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!