Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Nomination Is In: September 25, 2010 Belmont Park Late Pick 4 including the Grade II Gallant Bloom

That's Rapport, the Grade III winning runner for Trainer Baffert with M. Garcia up and the Turk's chalk in the Grade II Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park today. The Turk went to the tape and had to watch the Grade III Azalea before I could get comfortable picking Rapport. With R. Albarado up, Rapport shot out of the gate for a quarter mile in :21 1/5 and a half mile in :44 3/5 before shortening her stride in the stretch and getting gutty to hold on for fourth. Garcia goes back up, winning his last three rides with her, and she takes on the regal and much classier Sara Louise, last seen on a race track in November 2009.

These late September races are setting the stage for horses thinking Breeders' Cup and you get a mixture of horses coming off breaks or horses in a second of three race cycle looking to be peaked in early November. This Late Pick Four ain't no walk through the garden either. No real singles jump off the page and if I went purely off my base handicap I'd spend a whole lot and most likely lose or return less than my investment. That's not a good place to be so we will have to take some chances, gamble, and see if we can't make the investment and possible reward come back into the proper perspective. Let's get after it!

Belmont Park Late Pick 4; Post Time for Race 6 is 3:39 ET

In Race 6, I'm backing Stevil, a 30 start 5 YO gelding who's been in the money 19 times. He's most likely the bettor's chalk here although Lemon Spice, a Chad Brown runner with Borel up, will get play. Lemon Spice is 6 of 10 in the money on turf with a 92 BSF on fast Gulfstream Turf and is 4 of 5 in the money at the distance. For value, Glacier Bay is a nice 4 YO son of Distorted Humor and carries a race high 123 pounds. 4 of 6 in the money in 2010.

Race 7 is a claimer with a $25K purse again run a 1 1/16 miles on what should be firm turf. Shimmering Forest returns to this class after Placing at Saratoga on Woodward day. 4 of 5 in the money on turf. Hasten to be King is a stretch but comes in off a first race maiden breaker who was bred by Bobby Frankel and is now trained by Contessa. A nice turn of foot at 6f for Gomez, M. Luzzi is up today for the first time turf try. Don Balcazio is the best of the rest and I respect Trainer Clement with Maragh up, winners of 23% together at BEL.

Race 8 is an Allowance N1X with a $54,000 purse. Pretty Boy Freud is my tepid chalk; 10 of 13 in the money lifetime, a win would double Trainer O'Brien's 2010 total in 57 tries. I'm warming up on Devon Rock, starting sixth race, 3 of 4 in the money on Turf and a winner on Belmont turf in June. Will press the pace but his last few run lines paint a picture, "...faded...weakened...lugged in..." Optimism is a string suit of mine. Missinglisalewis is more polished with 6 of 8 in the money at the distance, 11 of 17 in the money on turf and 6 of 10 in the money on the turf at Belmont for Trainer Domino. Harmonizer, with Leparoux up, tries turf for the first time, something Trainer Maker does Ok with at 16% of his tries and a dirt to turf switcher at 18%. He's got dirt speed but he'll need to stay further today as well.

And in the Gallant Bloom Rapport gets my nod after a 103 BSF and win at Saratoga on Travers Day in the Grade III Victory Ride. Sara Louise won the Victory Ride last year only to run Place to Indian Blessing in the Gallant Bloom. The Godolphin Team bounces back from +180 layoffs 31% of the time and the horse has plenty of class and quality to not be phased by the inactivity. I'm not buying if 2-1 or 3-2 but I'm covering in Pick 4. Qualia is a nice horse for one of The Turk's favorites, Trainer Ribaudo, and the bettors might be comforted by My Jen and Pretty Prolific, capable teases.

As bettor's, this is a card that we ask for: Nine horse fields, quality competition, few heavy chalks, good stuff indeed. If you want easy, well, go somewhere else. I love Big Sandy in the fall, and with dirt being the surface of choice at the Breeders' Cup again this year I believe we'll see the best fall racing here instead of Oak Tree Hollywood.

Build your own handicap and have fun with it. Watch the weather which should be great, the scratches and changes, and keep that tote board in your mind. Value, value, value, but most importantly, fun, fun, fun. Never bet more then you can afford to lose from your household's budget.

Turk Out!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Second Anniversary Turk and Little Turk

It's hard for me to believe, but The Turk, and my sidekick buddy, The Little Turk, are celebrating our second anniversary of internet handicapping and adventure. 12,826 visitors have stopped by for a cup of coffee and some good jaw boning with the old Turk, a small number compared to my esteemed colleagues at the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, but I appreciate each and every reader I have and I hope I have done a good job of entertaining and providing food for thought on the various races we handicap for you.

I'd like to thank Geno from Equispace and congratulate him as well. I found Equispace sort of by accident in September 2008 as I was mindlessly surfing away in O'Hare Airport. It dawned on me as I read his blog that this was something I'd like to try myself. On a whim I wrote a letter to Geno and he graciously responded. The small world that it is, Geno actually lives no more than 15 miles from my house. He gave me some suggestions and The Turk was born soon after. Geno was just named to the Board of Directors of ThoroFan, a great fan driven horse racing organization and they are better now by association with him.

I'd also like to remember the Happy Handicapper, Mr. Bob Summers, who passed away just a few short weeks ago. His writings, and his use of the clumsy third person writing style, was an inspiration to me. While we are thanking people, I'd also like to thank Mrs. Turk for her patience with my hobby that saps up much of the limited free time I have, and of course, Little Turk, my Korean shadow who correctly picked Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby but was shrewed enough to have money on Grasshopper to Show at The Travers. Great Kid.

Here's hoping we break 20,000 visitors by year three.

Thank You Friends,

The Turk and Little Turk

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Nomination Is In: September 19, 2010; The Woodbine Mile and Late Pick Three including the Northern Dancer

The Turk has been a big fan of the Woodbine Mile since its inception. The race, run over the The outermost E. P. Taylor turf course is 1 1/2 miles long with a chute allowing races of 1 1/8 miles to be run around one turn. The Taylor turf course and the main dirt course at Belmont are the only mile-and-a-half layouts in North American thoroughbred racing. You need to have a basic understanding of the courses as in many locations a second turn would have been required and that changes the dynamics. In this internet thingy day and age this information is a search browser trip away. Woodbine is the Turk's second favorite turf course in North America, and just like my favorite, Arlington, it's saddled with fake dirt for the main track, a turn off that I struggle to get by. No matter, today is one of the great days at Woodbine, and the Mile and The Northern Dancer, both Grade I's, are premier events. The fields are strong and the handicapping was really difficult, so let's just throw it out on the table and see what we got!

Woodbine Race Track Races 8-9-10; The Late Pick Three with the Grade I Northern Dancer and the Grade I Woodbine Mile, post time of Race 8 is 4:34 ET.

As always, check for scratches/changes, weather (and go back a few days for turf events) and monitor the tote board as the day goes on.

The Pick Three kicks off at 4:34 ET with the Northern Dancer. Marshside was entered all over the place this summer before finally shipping into Woodbine to take the Grade II Sky Classic. It was masterful work inside the conditions book by Trainer Drysdale. I like him here as well but he won't be without strong challengers and this is a good race to look for value. I'll be taking my base handicap and looking at the tote board before post. If I'm backing a horse second or third who is the third-fifth favorite with the bettors and the horse is > 6-1, I'm looking for a win bet to be defensive with. I like Memorial Maniac, a five time loser at this distance to be a real value play. Spice Route is very strong and I can never tell what to make of Expansion, with a wild card being Redwood (GB) who seems to run better RH than LH.

I'm going to keep the risk low on the Pick Three. I'll most likely single or provide just a second cover with value in the Northern Dancer.

The Allowance Race contains an interesting collection of even horses and I'll cover as many as four here, Thunderball, Lady's First Cat, Perfect Loch, and a value pick in his second career start, Summanus, son of Thunder Gulch who will have to shock while adding more distance. There will be some safe value mixed in as well with Casual Dude, Smart Sky, Shellback and Spirit Flying all very capable. Gambling ain't always going to be easy and often you will be perplexed: Build your handicap and live with it, the post race analysis is the tool you use to make adjustments in future base handicaps.

For the main event, the picture for this handicapper is no cleaner. I'm backing Famous Name for no reason other than I had to many nicks against the other runners and perhaps my lack of knowledge with him gave him an unfair advantage. It's quite possible. I think the Usual Q.T. is a nifty horse for Trainer Cassidy, winning 8 of 16 career starts including some of the biggest California turf events and he's 5 of 5 at the distance. No rational reason to downgrade him except I'm not sure he'll love the course and that's what I'm banking on. That said, Grand Adventure and Smokey Fire will fire well on this course and Victor's Cry seems fresh and primed. Trainer Goldberg, a 26% winner, brings in Straight Story with Maragh up, and is more than capable of hitting the board.

As a handicapper, I like to be tested with big, competitive fields. As a gambler, I prefer to pick softer targets, and as a blogger I'm just going to do my best with the marks that I'm interested in. Have fun with it. I'll be betting safely within the races, hunting for value, while I'll most likely keep the pick three to $2 2 picks X 4 picks X 2 Picks $32. I'd actually like to go a bit lower.

Have Fun, Turk out!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day September 10, 2010; The Presque Isle Mile and Pick Three

It's been sometime since the lovely Dita wanted to sit with the Turk for a cigar. While we didn't talk much, instead reflecting quietly on the maduro wrapper and the sun cured tobacco that was loving rolled by the artisans at Padron Cigars, she did say that the fact that The Turk preaches just a few simple principles, that he talks it and walks it, made her want to celebrate. Who am I to say no?

Simple principles. Principle #1 is always to pick your marks. There are lots of races every day, find ones you think you can beat. Principle #2 is that you have to build a base handicap, a reordering of the field from start to finish without the bias of morning lines, talking heads, TVG/HRTV/DRF hype. Principle #3 is to take that handicap and work the tote board. I'm looking for value, not chalk, and with my "built in a vacuum" handicap approach, look for horses you are bullish on that you seem to have a different opinion on then the betting public.

I reckon those are the big three. The Turk hit a nice strike on an unlikely Allowance Race on synthetic track none the less because he followed his principles. Let's go!

Presque Isle Downs Race 5-6-7

The target was the Pick Three. The Pick Three paid $188 and I should have hit it, winning the first and third legs, but missing on the leg I singled. My second highest ranked horse won the race but I made a decision to not spend $36 on a Pick Three that seemed very chalky to me and I can take losing $12 dollars instead of over covering the bet. Others will disagree but over the long run over covering will raise the investment and only marginally increase the ROI.

I was watching the tote board for Race 6 and salivating; My base handicap valued horses that were the 5th and sixth favorites of the betting public. My top horse, New Englander was the overwhelming bettor's chalk but I thought Place and Show would be owned by these value horses and I'd have a nice payout. Taking my top 5 I rolled the dice, and lacking the time I normally have, I boxed all five and let it ride. Boxing Sherribaldi, Iowa Alice, Jewels and Jeans , the 4th, 5th and 6th top choices of the bettors and then having them actually win produced a $1,442.60 trifecta win.

Remember, this isn't bragging. The Turk doesn't brag and he respects this game. I am humbled by it regularly, but you have to savor the good times along the path of life, and this was a good one for Big Turk because it was an affirmation of my principles and the time that I put into my craft.

I made the strike and didn't even care to bet the Presque Isle Mile, which I had pretty much horsecollered and I left some money on the table in that race, but I'll leave you today with another principle: Don't be greedy, forget the idea of needing "action". Pick and choose the races you bet. If you're not concentrating or you don't feel it, keep your money in your pocket and walk on.

Thanks Mrs. Turk for your patience.

Remember 9/11 and what we collectively lost on that day.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Nomination Is In: September 10, 2010; The Presque Isle Downs Mile and the Pick Three

The Turk caters to a certain reader; a review of my analytics paints me a picture of some heavy hitting hard core gamblers that are reading my blog at this very moment. Those hard core whales are looking for some action on a Friday afternoon, and this weekend, I'm all about Presque Isle Downs. Presque. You don't have to pronounce it to play it, so lets give it a twirl. In all seriousness, for a Race Casino, it's a nice place, an easy location for the Turk to get to, and there are all kinds of things around it like huge outlet malls and water splash parks for those of you that like that stuff. The beer is cold, the tapeta crap plays pretty fair, and you'll likely to see a Sheppard/Strawberry/Augustin Stable runner there pretty often. They have positioned their big weekend on the first weekend after Saratoga ends. Not bad, well played. Let's Go!

Presque Isle Downs Race 5-6-7 including the $250,000 Presque Isle Mile

Some interesting fields will make these races challenging, but challenging is what I'm all about at the end of a long day! In Race 7, The Presque Isle Mile, I stewed on these runners for sometime trying to logically write them down in a predictive order of finish. I settled on Gayego to win, a tepid chalk for me indeed. 8 of 11 lifetime in the money on the fake stuff and familiar with tapeta from the tracks he ran on in Dubai, Alan Garcia ships in to ride for Godolphin. he's stretching back out to a mile after settling into the 6-7 furlong distances but he's capable.

Stunning Stag takes the QEW down from Woodbine for Sid Attard. Pulling back in distance, he's training very well and has looked sharp since May. Easily capable of winning, watch the odds, 6-1 in the morning line, I think he sinks to 7-2 by post time.

Who knows what Mambo Meister will bring? Trainer Gleaves only wins 12% of the time stretching out from sprints to routes and wins only 13% of his routes and 14% of his races overall. This is his 31st start and only second fake dirt try. I'm discounting him a few spots on many cards and I should show some conviction and drop him further but the horse is 19 of 30 in the money lifetime and has the class. I'm dropping him a few slots on most cards.

The second tier is a very nice collection of horses and many of them could easily beat Mambo Meister into that top three. Successful Dan ships in for Grade I winning Trainer Charles Lopresti and he gets Eclipse Award winning J. Leparoux up. He's been training sharply at Keeneland on the fake stuff and ran last out at Arlington in early August on that fake stuff.

Allie's Event won an N2Y with a 92 BSF at 1 mile here at PID in mid August. A 4f :47 last week lets us know he's still sharp. He represents serious value if he reaches the gate >7-1.

Last year's champ, Cherokee Artist returns as a 5 YO. More than capable still. Rocking Rockstar has won 4 starts in 8 tries on fake dirt and his last two synthetic efforts were, rockin. I Know Why, a 4 YO sin of Why Why Why tries fake stuff for the first time but has won three times this year and could break the top four.

I'm going to single the middle race and keep the bet risk relatively low for the pick three at $18. I'll bet the mile with Super's and Tri's with variations of my base handicap including some variations where I will drop Mambo Meister out of top four and Gayego to Show and fourth.

The Turk is all for Chip getting Mine That Bird back for his 5 YO season. I don't know what the Bird has left but it seems to me that he's been placed in positions all year of unrealistic expectations. I had a blast on Woodward Day at the Spa with Sister Turk and I'm glad I got to see the gelding run.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rest in Peace Happy Handicapper

The Turk learned to accept the fact a long time ago that most of the knowledgeable folks in horse racing were older men, mostly veterans of Korea or Vietnam. That perception has changed a bit for me now after meeting a diverse group of men and women online, and at the tracks, who are passionate and very knowledgeable about the sport we love. The Turk came of age hanging around and learning from the older generation of fans, the ones who remember what it was like to see the stands full most of time, not just on the big days, the ones who remember opening the sports page and reading about horse racing like it wasn't the afterthought it's become, jammed in between the bowling article and the fishing news. Friends, a man who I modeled myself after in presentation, The Happy Handicapper, has passed away. Writing in the third person, Mr. Robert Summers, Bob, was a very good handicapper with a keen eye and he was able to translate his observations into the written word. I exchanged emails with Bob from time to time and he was always very pleasant and willing to discuss his thought process with his selections. I explained my use of the third person in my own writings and he wished me well.

The Turk extends his sympathy to his family, wife Sheila, daughter Samantha, and his extended family as well as the horseplayers and coworkers who he influenced and shared good times and bad with over the years. the following is a reposting of the lovely obituary written by longtime Buffalo News writer, Milt Northrop.

As he was about to complete his Saturday night shift on the sports copy desk of The Buffalo News, Robert J. "Bob" Summers announced that he would treat the staff to pizza next Saturday.

What's the occasion, he was asked.

"I'm going to celebrate receiving my first Social Security check," he said.

A few hours later, Summers died of an apparent heart attack after he was stricken at the Seneca Niagara Casino and taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital. He was 66.

Summers, who wrote the Happy Handicapper horse racing column and covered thoroughbred and harness racing as well as the Buffalo Blizzard indoor soccer team and other sports for The News, was the Happiest of Handicappers. He was a multifaceted personality with an inquisitive mind as well as being a thorough editor and an expert reporter of horse racing. Besides the racetrack and gambling he had a reporter's curiosity about a number of things.

"Bob was a solid, well-rounded newsman with diverse skills, as was evident by his transition from the business desk to sports copy desk and columnist. He was an old-style journalist who could do it all," said Margaret Sullivan, editor of The News.

"Bob loved covering horse racing, whether it be at Buffalo Raceway, Batavia Downs, Fort Erie or the Triple Crown races," said Steve Jones, sports editor of The News. "He made friends on the rail and in the lines at the betting windows. As the Happy Handicapper, he relished the chance to be Everyman in the sport of kings."

Summers was diligent about keeping his records of the sport and always seemed to experiment with new horse-betting systems, some that were silly, some he shared with his readers.

"It wasn't to get rich. He was in it for the math and the headwork," Sheila Summers, his wife of 42 years, said of her husband's fascination with racing. "Bob loved to read. He wasn't religious, but he read the Bible for fun because he liked how it was written."

"He was truly a family-centered man. I don't think I ever spent a day without talking to him," said his daughter, Samantha Summers. "Family was first, writing second and gambling third."

Summers was a student of the history of Buffalo and its industrialists and politicians as well as the genealogy of his own family. His grandfather was a city judge.

Known for his wit, his standup comic bits were a traditional feature of the annual Buffalo Newspaper Guild Christmas parties and he often tested his humor on audiences at comedy clubs.

Since he worked most Saturdays and Sundays at The News, he would joke that Tuesday and Wednesday were his weekend. Some of those off days were spent doing the unusual. More than once he spent a whole day riding the Metro Bus system, just to experience it and the people he ran across in his travels. On the days he wasn't at the race track, he would ride his bicycle. Annually he made a cycling trek from his home in North Buffalo to Niagara Falls.

"He called it the Tour de Bob," his wife said. "He wanted to get to Niagara-on-the-Lake, but he never quite made it."

Summers met his own father only once, as an infant. Robert Hunter Summers was killed in action with the U.S. Army during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, just a few months after his son was born. Robert H. Summers is buried in a military cemetery in Belgium. Naturally, Bob eventually made a trip there to visit his father's grave.

Summers grew up in Bennington Center, in Wyoming County, but moved to Kenmore with his mother when he was 12 years old. He graduated in 1962 from St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, where he was a substitute guard on the championship 1961 football team that was installed into the school's Hall of Fame. He graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 1966.

His professional career began with a trade publication in New York City, Metal Working News, before he moved back to Western New York to become a reporter for the Niagara Gazette. He then worked in corporate communications for Bell Aero Systems and as a reporter for the Buffalo Courier-Express. He joined The News in 1977 as a financial writer, then in 1984 moved into the sports department, where he was able to pursue his love of horse racing.

In 2003, he won a handicapping competition at Fort Erie and advanced to the national finals in Las Vegas. Just last week, he attended Fort Erie's Legends Day at the track.

"He was a great supporter of racing and Fort Erie Race Track," said Darryl Wells, former director of communications and track announcer at the Ontario track. "He was always joking and smiling and had a story to share."

In the photo accompanying his column, Summers' face was obscured by a pair of binoculars.

"He always watched races live with binoculars, never watching TV," Wells said.

"He was fair, unbiased and knowledgeable in terms of writing his articles," said Rick Cowan, chief operating officer at Fort Erie Race Track.

"The sport of horse racing across Western New York and Southern Ontario lost one of its most dedicated voices," said Sam Pendolino, general manager at Buffalo Raceway.

"He was such a fan of the sport that he would go out to the racetrack on his nights off just because he enjoyed the people and the atmosphere," said Bob Salzman, a horse owner, former trainer and former colleague of Summers' at The News.

Besides his wife of 42 years, and his daughter, Summers is survived by two sisters, Donna George Fox (John) of Los Gatos, Calif., and Mary George Finamore (David) of Louisville, Colo., and a brother, Charles Anthony George of Louisville, Colo.

Calling hours will be 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday and 1-3 and 6-8 p.m. on Thursday at Perna, Dengler and Roberts Funeral Home, 3000 Delaware Ave., Kenmore. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. on Friday at St. Margaret's Church, 1395 Hertel Ave. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at

Article posted without permission of the Buffalo News but they'll understand.