainers in residence. Let's take a peek at some of today's runners: Lea, Uncaptured and Neck 'n Neck.
In December Neck 'n Neck, River Seven and Bourbon Courage got together at Gulfstream in the $100,000 Harlan's Holiday.
and I'll only go as far back as The Clark Handicap the day after Thanksgiving at Churchill Downs.
This is a deep and deceptively very good field. I could make a case for six horses winning but hey, this is gambling and we have to take a position and stick with it. If you handicap the same way, and you approach the races with method and consistency, you'll find that races like this won't be any easier. That's the reality, no method can make a good race decode into a winning ticket. What I think I've done is identify the layers, the groupings that these horses are within and from these groupings an exotic ticket can be assembled. Out of each group someone my drop in group or rise in group and when I do post race analysis (i.e. hindsight handicapping) it always seems so clear where I went wrong.
Let's get after it!
The top layer of potential winners (In Blue) and the next layer of horses (in Yellow) have very little separating them. For better or worse I'm going to back River Seven to win. For a fan of horse racing in Ontario, its a hoot for me to see River Seven and Uncaptured here together. Winner of the late December Harlan's Holiday, I think he could stay near the lead and wire it. Trainer Gonzalez 9% off the break and him and Rocco, up, do well together.
River Seven is about as tepid a chalk as I make, and I'm hedging with Romansh and Revolutionary. Both come in off impressive wins. Romansh , a pricey Bernadini for Godolphin, made the Aqueduct Discovery Handicap a easy looking romp. Trainer Albertrani is 9% off the break as well. Johnny V is up.
Revolutionary was shutdown after the Belmont and clipped along nicely in a $100K OC at Gulfstream a few weeks back:
I guess I should stop and say I'm not sure where the pace is coming from in this race. That clouds the betting analysis as I don't see where a horse like Revolutionary will slot in. Someone will shoot out and an off the pace runner like this will have someone to slingshot off of I reckon. Pletcher's WinStar runner seems primed for a good run and I'm excited to see such quality in the handicap division. 23% off the break, Castellano and Pletcher are 33% together on 125 GP starts this past year!
Lea, wearing colors I still see Blame in as he beat mighty Zenyatta, won the Hal's Hope in his first fast dirt effort. Mott took over for Stall and we'll see what he can do with a 5 YO that didn't really fire last year. Rosario up. I can close my eyes and see Lea at the front, and while I'm sure that wouldn't be the strategy, he could steal it from the front end. Very strong liking today.
Uncaptured should like the extra distance. Posts 1-2-3 have won 20 of 32 races this meet. He could drop in layers but I don't see much reason to think he'd freak up to Win.
Will Take Charge is my favorite of last year's 3 YOs and I'm super excited he's still in training. That said, Lukas is 3% off long break and this is first race since the Clark. Training OK, He's going to get heavy betting action and i'm betting him out of Win and Place. $3.0 MM winner. Two Grade 1's, two Grade 2's. Serious. Doesn't help he gets 123 pounds today, 7 more than River Seven.
Neck n' Neck and Bourbon's Courage round out a solid field of possible contenders. Neck n' Neck has been horrible at GP, no wins in 5 starts. Bourbon Courage is training sharp with three straight bullets and is always moving forward. Could crash the exotic party.
I'm tossing 7-10-11 at my own peril.
So what do I do with this? The Super High Five is on the menu. I feel compelled to bet it, but low dollar straight bets, the kinda win that a handicapper's legend is made from if he hits it. A realistic bet from me might be something along the lines of:
I have no idea how this will finish; I do know its a big field, with 6 out of 11 I think could win, and it should be a fun race. Welcome back Handicap Division, I've missed you.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
The fan in me loves the idea of a monster arriving on the scene as a 2 YO and dominating his way to a Triple Crown, but c'mon, in this day and age, is that really possible? As the bar goes lower on American racing, yes there may be the next Count Fleet, but will there be the next Secretariat, and if there were, would the connections campaign him aggressively? I leave those deep thoughts to bloggers deeper than I.
As a simple internet handicapping hack (with a solidly black ROI but why quibble?) I'll stick to throwing darts at these baby racers and learn a bit about them, not for what I'll earn on races like this, but for me its all about the Super High Five on Kentucky Derby and Preakness Day. The Super High Five, my Holy Grail, I've won with low four figure results, but I want the big payout one day and that comes from knowing the runners inside and out and a bit of luck.
Let's get after it!
I don't have much differentiation between the layers of quality I see in this race; My top layer all seem capable of winning this race and at a minimum striking Top 4. Mr. Speaker tries dirt for the first time, something McGaughey wins 14% of the time. Nice efforts on turf. Dam as had only 3 dirt route starters, 1 win and an 85 Beyer.
Coup de Grace (God I miss Havre de Grace by I digress) is a Fox Hill Farms product. Going for 2 turns for the first time, a winner at 1 mile here at GP. Brown/Johnny V getting together for first time here. Brown is 32% off the layoff and 29% dirt winner, as well as a 17% Graded Stakes winner. Dam had 5 dirt route winners and averaged an 86 Beyer, which this runner has already achieved.
Cairo Prince: His sire, Pioneerof the Nile I watched win the Santa Anita Derby in one of the biggest disappointment racing trips I ever had- the Saturday morning scratch of The Pamplemousse, a speedy but fragile beast, which killed what looked like a major showdown just before the Kentucky Derby that year. I digress again. Cairo Prince, a grade 2 winner already and Place in the Nashua by a nose to Honor Code, looks to be a good runner for Trainer Kiran McLaughlin, a Turk favorite. Training very well, McLaughlin is 27% off a break and $272,000 of earnings here already. siblings have one 2 of 9 dirt routes for $65K and a 85 Beyer, so he's already above the cut for Dam Holy Bubbette. Lots to like.
My next group seem capable of winning as well but I'm knocking them back just a little bit, rationally or not. Intense Holiday, the obligatory Pletcher entry, goes from post 11. Flat in the Remsen although last 1/16th was in :11 and change. Dam produced no winners.
Wicked Strong also ran a quick last 1/16 in the Remsen for Show money. Dam produced no dirt route winners. Honest horse who seems like it can rate already, at good price not an unreasonable win bet flyer.
Financial Mogul's dam Trav n' Kris has dropped some accomplished runners over dirt with a sibling best 106 Beyer and a 95 best Dirt Route. Nice rally at 13.7 to 1 for Place in the G2 Nashua. Violette no wins in 7 stakes races past year and only 7% off a break that goes back to 3 November. I'm thinking toss.
Almost Famous and Conquest Titan will be the two that screw me up; Byrne/Borel race Almost Famous off a 75K OC at Churchill where he dominated after hopping out of gate. No wins off layoff 61-180 days and no Won Last Starts. At better than 8-1, real value in Exotic mix I reckon. Conquest Titan goes for Trainer Mark Casse who I respect quite a bit. Dam Miner's Secret has no raced offspring. Son of Birdstone. Working nice and comes in off 30 November $75K OC at CD at 8 panels.
I tossed three at my own peril.
I'll be honest, I don't like to bet on such lightly raced horses as I'm an information handicapper and there just isn't much here. If forced to wager I'll go with something along these lines:
$1 Super: 1-6-7 OVER 1-6-7 OVER 1,4,6,7,8,11 OVER 1,4,8, 11 for $60 I stay true to base handicap for win/place, mix in Almost Famous, Intense Holiday and Wicked Strong into Show and Exotic and shade down Coup de Grace across all four spots and assume Mr. Speaker and Cairo Prince are top three. 10 cent version is $6 and you'll make Ok money if it wins.
Whatever you do, bet responsibly and make your own decisions. Don't let hype or some hack internet idiot who talks in the 3rd person influence your investment decisions.
Have fun friends, Turk Out!
Saturday, January 11, 2014
What's changed? Absolutely nothing, except the great rejuvenating power of a long break, as this is my first handicap since Breeders' Cup weekend. I love the game, I love the horses, and I enjoy deeply the connections I've made through horse racing that make any dissatisfaction I have with the sport go away. The thrill of chasing Super High Fives on the biggest days in our sport's calendar is the only drug I indulge in.
Dissatisfaction? A Kentucky Derby prep race with a six horse field. Until the sport gets healthier, if it gets healthier, I guess that will have to be sometime the horse fan in me will have to live with. The gambler in me will remain jaded, not betting for action play, and I'm not sure the value of betting The Sham is, but we'll get to that. Anyhow, this isn't a blog about much of anything other than the Turk sharing his thoughts on various races and expressing his opinion and prospective as a modern day horse player, armed with great electronics and an old school red pen. To my readers and friends who I've been writing at since 2008, hello. To anyone new, I'm the Turk and my boy is the Little Turk. I'm an Internet handicapping hack who offers bravado free opinions to use or ignore as you will.
Let's get after it.
One thing that is a constant with The Turk is his disdain of 2 YO racing. I don't care about it and seldom watch it. The other thing you need to know about The Turk is my disdain for hype. As much as I enjoy the writing of some very fine turf writers, I do my darnest to not get sucked into who the "next great horse" is stuff. I'm a paper past performance handicapper whose thesis is everything you need to win at this race is printed on the paper (especially the DRF Formulator's which I'm not paid to pitch). You'll also notice an absence of advertising in my blog. I've been offered all sorts of things in the past, from banner ads to live links that lead to products, and while I don't begrudge anyone making money for their efforts, The Turk doesn't blog for any reason other than a release for my thoughts.
Midnight Hawk, the latest Baffert/Midnight Lute collaboration, looks like the cut and dry chalk for this affair with bullets galore over the surface and a commanding maiden win at Hollywood last month. Blinkers off today.
If I were to bet this race, which again I'm not sure I will, I have two approaches in mind: Single Midnight Hawk and bet a value player under him -OR- bet against him, taking him right out of the exacta. At 8-5 he'll draw serious money to him, so how do you want to play it? Your call readers.
The Turk starts with a Base Handicap; The Base Handicap assigns a letter grade to each entrant and slots the horses into an expected order of finish. The Turk is an exotic player primarily, so I focus on who is tossed and how many horses I need to consider that can finish in the top four. The Base Handicap isn't necessarily my betting strategy. Two different sides of a coin, handicapping and betting. While Midnight Hawk seems like a legitimate monster to me in this spot as a handicapper, the better in me wants to knock him off. Have an opinion, an original opinion, and stick to it.
I can't say I'm thrilled with any other runner but Kristo interests me, maybe not a 2-1. Sadler's Distorted Humor colt has been off since Halloween. Work is solid at SA but not eye popping, just steady. Sadler is only 8% off this break.
I'll Wrap It Up and Ontology, both colts from Tapit, seem very similar; no dirt wins between either, upper 70's best Beyer, last race wins on fake dirt and turf respectively. I'm edging Ontology higher as I type and should flip flop them in the chart, but they are both B- so I guess its obvious.
Top Fortitude is the type of horse I get wrong annually so lets see if I'm consistent. Life is a Joy will need to show me something to get more than a mention.
Have fun friends, I enjoyed my first handicap back.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Welcome friends to The Thorofan Handicappers Corner and this handicap of the Breeder's Cup Classic presented by The Turk, with the aid of his trusted sidekick, The Little Turk. I'd like to start by thanking The Thorofan for the opportunity to share my thoughts with their readers, and I'd like to encourage horseplayers to consider joining the growing ranks of a premier fan based organization like The Thorofan.
Handicapping and Gambling are different sides of a coin to me. I almost always start with a base handicap. My base handicap is just a reordering of the horses within a range of expected finishes, what I layers. I try not to get too emotional about the horses, but its hard as a fan and a handicapper. That said, when I'm investing money, I try to leave emotions at the door and remain completely objective. One way I do that is to not get caught up too much in the pre race hype that accompanies these major horse racing events. I tend to avoid reading the slew of excellent turf writers who cover these events, especially the human interest pieces. Perhaps that takes away some of the fan experience, but it also helps me eliminate outside biases. My point is that my almost 30 years of handicapping has taught me that a consistent approach to handicapping is important to improving your ROI into the black.
I think I digressed and I tend to do that! I start with a base handicap and I develop an opinion as to how many legitimate horses are in a field and what the pace situation is expected to be. With that thought I can layer speed, stalking and closers into what I believe is the right layer of finish. I seldom enter a handicap with a particular choice on the betting menu already chosen, but for major racing events, I am held is sway by the Super High Five, that shining cup at top of the mountain that few sip from. OK, dramatic yes, but as a handicapper and bettor, its my ultimate challenge, as elusive as a Pick 6, and a crazy adrenaline rush when you hit it, which I have on several occasions.
If you are looking for a safe win bet, leave now, as this is not the blog for you. That said, when I prepared my handicap I saw a layering that lends itself to The Super High Five, and that is a layering of the talent level of the horses within the field, which I think is pretty defined, especially with the scratch of Ron the Greek, an especially hard horse to layer. You can keep up with any other scratches or changes here.
Let's stop chatting and get after this.
When you enter a handicap with a particular bet in mind, which again is not my typical approach, I take one of two tacts: I see value and I have a wide open win spot OR I have an overwhelming favorite and I am going to back the favorite, either singling or having no more than two horses layered to win. With Game on Dude here, I am taking the later approach, placing him as a single on my ticket, and moving on. A couple of thoughts: A boxed 7 horse $1 bet on the Super High Five would cost you $2,520, a six horse box is $720 and a 5 horse box is $120. These are expensive bets. They pay out in the thousands, and I've hit a few that have paid out $4,000 and I've come within a head bob of $75,000. You can't cover everybody in an exotic bet. You will have to make choices based on your read of the past performances, how the track is playing, and ultimately have some luck. Game On Dude is 5 for 5 in 2013, 7 wins in 8 starts at Santa Anita, 8 of 11 in the money at the distance, 10 of 16 on fast dirt, training fast and Hall of Fame jock Mike Smith up for Baffert. I'd place his odds of winning at 2 in 3 tries and that's good enough for me to make this single selection. Would there be more value placing him Second and having an upset winner, perhaps Will Take Charge, nipping him at the wire: Absolutely and I encourage my readers to have the stomach to make those type of bold bets, as the payout will be phenomenal.
Which leads me to my next digression: Make your own opinions. I've been handicapping for many years, and blogging my handicaps for some time too, and I've never once said that I had an iron pipe lock of a handicap and that you would be foolish to ignore my opinions. Wrong! I have stunk this Handicappers Corner up to high heaven over the years, but I've also had my share of success. Just have fun and bet responsibly. I think I digressed again.
I have a three horse layer for Place: Will Take Charge is a horse I loved early on the Derby trail and was happy for Lukas at the Travers and the PA Derby that this horse he patiently conditioned had arrived. Boon or Bust, I have him 2nd through 5th. Mucho Macho Man I think is the best of this group: He's run awfully well at Santa Anita but there is absolutely nothing to make you think he wants 10 panels. The only difference between my $96 and $84 dollar bet ideas is being a bit more behind Mucho Macho Man and only covering Place and Show. Finally, the champ, Fort Larned, cannot just be casually ignored (like I did last year). I'm not sure he's been challenged all year and I don't have any sort of feel for him. I think he could finish anywhere from Place to 8th.
My last layer is Palice Malice, Flat Out and Paynter. Any of them are good enough to go Place-Show and you could make a strong case to flip flop Palice Malice and Mucho Macho Man and Paynter or Flat Out with Fort Larned. Again, you have to make choices.
Choices. Such a dirty word sometimes. Toss outs are a choice and historically someone from this group will gallantly charge into 4th or 5th place, 12 lengths behind the winner and screw up the bet. I like Last Gunfighter quite a bit: 4 wins in six starts in 2013, 6 wins in 12 fast dirt moments, and nice connections with Trainer Chad Brown and Castellano up. Moreno will have early speed. I'm expecting a deep fade in the last 1/8 mile, and I need that fade to be at least to sixth place. Declaration of War is clearly very classy but I'm not biting and I am completely discounting Planteur (Ire), always a kiss of death.
I know I have at least one or two more iterations of my bet structure to make before tomorrow. Play with your own, watch today's dirt races and see where the winners at a 1/8 pole, at the 1/4. I expect most of the winners on dirt at Santa Anita to be the early speed, with the wild card being an extra length of track to cover.
Have fun friends, Turk out!
Sunday, October 13, 2013
The Turk has had a very busy past month or so: work, school, family, everything was stacked against me handicapping the ponies, but alas I've handicapped the card at Woodbine today and later tonight I begin Breeders' Cup preparations.
I believe in balance in life. When I'm rushed in life, I shed all the things that aren't critical to me, like handicapping and blogging. If my mind isn't clear and free to focus purely on handicapping, then I just wait until it is. That's a big difference from when I was younger and I would cut corners and handicap quickly through the card so I could get some action in. I practice patience now and it works for me.
I'm going to leave my base handicap now to speak for itself. I'll be back soon to celebrate the fifth anniversary of this blog and take a look at the Breeders' Cup Classic contenders.
Have fun friends, Turk Out!