Saturday, April 25, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day April 25, 2009: The Withers and The Derby Trials

The lovely Dita Von Teese lights a cigar to celebrate the Turk's minor victories in the Grade III Withers at Aqueduct and Grade III Derby Trials at Churchill Downs. Out of respect to the equally gorgeous Mrs. Turk, we kept it to one cigar, two fingers of celebratory bourbon, and warm regards for each others, ummm, work. I digress.

In today's Grade III Withers, it seemed apparent to me that This Ones for Phil would be the overwhelming chalk. The Turk thought that he was a beatable chalk and approached his handicap with the idea that This Ones for Phil would be no better then second. I would have liked a bigger field to pump up the odds a bit, but some handy dandy math before the race made me think I could make a decent enough score if my handicap came through, so I exercised some discipline, worked my handicap as I always preach, and was rewarded with $92.30 on several bets that totaled $10.

Race 9 AQU; The Withers Grade III

I don't get hung up on betting strategy or rambling about my ROI. What I do well as a horse player is betting discipline. This race is a good example of what I talk about with working the handicap. Pre race, I had Everyday Heroes in the show spot on the ticket. I thought it was a stretch and if the horse hadn't scratched, I would have spent anywhere between $4 and $6 dollars building the tri tickets with other options. When he scratched, I worked my handicap and slid Gone Astray up and when he finished third, I had predicted the trifecta cleanly. With a five horse field I wasn't thrilled betting at all, but I felt strongly that I had this one nailed with the top two, so I almost stopped with the exacta bet, but I spent a reasonable amount and was rewarded. I worked my handicap, I put my eggs in Mr. Fantasy's basket and let it ride.

Race 9: AQU; The Withers Grade III

And the second race of the day was at Churchill Downs, where this Kentucky gentleman's thoughts are currently centered. The Derby Trials was a race I thought the heavy favorite would win, and Silver City didn't seem to get the memo. I'm concerned for the horse that was freshened and allowed to race a one turn event, and after leading at 4 furlongs, fell apart. Pre Race I expressed an admiration for Hull, and he rewarded me with $8.80 to win, but my handicap fell apart with Silver City.

Race 10 CD: The Derby Trials Grade III

All in all, a pretty good day on a day when no one in the race world is thinking about the last Saturday in April.

The Nomination is In: April 25, 2009; The Withers GIII and The Derby Trial GIII

With most race fans getting Derby fever, Keeneland closing, Churchill Downs opening, there is quite a bit to get excited about. The Turk prefers to get excited by honing his handicapping mind on some horses this week that at one time were considered Triple Crown Nominees, some of which could emerge in the shorter Preakness, but will most definitely not be racing for the roses. The first race is a 4:50 ET post at Aqueduct, The Withers Grade III. For the sharp eyed amongst you, that handsome grey is Ontario bred, hero of Fort Erie and the 2008 Prince of Wales Stakes and Withers Champion Harlem Rocker, with Coa Up.

Race 9 AQU: The Withers GIII; 1 Mile on Dirt for 3 YOs

This Ones for Phil will go to the post a huge favorite, with odds pushed to 3-2 or worse. With a 7 horse field as of right now, if this race is worth betting it will take the heavy chalk finishing no better then 2nd. I'm going to key my hopes on Mr. Fantasy and then look for value adders like Everyday Heroes, most likely going to post >12-1, and Gone Astray, most likely a >7-1 starter, to fill in some spots on my tickets. That's my strategy after one cup of coffee and I'm sticking to it. As always, watch the tote and work your handicap.

The next race I'm noodling with is at Churchill Downs, The Derby Trials Grade III. This race which goes to post at 5:17 ET, features Turk Favorite Silver City. Another handsome gr/ro. is last year's winner Macho Again, with Leparoux up, today's Silver City rider.

Race 10 CD: The Derby Trials Grade III; 7 1/2 furlongs on KY Dirt(!) for 3 YOs.

I like Silver City, especially after being freshened up and given more realistic expectations. This is an opposite situation then the Withers where I will be betting against the chalk. Here I will look to supplement an expected chalk with others in some low cost, OK reward prospects. Instead of hunting for 20 dollar exactas today I may try to swing for the fences with some straight Tri's and Super's and have some fun. I like Hull's work and Santana Six is interesting to me as well. The rest of the field is sorta ho-hum. Ho-Hum can be a bettors best friend as it creates unexpected results.

Enjoy. It's 70 degrees in Buffalo, Turk is Out!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day April 18, 2009: The Lexington Stakes Grade II

Everything I learned about betting I learned from The Gambler. OK, that may be a bit of a stretch, but he teaches us one important lesson " You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run". Races like yesterday's Lexington Stakes are races that my internal Gambler tell me to run away from. They also present one of my favorite betting angles: The race with one big name who will go off at depressed odds by the betting public but are very vulnerable to being beaten at a horse that will pay significant dollars to win. The big name was Square Eddie, and the Turk didn't think that Square Eddie would win, nor did he, so the first part of my betting angle was something I felt good about. I didn't think Square Eddie would finish out of the money, I just didn't think he would win. That creates another opportunity: Boxed Exacta's and Trifecta's with Square Eddie anchoring and filling in with the next several horses in my handicap. Doing all those things still won't help when a horses like Advice and Conservative are allowed to hit the top the stretch and have clear sailing at other horses that made their moves too soon. Bottom line, I listened to the Gambler somewhat and only lost a $6 on this race. Watch the video and you'll shake your head like I'm shaking mine. Let it go, that's why they race on dirt, or fake dirt and not on paper.

Even when you lose, it's important to review your handicaps and learn from them. I swung for the fences with Masala, but the horse was one length off the lead at the 3/4 call and just lacked a finishing response. The final 2 1/2 furlongs clipped along at 30.77 seconds which projects to 36.9 seconds for final 3 furlongs. When watching the video, it was impressive how many horses could have won this race if they hit the button and matched that pace. Give credit to Advice with Gomez up and Conservative with Desormeaux up.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Nomination Is In: April 18, 2009: The Lexington Stakes Grade II

The Turk's got Derby fever. He's also an addict. Each week over the past three and one half months he's been able to get his fix seeing quality 3 YO Grade I caliber horses competing. And now, it's almost the the last big breeze to blow before the eye of the storm crosses overhead. The last of the Derby preps, the last chance to garner graded stakes earnings if needed. I'm underwhelmed and with the exception of Square Eddie, not intrigued either. For those of you with sharp eyes, that's Behindthebar with Flores up winning the 2008 Lexington Stakes. (photo by

Race 9 KEE: The Lexington Grade II; 1 1/16 miles on fake dirt for 3 YOs

The Turk's driving East today to gather with family, smoke a cigar, drink a bit of bourbon, and celebrate a life cut short. Shawn Murphy is truly missed. Our last conversation before he became ill was during the Saratoga meet last year. He was disappointed by the early meet rains but looking forward to Curlin's arrival. I'm sure I'll see him with Aunt Rosie in the clubhouse in the sky one day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day April 11, 2009: The Blue Grass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby

The Little Turk strikes. Pre race, I talked about the work that General Quarters was putting in at Churchill Downs, including a 5f in :58 work. I was impressed and made a note that if he started the Derby, that type of speed on that surface would bode well. I like General Quarters, but not enough to bet him to win, but the beauty of being a 9 year old handicapper is no fear. The Little Turk was rewarded with a $30.60 win bet, which to him meant more Star Wars Legos. Hold Me Back had a good effort. Mafaaz broke in the air and showed his abilities as well as his inexperience all in the span of 2 minutes. Nothing about this race changed my mind from my pre-race comments; There were some nice horses here, lots of parity, but few world beating Grade I types. I credit consistency with my exacta win, which paid a cool $117.60. I made my handicap, I worked my handicap, I followed my rules about when to bet or not bet Trifectas and Superfectas, and I cashed a workman-like ticket. I said pre-race that if I won money at this race I wouldn't gloat, and I'm not. Little Turk guessed and his guess negated 2 hours of handicapping analysis on my part. The 2 hours of work allowed me to make educated bets and the one I expected the least, hit. Consistency. Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mechanics teaches much about the pursuit of quality in life. I like to think I apply the metaphysics of quality to my 'capping. A Turk has to have standards. I'm proud of the Little Turk. He listens to me talk about the horses, he watches the replays when I blog, and he has a fantastic memory for what impresses him. He seized on General Quarters not because of the name, but because of what he saw with his eyes. Trip handicappers everywhere, rejoice.

Race 9: Keeneland; The Blue Grass Stakes Grade I; 1 1/8 on fake dirt for 3 YOs.

Race 11: Oaklawn: The Arkansas Derby Grade II; 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3 YOs.

I wasn't surprised to see Papa Clem take this one. As I said pre race, Papa Clem is battle tested and has consistently raced against the best in the 3 YO class and has acquitted himself well. Old Fashioned has an effort that Larry Jones can build on. You'd like to see more desire to finish, but this is still a fine colt. I think it was a weak field, or more appropriately as i said pre race, a field of parity outside of the top two. My exotics were mostly blown up by the presence of Summer Bird, a horse that Mrs. Turk identified as live and long. The exacta payout was a result of the consistency I have been preaching; Build your handicap, work your handicap, bet no more then you feel comfortable losing.

Little Turk, Mrs. Turk, and The Turk himself colored Easter Eggs tonight. Not satisfied with his domination of the handicapping world, Little Turk left his stamp on the symbol of the secular holiday as well. I thank the higher power who brought this little boy to me from half a world away. He's someting special!

The Nomination Is In: April 11, 2009: The Arkansas Derby GII

The Turk got on a rolling rant this morning when writing up the Bluegrass Stakes. He'll do his best to avoid that again. This is an interesting race, a Grade II with more Grade I talent then the Grade I Blue Grass. But like that race, a mixed bag of current form and surface switches means a bunch of parity on paper. Where I think this race is different is at the top. Old Fashioned lost the Rebel and you would think the sky fell in. The horse can still flat out run, and run at this distance. He'll be challenged for sure and he's not the dominant force that the hype machine made him out to be, but he'll win more races then most and he's trained by the best. For the sharp eyed amongst you, that's 2007 Arkansas Derby Winner, the mighty Curlin with Albarado up.

Race 11 Oaklawn Park: The Arkansas Derby Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3 YOs.

No condescending rants, I'll limit those to one per day. I will preach consistency, and I will apply that with my bet strategy that will key on Old Fashioned on most tickets to win, but I may make an argument for any of my A's.

Little Turk likes Old Fashioned as well and Mrs. Turk is hunting for ROI nirvana with Summer Bird.

The Nomination Is In: April 11, 2009: The Blue Grass Stakes GI

As a handicapper, I'm OK. I'm not big bettor and my livelihood isn't tied to cashing IRS tickets. If I was a shrewd whale bettor, I imagine I'd walk in the other direction of today's final two prep races before the Kentucky Derby. Why? Unpredictability supreme. The P word, parity. In the first race I'm looking at, The Blue Grass Stakes, we are presented with lots of moving parts: A synthetic surface, some long layoff's, some falling stars, some rising stars, and just a bunch of parity. One thing of importance to remember is we aren't handicapping the Kentucky Derby, but the Blue Grass Stakes. The horses don't know this is a prep race. Some of them will go on to be successful dirt runners, competitive in graded stakes races. That dirt affinity won't help them here. Some of them will go on to get crushed at Churchill Downs in a few weeks, yet will have fine careers on fake dirt or turf. You have to handicap what's in front of you and you have to shut out the hype machine. For the sharp eyed amongst you, that's none other then culturally relevant 2006 Blue Grass Stakes Champ Sinister Minister with G. Gomez, up. Gomez is up today with another long shot, Massone.

Race 9 KEE: The Blue Grass Stakes Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on fake dirt of some variation that I can't keep straight, for 3 YOs.

Bet strategy in a race like this to me will be about tying my hopes to one horse, and then fashioning multiple straight bets, exacta or trifecta, around him. With the size of the field, and the parity, horses filling out the exotic tickets will add lots of value. That's what I'm looking for if I bet a crap shoot like this. I've chosen Hold Me Back, most likely the chalk, to build around. The Turk likes to break the field into A, B and C horses, reserving D for non factors. "A" will generally contain the chalk and could-be chalks, and "B" group contains a contrarian bunch that could easily find the exotic tickets, and my "C" group I reserve for live but long horses, most likely no better then Show. I feel like 9 of the 11 here could have a blanket thrown over them and lumped into one group. Slight and subtle clues in my mind point the way to who has the best probability of success. I have Mafaaz (GB) pretty high, and he could flop and the Ol' Turk could look silly, but this isn't a beauty contest, I'm trying to cash good tickets for minimal investment and you ain't going to do that without consistency and occasionally trusting your instincts. Trainer Gosden is a cocky bloke that the Turk loves. While I have mixed feelings about how a race in Kempton earns anyone a place in the Kentucky Derby, the horse is a scrapper.

This will be a tote board watcher and an exercise in bettor restraint. I should pass, but I won't, I'll place some reasonable bets and hope for the best. If I win, I won't gloat, not that I ever do, because these are educated and reasoned guesses, nothing more.

Little Turk is feeling General Quarters today. Mrs. Turk has a soft spot for Cliffy's Future. Both spent 20 seconds on their selection and I'd give them even money with me to be right. Turk Out!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day April 9,2009: The Vinery Madison GI

Race 8 KEE: The Vinery Madison Grade I; 7f on fake dirt for F&M 4 YO and Up.

The Turk couldn't find any good video of the Vinery Madison, but he did listen to the race call live via At the Races with Steve Byk. I'm not sure how the pace played into the race (final time 1:21.64 final furlong 12.37) but Ventura came up a nose short at the end. Informed Decision, resting since October, ran a very sharp race and it wasn't a huge surprise that she was there at the end. I expected more from Bsharpsonata, but she was a non factor. The rest of the race I felt I read pretty well and was rewarded with a Tri bet on a bit of a stretch for me, $18 bet on one race for $71 in returns. The Turk's mantra is and continues to be that consistency as a handicapper and a bettor is key. Do the same things every race, analyze the same, learn, evolve, but be consistent. You'll win more in the long haul with consistency then you will gain by being erratic, even if erratic sometimes results in cashing tickets.

The Maker's Mark Mile is today. I don't generally bet turf miles, but I love to watch them. Thorn Song is a really beautiful horse and I wish her well today. If I have time later I'll handicap the race but I may take a break and get ready for the Bluegrass and Arkansas Derby tomorrow. Another big, big day.

Blessed Easter to anyone who is of that persuasion, TGIF to all you secular-only types.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Vinery Madison Scratch and Weather at KEE

8th Race--Vinery Madison (G1)
#2--Proud Heiress--SCRATCH

Weather at Keeneland is 61 and sunny at noontime. The Proud Heiress scratch does little to change my handicap of the race. It does make the money more compact with six entrants. Tote Board watching is a must and post is 4:35.

Good Luck.

The Nomination is In: April 9, 2009: The Vinery Madison Grade I

Keeneland in springtime. The beauty of the trees, the birds returning, the fake dirt warming up. Today's Grade I Vinery Madision, upgraded from G2 last year, looks to be a real interesting race. It's hard to see where the pace will come from, but it's contested by last year's champ, Ventura, who will be tested by at least three legitimate challengers, Bsharpsonata, Informed Decision and Bear Now. The other three contestants belong in graded stakes races, but I don't think they will figure in anything but exotics. Then again, without pace a big bunch of horses could be hopping along together in the final 1/16

Race 8 KEE: The Vinery Madison Grade I; 7F on fake dirt for F&M 4 YO and Up.

When you have an overwhelming chalk, you can use that to your advantage when fashioning exotic tickets. I see this race as a 3 sets of horses: Ventura, the middle group, and then the ramaining three horses that are all pretty similar, with Dubai Majesty getting a slight advantage from me for current form. I'll be watching the tote board, as well as the scratches, and we'll see if we can create a few straight bets that provide some value.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Post Race Analysis for April 8, 2009: The Beaumont Grade II

KEE Race 8: The Beaumont Grade II; 7f and 184 feet on fake dirt for 3 YO Fillies.

You can be right and wrong all at the same time when you handicap. It was clear that Selva had the speed and I believed pre race that Selva would be in front at the top of the stretch and that Evita Argentina would have to take a good trip and be in position to take the lead in the last 1/8. Well, yes Selva was right there, but she was trading hop for hop with War Kill, while Evita Argentina just never seemed to fire.

My handicap lined up pretty much with how the betting public read the race. One overwhelming truth is that when a horse wins contrary to what the bettors think, the payout will be sweet. War Kill held off Selva and bettors cashed $35.40 win tickets and $106.60 exactas.

Pre Race I felt strongly that Evita Argentina and Selva would finish 1-2. Checking the tote board, I didn't see any strong reason to bet a combination that would have paid less then 8 bucks. I passed.

Watching the limited race video, I don't really get this race, and as a handicapper, I like to pretend that I'm an NFL cornerbnack that just got burned: I get up, scrap the grass off my helmet, and the next simple tackle I make I celebrate like it's 1999. The truth is I stew when a race doesn't unfold the way I 'cap it. Looking at the PPs, you'll never pick War Kill. The subtle hint is Leparoux is up. Shrewd cappers are fond of a trainer's second entry as the sleeper entry, and Trainer McPeek had Loveyou Everybody, who I liked better even though it was the first race back after a long layoff. You need lots of information to beat this game, and information collection is a full time job, unless you cheat and pay lots of money to have boat loads of information funnelled to you, but you still have to analyze it. War Kill looked like she won easily and the PP's don't support the effort. You have to get over it and get back to the next race. For me that will be handicapping tomorrow's Grade I, The Vinery Madison, 7 F for F&M 4 YO and up. Turk favorite Ventura is back. The picture above is my work area with all the tools of this 'ol fashioned handicapper; PP's, trip notes, clocker comments, laptop and bourbon with diet Coke and lime. Giddy up.

Beaumont Grade II Scratches

As of right now, only No Speed Limit has scratched. It's 53 degrees and sunny at Keeneland as of noontime.

I have no real bet strategy yet. I'll watch the tote and build something off my handicap. Post time is 4:35 local time.

Visit the excellent, one of the better track websites.

Turk out!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Nomination Is In: April 8, 2009; The Beaumont Grade II

Ahhh, Keeneland. The Turk generally likes to lay low on Monday's after busy weekends, but I just can't resist taking an early look at the Keeneland card for this week. The best way to get a feel for how the tracks playing is to just start handicapping, and in anticipation of the Blue Grass Stakes, it's time to break out the red flair pen and get it on. In case you're wondering which fine looking IEAH horse that is, that's 2008 Beaumont winner, Ariege, with Gomez up. Photo by

KEE Race 8 (Wednesday April 8, 2009): The Beaumont Grade II; 7 furlongs and 184 feet (.35 furlongs) on some version of fake dirt for fillies 3 YO.

I'm calling this my preliminary handicap. Outside of Evita Argentina and Dave's Revenge, I'm not very familar with these horses, on I'll be doing some trip checks tomorrow and I'll set a final ordering. I think that Evita Argentina is the class of the race and should win. I would expect the horse to get pushed to <2-1. I'm intrigued by Selva and may fashion some tickets with her on top.

I love mid week stake races. Good stuff! I wish I was in the bluegrass for the next few weeks, but this honorary Kentucky gentleman will have to sip a bit of bourbon and think about a trip next year.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Post Race Video Analysis for Race Day April 4, 2009: The Santa Anita and Illinois Derby and The Wood Memorial

The Turk is getting ready to fly East after a great day at Santa Anita yesterday. While the Turk loves to analyze races on his 12 inch laptop screen, nothing beats watching the post parade in person, and seeing true Grade 1 horses go to the gate. This type of thing spoils me and makes me appreciate the racing at Fort Erie even more, as if a grand track like Santa Anita can struggle with these economic times and downturn in public interest, it took quite an effort from the folks who saved my base track from extinction. By the way, the bemused looking 9 year old above is none other then The Little Turk. It pained me to not have the brains of this handicapping team with me yesterday.

I was quite impressed by I Want Revenge yesterday. I was very impressed when he shipped and won the Gotham and now, I think that final 1/8 elevates him right next to Quality Road. I think nothing is settled in the West. Pioneerof the Nile beat some good horses to be sure, but I guess you could say I'm just not sold yet. I've liked Musket Man for sometime as well. I think he'll be a fine contender for many Grade Stakes races, but a leading man he's not. Where does this put The Pammplemousse and Old Fashioned? I'm starting to think Old Fashioned may be a big value pick at the Derby with the hype shifting to others, and that would be good drama for the Larry Jones saga.

Days like yesterday are precious race fans. Enjoy them like the Ol' Turk did.

Santa Anita Derby

Wood Memorial

Illinois Derby

Saturday, April 4, 2009

2009 Santa Anita Derby Winner Pioneerof the Nile

Pioneerof the Nile off the pace wins the Santa Anita Derby in 1:49:17. The Turk bet only one race today, and he cashes a $17.70 $1 trifecta bet which he bet $10 on. I'm not sure if they get any easier then that.

4-Pioneerof the Nile
1- Chocolate Candy
5 - Mr. Hot Stuff

and icing on the top, I had Take The Points 4th.

Live Update: Santa Anita Derby Day through Race 3

The thermometer may read 67 degrees, but it's chilly in the shade and the mood is a bit depressed in the stands.

With every announcement that The Pamplemousse has scratched, loud moans roll out of the grandstand.

Through three races, the most compelling was the last, with Hameildaeme (GB)winning the downhill turf race.

Race 4 has already turned into a bit of a downer. The Santana Mile Handicap will only start 4 runners after two late scratches. Rail Trip is currently 1/5 which makes 9/5 Dakota Phone a semi value and Cause at 8-1 real big value. Rail Trip comes in winning 4 straight.

And to give you a sense of the crowd, I'll leave you with this picture.

A View From Santa Anita

A view from the Santa Anita Clubhouse Loge Seating, Section B. Drop by, the Turk has three extra seats and these are good seats!

At the Races: The Santa Anita Derby

The Turk works hard. On Wednesday he flew into Southern California and he drove, and he drove and he drove. He's been to Fresno, Santa Barbara, Ontario, Long Beach, Newport Coast, Irvine, San Juan Capistrano, San Marcos and San Diego. The Turk is bushed, but his business isn't finished. The Santa Anita Derby.

I may blog a bit later during the races or I may wait until I get to the San Diego Hilton at Harbor Island where I will shutdown for the night before flying home tomorrow. I'm watching the weather at the Big A as well as Hawthorne, as that will put a real kink in the handicapping. The weather in Arcadia has been so-so all week,overcast and not so warm. Santa Ana winds are dusting up as well.

Gates open at 10 AM and first post is at 12. Where ever you are today, enjoy the races, today should be a really exciting day.