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!