Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Nomination Is In: August 28, 2010; The Travers Stakes Day Pick Six

Horse racing legend, Ernie Munick, posted a simple statement today on Facebook: "Only so many King Bishop's in a lifetime." We follow a sport that has a long and rich tradition. Today is the 141st running of the Travers Stakes. Stop to think about for a moment: Two World Wars, a civil rights movement, a woman suffrage movement, an industrial revolution and another idiot Paris Hilton arrest spans that period of time. Seriously, how do you mark time? I wonder how many dogs I have left in my life, if I'll live to see my unborn grandchildren marry, how many champion horses will I have a chance to fall in love with and see in person? Pictured above is one of the Turk's favorite runners ever, Lost in the Fog, winner of the King's Bishop half a decade ago. Gutty, determined, accomplished and tragic. An owner that could have been my eccentric uncle and a trainer that never learned the word pretentious. Today's one of the great days in racing, enjoy it.

I was reading Bloodhorse this week and there was a quote in a story about Jerry Crawford, owner of Paddy O'Prado, winner of the Grade I Secretariat last week at Arlington. Mr. Crawford said "...When you see you can buy a Paddy O'Prado for $105,000, that tells you you don't have to go beyond that." It's a simple thing but it applies to life really: Don't overdo/overspend on anything because if you are good, if you're better than the next guy, you can get away with less is more. OK Turk, WTF? Friends, don't overbet and don't overcover is my mantra. You'll lose some bets but the ones you hit will be rewarding.

The Turk is a pretty successful pick three/pick four bettor and I have nailed a few pick sixes before but not with money on the table. Why? I don't like the outlay. I can afford it but that's not the point. Never bet more than you can afford to lose and I'm just more content picking softer targets and grinding out positive ROI.

While I often handicap Pick Sixes this is my first time in two years blogging one and the reason is very simple, it's a lot of work for a bet I'm not even going to place. Why today? Eh, life is short, how many King Bishop's are there left for me? let's get after it!

Saratoga August 28, 2010; The Travers Stakes Day Pick Six; Post Time of Leg #1 is 3:30 ET

I'm going to let the spreadsheets speak for themselves right now and I'll provide some color on my thoughts in the post raceday analysis. I narrowed my outlay on the Pick Six down to $96 and I could cut that even further by dropping the last race turf sprint claimer down to 3 covers.

I'll be betting within races and looking for some soft spots, as the defensive bettor in me knows the likelihood of the Pick Six win is wildly remote and I'd love to get back to break even. I'm an upbeat fella by nature so I'm going to take no more than $250 and limit my exposure to that.

The weather will be great and track conditions should be optimal. I like that very much! Build your own handicaps, ignore talking heads like me and enjoy. Turk Out!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Nomination Is In: August 21, 2010; The Arlington Park Festival Pick Three all Grade I Event

A resume. Does a horseplayer need a resume? I got up for show money against The Bart and John Henry, does this count?

The Turk is a big fan of Arlington Race Track. A short 90 minute plane ride from my home, the race day experience I find at that track is wonderful: I buy my tickets online and print them, I get a seven seat box with a desk, I get a waitress bringing me food, and I get a great look at the stretch. I can't stress enough that Arlington Park is horseplayer friendly, at least they have been to me. While I was there a few weeks back, I was on my best behavior, but last year on one of my several trips I found myself sitting on a bench near the paddock smoking a cigar and engaging in some fantastic conversation with local railbirds. As a horseplayer who doesn't live in Kentucky or some other horse racing hotbed, it's easy to sometimes think you are the only one alive who knows whats going on in the thoroughbred world. We are insulated in our day to day jobs, surrounded by people without a clue or a care about a sport that is but a shadow of itself in the American national conscious. Sitting on a park bench, sharing a cigar, and talking about the final 1/8 mile times of Einstein or Gio Ponti, the horror of Spirit One loose on the lead, the merits of speed favoring with the rail set in tight or closers if the corners are tighter, gosh that is good for the soul. It's trips to the track that reaffirm to me that horse racing isn't dead, it's just different and different isn't always a bad thing. I think the sooner we accept that horse racing will never compete with the major sports in America, the sooner we embrace shorter meets, quality over quantity, effective marketing that doesn't alienate the fan base that is still left, then stability will return and growth will be possible.

These are meaty and thought provoking issues better left to bloggers and some media types who know what they are talking about. Today is one of the great days in racing, Arlington Million Day, the pinnacle of turf racing on the American calendar at the best turf course in America. The Turk likes the challenge of these big turf events and was honored again to share my thoughts with the folks at Thorofan at their Handicappers Corner. In case you haven't been noticing, each week a major race is handicapped by a member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance. The alliance is made up of an incredibly diverse group of horse centric folks and when you follow their blogs it will lead you to a network of new and old media voices that truly are at the core of Thoroughbred racing. Enhance your horse racing experience and visit the TBA homepage everyday.

The Turk just finished looking at the Arlington weather. While cloudy, its warm and it appears the rain has left the area. Pay attention to what the turf is listed as by mid card but I have to think it will be firm, maybe not rock solid firm, but firm.

Circling back to the all Grade I Turf Festival Pick Three, we are presented with some interesting races that can either be settled rather chalk like and return some dull payouts, or maybe we'll get some interesting results, especially in a pretty wide up Beverly D. Let's Go!

Arlington Park Festival Pick Three Race 8-9-10, first post 4:37 ET.

I like the in-race betting prospects for all three races and the vertical pick three has the potential to be dull or wide open. I'm going to follow the base handicaps I've constructed here and build exactas, trifectas and superfectas for each race.

Again, pay close attention to changes, as there have already been a few scratches. Acoma gets Leparoux up after the scratch of Rainbow View. A subtle change that makes Acoma much more appealing.

My Pick Three scenarios are both relatively low risk endeavors; I like the idea of singling Paddy O' Prado in The Secretariat and keeping the overall bet between $15-$24 depending on some additions or subtractions to the possible covers.

Build your own handicaps and enjoy the racing. Have fun, Turk Out!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Nomination Is In: August 21, 2010; The Arlington Million Grade I

The Turk has the opportunity to handicap one of his favorite Grade I races, the Arlington Million, for one of his favorite organizations, Thorofan, and the deadline is tomorrow morning. Like most things in life, timing is everything, and this is the sort of handicap I'd rather not finalize until mid Saturday afternoon. Why? What's the weather going to be like between Thursday night and Saturday early evening? That's a long time and it's the turf condition friends, it's the rain between now and then and the firmness or lack thereof, that might be what settles this thing. The Turk, like anyone foolish enough to publicly state opinion on races more then three days before the event, has to suck it up and give an opinion as best as possible based on what they think the situation will be. My base handicapping expects the turf to be something better than yielding and the rails to be set to zero.

Sorting your way through the foreign invaders and accurately placing them in context with the rest of the field is always challenging. What I really took away from this exercise is how undistinguished the older turf division is and how unmotivated the trainers and connections of the best European horses are to come to the mid Western United States to chase a purse such as this. As a handicapper, I try not to focus on who isn't in the field and only concern myself with who is. Let's get after it.

Arlington Park Race 10: The Arlington Million Grade I; 1 1/4 Miles on Turf for 3 YO and Up

The spreadsheet, while a bit busy, attempts to bring some context to the foreign runners first. I prefer the information I have with the North American runners but if you use Google to your advantage you can find out lots more now about these foreigners than you could have even 5 years go. It's not easy to get comfortable comparing Racing Post Ratings but that's what you have instead of speed figs. You'll find a good writeup by DRF Foreign ace, Alan Shuback, here.

Of the foreign runners, Tazeez (pictured above), a 6 YO gelded son of Silver Hawk, bred in Kentucky, appears to be the most serious.

I've attached a key race video of Tazeez, the Prince of Wales Stakes that Debussy (IRE) also competed in. While tiring, Tazeez contracted and then extended his stride again gamely.

Never put the cart before the horse: before you consider the bet, build your own odds line or modify the track handicappers based on your own opinions. I say at this point don't worry about looking for value or prices, under or overlays, simply focus on who will win, who has a chance to be in the top four, and who will miss even on the exotic tickets. In my mind, this is a two horse race between Tazeez and Gio Ponti. Behind them is a group of horses (Rahystrada, Debussy, General Quarters and Just as Well) that have an opportunity to finish in Place/Show or 4th and then four horses I consider on the outer fringe. While I said don't worry about the bet at this point, it is important to understand you can't cover all the possibilities and a handicapper will often toss good horses just because you must be decisive. These four tosses(Marsh Side, Tajaaweed,Quite a Handful and Summit Surge (Ire)) you can only hope they don't hurt you but that's why they call this gambling.

It's been 8 races and 16 months since Tazeez won a race. He cuts back a quarter mile from his last effort and takes Lasix for the first time. I generally discount left handed versus right handed running, but it appears he runs stronger going right, the wrong way in this case. I guess you could say you can be right and be wrong (the daily double: bad puns and bad handicapping!) I'm a big fan of Trainer Gosden so I will discount this statistical blip.

Gio Ponti most likely will be the post time chalk and its not like he doesn't deserve it. The son of Tale of the Cat has one of the lowest turf Tomlinson ratings yet he is looking for his tenth turf win in 17 tries with over $2.6 MM earned on turf alone. Gio Ponti won this race a year ago on turf listed as good , ran good on turf listed as soft, and has run very well on firm grass. My handicap has Gio Ponti taking Place but there is at least a 40% chance he wins this one.

The next layer down seems to have lots of equal ability horses. I like Just As Well to come up for Show. Hasn't had a three digit BSF since last September and hasn't one since last year's Arlington Millions preview day. Trainer Sheppard puts one of the great turf riders up with J. Leparoux. Has been closing with nice late moves and in terms of value, I'd expect his post time odds to be third best or worse and I like him to sneak up and win at >6-1.

General Quarters may be the key to how the final order works out. Seems to like softer turf versus hard grass listed as firm. Always game, such a fighter, the softer the going, the more you must respect him. I will shade General Quarters from Show to 6th place based on this scant information.

I'm not terribly impressed by Debussy (Ire) but that's only based on the running lines. the second entry for Trainer Gosden gets lasix and I'm not sure what the expectation is.

Rahystrada is another price that has enough ability to shock for a win but most likely can surge as high as Place and as low as 6th. Best BSF (100) was on firm turf at Churchill last November. Ran in 50K claiming races this time last year but wona Grade III on Million Preview day and deserves respect.

If I truly believe the results will be fairly chalky for the first three spots, then the risk/reward of too many superfecta choices just isn't worth it for much more than a dime. I'll keep the bet reasonable here, work a trifecta and exacta as well based on my base handicap and let it roll.

I'll be back tomorrow with my Pick Three for Arlington that climaxes with the Arlington Million.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day August 14, 2010; The Saratoga Late Pick Three with the Grade I Sword Dancer

That handsome fella to the left is Sword Dancer (1956-1984) with his Trainer J. Elliot Burch. Fifty years ago the buzz that I feel now when I go to Saratoga to see the Woodward Stakes, with recent memories being the rock star buzz of Curlin two years ago, Rachel Alexandra last year, Quality Road and possibly I Want Revenge this year, but fifty years ago it was Sword Dancer, winner of the 1959 Travers and Woodward, Belmont Stakes, Jockey Gold Cup, and then returning to win the Suburban and the Woodward as a four year old. There are bloggers who do a wonderful job with remembering these historical runners, and I'm not one of them, but I do find it rewarding as a fan to take the time to learn about these horses from yesteryear and why fifty years later its still important to remember them. Let's get after it!

Saratoga Race 9 - 10 - 11 The Late Pick Three

I had modest goals when it came to yesterday's vertical Pick Three Bet and horizontal Race 10 Superfecta bet: Don't overbet and keep the bet on budget. I had a pre race budget of $50 for the sequence and I ended up spending $28 and winning $68. I did it by doing what I said I'd do and I stuck to my plan.

The Pick Three was my main target. I ended up way under budget on my Pick Three bet and I lost, but why I lost requires a bit of discussion. The races I thought I'd lose, the bookends of Race 9 and 11, NYS restricted turf affairs I won with three selections in each as my cover. Race 10, the Sword Dancer, I singled, as I believed the chalk Expansion would win. My second choice and last toss was Telling. To include Telling would have increased the bet by 50% to $36 dollars. That $36 would have returned over $220 dollars, so the risk/reward was where it needs to be, but I was being disciplined and not over covering, and I left this one on the table. It will happen, and you can't let it influence you or the following week you'll have choices galore in your tickets.

What saved my day was that I followed my game plan that I laid out pre race for my readers. I said the more I typed about the Sword Dancer the more it was apparant it was that this was a betting race and that a good price would emerge. I took my handicap and placed a win bet on the most legitimate >8-1 shot on the board, Telling.

The Superfecta paid over $14,000 but I would have had to go very deep with my ticket to get there.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Nomination Is In: August 14, 2010; The Saratoga Late Pick Three including the Grade I Sword Dancer

Ugh. Holding the Saturday Saratoga past performances in my hands made me glad I'm not driving three hundred miles today to see this. If it was a Wednesday or a Thursday this card would be tolerable, but a Saturday? If this is the side effect of extending the meet, then shrink it back down and start it the following Wednesday again. OK, enough whining, as horseplayers the one thing we do have is options and if I was betting real money I'd exercise my right to find a different card and a different sequence of races to bet on as this one neither thrills me nor gives me the feeling I can beat it with any sense of value in return. About the only thing that could make this card look any worse to me would be rain and races off the turf. Check the track conditions, the scratches and the weather before ever proceeding too far. I'm excited about tomorrow's card at Woodbine and I'm also excited when I think this is the last ugh Saturday of the meet at Saratoga so let's muddle through this and in the process I'll show you how I make the donuts when I'm trying to have a low risk/decent reward bet. Let's go!

Saratoga Race 9-10-11 Late Pick Three

Savvy handicappers I shelp around with tell me I shouldn't waste my time on the Saturday Pick Three when there is a tasty Pick Four to hunt at the same time. They are right but here at The Turk I cherry pick sequences I think I can win because hey, who the hell wants to read about my losing bets. As it is, this is a tough series of turf races, with the Grade I featuring a rather bland collection of fairly even horses and its sandwiched by two New York State restricted grass events with equally tough fields. As a horseplayer, that's an important mind set for all of us, don't play, especially chalk, if you don't think you at least have a reasonable chance of winning. There is always another track if you feel like you need to play.

I'm looking horizontally and vertically in this Pick Three with my goal being to construct a Pick Three for less than $20 and a Superfecta Ticket in the Sword Dancer for less than $30 dollars for a total layout of $50; Based on my choices being semi chalky, the return if I do everything right will be low $100's for both bets so the risk/reward is acceptable.

After reviewing the Pick Three I decided that I'd keep the bet even lower in the risk category by singling Expansion in the Sword Dancer. I give him a 40% chance to win and with a Pick Three of $12, I can live with the risk. Over-covering, or better yet, over selecting win choices in a vertical sequence is a mortal sin I strongly urge you to avoid. You will lose plenty of bets and kick yourself because the last toss you made won, but over the long haul you are better off. Personal choice I reckon and I won't preach. The first race I thought was the hardest and my first cut included eight horses. That's why they call it gambling.

And as far as the horizontal bet within the sequence, I'm thinking $1 Superfecta that will cost $29 but I also built a 10 Cent, $13 bet as well.

It's a 1 1/2 mile marathon of a race, and some of these runners will be advancing at the end and some will be shortening their strides and gutting for the wire. Taking a stand on the pace and then taking a shot at who will be coming and who will be going is always tricky, and I still believe the last good horse to make the best last move will win. I'm intrigued by Grassy and I'm wondering if this is the race. I'm also wondering what Al Khali will do against genuine Grade I horse flesh and what Telling still has in the tank.

I like this race alot as a betting race, and as I type I think a good price can possibly rising up to win. Hey, I'm just like you folks, I can be fickle at times. That fickleness tells me I'm right in not wagering much money, if any, on this card. Perhap's I'll invest my Pick Three money on a few win bets of my B-C horses with odds of >8-1. That's a defensive bet technique that has saved many a bad days.

Even on a down Sartaoga card day there are angles to play and fun to be had. Friends, have fun. Turk Out!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Post Race Analysis August 7, 2010; Saratoga Late Pick 4 and Remembering Tuscan Evening

Friends, The Turk is a fan of the horses first and a handicapper second. I have never been the sort of handicapper that just talks about the saddle cloth numbers, I need a deeper connection then that. It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Tuscan Evening. I've been a big fan and backer of the Irish bred mare and she is a testament to how wonderful some of these older animals can be when placed in the right barn and campaigned in just the right way. She was a terror in California and was about to make a big splash at Arlington on Millions Day. It wasn't to be. This is another reminder of just how cruel a sport this is, when it gives you a star to cherish like Tuscan Evening only to take her in the blink of an eye. I don't think I've been this shocked since Go Between (grandson of Turkoman) died under similar circumstances 19 months ago. My deepest condolences to Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and owner William Deburgh as well as everyone associated with this truly special mare. She ran the table at Santa Anita this past meet and anyone who follows the Great Race Place won't forget her anytime soon. I think The Saturday Post captured what I wanted to say more eloquently then this Turk could express.

On Saturday I assembled what I thought would be a winning Late Pick 4 bet at Saratoga. It's funny what can happen on the way to the forum. The Pick 4 was built around the fact that Quality Road would win, no questions asked. I believed, and still do, that Quality Road is the best 4 year old in training right now. I said that knowing full well that Blame was a darn fine horse and that Musket Man always delivers a strong effort and that Haynesfield is a solid horse, and a certain Kentucky Derby winner that is being prepped by a Hall of Fame Trainer, Mine That Bird, would also be running too.

I won't take anything anyway from Blame. The scary thing for the Quality Road camp is the Breeders' Cup is about 90 days away and he gets 2 starts between now and then to be sharp as Churchill Downs is a track Blame has run big on before, as has Rachel Alexandra. I still think Quality Road is the horse that finally beats Zenytatta but it's up to the horse not some bald, blathering blogger.

Saratoga Late Pick 4 August 7, 2010 including the Test and the Whitney.

I was out of the Pick Four pretty quickly as I did not include Sea Road in my top 3 in Race 8. That said, I salvaged the day nicely with a few obvious bets. I thought a Quality Road/Blame Exacta was a no brainer exacta and it returned nicely. I also thought that a mix of Quality Road/Blame in the top two spots and either Musket Man or Haynesfield in the Show spot was an obvious trifecta and it was.

The bet I was proudest of was the exacta on race nine. I planned on taking a strong stand with Champagne d'Oro and I did and I just worked my base handicap into it.

Disciplined betting has been the key to my recent work. After my base handicap is formed I in turn form a "value handicap". Some people refer to this as making your own running line/morning line. Instead of assigning odds I assign simple letter grades. Only A and B are considered in my bets. When you are a public handicapper like this you are thrusting your bets out there way too early. I prefer to build my handicap not knowing the morning lines, and as I have said here many times before, I do not read about the races or the horses that I am handicapping as the hype or writers slant can impact the handicap.

One of the best ways to test yourself as a handicapper without losing money is to handicap a card and then compare your picks to the track handicapper and the morning line. Are you in the same ballpark? Being contrarian is one thing, knowing how to identify the top three probable winners and how to identify the bottom few finishers accurately is fundamentally what you should be focused on.

Don't lose sleep about losing a bet. A consistent approach will bring you success but bumps will happen along the way. My pick 4 was not going to be a winner today unless I went deep into the first ticket and covered Sea Road. that's OK, I took $48 dollars and took a swing for the fence. The rest of the bet wasn't bad, even the decision to single Quality Road is hard to knock in hindsight. The NYS Bred Maiden turf race to end the night should have been the tricky one and it was a breeze.

Don't try to cover too many horses; build reasonable price tickets, be consistent, and success will follow you as your skill as a handicapper grows.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Nomination Is In: August 7, 2010: Saratoga Late Pick 4 including Grade I Test and Whitney

The wonderfully talented Sarah K. Andrew's portait of Quality Road is one of my favorite horse head shots of all time. This magnificent animal I am told is friendly and gentle, and on the track there is no better four year in training anywhere in the world. the Turk owns tickets to this coming Breeders' Cup and I tingle at the idea of seeing the greats that will line up against Quality Road on the biggest stage, no longer able to not enter races where he is, no longer able to run against inferior fields. The rubber will meet the road in the Breeders' Cup Classic and my money is on this beautiful monster of a horse.

Before I get all misty and blubbering, we have a Late Pick 4 at Saratoga that i'll take a run at hitting with a thin ticket and a single on Quality Road. Let's go!

Saratoga Late Pick 4 Race 8-11; First Post Time 4:42

I'll wax a bit more poetic in my post race analysis and I'll leave my spreadsheet to speak for itself right now.

Check the Scratches and Changes before you place your bets.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day August 1, 2010: The Oceanport and Haskell Daily Double at Monmouth Park

This Turk took the month of July off from blogging. My five readers wondered what I was up to, at least I like to think one of them did, and what started as just a break to recharge the batteries turned into deconstruction of my handicapping and bet construction tendencies. Self analysis has always been something I believed made me better and I have always been a big fan of quality handicapping and post race analysis trumping quantity.

As any handicapper can attest, the race is always easier to predict after its raced. OK Turk, WTF do you mean? I mean, post race I take the race chart, watch a replay if I can find one, and let the race unfold backwards from the finish to the starting gate. I study the race within the race to spot horses with strong quarters that had bad trips along the way and I study my pre race handicap and see where I got it right and where I got it wrong. There are some races you just throw out and don't lose sleep over. Two weeks ago I stood at the rail and watched Golden Moka beat a very talented Big Red Mike and another strong runner Hotep in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie. This horse hadn't been past 5.5 furlongs and went out and shocked these route runners. Hard to fathom from the past performances.

Most of the time, most of the time, when I look at the race chart and then look at my handicap, I can see clearly what I did or what I should have seen pre race. That's what I mean, if you are going to be successful, you have to be able to look post race and make sense of it from the past performances. I digress.

I was successful this weekend because I built a good base handicap, I worked my base handicap, and my bet construction stayed true to my base handicap and I didn't over spend and under produce.

Also digressing, the above picture is Looking at Lucky meeting Cocco Puff. Very cute! Alright, let's get after it.

I wasn't that emotionally wrapped up with the results of either of these races, another good key that I sometimes struggle with. In both races I identified what I thought was the best two horses, Looking at Lucky and Get Serious, discounted them into second place and chalked the two horses I thought were at a good point in their training form and poised to strike mild upsets, Trappe Shot and Violon Sacre. It didn't happen but it doesn't mean the thought process was flawed and if I don't mind saying so myself, the bet construction addressed it perfectly.

The Daily Double bet was a simple 2 picks by 2 picks valued at $2 for an $8 total bet. It would have been a much better payout had the order been flipped, but not enough to retire on.

I had the exactas in both races as well, boxing my base handicap top two entries. My boss is a CPA who also holds an MBA. He taught me to never negotiate against myself when dealing with a counterparty. The concept is pretty simple; I offer you $5,000 for your used car, we talk for awhile and you tell me how good the stereo is and before you counter offer me I'm telling you I'll pay $6,000 for it. In this case, I have a base handicap I believe in, so why place too many contradictory bets; If I have a horse fifth in the bas handicap he shouldn't be part of my bet matrix in the superfecta in the Win or Place spots.

This thinking paid off with the Haskell bet and almost hit in the Oceanport. Taking my base handicap, I boxed the Win and Place horses, and then for horses 3-5 I boxed them for Show and 4th. Both bets were constructed identically for a five horse matrix that cost $24 dollars for a $2 super ticket. I cashed nicely on the Haskell and overall I did well for 1 hours work.

I had a line in my pre race analysis that I ultimately erased. It said that Looking at Lucky was the best three year old in the United States right now. I believed that before the race but I was hesitant to say it so boldly. I am most impressed by the way he trains on poly and then ships and looks great on dirt. If he races as a four year old I'd love to see him on turf, and the son of Smart Strike has a decent enough Tomlinson number you would think this horse could win a Grade I on all three surfaces. We could use more of that in the gene pool. I don't want to praise Lucky by knocking the rest of the class of 2010, what some may call mediocrity may just be parity. I'm leaning toward mediocrity but that doesn't mean Looking at Lucky isn't a very good, short of great, horse. The pairing with M. Garcia is unfortunate for Go-Go, but Gomez is a wildly good rider who didn't really give Baffert much of a choice.

Sister Turk and I had a wonderful day at the Spa on Saturday, taking in the Jim Dandy and the Diana. I bet A Little Warm, a horse I liked all spring, who I think can give Looking at Lucky a good run at the Travers. The thing about this group of three year olds is that I'm not sure all of them don't need just the right pace scenario and then just the right trip to win. Nobody is going out there four wide at the top of the stretch and winning on overwhelming talent. Don't be surprised to see Golden Moka crash the Travers party this year and who the hell knows what a win by him would mean for this crazy Eclipse Award category.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Nomination Is In: August 1, 2010: The Monmouth Park Late Daily Double including the Oceanport and the Haskell

That fine looking gentleman to the left is none other then Super Saver, the reigning Kentucky Derby champion. He's brought his beach blanket to the New Jersey shoreline to take on a nice field of 3 YO's freshened up after the grueling Triple Crown season, as well as a member of their generation who skipped the springtime silliness and is the Turk's chalk today to upset the more recognizable names, Trappe Shot.

The Turk's just back from Saratoga where he watched the Jim Dandy Stakes yesterday, allegedly the traditional Travers Stakes prep race; this one sure seems like the prep with the bigger prize to me. Ok, let's go!

Monmouth Park Race 11/12 Late Daily Double: The Grade 3 Oceanport and the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, post time 5:04 ET.

The first thing you note when looking over the past performances is the quality of the fields in these two races. Starting with the Oceanport, it's always nice to see a returning champion as we have with Get Serious, but it's also nice to see a fixture of a man back with him, Trainer John Forbes. We wish him well and he has a legitimate chance to return to a winners circle he has known well for over 4 decades.

Trainer Biancone brings two runners into the race and I'm partial to Violon Sacre with J. Lezcano up. A sharp 1 mile effort on firm Monmouth turf in early July with a nice late turn of foot, 9 of 11 lifetime in the money on turf for the 5 YO. Far from heavy chalk but very capable.

Get Serious has had two nice Monmouth firm turf efforts already since late May, both low 100 BSF's, before running out of steam after leading the 2.5 furlong longer Grade I United Nations. Six wins in last nine starts, the six year old NYS bred gelding will go to the post as the bettors top choice and he'll be on all my tickets in one of the top two spots.

R. Dominguez is up for Trainer Motion on Cherokee Artist. An uneven runner, I'm looking at his past performances and I'm keying on some solid turf efforts in 2010 and ignoring the ones I don't like (the fickle red pen of the Turk). I'm looking at this last three race progression that ended with a 103 BSF and a strong second at GP at 1 mile on turf. The 5 YO comes in off a 99 BSF 100K optional Claimer win on firm turf at 1 1/16 miles. Not hard to see the results are possible at a decent price.

Strike a Deal
is the best of my middle tier of challengers which includes Nownownow and Whatsthescript.

In the headlining event, a top shelf collection of three year olds competes for $1 Million Dollars in what has become the early Mid Summer Derby, the Grade I Haskell. Many of these horses are making their return to the track after being freshened up after the Triple Crown races; In the field only one horse has run in July and only one horse enters with two straight 100+ BSF, Trappe Shot, the Turk's choice to again reiterate that no one three year old has done much to establish himself as the best of the best since Eskendereya imploded months ago.

This would be a big step up for Trappe Shot who began his current two race string on Belmont Stakes day in an N1X Allowance affair. Trainer McLaughlin, with A. Garcia up, have clipped away at 57% winners at Monmouth and the sone of Tapit will have to stretch out another 1/16 of a mile to a distance his Tomlinson rating (416, second to Afleet Again's 430) tells us he should be comfortable with. He ran steady fractions last time out and finished with a strong :30.36 for the last 5/16's. 4 wins in 4 starts in 2010. Hmmmmm.

Looking at Lucky is a darn good horse who has had some bad trips in his 3 YO campaign and he's been a very good 2 for 2 on fast dirt including the Grade 1 Preakness. He's been training very sharply for Baffert at Del Mar with a smokin' :58 3/5ths at 5 furlongs in his last work before shipping. M. Garcia keeps the mount and wouldn't be surprised to see a strong performance which would help clear up the 3 YO picture.

Ice Box and Super Saver are pretty darn good too and should be placed forward within the tickets. First Dude and wild card Our Dark Knight will be on the edge of the exotic plays.

As always check the weather and the scratches/changes and track condition as you approach post time. The hour by hour forecast shows that there could be significant precipitation an hour or so before race 11 goes to post at 5:04 ET. It creates problems for any handicapper, but that's why this is considered gambling. Trappe Shot has run very well in slop and has a race best 438 Wet Track Tomlinson but Super Saver could advance higher on the ticket if the track gets downgraded.

I'll be hunting for the Daily Double with no more than a 2 X 3 selection matrix and more than likely 2 X 2. 10 cent supers are in fashion and we'll be looking to have some fun after ending our self imposed blogging break in July when I handicapped my arse off in private to sharpen up for the back half of the season.

Have fun, Turk Out!