Monday, March 30, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day March 29, 2009: The Sunland Derby 800K

The Turk searched for shareable video for this race to post here but could not find any. I'm a big fan of trip handicapping, and there were some unusual trips to be observed here; Mayor Marv putting up suicide fractions of :22 and :45 1/5 before imploding. Santamonicacanyon matching hop for hop with Mayor Marv, taking the lead at 3/4's and then promptly immolating. As I expected pre-race, Kelly Leak would have to close to win, and close he did. To those of you my age, Kelly Leak was that handsome kid on the left, who led the Bad News Bears from zeroes to heroes without making an ass out of you and me. The Kelly Leak who won this beauty is the fine bay Runaway Groom colt just below.

The bizarre trip that Espinoza took with Mayor Marv decimated my trifecta bets. I fashioned a few exacta bets, and luckily one took.

Race 12 Sunland Park: The Sunland Derby 800k; 1 1/8 miles on red New Mexico dirt for 3 YOs.

This was a mostly enjoyable weekend of racing, and this coming week will be as well. The Ol' Turk will be at the Santa Anita Derby and if anyone would like to meet up and talk ponies, or even better yet, have a bourbon and a cigar, you'll find a kindred spirit. Drop me a line.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Nomination Is In: March 29, 2009 - The Sunland Derby

Hair of the dog my friends. You'd think I'd be horse raced out after the past few days, but the best remedy for the hangover is a small dose of what hung you over. No, I'm not talking about bourbon, but an interesting little dirt race worth more the Florida Derby, in a big league horse racing backwater(Pepper's Pride, my apologies), New Mexico. The race has attracted an interesting crop of lesser known 3YOs, and a few with graded stakes earnings that would make Dunkirk jealous.

Race 12 Sunland Park: The Sunland Derby 800K; 1 1/8 miles on Dirt for 3YOs.

I've been watching Kelly Leak for the past few weeks. Coming off a turf race, and before that a 6f sprint, the Grade II winner is versatile and should be fast enough. By no stretch a gimmie, as the second best colt in this race, Mayor Marv will most likely go to the lead, and it will be up to Kelly Leak to be in a position to take the race back in the last furlong.

Mine That Bird is 4 of 7 lifetime and has over $325,000 in earnings. The Grade III winner ran in the Breeder's Cup before shuffling trainers. Advice gets blinkers for the first time, something that Trainer Pletcher eeks wins out 26% of the time doing. Advice has regressed or not progressed after running with some really talented horses as a two year old. Valid Stripes owns the biggest BSF at 100 and 2 of the top three BSF in the race.

I think money will split even between Mayor Marv and Kelley's Leak. I most likely will tie both of them to some value in a trifecta or a series of straight trifectas.

Hair of the dog indeed.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Raceday March 28, 2009

The Turk didn't have any expectations with the Dubai races except to enjoy the races themselves as well as gain experience handicapping foreign horses with scant information on the PPs. The Florida Derby on the other hand, I had high expectations to not only handicap well, but to possibly find a betting situation that would result in a big payout. Well one out of two ain't bad.

Race 10 GulfStream Park: The Florida Derby Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3 YOs.

With two scratches, the field got a bit too small, and the money a bit too big on what the betting public sensed were the only three horses worthy of betting. They were right, but as a bettor, you're not happy when everyone else has the same opinion as you. The Trifecta paid $6.00. I did some quick math a few minutes before post and thought the Trifecta would be no more the $10.00, and with a minimum payout expectation threshold of $30.00 that I shoot for, I passed. I had two bets ready to go, and one of them was the straight trifecta, but again, a bettor like me who likes to eeck out good returns on small risk just didn't see the point.

But I'm ahead of myself. The race itself was semi-dramatic for about a furlong. Quality Road hit the stretch and the only one ready to meet him was Dunkirk. The two fine colts, the best two colts in this race, traded the for several hops before Quality Road dug in gamely and won by a length and a quarter. A solid handicapper that I know suggested to me prerace that Theregoesjojo's trainer had the horse leave something in the tank during the running of the Fountain of Youth. While I do think the horse came out of that race fresh, I also think the reality is Theregoesjojo is a quality Grade III winner, an threat for Grade II wins, and not a true Grade I horse. I'll get hate mail, but that's the way I see it. The 401 Triple Crown nominees are down to about 10 real Grade I studs and a group of 30 or so Grade II's and then some serious parity competing for Allowance Races and Grade III's. No crime in being what you are, Class comes not from what was paid for the animal, but what level the horse can consistantly be competitive at.

A solid, solid win that propels Quality Road to the top of my Derby favorites and I only hope that Trainer Jerkens finds a way to keep him sharp, but I don't think I need to worry about the horse knowledge in that man's DNA.

I feel like I want the hours of my life back handicapping Dubai. I was pretty unsucessful with the races I blogged, and I did OK with some other races on the card, but blogger ethics prevent me from bragging about races I don't previously announce my intentions with. I've got the video, including a great Japanese race call of the Dubai Duty Free. The video on both race shows a rather non compelling result, not to take anything away from either winner. I was very impressed by Well Armed. I've always liked him, but perhaps never enough to pick him over his contempories like the late Go Between.

Nad Al Sheba: The Dubai Duty Free Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on Turf for 4 YO and Up.

Nad Al Sheba: The Dubai World Cup Grade I; 1 1/4 miles on dirt for 4 YO and Up.

The Nomination Is In: March 28, 2009- The Florida Derby Grade I

The stakes are high at today's Florida Derby. There is $750,000 of graded stakes money up for grab, and the last opportunity for some of these colts to earn a way into the Kentucky Derby. Five of the nine starters are Triple Crown nominated, but the one that gets my chalk is currently un-nominated, Quality Road. I guess I'm a bit surprised by the size of the field, and the lack of true Grade I competitors, but we can't handicap who should be here, only who walks into that paddock dreaming of hay, carrots and the cheers.

Race 10 Gulfsteam Park: The Florida Derby Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3 YOs.

I am doing my best to ignore the hype machine that surrounds Dunkirk. Perhaps the 3.7 million dollar Unbridled's Song colt deserves the accolades, but being old fashioned I like to see a horse beat quality graded stakes competition before I'm willing to scrawl chalk all over its hip. Will that mean I won't be part of clamoring masses who have already coronated this horse "super"? Perhaps, but then again, I'm generally out of step with society anyhow, why start now to conform.

With that rant issued, I am left no where else to turn but Quality Road. It's not like I'm the pretty girl settling for the bald introverted guy (a remark which the Turk resembles), Quality Road earned a 113 BSF in his win in the Fountain of Youth. He's had a running duel with Theregoesjojo, and I think he's better, and he likes to be pushed, and all that means I think he'll be the best today. Is this a stone cold Turkish lock? Far from it, but this is horse racing, and the dirt (or that paraffin like stuff that maybe is safer maybe isn't) is the crucible that determines winners from pretenders. To the sharp eyed amongst you, that is Barbaro, resplendant Barbaro winning the Florida Derby in 2006. Now that was a horse!

The Nomination Is In: March 28, 2009 - The Dubai World Cup Grade I

The Turk finds himself a bit blurry eyed after spending too long last night handicapping races I most likely won't even bet. Why won't I bet them? Huge fields, plenty of parity, and unsure weather conditions. Why will I bet? Huge fields, plenty of parity, and attractive odds on some horses that have the potential to win this race in a year where no clearly superior horse is present. I was amused by the Getty image I found this morning while looking for a picture to paint a flavor of the event. While I guess I shouldn't judge behavior, you would think this young lady would show a bit of respect to the values of the country she is a visitor of? Then again, most people in modern society seem to have no real understanding of decorum anyway, but I digress.

Race 7: Nad Al Sheba; The Dubai World Cup Grade I; 1 1/4 miles on dirt for 4 YO and up, 3 YO and up for Southern Hemisphere bred.

This is a tough race to predict with the rains that are expected and the size and quality of the field. I think when life presents uncertainty to should go with what you know. Godolphin and Saeed runner My Indy will have Dettori up, and while maybe not the best horse, he will be placed in a position to succeed at the stretch, and that's all you can really ask. Casino Drive is such an intriguing horse, full of promise, full of potential. This would be as big a win as any of Better then Honour's babies have had. Too soon to have a strategy, I'll going to watch the weather, and the tote, and spread around some win bets with value, and string a few exactas together as well, keying on my A group tagged with A's and B's. Albertus Maximus and Asiatic Boy will attract alot of money. A fun race to watch, a fun day to watch, but a crap shoot more then a handicap.
I'll be back later with the Florida Derby. Good Stuff!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Nomination Is In: March 28, 2009 - The Dubai Duty Free Grade 1

I love the races in Dubai. It's such a dichotomy; sand and manicured dirt, waterless but lush green turf, modern architecture set against Bedouin culture.

I love the big fields chasing the big purses. It is more of a World Championship then the Breeder's Cup, at least for 4 YO and up (as god forbid an American 3 YO leaves the Derby Trail.) I digress.

After 30 something pages of PP popped out of printer for Dubai World Cup night, I decided to only blog the races I thought were the most compelling. Let's get it going.

Nad Al Sheba Race 5: The Dubai Duty Free Grade I; about 1 1/8 miles on LH Turf for 4 YO and Up or 3 YO and Up for Southern Hemisphere breds.

I like the filly Vodka. I think she comes back strong in her second race after a break. I think that Balius (IRE) has a very good chance to win this as well. Both will go off at least > 7-1. My really big live and long horse is 8 YO Niconero (AUS) coming in after a long trip and 3 weeks rest.

The Turk advocates no betting strategy. With the size and parity in this field, exotic bets are out for me, so I will look to string together a few win bets and a few straight exactas based around my ratings.

I'd like to talk more, but more 'capping to do!

For the sharp eyed amongst you, that fine looking horse is none other then 2008 Dubai Duty Free winner Jay Peg.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day March 21, 2009

The Turk took his time before writing this post. I'd like to tell you it is because these races, the Lane's End Stakes in particular, were such important races with such great implications to the Derby Trail that I had to make sure I analyzed it completely.

Well, that would be a lie. I feel like a broken record, as after most Derby preps I'm asking the same question: Is this parity and the signs of a very deep 3 YO class OR mediocrity where people would prefer to place hopes with Dunkirk then on the colts that have actually been competing in graded stake races?

I won't try to answer that question. The past performances, and not written hype, should be the basis of Derby contender lists. I'll take raw video on YOUTUBE any day to help me analyze the 401 Triple Crown nominees instead of talking heads on SAT TV. The Turk's red flair pen is working overtime, but as any honest handicapper will attest, some results just fly in the face of logic, and that's why they race on dirt (or that stuff that masquerades as dirt and contributes to soft tissue injuries) and not paper.

Race 10 at Turfway Park: The Lane's End Stakes Grade II; 1 1/8 miles on synthetic for 3 YOs.

I could have handicapped this race ten times and I wouldn't have picked Hold Me Back. Post Race on ESPN, they prattled about him posting bullets (true, but with small numbers of horses and not eye popping times) and Mott's stats with horses off of long layoffs (20% out of 95 races which is good except compared to Trainer Kiran Mclaughlin's gaudy 25% after 257 races). About the only thing the Turk saw that made sense was the second grouping of Proceed Bee/Parade Clown and Jack Spratt being bunched up in the second tier. West Side Bernie and Bittel Road join many other Triple Crown nominees who haven't stepped up when the moment was theirs to seize. Dynamite Bob was one of the only horses that got the memo and finished where he should have.

Race 7 at Santa Anita Park: The San Luis Handicap Grade II; 1 1/2 miles on Turf for 4 YO and up.

I was worried prerace that if a few horses scratched, that this smallish field would equal a ho-hum race to handicap and watch. I wasn't wrong. I did feel good about Spring House and I hope he is OK after being vanned off (I sometimes hesitate to find out...but I will). I wasn't surprised by Frankel's trainee, the only 4YO and the horse seemingly with the freshest legs going into the race.

Luckily in horse racing, if you have a dud weekend, there is always another opportunity soon. We'll be back next weekend with some more compelling races.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Nominations Are In: March 21, 2009: Lane's End Stakes and San Luis Rey Handicap

This week is a bit of a breather from the hectic pace and volume of the major Kentucky Derby prep races. The Turk picked two races to handicap this week, one at Turfway Park and one at Santa Anita. The first up is at Turfway Park, The Lane's End Stakes, a Grade II race at 1 1/8 miles across a synthetic surface, for 3 YOs.

What I liked right away about this race was the size and the quality of the field. This should be an exciting race. I'm not saying the quality is Grade 1, but 10 of the 12 horses entered are Triple Crown race nominated and are quality Grade Three competitors. Two horses stand out from the rest of the field, Bittel Road and West Side Bernie. Both will go off at unattractive odds, and that is the type of situation a shrewd handicapper will look to exploit for value on the tote board.

I'm giving a slight edge to West Side Bernie, and if forced to think about building a strategy right now, I would say I'm leaning towards a boxed Trifecta that also includes Bittel Road and then a value horse, like an Orthodox or a Parade Clown, both of whom should enter the gate at >10-1. As my readers know, I'm really not about betting strategy: I lay them out the way I think they will finish and then I fashion tickets when I do bet based off my charts. Because this race, in my estimation, contains a real parity level, some simple win or exacta bets, or just saying no to betting altogether might be in order. We all make our own decisions. if looking for longshots, don't hesitate to look at Lock Dubh. He's worked well and he's coming off a Southwest field that had Old Fashioned and Silver City. He's won on this course and today gets Borel up. A closer and a closer.
For the sharp eyed, or able to read, that is 2007 Lane's End Stakes winner, and Turk idol, Hard Spun. Adrianno, you never had a chance.

At the Great Race Place, beautiful and bankrupt Santa Anita, The San Luis Rey Handicap, Grade II, 1 1/2 miles on Turf for 4 YO and Up. A smallish field of seven horses take on this 1 1/2 mile turf challenge, which is lead by Spring House and You Got Me Rocking.

It is an interesting race, with a 9 YO (Bonjour), an 8 YO (Artiste Royal), a 7 YO (Spring House), 3 5 YOs (Medici Code, You Got Me Rocking and On Fire) and a 4 YO (Midships). Other handicapping factors play in, such as recovery time between hard efforts for the older horses. There is 161 career starts among this field, and 33 career turf wins (20.5%). I like Spring House for his current form, his endurance, and for his connections. To the sharp eyed amongst you, that's none other then You Got Me Rocking's owner, the legend, Mr. Burt Bacharach.

The Turk doesn't like to handicap them, but he loves the downhill turf races at Santa Anita. The 9th Race today is the Joe Hernandez, and the Turk may lay 2 bucks down on US Ranger, in his first action since the Breeder's Cup, in honor of honorary Turk and long time friend, Lt. Col Michael David Morgan, a proud Ranger himself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Raceday March 18, 2009: Kempton KY Derby Challenge

The Turk was perhaps a bit too flippant in discussing the Kempton Derby "Win and You're In" Challenge Stakes. While I think the execution of how to open up one spot in the Derby for a Euro 3 YO is flawed, the idea has grown on me.

I found this to be an exciting race, especially the last furlong. Trainer John Godsen, a Turk favorite, seems sincere in bringing Mafaaz to the States soon and training up for the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. I would love to see Spring of Fame come as well. Godsen is really something. I love the fact he cut his teeth in Santa Anita, has been doing his thing in Europe for so many years, and doesn't seem hesitant in the least to come to the America and go right to it. I love his arrogance, and our sport needs confident arrogance.

It's not an original thought of mine, I read this at a UK racers blog and I apologize for not remembering where I read it, but it is ironic that Mafaaz's owner Hamdan Al Maktoum has found his way into the Kentucky Derby, while his brother spends, well, princely sums and can't buy his way in.

The pace was a plodding 1:55:13

And yes to the sharp eyed amongst you, that beautiful foal is none other then the product of equine royalty Rags to Riches and Giant's Causeway. I'm betting this filly will be something very special!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Nomination Is In: March 18, 2009 - Kempton, UK: Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes

Wednesday afternoon, 3:50 Eastern Time, a race will go to post in Kempton, UK, about eighteen miles southwest of Central London. On the line is a chance for the 3 year old winner to compete in the Kentucky Derby, earning $100,000 just for showing up.

Sound like the Breeders Cup "Win and Your In" race series? I reckon it is, except those races are contested by horses with legitimate Breeders Cup credentials. This group, I can't tell. I can say that the 14 horses that will compete have earned a cumulative $21,000 in earnings in 2009. The Turk was bemused by quotes attributed to Tom Aronson of Churchill Downs Inc while in England promoting the race. Mr. Aronson said, presumably with a straight face, that "The excitement provided by Bold Arrangement, Arazi and Johannesburg when they ran in the Derby was palpable." Palpable? Mr. Aronson went on to explain that this race was leveling the field for European horses who can't get enough graded stakes earnings to win a spot in the Derby. Why is it OK that one of these horses will take the place of some fine colt who did earn the 21st highest earnings but was bumped so we could feel good about leveling the playing field for our European cousins?

Isn't that the role of the Breeders Cup, to be inclusive? I'm all for a Euro coming to the States in November with a 2 year old and then running in the grade III and II grinds in December, January and February like all the other Derby contenders in order to accumulate earnings. The Kentucky Derby is here; our rules, our dirt. This just smells like marketing folks who instead of getting slapped down, got AIG style bonuses.

All that said, I like the idea of a European series of events, and granting a spot in the Kentucky Derby to a horse that has won the right after excelling in a European Derby Trail and winning at least one American prep.

Anyways, I never hold it against the horses. It's the humans that have screwed up our fine sport, who come up with these lunacies. Whatever horse wins has the right, not the obligation, to enter the race on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. I will take a look at the runners because maybe one of them will be among the deep class of 2009.

I broke out Alan Shuback's excellent DRF Press Global Racing tome tonight to read up about Kempton. The course is a level, right handed polytrack oval, 1 1/4 miles in length. Kempton Park opened for business in July 1878.

The stalls (gates) will be in front of the stands close to the first turn, making ground loss significant for those who start from a wide draw. (On right-handed tracks in the UK, the highest-numbered stall is next to the inside rail.)

Race 3: Kempton Park- The Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes (Class 2): 1 1/8 miles on poly for 3 YOs.

It was a goal of mine to handicap more European Racing. I want to spot this year's Spirit One before I get to Arlington in July. I guess this race is as good a place to start as any.

Thanks to Kate in Japan for her feedback on the concept of the Derby play in race. I tempered my negative initial reaction after I took a walk in her shoes and thought about it from an overseas race fan perspective.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day March 14, 2009

The Turk had what he likes to call a mental health afternoon. After retrieving Kay from the vet, I had nothing to do except take care of my sick pooch, and watch the ponies. It was a good day, with a mixed bag of handicapping, as well as the biggest one day payout I've had in 2009. I don't want to be a windbag, so let's get right to it!

Race 4 at the Great Race Place, bankrupt Santa Anita Park: The San Felipe (Grade II); 1 1/16 miles on "pro-ride" for 3 YOS.

No big surprises. I was happy to see Pioneerof the Nile win impressively, but would have been more impressed if the field was a bit stronger. I don't see how this race tells us anything more about this horse then we already knew. I placed no bets on this race but would have lost the few exactas I had in mind, as New Bay collapsed after an impressive first 6 furlongs.

Race 9 at Fair Grounds: The Louisiana Derby (Grade II): 1 1/16 miles for 3 YOs.

The Turk felt good about this race. I loved the field and the more I studied the race, the better I felt, which is usually a sign that I will not only lose my bets, but be embarrassed by my choices. Not today! Readers of the Turk know that I'm not about the betting, and that exotic betting strategies don't interest me. I re-do the morning lines for probable finishes and most of the time I'm content with just seeing how it goes. There is one betting situation I like to take advantage of: The chalk who I feel confident will win and several other horses with OK odds of 3-1 or higher that I can fill tickets out with. I generally avoid expensive boxes unless its a 1o cent super. I felt really good about my top six horses, and I liked my one-two combo enough to anchor everything to them. Nearly six hundred dollars on less then 20 dollars in bets. I'd like to say that happens all the time but....

Race 10 at bankrupt Gulfstream Park, The Gulfstream Park Handicap (Grade II); 1 mile for 4 YOs.

I felt as good about Bribon(Fr) as I generally get, so this is more indicative about my skill level then the last race was. I had six dollars on three trifectas that I donated.

And the shocker of the day, Race 10 at Oaklawn Park, The Rebel (Grade II): 1 1/16 miles for 3 YOs.

My cousin Marge asked me on Facebook if I had any good Irish named horses to recommend to her. I told her Win Willy was a huge longshot that would pay over 50 bucks on a 1 dollar bet. Well, I was right and wrong. Win Willy did win but he paid $56.80 on a buck. Wish I would have got a piece of that action.

I don't think this means much. I think Old Fashioned and rider Dominguez thought they had it in the bag and nobody read that memo to Win Willy. Current form for the first Saturday in May starts about 1 weeks from now. Ramp up in a week, have a monster final prep and work fast and strong for 3 weeks, and if Old Fashioned does that, nobody remembers The Rebel in mid March. It is troubling, but not a show stopper. The track was listed as good. No excuses please. I tried to illustrate in the above spreadsheet how wildly wrong the betting public had this one.

And the Turk didn't handicap or watch this race, but the 11th at Tampa Bay Downs, The Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III), 1 1/16 miles for 3 YOs.

I'm going to have to sort this one out. General Quarters has flirted with my interest, and this one is more significant then what happened with Old Fashioned, as he just never fired. I really liked this race though. Musket Man was flyin'

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Nomination is In: March 14, 2009 - The Rebel, Grade II

The race that many people will be watching today is The Rebel, and the colt that people will be watching is none other than Old Fashioned. Trainer Larry Jones marches some fine three year olds towards the first Saturday in May, and he's ramping his charges up slowly, trying to do right by them. I wonder if he ever considered shipping to the Louisiana Derby, but he knows more about his business then I do. The Rebel was a Grade III last year, and pictured is a horse that the Turk isn't too familar with, Sierra Sunset, winner of the 2008 Rebel Stakes, with Christopher Emigh up. Photo by Danny Johnston.

Race 10: Oaklawn Park: The Rebel, Grade II: 1 1/16 miles for 3 YOs.

I think Old Fashioned should and will win this race. When I have that type of certainty in my bones I like to build straight tickets from my ratings board that will include some value. I'll be watching the tote as always in the hunt for value, but I'm intrigued by the lightly raced Hamazing Destiny as a possible ticket gate crasher. Wise Kid and Silver City look primed to contend. This is a tough race for Old Fashioned, as he can only satisfy expectations by winning.

The Turk has been typing way too much the past few hours. It's time to watch more ponies prance.

The Nomination Is In: March 14, 2009- The Gulfstream Park Handicap, Grade II

A one mile race for 4 year olds and up is a favorite race of this Turk. Today's Gulfstream Park Handicap should be a real fraction burner. The dirt has been very fast at Gulfstream Park this meet, and who knows how big a Beyer Speed Figure will get tacked up in this race. For the sharp eyed amongst you, that colt pictured fully extended is none other then Sir Whimsey, with Prado up, the winner of the 2008 Gulfstream Park Handicap. Photo by Adam Coglianese.

Race 10 Gulfstream Park: The Gulfstream Park Handicap, Grade II: 1 Mile on Fast Dirt for 4 YOs and Up.

I like Bribon (Fr)for many reasons. The 6 YO likes this distance, likes fast dirt, and I think the connections, including Trainer Ribaudo, picked a good spot for their gelding.

Again, this is no lock and if forming a betting strategy, I would start with looking at multiple 10 cent supers with a six horse field, and I'd throw in a few straight tri's as well. The Turk will watch the tote board as always and wait until the last possible second to place the bests he thinks will return the best value for the limited risks he's prepared to take.

This should be a very competitive race.

The Nomination Is In: March 14, 2009 - The Louisiana Derby Grade 2

The Turk was blown away by this field. I could have made an arguement for at least six of the horses here to win. If I had one race I could be at today, it would be this one. I'm happy to see at least one California runner, Papa Clem, ship in to test on dirt and take a shot at the $600,000 purse. For the sharp eyed amongst you, that fine looking colt is Pyro, winner of the 2008 Louisiana Derby. Photo by Vanessa Ng.

Fair Grounds Race 9: The Louisiana Derby, Grade II. 1 1/16 miles on real dirt for 3 YOs.

I made the strongest arguement with myself for Friesan Fire. The two time Grade III winner is working very fast and I like the current form , the J/T stats, and just about everything about this A.P. Indy colt, especially the fact he doesn't have A.P. in his name. This colt is no lock, not by a long stretch, so even a win bet at >3-1 is possible. With so many combinations I think that could fill out a ticket, I'm going to focus on a few, Friesan Fire included, to put together some value exactas and Tri's.

In the next gate is Papa Clem. Trainer Gary Stute clearly does things his way, as evident by the work routine he has Papa Clem doing, and his decision to leave an easier San Felipe behind for this. The Turk likes this move quite a bit, and Papa Clem doesn't have to win this, just look impressive on the dirt and I'll be happy.

Here I go again as well, picking Giant Oak to do well based on very little performance. The Giant's Causeway son needs a statement race today, and must win or place in my mind to justify the high regard he is given.

Patena, Terrain, Uno Mas, and Flying Pegasus will all be competitive. I'll be watching, but betting, I'm not so sure yet.

The Nomination Is In: March 14, 2009 The San Felipe Grade II

The Turk can't catch a break. Last Week, Papa Turk found himself in the hospital, and being the good Turk son, I hung with my Pops and had a surprisingly good time. This week I blog to you from a Dunkin' Donuts as Turk foundation Weimaraner, Kay, gets herself checked out for some nasty infection most likely caused by chewing on dead birds that she found on a recent walk. Yes, I do kiss her snoot regularly, and no, I'm not amused. I digress.

Today is the first of the big Saturday's we have in front of us: April final preps, First Saturday in May, Preakness, Belmont.....Just massive days for the Turk and anyone who is a fan of the horses. I've handicapped four races today, three with Triple Crown implications, and a 4 YO and up race for fun. I'm going to post them separately because I not sure when the Weimy will be set free.

For the sharp eyed amongst you, that is Georgie Boy, with Michael Baze Up, winning the 2008 San Felipe. The photo is by Benoit.

Santa Anita Race 4: The San Felipe Grade II: 1 1/16 miles on fake dirt for 3 YO's.

This race should be a multiple lengths win for Pioneerof the Nile, but his three wins are by a combined 1 1/2 lengths and a nose. I think he needs to dominate this field to show his focus. He's a Grade I and II winner and his 5 and 6 furlong work is impressive.

There are two horse here, New Bay and He's Really Big, entered at SA on the 15th. if they both drop out, this will be a real yawner. I like New Bay and hope to see him here. I'm looking at Kelly's Leak and I'm seeing a real fascinating career already for a 3 YO. Synth/Turf/Dirt, its all there.

The Turk would like to remember California resident and former Turk classmate, Wendy Zito-Hayes, who passed away yesterday after a courageous battle against leukemia. The talented and beautiful red head left behind a husband, three children and legions of friends and family. Rest in Peace Wendy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day March 7, 2009: The Gotham

This is an exciting time of the year for me, and this year's prep races continue to amaze me. I'm a horse racing fan. I want to be amazed. I guess I'm slightly stunned at how no one horse in the 3 YO division has clearly separated himself from the others, perhaps with the exception of Old Fashioned, but even that is premature. I would love nothing more then to be sitting here in early May with 4-5 horses I could make a strong argument to win the Derby for. One more set of big prep races for these horses to go through, The Florida Derby, The Santa Anita Derby, The Wood Memorial, et al and then pencils down. To me, this has been a very exciting early season.

Yesterday's Gotham was another example of the topsy turvey nature of trying to clearly identify the best of the 401 Triple Crown Nominees. I Want Revenge is a fine horse, and him leaving the synthetics, shipping all the way to New York, and putting in a dominant 8 1/2 lengths victory should make everyone take notice.

There was much to like about I Want Revenge. He's lost to horses that were better then this field. He's faced G1 and G2 fields. He's consistently working at 5F in mid :59's. He's worked a 7f in 1:23 3/5ths and a 6f in 1:10 4/5ths. Those are good numbers. What I didn't like was he was 1 win in 6 tries and he had never raced on dirt. Throw that out the window!

Imperial Council answered the distance question yesterday as well, closing out the final 1/8 in good fashion.

Aqueduct Race 9, The Gotham Grade III: 1 1/16 on the inner dirt for 3 YOs.

The Turk spent an afternoon at Buffalo General Hospital, amused at the contradictory information that has been given to my father in the span of two days: Going home,not going home; Heart fibrillation/No fibrillation: prognosis/different prognosis. I have an awful lot of respect for the medical community, but I can't say the group that's punching the clock while working around Papa Turk has inspired much confidence. I placed no bets on the Gotham, and studying it today, I don't think I would have cashed any tickets with my conservative style. I needed Haynesfield to be in the top four.

On an unrelated note, I am so excited about Einstein. His Big Cap win really cements his place in the older division and the consistency to his efforts would have in a past era made him an American hero, albeit a Brazilian born one. 10 wins now in 24 starts for the 7 year old and over 2.6 million in earnings.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Nomination is In (part 1): March 7th, 2009- The Gotham Grade III

The Turk is a bit distracted today, with Papa Turk's ticker winding him up back in the hospital again last night. The horses are therapy to me, and today's chicken soup for the handicappers soul is The Gotham, Grade III. Too many weekends at the Big A this winter the field didn't have enough, competition, for lack of a better word. Maybe I should say the cream that rose to the top of the big stake races could be measured in pints and not quarts. Regardless, it's getting to be that magical time of the year when horses are shipping in, competition picks up, and races like this one have some real quality colts going at it.

Eight of today's field carry the Triple Crown nominee logo, emblematic of the 401 horses challenging for glory. Each week it becomes apparent that the designation mostly means that these horses will be competitive in Allowance and Grade III races. I don't know who in today's group will find the most glory. I know I like Haynesfield a lot, maybe too much for a handicapper, but the Turk freely admits he's a horse fan first, 'capper second.

Aqueduct Race 9, The Gotham Grade III: 1 1/16 miles on the inner dirt track for 3 YOs.

The Turk never advocates betting strategy. The mission statement is to order the horses into a logical order of finish and then fashion bets from it when I like my chances. The most important thing to me is knowing when not to bet. I like today's race too much not to place a little skin into the game. I like Haynesfield/Mr. Fantasy/I Want Revenge to be on the tickets. I intend to cobble a few tickets together that slide a few other horses onto an exotic with them. I may also take a gander at a win bet on any of my B's and higher who go off at >15-1. For no real good reason I like Russell Road.

The Turk is off to see Papa Turk at the hospital. To those of you who know Papa Turk, you know he's a tough old bird and that it will take more then a bad heart to kill him off. I hope to be back in time to take a look at a nice Santa Anita card today.

For the sharp eyed among you, that was Turk favorite Cowtown Cat winning the 2007 Gotham in the picture above.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Raceday February 28, 2009

The first day of March. It's bitterly cold outside, but after yesterday, my Derby fever is really heating up.

There are 401 horses nominated for this year's Triple Crown and the contenders are starting to peal away slowly from the vast number of pretenders. For each Old Fashioned, we have numerous Parade Clown. For each Quality Road we have a plethora of Jack Spratt. For each The Pamplemousse we have Tiz True in legion.

I don't blame the horses, I never blame the horses. Horses are what they are. It's us humans that assign the lofty goals to them. Some of these horses in the Past Performances with the fancy Triple Crown nominee logo will be fun runners, some graded stakes winners, some hard knockers who give it their all and thrill us for years after this year's 3 YOs are off at stud.

I watched four races yesterday, with mixed, semi-poor results. The handicapper in me knew that much is still to be revealed at this point in the year, so I kept the bets small and enjoyed the races for what they were.

Race 8 at Aqueduct: The Stymie Handicap, 1 1/8 miles on the inner dirt track for 3 YO and up.

I expected Researcher to be the chalk and I expected play on Manteca. I was semi-surprised that Barrier Reef was the chalk, but I was not surprised that he won. Pre race I thought that Real Merchant had a chance to be live and long, but I was shocked at how well the foreign raider did here. I liked Barrier Reef's form and success at A, and I think Researcher was just away a bit too long. He'll be back.

Race 9 at Gulfstream Park: The Fountain of Youth Stakes G2, 1 mile for 3 YOs.

I missed on Quality Road. Pre Race when I poured over the PP I noted a few things about the horse: "Hadn't raced since 10 Jan. First time Lasix, Trainer sports 33% win rate in Graded Stakes and J/T don't run alot together, but when they do, they win 40% of the time. 5f in :58 and 2/5 seconds." I didn't like the post position and I didn't like the long layoff. I liked others better, it happens every week.

The number of prep races and chances to bolster earnings are dwindling. Each week, there are heavy hyped horses that seem to stumble when it is their moment to shine. Capt. Candyman Can and Taqarub and This One's for Phil leave me wondering where they fit in. The distance and the trip that these horses took will make me revisit this race several times this week as I try to assign meaning to the chaos. This is the fun part of handicapping, forgiving blame for some efforts and taking credit away from horses that at first blush did well. All that said, I missed on Quality Road. It wasn't that I didn't like him, I just liked others more, so shame on Turk.

Race 9, Santa Anita Park: The Sham Stakes G3, 1 1/8 miles on pro ride for 3 YOs.

The Pamplemousse. He's been wow in his workouts, he's wow physically, and he just toyed with the field in the Sham and made it look way too easy.

Todd Pletcher reminds us he knows a thing about horses. He found a better race for Take the Points and at the same time showed that the colt can run on synthetics just fine. I guess that will be the trifecta of stud values next, getting the G1 on dirt, turf and synth.

As predicted, a Calvary charge left the final results muddled. I swung for the fences on series of straight trifecta bets. If Mark S the Cooler ($22.60) or Hi Flyin Indy ($59.20) make it into the mix, I'm gloating about a big payout. Instead I bet 8 bucks to gain $22.10. Consistency will always rule over the long haul.

And finally I looked at Turfway Park, The John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, 1 1/16 miles on synth for 3 YOs.

I'm not done yawning after two Triple Crown pretenders fizzled, one scratched, and one losing to a good, but out classed opponent.