Saturday, April 10, 2010
The Nomination Is In: April 10, 2010; The Blue Grass Stakes Grade I at Keeneland
Beautiful Keeneland, my heart may come back to you, but it hasn't yet. The old Turk spent his formative years defending American freedom's on the frontline of the Cold War. Occasionally on our time off we'd come face to face with other young and formative Americans who didn't like us. We were taught, much to our chagrin, that our biggest role was to defend the rights given to all Americans under the Constitution, especially the rights of assembly and free speech.
I'm good with defending the free speech and conduct of people who do just asinine things. If I'm going to defend their rights, I'm exercising my own to bitch a bit about fake dirt. Keeneland, built on hallowed blue grass, next to one of the shrines of American horse racing, Calumet Farms, killed me when they installed a fake dirt track made of a little bit of this and that. As much as I hate what the steroid era did to the record book in baseball, I hate how 70 years of dirt track statistics and tradition were tossed out the window. I digress, but I retain the right to not play Keeneland because I just don't like what they did. This irrational position is not even consistent in the Turk's world because I just accept Woodbine and Santa Anita, and Del Mar and Hollywood, but I have a real issue with this cathedral being desecrated like this.
I was happy to be asked to write a "Handicappers Corner" article this week for the Keeneland run Blue Grass Stakes. I set aside my bias and did my best to explain my handicapping style to an audience of people passionate about horse racing. Thorofan is a grassroots organization that started as a small seed and is now a sapling focusing on the racing fan. I wish them the best as they try to create a place for casual fans to find social interaction with like minded folks. I'd like to thank Geno from Equispace. Geno is one hard working cat this time of the year yet he finds time to support and advertise and grow a sport that many people in our society just consider dead. Hat's off to Geno.
Race 9 at KEE: Post Time 5:30 ET; The Blue Grass Stakes; 1 1/8 Miles on polytrack for 3 YOs.
The handicap for Thorofan was written as a bit of a tutorial. For the hardcore gambling types that visit this blog it's important to point out that the method employed in this handicap is sound. You can be sound and correct and still wrong. I would never tell someone that I'm OK with a handicap if I wasn't so I stand firmly behind the handicap. That said, it's a surface I struggle with and it's a track I don't handicap much, so I'm going to have some fun with this race and then leave quickly!
Check for scratches and changes. I've marked up the Past Performances and as is my general custom, I handicapped without morning lines or reading and pre race news articles. I was only surprised when I did look at the Morning Lines that Odysseus was 7-2 and slightly behind 3-1 Pleasant Prince. It was also interesting to read the comments from the connections of Odysseus why they choose the Blue Grass instead of the Arkansas Derby. Either way, I like to handicap the way I see the information fall off the past performances and not put too much stock into what is written. I found over the years I was shading my handicaps sometimes on the quotes in an article. Right or wrong, I do my best to block it out.
At first blush this is a pretty similar group of runners; 7 of the 9 have only I win, 4 last race winners, no winners at the distance, 94 is the best synthetic BSF of the bunch and only one synthetic win in the whole field. As a handicapper I believe you have to take a stand with your base handicap and then you can shade a little bit with part wheels or boxing in the bet construction, moving horses up and down the order of finish.
I’m backing Pleasant Prince to win. Trainer Wesley Ward had three good GP efforts this spring losing to Ice Box twice by a nose and a ½ length. Owns the race best career BSF at 99. Training nicely with a smoking hot :58 2/5ths seconds at 5 furlongs. J. Leparoux is up, and Ward/Leparoux have won 30% of their races together over the past year. Expect him to sit in a stalking position until the ¼ pole.
Odysseus had a dominating 15 length romp in late February and then beat Schoolyard Dreams by a nose in thrilling stretch drive at the Tampa Derby Grade III. Three wins for Trainer Albertrani who wins 28% of his Graded Stakes but only started three runners on synthetics over the past year, all losers. Is 4 for 4 lifetime in the money with three wins. Has shown a tendency to churn some fast early fractions and he has the guts to rally and re-rally if need be. Much to like here.
I want to make a case for Interactif to win, but I can’t see it in the base handicap. A closer loser to Sidney’s Candy in the Grade II San Felipe at SA in mid March and loser by a nose on the turf in February at GP. He’ll make a top of the stretch move and I think will find the top four.
It’s important to point out some information that handicapper and all around horse guy Jeremy Plonk put together which you can find at the excellent Keeneland website. 43% of Keeneland springs meeting winners during the polytrack era come in off a dirt effort. I think the fact that 49% of the spring meet winners have never made a poly start and 63% of spring meet winners made only one previous poly start is very compelling. Information gathered. File it away and look at the handicap through the prism of all the information. Groovy stuff, let’s keep going.
Make Music For Me comes in for his 2nd race off a 45-180 day layoff, something Trainer Barbra has tried three times in the last year, losing all. Making a turf/synthetic switch after a strong turf win at 1 mile in early March at SA. Lost three times as a 2 YO to Looking at Lucky. Training at 6 furlongs at HOL sharply. One of two Bernstein colts in the field. Mike Smith up for his fourth race with the colt.
Aikenite and First Dude, round out the dividing line of strong Top Four Contenders. Aikenite has run a good Show finish at KEE losing by a ½ length in a Grade I event as a 2 YO. His lone victory was his first race in August in Saratoga. He’s a quality colt but where he stands in the 3 YO group is hard to say. Garret Gomez takes the mount.
First Dude, a Dale Romans trained horse with R. Dominguez up, is a work in progress, only one win in January that he followed up with two decent efforts at GP, including 5th in the Florida Derby. He has the potential to hit Show or 4th and any better is hard to fathom at this point in his career. Another Dale Roman’s conditioned horse is Paddy o’ Prado. Paddy o’ Prado comes in off a very nice Grade III turf win at 1 1/8 miles and has been training sharply over the Keeneland main track. Ken Desormeaux is on the mount for the first time.
So what to make of it?
I built a rather chalky superfecta for the Thorofan article. I presented it with two possible angles, one conservative and they other a smidge bit more aggressive.
I mentionioned, albeit briefly, the concept of defensive betting. I use to do more of it, but I still do when I think a bet that I construct has a high risk for a medium or low reward. I keep the defensive bets small, perhaps 1/4 of my total bet amount. For example, I'm prepared to spend $60 dollars today. I'll take $6 and bet 3 $2 Win bets, perhaps a few >6-1 longshots with potential OR three straight exactas that have a bit of value associated with them. The downside, and why I don't do this much, is if the base handicap hits then the medium reward payout is diluted by the defensive bets. Catch-22.
I'm going to watch the tote board and then consider three straight exactas with one of my top three in the top spot and most likely Stately Victor or Paddy O' Prado in the Place spot.
The Turk would be remiss to not remember Personal Ensign who passed away this week of natural causes. A beloved horse with race fans, she would have been massive in a different era when horse racing heroes were revered. She's revered in our shrinking community and we wish her peace.
Have fun, Turk Out!