Monday, August 31, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day August 29, 2009: The King's Bishop and the Travers Stakes

That fine looking colt in the Adam Coglianese/NYRA photo is none other then Capt. Candyman Can, the winner of the 2009 King's Bishop at Saratoga on August 29th.

OK, I'd be remiss to not mention it was by inquiry and the disqualification of Vineyard Haven.

Vineyard Haven ran a strong race and looked like the dominant two year old he was at this time last year before his Triple Crown bid was ruined by a winter sojourn to Dubai and the home of his owners. It's within their rights, but this horse loves dirt, North American dirt, and he had this race sewn up but couldn't keep it together despite the hard work of Alan Garcia.

All that said, Capt. Candyman Can was bringing it the last few hops and I think would have won this race if not for the double bump that knocked him off stride. A classy ride by Castellano who coolly motioned at the stewards and knew the result of this inquiry from the moment it hit the board.

The Turk loves the King's Bishop. Some of the Turk's favorite runners over the last few years have thrilled me in the Travers warm-up match. While this years edition wasn't one for the ages it wasn't a snoozer either.

SAR Race 11: The King's Bishop Grade I; 7F on Dirt for 3 YOs.

My handicap was good, not earth shattering. I have struggled on Saratoga dirt most of the meet so the Capt. Candyman Can victory and my exacta payout was good medicine.

SAR Race 12: The Travers Stakes Grade I; 1 1/4 miles on NYS Dirt for 3 YOs.

As a handicapper who takes his opinions publicly, you sometimes make a choice and then get buyers remorse. That's exactly what happened with me and Quality Road.

The Turk has said before that he builds his handicaps in a vacuum. I don't like to read any pre race hype from the trainers or the TV talking heads and I don't like seeing the Morning Line until I set my own. That process works for me usually.

In this case, everything I heard and read about the preparation of Quality Road to jump from 6 1/2 furlongs to the classic distance made me feel sorta dumb and by the time the race went to post I regretted my chalk selection. That doesn't happen to me often. His antics going into the gate were all it took to add the -ey to my name.

Would I have selected Summer Bird? No. This Bird did impress me very much and my irrational opinion of his abilities at 1 1/4 miles is now gone. I did bet my base handicap but I boxed the $1 superfecta, but Hold Me Back through a wrench in those works.

It's hard to be down when you pick 4 of the top five, nearly in a row, but a win is a win and a loss is just another ripped up ticket.

Was this one a classic? It established Summer Bird as the current top three year old and it underscored that the class of the 3 YO division is either retired, injured, or a filly.

The Turk is headed to Saratoga for the Woodward. Drop me a line, I'd love to meet any of my readers near the paddock before a race. Either Sister Turk or Little Turk will be joining me. If Little Turk comes, he's prepared to offer his iron pipe locks for the late pick 4 in return for Lego's.

Best Regards, Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Nomination Is In: August 29, 2009; The Travers Stakes Grade I at Saratoga

Our sport is rich in tradition, something the Turk hopes it can retain in these darker hours of its history. The oldest stakes race in America, the Travers goes to post today for the 140th time at 5:45 ET on the main track in Saratoga. Awaiting the winning stable is the canoe, to be painted in their colors, where it will remain until next August to remind everyone who is the King of Saratoga at least for one year. The colors of Colonel John will join the other coats of underpaint after today.

Race 12 SAR, Post Time 5:46 ET; The Travers Grade I; 1 1/4 miles on Dirt for 3 YOs.

The Turk hasn't been a very good dirt handicapper at Saratoga as I highlighted in my analysis of the King's Bishop. Sometimes the best way to break out of a funk as a handicapper is to just keep handicapping and breaking down the results afterwards. I have spoken before about being humble or being humbled by this game; It's your choice. No matter what success I can talk about in the past, its a what have you done for me lately business and I've been a money burner on the dirt this meet. The Turk has almost stopped betting the dirt at Saratoga but I've been handicapping almost daily. I do that when I need to clear my mind, to not feel any pressure, and just take it back to basics. Saratoga is a tough play for many 'cappers, so I'm not down on myself, just reflective and being as analytical as I can be. Never lie to yourself and don't try to bet your way out of a rough patch.

Supers are in Vogue for this race and that's what I'm planning for. With that in mind, I like the morning line chalk Quality Road to win today. Three straight 110+ BSF's have placed him near the top of the 3 YO class after the maddness of Triple Crown Season ended. Training very well with Pletcher after an odd switch from Jerkens. An Owner has the right to do that and at least it was handled in a manner that didn't air publicly the raw emotions it must have unleashed to those involved. The distance and the lack of sloppy track work only concern me slightly. The son of Elusive Quality has what it takes.

My handicaps this weekend are more of a bet strategy then a dispassionate view of the horseflesh involved. Summer Bird and Kensei are clearly better horses, but I'm backing Charitable Man in the place spot. Working lights out since his solid 3rd place in the Grade II Jim Dandy, this is his second effort off a >45 day layoff, something Trainer McLaughlin hits 25% of the time.

Warrior's Reward and Summer's Bird will be right there to pounce off the pace, much of which will be driven by Trainer Zito's Our Edge. Kenesi may press the pace sooner then either of these two and I'm looking for him to falter because of this. I may be wrong, and the Asmussen trainee is a fine horse who may make me look foolish, but again, this is gambling and I'm shading him down a tad, no higher then fourth in a few of my tickets.

Warrior's Reward has the tepid Borel up. He's won only 1 of 31 races at the SPA and his in the money percentage is very poor. I'm a big Bo-Rail fan, and perhaps Warrior's Reward will help him break out. I like the 5F work on the off track and the race best 113 BSF on a wet track. Only 8-1 on the Morning Line, that will surely go up but at post value will still be there.

Summer Bird is also on his 2nd off a >45 day layoff, something Trainer Ice only hits 7% of the time. He does have a 106 BSF from his effort at the Haskell on a wet track, but an 86 from the slop at the Kentucky Derby which was also at this classic distance. Is this a BC Marathon runner or a BC Classic runner?

I am hunting for a strike today and I will employ a matrix and not a box strategy. It will aproximate a wheel and almost all my tickets will place Quality Road at the top, and the value tickets will have Charitable Man, especially if >6-1, and several will have Our Edge holding on for fourth, with Zito/Garcia a formidable team and just sparkling bullets for this rabbit. Garcia has really brought it to Saratoga, 29 wins so far and 44% in the money. Yeah.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: August 29, 2009; The King's Bishop Grade I at Saratoga

That good looking colt in the Terence Dulay photo is none other then the 2007 King's Bishop Winner, Hard Spun. That was one heck of a hard knocking, hard charging horse, and you have to wonder when handicapping which one of today's King's Bishop contenders has the kind of guts needed to run flat out for seven furlongs.

The weather at race time looks iffy. Right now the track is already listed as sloppy, so don't expect a miracle dry out between now and post.

Race 11 at Saratoga, Post Time 5:10 ET: The King's Bishop Grade I; 7 Furlongs on sloppy dirt for 3 YOs.

The Turk has had great success handicapping Turf races at Saratoga this meet and I've been so-so on the main track. You should never lie to yourself. When I visited Saratoga last week I decided to watch the races closely and handicap but not bet. After each race I ripped apart the trip and my handicap and I worked out a few kinks. I'd love to say that I had a satori, a sudden awakening, that will instantly improve my Saratoga dirt ROI, but no.

I did have two sloppy track days to just sit and watch from the clubhouse. One thing that struck me was how fast the main track played while still listed as sloppy. The other thing that an off track teaches you is that quality horses win under almost all conditions. The Turk's basic philosophy is to build my base handicap regardless of track condition and then factor track condition into the shading between horses. It's a factor, yes, but does it dominate all thinking, no.

Post position is another factor, but not an overriding consideration, much less significant then say, current race conditioning. Many people will tell you that Big Drama won the race before the race, and with Coa up and breaking from the 8 spot, he will have the best view coming out out of the top of the stretch. Mrs. Turk clearly feels that way as she's backing Big Drama. There is lots to like, especially the 2 for 3 at this distance and a BSF of 108. I don't like that 5 of 6 career wins were as a 2 YO and that the horse has never raced on a wet or sloppy track. Will he like mud in his face? On the outside, will he eagerly move inside and come off the pace? I dunno. What I do know is I think the horse has the quality to be somewhere in the top three.

I'm backing Capt. Candyman Can in my top spot. I don't think he's better then either Big Drama or Munnings, but this is gambling and I think he loves this distance, is coming off a big effort against Quality Road and has won on an off track before. There's nothing in either Trainer Wilkes or Jock Catellano's stats that make me feel strongly, but there are no major negatives either. The horse is a Grade II and Grade III winner and this son of Candy Ride is a quality runner who likes to break late and may find two fast, superior horses tiring from the slop.

Munnings is a big favorite of mine. I love the speed of this very classy Speightstown son very much. He has run a 108 BSF on an off track and a 111 BSF at this distance. To me he is the best horse in this field and could easily win and has no excuse for not being in the top three.

A few intriguing horses lurk outside the top three. Despite the Odds is mid pack from gate 5, is training very well and has run very well and fast on a sloppy track. Vineyard Haven is a Godolphin runner I loved last fall and I don't have any feel for how he will respond to his first action since February. Everyday Heroes and Flat Bold are solid Grade III runners and could sneak into the exotic tickets.

I'm on the hunt for a trifecta as super's are not on the menu for this race. I'm going to place a few straight trifecta and exact bets and we'll see what happens.

Have fun. Turk Out!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Nomination Is In: August 19, 2009 Race 8 at Saratoga; The Shawn Murphy Memorial Race; $20,000 Claim for Fillies and Mares

The Turk is handicapping the 8th Race at Saratoga for Wednesday and the race is named in honor of Shawn Murphy, my cousin, who passed away suddenly last year after a short but gutty battle against cancer at age 59.

Shawn was an interesting man, a loving father and husband. The last time we spoke was August 2008 and he was not over how disappointing his trip to Saratoga was because of the rain that fell over the early part of the meet. I invited him to see Curlin run at the Woodward but he told me he hadn't been feeling good and he wasn't sure if he could travel until he saw his doctor. That's how quickly life changes. As race fans we know how suddenly life can change, as our equine heroes step onto tracks everyday and some never step off. If you are in Saratoga, tip your glass to the Murph and cheer for his family in the winner's circle when they take pictures. Murph was that guy you see along the fence everyday; an average Joe who loves the horses and the track. I hope my handicap works out well.

Race 8 SAR: Post Time 4:55; The Shawn Murphy Memorial Race $20,000; Claim Race for F&M 3 YOs and 3 YOs and Up with 2 wins.

The Turk is really hoping for either a Grey/Roan or Maggies Miracle to win for personal reasons.

As a handicapper, I like Akonite to finish in one of the top spots. This lightly raced 3 YO is jumping up from a 16K MSW and a win. I like the 28% win rate that Trainer Iadisernia and Jock Castillo share together and the horse is training well at 5f. Breaking from the 2 hole, he may provide the pace and the finish. I'll be looking for a value win bet, and if Akonite is less then 3-1 at post time, I'm most likely passing or just using on boxed exactas.

In the 3 spot is Aunt Mabel, coming off three 70+ BSF efforts and sporting an 11 of 15 lifetime In the Money record. She easily could win this race and lots to like. I think this horse will be bet down to 2-1 or better and will be in many of my exactas.

From post six is Quonata. I'm tossing her last race dismal effort and looking for the daughter of Peace Rules to return to the form that saw her win her first two races. The 4F in :46 2/5's 4 days ago has my attention.

I don't have a bet strategy yet, but as you read, I'm thinking a series of exacta bets and even a few straight Tri's, with win bets on a few of my B+ or betters if I get better then 4-1. As always, watch the tote and bet late.

Good Luck.

Love you Murph, you are VERY missed!

Turk Out.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day August 14, 2009; The National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga

There are days like today that seem like nothing is going right and then boom! It all just clicks into place, like a lazy day on Bourbon Street drinking a bit of, well, bourbon, and enjoying a fine cigar.

The Turk was traveling back from Lincoln, Nebraska this afternoon and trying to return to the Little Turk and Mrs. Turk in Buffalo. I was on standby for all my return flights. I was the last person picked to fill the plane in both Lincoln and then again in Chicago. That's lucky.

Last night, the Turk handicapped the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga while he ate dinner at his hotel. It was obvious to me that the field was very competitive, full of serious Grade II runners. As I said in my pre race post, I thought it was too competitive to expect much better then an Exacta and that I expected to try just a few super's for kicks. I stuck to my plan.

While sitting in the Lincoln Airport, I reviewed my handicap and felt pretty good about my top two. I worked my handicap, didn't second guess myself and bet $20 on the 8/9, my straight Exacta handicap. I was rewarded with a $580 return.

Race 8 SAR: The National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes Grade II; 1 1/8 miles on Turf for 3 YOs.

I bet well before the race went to post, but a handicapper needs to develop their own morning lines and have a good feel what odds a horse will go off at. You won't always be right, but the better your handicap, the more approximate your handicap will be to the better track handicappers morning lines. I knew the payouts would be good on this race. I bet an additional six dollars only on 2 straight super's and a tri.

Handicapping and betting are two different skill sets. For many years I sabotaged good handicaps with bad betting. I'm still not a great bettor, but I'm improving. In the face of serious parity, for a low risk bettor, pass. Regardless, the worst thing any bettor can do is be reckless. It's the quickest path to a negative ROI. I went defensive. I chase super's but this one was a tough chase.

The Turk is writing this with the Little Turk next to me, Mrs. Turk close by and Kay, the foundation Weimaraner against my leg.

Life is Good. I'm a lucky man. Turk out!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Nomination Is In: August 14, 2009; The National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes Grade II on Turf

The Turk finds himself in Nebraska tonight doing his day job as best as he can. After hours I got lonesome thinking about Saratoga and after a quick trip to the business center at the Marriott I emerged with a copy of the Past Performances and a dream. I needed a fix. The drug of choice today is the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Grade II on Turf and an impressively balanced field of 10 runners to sort out. Let's get after it!

Saratoga Race 8: National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes Grade II; 1 1/8 on Turf for 3 YOs.

The weather in Saratoga looks to be wonderful tomorrow, so expect firm turf by race time, but make sure you check the condition of the turf, as all grass ain't the same to all horses.

After running through the PPs I started to build a list of potential Top Four runners. With a 10 horse field, I had eight potential Top Four candidates. That's a problem, but as a handicapper pulling a win off with a field like this is what gives me the euphoria I seek. Build your handicap without fear when facing parity. This isn't low hanging fruit. There will be easier scores to be made on the card tomorrow, so if you don't feel it, don't bet it. Be a humble handicapper, even the best get it wrong regularly.

The Turk likes Courageous Cat to win. I tried to find a reason to not pick the Mott entry, but I could not. Coming off a solid 1 1/16 turf win with a BSF of 94. Works well in the morning. Breaking from the 8 spot, Jock Desormeaux will get a good look at the pace and may even take the lead or will run just off of likely pace setters Straight Story and No Inflation.

Next to Courageous Cat in the 9 gate is Sal The Barber. A bit raw, but lots to like. His best effort was on good turf and his firm turf work is a bit of a leap of faith to have him this high. Trainer Clement has some wonderful stats going for him as well: 22% 31-60 day layoffs, 22% Turf Wins, 24% Graded Stakes wins, and J/T combine for 27% of wins over past year.

Straight Story is good enough to win here and some tickets will have him in the top spot. A solid Grade II turf threat, has three 90+ BSF efforts in a row.

Conservative is a classy Unbridled's Song son returning to Turf for the first time since February. The talent is there and A. Garcia is up.

A bit of a live and long for me is a Roger Attfield runner Midnight Mischief.First time on turf, something Attfield hits 17% of time. I don't think he can win, but a top 4 would sweeten the superfecta payout significantly.

I have some good horses buried in the pack. The reality is that the field has alot of parity and that should produce odds that make attractive payouts. I plan on betting a modified matrix in search of an exacta and then I'll build a few super's for a hoot.

The Turk didn't get much right in the Arlington Millions last weekend except for Gio Ponti, but that wasn't a surprise to anyone.

Race 9 Arlington 8/4/09: The Arlington Millions Grade I: 1 1/4 Miles on Turf for 3 YOs and Up.

The Turk travels home tomorrow and is getting excited for another two days in the Saratoga clubhouse next weekend. Enjoy. Turk Out!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Nomination Is In: August 8, 2009; The Arlington Millions Grade I

The Weather in Arlington Heights looks like it will be a bit dicey between two and five PM. You'll find the complete Arlington Card Comments at their website, and you are going to want to see what the turf condition is listed as at racetime. That fake stuff is always listed as fast.

Last year, the Turk and many others were shocked by the 12-1 French Invader Spirit One. I, as many other handicappers, struggle to make apples to apples comparisons of horses from Europe that are intermixed in the PPs with our North American runners. I purchased a copy of Alan Shuback's Global Racing and started to educate myself on the tracks, the races, the level of quality between a Grade I here and a Grade I in Singapore for example. I understand Mr. Shuback is at Arlington today signing books, seek him out and meet a true racing heavy hitter.

I love to handicap the races with the Euro invaders, and that is one of the big draws of the Breeders Cup for me, but my friends, handicapping and betting are two very different and mutually separate activities. If you want your ROI to stay positive and phat, handicap but don't bet on races where you don't feel you have enough information. You can track down everything you'd like on Stotsfold (GB), but it's a time consuming process and not something I do except for the Breeders Cup.

10 cent Super's are in fashion, so in full disclosure, that's going to be my focus.

Arlington Park Race 9 Post Time 5:42 ET; The Arlington Millions Grade I; 1 1/4 miles on immaculate Illinois Turf for 3 YOs and Up.

I like Gio Ponti, especially from gate 6. The 4 YO Tale of the Cat son exploded this year and looks to be a dominant older horse for a few years to come. He has a 1 1/4 mile Turf win on yielding turf in June and a 1 3/8 win on Turf in July on firm turf. He has 6 wins in his last 10 starts and 80% in the money in his last 10 races. He's a staggering 82% in the money on Turf and 7 wins in 11 starts. Smokin'. He'll make a late move off the pace, and their appears to be plenty of pace coming from Presious Passion and Gloria de Campeao.

The Turk is a big Einstein fan, but this isn't a popularity contest. Trainer Pitts has had this horse all over the condition book, but I like him the most on Turf. His last turf win was on turf listed as good and he put up a 106 BSF at 1 1/8. Amazing, he's only gone 1 1/4 once before, a miserable Arlington Millions last year. I may even have him too high, but its not unjustified. 11 of 17 in the money on Turf, 6 wins in last 13 starts, the races lifetime top money winner by a smidge. The 7 YO has been training since mid June. most of my tickets will have him dropping to place, show or also ran.

I like Gloria de Campeao (BRZ) to hit the superfecta ticket. Coming off a big win in the Grade 1 Singapore International Cup a 1 1/4 miles and a well beaten second to Well Armed in Dubai before that. Three wins and a place in last three races. I expect the 6 YO to prompt the pace and the last several hops will set his final position.

My biggest struggle was where to slot Presious Passion. The 6 YO gelding has announced himself as a Turf force. The veteran runner has 39 career starts, 36 on Turf and 12 wins. 50% in the money on Turf, 5 of 5 in 2009. His last few efforts on turf listed as yielding were not so good, so he's a runner I hedged down but will hedge up as the condition of the turf course becomes apparent.

For live and long, I like Mr. Sidney, coming off a yielding turf win a 1 mile in the July 4th Firecracker GII at Churchill Downs.

Little Turk and Mrs. Turk are backing Just as Well today.

This should be a fun a ticket and between Arlington, Saratoga, and a Turk family gathering, my next 12 hours are accounted for.


I want to end with my heartfelt sympathy for the good folks of Louisville who suffered under Mother Nature's fury this week. The Turk is an Honorary Kentucky Colonel and a longtime sailor on the USS Louisville SSN-724. When I visited the Kentucky Derby Museum last October I was treated like royalty and given a wonderful 3 hour tour of every inch of Churchill Downs. I wish them the best as they rebuild.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rest in Peace Finallymadeit

Rest in peace, Finallymadeit.

Finallymadeit, a multiple graded-stakes winner and $1 million earner, fractured his left front cannon bone Tuesday morning over the main track at Saratoga and had to be euthanized. Finallymadeit had been preparing for this Saturday's Whitney Handicap .

The above picture was taken by the Turk in the Saratoga paddock just before his last start in the James Marvin Stakes on opening day.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his connections, including the folks at the Eclipse Training Center in Ocala, Fla.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day August 2, 2009: The San Diego Handicap plus Video Replay of Jim Dandy, WV Derby, and Haskell

The Turk likes to wax poetic about creating handicaps and then working the handicap. It's a two step process in my mind. The handicap can be something akin to a crossword puzzle or Sudoku, a mental exercise -or- it can be used to build bets that hopefully take a small pile of money and turn it into a slightly larger pile of money. The dangerous trap horseplayers can fall into is the hunt for the big score. While they happen, there is low hanging fruit aplenty all over the cards at tracks everyday. I love the big score and I'm still on a high after filling my pockets on the FourStarDave Sunday, but those types of scores for a low risk bettor are few and in between. The San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on Sunday is the best example I can give of creating a handicap, working a handicap and having a nice return to show for it. It's not sexy, but its workmanlike, like those coal mining horseplayers pictured above.

Race 8 Del Mar Sunday August 2, 2009: The San Diego Handicap Grade II; 1 1/16 miles on fake and 'no safer then dirt' dirt for 3 YOs and Up.

The Turk took a stand on Sunday against the madness around Well Armed. I love the horse and was thrilled with his loose on the lead drubbing that he delivered in Dubai, but the horse hasn't raced since March and he was bet down to Secretariat/Ruffian levels. If he would have won, the risk/reward meter just isn't high enough in reward to justify it, and obviously if he lost...

So what to do? I looked exacta and I keyed everything to Informed winning. The current form of Informed is far superior to Well Armed, even if the horses aren't equals on paper. I worked my handicap. I placed four $2 exacta bets using my handicap, and I tossed the bottom two horses and Well Armed because again, winning with Well Armed second isn't really winning and the risk/reward doesn't justify the bet. $8 in bets returns $53 in winnings. Not sexy, workmanlike.

I put together a few other videos from the weekend races I handicapped. Enjoy. Turk Out!

The Jim Dandy

The West Virginia Derby

Haskell Invitational

Quality Road's Return in the Amsterdam Stakes

The Traver's is going to be quite a gathering!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day August 2, 2009; The FourStarDave and Haskell Invitational

When things aren't going your way in this game, and dry patches do happen, there's only one thing you can do: Work harder. Everyone need a process. Everyone needs a way to get back to basics. The Turk took a two week holiday break in early July and then struggled for two weeks afterwards to break out of a funk. While I couldn't take credit for it, yesterday I handicapped both the Jim Dandy and West Virginia Derby and I nailed both cold, Trifecta payouts. I felt relieved, but it wasn't enough, I needed a race I could blog and be proud of. I keep to my basics; I stuck to the information in the Deluxe Past Performances from Daily Racing Form, applied my red pen in search of current form, current work, class, distance and surface and the intangibles of Jock/Trainer stats and the horses In the Money percentage. It was this effort, and as always, educated luck, that lead me from the darkness and into the light.

Race 7 SAR: The FourStarDave Handicap Grade II; 1 1/16 Miles on Good Turf for 3 YOs and Up.

The Turk bet multiple $2 Superfectas using my base handicap. I choose not to box because I didn't like Cosmonaut or Mambo Meister to finish on top of the ticket. Luckily for me, I built several tickets without Cowboy Cal on top. I was impressed by Justenuffhumor's PP. Again, educated luck. Build a handicap and work the handicap. I think the biggest stroke of luck was I trusted my gut and tossed Kip Deville.

The $2 Superfecta paid $1,639. The $2 Trifecta paid $345. Nothing sexy, just workmanlike.

Race 13 MTH: The Haskell Invitational Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy and sealed dirt surface for 3 YOs.

Quick math told me I was on the hunt for small potatoes. I figured if I hit the Trifecta I'd return may 18 bucks. It ended up returning $12 dollars and change. I declined to bet but I did have the Trifecta nailed down. I was impressed by Munnings but he should stick to one mile or less and one corner, and Rachel Alexandra, wow! What a horse, she should have/could have been the Triple Crown winner.

The Little Turk is sitting here with me. He gets life better then most folks his age. He knows the difference between bragging and being proud of what you do. Dry spells happen to all horseplayers. Good days come to. Enjoy them without bragging.

Turk Out!

The Nominations Are In: August 2, 2009; The FourStarDave at Saratoga and the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar

That happy looking bunch to the left is the connections for Red Giant, the speedy Giant's Causeway son and winner of the 2008 FourStarDave Handicap at Saratoga. The Trainer of Red Giant is none other then the dapper T. Pletcher, who brings in another Giant's Causeway son, Cowboy Cal into the 2009 edition of this race.

Race 7 SAR Post Time 4:21 ET; The FourStarDave Handicap Grade II; 1 1/16 mile on Turf for 3 YOs and Up.

The Hour by Hour Forecast for Saratoga lists an 80% chance of precipitation at 3 PM. Figure that into your calculations and check the track website for if the race is taken off the turf at all. The Turk will be reworking the handicap, or not betting at all, depending on the surface condition minutes before post. The Turf was listed as Good around 11 AM.

I am placing Cowboy Cal at the top of my base handicap. He faired poorly on yielding turf in his last outing at 1 1/4 and faded a bit on good turf at 1 1/8 before that. It's a concern.

Breaking from the next gate is Justenuffhumor, a McLaughlin/Garcia combination that clicked along last meet at SAR 35% of the time. The 4 YO son of Distorted Humor is 4 of 4 in 2009 and 3 of 3 at this distance, and Trainer McLaughlin clips away at 22% on Turf. Lots to like. His last two wins were also on Turf listed as good.

7 Yo Cosmonaut is an erratic threat. 17 of 28 Turf races in the money, 19 of 35 lifetime in the money, 8 wins in 35 career starts. His last two outings ended in lost positioning, but Leparoux is up again and has ridden this horse well in the past.

I've dropped Kip Deville back a bit, but that doesn't mean he can't strike anywhere from 1st to 5th, but I'm leaning towards no better then third.

On the Left Coast, where the Surf meets the Turf, we have some of California's biggest names competing against the hero of the Dubai Meet, Well Armed. The Turk loves the circular nature of life and just as we had with FourStarDave, we have Well Armed, returning from Dubai for the second year in a row, returning to action from post 10 with jock Gryder up, looking to win this race for the second year in a row. The picture was taken by Andrew Watkins.

Race 8 DMR Post Time 8:30 ET: The San Diego Handicap Grade II; 1 1/16 miles on dangerous fake dirt for 3 YOs and Up.

I'm going to back Informed to nip Well Armed before the line. Informed is dropping back in distance and the 5 YO son of Tiznow goes into his third race since mid June. I like where he's at right now and I like is lifetime 8 of 12 in the money at this distance and his 3 of 3 lifetime in the money at DMR. My early bet strategy will not be tied to Informed winning, so no key's, no wheel's with him and all I'll be looking for is a top 4 finish.

I'm dropping Well Armed no lower then second and I expect the horse to be even money or worse by post time. A top four is all I'm looking for, and I'll have an unbalanced matrix of bets that lean towards him winning.

The balance of my top four are streches and I'm liable to rethink or not bet this race because my handicap flopped them out so high and it doesn't sit well with me. I liked Kelly Leak several months back, but he's been on the shelf since late March. The Runaway Groom colt has been training for speed and endurance and looks very sharp in the mornings. I'm looking for Mike Smith to be in a foul mood after the WV Derby and ride a big race today.

Sangaree from the far outside is a seemingly outclassed colt today, but I'm not so sure. The 4 YO Baffert trainee has the late speed to find the back of the ticket. I think some bigger name and fading horses will have a hard time here today.

Whats it all mean? There is alot of talent outside of Well Armed and Informed. A matrix with multiple third and fourth place finishers will be constructed and I'll be active in 10 cent superfecta betting. The filly Allicansayis Wow is carrying 15 less pounds then Well Armed and I'm always curious when Biancone picks a odd spot for a runner.

Enjoy. Turk out!

The Nomination Is In: August 2, 2009; The Haskell Grade I

It's hard to believe that one year ago that monster colt to the left, Big Brown, was stepping onto the last racetrack he'd ever menace, Monmouth Park, the scene of his last major victory in The Haskell Invitational. He was only the second Kentucky Derby winner to win the Haskell Invitational, the other being War Emblem in 2002.

Today's edition of the 42nd running of the Haskell Invitational, named for the former President and Chairman of the Board of Monmouth Park, Mr. Armory Haskell, features another feared runner who will go off at ridiculously low odds, the Preakness and three time Grade I stakes winner, Rachel Alexandra. She is challenged primarily by the Belmont Stakes Winner, Summer Bird, Grade II winners Papa Clem and Munnings, and the classy and now royal, Atomic Rain.

Race 13 Monmouth Park; Post Time 6:15 ET; The Haskell Invitational Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3 YOs.

This is a handicap you'll have to tie to the weather very closely. The hour by hour forecast for Oceanport, NJ today shows some very severe weather around 3 to 4 PM with 40-60% precipitation most of the afternoon. You can find the track condition updated regularly at the Monmouth Park website.

I don't know how you don't support Rachel Alexandra to win if based solely on the numbers, trips and body of work. The filly has posted 6 straight 100+ Beyer Speed Figs and has trained very fast since her 19 length victory in the Mother Goose in late June. She also has the highest lifetime speed fig on an off track at 103. I'm hunting for exotics, so I will wheel, key or build a matrix around Rachel Alexandra winning and if she doesn't, someone other then this Turk will be happy.

The pace scenario for this race is hard to figure, but most likely Rachel Alexandra will go to the front or just outside and back of the pace setter. The seven furlong flash Munnings, coming in with back to back wins and 2 straight 110+ BSFs looks to strike the front early and bring some heat. Another who may press the pace is the unlikely top four finisher Duke of Mischief. It's a stretch but I'm leaning towards the speed sustaining 2 extra furlongs for Munnings and carrying him anywhere from second to fourth.

A strong collection of horses compete in this race, a notch below Rachel Alexandra, but fine Grade II challengers. Papa Clem I have fifth but could easily find the top 4. Atomic Rain and Summer Bird could easily flip flop around with Munnings.

Whats it all mean? Build a base handicap and then work your handicap. For me that means keeping Rachel Alexandra on top and inserting in combinations for the Exacta, Tri and Super. The overwhelming favorite that I think Rachel Alexandra will be with the betting public will make the needle on the risk/reward meter lean heavy towards risk. I'll take no more then 10-12 dollars and see if we can't make it into 50 or 60 dollars.

Good Luck and Turk Out!