Sunday, November 29, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day November 28, 2009; The Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and The Matriarch at Hollywood Park

Just that kind of weekend, plugging away in the coal mine that the horsegame can sometimes be reduced to. I'm a horse racing fan and I'm also a horse player. At times I keep these two sides separate and one of the greatest skills I have is the ability to not feel the need for "action plays". I can be quite content just watching the ponies run for the wire. That said, I'm in horse player mode right now. There's good money to made on the undercards most weekends, but I prefer to blog about handicapping graded stakes and this time of the year you get what you get. What I got yesterday in the Cigar Mile and The Matriarch was a mixed bag of short priced chalks and small fields that the betting public were pretty hip to. To make money, sometimes you just have to be a coal miner; chip away at the stuff you think you can hit and keep your exposure low when you can't.

Before I get too far, I wish Summer Bird a speedy recovery. Lets Go!

The Cigar Mile Grade I at Aqueduct and The Matriarch Grade I at Hollywood Park

The Cigar Mile was a race I felt OK about the ability to make money on, especially the Exacta. I felt Bribon (Fr) would win, closely followed by Kodiak Kowboy. For a good paying trifecta, I believed Driven by Success had a chance to slip into the action. Just as I said prerace, I kept the exposure low, bet a boxed exacta on my base handicap and was rewarded with $45.20 on an $8 bet. My one trifecta busted out but the key was keeping the exposure low, which I did. The other good thing I did was identify that the coupled chalks, Pyro and Vineyard Haven would finish no better then Show. Vineyard Haven should drop back to 6 furlongs and Pyro, I dunno. Hat's off to Kodiak Kowboy, a solid run and a good win bet return for those who backed him.

Switching gears to The Matriarch, there really wasn't much you could do with this one. Ventura had a stirring stretch run and won convincingly. I had the top four locked up and with an engagement around the time the race went to post I bet a 10 cent boxed Superfecta for $2.40 based on my base handicap hours before post time. The $1 Superfecta returned $11.40 and my 10% variety returned a paltry $1.14. It doesn't happen often, but the bettors had this one dead cold and the order of finish was exactly, top to bottom, the order the bettors had them finishing. I kept the exposure low and if I would have followed my own rules I wouldn't have bet a nickel.

I received an email recently and the reader asked me my thoughts on exotic betting. I gave the simplest answer I know: 1.) Don't bother until you can pick winners on a regular basis and 2.) you can identify the toss-out horses regularly. If you can pick the winners, eliminate the horses who can't break the top four, and identify a group of horses that will slot out Place, Show and 4th, then you are ready. Bet responsibly and remember the best bets are often the ones you don't make.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Nomination Is In: November 28, 2009; The Matriarch Grade I on Turf at Hollywood Park

In the Vanessa Ng photo is Rutherienne, taking on The Turk's chalk in today's Matriarch at Hollywood Park, Ventura, racing for Trainer Ascanio who picks up where Bobby Frankel left off. Rutherienne will go off as possibly the 3rd or 4th bettor's favorite and The Turk is looking for her to add some value to his tickets. You'll find changes and scratches here. Let's Go!

Race 8 at Hollywood Park Post Time 7:05 PM; The Matriarch Grade I; 1 Mile on Turf for F&M 3 YO and Up.

Ventura needs no introduction to racing fans; 8 of last 9 races she put up 100+ BSF and she has beaten older males and Placed a few times against them as well. 12 of 13 in the money on turf. Gomez is up. Much to like from the 5 YO daughter of Chester House who is looking for her 10th win in her 21st and final career starts.

Rutherienne, the Clement conditioned daughter of Pulpit, is a steady upper 90 BSF mare. 3 wins in last 13 starts, 11 wins in 23 tries on Turf and a career best 100 BSF. A steady effort today should land her on the ticket.

Diamondrella, the Stevens trainee for IEAH Stables, is a bit erratic and presents a wild card. Capable of 105 BSF and more then capable of beating Ventura if on. Has run well on soft and yielding turf of late and had a dreadful Breeders' Cup week and race and followed that up with a slow work in hand, :49 3/5ths at 4 furlongs. May hedge to 4th at lowest but quality is too good to slip lower.

Tuscan Evening (Ire) is a Grade II winner, 3 of 3 at HOL and 14 of 20 in the money on turf. 4 YO worked sharply this week with a 4 furlong :47 bullet. Upset winner? Worth a $2 buck flyer especially if going to post odds > 4-1.

I'm tossing Taste's Sis , Puttanesca (NZ) and possibly April Pride from all tickets.

So what are we doing? Well 10 cent supers are in fashion and I'll work some of those as well as watch the tote closely and look for exacta bets with a sometime longer then Ventura/ and a 2-1 filling the top two spots. We'll hunt for value and see if we can't turn $20 into something a bit bigger.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: November 28, 2009; The Cigar Mile Grade I at Aqueduct

With the green yoke is Bribon (Fr), The Turk's chalk in today's Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. In this Vanessa Ng photo Bribon battles and ultimately beats Smooth Air at the Met Mile, the highlight so far in the 6 YO geldings career. Trainer Ribaudo brings the Mark of Esteem (Ire) son up against a small but strong field today for a stiff test. Let's go!

Race 9 Aqueduct; The Cigar Mile Grade I; 1 Mile on Dirt; A Handicap for 3 YOs and Up (Google Docs Spreadsheet attached)

Scratches and Changes you'll find here. The weather can be seen here.

Bribon (Fr) has rested and trained since a Woodbine Mile effort that produced a running line "in touch, all out drive". His 99 BSF was nowhere near good enough to beat Ventura on that day but this is a quality grade stakes miler. Capable of a mid 100+ BSF. Ran a :59 flat 5 furlong work at Belmont that past week. Looking for tenth win in thirty starts. It will take his best effort and I'll be hedging down on 1/2 of my tickets to Place.

Kodiak Kowboy will provide a very stiff challenge to Bribon and is more then capable of winning this race. Coming in off a Grade I win in the slop at Belmont at 6 furlongs. Was pointed to Breeders' Cup but had some mucus in his lungs that needed to be cleaned out. 13 day break in works from 2 November to 15 November, with a sharp 6 furlongs in 1:12 3/5ths on that day. Looking for third Grade I win in 2009 and makes twenty third career start and is looking for win eleven.

Pyro, the supremely talented 4 YO son of Pulpit is the career money earnings leader in this race, but an erratic career it has been, making seventeenth start and looking for win number six and his first at 1 Mile. He comes in off a rather pointless trip to the Breeders' Cup where he was forced to again prove he doesn't like fake dirt. Has Migliore up today for Trainer bin Suroor.

Coupled to Pyro is his stable mate, Vineyared Haven, another Godolphin runner that coulda, shoulda been better by this point in his career. A nice 6f Grade I win in the slop at Laurel in late October and before that a DQ in the King Bishop, also in the slop, in fact hasn't raced on fast dirt since a Grade I win at Belmont in October 2008 beating Munnings and Cribnote, two that could have spiced this event up today.

So what are we to do with this? A small field with two potential winners coupled together and one toss, Vacation)that offers value without any real prospect of cashing.

I'm thinking low risk, medium reward bet strategy. Driven by Success comes in off a sloppy win at 6f and most likely will set a blistering pace as he did in the Met Mile. I'll take a position of betting him to Show and then mixing and matching a few Win and Place candidates in straight Trifecta betting. We'll have some fun and keep the exposure low.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rest In Peace Ira "Babe" Hanford, 1936 Kentucky Derby Winner

Rest in Peace Ira "Babe" Hanford, winner of the 1936 Kentucky Derby as an 18 year old apprentice on Bold Venture. Ira's brother Carl was Kelso's trainer.

Rest in Peace Ira. For more on Ira's life, here is an AP article from the Washington Post and a nice human interest piece on him as well by Christopher Curry.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Nomination Is In: November 26, 2009; The Falls City Handicap Grade II at Churchill Downs

Making the 25th and final start of her career on Thanksgiving Day is Unbridled Belle, The Turk's chalk in the Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs. The 6 YO mare daughter of Broken Vow by Unbridled leads a six horse field that is rather undistinguished at Churchill; 16 Career Churchill Downs starts collectively and no wins amongst this group. The field also has 24 career starts at this distance with 5 wins collectively and 4 of them belong to Unbridled Belle.

Thanks to Cindy Pierson Dulay for the photograph. Lets Go!

Race 11 Churchill Downs Post Time 4:24 ET; The Falls City Handicap Grade II; 1 1/8 miles on good ol' Kentucky Dirt for F&M 3 YO and Up.

The weather in Louisville is a mixed bag tomorrow and its hard to tell right now what the track condition will be. It will be cold, no doubt.

The Turk really dislikes six horse fields. About the only thing I like less is less then six horse fields. If there are any scratches then I will watch only and sit on the gambling sidelines.

I look at the field and I have a hard time taking a stand against Unbridled Belle. She comes in with the best last race BSF and owns the best career BSF at 105 on a wet track (where she's only 1 of 5 in the money) and 104 on fast dirt (where she's 14 of 18 in the money with 7 wins. I'll be watching the tote board and the track conditions closely because if the track is listed as anything but fast I will place a few win bets on some better value horses.

Swift Temper is a horse in the same class with Unbridled Belle. A 5 YO mare daughter of the great Giant's Causeway making her 32nd career start and looking for their 7th win. A. Garcia will be up for Trainer Romans, and Garcia has been a part of the mare's greatest moments with a Grade II and Grade I win in 2009. Current form has been spotty with two down races in mid 70 BSF's since running a career best 104 in September. 0 for 8 at Churchill Downs. Could go either way but placed this high perhaps only on ability and not ability and current form. A good play may be to drop lower and drag more value up into exacta.

The next tier down are two Grade II/III quality dirt horses and a poly tracker. Morena (Pre) has 10 wins on 15 fast dirt starts but none since coming to the United States. This is the 5 YOs fourth start in the States with a Place in a Grade III at 1 1/8, 4th in a Grade II at 1 1/4 and Show in a Grade I at 1 1/4 miles, and this could be the best horse that represents good Win Bet risk/reward opportunity with an attractive morning line of 6-1.

Copper State is a 5 YO mare from Jump Start by A.P. Indy. 1 win in last 12 starts, but some interesting numbers 5 of 5 on off tracks in the money and 14 of 19 in the money on dirt. Fairly consistent low 90 BSF may be good enough to strike the 3rd or 4th spot on the ticket (that won't get a parade thrown for you).

Serenading ships in from Woodbine where she is a solid runner. Only 1 career start on dirt and never on a off track. Does come in off a strong 1 1/4 mile win where she struck the front early and stayed in front. Who knows what to expect but Trainer Carroll clips along at 30% wins on dirt and 25% Graded Stakes and 27% of his 'Won Last Starts'. Good enough in a weakish field to hit the top four but I don't think she's good enough for better then Show.

My only toss is Best Less, a 3 YO going from Turf to Dirt, something Trainer McPeek does well at 28%. McPeek has good stats except a paltry 7% in Graded Stakes and the McPeek/Desormeaux combo only clipping along at 18% at CD. Last dirt race in September, a win on fast dirt in Iowa.

So what's it all mean? I dunno yet. I'm going to watch the tote board and see where the field slots in because I don't like what I'm seeing in the morning lines. If Unbridled Belle moves closer to even money
and the odds grow bigger then the 5-2 on Swift Temper or the 7-2 on Copper State I think I'll be excited because I'm leaning towards a simple WPS on Morena (Per) or just some small straight exacta bets with a combination of my base handicap and a few with Morena on top.

I'd like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all my horse racing friends and family and readers. The Turk writes this little blog with modest goals and is rewarded handsomely with kind words and camaraderie regularly. I've been blessed to have a job in this tough economy, my health and the love and encouragement of Mrs. Turk and my sidekick, The Little Turk. Happy Thanksgiving!

Have Fun, Turk(ey) Out!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day November 21, 2009: The Kennedy Road at Woodbine

Ahh, the lovely Dita joins me tonight to celebrate a fine handicap in today's Grade III Kennedy Road 6f sprint at Woodbine. Ms. Von Teese, a fine handicapper in her own right, understands as I, the difference between celebrating success that results from hard work and disciplined horseplaying and bragging. The Turk never brags, as he knows how humbling the horse game can be. I thank Mrs. Turk as always for her tolerance of these celebratory smokes, she's a damn fine woman in her own right. Alrighty, lets go!

After spending a few minutes contemplating The Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct, I just had a 1-800-Hammer feeling about betting on a race I thought Gone Astray couldn't possibly lose. The disciplined bettor in me said no and I entered the Kennedy Road with extra money in my weekend betting budget. What to do with it, hmmmm?

As I said pre-race, I was going to bet a series of Exacta Bets with Smokey Fire on top and then a few straight superfectas. As I checked the tote board minutes before post I salivated as I saw Smokey Fire about where I thought he would be but Field Commission only the 4th favorite with bettors.

Putting Smokey Fire ontop of my pre race handicap I thought was a real gamble (funny, we are gambling after all). My base handicap is my "reordering" of the Morning Line. It is not, as it is often mistakenly thought of, as my betting strategy. It is my morning line and it often lines up, especially the top and bottom picks, with the track handicappers official morning line. This handicap wasn't even close yet it seemed so obvious to me that Trainer Attard was slipping Smokey Fire into a slot he thought he could do well. The Turk talks about consistency and discipline quite a bit. I talk about it because I believe in it, I believe that if you build a base handicap, believe in the base handicap, and then work that handicap with bets that make sense from a risk/reward perspective, over the long haul you will do well. When my handicap doesn't line up with the track handicap I trust in my handicap, as hard as that can be.

All that said, I was truly shocked that Field Commission wasn't higher with the bettors and I thought both El Brujo and Jungle Wave and Bouge Chitto were all good choices but no where near as good as Field Commission, and in my opinion, not currently in the form of Smokey Fire.

I placed $10 on my base handicap exacta of Smokey Fire and Field Commission, straight up. I also had $2 win on Smokey Fire and I bet five $2 Triactors with Smokey Fire and Field Commission on top, straight up, on all of them and then five of the field filling in the Show place. I mentioned Signature Red in my pre race cap as well, but his inclusion was a hunch.

Race 8 Woodbine: The Kennedy Road Grade III; 6 Furlongs on Poly for 3 YOs and UP.

That's alot of money to win with a risk of $22 dollars. The game we play is cruel and sometimes ironic. You build a base handicap and sometimes your A+ horse finishes dead last. As a hero of mine said, shake the dirt off your sandals when you have a bad handicap and just keep going.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: November 21, 2009; The Kennedy Road Grade III; 6 furlongs at Woodbine

Handsome Field Commission, campaigning in the Red and Gold Silks of owners E. Teltzer and owner/trainer D. Vella, is the morning line second choice in today's Grade III Kennedy Road at Woodbine, a 3/4 of a mile affair on fake dirt. It's a nice 10 horse field with quality and while Field Commission has at least a 30% chance of winning, the Turk is thinking upset for the win spot and Superfecta win is what I'm aiming for. Let's Go!

Race 8 Woodbine; Post Time 4:23 ET; The Kennedy Road Grade III; 6 Furlongs on All Weather Poly for 3 YOs and Up.

There has already been some changes. You Don't Pass was scratched by the stewards dropping the field to nine but not changing the starting gate because he was last horse anyhow, and the talented Ms. Sutherland takes over the mount of the #3 Horse, Signature Red.

With a field of nine, I believe the bettors will spread their money around on a few horses, at least four, making the post time favorite most likely no better then 3-1 or 7-2. There should be a chance at a big exacta/tri and super payout.

I'm going to take a bit of a gamble on my base handicap and back Smokey Fire to win. Fairly unaccomplished and one of three horses for Trainer Attard here in this race, coming off a 97 BSF at 6f about one month ago and two blistering 4f works with the last :46 4/5ths.

Field Commission enters off a 101 BSF win in a Grade II turf win and returns to fake dirt after three staright turf outings, including Place in the Woodbine Mile. Also working fast with a 4f :47 4/5ths this past week. 11 of 14 in the money on fake dirt, 11 of 14 at WO and 6 of 8 at the distance.

Jungle Wave is the morning line favorite by a nose and has the credentials. Like Field Commission, he returns to fake dirt after four turf starts and his last WO fake dirt effort at 6.5 furlongs produced a 103 BSF. 4 Wins in 7 starts in 2009 and 4 of 4 in the money on fake dirt for the gelded 4 YO son of Hold That Tiger.

El Brujo and Bogue Chitto will compete for spots in the top four. El Brujo comes in off two Grade III wins on poly tracks and the 3 YO gelded son of Candy Ride has been working steady :48 4 f. 11 of 13 in the money on fake stuff. Bouge Chitto is an ALW force at Woodbine but hasn't done well stepping up in class. A nice 5f in :59 2/5ths signals good form and last 6f outing at WO produced a 98 BSF and N2X win.

Signature Red may run well.

I'm leaning towards some exacta bets with my longshot Smokey Fire on top. After that, no more then 10 dollars or so worth of straight super bets and we'll swing for the fences.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: November, 21 2009; The Discovery Handicap Grade III at The Big A

looking wonderful in the J. Barnes photograph is none other then Gone Astray, The Pennsylvania and Ohio Derby Grade II winner and the Turk's heavy duty chalk in today's Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct.

So here we have it, a six horse field with a chalk that on the paper of the PPs looks like an iron pipe lock. So what do we do with this? Well, start the same way every time no matter what: Gather the information to make an informed decision and for that you'll need the course information, weather, scratches and equipment and then the base handicap. With those you can figure out if the risk/reward of betting on a race is worth it. Let's get it on!

The track at Aqueduct is currently listed as FAST. The weather at Ozone Park looks to be a non factor with only a 10% chance of rain. There are currently no scratches or equipment changes listed but you'll have to check much closer to the 3:44 ET post time to be sure.

Race 8 Aqueduct; Post Time 3:44 ET; The Discovery Handicap Grade III; 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3 YOs.

Gone Astray shows no signs of weakness heading into this race and Trainer McGaughey has done a good job of guiding this horse through the conditions book in the back half of the racing season making this Dixie Union son relevant as a 3 YO in a way that didn't involve the Triple Crown. Gone Astray enters the race with the last race best BSF and owns the only 100+ BSFs in the gate. 7 of 8 in the money in 2009, 3 of 3 in the money at the distance and 6 of 8 in the money on fast dirt. A 4f :47 work on November 15th shows current form still sharp.

Birdrun and Haynesfield are the next best runners in the field with Bad Action just a step back.

Birdrun comes in off an N1X win by 8 lengths and a 99 BSF on fast dirt at 1 1/16. 4 of 5 on fast dirt but only one win, 5 of 7 in the money in 2009. The son of Birdstone should be the early speed and most likely will be at the front by the quarter pole. He'll either drop like a stone or carry on to Place or Show.

Haynesfield, the Speightstown son, was and is a favorite of the Turk on the inner track, and was cruising through the early season until asked to be something he isn't at the Grade III Gotham. After a nice long break, he's back in his third race since early October and enters off a 1 1/8 win in slop at Belmont. Will need a better BSF then the 90 level he seems to have topped out at.

Bad Action, a nifty claimer turned Grade III winner, comes in off a stakes win in early November at 1 1/8 . Making his 17th start of the year with 8 wins, the Contessa trained gelding has Cohen up.

So again, what do we make of it? The risk/reward doesn't seem that compelling as you'd be hard pressed to make a strong arguement against Gone Astray. With that in mind, we'll watch the tote closely and see where the bettors place thier money. If we can get Birdrun as the 3rd or 4th bettors favorite and I value him at Place then I like my base handicap and I will engage at the window. Regardless, I think my play will be no more then three trifecta bets, all straight, with Gone Astray on top. Let's see if we can turn $6 bucks into something bigger then $0 bucks.

The Turk will be back latter to handicap the more interesting Kennedy Road six furlong sprint at Woodbine, post time 4:23 ET.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rest in Peace Bobby Frankel

Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel lost his battle with leukemia and died peacefully at his home in Pacific Palisades, California. Trainer Frankel was 68.

He was an inspiration to many people and we send our deep condolences to his friends and family and the loyal people who have worked for him while he battled illness.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random Musings with The Turk and Jack Daniels Select

Many voices on the internet and the horse racing television channels are speaking out with passion about who is Horse of the Year. Occasionally this handicapper looks up from the Past Performances and has an opinion. I reckon I'm feeling opinioned today, especially after taste testing (for purely scientific reasons) some single barrel Jack Daniels Select. For the money, very very good.

How can the Veterinarian community not come to some agreement on what the proper use and need of race day medications is? There is hypocrisy at work amongst the Europeans who come to North America and begin to administer the drug, but I don't blame them, I blame the vets who can't work this out. No one ever blames the vets, well I'm blaming the medical community whose differing opinions created a rift that is hard to heal. I'm a hay, oates and water man myself and would gladly sacrifice the mindlessly overbooked claiming races run mid week to satisfy the simulcasting world and eliminate all race day medications. The debate can make a person feel ineffectual;I don't want the horses to suffer needlessly yet all over the World they seem to manage without these drugs. I need the folks who went to many years of college to sort this out.

I was at Saratoga when Rachel Alexandra won the Woodward and I thought "Horse of the Year" to myself. I must admit, I think Zenyatta did enough with the Breeders' Cup Classic to win the award outright. I'm not a fan of shared awards any more then I am a fan of not having a valedictorian because you don't want to hurt the other kids feelings. Rachel did great things repeatedly this year, but I think in one race Zenyatta topped her. The voters need to do their jobs and look at the body of work for both horses and make a decision they can live with. Both horses will be in the Hall of Fame and both will be spoke of in reverential tones for years to come. Rachel as a 4 YO at Churchill Downs may just pull the Classic off herself and then her legacy will most assuredly be considered greater.

We sure could use a few more rich folks in racing like Jess Jackson though. It's a real shame that Robert McNair divested himself from the sport. Cowboy Cal is still a nifty Graded Stakes horse.

The Larry Jones era ended with a whisper. He started the year with so many scary good animals but going out in spectacular style just wasn't to be for him. Let's hope the big cowboy gets back after it at a scale he feels good with soon.

Steve Crist has long been a beacon of useful handicapping information. At his blog this weekend was a great statistic to heed when considering shippers into a poly surface. According to Crist "...Horses who made their last start on the dirt were 0 for 21 at the Breeders' Cup this year, making the tally 0 for 43 in the two straight Cups on the synthetic track at Oak Tree, with 34 of the 43 finishing worse than third." The statistics he provided showed a 13 point BSF drop from the dirt prep to the poly Breeders' Cup effort. A compelling argument that I think you can apply to any dirt/poly angle on a horse that is unproven on the surface.

The Turk is still smarting after being sucked into "this horse must be good because he only lost to Sea the Stars by 2 lengths." I was shocked to see Mastercraftsman appear to be scared to go through a not so tight gap on the rail. I've watched the video and I know that's a tough horse but talk about stage fright at the worst time. Trainer O'Brien hasn't had anywhere near the success some of his European contemporaries have had at this two year run of turf form friendly Breeders' Cups. I think, like Mastercraftsman, we haven't seen his best for whatever reason (Salix makes you braver?)

Before I get called an arse, I know Rachel had a great year. I can't get past a 5 YO undefeated mare won the Breeders' Cup Classic and if I was voting, which I don't, as hard as it would be, I'd vote for Zenyatta.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Post Race Analysis for Race Day November 14, 2009: The Carl G. Rose Classic Handicap at Calder Race Course

The Turk is feeling empowered. Armed with HRTV now streaming through his computer, I was able to handicap, watch the early card races, watch the race I handicapped, count my winnings and confirmed the results at You Bet and then post my results while the horses were still walking back to the shedrow. For a guy who at best relates to Luddites, this is a big moment.

The picture is symbolic for me. There are sexy races, but those are the exception and not the rule on most cards at most tracks. The rest of the races I handicap I view as blue collar events that require a workmanlike approach. I pride myself on being a positive Return on Investment bettor and it's these types of races that make you positive. The picture to me is about concentration, dedication, and well, whiskey and cigars, but I digress.

Race 11 Calder Race Course: Carl G. Rose Classic Handicap $200,000; 1 1/8 Miles on Fast Dirt for 3 YO and Up FLA Registered Bred.

Little Turk and I were both feelin' It's a Bird. That said, he was 1 to 5 moments before the race posted and then did a magic jump to 3 to 5. While I liked the horse, I placed a $2 win bet on my second choice, Too Many Toyz and was rewarded with $12.20 when he won a gut check to the wire. It was a good handicap that I boxed safely, but what made the return gaudy good instead of OK good was the defensive $2 win bet on a underbet 2nd choice.

It's a Bird faded, again. That's three straight races going back to late May. It's time to shut it down for the season and hopefully we'll see him back next year.

Enjoy. Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: November 14th, 2009; The Carl G. Rose Classic Handicap at Calder Race Course

The Breeders' Cup is over for another 51 weeks or so. Long Live the Breeders' Cup! Just like many of my handicapping friends, it was total immersion for me for three weeks as I plotted, charted, built matrices, watched replays, blah blah blah. At the end of the day, I did just OK. I had a great Friday Night capped by a big exotic win powered by Life is Sweet and then I had a very mixed bag on Saturday. I'm slowly but surely still breaking down each of the 8 Breeders' Cup races I handicapped and I'll do a post mortem by the end of the weekend, but let's go for some hair of the dog and get right back to handicapping. While the names aren't as impressive, and you'd be lucky to find a Grade III winner yet alone multiple Grade I runners, today's card at Calder should be fun. I urge folks to stop by Plantation Cigars in Lake Worth on the way to the races. Tell Steve the Turk sent you. I digress, let's get it on!

I've got my eye on a few races on the card, but I'd be remiss not looking hard at the showpiece, the Classic. As always, start with framing the situation: Course, Surface, Weather. The weather should be very good. The track should be listed as FAST. Of course check for scratches and equipment changes. These should be a ritual: Weather, Course Condition, Scratches, and a near post time check of the Tote Board.

Race 11 Calder Race Course Post Time 4:43 Eastern; The Carl G. Rose Classic Handicap $200,000; 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3 YOs and Up registered FLA breds.

It's a Bird likes hard and fast dirt. The 6 YO Birdonawire son will have Leparoux up for trainer Wolfson. The trainer/jock combo are the class of the race with all due respect to Jock Saez. A big 2009 with three 107 BSFs before May and then a taper off. Freshened and raced only once since I saw him at the Woodward at Saratoga, I see no reason why this heavy duty chalk won't salsa dance into the winners circle for the tuna magnate, Owner Ed Gann.

Below It's a Bird is a hodge podge. So what do we do? 10 Cent Supers are in fashion, betting to win or even exacta and tri with an ultra heavy chalk is not always a wise investment from a risk/reward perspective. We are going to need the 3rd, 4th or 5th bettors favorite to Place to make this a value play. What I do know is you have to build a handicap and then decide if you wish to bet or not.

I have three horses in the next tier below It's a Bird. Too Many Toyz comes in off three straight wins at CRC in optional claimers for $16,000. His last race on a sloppy dirt surface earned him a 98 BSF, the best last race BSF entered. The 6 YO has won 33% of the the fast dirt races he's been entered in. I like him somewhere on the super ticket.

Teamo's Dream is 3 of 12 in 2009 and for this group a healthy 71,000 in earnings. 7 of 13 in the money at CRC and 2 of 12 on fast dirt. Won a 1 1/16 75K race in late September and faded in a Grade III last time out. Most likely bettors 2nd choice.

Dream Maestro has had a real falling off after starting 2009 with 7 straight 90+ BSFs. He's 3 of his last 22, 1 of 16 on fast dirt and 1 of 12 at CRC. UGH. We want him to get name recognition and bettors money but not much more.

Pound Foolish, the 3 YO Exchange Rate gelding, is 9 of 12 in the money on fast dirt and 9 of 13 at CRC. Coming back to dirt after a decent Grade III 1 1/8 turf effort. Trainer Tortora and Jock Saez winning at 31% clip and Trainer's stake race win percentage 25%, 6 wins in 24 tries.

Triple Crown followers will remember Imawildandcrazyguy but for little reason other then the name and a 4th place finish at the Kentucky Derby. Not much to say, he's capable of a solid upper 80's low 90's BSF but he's 2 of his last 21, 4 of 30 on fast dirt but 15 of 30 in the money.

Have fun with this low stress weekend card. Don't call 1-800-Hammer for any reason!

On a different note, the Turk was pleasantly surprised to open up his December issue of American Turf Monthly and find a very good article on the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance own Gina Rarick of Gallop France. She's a wonderful trainer who walks the walk and talks the talk in the fight against race day medications and the Turk was happy to see her recognized for the work she is doing. Entra√ģneur Rarick de f√©licitations.

Turk Out!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Zenyatta: Horse of the Year

What a wonderful performance and a great trip by Mike Smith. Congratulations to The Moss Family and Trainer Shirreffs.

The Nomination Is In: Breeders' Cup Saturday Breeders' Cup Classic Grade I

While not my Chalk, The Turk is enamored with the pretty mare to the left in the wonderful Charles Pravata photo, Zenyatta. We wish her well and hopes she proves us wrong.

Race 9 at Santa Anita Post Time 6:45 ET; The Breeders' Cup Classic Grade I; 1 1/4 miles on very fake dirt for 3 YOs and Up.

I'm not thrilled to be presenting one Euro after another to win but they seem to be better right now on Turf and that form seems to be playing the best on the polytrack. Adian O'Brien has not had success on the American Stage yet but brings a solid runner in Rip Van Winkle with his rider Murtagh up today. Coming in with two straight Grade I wins after getting away in the conditions book from See the Stars, a theme it would seem today and another horse we are giving credit to for running only one beaten length to the superstar. Hedging down and I think he's a very vunerable chalk.

I'm going to give Hall of Famer Baffert's Richard's Kid another chance to show me he's for real. A decent Goodwood followed up his Pacific Classic win. Proven on poly but a big stretch here. Working very well.

Either Gio Ponti or Einstein I expect to step up and possibly surprise for the win and both are capable of being in the top four. How easy it is to overlook these two titans as a knowledgeable horsewoman named Cathy reminded me of today.

Summer Bird has as many wins on an off track (2) as he has on fast dirt, but no starts on turf or poly. In my mind he's done enough to be the 3 YO of the year and if he can find the top three here today, he'll cement his status, but I'm not banking on it.

Mighty Zenyatta is a very very very good horse, a great F&M runner, and a poly monster. I think she should have tried the Classic last year, not this year. I truely hope I am wrong but I think she's wearing down not speeding up and a 98 BSF won't win today.

I have great respect for the little gelding that could, Mine That Bird. I look forward to his 4 YO season and I haven't written him off here, I'm just being realistic. More then talented, but the Goodwood was so-so and last year's BC was abysmal, so this particular form of fake dirt may not be his cup of tea.

These are the days. Have fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: Breeders' Cup Saturday Breeders' Cup Turf Grade I

The Turk's beatable chalk in today's Breeders' Cup Turf is pictured to the left, the Juddmonte Farm runner Spanish Moon.

Race 8 at Santa Anita Post Time 5:57 ET; The Breeders' Cup Turf Grade I; 1 1/2 Miles on off Baldwin Avenue grass for 3 YOs and Up.

Last year's Champ Conduit (Ire) is here again. the 4 YO has only 1 win in 2009, the one start that a horse not named See the Stars or Cima de Triomphe started in. I think he's too good to not be in the top 4 but I'm backing Spanish Moon to win.

Spanish Moon, the son of El Prado, has 2 wins in 2009. He'll run on lasix today. Comes here off a Grade II and Grade I win the last two times out and lost by a nose in a Grade I in Dubai. Fallon gets the mount in Juddmonte Green, Pink and White silks.

Presious Passion is a 6YO with 41 career starts, 38 on Turf. 2009 was a good year for the gelding from Royal Anthem (Theatrical) winning a Grade II at 1 3/8, a Grade I at 1 3/8s and Grade I at 1 1/4. Prefers harder turf and should find the footing to his liking. Trainer Hartmann has abysmal stats, a 7% win rate, 3% won last start, 9% Turf starts. Up and Down, where will he be today?

Dar Re Mi(GB), a John Gosden trainee, has two Grade I wins in 2009 and a third lost through DQ. Dettori up on the Watership Down homebred, the filly will have lasix on raceday to "level the playing field". Solid, not spectacular but very solid.

Might sit this one out or just look for a value win or exacta. We'll see, Have fun, Turk out!

The Nomination Is In: Breeders' Cup Saturday Breeders' Cup "Dirt" Mile Grade I

The fully stretched out and magnificent Mastercraftsman is pictured to the left, today's overwhelming Morning Line and Turk Chalk in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. I don't rant too much and I prefer to leave that to others that do it better then The Turk, but the idea that these races are called "Dirt" I find even more ridiculous then the renamed "Ladies Classic". It's not dirt and it does not feel like dirt to dirt horses, the surface of choice in American racing for 140 odd years. It doesn't matter what my anecdotal opinion of polytrack is, its irrelevant what I think about that, but it isn't irrelevant that we refer to these races as being "dirt" races. Why not call it the Poly Mile or the Synthetic Mile, or the Turk's favorite "The Fake Dirt that may or may not be safer for horses Mile". It ain't Dirt. OK, I digress.

Race 7 at Santa Anita post Time 5:12 ET; The Breeders' Cup Fake Dirt Mile Grade I; 1 Mile on a surface that is anything but Dirt for 3 YOs and Up.

Mastercraftsman (Ire) comes to the United States and is most likely happy to notr see a horse named See the Stars on the PP with him for this outing. A Grade I winner this year and a 1 length loser to See the Stars in August and a well beaten Show in September. Trainer O'Brien has had incredible success in Europe but is cold in North America, with an 0-11 first time North American win percentage, and 0-9 in Graded Stakes in North America in the past year. 8 of 10 lifetime in the money on turf and one win, his last race out, on poly. I don't think the field is overpowering and I expect he will win handily.

I really struggled to identify the second best horse in this race and I finally settled on Bullsbay. We give the Euro's credit for losing to See the Stars and we should give Bullsbay credit for losing to Rachel Alexandra and running gamely with Macho Again the last few times out. A flawed horse to be sure, and poly results aren't earth shattering, but we will hang our base handicap with him here and hedge him down on many tickets.

Mr. Sidney is a stretch in this spot as well, but I like his work on Turf, with 5 wins in 9 tries and I think he's run well on yielding turf as well. A late break off the pace I expect could propel him into one of the top four spots.

Furthest Land comes in off a big effort at 1 1/8 on poly for a Grade II win, posting a 106 BSF in the process. Nothing else in his PP makes you think he was capable of that. trainer Maker has some really WOW stats himself, 29% winners with horses on a 2nd effort off 45 day layoff, 30% winners on fake dirt, 29% winners on 31-60 day layoffs, 30% won last start and 29% of route races. One big red flag; 8% of Graded Stakes on only 24 starts. Ugh, a big fish swimming mostly in shallow water, and I mean no disrespect to a fine horseman. 5 wins in 2009 for the son of Smart Strike.

Midshipman has the potential to win this race and at the right number on the tote board I'll take a $4 chance on him. I'd have him higher but why? 1 start in 2009 as a 3 YO, an N3X on dirt with a sub 100 BSF, in fact he's never broken 100. This Unbridled's Song son coulda, shoulda been something special and it just hasn't happened since Baffert beat a weak group of 2 YOs with him last year to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. So much promise, how huge would this win be to his legacy? Huge. Gomez up for Godolphin. It's up to the horse who has been spotted drifting erracticly during work. Possible equipment change to blinkers.

Neko Bay and Chocolate Candy are poly warriors but both have yet to do much on the big stage. We haven't even mentioned which Pyro will show up today.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: Breeders' Cup Saturday Breeders' Cup Mile Grade I on Turf

Ahhhh, Goldikova. The 4 YO Filly proved with three Grade I wins in 2009 that her 2008 Breeders' Cup Mile victory was no fluke. She's my heavy chalk again in a field packed with some serious contenders. I should walk away but....

Race 6 at Santa Anita Post Time 4:28 ET; The Breeders' Cup Mile Grade I; 1 Mile on Fabulous Arcadian turf for 3 YOs and Up.

8-5 Morning Line favorite Goldikova (Ire) gives you little reason to doubt her but if you need something, go for possible current form. Last race was a clunker at 7F in October that followed up a spectacular Grade I win with a 131 Racing Post Rating at 1 Mile. With the field size, a few defensive win bets with her challengers who go to post at greater then 3-1 will be worth it.

The nest several horses in my handicap are separated by very little. I think Zacinto (GB), a 3 YO shows much promise but few results for a handicapper to hang his hat on. 2 lifetime wins in 5 starts but ran a very solid second to Rip Van Winkle in the GI QEII Stakes in September. Me thinks that's the only reason I have him this high and I will hedge down as far as 5th or 6th on many tickets. Points for Trainer and Connections to not pump the animal full of Lasix as opposed to many other hypocrites who site having to "level the playing field."

I like Gladiatorus and his 10 career turf wins to show up today. Huge in Dubai earlier this year but coming in off a prep in Italy, a Grade I 4 length romp.

Delegator (GB) I'm sure is a fine horse from Godolphin with Dettori up who's best known for almost beating some great horses. 5 of 6 in the money in 2009 with a Grade II and III win and a VERY solid 2nd by a neck to Mastercraftsman in the GI St. James Place Stakes in June and a 2nd by 1 1/2 lengths to See the Stars in May. Pretty even with Zacinto. Hedging up towards Place.

The next layer of talent starts with Ferneley (Ire) and includes Cowboy Cal and Court Vision. I think all three are good enough to take Show or 4th.

What's it all mean? I think in a four horse ticket Goldikova finishes 1st 80% of the time and 20% 2nd. With that opinion, I'm going to swap various horses into and out Zacinto (GB) and Delegator (GB) will be 1-4 80% of the time and I can't imagine a scenario when both of them are outside the top four. Of Cowboy Cal and Gladiatorus and Ferneley (Ire), I think there is a 25% chance one of them will be 3rd and 40% chance one of them will be 4th. In other words, a crapshoot. Build your own handicap and don't let hacks like The Turk influence you too much!

Have fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: Breeders' Cup Saturday Breeders' Cup Sprint Grade I

That gorgeous Unbridled's Song son is Zensational, the Turk's heavy duty chalk in today's Breeders' Cup Sprint. He'll be facing the best field that he has ever jumped towards the wire against including Fatal Bullet, Godolphin's Gayego and Euro G1 winner Fleeting Spirit, along with a few wild cards like Join in the Dance and Capt. Candyman Can.

The picture was posted online by beausea34 at Expect three quarters of a mile in less then sixty eight and 1/2 seconds, yeah. Let's go!

Race 4 at Santa Anita Post Time 3:10 ET; The Breeders' Cup Sprint Grade I; 6 Furlongs on carpet fibers, shredded tires, blah blah blah, for 3 YOs and up.

Heavy duty chalk can work in your favor in several different ways; you can take a completely contrary position and hope for a loss, in this case looking for perhaps a 9-2 or 5-1 second bettor's selection -OR- you can fashion exotic tickets with one spot locked up, allowing part wheels or matrix betting instead of expensive and often unnecessary boxing. Whatever approach you take, be consistant, build your handicap and then work the handicap for value.

No chalk is unbeatable, but I like Zensational in this race. Five straight 100+ BSF's when running less then 7 furlongs, 6 of 6 In the Money on fake stuff, and some incredibly fast work, including a smokin' hot :45 1/5 at 1/2 mile this past week. Curious if he can match Midnight Lute's 1:07:08 in last year's Sprint.

Fatal Bullet is a horse I like in most situations and is the Place from last year's edition of this race as well. Coming in off a Grade III 6f win on Keeneland's version of fake dirt. Had a fantastic 3 YO campaign, 8 of 8 in the money but only 4 starts including today in 2009 and a lack of Grade I wins. 11 of 11 in the money on fake dirt and training well at SA going 5f in about :59 flat.

Gayego is not a horse I was high on as a 3 YO and I think Godolphin have done a good job making a sprinter out of him and enters off a romping Grade I prep win in October at Santa Anita. Gomez is up. 4 of 4 at the distance and 6 of 7 in the money on fake stuff. Morning line 2.5-1, I'm curious to see what way he heads on the tote board.

Fleeting Spirit (Ire) ran in the Turf Sprint at last year's Breeders' Cup and his connections take a different tack this year. Dettori is up versus normal Queally. 11 of 13 in the money on turf and a Grade I winner in July at 6 furlongs earning a 123 Racing Post Rating and next two Grade I attempts were very close losses. A wild card to be sure.

Capt. Candyman Can is my poor man's Hard Spun. Hard knockin' and that's a compliment. No wins in 2 starts on fake dirt and no turf starts. 3 straight 100+ BSF's and a King Bishop win through disqual and a 1/2 length loss to Fatal Bullet in October on Keeneland's fake stuff. Like the Candy Ride's . Morning Line of 15-1 is not right! Hedge up and never doubt guts.

Join in the Dance is a horse I honestly forgot all about. A ho-hum Triple Crown prep racer and a bad loser the last two times out including a 9 lengths Place finish in PA to Gone Astray. Major distance drop from previous efforts. Who knows?

Build a handicap and trust your handicap. Watch the tote board closely and don't worry about the weather. Have fun, Turk Out!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Nomination Is In: Breeders' Cup Friday Distaff Grade I

That pretty A.P. Indy girl is Music Note, multiple Grade I winner and a force to be reckoned with in today's Breeders' Cup Distaff that was renamed the wretched Ladies Classic by perhaps the same idiots that renamed the divisions in the NHL to bland regional names from the names of former greats in the game. I digress. Music Note is not my chalk but is the morning line favorite and will attract much betting attention.

Race 8 at Santa Anita Post Time 6:45 ET; The Breeders' Cup Distaff Grade I; 1 1/8 Miles on Fake Dirt that may or may not be safer then real dirt for F&M 3 YO and Up.

The Turk is a handicapper. The printed paper of my PPs is where I place my faith. I believe in a consistent approach and an even keel in good times and bad. I'm also a bettor at times, one that doesn't make "action plays", one that doesn't subscribe to the silly bankroll strategies I read in many handicapping books. Warren Buffet likes to say that he wants to jump as many one foot hurdles as he can and doesn't waste his time with seven foot hurdles. That's my betting philosophy, make your scores count and learn when not to bet, the hardest lesson of all.

If I listened to my own rules, most of Breeders' Cup weekend I'd sit on the sidelines. Screw the rules sometimes, I want to have fun and the Distaff is a fun race with some fantastic filly's and mares going at it. Let me shut my trap and get it on!

I'm taking a shot with Life Is Sweet today. She hasn't won since stringing together a few Grade I's and a Grade II at SA in the spring meet and she's lost to Zenyatta three times and the boys, Rail Trip specifically, at the Hollywood Gold Cup. Training very well for Shirreffs and Gomez is up, a couple of folks who win 38% of the time together at SA.

Music Note and Careless Jewel are two very wonderful dirt horses. I have them as high as I do because they are seriously well crafted classy animals and Grade I winners. They are in my top four, with Careless Jewel hedging a bit down on a few tickets.

I'll put Proviso (GB) and Rainbow View into the same bucket. Both Grade I winners and seemingly peaking.

It pained me to place Lethal Heat last. The reality is this should be a barn burner and I think its wide open.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: Breeders' Cup Friday Filly and Mare Sprint G1

Four years old, beautiful, sleek and exotic, Informed Decision pictured to the left is The Turk's chalk in today's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. She'll be facing eight others and breaking from the 7 spot with a very talented Street Cry filly Seventh Street and the male beating Mare, Ventura on the far outside.

Race 7 at Santa Anita Post Time 6:02 ET; The Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Grade I; 7 Furlongs on fake dirt for F&M 3 YO and Up.

Informed Decision comes in at the end of a very impressive 4 YO campaign, 6 of 6 in the money with a career 6 wins in 6 starts on fake dirt and 10 wins in 13 career trips to the gate. Trainer Sheppard wins 26% of his fake dirt races and an impressive 28% of his graded stake starts, and combined with Leparoux who is up today, they win together 33% of the time. A sharp 5f in :59 and 3/5ths followed a Grade II win at 6f on Keeneland's fake stuff. Hasn't consistently put up three digit BSF's but capable and competitive.

Seventh Street takes a significant drop in furlongs in hopes that her speed will carry through 7/8's of a mile. An interesting runner, 6 of 6 in the money on wet dirt and the horse only has 9 starts, with no sythetic and no turf starts, but a lifetime 9 of 9 in the money and a ton of class. Works slow and last race in September. More bets will hedge down to 4th or lower then hedge this high.

Ventura, heroine of the Woodbine Mile, comes in with everything but a good post position. She is very capable of overcoming that, but its a hurdle and I'll have her in my top four, but where she'll land on the ticket I dunno. 6 wins in last 11 starts, 11 of last 11 in the money, 9 wins in 19 starts on turf and fake dirt, 17 of 19 in the money on combined turf and fake dirt starts, very impressive numbers including a race best 108 BSF, with three 100+ BSF in a row and a Grade I win at SA and a loss by a nose in a GI at SA to a little old horse called Gio Ponti. Best horse in the race from Chester House.

The next rung down could be a blanket finish and a toss up all at the same time. I'd hedging towards Evita Argentina, the 3 YO Candy Ride that has 5 wins on Poly including a Grade II at SA. n Training sharply for Sadler who wins 20% of his fake dirt races and 24% of his 61-180 day layoff starts.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm not going too much higher then 3rd of 4th on some tickets with Sara Louise. No fake dirt or turf starts for the 3 YO but two 100+ BSF at Belmont and Saratoga. Training well and Godolphin puts the incorrigible F. Dettori up.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Nomination Is In: Breeders' Cup Friday Filly and Mare Turf Grade I at Santa Anita

That fine looking 3 YO Juddmonte Farms filly is Grade I winner Midday (GB). A solid second at 1 1/2 miles at the English Oaks and winner of the Grade I Nassau Stakes with a career best 120 Racing Post Rating at 1 1/4 miles. She'll attract much betting attention in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf against many older filly's and mares including last year's champ Forever Together.

Race 6 Santa Anita Post Time 5:23 ET; Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf Grade I; 1 1/4 Miles on beautiful Arcadian turf for 3 YOs and Up.

Betting strategy all weekend will focus on exotic Super's with defensive Trifectas, Exactas and Win Bets mixed in. Ye' Ol' Turk has selected 8 of the weekends races and have set a 20 dollar limit on each race and we'll see what we can make out of that.

Forever Together is last year's champion and my tentative chalk in this years edition as well. A Grade I and II winner in 2009 and 11 of 11 lifetime in the money on Turf. Trainer Sheppard won 28% of his Graded Stakes entries this past year and he clips along at 33% when coupled with J. Leparoux, up again today.

I expect Magical Fantasy will slip to 4th best or lower with the betting public and I'm hoping she'll provide some value to the tickets. Solis is up for this Gallagher conditioned filly, the combination has not had overwhelming success and the handicap is more about a belief in current form, ability to handle distance, familiarity with Santa Anita and three straight Grade I wins. Training on turf regularly, will have to find more speed on this big stage, something that the competition and class of the field may bring out.

Midday (GB) is a high class 3 YO racing on Lasix for the first time. 6 of 6 in the money in 2009, second by a head at English Oaks at Epsom in June. 2nd effort off a >45 day layoff, the last time doing that she improved her Racing Post Rating by 10. Firmer turf should be well received.

The next group of runners are closely aligned in ability. Pure Clan, with Gomez up, comes in off of sharp work at Churchill Downs and owns three 1 1/4 mile wins in her career. The Clement trainee Rutherienne is a fairly consistent runner from Pulpit who hasn't proven herself of late past 8 to 8.5 furlongs. I view Visit (GB) and Dynaforce as a push, with a edge to Visit(GB) who raced a career best in last year's edition of this race leading at the top of the stretch, but only 1 win in past 12 starts leaves me feeling kinda ugh. Maram is a favorite of mine but I think is in over her Breeders' Cup head here.

The Little Turk and Mrs. Turk are both backing Forever Together as well.

Forever Together, looking magnificent in the Terence Dulay photo.

Have fun, Turk Out!