Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Nomination Is In: The G1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs under the lights

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Welcome Friends to the Turk and the Little Turk Blog.  The Turk has taken a handicappers holiday for most of 2018 while he was finishing up a Master's Degree in Finance.  The course work has mostly been used to analyze my poor betting capital allocations, but I'm back, and happily this first blog post back is for The Thorofan and the Handicapper's Corner.  Good People, Good Organization and hopefully good returns on investment.

The Turk has been a horse racing fan since Seattle Slew's Triple Crown run of 1977 when I was eleven years old.  Like many boy's my age, Sports Illustrated and ABC's Wide World of Sports were my windows into the sporting world, and horse racing was still a high profile major sport.  It's been great to see the excitement Justify and American Pharoah have brought to the sport, a sport that desperately needs more good marketing.  Churchill Downs night time racing is something I enjoy very much and while I know this 51 year old isn't exactly a demographic priority, I appreciate Saturday night racing and wagering and wish there was more quality nights like this in the summer.  

Let's get after this!

The weather on Friday and Saturday looks pretty dry, so let's assume a fast dry track.

Backyard Heaven, a lightly raced 4 YO Tizway colt, trained by Chad Brown, looked awfully impressive in dispatching Always Dreaming and a good field in the Grade 2 Alysheba here at CD on Kentucky Derby Day.  He's got excellent tactical speed and I'm singling him, keying all my thoughts on his continued brilliance.  You have to wonder what this win would mean and how Trainer Brown would point him afterwards, with the Breeders' Cup looming at Churchill Downs in five months. 

He is facing a deep and talented field: Churchill local Honorable Duty breaks from the 1 gate and will need his early speed to gain position.  The 6 YO gelded son of Distorted Humor is 6 of 8 in the money at CD and 9 of 11 in the money over fast dirt.  Trainer Brendan Walsh and rider Lanerie are clipping along at a 30% win rate with 46 mounts this year.   Place in last years edition of this race.

Irish War Cry, 4 YO Curlin, comes in off a driving win in the Pimlico Special in the slop where he has a 421 Tomlinson. It was his first win six starts after his Wood Memorial.   I'm not sold.  

Pavel, the 4 YO enigmatic Creative Cause, campaigned by the Reddam Team of Doug O'Neill with Gutierrez up, is too talented to overlook.  A well beaten fourth in Dubai in March followed by a well beaten fourth in the Gold Cup G1 at Santa Anita three weeks ago, breaking at the top of the stretch under the pressure of fast fractions.  The distance and class cutback won't hurt but I need to see more consistency before considering him to win races.  

Looking at Lee, who's arguable best performance was a lagging Place to Always Dreaming in last year's Kentucky Derby, comes in off his first win, a 62K OC N2X class drop.  I grouped him with a couple of 8 YO geldings, Hawaakom and Matrooh.  They are both hard knocking veterans who can easily be in the money, especially Hawaakom with his very late speed.  

Pletcher's uncoupled Uncle Mojo and fan favorite Patch round out the field and I've tossed them both from contention at my own risk.  

So what to do with this?  As I said, I see Backyard Heaven as a heavy favorite and I'm singling him on all my tickets.

Exacta:  $2 Bet 6 OVER 1-3-5  for $6.   I'd expect the 1-3-5 will all be >6-1 and should easily return my opportunity cost.  

Trifecta:  $2 Bet  6 OVER 1-3-8-9 OVER 1-3-5-7-8-9 for $40.  Dropping the 7 altogether takes the bet to $32.

Good news:  The handicapping holiday refreshed both me and my love of the game.  The bad news:  I'm a bit rusty, so no betting the mortgage on my ramblings.

Good luck, Turk out!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Nomination Is In: The Hal's Hope Grade 3 at Gulfstream Park

Out of the Handicapper Hibernation
Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk Blog, now in our tenth year of providing free handicapping to people who never asked for it.  Before I start to blather, I'd like to thank the good folks at The Thorofan and the The Thorofan Handicappers Corner for welcoming me today as guest handicapper.

What's with the bear?  I like to take a siesta from handicapping every year, usually just after the Clark Handicap when Churchill's late year season is wrapping up.  This past year I shut it down right after the Breeders' Cup.  I have always found these extended handicapper holiday's helpful to me to clear my mind and reset.  I haven't a clue who's on the Kentucky Derby trail, didn't pay any attention to the Pegasus World Cup, nothing, no racing, no handicapping, no blogging.  I do indeed feel fresh and ready to get back after it.  I'm not much of a young 3 YO gambler, I prefer the handicap division with older horses and today's Hal's Hope, 1 Mile over Dirt for 4 Year Olds and Up fills the bill.

Let's get after it!

This is obviously not peak racing season. This is a time of the year where trainers are just shaking the farm rest out of the their handicap division, while others, the journeyman horses, are just running and can only dream about a long romp in a pasture.  My ROI in early season is so-so, especially when I try to get fancy.  I will not be getting fancy here.

The weather may be wet Saturday and it bears watching.  You can find the scratches and changes and track conditions by following this link.  The Gulfstream website was clearly not set up for horseplayers, it is a messy jumble.

I don't see this race as very complex:  There is a clear line of quality runners that are on the outskirts, but in the Grade 1 conversation, and then a few that barely belong in graded stakes competition.  

As my chart shows, I think you can throw a blanket over the likelihood that Malagacy, Send It In or Economic Model can win.  While the odds are similar, I do however like them in the order I listed.

Malagacy had a long break after leaving the Derby Trail in April last year. This is his second off the long break, something Pletcher wins 17% of the time. He'll be very early speed and it's just a question if he can carry.  

Send It In is off a break since last April and this is his first start, something Pletcher is actually 33% good at  in 87 tries.  The six year old Big Brown New York Bred is 14 of 15 on Fast Dirt in the money.  Expect him on the ticket.

Trainer Chad Brown brings the inconsistent 5 YO Economic Model in off a long layoff since October, something Brown wins 28% of the time on 160 tries.  It's really staggering Brown's stat's by the way:  30% winner on 202 tries Won Last Start, 26% of Routes on 652 tries.  

Just below that top group is Irish War Cry, Derby Trail darling on the shelf since a dull PA Derby in September.  Motion is a deliberate trainer, but this is his backyard and I think this is just a tune up with low expectations other than a good run. I need to see something first, but class alone makes him dangerous from Place down.  

Trainer Donna Green has no wins in 4 tries at Graded Stakes in past year and her runner Conquest Big E will be big early pace but should falter to better runners late.  Should.  Show or 4th not unreasonable if hunting value.

The gelded Street Sense 5 YO, Tower of Texas goes on a Turf to Dirt switch for Roger Attfield which feels like an unsure test.  Where he finishes, your guess is as good as mine.

As I said, nothing fancy for me this time of year.  I'll be looking at Exacta's built off my base handicap and I'll use the Tote Board to help me build a bet worth betting.  I'm thinking no more than 5 separate $2 combinations for $10 total and all of them with a 4-1 or better Tote Board Post Time odds on top.  

Have fun with the races friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Nomination Is In: The Breeders' Cup Turf

Highland Reel (Ire)- Jesse Caris, Eclipse Sportswire

Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog.  Friends, I'm a handicapper and gambler first and blogger second, and its days like today when I'm handicapping a lot of races with a bunch of racetrack capital in play that the needle moves more towards degenerate and less towards writer.  I wanted to at least blog my full thoughts about one race before I get lost in the gambling action and I choose one of the harder mysteries for players, the G1 Breeders' Cup Turf.  What makes it hard?  Usually a very big field of outstanding Euro invaders along with the best in the division from North America.  It's complicated by Euros that mostly run on softer ground, speed figs that don't align Beyer's and pace projections that can be challenging to predict.  I find the complexity of the issues the fun part and armed with two sets of Past Performances, a US Timeform and a DRF Formulator, I try to tackle this one head on.  Let's get it on!

I'm looking to the best from North America this year, Beach Patrol, as my chalk.  Chad Brown has Rosario up again (29% winners) and they have won two straight, including last time out Belmont Turf Classic G1 and the Arlington Million G1 before that.  I love the 4 YO's drive and acceleration.

I see little difference in my next group.  Ulysses (Ire) is a very classy 4 YO Galileo (Ire) son with impressive Sir Michael Stoute training and Dettori, up.  I expect he will be the chalk:  6 of 6 in the money in 2017 with $2.2 MM in earnings.  His Juddmonte International G1 win in late August was impressive.

Hunt (Ire) I have more forward that I possibly should have him but I love his two summer 2017 Del Mar Grade 2 wins.  No, he didn't really beat anyone in either win.  I did like Itsinthe post (Fr) in the Del Mar Handicap.

Highland Reel (Ire) and Oscar Performance make up my next grouping.  Highland Reel (Ire) is the defending champ for Trainer Aidan O'Brien, and his last strong performance was Prince of Wales Stakes G1 in June.

Oscar Performance is 4 of 6 in the money in 2017 with $1.1 MM in earnings.  6 wins in 10 turf starts but winless at the distance in only 1 try.  I don't like 3 YO's in this spot.

Fanciful Angel and Sadler's Joy have nice late turns of foot and should be moving forward near the end of the race.  Decorated Knight and Bigger Picture round out my contenders to hit the board.

Have fun with it friends.  Good luck with the gambling.

Turk Out!

I'd be remiss to not remember George Washington, who died at the end of the Breeders' Cup Classic 10 years ago. Gorgeous George was one of my all time favorites and it bothered me to see him brought out of retirement and then run over that sloppy course.  He deserved better.  Rest in Peace George.

George Washington as I want to remember him

Monday, October 23, 2017

Post Race Analysis of the Maryland Million Classic

Bonus Points

Welcome Friends to The Turk and The Little Turk Blog.

This past weekend's handicap of the Maryland Million Classic was pretty spot on and produced $695.80 on Trifecta and Exacta wins and unfortunately I left a very winable $627.50 Superfecta in the register.

As I said pre race, I mostly assembled value exactas around my base handicap, focusing on Ghost Bay, Clubman or Southside Warrior for value and Bonus Points taking the wire late.

It was a good read of the field on my part, especially when I announced I was very confused, mostly because of my first attempt to handicap using Timeform US PP's.  I will admit I am intrigued by them, but I was very out of my comfort zone and ended up buying a DRF Formulator PP as well.  I guess I jacked up the takeout from my own pocket buying two PPs for one race!

Pace/Class/Current Form.  That was the decoder ring for this race.

This was a nice handicapping day that provided my mind lots of good race puzzles to solve.  I've been on a gambling sabbatical since mid September so the reawakening of my red pen was planned and now it's onto the Breeders' Cup!

Turk Out.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Nomination Is In: The Maryland Million Classic $125K

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk Blog, a race handicapping and gambling venture now in our 9th year with well over 600 blog postings to our credit.  I'd like to thank the good people of The Thorofan for allowing me to share my thoughts on the Maryland Million Classic, a $125,000 Stakes race restricted to horses sired by a Maryland standing stud.

That dapper gentleman pictured is Jim McKay, a legendary broadcaster,  horse racing owner and fan.  Mr. McKay was inspired by the first Breeders' Cup to hold an event similar in Maryland focusing on Maryland's breeding.  It's hard for me to believe (maybe accept) that Jim McKay has been gone from us since 2008.  He was a big part of my childhood, a voice that was calming, passionate, credible and likable.  It was a different era in sports, perhaps a more naive era, arguably a more enjoyable time, when sports were a release, a purer pleasure.  A time when boxing and horse racing were still relevant.  The Turk digresses, but at 50 something I think I have enough depth of perspective to say that the commercialization of sports, the politicization of sports, the marginalization of horse racing, have all left me waxing poetic for a bygone time, when men like Jim McKay came into our house to educate, inform and inspire us.

I've been handicapping for a long time.  I took red pen to the Form for the first time in 1986, 31 years ago.  I've been using DRF Formulator PPs for the past several years but today's race was the first race I've handicapped using Timeform US PPs.  Working with both pieces of information was overwhelming in many ways, perhaps information overload best describes it.  I still lack a feel for the speedfigs and the pace adjusted speedfigs of Timeform, but as an information handicapper I was quite impressed.  I also liked how I could add notes to each runner, as well as identify where I thought each horse might slot, win-place-show-toss.  I'm using the next few months to experiment with tools like Timeform US and Thorograph.  I'm a life long learner, and while I have a very comfortable comfort zone with DRF products,  I'm committed to looking at my methods and tools as I take my craft to the next level.

My craft?  I don't have a clue about today's race.  Maybe it was the PP info overload, maybe it's the parity of class and quality in the 12 horse field, but I am not afraid to say I'm a bit stumped.  Let's get after this and maybe through typing clarity will grace my thoughts.

Right off the bat I liked how the first quarter pacing was laid out for me before I even had to dive into the PPs.  You can also see in the screen capture "My Picks" which saved me scribbling them out later.

I'm backing a closer, Bonus Points, to win.  The 3 YO Pletcher trainee has been running in graded stakes company all year, hitting the board three times in 8 starts.  I think he will have plenty of speed to target and the one I think he'll be taking late is John Jones. Making a turf to Dirt switch, the 5 YO gelding has 7 wins in 13 Laurel Park starts and is a pretty consistent effort horse.

I think the more interesting group of horses are my next three: Ghost Bay, Clubman and Southside Warrior.  I think I could have made a good case for any of them to win-place.  Ghost Bay is another deep closer whereas Clubman and Southside Warrior should be racing mid-pack and steady.  Southside Warrior has declining Beyer Speed Figures over past three races (90/84/75) and while the pace adjusted figs illustrated the same decline, it did not appear as severe.  I'm intrigued at the price.  Clubman put up a 5f bullet :59 3/5ths on October 13 and has raced well at Laurel, 6 of 8 in the money and 7 of 9 in the money over fast dirt for the 3 YO.

Admirals War Chest and Jerandson round out my potential board hitters.  Admirals War Chest will go to the front, but I'm gambling the 6 YO wont be able to stay there and there are some quality closers entered.  The two time champ will get sentimental betting interest but I'm dubious.

Jerandson goes blinkers off for Trainer Pletcher (24% wins on 34 blinker off races) but the three year old so far hasn't flashed much speed.  I think a very minor prize, if anything.

I think I'll be looking to build Exacta Combinations using some of the longer prices on the board and in my handicap.  The weather should be good with no rain so we should assume a fast track.  I'm going to use some combinations of 5-2-11-9-12-1-3.  I won't box: That's a $1 Exacta for $42.  I'll use the toteboard and piece together no more than 8-10 $2 bets for $20 of betting interest with Ghost Bay-Clubman and Southside Warrior mixed with others from the group.

Have fun with it friends and enjoy the Maryland Racing Showcase.

Turk Out!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy 9th Birthday Turk and the Little Turk

Happy 9th Birthday to The Turk and the Little Turk Blog. 

September 2008 was a long time ago.  Long read personal blogs, as an expression of individual thought, were at a peak while mediums like Facebook and Twitter were still in their infancy.  The Turk was born during a rain delay on a business trip through Chicago.  Inspired by established blogs, we wrote our first post and tried to find our way.  What is our way?

The Turk and the Little Turk is a niche blog that handicaps horse races and occasionally picks winners. period. We don't have witty commentary, we aren't a must read, most mainstream turf writers ignore us, and we don't honestly make much of an effort to be social and network.  We handicap races and we try not to be smug jerks while cashing tickets and stacking dollars.  To the 2,000 or so page viewers per month that visit this blog, we thank you. 

What can you expect into our 10th year?  More of the same.  Handicapping, more video analysis and bet construction using fair money lines.  If you find that interesting to read, I hope to hear from you in comments here or on Twitter.  The Turk appreciates the friends he has developed over the years even if he is too socially stunted and time limited to do normal friend stuff, you know, like talk. 

Thank you for reading!

The Turk

The Nomination Is In: The Kelso Handicap G2 at Belmont

Sharp Azteca- Jessie Holmes/Equisport Photos
Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk.  I'd like to begin by thanking The Thorofan and the Handicapper's Corner for allowing me to share my thoughts with you today about Saturday's Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park.  I  appreciate my new readers and the rabid pack of hardcore degenerates that read my work regularly.

The Kelso will be a six horse affair.

Keep your eye on the scratches and changes as well as the track condition at this linkWeather does not seem to be an issue and I would expect the track to be fast.

At first take I think the heavy chalk will be Sharp Azteca (pictured above).  Trained by Jorge Navaro with Paco Lopez up, this classy 4 YO Kentucky Bred Freud will become a millionaire the next time he hits the board, is 11 of 13 in the money lifetime, 6 of 6 in the money with 4 wins at the distance and has 9 Win-Place finishes in 11 starts on fast dirt.  Well rested and training very sharply since winning the Monmouth Cup G3 at 1 1/16 Miles by 7+ lengths it's concievable he draws off and no one catches him.

I started fast and jumped ahead.  Let's take a step back and look at some of the other runners.

Let's Get after this!

The Forego G1: 7f  on Fast Dirt at SAR  26 August

Four runners exit The Forego who chased DrefongRoss(Ire) was a non factor in the The Forego and I see no reason to make him a factor here.  Tom's Ready really came at the end and Divining Rod was gobbled up at the wire.

The Polynesian $74K: 7F on sealed slop at LRL on 12 August

Divining Rod over off track. Eh.

Monmouth Cup G3: 1 1/16 Miles on Fast Dirt at MTH 30 July

Sharp Azteca in a romp.  Not sure how I feel about the field but he fired well off The Met Mile.

The Vanderbilt G1: 6F on Fast Dirt at SAR 29 July

Bird Song.  Have to go back to early year efforts at Gulfstream to envision a win.

Belmont Sprint G2: 7F on fast Dirt at BEL on 8 July

Tommy Macho- No match for Mind Your Biscuits.

Met Mile G1:  1 Mile Fast Dirt at BEL on 10 June 2017

Tom's Ready, Tommy Macho and Sharp Azteca.  I liked Tommy Macho's chase more than anything in this race.  No shame for Sharp Azteca on this day.

What's it all add up to?

Sharp Azteca seemingly has the angles and has picked the right spot and avoided the right competition to add a win to his already impressive credentials.  While anything can happen on any day (blah blah blah ....fill in the blank CYA handicapper stuff) I'm going to single Sharp Azteca in my base handicap and look for a vertical betting opportunity if it presents itself, otherwise I'll stick to the horizontal Pick 3 that has potential with Race 7 a 12 horse field MSW $75K and Race 8 a 12 horse field N1X $90K.

The morning line placed Divining Rod second at 2-1 but I like Tommy Macho here.  The Pompa runner for Trainer Pletcher is 5 of 6 imn the money at Belmont, 5 of 6 at the distance, fired off a 105 career Beyer this calendar year, set a 101 in a good chase of the front running Mor Spirit and Sharp Azteca in the Met Mile, and I don't think the differences in current form justify the spread in values between Tommy Macho and Divining Rod.  So what of Diving Rod? Two starts in 2017 including a lack luster Forego and a win over no one at Laurel Park over sealed slop.  I loved his game beat by head in the Cigar Mile but that was a year ago, the fourth effort in three month stretch and he built towards that.  I like the horse, respect the connections, but if looking for value, I'm, shading him into Show or Exotic on the ticket.

Tom's Ready can hit the board anywhere from Win to 4th.  Not overly fast, he does have tactical speed and a late turn of foot, but I think he'll be too far back to rally to Win, but rally onto the board not unrealistic.

Bird Song is a bit of a wild card.  He was no match at 6f  in The VanderbiltHe was no match to Tommy Macho in the Hal's Hope in early 2017.

Ross (Ire) seems to be entered in the wrong race.

If you're compelled to bet this race, and you feel like I do that Sharp Azteca will win, you could try this:

$1 Super:  5 OVER 2-4 OVER 2-4-1 OVER 1-2-6 for $7.  It's not a big commitment and avoids a big bet and poor risk/reward.

If you feel that Sharp Azteca is vulnerable, and let's be real, this is a Grade 2 and no one here is invulnerable then possibly try $1 Super: 5-2-4 OVER 5-2-4 OVER 1-2-4 OVER 1-2-6 for $16

OR....if you like high risk/high reward...

$1 Super:  2 Over 5-4 OVER 5-4-1 OVER 1-4-6 for $7.

I think that extinguishes my current thoughts on this edition of The Kelso. Whatever you do, have fun, keep the betting real, don't lie to yourself about your losses, and don't waste money on other people's thoughts.

Turk Out!