Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Post Race Analysis for Race Day 12 April 2014: The Oaklawn Handicap and the Arkansas Derby

Danza; That Just Happened!  Photo courtesy of AP

As I said in my pre-race handicap, I saw little upside in betting either of these races, and based on my handicap I was correct.  I'd like to delude myself that post race analysis can always make sense of the chaos, but nothing in hindsight could have or would have had me handicap Danza higher than I had him, which I had him 8th and the bettor's had him 7th.

What do I think of the results of the Arkansas Derby?  I'm not sure what to make of it really.  The video is below, draw your own conclusions, they are just as good as this idiot internet handicapper's.

As for Will Take Charge? Bettor's top choice for good reason, but I really liked Revolutionary's late run as something to build on.

Sometimes there is no answer to the Chaos, but in this case, there were warning signs to avoid a bad bet, and at least in that case, the best bet I made last weekend was avoiding both of these races.

Turk Out!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Oaklawn Handicap and the Arkansas Derby

Will Take Charge (Photo Courtesy of Oaklawn Park)
The Derby Trail! One of the most exciting and agonizing things I do as a handicapper is try to sort out young horses without much of a history. I found a secret years ago that if I ignore most of what is written about the runners and just focus on the fundamentals I see on video and past performances and just play em' as I see em'. Most of the time I think I'm seeing them with dirt covered goggles. Today's Oaklawn Handicap is where I traditionally find solace, with older horses, with more established records. I find sanity on the paper, sense of things, order in the universe. I said usually. The Oaklawn Handicap is a bit of a mystery to me, with a heavy stench of chalk and so-so betting prospects. Anyways, I won't get too far ahead of myself, I'll build the base handicap and see what my betting strategy will look like.

Let's get it on!

The weather looks like it will be dry.  You can find the scratches and changes here.

A seven horse field enters the gate in the Oaklawn Handicap. My first two passes tell me there is only one true toss out, the five year old gelded son of Political Force, Right to Vote.

Will Take Charge is very, very hard to ignore. 7 straight 100+ Beyers, a :35 and change 3F work bullet 4 days ago, 10 of 14 in the money on fast dirt, 4 of 4 in the money at the distance, 2 wins in 3 starts at OP. Saez, battery free, is Up for Trainer Lukas.

If Will Take Charge can be bettered, I'm backing Golden Lad. He's got a nice off the pace run style and has Gary Stevens up today, a very capable tactical pilot. The 4 YO Medaglia d' Oro son is undefeated in his 4th season, with a win at both Gulfstream and Oaklawn.

Revolutionary is Pletcher's main threat here but I see him taking a back seat in this one to Golden Lad. Comes in off a very flat Donn Handicap in February. Working regular if not that dynamically.  I like both Carve and Moreno to best the Louisiana Derby winner.

Carve is a very deep closer.  He'll be coming at the wire, not going, and that should put him in the top four.  Moreno is an interesting runner: First start at OP, no wins at distance, only 1 win in 10 fast dirt starts, 2 wins in 15 starts.  That said, he strung 4 straight 100+ Beyers together last season before going to the farm after a dud Breeders' Cup Classic.

Prayers For Relief, a recent transfer out of Asmussen's barn, is a hard knocking 6 YO who could hit the exotics and I'm leaning towards putting him outside the circle of trust today.

I'm not sure if I have a betting interest in this race;  I'll be watching the tote to see what the bettors think of Golden Lad, who I'd like at 6-1 or better.  I'm not sure this race is worth an exotic bet investment.

I can't say I'm excited about betting the Arkansas Derby either.  I hate to do it, but Bayern seems to be the best, although I hate rewarding a lightly race colt with chalk.  I love the consistent work since the foot bruise.
Tapiture and Strong Mandate will both attract lots of betting cash. Tapiture looks very strong , and he won the Southwest and dueled gamely to Hoppertunity to Place in the Rebel.  I've liked Conquest Titan, Mark Casse's Birdstone runner all winter, but he needs to put up today or shutdown and head to the Belmont.

I think I'm a horse racing fan for these races and not a race track investment specialist.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Post Race Analysis for Raceday 5 April 2014: The Wood Memorial, Carter Handicap and Santa Anita Derby

Hold all Tickets
We've all been at the track and torn up our tickets in disgust after our bets went awry. It's such a visceral thing to dispose of the physical evidence of our missteps. Speaking for myself only, I have race track superstitions and I don't like the losing tickets to be in my pockets or even at my feet as they personify failure. That said, there is always something to be learned from your bets as well as the handicaps. Today I'm just focused on how well my base handicap was.

I had a strong Wood Memorial handicap with the exception of Wicked Strong. Yes, that's loser talk, but the fact is I had four of top five and I had Harpoon and Wicked Strong flip flopped. I expected Harpoon to fire and he never did and I'm not sure I would have ever put Wicked Strong in the win spot based on his Past Performances. I should possibly have respected Jerkens more, knowing he would not have put the horse in that spot without a reason. It's a gray area for me, more guessing than handicapping, but I lost and I'll add to my files and look for the pattern to repeat in the future as these trainer tendencies also repeat. I will say I am very excited anytime a Hard Spun does well, and check out the stride over the last 1/16 of a mile. His father was one tough SOB, we'll see what he's made of. Social Inclusion? good horse, but great, I don't think so. I am impressed by Samraat: gutty and tough, perhaps not a classic distance guy but he will win races. Pretty cool to have a few good 3 YO New York Breds right now.

My Carter Handicap was eh: I would not have picked Dads Cap. I was high on Sahara Sky, not all all interested in the chalk, Clearly Now. I loved Sahara Sky's chase but he needed another panel and there were only 7. I expected lots more from Central Banker too. This info gets filed away for next time out thoughts.

The Santa Anita Derby was California Chrome's shining moment. I liked Hoppertunity, still do, and I'm not sure what to make of Candy Boy yet. The rest of the field was pitiful and the bettors knew it.

Wood Memorial G1

Carter Handicap G1

Santa Anita Derby G1

and while not blogged, the Princess returned....

Cat Clay

Anyways, have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Carter Handicap Grade 1 Spectacular

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, I am the Turk and today I offer up a trifecta of Grade One races for you: The Wood Memorial, The Carter Handicap and the Santa Anita Derby. I've been to past editions of these races and I'm here to testify there is nothing more exciting to this horse fan than being at the track for a Grade One showdown. We have showdown galore here with the Three Year old races while the Carter features mostly new entrants into the handicap division squaring off against grey beards like 7 year old Strapping Groom and 6 year old Sahara Sky. I'm a little delayed translating my handicapping thoughts into a blog post as the Little Turk, a second degree black belt, was demonstrating his kick ass form today:  Let's see what sort of form my red pen is in.  Let's get it on!

Where do we start: The tape is always a good idea to get a feel for the size of the animal, how game he was and to help fill in the story you translate from race charts and past performances.

The Gotham G3: Harpoon, Samraat and Uncle Sigh 

GP Alw $61,000 12 March 2014: Social Inclusion and the respected by lightly raced Honor Code.

The Jerome Grade 2: Noble Moon

The San Felipe G2: California Chrome and Schoolofhardrocks

The Rebel G2: Hoppertunity going tough in Arkansas.

RB Lewis Grade 2: Candy Boy

Malibu G1: Central Banker

King's Bishop Grade 1: Central Banker

Gulfstream Park Handicap Grade 2: Golden Ticket

Tom Fool Handicap Grade 3: Strapping Groom, Saturday's Charm and Dads Cap

San Carlos Grade 2: Sahara Sky

That was exhausting, but needed! I  try to do my homework on these stakes runners, and while I fancy myself a good handicapper, you always have to work at the craft.  Lazy handicapping is bad handicapping, and I work to hard earning money to foolishly invest in poor work.

I'm building medium priced superfectas for all three.  I think all three are a bit chalky so as I sit here a few hours before race time, I think I'll let my base handicaps speak for themselves and I'll mull over my bet matrices right up until post parade.  Make sure you pay attention to the track conditions and scratches and changes.  NYRA's website is very good for easy access to info, Santa Anita's website is OK, they make you hunt a bit more for the info.

Follow me on Twitter at @turkandlilturk

Turk Out!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Sunland Derby Grade 3

Today's Sunland Derby offers us a choice between Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert runners, each with two quality starters in the gate to go along with five Also Rans, at least on paper. Isn't that the beauty of handicapping, finding the on paper Also Ran and making a case for him to win or be somewhere on your exotic ticket. Often these lesser thought can sneak onto the ticket from Place to Fifth (yes there is a Super Hi Five Option today) while the more thought of animals take their place in the winners circle. To me, I'm OK with putting on my ticket heavy chalk if I can make a case for longer odds hitting my ticket in the runner up spots. I'm not sure I can do that today but let's take a look.

At first blush I think there will be a sizzling opening quarter time, perhaps :23 even.  Lots of these horses will go fast early, like Garen from the two spot and Tanzanite Cat from the five.  Pletcher's  two, Commissioner and Global Strike, aren't bashful about going fast early but if Commissioner wants to win he'll need to have John V slow him down and come off the pace.  Blinkers on for Commissioner, he has a chance to be a complete bust here as well.  Baffert's two, Midnight Hawk and Chitu leave California for the first time.  Midnight Hawk, with Mike Smith up, is a good but not yet great colt who will contest the pace and will be somewhere in the top four I reckon.  Chitu breaks from the far outside and is making his first start since early February, a rest Baffert wins off of 24% of the time.

Looking for value, I'm considering Global Strike in the win spot.  I think he'll attract the least betting action of the Pletcher/Baffert big four.  His effort on turf tells me he can fire off the pace late while he hasn't shown it on dirt yet.  Castellano is up and Pletcher and he win 32% of the time, a better percentage than what you might think with Pletcher and John Velazquez at 28%.

I'm not sure I'm an investor in this race.  I'm unsure of the pace and how it will be contested, and I don't have a strong enough opinion either way.  I'm afraid I'll just be an observer.

If I were to bet I think I'd follow my base handicap and go with a $1 Trifecta 4-9 OVER 4-7-3-9 OVER 4-7-3-9-6 for $40. I'm not sure I like that but something along those lines.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wireplayers Derby Dozen Poll, the Spiral Stakes dartboard and Remembering Ami

Friends, the Derby Preps have revealed almost everything and nearly nothing over the past few months. I feel like white is black and black is white when I try to analyze who will be in the top five 49 days from now in the Kentucky Derby. As always, the Superfecta and Super High Five will be my betting drugs de jour and right now I just don't seem to have much insight. I will say I close my eyes and I see four horses jostling and competing their way up the stretch in The Rebel and I think to myself, "....this is what a prep is supposed to be like: similar surface, contested not by front running speed but by gutty off the pace guys."

The Wire Players Derby Dozen Poll number 3 is out and Cairo Prince remains on top.

Hopportunity jumped into our Poll at #6. I have the feeling the Derby road runs through Arkansas this year.

Running through Kentucky today is the Turfway Park Spiral Stakes. Tomorrow is the Sunland Derby: two preps that launched Derby winners in recent years.

White is black and black is white.

I don't have time or energy to ramble too much about the Spiral so I'll let the handicap speak for itself.

Finally, I said goodbye to longtime Turk cat, Ami today. Ami was feral when she moved into my yard a decade ago. It took time and patience to earn her trust, but we did earn it and she led a good healthy life until a few months ago when she suddenly developed lung cancer. She was a tough cat, most likely from having to survive everyday outdoors. She fought the last few months bravely. She waits by the Rainbow Bridge for my family now.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Santa Anita Handicap Grade 1

I love the fun days in racing; early in the season its usually all about the three year olds, but this upcoming weekend is one of the premier handicap division races of the year, The Santa Anita Handicap, or just The Big Cap.

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.

Turk Out!