Saturday, November 8, 2014

Post Race Analysis for the River City Handicap G3

Villandry: Photo by Reed Palmer

I'm not sure what the take away is on today's River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.  I guess I'll sum it up with a missed opportunity for me.

Silver Max falls to zero in two starts at this distance and it just doesn't seem like a distance that he wants.

Villandry was as I good as I thought he'd be.  I don't look at Morning Line odds and I was surprised by the Post Time odds that placed him second on the tote board, I guess it was more obvious than the Ol' Turk thought.

Hamp!  On a break since early September, Trainer Correas  was only winning 12% off those breaks.  In the 4 year old geldings last twelve races he's been in the money twice.  If you look at his running lines he has closed like a freight train but usually too late and the results weren't there.  We'll tuck his name away to keep our eye on.

Under Control (Brz) looked good on paper, and I respect Motion enough, but as I said pre race race, I'd like to see a bit more out of the 6 YO gelding.  I saw a nice closing turn of foot.

Anyways, keep plugging 'cappers.  Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: The River City Handicap Grade 3 at Churchill Downs

Silver Max: Photo by Reed Palmer

Nothing like a handicappers holiday to refresh my handicappers mind.

The Turk hasn't felt very Turk-like over the past several months, as the demands of work have consumed any free time I may have previously had. I've added some efficiency to my job performance and realized that a little R&R, especially on my traditional handicapping and blogging day of Saturday could be possible.

But what to say?  I found the time, do I have anything left to add to my handicapping? Of course!  Ye' Ol Turk is always improving on his analytic skills and coming back off a layoff has done nothing but reinvigorate my mathematical mind.  Math?  It's horse racing Turk, what's up with Math?  It's all math friends, handicapping to me is the numbers on the paper, the incremental times, the workouts, the breakdown of the runners over a long and short period of time.  It's a crossword with 1,200 lb animals running about.  Betting?  Well that's just economics. I view betting as strictly an investment, an opportunity cost.  I measure success solely in terms of return on investment, and while I'm OK with breaking even over periods of time, I'm also realistic to know that I have to hit on a certain percentage of my exotics or my ROI won't stay positive for long.

I've been blogging for six years and my one consistent message has been to preach consistency:  do the same things, day in, day out, do what you do well more often than not.

For me it's about assembling a base handicap, tossing who I can, establishing potential winners and then developing an investment.  I like to blog exotics, but quite frankly Win and Exacta are my bread and Butter.  Not sexy, but I churn out positive ROI with consistency, allowing me to swing at the fences now and then.  If you can't consistently pick winners or exactas you have no business making an investment on a Tri or Super anyhow.

So what to make of today's River City Handicap? Well, the track should be Firm.  The weather is expected to be dry and cool.  I like these grade 3 turf routes.  The horses are the superstars of the industry, they are just honest animals grinding out a living on the edge of the big time.  A horse like Silver Max is the type of horse I adore: modest background, consistent, long career, successful.  18 of 26 in the money, 2 wins in 3 starts at CD, 10 wins in 20 turf starts.  He takes on the big guys in G1 matches and he holds his own.

Villandry is a bit of a stretch for me, but he's cutting back in distance, and I like his running lines of "gaining, gaining, rallied, all out, willingly" in his last five.  I'm thinking he could upset here but his lifetime stats don't give great hope: 3 wins in 11 turf starts, $191,000 career earnings, 10% of Silver Max's.

Gentleman's' Kitten looks dangerous and has been training over the CD turf course since mid October. Trainer Maker is 24% of the break and 25% over the grass.  Hernandez up and has won 30%of his races in 2014.  Freshened this summer after a few clunkers, last two encouraging.

Canadian Aldous Snow is first back off a break since mid September, something Trainer Pierce wins 24% of the time. A grade 3 winner at 1 1/12 miles over grass, he's been no threat in subsequent step ups in class to Grade 2 and 1.

Set the Sail I have too low in my base handicap.  I bullet this week at 4f shows quickness and fitness.  he's 9 of 17 in the exacta on turf and 5 of 8 in the exacta at CD on the turf.  He was Place in this event a year ago.  Lots to like, I'll be shading him up as high as Place.

Guys Reward is the definition of journeyman at age 7, with 40 turf starts, 21 of 40 in the money and 1 in 5 turf races a winner.  I expect competitive and I expect him to be coming late.  Show or Place not out of question but I'm gambling its no higher than Show or Exotic fourth.

I'm predicting Motion's Under Control (Brz) could be the one that screws up my bet.  A nice horse that I'd like to see more of before I back him.

I'm not sure of the bet yet but I'm thinking some sort of Super with 4-6 OVER 2-3-4-6-9 OVER 2-3-4-5-7-9 OVER 2-3-5-7-9, a $2 bet for $248.  That's too rich and I need to trim, so possibly I'll go 4-6 OVER 2-3-4-6-9 OVER 2-3-5-9 OVER 2-3-5-7-9, a $2 bet for $172.  I'll think about that a bit more.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Post Race Analysis: Breeders' Cup Classic 2014

Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill
Photo credit: Kelvin Kuo
I'm not even sure where to begin with my analysis.  Yes, my handicap proved to be a failure, but were the race results a sham based on Bayern's hard turn left out of the gate?

I don't believe for one second it wasn't a planned tactic to get to the rail and cause most of the inside speed to check hard.  It was an aggressive move by Baffert and Garcia, but what did they have to lose? A DQ?  They gambled with the move and then they were rewarded when they weren't punished for their actions.  They gambled.

Is that racing?  Who knows. Actually, by the fact my social media feed is blowing up, mostly in sharp negative reaction to the ruling, lots of horse racing fans think they know the answer to that question.

I lost my Super High Five Bet.  I gambled.  I gambled and bet against Toast of New York, a horse I had no real feel for.  My loss had more to do with my handicapping and less with the aggressive move of Bayern.  That said, horses did check hard, and the way Santa Anita plays, that race was essentially finished at first call.  California Chrome bounced back from the Pennsylvania Derby and ran hard, and I think he wins the race if it's two hops more, but it wasn't.  I think back to watching mighty Zenyatta fall to the back of the pack as Blame took a big lead.  Zenyatta, unlike Shared Belief, rallied on a very different track to make the most heroic run  imaginable.  There was still  11 panels of  running after the start, on a different track, maybe that matters, at Santa Anita, goodnight Irene.  In my pre race Video Analysis earlier this week I suggested I'd try Bayern in the win spot.  "Think long, think wrong" I can hear the toothless guy saying at the OTB.

You can see the Breeders' Cup Classic DRF Race Chart at this link.

The Turk is feeling refreshed after scaling back my blogging efforts over the past year.  I've been blogging since 2008 and I'm not quitting anytime soon.  Now if I could just improve on my ROI for THOROFAN Handicappers Corner posts I'd be a blessed man.

Beware the Breeders' Cup bounce.  Most runners go thud in their next back race.

Turk Out!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Breeders' Cup Classic Grade 1

Tonalist: Photo Courtesy of Gene Kershner Buffalo News
Welcome Friends to the Breeders' Cup edition of The Turk and the Little Turk.  The Turk would like to thank the good people of The Thorofan for allowing me to share my opinions on such a prominent race with you.

About this time of the racing season, after you've been looking at these horses battle for months now, what is there to handicap? Well, quite a lot still.   The track, the post position, the pace scenario, relative class, current conditioning.  I don't need to know much about Shared Belief or California Chrome, two of my most favorite three year old's  since possibly 2007's Street Sense and Hard Spun, but I need to know how they answer my questions as it relates to today's race.    Notice I care about today: I discount most of what these animals did before July 1, not to take it away from them, its just not as relevant as what they did one race back.

 I love to read Past Performances.  I think its an amazing art form, how much information can be condensed down onto paper.  People who know me know I went years, pre internet, by picking winners of races I never saw.  My handicapping was purely off of paper.  I'm a better visual handicapper now, and I'm smart enough to follow certain bloggers who tweet from paddocks with physical condition and demeanor prior to races.  That said, I get a hoot from the PP's.  I love the pithy and concise comments that follow the running line.  Comments so short it makes a Tweet look like War and Peace, but over time they tell you so much.  California Chrome last time out ..."had no response."  Bayern was..."clear,strong handling" while Cigar Street "repelled bid, cleared".

Santa Anita faithful will tell you the winner needs to be on the lead or pressing the pace within 2 lengths at first call.  I'm good with that at 10 panels, but 12 tends to equalize things.  The sample size is small too.  With my Past Performances now, checking for horses on the lead at 1st call, or within 2 lengths, is as easy a clicking a box.  So much has changed to help the handicapper.

Are you a dogmatic handicapper, with angles and rules that you absolutely adhere too?  That sort of thinking serves you well in most races but at the Classic distance, I think you need to look strongly at pace, pace intensity, and which horses will be moving forward and which ones giving ground over that merciless final 1/16 of a mile.

Let's review the runners and the key prep races on video

Awesome Again G1:  1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 27 September; SA

Jockey Club Gold Cup G1: 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 27 September; BEL

Homecoming Classic  $135,000; 1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 27 September; CD

Pennsylvania Derby G2; 1 1/8 Fast Dirt;  20 September; Prx

Woodward Stakes G1:  1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 30 August; SAR

Pacific  Classic G1: 1 1/4 Fake Dirt; 24 August; DMR

Travers Stakes G1: 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 24 August: SAR

Suburban Handicap G2; 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 5 July; BEL

I'm not sure I like where I came out with my thoughts, but let me get it down into the chart and then we can talk it through and perhaps even make a few tweaks.

Tonalist breaks all my dogmatic rules:  Only wins at BEL, first SA start, trainer my favorite turf master but I'm not sure I've ever bet one of his dirt runners. I love his late one run burst and that seems to be what I'm fixated on, but that implies he is in a pack close to the pace near the top of the stretch.  I'm thinking he will be sitting two to three wide and in a good spot to close.

California Chrome owned this track at the time of his Santa Anita Derby win.  His five race win streak through the Preakness was as close to goose skin tingling for me as it gets.  I don't put much stock in his Pennsylvania Derby, stuck on the inside, fighting a serious track bias, quite frankly I'm not even sure why he was there instead of a week later in the Awesome Again.   His connections are like lightning rods among horse racing folks I talk to regularly, but remember one thing: the horse doesn't care what you think of  Sherman, Coburn or Martin.    The horse is the same horse that was a monster early in the year.  I like his positioning, I just think he'll be going backwards and getting caught by Tonalist.

Shared Belief would be the easy thing for me to do to seem smart (I'd pick Cigar Street if I wanted to appear savvy). What a series of races he has assembled, but its amazing to me that this is his first showdown with California Chrome.   I am not ready to concede he is the best horse in this group on dirt, an Awesome Again effort not making my case easier.  Unless he has a horrible trip and misses the break, he should be as well positioned as Tonalist to push forward.  I think he was a bit exposed in the Awesome Again, win aside, and against a field of top shelf class I think he has as great a chance to be out of the top 5 as he has of being in the top 2.

Cigar Street is perhaps the most beautiful animal in the race.  On the muscle is an understatement.  He should get a get trip tucked in behind the front running speed, he'll have a price I'm thinking similar to Bayern and Tonalist and Mott is always a dangerous adversary.  This is a serious animal, I'd like to see him come back in the Clark Handicap and have a good late season campaign.

So what am I going to do with this base handicap? With a race like the Classic you can overthink it very easily.  Let's be even more frank:  How many legitimate winners are in the starting gate?  I'm going with six (California Chrome, Shared Belief, Tonalist, Cigar Street, Zivo and V.E. Day) with possibly two more (Bayern and Majestic Harbor) in the conversation.  It's not the sexy thing for a handicapper to throw his hands up in the air and say I dunno, so clearly this bald handicapper won't be doing that.  I'm going to do what you should do: have a handicapping opinion and stick to your guns.  Don't go hedging yourself like mad, just pick the horses and let it ride, you'll always be more wrong than right, but if you bet wisely you'll be OK.

I think the pace scenario is pretty straight forward.  We'll assume Big Cazanova doesn't enter the starting gate, but if he does, we'll lump him in with early speed. Moreno has been 1st at 1st call 16 of his last 21 races.  Expect him there.  Bayern has been 1st at 1st call 6 of his last 8 races.  Expect him there.   I think Cigar Street will be near the front from his 2 post as well.

I think the next group back will include Shared Belief, California Chrome and Tonalist and Majestic Harbor and just behind them will be one run closers V.E. Day, Zivo, Candy Boy and Footbridge.

My handicap reflects the horses moving forward and backward as the struggle to the classic distance. What I have yet to identify is a bet strategy.   I'm typically an all in Super High Five fella on these big day races.  It's a high risk, high reward sort of bet, definitely not for everybody.

On a race where you conceivably win over $50,000 with a 6-1 shot on top, I think it's a good investment.  I only need to hit one in one hundred to break even and I'm hitting one every 20-30, even though I've only broken five figures once, and a low five figures it was. No matter, it gets me juiced up and I work my ass off during the week so a little bit of blown off steam isn't so bad.

Whatever you do friends, have fun with it and bet responsibly.  Exotic betting should never be a dart toss and if you can't pick exactas with regularity, stay away from these sort of wagers.  Remember, its not just cash you are betting, its an opportunity cost:  What are you not spending this money on in order to gamble?  I hope its not food or the mortgage.  If you have a problem, seek help.

Turk Out!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Breeders' Cup Classic Video Handicapping/Preliminary Handicapping

Tonalist; image courtesy of Chelsea Durand
The Turk has been on the blogging sidelines since the Triple Crown season ended.  While still playing the horses, I reckon after six years I didn't have much to offer my readers.  I'm not sure I have much to offer now either, but it's time to start banging the keyboard and talk about the horses again.

I could go to the Breeders' Cup:  I've been to a few, and I'm going to be around Arcadia most of the week, but quite frankly it is hands down my favorite betting/investment opportunity of the year and I'd rather be home at Turk Central with two laptops going, an iPAD and all my information around me with limited distractions.  I love being at the track, and next to my family, my job and my church, I'd rather be no where else, but it's distraction city, and I just can't assemble my exotic bets very well when I'm there.  I'll be happy for all my racing pals who will be there, but The Turk and lil' Turk have business to attend to.

My efforts begin with just a video recap of the major prep races leading up to next weekend.  For the Breeders' Cup, I usually start at the July 4th holiday and go forward, as Belmont Day back isn't that relevant at this time of the year.  Current form, current form on dirt, and carrying speed at distance are what I'm interested in seeing, including the gallop out, so thank you to the video feeds that focus on that.

I couldn't begin to tell you who I like yet; clearly Shared Belief will be heavily bet, for good reason. Santa Anita Wins:  Bayern X2 (ALW/MSW 56K's),  California Chrome X3 (G1 Santa Anita Derby), Candy Boy X1 (1 Mile MSW 49K), Footbridge X3 (OC's 62K), Majestic Harbor X2 (Hollywood, er Gold Cup G1 28 June), Shared Belief X1 (Awesome Again G1), Big Cazanova (Arg) X1 (1 mile MSW 57K)

Ugly Santa Anita records include Imperative (0 wins in 5 starts, 1 place and 1 show), Moreno (0 wins 6 starts, 3 Place, no Show), Prayers for Relief (0 wins 3 starts, 2 show).

First time at Great Race Place: Cigar Street, Toast of New York, Tonalist, V.E. Day, Zivo.

I haven't had a chance to study the work tabs close enough to have a better handle on my handicapping.  My first blush gut call is as follows:

Shared Belief
California Chrome

My hunt for value will have me considering Bill Mott's Cigar Street, and Bayern for top spot.

I'm really not sure yet what I have yet so I'll take advantage of the time and think a bit more on the issue

Have fun with this friends, Turk Out!

Awesome Again G1:  1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 27 September; SA

Jockey Club Gold Cup G1: 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 27 September; BEL

Homecoming Classic  $135,000; 1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 27 September; CD

Pennsylvania Derby G2; 1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 20 September; Prx

Woodward Stakes G1:  1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 30 August; SAR

Pacific  Classic G1: 1 1/4 Fake Dirt; 24 August; DMR

Travers Stakes G1: 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 24 August: SAR

Suburban Handicap G2; 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 5 July; BEL

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 2 Presque Downs Masters

Presque Isle Downs
Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog.  I'd like to start by thanking The Thorofan. an organization run by, and for, the average horse racing fan.  If you are looking for a way to make social connections at the racetrack, The Thorofan might just be for you so check it out.

Monday, September 8, is the 8th running of the Presque Isle Downs Masters, a Grade 2 race for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up.  This year's edition lacks the pizzazz and star power associated with any brace where the fabulous Groupie Doll appears, but its a solid 12 horse field nonetheless.  Groupie Doll set the track record last year, winning this race for two years consecutive, so this field is really getting a break now that the big mare has retired.

For those of you not familiar with Presque Isle Downs, don't write it off as a non-sexy, racino.  The fake dirt plays very fair, and the surface is safe too, with  a breakdown rate of .83 per 1,000 starts over five years, compared to 1.37 deaths per 1,000 starts from all fake dirt tracks and 1.92 deaths per 1,000 starts on all surfaces over the same period (The Jockey Club).

The Turk's love of horse racing ebbs and flows.  The dearth of good older horses, horses that have multi-year careers, really saps my enthusiasm.  I may be down on the current state of racing, but its fun events like Presque Isle's big weekend of racing that brings me back from the edges of apathy.  After spending most of the summer handicapping and betting instead of blogging (I didn't feel like I had much to say about the sport), I'm using the Masters Weekend as a way to regroup my blogs focus and start my preparations for the Breeders' Cup Saturday, always my favorite betting day of the year.
Anyways, let me get back to the task at hand, the Presque Downs Masters.

Northern Passion, the Ontario bred Mark Casse/Patrick Husbands combination is winless at the distance and most likely would like a few more panels, but I'm picking the 5 YO mare for her class and overall solid and consistent performances.  6 of 8 in the money on fake dirt, 9 of 17 lifetime in the money, 4 of last 9 in the money.

Disco Barbie will challenge for the win;  3 of 3 at PID, including her last time out 6.5 furlong Allowance win by 5.5 lengths as the heavily bet chalk.  4 of 5 in the money in 2014, 4 of 4 in the money on fake dirt and 3 of 3 at the distance, the 4 YO Kentucky bred is a horse for this course.

Master the Blues, the 5 YO Mare from Master Command, is a PID regular, but at shorter distances typically.  Desormeaux is up after riding her to a win at Del Mar in early August where she set her career best Beyer.

Ageless is a 5 YO Mare as well out of Successful Appeal and comes in off a driving 6f turf win.  This is first effort on fake dirt after going 5 for 5 in the money on Turf and 12 of 14 lifetime in the money, including 4 of 4 in the money in 2014.  She's the fastest and my consistent horse of the field.

Madame Cactus is entering her second race off a long layoff of >180 days, something trainer Peter Eurton wins 15% of the time with.  Talamo is up for the CA based 4 YO.

Living the Life (Ire) is Trained by Gary Mandella and has Mike Smith, up.  She's making her second North American start after winning her debut at Del Mar at 6 furlongs.  11 of 14 in the money over fake dirt lifetime 12 of 20 lifetime in the money.

My Option is capable of freakish good efforts like her 99 Beyer in the Grade 3 Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park but with clunkers along the way.

So what to do with this?  I'm leaning towards a fun ten cent superfecta built around my base handicap:  4-5 OVER 4-5-10-11 OVER 1-5-7-8-10-11 OVER 1-7-8-10-11 for a $9.60 bet.

Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy your track experience.

Finally, please remember in your prayers the family of Juan Vazquez, a 39 year old exercise rider killed in a training session on the Belmont track this past week.  Rest in Peace Juan.

Juan Vazquez (image used by courtesy of Barbara Livingston)

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks


The Turk hasn't blogged much over the past two months but has handicapped an awful lot of Saratoga and Del Mar races this summer.  I've been torn about how to devote my time, handicapping or blogging.  After an intensive handicapping/gambling period that began with a very lucrative Triple Crown season,  I feel like I'm ready to take a breather and just enjoy the last few weeks of the summer racing season until I start my Breeders' Cup preparations in mid September.

Alabama Weekend always holds special significance to me, as I've attended many an Alabama and attended with my father and son just a few years ago in a memorable three generation Turk boys day at the races. I am, and have been, an enormous fan and handicapping devotee of Arlington Millions day, but I've not handicapped Arlington much this year and I made the decision that those races are just too difficult for me to jump into cold.  What is in my wheelhouse right now is Saratoga and Del Mar, two tracks I've struggled at traditionally but where I'm doing well in these respective meets.

Anyway, I'm done with serious horseplaying until Breeders' Cup weekend, which means I'll be blogging more often to keep my mind fresh.  Let's get after it!

Let's start with The Alabama, Grade 1 at Saratoga.

Hard not to like Stopchargingmaria; 7 of 9 lifetime with 5 wins, one Grade 1 win, two Grade 2's, 3 of 3 in the money at SAR including the impressive CCA Oaks.  A candidate to single in my exotics.

Catch My Drift and Size both make SAR debuts today;  Catch My Drift, trained by Chad Brown, is a 2 for 2 Pioneerof the Nile daughter with Joe Bravo up.  Brown/Bravo combine for 39% wins on 23 starts.

 Size, trained by Bill Mott, rallied to win the Iowa Oaks in late June and she's been training sharply at SAR for a few weeks now.

Unbridled Forever gave Stopchargingmaria chase in CCA Oaks, and was second best of the bunch, but I'm not expecting much better today.  Miss Besilu posts bullets regularly but is winless since a February Optional Claimer.

Got Lucky and Fortune Pearl would not be enormous surprises to hit the exotic tickets.  I'm tossing Flay's America and Joint Return at my own peril.

The track should be fast and the weather good.

At Del Mar, we get the Grade 1 1 1/8 turf Del Mar Oaks.  Cutting back is Sea Queen for Christophe Clement with Bejarano up.  5 of 6 in the money on Turf with 3 wins, 2 of 2 at this distance, and trying Del Mar for the first time.  How she'll handle the firmness is my only question.  I'm got Sea Queen on equal footing with Tepin and Istanford. Tepin is winless on Turf, winless at the distance, winless at Del Mar but was a willing Place in the 1 mile San Clement Handicap in mid July here, won by Istanford.  Istanford has 5 wins in 8 turf starts but none at the distance and may start to fade after a mile.

Casse's other runner after Tepin is My Conquestadory; A talented 2 YO, I think this girl could be ready to step forward.

Tom Proctor's Famous Alice is coming back after freshening since late June.  His other runner Diversity Harbor is fresh, just not that interesting.  A couple of first North American/first time Lasix runners enter the gate with D'Amato's Odisseia (Ire) and Maibaby (Ire).  Eh, I'm skeptical of both.

What I do with these races I'm still not sure;  I think I'll stick close to these base handicaps and develop some Tri's or Super's and see if a bet is worth making based on tote board values.

I've enjoyed sharing my thoughts today, which is how I always feel after coming back after a break.
Have fun friends, Turk Out!