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!

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