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!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Queen's Plate $1,000,000 at Woodbine

Attfield looking for 9th Win: Globe and Mail
Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, handicapping today for the Thorofan Handicappers Corner.

The Queen's Plate, a restricted classic distance race run over poly, has been a tough race for me to handicap over the years.  The contenders often  have varied and unimpressive past performances, especially when compared to their three year old contemporaries in the United States.  Once you embrace Woodbine as a track to play you'll learn its poly places pretty fair, that in general turf like pace is the norm, and that it's racing, just a bit different, and with just a bit different paradigm.  The trainers are good, the locals are good, there is a home field advantage and Yanks just don't show up and win easily. Fillies win, maidens win, it's a gosh darn free for all!  So what is a handicapper to do? The same thing he always does:  be consistent in your approach.  What that means for the Turk is a complete analysis of the Past Performances, video analysis where practical, an open mind, and bet construction that comes only after a base handicap, regardless of odds or tote board action specifically, is created.

Anyway, let's jump into this and see what we have to work with!

I print my DRF Formulator PP's (now that they print again- don't get me started on that debacle DRF!) without Morning Line odds.  In my opinion, morning lines are another handicappers bias and bias is something I try to avoid.  I also try to avoid reading articles pre race, mainstream media or other bloggers, about a certain horse, owner, or any sort of human interest tied to the horse. Again, that creates bias.  As a racing fan, I get into all that stuff, just after I've ponied up to the betting window.  I do however like to print the DRF Closer Look and DRF's Jennifer Morrison is one of the best.  Her opinions provide just enough of a balance to my own opinions and after doing this a long while, I like the collaboration, albeit loose collaboration.

We Miss Artie seems like an overwhelming favorite and I would suspect he will be bet down top even money or lower. :26 2/5ths in the last 1/4 mile of the Kentucky Derby, across a surface he didn't much like, winner of the Spiral and handily in the Plate Trial on 15 June.  Trainer Pletcher, with Castellano up, have a three for three poly winner and Pletcher won the Grade 1 Breeders Futurity at KEE.  Pletcher won the Queen's Plate in 1998.  Were not talking unbeatable but very solid.

I like Asserting Bear and the filly Lexie Lou as possible upset candidates.  Asserting Bear should like the extra distance, is very game, and has been training sharply.  Trainer Baker places Sutherland-Kruse up. Only one win in 5 poly tries.  Lexie Lou should also attract betting dollars.  Winner of Woodbine Oaks on 15 June, she sports the best Beyer on fake dirt of all starters and is 8 of 11 in the money at Woodbine lifetime.  Husbands, Up and Trainer Casse are 27% together at WO in 179 tried over past year.

My next group of four could jump into Place, but I'm expecting Show, fourth or fifth: Matador, Casse's second of three starters, with Leparoux up, came off the road and posted a $75K OC win going away at 8.5 panels on 28 June.  A Malibu Moon colt.

Lions Bay, sent to the gate by young Jamie Attard, is really stepping up in class, but he should like the distance.  Tower of Texas is Trainer Roger Attfield's lone entrant as he attempts to win this race for the ninth time.  1 win in 8 Poly starts. 1 win in 7 WO starts. He has a perfect running style and I could easily make a case for a Win spot.  Consider playing him for a good price.  John Velazquez is up today.

Ami's Holiday is my cut off line.  A good effort in G3 Lexington at KEE  and  a G3 winner across this track.  Jock/Trainer combo of Contreras/Carroll won in 2011 with Inglorious and Carroll has won this twice. 

Majestic Sunrise and Coltimus Prime are my only two "non tosses":  Casse's third starter Majestic Sunrise ran well in the Plate Trial; Coltimus Prime ran well in the Blue Grass Stakes but comes in off a slow N2L Allowance win at WO at 1 1/8 Miles on June 8.

I'm tossing at my own peril Niigon Express and Man O' Bear.  Either could have been in my Exotic Group.  I'm tossing without fanfare Athenian Guard, Cap in Hand, Heart to Heart and One Destiny (entered 5 July as well).

There is a mandatory payout Super High Five with 20 cent options.  Better than a lottery ticket and I'll take an educated bet over an idiotic lottery ticket any day.

What shall The Turk do?  After pondering a bit I wasn't able to assemble a Super High Five ticket that created an investment option that felt good in my gut.  I have however built a Superfecta option I'll consider:

$0.20 Superfecta:  4-6-12-14 OVER 4-6-12-14 OVER 4-8-10-12-14-15 OVER 4-8-10-12-14-15 =$60  Will it pay enough to cover the bet?  I have to think on that awhile.  Speculative investments are just that, and past performance is no promise of future outcomes. Bet responsibly or just use monopoly money and enjoy the racing.  It should be a good card.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Stephen Foster Handicap Grade 1 at Churchill Downs

It doesn't get much more American than Stephen Foster:  Born on July 4, 1826, the composer of such American music classics as Camptown Races, Oh Susana!, My Old Kentucky Home are still songs that generations of kids sang in music class and learned to play on instruments.  Another great American institution, The Thorofan, invested in the growth of the American horse racing fan base, has again asked this bald idiot handicapper to opine on the races.  It's not a Pink, Blue, or Yellow sheet but its probably just as accurate.  Ignore as you will!

My success rate, measured as Return on Investment, is not very good with my Handicapper Corner's handicaps.  It doesn't help that I'm typically making Superfecta and Super High Five bet recommendations, but still, the handicapping has been dull and not very good.  In self analysis mode I think for some handicaps I was too conservative, afraid to look dumb.  In others I was wildly aggressive, on the edge of reckless.  I've learned that to be a  successful bettor I need to  approach my handicapping with consistency: I build my base handicap, regardless of value, and if I choose to take some risk on the bet structure for value at least I am doing it with eyes wide open.  

The first thing I noticed when I reviewed the Past Performances is how many of the runners you could make a legitimate win bet on: Revolutionary, Moonshine Mullin, Will Take Charge, Departing, Golden Ticket and Prayer for Relief could all hit the wire first.  With the way Long River, a 15-1 Morning Line sleeper, is training, that's seven of nine that could be in the winners circle. 

The weather should be good. The track should be listed as Fast.

Let's get after this!

I have Departing in the top spot.  It's the four year old geldings  2nd off a 180 day layoff, he's 3 of 5 at the distance, 1 of 1 at CD and 7 wins in 10 starts on fast dirt.  Trainer Stall and Albarado, up, clip along at 31% win  rate.  He's been training very sharply at CD.  I doubt I single him but I like his chances to provide value from my chalk spot.  Look for him to come off the pace.

I have late running Revolutionary in the next group back;  He came late for Show in last year's Kentucky Derby and he comes in off a Pimlico Special Grade 3 win.

Prayer for Relief has no top three finishes in three starts at CD.  Another off the pace style runner, the 6 YO sizzled in morning work across this track a week ago.  4 wins in 13 starts at the distance, 6 wins in 20 starts over fast dirt, he ran terribly in  2013 Clarke Handicap here.

The Alysheba, Grade 2, run at CD in May was an interesting race.

Moonshine Mullin should provide much of today's pace.   Will Take Charge will try and forget his non fire in the Alysheba.  Stevens is up again for Trainer Lukas and most likely is the one to beat and the expected post time chalk.  I'm a biog fan of Will Take Charge but I need to see him fire in his four year old season and I'll bet against the money on him.

Golden Ticket and Long River are collectively no wins in six starts at this distance.  Long River has been working very sharply at Saratoga and ran very well on the inner dirt at Aqueduct this past winter.

So what to do with this?  I think I'll take a position similar to my base handicap, with a horse like Departing on top and a series of Exacta Bets with value underneath like Golden Ticket and Long River.  To be decisive I'll go with 6 OVER 3-7-8. Three $10 Bets may interest me.

Whatever you do, have some fun and develop your own handicap and bet responsively.

Turk Out!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Preakness Stakes Grade 1

Turk/Little Turk: Preakness 138
Welcome friends to the Preakness Stakes;  I hope someone reading my blog today is a new fan of the sport.  Perhaps you were thrilled by California Chrome's win two weeks ago, perhaps you made a fluke bet and made some money, perhaps you are like me, someone who was around horse racing most of his life but disengaged for awhile only to come back and like it even more.  No matter what your story is, I hope you give the sport a chance, enjoy it for more than gambling, and what the heck, spend a few bucks trying to make a larger pile of bucks in the process.  If you are new to the sport, I may talk a bit too fast for you. I get that:  Try out the wonderful Hello Race Fans! for many horse racing articles geared towards the new and intermediate fans.

This blog is about horse racing, handicapping and occasionally is where the exploits of the Turk and the Little Turk are chronicled.  Pictured is a race track getaway last year, the Preakness Stakes 138.  We had great seats and enjoyed Pimlico, even if the track is in a war zone and the drive in is like driving through a third world country.  Old Hilltop is a special place and we enjoyed our trip, bad weather and all.

If horse racing is going to grow again, it will be with people like The Turk bringing the new generation to the track and getting them hooked on the beauty of the horses and the discipline of responsible betting. I hope someone reading today will consider a race track getaway with some young adults this year.  The track is a safe, family environment, and the wiseguy, horseplayer types stay to themselves.

Anyway, today's Grade 1 Preakness Stakes has a bit of a Grade 2 feel to it with the field assembled.

When I sat down to blog and handicap, I had no doubt that California Chrome is the class of the field.  Now sometimes the best horse doesn't win (get use to that concept), but if the race unfolds like it should, he will win.  Today's handicap then is really about identifying from the muck who will set the pace, who will be running faster in the last 1/16 of a mile and who will be going backwards.  Handicapping is pretty much about that, but the devil is in the details.

I like to start by refreshing my visual memory of the contenders last races.  Watch the races with the race chart to get a really good feel of what took place, who was contending, and who wasn't.  I like to identify horses who didn't win but ran well for consideration in their next races.

Let's get to it.

Illinois Derby Grade 3;  1 1/8 Miles Fast Dirt

Dynamic Impact late surge takes the race by a nose by a horse that was good enough to be here, Midnight Hawk.

Kentucky Derby Grade 1;  1 1/4 Miles Fast Dirt

Tampa Bay Derby Grade 2; 1 1/16 Miles on Fast Dirt

2nd effort back for Ring Weekend.  He destroyed a so-so field.  He raced poorly next race out but has been training well and Garcia is up again for Trainer Motion.

Derby Trial Grade 3; 1 Mile Fast Dirt

Bayern wins, and I don't take that away, but I'm not thrilled by the possibilities of more distance.

Kentucky Oaks Grade 1;  1 1/8 Miles Fast Dirt

Ria Antonia:  Why is she here?

Federico Tesio Stakes;  1 1/16 Miles Fast Dirt Pimlico

Kid Cruz against small, soft field, but it is at Pimlico. Nice close.

Wood Memorial Grade 1; 1 1/8 miles Fast Dirt

Social Inclusion: slowed to crawl in last 1/16.

Arkansas Derby Grade 1: 1 1/8 Miles Fast Dirt

Ride on Curlin:  lots to like.

I'm going to let the base handicap speak for itself and I'm going to bet pretty much as my base handicap is laid out.  I'm going to single  California Chrome in most of my bets, but I may box him in a few in case the upset does happen, I can be sad but richer at the same time.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Pimlico Special Grade 3

Welcome friends to The Thorofan's Handicapper's Corner, I am The Turk, and along with my 14 year old son, The Little Turk, we handicap and blog as many stakes races as we can, offering our handicaps at their fair market value, and our betting advice for what it's worth as well.

The Little Turk has been to many a Grade 1 race in his young life, and the picture to the left was taken by him last year when we arrived on Black Eyed Susan day at Pimlico.  It was a cold and fairly miserable day last year and this year doesn't seem much better.  The weather will be atrocious tomorrow, and while it may stop raining by race time, the track should be listed as wet.

This should be a more prestigious race than it is. A distance increase and more purse money this year doesn't hurt, and the field, if not cream of the crop, is at least fairly well level.  The wet track should be a bit of an equalizer and the wild card.

My initial thoughts of the past performances:

  • 5 horses with 400 plus Wet Tomlinson Numbers
  • Zero wins at the distance (with Exception of Korean Major King)
  • Zero Pimlico wins and only one start (Major King again)
  • 9 horse field, one toss (Major King), 5 legitimate winners (2,3,5,6,8)
  • betting options galore: 10 cent super, super hi five, Preakness/Pimlico Special Double and Pimlico Special/Dixie/Preakness Pick 3
Let's start off looking at some last race video with the key players.

Oaklawn Handicap Grade 2 Fast Dirt 1 1/8 Miles (Carve, Revolutionary, Prayers for Relief, Golden Lad)

Charlestown Classic Grade 2 Fast Dirt 1 1/8 Miles (Moreno)

Without a Will Take Charge or a Game On Dude, there are some good efforts on display in those videos.

I'm not sure what type of betting option I'm going to choose for this race. I haven't watched any Pimlico races this week, so I'll want to watch closely and see how the track is playing wet and note any particular lane biases, if any.

I like Revolutionary to have a better than 2-1 chance to win;  Pletcher's trainee ran hard at Will Take Charge after being cut off in traffic in the stretch last time out.  Training consistently and should handle the track and the distance just fine.  The class of the race.

In my base handicap he's much lower, but I'm leaning towards some value in the Place spot and I'm thinking Bourbon Courage from the outside will come late.  Hasn't won since 2012 but 10 Place and Shows in 17 starts for the 5 YO Lion Heart horse.  It's a reach but I like the value.  You could easily insert Prayers for Relief into this slot too if you are value hunting and are OK with risk for reward.

In my mind there is a blanket over Moreno, Cat Burglar and Carve.  I don't see much to differentiate them from each other.  Cat Burglar is the least accomplished here, coming in off of Optional Claimers 62K and 40K affairs.  Baffert is shipping him in for a reason and he places Napravnik up.  Baffert and Rosie win 53% of the time together over a 15 race sample size.  Moreno is almost always in it and has had some very good efforts over the past year. He'll be top 5 without question and I think top three.  Carve is a 4 YO gelded son of First Samurai, trained by Brian Cox who places Castanon up, with the two of them 41% winners together over 29 races.

I'm leaning towards Golden Lad and Valid dropping like stones after setting the pace and I'm shading against Prayers for Relief too but for no particular reason except you can't cover them all.

I'm not sure I feel that strongly about my handicap to bet serious money.  Something simple like a five horse superfecta box with the 6-9-3-2-5, ten cent variety, will cost you $12.  I  may be more daring tomorrow after I see how the track plays and what the scratches and changes are.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Post Race Analysis: The Kentucky Derby

California Chrome: Andy Lyons/Getty Images (Thanks for Use)

I am first and foremost a fan of horse racing.  I am a Preacher in the Church of Horse Racing with a congregation shrinking faster the Donald Sterling Fan Club.  I give sermons on the good word of racing and I hope to turn one person a year into a real fan.  I'm never disappointed when my love of racing and my race track romances intersect with my handicapping and yesterday's California Chrome Kentucky Derby win was an intersection with an exclamation point.  

My Super High Five bet fizzled.  I had zero conviction in that bet and I ended up betting it straight (the stars would have to align) as I felt like straight had about as much a chance as the $200.00 matrix I had assembled.

I also got lucky with my betting.  I plunked down $10 Exacta Bets for California Chrome on top and the 5 biggest long shots 9-2-17-15 and 8 underneath.  $1,700 win on a $50 wild guess.  That's not handicapping, that's bet strategy and an understanding that long shots like Commanding Curve more often than not finish second.  I had conviction to single California Chrome in my bets. It wasn't a wise guy selection and people expect experienced handicappers to take positions on horses other than chalk.  Luckily, ye Ol' Turk doesn't give a flying f**k what anyone thinks of his picks.

By the way, handicappers better than I have been wondering about Commanding Curve all week. Steve and the Wireplayers crew are pretty savvy fellas.  I didn't see it at all. I posted the Louisiana Derby video below.  He made a nice run to Show and you could make the case he'd take Place or win by 1 1/4 Miles.

Kentucky Derby Grade 1

Louisiana Derby Grade 1

I hope you had fun and made some money yesterday!  Turk Out!