Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga

Squeeky likes Stephanie's Kitten and Kitten's Queen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

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

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

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

Let's get after it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what to do with this Turk?

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

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

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

$1 Tri Box:  1-4-7-8-14=$60

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

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

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

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

Turk Out!

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Stephen Foster Handicap Grade 1

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog, and this week's race of interest, The Stephen Foster Handicap.  Before I go to far, I'd like to thank the good people of The Thorofan for allowing this hack handicapper and wretched blogger the opportunity to write for its good members.

Poor Stephen Foster.  He wrote some of the most memorable songs in Americana, including Camptown Races, Old Susanna and My Old Kentucky home, yet he died penniless at age 37 after smashing his head into a chamber pot  as he passed out from a high fever.

We remember him each year for this race, and his songs are forever ingrained into people of my generation and before me, you know, when kids use to play outside and frolicked in the summer before electronics.

I like the Stephen Foster Handicap quite a bit and its a key handicap division match.  This edition of the race presents some real challenges to a handicapper and bettor.  In a relatively small field of seven, you could make a legitimate case for five to Win and the final two, and their long prices, take away from the betting opportunity a bit.  I think Lea will be the post time chalk and near even money with Commissioner and Hoppertunity hovering near 4 or 5 to 1.  If you are price hunting that leaves from my legitimate five two more runners, Noble Bird and Cat Burglar.  Noble Bird is intriguing to me while Cat Burglar coming off the Pimlico Special show I've relegated to Show or Fourth in this Crowd.

I expect it to be wet based on this weather forecast.  Keep your eye on track conditions as well as scratches, as if the field drops to six, especially if one of my tosses scratches, value starts to really get diluted.

Let's get after this!

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
PlaceNoble Bird/4A-
Also Ran'sCat Burgler/7B-
Majestic Harbor/6C-
Churchill Downs Race 8: Post Time 9:42 ETThe Stephen Foster Handicap G1
1 1/8 Miles on DirtFor 3 YO's and Up

I typically hate playing horses returning from Dubai, but Lea has been freshened and is training well. Trainer Mott is 15% off the layoff, the horse is 5 for 5 in the money on fast dirt, has a win in the wet stuff and is a versatile turf runner as well.  13 of 15 in the money lifetime for Lea and connections.

Commissioner should challenge for the Win.  Trainer Pletcher's 4 YO son of A.P. Indy has won two straight at a 1/16 longer than today and should be out there on the pace if he comes well from the gate and gets forward positioning.

I've slipped Noble Bird in fairly high on my handicap and he'll be equally high in my bet construction.  The 4 YO is not in the same class as the other top horses here but current form seems really good:  a close loss by a head in the Grade 2 Alysheba here at CD on Oaks Day, a nice run a KEE before that for a win. He may not like the extra route of dirt as he's more of a miler, but we'll see.  Expect anywhere from 8 to 12 to 1 odds, so I like the value in the Top 3.

Hoppertunity was my Derby horse last year before he scratched.  I liked his win here in the Clark Handicap last Thanksgiving but he hasn't really built far off of that.  I like Smith up today and his solid work at CD since early April for Trainer Baffert who is 22% of a layoff like this.

And finally Cat Burglar, Baffert's other runner here, who's a bit slow but steady.  I have him pegged from 2nd to 4th.

With five horses I think can finish in the Top 4 I'm thinking Trifecta/Superfecta with the only real question if I take a stand and single Lea for the Win.

Something like this:  a $2 Super of 2 OVER 4-1-5-7 OVER 4-1-5-7 OVER 4-1-5-7 is a $48 dollar bet.   It's alot of betting capital for a return that may be kinda eh.

A 2-1-4-5-7 $2 Tri Box would cost $120.  Eh.

A $2 Tri with 2 OVER 1-4-5-7 OVER 1-4-5-7 would cost $24 bucks.

I like the handicap, I'm not sure I like my bet ideas yet.  Have some fun with it friends, keep the gambling real and enjoy.

Don't forget to tune into NBC Saturday Night for the races.

Turk Out!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Belmont Stakes G1

American Pharoah: Photo by Mike Sekulic

Hello Friends and Welcome to the Final Triple Crown Edition of 2015.

While I believe in general we use words, adjectives, too liberally when describing the brilliance of horses, winning the first two legs of the Crown earns you respect, winning all three puts you in the Hall of Fame, remembered forever.

As we are an older fan base, for better or worse, most of us, including me,  have fond memories of Seattle Slew and Affirmed's Triple Crown years.  They were larger than life, and it seemed like the Country stopped for a few minutes to watch the race, and then celebrated the achievement like you would today a great Superbowl.  It was an era before the idea of a Hollywood Race Track being torn down could even be imagined and when Hialeah was treasured as the Saratoga of the South.  Today's race will be held in a facility that is not maintained properly and maybe 25% fewer people will be in attendance than would like too because its just not safe to have 130,000 in the building anymore.

I could lament these things about the sport, but the Old Turk isn't a "lamenter" nor do I pretend to have the answers to what ails our sport.  I'll leave that for real journalists and I'll continue to be the hack handicapper that I am.

Let's get it on!

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
WinAmerican Pharoah/5A+++
Also Ran'sMadefromlucky/3B-
Tale of Verve/2C
Keen Ice/7C
Belmont Park Race 11: Post Time 6:50 ETThe Belmont Stakes G1
1 1/2 Miles on DirtFor 3 YOs and Up

The field isn't that impressive and a bit small for this handicapper's liking.  On paper and on Big Sandy, American Pharoah has more class and appears poised to achieve true greatness.  As a horse racing fan, that's wonderful and everything, but I'm trying to make ROI here on my betting capital. What do I need?  With American Pharoah going into the gate at 3-5 or even worse, I'd like to see him valiantly fight, rally, and be passed by two longer prices at the wire.  

WinAmerican Pharoah/5American Pharoah/5American Pharoah/5
Also Ran'sMadefromlucky/3Madefromlucky/3Madefromlucky/3
Tale of Verve/2Tale of Verve/2Tale of Verve/2
Keen Ice/7Keen Ice/7Keen Ice/7
$2 Boxed Trifecta: 5-1-6-8-1-3= $120 $0.50 Version=$30
WinAmerican Pharoah/5American Pharoah/5American Pharoah/5
Also Ran'sMadefromlucky/3Madefromlucky/3Madefromlucky/3
Tale of Verve/2Tale of Verve/2Tale of Verve/2
Keen Ice/7Keen Ice/7Keen Ice/7
$2 Exacta Box: 5-6-8-1-3=$40
$2 Exacta Box: 6-8-1-3 OVER 5-6-8-1-3-2-7=$48
$2 Exacta Box 6-8-1-3 OVER 1-2-3-6-7-8= $40
I'm pegging American Pharoah winning at 40% and 70% in Win or Place.  

One approach could be to just single American Pharoah and then take the rest of the non-tossed field and fill in Exacta/Tri and Super bets.  A 5 with 1-3-6-8 Over 1-3-6-8 would cost $24.  I really don't see the point.

I think it may be worth a $40 flyer on my NON American Pharoah exacta bet:  6-8-1-3 OVER 6-8-1-3-7-8 for $40 Bucks or you could toss American Pharoah into the Place Spot and spend $48.

Tossing American Pharoah again out of the top two, you could go 6-8-1-3 and then in Place add in Keen Ice and Tale of Verve, leaving only Belmont kill joy, Nick Zito's Frammento, uncovered.  

Have some fun with it and Good Luck to American Pharoah and all of his connections.

Turk Out!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 2 Nassau on Turf at Woodbine

Clement: Photo by Nancy Rokos

Welcome friends to the Turk and the Little Turk.  It's nice to break away from the Triple Crown trail to handicap races where my real passion is, turf running.  A route of turf over a beautiful course really stirs the Turk's horse racing imagination.  With all due respect to mega trainers like Pletcher, et al, I most admire  the turf training maestros like a Johnathan Sheppard, John Gosden or Christophe Clement, pictured left.  The term Conditioner seems to have been created for him.

Woodbine's turf course is one of my favorites in North America, just behind Arlington.  Woodbine is far ahead of Arlington in generating stakes races and purses.  While I'm playing Arlington today, for a beautiful early season Saturday, the card should be much better than it is.  How a Saturday card, in what is a short race season at Arlington, cannot contain a single stakes race or have a purse over $25,000, is very concerning to me about the future of that track.

Anyway, that's a subject for someone who knows what they are talking about, a serious journalist or blogger, and not this idiot handicapper.

Let's get it on!

Woodbine Race 8: The Nassau Grade 8, 1 Mile on Turf

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
WinStellar Path (Fr)/4A+
PlaceDeceptive Vision/9A
Also Ran'sWinning Rhythm/12B
Sky Treasure/7B-
Strut the Course/1C++
Skylander Girl/2C
Copper Kitten/8C
Silent Star/10C
Woodbine Race 8: Post Time 4:45 ETThe Nassau G2
1 Mile on TurfFor F&M, 3 YOs and Up

I'm focused on faster handicapping.  I'm developing a better technique for when I am at the track and making a spot play, looking at Past Performances for the first time seconds after one race ends and with only enough time to quickly review and get to the windows.  I've become to accustomed to sitting at the table in dead silence, with my charts and graphs, and taking tons of time to assemble complex exotic bets.  At the track, I toss all that in the garbage for a few spot plays here and there.

I'm typically not a fan of betting any race I haven't put alot of preparation into, but what the heck, I'm letting my hair down (metaphysically speaking that is!)

Stellar Path and Deceptive Vision were the top horses coming out of my cursory review.  Stellar Path is a versatile 4 YO, 10 of 14 in the money, 7 of 10 in the money at the distance, and coming in off a less than firm turf win.  Deceptive Vision comes in off a win at KEE on the dirt, a switch Pierce wins 50% of the time, albeit on 4 tries.  Husbands up.

A group of four horses made it into my exotic pool.  I say exotic loosely, as I'm looking at Exacta primarily, maybe Tri, maybe not. Resistivity, a Mark Casse trainee, has been training sharply and looks ready to step up in class.  Expect a great price.  Overheard, 10 of 11 in the money on turf and 3 of 3 at WO, has been training up since an early April fourth at KEE.  Winning Rhythm I think would like more distance, has only 1 win in 6 at this distance, none at WO, and is 0 of 3 in 2015.  Sid Attard first time with trainer stats 9% on 22 tries.  Sky Treasure I expect will be on ticket anywhere but first.  Casse's mare spent the Winter at SA.

Simple Exacta: $2 Bet  4, 9 OVER 4,9 3,7,11,12 for $20

Simple Triactor ($0.20 bet available) $2 Bet 4, 9 OVER 4,9,3,7,11,12 OVER 4,9,3,7,11,12 is $80.

I doubt I care that much so we will try to thin that down to something liker this:  $2 Bet 4,9 over 4,9 11,3,12 over 9,11,3,12,7 for $58.

Have fun friends!

Turk Out

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 3 Pimlico Special on Black Eyed Susan Day

Page McKenney in Purple with Silver Diamonds

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk on Black Eyed Susan Day. I'd like to thank the good people at The Thorofan for giving me the opportunity to handicap for you today's Pimlico Special, a Grade 3, 1 3/16 mile affair on the dirt for 3 Year Olds and Up.  To the left is Page McKenney, a local trained by Mary Eppler, a closer whose in the deep end of the pool class wise and will have to be at his very best to hit the ticket today.  We are gambling after all, so let's take a look at this field and see what we are working with.

Let's get it (our preak) on!  By the way, thanks to Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club, for use of the photo.

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
PlacePage McKenney/5B-
ExoticTop Billing/8B-
Also Ran'sCat Burglar/9B
Kid Cruz/6D
Pimlico Race 14: Post Time 6:21 ETPimlico Special G3
1 3/16 Miles on Dirt For 3 YOs and Up

It's hard not to like the Evil Empire's   Todd Pletcher's Commissioner.  His last four races back to the Belmont Stakes last year, he has sat right on the pace, within 2 lengths of the lead at first call, and you should expect that today.  Purely on class, the son of A.P. Indy seems to be the package, but don't get carried away by any hype.  He laid an egg in the Donn Handicap, was barely Show in an Optional Claimer one race and one month before that, and then he went unraced after the Belmont.  I think you'd be foolish to not cover him in the top spot, but let's hope that he cracks and one of the closers gets him, as there is money to be made in this race if that happens.

The closer bench got a bit shorter with the scratch of Tapiture, offset by the scratch of pace setter Albano. Still, closers like Page McKenney and Top Billing still provide a horse player some hope as both will go off >10-1 I reckon.

Page McKenney is my top upset pick.  Remember, most longer odds finish in Place, not Win, but let's suspend analytics for a moment and get caught up in how cool it would be for a local to win here.  The sport always needs a feel good story and the horse lover in my is a sucker for that stuff.  The cold horse player in me still likes what I see: deep closes in last three races, 23 of 34 in the money lifetime, 12 of 15 life time in the money on fast dirt and the local edge.

Returning to probabilities, Transparent and Cat Burglar loom as threats from a 4-1 to 6-1 range of value.   The Florida bred Transparent is a big fat tease in my book.  4 of 16 wins to starts, 4 of 13 wins to starts on fast dirt, some hideous Grade 1 starts, but some pretty sharp current form for McLaughlin's Godolphin 5 YO Bernadini son.  If he's not on the pace, he's most likely not winning, unless this dog learns new tricks late in his career.

Top Billing, son of Curlin, has an unaccomplished 6 race career so far.  His last race was a deep close and he trained sharply at 4f in :48 flat last time out over BEL.  Don't ignore.

Cat Burglar is criminally low in my handicap but you have to take positions and live with it.  Baffert is shipping in the 5 YO Unbridled son with 9 career starts, 8 of 9 in the money, 8 of 9 in the money on fast dirt, and a lack luster first effort of 2015, although Baffert is 24% on 29 tries in the 2nd effort off a long layoff.  He's put some nice bullets up lately, the most impressive :47 2/5ths in 4F at CD.

Vyjack is an on the pace runner who has cracked more than he's gamely rallied.  He won the G1 Kelso last year in September and not much since.  Handicapping is about current form, pace, class and little else and I don't see it here.

So what to make of this?

I could go easy and play some exacta's:  a 2-5-8-9-10 $2 Box is $40 bucks.  Great if someone other than Commissioner wins, not so great otherwise.

I may play a few Tri's:  Something like this: 5-10 OVER 2-5-8-9-10 OVER 2-5-8-9-10 a $2 bet for $48 or 5-8-10 OVER 2-5-8-9-10 OVER 2-5-8-9-10 a $2 bet for $72.

Have some fun with it friends, I think that this race, as long as it stays at 8 horses, should provide some value.

Turk Out!