Saturday, June 26, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day June 26, 2010; The Belmont Late Pick Three and the Mother Goose Stakes

It's important to savor life and the old adage of too much of any one thing is a bad thing still holds true. I was "handicapped out" after the Triple Crown season. I handicapped an incredible number of races every week from January 1st until the Belmont Stakes and I needed a handicapper's holiday. I found myself a blogger without a voice, a blogger without an opinion. I followed my own advice and I pushed away from the laptop, enjoyed the sunshine, watched the Little Turk play soccer, smoked some great cigars, but above all else, I left the red flair pen on the table. I only ventured to briefly, I took a trip to Arlington with Sister Turk and drank beer and just enjoyed the sights and sounds. I decompressed and I hit the reset button.

When I woke up today it was with a renewed sense of handicapping purpose and I was rewarded with a nice $370 won in the Late Belmont Pick Three and I was fortunate enough to help my friend win over $2,500 when I quickly 'capped another race and I gave him the Pick Four on a $68 dollar ticket. It was darn good day. Let's get after it!

Belmont Park: Race 8 - Race 9 - Race 10 (Race Charts via hyperlinks)

In the 8th race, I backed three horses for the Pick Three and my top choice Officer Flirt who ended up being the bettor's chalk and finishing 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Mystical Code who was the bettor's third favorite. My other choice in the field of 10 finished fourth, Sundae's a Meese, so I feel pretty good I had this one covered. One leg down and I'm alive, onto the Mother Goose.

It pained me to pick such a heavy betting chalk, and I expected it with a 6-5 morning line, but this was a very nice field of five and Devil May Care had to earn this win and I had her right where I needed her to advance in the Pick Three. My Trifecta bet didn't do so well when Ailalea never uncorked. I had Biofuel and Devil May Care perfectly placed but missed on Ailalea and I can't say I underestimated Connie and Michael but I wasn't prepared to spend more then $10 on a bet that would likely only return $40 if it came in so I passed. I'm starting to get very excited about The Alabama!

Alive and onto Race 10. I had four choices in the race and I was loaded for bear as my top two choices finished one/two and the Pick Three gained good value when the Duke of Naples, the bettor's sixth choice nosed out the very heavily bet Tagg runner Seattle Mission.

I feel refreshed and I won, always a good combination. The Turk has his Breeder's Cup tickets already and I'm feelin' it.

Have fun, Be Safe, Turk Out!

Sister Turk and "a friend" June 12, 2010

The Nomination Is In June 26, 2010: The Belmont Park Pick Three including the Mother Goose Stakes GI

The end of June. The Triple Crown season came to a merciful end and Northern United States and Ontario racing really kicks up a big notch. Kicking it down a notch is the beautiful filly pictured to the left, Devil May Care. Lost in the shuffle at the Kentucky Derby was the fact she was well placed nearing the top of the stretch and she ran out of steam like many of the runners that day. I didn't think she belonged but my name isn't Todd Pletcher and I do my best to not second guess the horsemen. Freshened after that race, training nicely at Belmont since late May, it's time for her to get back to work and I think she deserves some chalk, all be it light chalk, in today's Mother Goose Stakes, the middle leg of the Belmont Late Pick Three. In keeping with my method of not reading about the races before I handicap them, I was floored by the quality of the five horse field. While I would have loved to have seen 8 runners, this is a nice collection and it should be interesting. Let's go!

Belmont Park Race 8-9-10; The Pick Three including The Mother Goose Grade I

As always, start with the weather, the scratches and changes and the course condition. You have to know what you're working with before you make the doughnuts. It looks like a perfect day and conditions for racing.

Todd Pletcher brings three quality ladies into this race, all of them looking like they belong in the deep Grade I waters. Putting Devil May Care on top may not be the brave thing to do but I reckon she deserves it; A Grade I and II winner, a solid Derby effort and Pletecher's 25% winning off 31-60 day layoff. taking her means you don't believe the Derby effort took too much out of her. make that decision yourself but I think she downshifted enough to not be spent.

My brave handicapper side would prefer to have placed Biofuel on top. Trainer Baker puts the synth runner on dirt for the first time and ships down from the safe and race casino fueled big purses of Woodbine for owner/breeder Brereton Jones. A 5f 1:00 4/5 bullet shows shes ready to roll. Two wins in a row in ungraded stakes. For a bit of value I included her as an alternate in the Pick Three.

Ailalea is a two time Grade III winner that Pletcher gives back to E. Prado. 2 wins on fast dirt, including a win at Belmont. The daughter of Pulpit has serious expectations and a nice last race win to build off of. My gamble is she's close but doesn't win.

The other two runners, Katy Now and Connie and Michael are more then capable: Connie and Michael may be ready to post a surprise after a nice 92 BSF in an N1X at CD in mid May. Katy Now is a daughter of Tiznow and is 2 of 2 on fast dirt.

Race 8 is an inner turf Maiden race for fillies and mares at the $16,000 class level and 11 horses are entered for the grass. Officer Flirt in the four hole and Hear Me Roar in the five both drop in from the $25K level and they seem to be the most serious of the bunch, with Mystical Code also in the mix. Race 10 is an interesting affair, an N1X at the $39,000 level for NYS bred 3 YOs. Trainer Tagg brings a Sakatoga Stable runner in, Seattle Mission. Should be comfortable with the course and the distance. Trainer Pletcher has J. Velazquez up on Adam Rides Again. A in on Belmont turf at 1 1/8 the last time out for the gelded son of Cozzene. Cops Fever doesn't seem to know how to win, winless in 9 efforts at Belmont, but there are signs and the price will be nice, and the Empire Maker son, the Duke of Naples rounds out my possibles. Trainer Levine, with Prado up, puts blinkers on, something Levine wins with 24% of the time.

I'm keeping it light an easy with a $24 gamble on the pick three and a conservative Trifecta worth $4 bucks on the Mother Goose. Have fun with it.

Turk Out!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Nomination Is In: June 5, 2010; The Belmont Stakes Grade I on Dirt

If there is a future for horse racing it will only come when families embrace the sport, talk about it, watch it together and make it part of their shared experience. We need more Aunt Rosie's. My dear Aunt Rosie passed away several years ago now. She lived life to its fullest and passed over to the other side and awaits her family. Somewhere, on the other side, she may be running a sports book, and she most definitely has the ponies on her mind. I spent alot of time with Aunt Rosie when I was very young and she remains one of the biggest influences in my life. We didn't see each other much after I left for the Navy and then returned home to raise my own family, but she was never far from my heart, and when we got together, we always talked horses. Several years back, just after she died, I had a dream the morning of the Belmont Stakes and Aunt Rosie visited me and asked me who I liked. I told her I liked Rags to Riches. She told me she loved the Grey/Roans and I told her I didn't think she was grey and that I would go home and get the Daily Race Form and come right back and she told me OK, but she was really telling me goodbye. It was her, her voice, her manner of speaking, yet she was wrapped in burial cloth. I loved my Aunt Rosie and I look forward to talking the ponies with her again one day.

If there is a future for horse racing as we still know it, it will be people in our families talking to friends and family about this wonderful sport and making it part of the daily conversation again. Enough about the Turk, let's get after it!

Belmont Park Race 11: The Belmont Grade I; 1 1/2 Miles on Dirt for 3 YOs

This isn't exactly the type of year that encourages new fans and you have to wonder what a Triple Crown winner would do for generating interest. Well, the horses had a different idea. What we have on our hands today is a collection of runners that range from mediocre to some level that I'm still not sure of. You take this mix of runners and you throw them into Big Sandy and ask them to run a 1/4 of a mile farther then some of them ever had and 5/16ths of a mile farther then most of them are comfortable doing right now. What's it all mean? Results may vary. But you know what, this is gambling and uncertainty often pays the most money.

I see three horses being better then the rest of the field, Ice Box, Fly Down and First Dude. I'm backing Ice Box to win. The winner of Grade I Florida Derby by a nose, he closed like a frieght train to take second in the Kentucky Derby and was then back benched for the Preakness by Trainer Zito for this moment. A smokin' four furlong bullet in :46 3/5ths at the Saratoga Training Track signals he is ready to rumble. J. Lezcano gets the mount today and he wins 21% of his races with Zito at Belmont and 27% at Belmont overall. He'll be pushed down to 5-4 and maybe less then even money so he doesn't represent value but I think the chalk is pretty heavy. Ice Box should be able to handle the track under any conditions.

Zito's second runner today is Fly Down. A big winner in the Grade II Dwyer at Belmont at 1 1/8 miles a month ago. Expect him to charge hard through the last 1/2 mile and the son of Mineshaft poses a legitimate threat to Icebox.

First Dude, bad name aside, is a Stephen Got Even runner trained by Dale Romans. 4 Places in 7 starts and 6 of 7 in the money lifetime. R Dominguez is up and he's clipping away at 27% through 568 starts in 2010. He'll press the pace and I'm curious if he won't be gasping the last 1/4 mile and possibly give the race up in a stretch duel.

I'm going to betting more inner race then a Pick Three or Pick Four Sequence today for the very simlple reason that the card is a tough one, especially with the potential for bad weather, and Race 8 with Custom for Carlos scratched and Race 9, The Acorn, being so wide open, I just felt like I wasn't prepared to make the financial investment to put together a winning card. That said, I'm thinking Superfecta here at the Belmont Stakes.

I feel pretty good that my Top 3 will be in the Top Four so I'm going to build my base bet with that in mind. The tricky thing is the fourth spot and then a few hedges in case my top three falter. As I build my bets I again feel the overwhelming urge to push away from the table, and if this wasn't a Triple Crown race I would, so I'll keep the risks minor and the chance of reward conservative but worthy. I'm going with a 10 Cent Super as my main bet with 5,6,11 Over 5,6,11 over 4,5,6,7,8,11,12 over 4,5,6,7,8,11,12. This bet drags Make Music For Me, Drosselmeyer, Interactif, and Game On Dude into the 3rd and 4th spots. This bet will cost $12 and I'll bet about $30 total and have some fun with Little Turk assembling some value exactas once we get a bit closer to post time and the odds firm up,

Enjoy the day friends and readers, Turk Out!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Nomination Is In: June 5, 2010: The Manhattan Handicap Grade I on turf at Belmont Park

I’d like to thank the good folks at Thorofan and the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance for inviting me to share my thoughts on today’s race in the Handicappers Corner, The Grade I Manhattan Handicap. The race is the under card to the final leg of the Triple Crown events, The Belmont Stakes, and it will be contested by three year olds and up, carrying assigned weights one and one quarter miles on the Belmont inner turf course.

I’ve read a whole bunch of handicapping books over the years and the one thing I always take away from them, more important then any methodology, is the organizational approach the particular handicapper takes to his craft. Like anything in life, you have to have a plan. I stress consistency to my readers and I strongly urge you to develop the routines you will apply to your own handicapping each race.

My approach is fairly simple, so simple in fact I’m often embarrassed to talk shop with fellow handicappers. Today we are going to frame the event and place it in context, we are going to size up the track condition, the possible weather for 48 hours before and during, we are going to identify any possible scratches and changes, we are going to construct a “base handicap” which is nothing more then assigning a probable order of finish and including and excluding candidates from the top four, and with all that we are going to complete the final two steps, identify what type of betting we will engage in and then build the bet. I apply that approach to every race I handicap and often it is that consistency that allows me to stay ahead of a negative ROI.

The Grade I Manhattan Handicap will go to post at 5:36 Eastern Time and is currently scheduled for 11 runners in the starting gate. Last year’s winner Gio Ponti is in the field as are six other Grade I winners. There are no Fillies or mares entered, as well as no three year olds. The heaviest handicap will be carried by Gio Ponti at 122 pounds while the lightest load will be 114 pounds by Pinckney Hill. The race is on the inner turf course. The turf’s condition is something you must take into account, as while it is listed as Firm right now, a review of the weather makes that questionable. There is a chance of significant rain in the early morning hours of Friday and then a very good chance of rain Saturday morning and into the afternoon. I’m left with little choice but to expect something less the firm and hopefully no worse then soft come race time. Because of the magnitude of the event I won’t plan for the event to be placed on the main track but that is a possibility with turf races you’ll face and you should plan for that possibility.

So we have framed the race conditions, the surface, and the weather. Come post time of the first race go ahead and check for scratches and changes . In these high level Grade I races equipment changes are not very common, nor is jock changes, but scratches can impact the bet strategy and the quicker you see them the better.

With the basics sized up its time to analyze the Past Performances and build a base handicap. I prefer Daily Racing Form Deluxe PP’ but again I am comfortable with them and for consistency sake I know what I am getting.

Belmont Park Race 10: The Grade I Manhattan Handicap; 1 ¼ mile on Turf for 3 YOs and Up.

I view races in terms of stratification layers. Ok Turk, what do you mean? I see divisions of talent in each field and I try to draw a line between the layers of talent. I don’t denote this line until I place the horses in a predictive order of finish and often it seems the line just draws itself. For a Grade I race like The Manhattan, the talent is deep and the divisions of talent are fewer. The best three horses are color coded in Blue. While I view them as essentially equal I’m also not an intellectual baby who won’t take a stand so the Turk is placing chalk on Just As Well, owned and trained by Jonathan Sheppard. The rest of the talent pool at the top includes Court Vision and Gio Ponti.

This is Just As Well’s third effort back after a hard trip to Japan in late November. In his last time out, the Grade II Dixie on Pimlico Turf he closed significant ground in taking Place behind another runner today, Strike a Deal. Just As Well will most likely be the best price of the three horses I placed in the top grouping so I’m looking for value as well as a reasonable chance. Trainer Sheppard (pictured above) wins 27% of the time in Graded Stakes with 67 tries over the past year, second only in this race to Chad Brown who has far fewer attempts. Just as Well would like it a bit firmer but ran a fine Place in the Arlington Millions last year on turf listed as good.

Court Vision’s PP is not one you will see often: This will be his twelfth straight Grade I event. He should be able to handle whatever turf conditions are present, maybe even better then Just As Well and his last race was a strong performance on yielding turf taking Place by a neck. Trainer Rick Dutrow wins 22% of his Turf races and he has R. Albarado up for his sixth time back with the 5 YO son of Gulch.

A huge wildcard in this race is Gio Ponti. This horse is looking for his first win in five tries but he lost by a length to Zenyatta at the Breeders’ Cup and a nose before heading to Dubai and turning up flat. He missed some work but then ran a five furlong :59 3/5ths this past week. At the classic distance on turf that most likely will be soft will require top condition and even Trainer Clement has questioned his condition but not his health. I was half tempted to drop this champion right out of the top four but I think the team deserves the benefit of the doubt, as Clement wins 21% of a staggering number of turf starts and his 24% win rate in 2010 coupled with Ramon Dominguez’s 27% rate in 2010 is a mark of supreme quality. Gio Ponti is 6 of 6 in the money with 4 wins across Belmont Turf and won this race last year with a 106 BSF on yielding turf. Let’s roll the dice and place him in the top four for sure and hopefully top three.

The next layer down for me includes Grand Couturier (GB), Take the Points and Strike A Deal. Grand Couturier has had great success on soft and yielding turf including a Grade II turf event at Belmont late last fall. Trainer Ribaudo reteams the horse with Alan Garcia today. Take the Points will need his best effort today to get any higher then Show but he is more then capable of hitting the ticket. This is also his first race back since Dubai but he has trained regularly and well since late April at Belmont. Strike a Deal comes in off a Grade II win in mid May and is 13 of 19 in the money on Turf and Trainer Goldberg has a gaudy 30% win rate in 2010 and places G. Gomez up today.

My final grouping includes some fine quality horses but this isn’t 9 year old’s playing baseball when everyone gets to first base and we all get trophy’s, you only have so may spots on the ticket and you’ve got to exclude some nice horse flesh and hope it unfolds the way you predict. I see Jet Propulsion flying through 7 furlongs and fading to the back. I like Winchester quite a bit, especially on off turf. Trained also by Clement, the five year old son of Theatrical (Ire) is on a five race progression of slower BSF and will have to reverse that trend. His last three digit Beyer was on yielding Belmont turf last September. 8 year old Interpatation won here on yielding turf last October, his only win in past nine starts. Again, the condition of the turf may loom large in the final results.

So what to make of all of this and what are we betting? I think the sane thing to do is realize two things: Whoever is the post time chalk, most likely Gio Ponti, will enter the gate 2-1 and is very vulnerable and that the uncertainty of the turf has the chance to create some real big payouts if you can construct the wacky results that may come to bear. The first thing you must do before establishing a bet strategy is establish your bet budget. If your budget is less then 40 dollars I’d suggest stringing together some various exacta combinations and some win bets on value horses like Just as Well who was a morning line 10-1. An alternative is the affordable 10 cent Superfecta’s that you can box 4 horses in for $2.40.

With the base handicap built I like to wait until a few races before until I place my bets and sometimes just before post time, but the good folks at Thorofan most likely don’t want to wait that long so let’s get after it.

My base bet will be a $2 trifecta. I am going to place the 6,9 (Just as Well and Court Vision) over 1,6,9 (adding Gio Ponti for Place), over 1,2,5,6,8,9 (adding in for Show Grand Couturier, Take the Points and Strike A Deal) for $32 dollars. Putting Gio Ponti into all three spots bumps the bet to $48 so you have a feel for the parameters. I think $48 is too rich for this bet that loses value if Just As Well doesn’t finish first and if Gio Ponti does finish in the top three but this is gambling after all. I’ll keep it at $32 dollars and use the remaining $8 of my budget to assemble four $2 straight exactas with some of the B group over the A group for value. It’s hard to ignore the results at Belmont on yielding turf that some of these horses had just last year.

Good luck to everyone. I hope you enjoyed reading but discount my picks and instead think about your approach to the races and build consistency in your own handicapping if you wish to really move forward.

Thanks to Geno from Equispace for all the hard work he does marketing this sport. Turk Out!