Saturday, October 31, 2009

Breeders' Cup Nominations to Handicap

The Turk has taken a well deserved Handicapper's Holiday the past few weeks, but with the release of the advanced PPs for the Breeders' Cup, my horseplayers soul is stirring. After careful deliberations, I'm forgoing Juvenile races on both days as well as the Marathon and the Turf Sprint. I'm going to focus my attention on three races on Friday and five on Saturday and hopefully find quality handicaps to match the effort I'll put in. This is a dangerous time for me: I don't like pre-event hype to cloud my thinking, but I love the focus and media attention the Breeders' Cup races harness. I'm going to do my best to stick to Clocker's Reports and fluff pieces, but it won't be easy. Anyway, let's get it on!

Breeders' Cup Friday: The Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Grade I; 7 Furlongs on Fake Dirt for F&M 3 YO and Up.

Breeders' Cup Friday: The Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf Grade I; 1 1/4 Miles on Turf for F&M 3 YO and Up.

Breeders' Cup Friday: The Breeders' Cup Distaff Grade I; 1 1/8 Miles on Fake Dirt for F&M 3 YO and Up.

Breeders' Cup Saturday: The Breeders' Cup Fake Dirt Mile Grade I; 1Mile on Fake Dirt for 3 YO and Up.

Breeders' Cup Saturday: The Breeders' Cup Mile Grade I; 1 Mile on Turf for 3 YO and Up.

Breeders' Cup Saturday: The Breeders' Cup Sprint Grade I; 6 Furlongs on Fake Dirt for 3 YO and Up.

Breeders' Cup Saturday: The Breeders' Cup Turf Grade I; 1 1/2 Miles on Turf for 3 YO and Up.

Breeders' Cup Saturday: The Breeders' Cup Classic Grade I; 1 1/4 Miles on Fake Dirt for 3 YO and Up.

You have to start somewhere. In this horseplayers mind it always starts with picking (or nominating) which races to dedicate time and energy into breaking down. We'll be on the hunt of Exotics on both days, and with big fields The Turk does his work happily with the expectations of big payouts and exciting racing. I'll be updating these spreadsheets during the week as I sip bourbon and look for divine guidance.

Until then, have fun, Turk Out!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day October 17, 2009: The Nearctic Grade II at Woodbine

Woodbine was the scene of some fantastic racing yesterday. I was most interested as a handicapper in the six furlong Nearctic Grade II on the turf. With a big field and no 10 cent supers, I built what I thought was a pretty good handicap to go Trifecta and Exacta hunting, and even though I came up short, by handicap was fairly effective anyway. Patience and Consistency will always lead you back to the window a happy person over time.

Race 8 WO: The Neartic Grade II; 6 Furlongs on Turf for 3 YOs and Up.

The color coding explains my thought process: My base handicap is in blue, my possibles (be it part wheels or partial box candidates) are in yellow, and my tosses are in red. After I complete a handicap I always ask myself, why I am betting this race? I'm the sort of horseplayer that doesn't bet every race on the card and I'm definitely not the kind of horse player who needs "action plays". I handicap to win and I've learned the best way to pursue a positive ROI is to not bet races I don't feel good about the handicap on.

OK, what the heck does that mean? I'm a Past Performance handicapper. I like and feel comfortable handicapping off of Daily Race Form Deluxe PP's. While I watch trips, I can't say I'm comfortable enough watching trips to learn anything except to identify bad trips for future use. I guess I'm saying if a horse shows a great turn of foot or struggles with a lead change, its lost on me, all I see is good and bad trips, gutty efforts and timid ones. Feeling good about a handicap means I have plenty of races and workouts and trainer and jock stats to sort the wheat from the chaff. Whatever method you employ, be consistent.

By my rules I should have walked away on this race, but it is a judgement call and after handicapping I felt I had enough of a handle to take a good swing at it. It is horse racing after all, not a mathematical formula or a crossword puzzle.

As the color on my chart shows, flip Bogue Chitto and Chamberlain Bridge and I'm writing about a very successful handicap. The Turk hung his handicap on Chamberlain Bridge being able to go 1/2 furlong further then he has in the past and doing it aplomb. It didn't happen.

The Turk Clan did cash a $4 winner on Field Commission, a Woodbine runner who isn't intimidated by shippers. The $26.40 on the win bet which was a defensive bet that worked covered the $20 total that was bet on several straight trifectas and exactas.

It's getting very cold in Western New York and the ice was think on my windshield this morning. I'm starting to day dream more and more about the Baldwin Ave. exit that leads towards Santa Anita. The Breeder's Cup is coming, now less then three weeks away. While it would have been great to see Sea the Stars and Rachael Alexandra, at this point I'll be happy if our American runners acquit themselves well. For analysis and commentary of each of the Breeder's Cup divisional races, read the work of Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance bloggers at the NTRA website as well as the excellent Breeders' Cup 360 website which is chock full of all kinds of good stuff.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Nomination Is In: October 17, 2009; The Nearctic Grade II; 6 Furlongs on Turf at Woodbine

The fine looking 5 YO gelding in the picture is Chamberlain Bridge, the Turk's chalk in today's Nearctic at Woodbine. It's feeling a bit Near-Arctic here in Western New York, 80 miles south of Woodbine, and the weather at the track shouldn't be much warmer but the turf will be firm and fast.

Race 8 WO post time 4:23 ET; The Nearctic Grade II; 6f on Turf for 3 YO and Up.

10 Cent Supers are not in fashion for this race. I lead with that as it does shape my bet strategy as I review my base handicap.

While a Grade II event, the field isn't one to remember. There is a parity among the middle of the pack, and in my handicapping opinion a few that are better and a few that perhaps should never leave the shed row. The beauty of the races is that they aren't a mathematical proposition or a Sudoku puzzle as I'll often describe them to bewildered folks sitting next to me on airplanes. The Turk is still shaking his head at Gitano Hernando (GB), surprise winner of the Goodwood last weekend. I can accept that he won. I can accept I didn't pick him. I can accept that I didn't even consider him. I grudgingly accept that foreign invaders with unremarkable Past Performances need to be accounted for. That was understood on Turf for many years, but now the turf to poly angle is a factor as is the overseas or different poly to race day poly angles must be analyzed. All good stuff.

As a handicapper, after I have reviewed what is on the paper, I must sit back and ponder the intangibles. Why is this horse racing at this track on this day? It's a fundamental question that must be asked, especially of shippers. Why did the connections ship this horse here, why did they train like they did, and what is the end game? You must ask yourself that question again in the post race analysis, what any serious handicapper must do to learn from his effort fully, and often the hindsight you gain will lead you clearly to the answer.

I digress. What I enjoy most about handicapping are the surprises. The Turk often talks of staying humble. Horses will keep you humble, but if you are consistent, if you learn from your handicaps that worked and the ones that don't, ticket cashing will follow. I'm not sure how this economy of words blogger started this discussion, perhaps The Glenlivet is still in my system fro last night. Let's get it on!

Chamberlain Bridge is a 5-5.5 furlong runner stretching up to 6f today. Gomez is up today for Trainer Calhoun's runner. Trainer Calhoun has sparkling stats this year, 23% winners, 177 wins, 25% turf sprints, 24% won last start, 21% turf, 26% sprints, 24% graded stakes and 25 graded stakes wins. Chamberlain Bridge is 16 of 17 lifetime in the money on Turf and comes in off a 102 BSF effort in early September and 3 straight mid 90 BSF's before that. Work is dull and slow.

Trainer Sid Attard's Jungle Wave is coming in with perhaps even better current form; 4 straight upper 90 low 100 BSF's including a Grade II WO 7F turf race on yielding grass and the mid race lead at the Woodbine Mile. 9 of 12 lifetime in the money and 5 of 6 in the money in 2009, a nice :47 3/5ths effort at 4f this past week.

Field Commission is a solid local runner who always seems to be in contention in minor stakes at WO, 14 of 17 lifetime in the money. Seems to like slightly softer turf, something I don't think we'll see today. Hedging down a bit with this B pack that I have, but I like him and he gets many intangible points.

My "live and long" choice is Grand Adventure. Dropping back slightly in distance, this lightly raced 3 YO comes in off a Woodbine Mile where he pressed the pace well to the 6f point with :46 at 4f and 1:09.08 at 6f. Not earth shattering, but with Husbands up and 3 of 5 lifeime on WO turf, I'm watching the tote and placing some sort of wager on him. Does he belong this high in my base handicap? Maybe not but if I'm going to consider him live and long I need to consider him for hitting at least 4th or that would be sandbagging.

Little Nick and Heros Reward deserve some action on the ticket, I'm just not sure how much i can afford them. My general betting rules would obligate me to offer no wager on a base handicap that shaped up as this one did for me. That said, I'm oing to keep it simple, small, and we'll see what happens. I'm off to walk the Turk's foundation weimaraner, Kay, and when i return we'll get after the Canadian International, Grade I on turf at WO. Today is The Turk's 17th wedding aniversary. Mrs. Turk wasn't sure if she could find time to handicap today, but she took several seconds and announced she liked Field Commission and Little Nick. Little Turk, our resident handicapping savant, likes Chamberlain Bridge too.

Have fun, tell your family and friends you love them, Turk out!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Nomination Is In: October 10, 2009; The Goodwood Grade I at Santa Anita

That VERY good looking fella looking calm and inquisitive is none other then the Kentucky Derby Champion Mine That Bird, making his return to the racetrack after an eventful few months. We wish him good luck today, as the Turk is a big fan of his, and he'll need it with the crowd he is going against.

Race 7 Santa Anita Post Time 6:30 ET; The Goodwood Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on fake dirt for 3 YOs and Up.

I had to go back and re watch the trip that Richard's Kid had in the Pacific Classic. It was a Mine That Bird-esque run that left most handicappers baffled in a similar fashion, not as shocking, as Mine That Bird's rise to Grade I prominence.

The day after the Pacific Classic I went back over the materials and tried to glean something from it. I came to the conclusion that Hall of Fame trainer Baffert is back on the very top of his game. Looking at the way Richard's Kid is training, I would say his current form is sharp and he is ready for a very stiff test today. A bullet at :46 4/5ths in 4f and a nice 1:12 2/5ths at 6f make me give him the tentative chalk mark on his hip. If he wins here, or acquits himself with a strong duel, it will establish the 4 YO Lemon Drop Kid son and one of the surprise older colts of 2009.

Mine That Bird is the kind of plucky little gelding that the Turk has a deep affinity for. Those cowboy connections of his are again in the bright lights after their summer plans went astray when Mine That Bird needed throat surgery and went on the shelf for a bit. We watched as Summer Bird became the "bird" everyone was talking about, but the Kentucky Derby win, the Preakness run at Rachel, the gutty but troubled trip of the Belmont can not be dismissed. Could win or could finish last? A test of faith but I believe in Mine That Bird and I'm hedging he finds the exotic ticket.

Tiago has been a Turk favorite since his three year old campaign. Tiago won the Goodwood as a 3 YO and lost by a length to Well Armed last year. This is a test of faith as well, as current form must be questioned. Hedging more down then up.

Colonel John is 7 of 10 in the money on fake dirt and has won three times on the fake stuff at Santa Anita.

A stretch is Monzante, the 5 YO gelding from Maria's Mon. Only the second race of 2009, his form of 2008 was very impressive and he is training well.

There are lots of possible exotic ticket crashers in this lineup so build your tickets wisely. I plan on using my base handicap and then inserting multiple horses boxed in the 3 and 4 spot. We'll see what we can do.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: October 10, 2009; The Oak Tree Mile Grade II at Santa Anita on Turf for 3 YOs and Up

In the white halter is Cowboy Cal, The Turk's chalk in today's Oak Tree Mile on turf at Santa Anita. This Sarah K. Andrew picture captures the effort and the result where he lost by a head to the magnificent Einstein.

The weather in Arcadia will be good and the turf should be firm. A review of DRF Daily Simulcast Track Data indicates no bias on either surface with rails set at 30 feet. You'll find up to date track data and changes here.

Race 6 Santa Anita, Post Time 6 PM ET; The Oak Tree Mile Grade II; 1 Mile on Turf for 3 YOs and Up.

Cowboy Cal is a solid Grade II horse, owner of the best 2009 BSF at 106 and 5 of 7 efforts are in the money in 2009. He's far from an iron pipe lock but with the distance reduction this son of Giant's Causeway with Gomez up today should run himself into the top four for Trainer Pletcher. Escaping quality like Einstein and Justenuffhumor and Gio Ponti makes him the class of this collection of good runners.

5 YO Whatsthescript(Ire) is coming off a layoff after back to back show finishes in Grade I and II Turf events at 1 1/8 miles. Last win was August 2008 and is 2 of last 8 but a race best 107 BSF on Turf and a race best 107 BSF at the mile distance. Taining sharply including a 6f 1:12 4/5s and a 5f :59 2/5. 3rd in the Breeders' Cup Mile on this course last year. Trainer Sadler does a good job of preparing his runners after layoffs >60 days with a 25% win rate on 110 tries.

The next tier of horses, my B+ and B group are all solid and must be factored in the Super ticket, most likely 2-4. Global Hunter (Arg) gets the edge with strong work and a solid recent work in Grade I turf racing with back to back 100+ BSFs at Del Mar.

Allicansayis Wow is the 4 YO filly who is taking on older males for the second time after a solid second in the Grade II Del Mar mile. Trainer Biancone is sharp and I wonder why he places his horse in this race. Training well, :59 1/5 at 5f last week on the turf. Best BSF on the turf is 95 and no wins at one mile or at SA. Jock Fallon up today, a wild card as well. Good enough to find 3rd or 4th but hedging down more tickets then not.

Monterey Jazz is coming off a very dull Grade II effort at the mile in August. freshened and training well including a nice 1:11 2/5 at 6f under a hand ride, and Jock M. Smith gets the nod today for Trainer Dollase. 5 of 11 on Turf and has a year best 104 BSF, owns a 118 BSF from a slick effort in the Grade III Texas Mile in 2008. Hedging up as high as 2nd.

I continue to watch the races at Santa Anita closely as we build towards the Breeders' Cup 1 month from now. Last weekend's loss of Grazen to a career ending injury and the death of Blackbriar put a real damper on ye' old Turk's spirits. Let's hope for a better weekend.

For the latest opinion in the pending Breeder's Cup, tune into the fine work that Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance members are doing at the NTRA website.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Nomination Is In: October 10, 2009; The Turf Mile Grade I at Keeneland

That good looking winner in the Vanessa Ng photo is Justenuffhumor, decked out today in Godolphin royal blue silks.

Justenuffhumor gets the nod today as the Turk's chalk in the Keeneland Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile. If the 4 YO son of Distorted Humor wins he'll be defeating a stacked field that includes 3 Yo turf whiz Battle of Hastings, Woodbine warrior Sterwins,and the capable Court Vision , Mr. Sidney and Karelian.

The weather looks to be good but races scratched on Friday off the turf so pay attention to how the turf is listed, as well as other changes, before finalizing your handicap.

Race 9 KEE, Post Time 5:45 ET: The Turf Mile Grade I; 1 Mile on Kentucky Bluegrass for 3 YOs and Up

Again, the status of the turf is critical so pay close attention as for example Mr. Sidney has posted two straight 100+ BSF's on yielding turf and duller efforts of late on firm turf.

I think the logical choice for chalk is Justenuffhumor. 6 for 6 in 2009 and a race best 106 BSF on turf for this Grade II winner. A. Garcia is up and Trainer McLaughlin's stats need no introductions. Only run at 1 Mile was an 86 BSF effort in a 35K Maiden Special Weight win, he'll be dropping back 1 furlong from last effort. A phenomenal turn of foot, the colt has been breaking slowly from the gate and will need a good exit with the competition he will face.

Battle of Hastings (GB) is a "just win baby" 3 YO, 6 of 6 in the money in 2009 and 8 of 12 lifetime on turf. Multiple Grade II wins for the Mullin's trainee. The 3 YO gelding is very solid and facing older horses for the first time. This may be a stretch for him and I'll have a downward hedge on him.

Sterwins is the hard knockin', hard charging 6 yo gray gelding son of Runaway Groom. 6 of 7 In the money in 2009 and 11 of 13 lifetime in the money on Turf. Not the most talented, often overlooked, he just seems to find himself on tickets. I'm counting him into the top four on many tickets.

It's a real pick em' for the fourth spot in my super tickets. My base handicap gives the nod to Mr. Sidney, a 1 Mile turf grade I winner at Keeneland in 2009 already. Off since a so-so Arlington Mile, 5 wins in 8 career lifetime turf starts and 4 for 4 at the Mile Distance as well as a race best 101 BSF on KEE turf. He's hedging up more then down, especially if the turf listed as anything other then firm.

A couple of runners that must be considered are Court Vision, recently having surgury in an area that would make all men cringe, and Karelian, unraced since November 2008. Court Vision, conditioned by R. Dutrow and racing in IEAH silks, has been training sharp and puts blinkers on today, something Dutrow wins 20% of the time doing. 2 wins in last 13 starts, dangerous a year ago, a question mark right now. Hedging him upward. Karelian again this time a year ago was a horse to be feared, but current form must be questioned. These two horses create a real wild card issue.

So what's it all mean? This is not an easy mark and if I follow my own rules I walk away right now. With 10 Cent Super's in fashion I'm going to play multiple combinations of my base handicap, boxed, and keep the risk low.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Nomination Is In: October 3, 2009; The Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap Grade II; 1 1/4 miles on Dirt for 3 YO and Up

The Hawthorne website is good so check for changes as post time approaches. For anyone that wants to understand what it's like to hang around Hawthorne, with its VERY different crowd and culture from Arlington, try reading Ted McClelland's excellent 2005 book "Horseplayers-Life at the Track."

The weather could play a factor. The Hour by Hour forecast shows a serious storm to hit in the 4 PM CT hour, and with post time at 4:14 CT, it's going to be close.

Hawthorne Race 7 Post Time 5:14 PM ET; The Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap Grade II; 1 1/4 miles on Cicero Ave. dirt for 3 YO and Up.

7 YO Jonesboro can still crank it up, as evidenced by a 109 BSF in late June. 25 of 35 in the money on dirt and owner of the race best BSF. A tepid chalk.

Awesome Gem comes in needing a change in fortunes, with only 1 win in the last 14 trips to the gate. No wins at the distance but is capable of a three digit BSF when stretched out to the classic distance.

Nite Light drops back in distance from 1 1/2 miles and that should help the grade III winner who will provide speed and pace. On the flip slid, Shadowbdancing still has to prove himeself at the classic distance. 6 of 6 in the money in 2009 including 3 wins.

For all my nominations today, a bet strategy is forthcoming, but 10 cent supers are in fashion and exotic is my preference.

As always, watch the tote board, check the weather, the changes, and only bet what you can afford and not a penny more. I know I'm wasting my breath on most horseplayers, but the best bets you make are the ones you pass on. If you ain't feelin' it, pass. This is a big field and it's competitive in a mediocre way for a grade II event. The payouts will be healthy and that's what interests me.

I'll be watching Belmont as a fan more then a horseplayer today.

Have fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: October 3, 2009; The California Cup Mile Handicap $125,000; 1 Mile on Turf at Santa Anita

That fine looking stallion is Unusual Heat, always well represented in California, as he is today with two fine children, horse Unusual Suspect and gelding The Unusual Q.T. Along with the filly Lethal Heat from race six, I find myself admiring greatly the progeny of this proud and beloved animal.

Oak Tree at Santa Anita Race 9, post time 7:00 PM ET; The California Cup Mile Handicap $125,000; 1 Mile on beautiful Arcadian Turf for CA Bred or CA Sired 3 YOs and Up.

Again, in order to get ready for Breeders' Cup, I think it's important to handicap the race track and learn how it plays now, not last spring, not last fall, but now. You can take much from gathering the race charts and analyzing the results, but for me, playing the races teaches me much more then just analyzing. I think the lesson of posting handicaps, good and bad, gives me a sting or a thrill depending on the result, that I retain for a long time.

I am leaning toward the 5 YO Unusual Suspect in this match. When this horse goes into the gate today, he will have done so some twenty times more then the next most experienced runner. 8 Wins in 40 Career efforts, a race best $736,000 in earnings, a race best $173,000 in earnings in 2009, a race best 97 BSF in 2009, a race best 97 BSF on Santa Anita turf, a race best 96 BSF on turf and a race best 95 BSF at the distance. Lots to like especially the drop in distance . Things not to like are the fact he's only won 2 times in last 19 outings and is only 5 of 19 in the money over past two years. Still, good enough to hit the ticket and good enough to finish top four.

Coming off a long layoff, I like Dewey's Special to hit somewhere between 2nd and 4th. 3 of 3 wins in 2009, 7 of 10 lifetime in the money for the 4 YO gelding 4 of 4 in the money on turf and 6 of 6 in the money the past two years. Trainer Ellis wins 29% of last start winners and 29% of his turf starts.

The Usual Q.T. is a lightly raced 3 YO gelding, but 6 of 7 in the money lifetime and 2 of 3 start wins on turf. Posted a nice 1:34.00 at 1 mile on firm turf at Del Mar in early September and Gomez returns to the mount off that effort.

Suit Yourself may surprise and I see an improving 4 YO gelding with sharp work after a career best 92 BSF at 1 mile on the fake stuff at Del Mar in early September. Winless in 6 tries on the Turf, a leap of faith, but could add serious value to the ticket.

I don't see much to separate Enriched, Bert's Law and Skimmetry. Enriched is 5 of 7 in the money in 2009 and comes in off an N1X win at 1 mile on turf. Bert's Law drops in distance and that makes him a bit of a wild card I must plan for. Skimmetry hasn't won since April 2008 but the lightly raced 5 YO is 6 of 7 in the money on Turf with a high 91 BSF.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: October 3, 2009; The California Cup Classic Handicap 1 1/8 miles on the fake stuff at Oak Tree at Santa Anita

Alydar. The name conjures up an era that came crashing down, the end of Calumet, and a link to what we had and where we are now. Oh mighty Alydar, in your devil red and blue silks, rest in peace and look favorably down on your great grandson, Grazen, the Turk's favorite to win the California Cup Classic Handicap. The picture was taken by the Turk's favorite horse shutterfly, the incredible Barbara Livingston.

Santa Anita Race 6, Post Time 5:30 PM ET; The California Cup Classic Handicap 200K; 1 1/8 miles on fake dirt for CA Bred or CA Sired 3 YO and Up.

Not my featured race of the day but it is in keeping with my practice of handicapping as many races as humanly possible at Santa Anita as we lead up to the Breeders' Cup. While my Daily Race Form Simulcast Daily subscription provides the race charts and track bias information to me over the course of the meet, I find it much more useful to "invade" certain tracks at certain times of the year and play it early and often. I like Santa Anita an awful lot, fake dirt and all, and I like the workout information I see from there and can corroborate with other sources. Sure wish I could say that about other tracks.

The field is currently six and right now there are no changes.

Grazen, coming off an early September win at 1 Mile at Del Mar where he edged out Chocolate Candy, is my chalk. He sports the races best BSF on fake dirt at 103 and the best BSF at today's distance, a 98. He has trained sharply and the 3 YO is 5 for 5 in the money in 2009. Jock/Trainer clip away at 41% win rate over 80 races the past year. Trainer Mitchell wins 23% of the fake stuff races, and with Gomez up, a pretty tough combo.

Lethal Heat, the lone filly, will be right on Grazen's heels. Much to like and a few things not too. Last three efforts saw the filly strike the front only to fade at the final call. 6 of 7 in the money on fake stuff and 12 of 14 lifetime, too good to not hit the ticket.

Flip a coin on Star Nicholas and Bold Chieftain. I like Bold Chieftain and the distance, but the two Baze's up should be there on the ticket.

Blackbriar is interesting and at the right odds a Show bet not out of the question. One Chin Again is a hard knockin' 4 YO gelding that isn't of the quality of the others.

Have Fun. The Turk has at least 3 more handicapped for today. Turk Out for Now.