Saturday, January 30, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day January 30, 2010: The Sunshine Millions

Readers and friends of The Turk and Little Turk know that we only get together and smoke cigars with the lovely Dita on special occasions. The Turk turned $200 into $750 at today's Sunshine Millions, picking winners in five of the six races, hitting some big exactas and a few Super's as well. Just a damn fine day! Long time readers also know the Turk doesn't gloat or brag, as this is a humbling game and good times come and go. That said, it's important to celebrate the highs in daily life to remind you of where you want to be when you hit a low. I'm going to make time this week while I travel in Boston to have some King Crab Legs at my favorite seafood joint and then smoke a favored stick outside my hotel. Thanks to the equally lovely Mrs. Turk for not being jealous of Dita, she's just a horse player and not much to look at really.

Race 8 - Race 9 - Race 10 at Gulfstream Park and Race 6 - Race 7 - Race 8 at Santa Anita Park; The Sunshine Millions

The past few weeks I've been focusing on Pick Three race sequences. The handicapping approach for me when just looking for a single winner and a few back-up winners is a stripped down and faster version of how I approach single stakes races. In many ways, the elimination of the toss horses and a quick lookover of the field forced me to focus on what I consider the most important aspect of picking winners: Current form, success on the surface and at the distance, speed and class. It's most likely not a coincidence I found myself rereading two of my favorite handicapping books this month, Tom Ainslie's Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing and Brad Free's Handicapping 101. I'm a numbers handicapper, I like calculating final 1/4 mile times and I like to make my own running lines. Like anything we do in life, when you stop refining, when you stop respecting the process, you can go sideways, or worse, go backwards. For me, I like to keep my handicapping simple and I strive to be consistent in my approach. I believe its this consistency that has allowed me to keep a solidly positive ROI. So what am I babbling out? My approach to handicapping isn't super high tech: I use no computer programs, I like paper DRF Deluxe PPs and a cheap calculator and a red gelpen. I don't understand some of the terminology being used these days but I firmly believe that the same principles applied in Tom Ainslie's days are still extremely valid today. I keep it real, keep my risks small, and I always believe the best bets are often the ones I don't make. Today was an affirmation of my handicapping approach and days like this don't encourage me to change.

Today was a also a day when I can look in hindsight and see myself leaving money at the window. As much as I like playing pick three's, the risk/reward is really pretty poor when a bettor's top 1 or 2 horse wins two of the three legs. I'll save Pick Six's for another time.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nominations Are In: January 30, 2010 Races 8-9-10 at Gulfstream and Races 6-7-8 at Santa Anita; The Sunshine Millions

OK, it seems like fun. The Turk takes a crack today at the Sunshine Millions, six races running from 4:33 Eastern until 6:25 Eastern at both Gulf Stream Park and Santa Anita. I'll go sans Magna 5 and instead focus on two Pick Threes at each track. Oh yeah! Let's go.

Races 8-9-10 at Gulfstream Park and Races 6-7-8 at Santa Anita Park;

To my Turk friends looking in on smart phones, that was the biggest spreadsheet I've ever created here at The Turk and I hope you make it to a laptop/desktop/netbook/ipad/webtv whatever to check it out.

The Turk is going to play each race based on the tote board and look to find some value in his handicaps which were littered with chalk. I don't think many of the chalks were unbeatable, but bettor's top choices are still bettor's top choices. I'll play exacta's in each race, a 4 or 5 horse 10 cent Boxed Superfecta and then the respective tracks Pick Three.

I'm a bit under the weather in chilly Western New York but I am enjoying a Camacho Triple Maduro and a sip of bourbon. Enjoy. Turk Out!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day January 23, 2010; The Holy Bull Stakes and the Late Pick Three at Gulfstream Park

The winner of today's Holy Bull Stakes is the fine looking son of Unbridled's Song, Winslow Homer. The Turk was lucky today, inserting Winslow Homer in the Late Pick Three and also betting him to Win, and lucky in the fact that he wasn't the horse I expected to win or place, but I guess that's why they race 'em. Let's get after it!

Gulfstream Park Race 7 - Race 8 - Race 9 The Holy Bull Stakes Grade III

Race 7 was the start of the late Pick Three. I was committed to spending no more then $18 on the bet and I was committed to some combination of 3 X 3 X 2. The opening leg, a MSW 45K concerned me as so few of these horses had ever raced before. With no regard for the tote board or the morning line I whittled the starters down to three horses, with what I thought would be the winner, Bushwhacked/6 and I played Mine N Gems/4 and Six Clicks/5 as well and Mine N Gems, the bettor's choice and the morning line second choice, won by 3/4 of a length and Bushwacked missed Place by a nose.

Race 8 came and I was still alive. Pre Race I intended to put three horses into the mix but I inserted a third horse into Race 9 and I had to subtract somebody. I went with Musical Romance/9 and Take a Vow/3 and I late tossed Miss Olivia Rae/7. Musical Romance won by 1/2 a length and Miss Olivia Rae took show by a neck with Take a Vow never entering the fray. No matter, I was alive after two and I survived the 2 horse leg of the journey.

Before the Holy Bull, I still was unsettled by the fine field and the number of horses in my A and B group that I thought were capable of winning. I made a decision to bet the Superfecta using my base handicap which didn't work out because of the failure of Aikenite to deliver a top four finish. It happens. I did look at the tote board before the race and place three $4 dollar win bets, with one of them being Homer Winslow who I thought would go off at a slightly higher price then he did, but I figured if one of them hit the win the bet would be no worse then a push. It was a bit better then a push. The best move I made was inserting Winslow Homer into the Pick Three. I was torn between William's Kitten and Homer Winslow, who I rated both equally pre race. I went with the gut and took the Unbridled's Song and it paid off to the tune of $128.

Good stuff for a Saturday. Congrats to both Friesen Fire and General Quarters, both looked very good in the LA Handicap.

Have Fun, Turk Out! Next week we'll be back for the Sunshine Millions. Yeah!

The Nomination Is In: January 23, 2010 Gulfstream Park; The Holy Bull Grade III and the Late Pick Three

Mighty Holy Bull loans his legendary name and memory to today's featured race, the Grade III 1 Mile Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. Holy Bull is now remembered for his ability as a sire, but the Turk likes to remember him as a horse who was a failure on the his quest to win the Kentucky Derby as a favorite, but had connections who had enough foresight to rethink their horse's 3 YO campaign and turn him into a force to be feared. A terrible breakdown in the 1995 Donn Handicap luckily did not end his life and we remember his legacy. A certain horse named Barbaro started his 3 Yo campaign here. The fantastic print shown above can be found at Riverwind Gallery. Let's get it on!

Gulfstream Park; The Holy Bull Stakes Grade III; 1 Mile on Fast Dirt for 3 YOs.

Aikenite is a Pletcher trainee with J. Velazquez up. A son of a top sprinter sire, Yes It's True, his ability to stretch out is yet to be determined but we like the possibilities. This is his fourth crack at a graded stakes win and his first race since early November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Training nicely including a :59 4/5ths bullet with 19 runners at 5f this week.

Jackson Bend goes for Trainer Zito for the first time today, and he has five wins on fast dirt already. Zito has only a 5% win rate in Graded Stakes over rolling year and hopefully he'll improve on that with a horse that breaks from the far outside and has good quality. Jock J. Rose replaces J. Sanchez in the irons. Training very sharply since late December.

So The Turk thinks this is a two horse race for the win but there is a nice level of quality in this race and someone who finishes out of the money will still be a very good horse. I see a stratification layer just below the top two that includes Homeboykris, William's Kitten and Winslow Homer.

R. Dutrow's runner Homeboykris has something to prove after a dreadful Remsen in late November but is the 1 mile Grade I Champagne winner from a six horse field. Prado is still top shelf and is up. A. Dutrow's Winslow Homer is from Unbridled's Song and has two straight wins in lesser quality company, including a big loose on the lead effort in the slop. William's Kitten is a Maker trainee with Eclipse Award winning Leparoux up and has been burning the barn down in works the last two weeks.

Pace will bring Piscitelli possibly into Show or 4th and Thank U Philippe can't be discounted too low either. Whoever wins this race will be a quality horse and a few of the losers will fly under the wire and still be horses to watch. Good stuff in an era of small fields and questionable quality.

I thought we'd take a run at the Pick Three as well that starts in Race 7, a 7 furlong dirt affair, MSW 45K. #7 Liquidity Event was scratched by Trainer Zito this morning. I'm going to back 3 horses, Mine N Gems/4, Six Chicks/5 and Bushwhacked/6. If I was singling I'd take Bushwhacked, a Sheppard Trainee for Augustin Stables with Leparoux up. What a team that is.

Race 8 is a 1 1/16 firm turf ALW N1X for F&M. Again I have three horses at the time of writing I'm backing, Take a Vow/3, Miss Olivia Rae/7 and Musical Romance/9. Take a Vow would be my single, A Janney bred and owned runner for Trainer McGaughey comes in off a 7f turf maiden win.

The Turk is right now looking at a 3 X 3 X 2 pick three bet for $18 dollars. The fields are big enough with no heavy duty chalk to justify the slightly bloated bet of mine.

As always, check the weather and the scratches and tote board board before you jump into the fray.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Wire Players Dirty Dozen Poll

Steve at has collected a diverse and knowledgeable group of bloggers and twitter types to come together and vote every two weeks on this year's Kentucky Derby contenders. Somehow ye 'Ol Turk ended up with an invitation to join this group, go figure!

This is poll #1 for the group, and the ponies who will be nominated for the Triple Crown are just getting ready to show what they have, but it's a classy group that will be at worst winners of high priced allowance racing and at best the next crop of Grade 1 stakes champions, and health willing, one of them will emerge as our 12th Triple Crown winner. The ghost of Sir Barton shines on them.

Thanks Steve for your leadership in bringing folks together, not always an easy task in the blogosphere. Let's get it on!

Again, its early, but you get the idea. I can't imagine what an undertaking this was for Joe Hirsch in the days before the internet, and I'm not comparing this in anyway to his legendary work, but it is exciting to walk a bit in his shoes.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Nomination Is In: January 17, 2010; Santa Anita Park Pick Three Races 6-8

The Turk had some fun with a low risk, and ultimately no reward day yesterday on a Pick Three at Santa Anita so I thought I'd do it again. I hit two out of three on a 3 X 2 X 3 $1 dollar, $18 dollar total bet that paid $33 dollars because of wins by two very favored animals.

I think the moral of this type of bet is to keep the risk low but don't bother betting it if you don't think you can make a case for the bettor's second or third or even lower choices, as chalk hunting won't pay off and this is a harder bet and costs a bit more then say a 10 cent super with a five horse box.

Ok, let's get after it!

Santa Anita Park Races 6-7-8; The Late Pick Three; First Post Time 6:06 ET

Right off the bat you'll notice I've sized the bet to fit the maximum I want to wager. Today's Pick Three is a 2 X 3 X 3 for $18 dollars. I have ranted before about how much I have enjoyed various handicapping books only to have my stomach turn when I read the money management sections of those tomes. Money management is a personal decision and your decision should be to carve out positive ROI using whatever manner of bet gives you the best chance to do that. I generally avoid multi race bets that include N1X,
N2X, OC ALW, as they are just fraught with too many intangibles. That said, they are fun and occasionally I like to just have fun and not focus on the workmanlike, salt mine worker mentality that I often need to scrape out positive cash on these heavily scrutinized stakes runners that I favor. I built a bet with a wager amount I feel comfortable knowing that I have a better chance of losing then winning with. This will get old very quick but for now, I'm amused. It's tempting to throw extra choices into these bets, don't!

In Race 6, a 6.5 furlong downhill turf course 32K Claimer, I chopped the 11 horse field down to 4 and then ultimately 2 horses, Noblety/3 and Crossing the Line (NZ)/7. I had the #1 horse, Figeac and the #6 Ten Meropa in the mix but this was the race I settled on getting myself to two choices. Noblety will most likely enter the gate as the bettor's favorite and Crossing the Line has won 5 times in 8 tries on turf and would give me more value.

In Race 7, a 6.5 furlong OC 80K/N1X fake dirt race for CA bred 3 YOs with other restrictions I narrowed the 8 horse field to three runners, A Plus Topper/2, High Success/3 and Runaway Bandido/7 with my last toss out Wolf Tail/6. Runaway Bandido will enter the gate somewhere around 3rd or 4th bettor's favorite and I like the horse to win after working nicely, a drop in distance from 1 1/16 in a 100K stakes race, and sporting Mr. Mike Smith up.

In Race 8, The El Encino Grade II, 1 1/16 miles on fake dirt for F&M 4 YO and up, I like Justwhistledixie/9 to win as the bettor's top choice, but she should get a better price because of the inclusion of Stardom Bound/7 in the field. I don't underestimate Rose Diamond (Ire)/1 as a possible winner and my last toss was Spirit Seeker/11.

Again, I think these Pick Three's are alot of fun, especially when you get past the first race alive, I just don't think they will help my ROI very much long term. That said, have fun and Turk Out!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Nomination Is In: January 16, 2010: Races 2-4 at Santa Anita ; The Early Pick Three

The Turk printed several races today to handicap and was nonplussed. Some of the races had fields that were no more then five deep and some lacked any excitation as my French friends would say. From Sunland Park, to Gulfstream, to Golden Gate Fields I looked and felt no joy. After a trip to the cigar shop, where I enjoyed an Alec Bradley Tempus and a great conversation with a few older gentlemen, I decided that the best thing to do was a pick three and make some excitement where there may not be any.

I had the Past Performances for Santa Anita already printed for Race 3, the Grade III San Rafael. On its own, the race offers little: A five horse field with a wildly heavy duty Baffert/Gomez chalk called Conveyance dominating the landscape. On the front end is a $44,000 Maiden Special Weight and on the back end is a $10,000 claimer. Let's get after it!

Santa Anita Races 2-4: The Pick Three

Race 2 is a 6.5 furlong downhill turf course affair for F&M Maidens 4 YO and Up. The field is currently at 8 horses with the 1 and 1A Coupled. If singling,#3 Aprisa Luna making her second career start interests me. She lost by a neck at 6f on the fake dirt at HOL in December for trainer Ellis. #2 Susan's Wildcat is a Sadler trainee trying to break her maiden on race 12 with Gomez up. #5 is Poetic License, a Canani trainee on lasik for first time, training well and making her first North American start. My last toss (usually a kiss of death for ye'Ol Turk) is the #8 horse, Khendum, a Moss owned, Shireffs/Mike Smith runner. It's the second start for the More then Ready 4 YO and Shireffs trainer stats for this type of race and this type of runner are pretty ugly.

In the San Rafael, a 1 mile route on fake dirt, #3 Conveyance is the wildly heavy chalk and makes this pick three payout sorta blah if he wins. Conventional wisdom is to single this horse but I'm adding #2 Domonation to the mix just in case to provide some upside. Last toss here was #5 Via Verde, training sharply and coming off a race where the saddle slipped and blinkers are off, something Sadler converts on 29% of the time.

In Race 4, a 1 mile $10,000 claimer on fake dirt, there were several horses I liked and one sad entrant. #5 Heroi De Bafra (Brz) ran in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in 2009 and the Del Mar Handicap in 2008. A $45,000 claim a year ago, he's an 8 YO gelded fire sale today. Best of luck and I hope there is a good home for you when your days are over at the track. I like #6 Midwesterner here, but not by much and #4 Changing (Arg)is also in the mix with a last toss of #8 Mr. Wolverine.

This is a 3 X 2 X 3 bet at $1 for $18 total, low risk, medium reward.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

When and Where: A Look at the Last 11 Kentucky Derby Winners

I've put together a meaningless chart, but meaningless only in the sense that there is no symetry back to Charismatic (has it really been 11 years?) between when and where a future Derby winner wrapped up his two year old campaign, how long he was turned out, and when and where he came back as a three year old.

It is interesting to see how many raced in January previous to Giacomo, a trend continued by Barbaro, but the past three years have seen the 3 YO 1st race move into late February and March.

Food for thought as we pour over this year's "contenders".

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day January 9, 2010 at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita

Tough day in Southern Florida yesterday, with temperatures in the 40 degree range and a sloppy and sealed track at Gulfstream. Scratches of six horses in the two races I handicapped left me in a foul mood. We'll get to that in a second, but first I'd like to thank Maria*PA for the nice photo of the highlight horse for me yesterday, Custom for Carlos. Alrighty, lets get to it!

Hyperlinks to Race Charts

Race 5 at Gulfstream Park; The Spectacular Bid ; 6 furlongs on sloppy and sealed track for 3 YOs. Race 7 Gulfstream Park; The Mr. Prospector; 6 furlongs on sloppy and sealed track for 4 YOs and Up. Race 8 at Santa Anita; The San Pasqual Handicap; 1 1/16 miles on Fake Dirt for 4 YOs and Up.

In the 5th Race at GP, I passed after watching the first few races and the way the track was playing. I wasn't sold on Discreetly Mine on an off track, and my second choice Westover Wildcat had too small a price. I say it regularly, the best bets are often the ones you don't place. My non bets saved me money, as I considered a $36 Superfecta Box with 6 horses, but the payback would have been $31 dollars. Hmmmm, $36 for $31. Good non bet!

In the 7th Race, after Munnings, Prince Joshua, Gentleman James and Peace Chant scratched, I took a look at my base handicap and still liked it. I placed a $20 straight exacta on my base handicap and Custom for Carlos held off Past the Point just long enough to return me $118 dollars. Past the Point nearly made Sister Turk and I rich two years back when he almost nipped Curlin at the Woodward. Yes, I loved Curlin and yes I betted against him. The dichotomy of a horse players soul. I digress.

My day of positive ROI but frustration continued when Furthest Land mailed it in and walked home. Why can't I hit the "inquiry" button!

Turk Out!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Nominations Are In: January 9, 2010; The Mr. Prospector GIII at GP and The San Pasqual G II at SA

The fantastic Sarah K. Andrew photo to the left is none other then the incredibly classy, incredibly quick Speightstown son, Munnings, the Turk's favorite in today's Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park. There have already been a few scratches since I started my handicap, so check for changes and pay attention to see if the weather and the track conditions deteriorate. It will be wet and none to warm.

Race 7 Gulfstream Park Post Time 4:07 ET; The Mr. Prospector Grade III; 6F on Dirt for 4 YOs and Up and Race 8 at Santa Anita Post Time 7:07 ET; The San Pasqual Handicap Grade II; 1 1/16 miles on Fake Dirt for 4 YOs and Up.

Munnings starts his 4 YO campaign off a layoff since early October. The Pletcher trainee is capable of +110 BSF and is a serious Grade III and II threat, perhaps a Grade I but the jury is out. Velazquez is up. Strong runner on off surfaces.

Custom for Carlos is a 4 YO son of More then Ready. An impressive series of bullets (1/41, 1/20, 1/51, 1/43) and a new jock, J. Leparoux, signal a horse ready to make some noise for Trainer Kenneally. 7 of 8 in the money on fast dirt and lightly raced on less then ideal dirt.

I liked Prince Joshua in the top three but he scratched as I was typing away, as did Gentleman James, two runners in my middle pack of contenders for Show and 4th. I'm still thinking of what I'll do, but whatever it is I won't throw away the base handicap but instead I'll watch the weather and track conditions, looking for bias and runners who prefer the mud.

The Breeders' Cup Champion "Dirt" Miler is pictured to the right, Furthest Land, my chalk, saddled with 121 pounds, in today's San Pasqual Handicapat Santa Anita. Seven wins in his last 14 starts for the gelded son of Smart Strike, ships in from Gulfstream where he has been training sharply from Trainer Maker, a 25% winner with 612 starts in 2009. Go Go Gomez is up.

Neko Bay is a dependable and steady 7 YO runner for Trainer Shirreffs, the Giant Causeway son has strung three straight 100/upper 90 BSF together on the track at SA. Only 13th career start and only 1 win on poly, good enough for Place, Show or 4th on class alone.

There are three runners I'd group together and I don't see much separating them. Bold Chieftain comes in with three straight wins, ine at SA, and a win against Lethal Heat, and 3 wins in 8 starts on poly. Cherokee Artist goes Turf to Synth for Trainer Motion, something he pulls off 18% of the time. Raced strongly at PID over the summer. Nownownow is the 5 YO son of Whywhywhy but has shown erratic form since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Monmouth slop in 2007. A nice 1 1/16 Grade II 105 BSF at SA nearly 1 year ago. Idle since March 2009, Trainer Biancone runner is good but very rusty.

So what are we doing? At Gulfstream I plan on watching the first 4 races and see how the track is playing before I settle on my 5th and 7th race handicaps. At Santa Anita I plan on playing my base handicap pretty much the way it currently is. I haven't looked at all at morning lines at Santa Anita, so I'll look for value between my selections and the morning line and then try and find some value on the tote if its there. Theses fields I've picked today I reckon will unfold along bettor wisdom, as i don't see too many surprises waiting.

That's my view, it's just the view of an internet hack, so do your own base handicap, assign your own oddsline to the field, check the weather, the track condition, the scratches, and get it on!

Have fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: January 9, 2010; The Spectacular Bid 100K at Gulfstream Park for 3 YO

The fine looking two year old with Prado up is ye' Ol Turk's chalk in today's Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Discreetly Mine. The photo was taken on Alabama Day at Saratoga this past summer, a fun filled day for Grandpa Turk, Little Turk and I as we played the ponies from expensive clubhouse seats and listened to the classy ladies in front of us discuss sex acts and use filthy language all day long as they got drunker and drunker. You can put a fancy hat on some people but you can't take the trash out of them no matter which part of the Hamptons they live in. I seriously digressed. Thanks to Boo Boo Kitty's Flickr stream for the picture. Watch the weather and the track conditions. It will be wet and none to warm.

Race 5 Gulfstream Park Post Time 3:07 ET; The Spectacular Bid 100K; 6 furlongs on dirt for 3 YOs.

Reader's of the Turk know I don't play two year olds and practically ignore the young ones until the reach three. I'm a fan of shifting the Triple Crown to four year olds personally but every time I mention that I get blasted by anonymous comments about what an arse I am. That said, the game is about three year olds until the Triple Crown season comes and goes, so I dip my Turk toes into the warm south Florida waters and get after it.

Trainer Pletcher enters Discreetly Mine today, a son of Mineshaft and racing for Breeder/Owner Robsham Stables. 4 of 5 in the money on dirt, 3 place finishes on fast dirt and an off track win. First start after shutting down in early October. Pletcher has good stats but the one ugly one is first time starts with a new trainer, of 34 starts winning only 9%. Velazquez up, and Velazquez and Pletcher win 23% of the time together. Working well under handrides.

Westover Wildcat is one of two horses running for Trainer A. Dutrow, the other a nice looking Edward Evans VA bred, A Little Warm, who breaks from the far outside. Westover Wildcat, with R. Dominguez up, comes in training well and a sharp 90 BSF in his last race. Trainer Duttrow's stats are pretty impressive, but I'm impressed with the Trainer/Jock combo clipping away at 42% on nearly 100 races together.

Grand Times is a Wesley Ward trained and owned Greatness colt. 2 for 2 on fast dirt and 3 of 3 in the money lifetime.

Wildcat Frankie will go to post as the bettor's 1st or 2nd favorite off a 95 BSF in mid December at Calder. I've read nice things about him but I like a bit more before I go any higher. I will account for him on some 10 cent super boxes.

Mr. Green and A Little Warm are as far into the field as I'll look. Mr. Green is a gelding who has raced 8 times already, 7 of 7 in the money on dirt, and 8 of 8 lifetime in the money. Trainer Wolfson is no slouch and his combo with Saez clips away at 48% on 25 races. 2nd off long layoff, maybe more ready to show good form then some of the others.

Call Shot from Tale of the Cat seems to be more of a synthetic horse and we'll watch him for future play at KEE.

There are a few interesting 4 YO races today as well. I'll be back to take a crack at Race 7 at GP, The Grade III Mr. Prospector and at Santa Anita, the Grade II San Pasquel Handicap. Enjoy, Turk Out!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day January 3, 2010: The Hal's Hope Grade III at Gulfstream

There were questions, lots of questions, but one thing that was always known is that Quality Road is one fine horse. At the bottom of this post is the video replay of The Hal's Hope from opening day at Gulfstream Park. I don't know if he's a better miler then a classic distance runner, but he's talented enough for either and this was a good start to his 4 YO campaign. A healthy and hard running Quality Road will make the older horse division very interesting.

Race 8 Gulfstream Park: The Hal's Hope Grade III; 1 Mile on Fast Dirt for 4 YO and Up.

Quality Road came out of the gate very well and struck the lead early. Spin Master and Le Grand Cru were game and went with him through 6 furlongs. At that point You and I Forever ran up the inside and at the top of the stretch Quality Road and You and I Forever were trading strides until about 1/16 to go and Quality Road just powered away. You and I Forever ran a game second and Congressional Page and Harlem Rocker came in soon after. My pre race favorite Le Grand Cru didn't have it when it needed it against the strong pace of Quality Road, even with very moderate fractions and a final time that was a ho hum 1:36:33. The Donn Handicap on February 6th should be an interesting affair anyway, and with this win I'm sure we'll see Quality Road there.

I didn't like what I saw on the tote board and I was content with a simple win bet on Le Grand Cru that didn't work out.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: January 3, 2010; The Hal's Hope at Gulfstream & Post Race Analysis for The Count Fleet & San Gorgonio Hcp.

The fine looking, Allen Jerkens trained horse to the left is none other then two time Grade III winner, Le Grand Cru, the Turk's tepid chalk in the Grade III Hal's Hope on opening day at Gulfstream Park. Yesterday's two handicaps kicked off another year of publicly handicapping the ponies for The Turk. While I would have loved to report a big splash, it was more workmanlike and typical of the type of racetrack scores that don't kill you but don't make you rich either. Let's talk about yesterday and then get to today!

Race 8 Aqueduct: The Count Fleet Stakes; 1 mile and 70 yards on fast inner track dirt for 3 YOs and Race 8 at Santa Anita: The San Gorgonio Handicap Grade III; 1 1/8 miles on firm turf for F&M 4 YO and Up.

Full disclosure. I fell asleep yesterday afternoon and woke up with a few minutes to post at Aqueduct in the Count Fleet. I was less excited about this race anyhow after Peppi Knows scratched. I expected a better effort from Ibboyee and I hated the odds this horse was bet down to. I also liked my base handicap and didn't like the idea of a sub $10 exacta winner so I shook off the cobwebs, looked at the Tote Board and bet my 2nd and 3rd choices, which lined up with what the bettors thought as well. Laus Deo rewarded my rather lazy and uninspired bet, but a win is a win.

At Santa Anita, the scratch of Life Is Sweet eliminated a serious money magnet from the mix. I waited patiently on the tote board to see how the bettors responded and the response was about what I expected: Diamondrella was bet down to near even money with money spread nearly evenly between Cat by the Tale, Treat Gently (GB) and Diamondrella (GB). About the best value on the board was Century Park, who pre race I said would set the pace and get gobbled up at the top of the stretch, which is exactly what happened. Without a strong opinion I relied on my first impression of the race, my base handicap. Using it I constructed a win bet, an exacta and I came close to a Superfecta. I had the superfecta lined up to bet but it was a 5 horse box and I didn't think the reward was worth the bet. In hindsight I miscalculated and I left about 24 bucks at the window that should have been mine but mistakes happen, even in the confines of my quiet den. Mistakes are multiplied at the track itself with all kinds of distractions, so do your homework before you get to the track.

The results of the day were positive but more the result of good bet construction then handicapping. I don't always focus my blog on the bet construction mechanics for time constraint reasons, but soon I will do a cradle to grave blog post with spreadsheets and all on both side of the equation. I get more satisfaction from the handicapping side of things, but I get less grief from Mrs. Turk when the betting side of it pans out. A dichotomy for this horse players soul for sure!

Race 8 Gulfstream Park post time 4:43 ET; The Hal's Hope Grade III; 1 Mile on Dirt for 4 YOs and Up.

The best horse in the race is Quality Road followed by Harlem Rocker, two Pletcher trainees. That said, both enter with questions to answer and will hit the top four on class and skill more then anything else, and either could win, but I'm hunting for value and I like Le Grand Cru to win his third straight Grade III.

Le Grand Cru last raced in late October and has strung two straight upper 90 BSFs together to win two Grade III events. Working steady and fast at GP since mid December. The 5 YO son of Dynaformer is detirmined and will strike the lead early and won't cave in even if he slips back in the middle points of call. Sure its a crap shoot but most likely enters the post >5-1. No worse then fourth.

Harlem Rocker is a grade I winning miler who has raced once in over 14 months. :59 2/5ths at 5f in a handride just before XMAS, sharp enough to be competitive, talented enough to win.

Quality Road needs no introduction to most observers of our sport. Supremely talented, a bit of a tease, I do like him at 1 mile more then >8f but this is the first time back in a starting gate for real since the meltdown on live TV two months ago. I was surprised not to see some gate break training works but I'm not an Eclipse Award winning trainer so I'll zip it.

The rest of the field is a mixed bag, with the best of the bunch being You and I Forever. I'm looking at Spin Master as possibly busting into the top four.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Nomination Is In: January 2, 2010: The San Gorgonio Handicap Grade II; 1 1/8 Miles on Turf at Santa Anita

When you wake up to 12 inches of snow and near zero degree temperatures, you develop a fondness for places like Arcadia, California about this time of the year. Luckily the Great Race Place provides plenty of stakes race action from now until I can actually see the grass in my front yard again to keep me occupied. Work is bringing me back to Southern California soon, but for today's San Gorgonio Handicap and tomorrow's Monrovia Handicap, I'll have to be content with the internet TV feed, YouBet and my snuggie. Let's Rock!

Race 7 Santa Anita, post time 6:36 ET; The San Gorgonio Handicap Grade II; 1 1/8 miles on lush and firm Arcadian turf for Fillies and Mares 4 YO and UP.

With Life is Sweet in this group, its hard to look past the Breeders' Cup Distaff champion, and the money will flow towards her, which makes Diamondrella even harder to ignore. A turf race last race best 93 BSF, she seems to like softer footing, with two 100+ BSF on softer footing. The turf will be firm today but look for an upper 90 BSF and a top three finish for the IEAH Stables, Gary Stevens trained runner. 7 wins in last 11 starts. 12 of 17 in the money on Turf. The distance and the footing will be a challenge but a classy mare nonetheless. I've been a Gary Stevens fan for a long time and here's hoping that he finds his way as a trainer, the sport could use his class and horseman instincts.

Treat Gently (GB)is a Cape Cross (Ire) daughter whose making only her third North America start since July. Transferred to the care of Conditioner Mott by her owners, Juddmonte Farms, after the loss of Bobby Frankel. Training steady since running a solid 1 1/8 on the turf at Woodbine, the problem being that the race was 1 1/4 miles long. More then capable of winning, look for this horse to be no worse then the bettors third choice, possibly second, and no lower then 7-2. I'd like to see more production for such a short price, but 6 of 9 in the money on turf lifetime and a Racing Post Rating of 116 on firm turf in France. Has beaten Dar Re Mi. What we'll get today, I dunno.

I actually have Life is Sweet in the Place spot but I'm planning on boxing her around from 1-4 and I also don't know what to expect when we see the poly monster touch the turf for the first time since May 2008, something "It" Trainer John Shireffs only pulls off 9% of the time. Trainer Shireffs does know a thing or two about graded stakes races though, winning 42% of them over the past year and Shireffs and G. Gomez, who don't team up very often, win when they do. Idle since the Breeders' Cup, training nicely with a sharp 6f 1:11 4/5ths for the 5 YO daughter of Storm Cat.

Another Storm Cat descendant, Cat by the Tale, the 5 YO daughter of Tale of the Cat, breaks from the outside and will go off at very attractive odds of >6-1. I don't think she can win from the post and against the company here, but a competent runner who has 4 turf wins in 12 starts and was 6 of 6 in the money in 2009. 2 Wins on SA Turf of the 5 wins on SA Turf in the whole field. Coming back to turf after a go in the Grade II Bayakoa in early December, something Trainer Drysdale pulls off 21% of the time.

Century Park will push the pace but expect to see her gobbled up by the top of the stretch. Rosa Grace (GB) goes with blinkers on today and can handle the distance as well as put up a solid mid 90's BSF. Not a winner, taking the tape only 1 time in last 9 and not at all in 2009. Teamgeist (ARG) is also winless in 2009 as a 6 YO and its hard to say what's still in the tank at 7. Mike Smith is up for the McPeek trainee.

I'll be playing a few exactas with combinations that have Life is Sweet, Diamondrella and Treat Gently on top. 10 cent supers are in play and that will make up the remainder of my betting.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

PICK SIX CARRYOVER OF $115,261 KICKS OFF NEW YEAR, SANTA ANITA POST TO OFFER NINE RACES ON SATURDAY. Due in large part to a 58-1 stunner in race seven, the New Year got off to a raucous start at Santa Anita, as the popular Pick Six eluded 11,695 on-track attendees and as a result, $115,261 will be carried over into Saturday’s Pick Six, which will be offered on races four through nine.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Nomination Is In: January 2, 2010; The Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct

The fantastic Sarah K. Andrew picture to the left is Haynesfield, the winner of the 2009 Count Fleet Stakes. Sarah has an incredible eye and has an ability to capture the competitive soul of the horse very well. Please visit her website and support her artistry the right way. Alrighty, let's kick off 2010 Turk Style.

Race 8 Aqueduct, post time 3:44: The Count Fleet Stakes; 1 Mile 70 Yards on the inner dirt for 3 YOs.

The weather looks like typical mixed bag precipitation and cold. The track conditions should be fast and check on the changes before finalizing your handicap.

Ibboyee is the morning line favorite and I would add a heavy chalk going into this race. A winner already at this distance on this inner dirt track, 3 of past four races producing "drew off" wins and upper 80 BSF's. Trainer Pletcher comes in after winning 235 races in 2009 and the Pletcher/R. Dominguez combo won 29% of their races at the Big A over past year. A New York bred son of Medallist, races in the Black and White Diamond silks of Anstu Stables. 8-5 on the morning line, could easily go 4-5 or lower. I will back the heavy chalk and try to build reasonable exotics off this key.

Turbo Speed is a Houghton trained and home bred from the families Sylmar Farms. The word "driving" was in his running line in all three of his races, of which he is 3 for 3. A big step up in distance and class but appears very capable. Not a lock for Place, but top four is a realistic goal.

Laus Deo is a Fox Hill Farm, Anthony Dutrow conditioned horse, a son of Medaglia d'Oro and Dam Shebane (Alysheba). Very classy but needs to show a bit more today after breaking his maiden the last time out at 7f . A. Dutrow won at an astounding 28% clip in 2009 and Dutrow/Cohen combo clipped away at 36% with over 130 races together. A. Dutrow's Stakes win percentage is a gaudy 31% on 55 races and his won last start is 39%. Wow!

Peppi Knows is a Steven Got Even gelding with 3 wins already and the only appearance in a graded stakes, a beaten second in late November. Best effort so far was on PID fake dirt. A LATE UPDATE Peppi Knows has scratched.

It's a bit early to have a fully fleshed out bet strategy, but exactas with Ibboyee and a few straight Tri and Super bets will be my focus. I've already added some color to my base handicap and I don't see my thoughts changing much between now and tomorrow, but as always, watch the tote and consider the risk/reward of every bet you place.

After reviewing the 2009 New Year's Resolutions for The Turk, I've decided that I did pretty darn good by stating some goals publicly and we'll see if we can't some mileage out of that ploy again. My early season resolution is to attend the Arkansas Derby on April 10th at Oaklawn Park. With the poly tracks severely limiting the Kentucky Derby hopefuls coming out of California, Oaklawn will see more horses like past winners Curlin, Laywer Ron and Smarty Jones pass through the winners circle, as well as horses like last year's winner Papa Clem who know they must leave California before May and try the dirt.

My mid summer goals are to make another trip with my family back to Arlington for Stakes racing as well as another all Turk adventure to Saratoga. It was my pleasure this year to have three generations of Turk horseplayers picking Careless Jewel in the Alabama. The races I attend mid summer are always dependant on Little Turk's soccer schedule, as I do have my priorities where they should be.

My late season goal will be to attend the Jockeys Gold Cup at Belmont.

My 2009 goal of turning at least two people into horse players went well. I have been purchasing copies of Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies and giving them to folks I think I can influence, albeit slightly. I was proud to see a few of them place their own bets at the OTB, on their own nonetheless. Baby steps is still progress.

Have fun, Turk Out!