Friday, October 29, 2010

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Homework Session Part 3

We are back at it tonight as the field of possible contenders has been unveiled. The goal here is to get a cursory knowledge of these two years, watch them in video to see how they handle turns, the gallop out, the final 1/8 miles, and any number of other things. We'll work on the handicapping soon enough, lets get familiar with the players and not let a talking head tell us who the next Azeri is.

Biondetti: The son of Bernardini was born in Kentucky runs in Godolphin silks for conditioner Mahmood Al Zarooni. A 3 for 3 lifetime record with a win at 1 mile on Turf in Italy on a straight away, at 7 furlongs on fake dirt at Kempton and a 7 furlong straight away fake dirt run. Not sure what to make of him but let's not ignore anyone. He is the first Grade I winner from Bernardini.

Grade I Gran Criterium San Siro Italy

Murjan: Another son of Officer, out of Miss Jean Cat (Tabassco Cat), this Kentucky born Peruvian runner is also an impressive 3 for 3 winning by a combined 27 3/4 lengths in the process. A surprising amount of video is available, and anyone who follows racing and is on facebook or blogs knows the passion our South American horse racing friends have!

Madman Diaries: A Bring the Heat son from Breeder/Trainer and part owner Wesley Ward. The lone gelding of the pre entrants. 5 career starts, never out of the money but only one dirt effort, a win in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth, working very well and Ward wins 25% of >60 day layoffs.

Grade III Sapling Stakes won at six furlongs by Madman Diaries.

We'll be back this weekend to feature the remaining members of the expected field including Riveting Reason, Rogue Romance, Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo.

Have fun, Turk out!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Homework Session Part 2

The Turk gets back after his homework assignment, getting ready to handicap the Breeders' Cup Juvenile for the Thorofan Handicappers Corner.

While I'm still doing my homework, I have started to think about my criteria for inclusion into the base handicap top four: Shown an ability to handle two turns, has the pedigree to handle two turns, a race career that shows improvement and not regression, training well with bullets or near bullets, final quarter mile times that make my Turk socks shake, willingness to fight in the stretch for position, dirt or dirt sire ability, doesn't necessarily have to have won final outing. That's my short list, and I've got lots of time to think about handicapping, my issue right now is I just don't know enough about the runners, hence this exercise. Let's get back after it!

Jaycito: This new star from Zayat Stables, Trained by Mike Mitchell, is sired by Victory Gallop out of Night Edition.A Place in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity and a Win in the Grade I Norfolk Stakes at Oaktree at Hollywood. J.P.'s Gusto , a runner we will soon look at, and Jaycito swapped Win and Place spots in these two big races, so pay close attention.

J.P.'s Gusto: A son of Successful Appeal out of Call Her Magic, trained by David Hofmans for Gem Stable. Six starts already with four Wins and one Place with a Place in the Grade I Norfolk Stakes at Hollywood, a Win at the Grade I Del Mar Futurity, as well as Grade II and III win. Not shabby.

J.B.'s Thunder: A son of mighty Thunder Gulch out of Rebridled Dreams, conditioned by Albert M. Stall Jr. for Columbine Stable. Two starts, two wins, including the Grade I Dixiana Breeders' Futurity on fake dirt and a turf win at Saratoga. look for other possible starters Maybesomaybenot and Major Gain.

Factum: This son of Storm Cat, out of Starry Dreamer is trained by Aidan O'Brien. There is scant video to be found of him but there are articles o'plenty.

More soon, have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Homework Session Part 1

The Turk will be handicapping the Breeders' Cup Juvenile for the Thorofan Handicappers Corner on Breeders's Cup Saturday and starting today I'm going to review the contenders, try to sort out the pretenders, and make some sense out of what will surely be a heavily hyped race for several horses, namely Uncle Mo, Boys of Tosconova and Jaycinto.

While we have to wait a spell still to see the final entries, the Turk is going to use available resources here on the internet-thingy to develop a cursory knowledge of the potential field. I'm not sure about you, but anytime a horse starts to become preordained as the heavy chalk I start thinking contrarian: I'm thinking about good prices and value, and if forced to embrace chalk, who will fill out an exotic ticket with the favored equine. Let's get after it!

Another Silver Oak: Three Starts with one win and one show for the son of Bluegrass Cat out of Off the Richter and trained by Todd Pletcher for Owner Repole Stable. His last start was last of eight in the Grade III Sapling Stakes at Monmouth with the video and details here.

At the Grade II Sanford Stakes at Saratoga on July 25th he ran a close third to Maybesomaybenot.

Astrology: Trainer Steve Asmussen conditions this horse for Stonestreet Stables, a son of A.P. Indy out of Quiet Eclipse. Taking a Show and a Win in non graded stakes action in Saratoga, his last effort was a Show from the chalk spot in Garden State Stakes, beaten by Sweet Ducky and Curinello, two others we'll keep our Turkish eyes on.

The Boys of Tosconova: Dick Dutrow trained, this son of Officer out of Little Bonnet maybe lacking in a Class match-up, but a win at Saratoga in the Grade I Hopeful, a win at Belmont, and a Place in the Grade II Kentucky Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs makes him one of the major contenders. Stay Thirsty and Wine Police have appeared on some lists as expected runners and you'll watch Boys of Tosconova with R. Dominguez taunt them as he cruises by.

That last race, his Maiden smashing race at Belmont, was ultra dominant, but I had to ask myself, who is Officer? A bit about the sire here.

Caleb's Posse: Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel campaigns the son of Posse out of Abbey's Miss. let's just start out with, who is Posse? NY State fans should know. Next up, who is Donnie Von Hemel? We have a Show finish in the Grade III Arlington Park Washington Futurity to look at him in and he raced at Keeneland on October 8th as well.

OK, pencils down for now. Next Up: Factum, Jaycinto, J.B.'s Thunder and JP's Gusto.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day October 16, 2010: The Woodbine Late Pick Four Canadian International Day

The Turk and his sidekick, The Little Turk, have almost 15,000 reasons to smile after today's Late Pick 4 at Woodbine today. I'll be celebrating with a carmel colored cashmere top coat from Jos. A Bank and the Little Turk gets a new Itunes gift card. Mama Turk, well she gets anything she wants.

The Turk preaches modesty, as this game humbles even the best of handicappers regularly, and there is a big difference between celebrating and bragging. I hope this blog entry, while gleaming of celebration, is not interpreted as bragging. So much went right, so much else could have happened, and the results are truly a reflection of an approach I've been developing for nearly twenty years of handicapping. Let's get after it friends!

It's amazing how slowly I complete a post race analysis when I lose compared to when I win, but the one thing I always do is break down my betting effort, good, bad, and often ugly. As I was just saying two weeks ago after another good effort, I prepare my DRF Formulator PP's devoid of morning lines and I eschew pre race hype. Why? It influences me, and with races that are heavy with European runners, that sort of influence really throws me off. After I handicapped I went back and looked at the Morning Lines just to see how we lined up and I wasn't surprised I had a bit of a contrarian view overall. When you handicap and make your picks public, even with a very lightly read blog like this one, you never really want to be embarrassed. The temptation is to follow conventional wisdom and fall in line with what the talking heads are predicting. You've got to learn to not worry about what others think and you have to do your own thinking. No shortcuts.

Woodbine Race 8-9-10-11 Pick Four

The post race analysis told me I was really dialed in today, so much so I think I left behind an equal amount of money that I won still on the table. I try to avoid that type of thinking, that concept of what I woulda-shoulda-coulda did.

In Race 8, The Nearctic, I backed tepidly Amico Fritz (Ger) to win. He had a hard time crossing the Maginot Line in this one, but I had Grand Adventure and Fatal Bullet straight in the Place and Show spots and I had Field Commission and Serious Attitude(Ire) in the Triactor box to take $3,366.10 on a $48 box. A great way to start the day. As I said pre race as well, I was taking four horses in the Pick 4 no matter what and I needed my fourth.

In Race 9, The E.P. Taylor, I pretty much had the top six exact in what was a pretty straight forward affair. I correctly downgraded a horse I am partial too, Mekong Melody (Ire) and placed Miss Keller (Ire) properly above Shalanaya (Ire) and Contredanse(Ire), and had Reggane (GB) fourth while the betting public tabbed him for 6th. The same $48 dollar boxed Triactor this time grossed $526.50 for me. Still alive in the Pick 4 after two.

Race 10, The Canadian International, I had a darn fine handicap with the exception of Mores Wells (GB) flying into the blanket finish. That's racing, and I was correct in downgrading Marsh Side, Simmard, and Fifty Proof, all fine horses, from the top 4. Alive after three after including the Joshua Tree (Ire), the bettors third choice.

Race 11 was a $12,500 maiden claimer that made my head hurt handicapping, but no sense in spending $144 dollars on a Pick 4 bet just to screw up the maiden claimer. I identified three horses, with Disclosure winning as the bettor's second choice.

As I've been trying to illustrate pre race, there are many different ways to approach these multi race bets, with my method being to identify a bet risk I'm willing to take and cut it off there. My Facebook friends know I've been noddling on these races since Thursday morning and I had a $300 budget for the weekend. I built a 4 X 4 X 3 X 3 selection for the Pick Four and could have used almost my entire budget on a $2 bet but I instead placed it for $1. At $144 I was quite pleased to pocket $11,099.55 and I'm doing my best to avoid thinking about what I had planned to be a $2 bet. By staying at $144 I had enough room to place boxed Triactor Bets on the three main races, nearly placing Super bets that would have paid a bundle, but if I'm anything friends, I'm a very disciplined bettor.

Handicapping is an odd mixture of math, pattern prediction, art and feel. I reject the notion that the results are best predicted by computers analyzing pace and heavily modified speed figures. A red gel pen, DRF Past Performances with workouts embedded, fractional times, jockey and trainer stats, and some limited analysis is all I really need, no pre race hype and most definitely no morning lines, track handicappers, celebrity handicappers, bloggers, anyone. I love to read all of that, but after I've committed. A new tool I'm really utilizing is a Ipad App from Equibase that allows me to quickly get information and view video of specific races. Just incredible what information we have available to us now, it's important to keep it all in perspective that in these horse events, the same things happen over and over and over again.

Have fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: October 16, 2010; The Woodbine Late Pick Four on Canadian International Day

In horse racing we remember tradition. While we may have inserted corporate names in front of our famous race names, we have, for the most part, resisted forgetting the past. E.P. Taylor is a man who should never be forgotten, and his influence in North American racing is almost impossible to underestimate. His stallion, Northern Dancer, has left a legacy of influence not only in North America but also Europe, as the Sire of Great Sires and we remember him constantly at this blog through our respect for Storm Cat, Deputy Minister, El Prado, and Danehill.

The four race series I've selected today are not for the faint of heart but that's why we call this gambling. Let's get after it!

Woodbine Race 8-11

When you handicap turf racing at the highest level in North America, you have more homework to do than usual. You will be faced with horses who have never raced in North America, placed on drugs that help with bleeding but also give a good boost to performance, with past performances that deny you the type of information you are use to having, and then the people factors: Why did the connections send this horse? What are they thinking? Is he better than it shows on paper? Did he race better left handed or right handed? Was there a significant performance difference over different turf conditions? You really need to watch the big Grade I races and get a feel for how these races are contested. The Turk loves dirt and embraces it as the surface of American horse racing tradition. That said, I love the grass and the challenge of handicapping these races, with big fields, lumbering fractional times and smoking hot final 1/8 miles.

As always, start your homework with track conditions and scratches/changes. With turf, it's often the weather over the past several days you have to consider, so hunt for the best information you can find.

Race 8 is the Nearctic, 6 furlongs on the turf and returns last year winner, Field Commission. Winless in six starts in 2010 and he adds blinkers today. The Turk's very tepid chalk is Amico Fritz (Ger). With Mike Smith, up, the Grade II winner to me represents good value and a legitimate shot. Serious Attitude is a 4 YO filly with Gomez up and taking lasix for the first time should be even longer and a little less live, but still intriguing. Fatal Bullet and Grand Adventure will give honest efforts and Bridgetown will attract bettors interests but I'm looking elsewhere.

This is a pretty solid field of runners and I will back four in this race and hope to be alive coming out of this first race when I'm done. Dubious, but that's the plan!

Race 9 is the E.P. Taylor, a 1 1/4 mile turf affair with 10 starters that also returns last year's winner at 44-1, Lahaleeb (Ire). Two stronger home track runners are here from the Roger Attfield stable, Mekong Melody (Ire) and Miss Keller (Ire). They are faced with a very strong contingent of European runners led by Shalanya (Ire), Reggane (GB) and Contredanse (Ire) . I'm backing Miss Keller, the winner of the Grade II Canadian at 1 1/8 miles over a good Woodbine turf track one month ago. Attfield is clipping along at 29% winners of Won Last Start runners and he has Castellano up. Arkarlina (Fr) is a Grade III winner who may be peaking.

In the big event, the Grade I Canadian International, I'm expecting the bettors chalk, Redwood (GB) will continue to impress. Winner of the Grade I Northern Dancer on firm turf at 1 1/2 miles here one month earlier, if he keeps his form he'll need it as he's facing a more impressive group here. He'll be pressed by Grade I winning Chinchon (Ire), who shocked me with his very impressive turn of foot over firm Monmouth turf in the Grade I United Nations. A very impressive "Zenyatta like" swing wide to the outside from dead last at the top of the stretch and just bury everyone. He's bouncing back off a dull race in France on soft going in September. Al Khali and Marsh Side are both honest horses who will run solid but I expect them to be near the bottom or off any tickets. Joshua Tree (Ire) is slightly intriguing and you have to wonder why he's here and what he's capable of and the Attfield runner, Simmard is running his second off a longer than 180 day layoff and looked sharp coming back against Al Khali and Winchester at 1 3/8 on firm Belmont turf.

The Pick Four ends for me with a $12,500 Maiden Claimer. The 13 and 14 horses, Hazards of Love and Disclosure with Da Silva and Husbands up, offer a chance to take chalk and keep the Pick Four bet size a bit smaller, and the 9, Danish Spirit, represents some good value.

Tough races for sure. Build your own handicaps, read drivel like this only after you make your own tickets up, and above all else, have fun handiguessing the best sport on earth. Turk out!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day October 2, 2010; The Belmont Park All Grade I Pick Four

A picture from the wonderful Sarah K. Andrew of Haynesfield, winner of the 2010 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the key horse that powered a Turk 1-800-Hammer Iron Cold Lock $2,595 Pick 4 win.

The Turk spent about 2 hours handicapping these four races and then another 90 minutes posting my blog entry. That's the sort of effort I can't put in while I'm sitting in the stands at the track but today, in my home study, I felt it and I played it.

As I say all the time friends The Turk never, never, ever brags. This game is humbling. I consider myself a good handicapper but what does that really mean? At the end of the day, nothing because nobody is right all the time. I hear often that the races are run on dirt (or grass) and not on the paper past performances. While true, the beauty of the Daily Race Form Past Performance (Yes I'm an unpaid and unsolicited spokesperson and my preference is Deluxe Formulators with full trainer stats, split times and works mixed in with race results, and I like the handicapper notes but not the morning lines) is that all the information is there to make informed decisions and good handicaps.

The Turk admits to his closet friends that I don't think you even need to watch the races to handicap well. I went years before Youtube/HRTV/TVG etc where I almost never saw video of the races I handicap and bet. The information is there on paper. Flukes happen all the time, but over the long haul, the best horses at the right point in their form cycle and entered in the right place in the conditions book win.

One piece of information I completely ignore and I encourage my readers to completely ignore is morning lines. Don't let the Turk, morning lines, anyone, tell you who is going to win before you come up with your own base case model. Sometimes I'll look after I bet, sometimes I'll look after I take my handicap final, but it will influence you and influence is the enemy. You're smart friends, you don't need bias. I also skip the hype filled articles chock full with BS quotes from trainers and connections about why their horse will win. The articles are a bias of the writer and they will screw you up. Enjoy the articles after you commit to a handicap, as the writing of turf journalists is very high quality and reflects well on the spirit of Mr. Joe Hirsch on the day we remember him.

What was the key today for The Turk? Losing my last two weeks Pick Fours bets most assuredly: Woodbine Mile day two weeks ago and Gallant Bloom day at Belmont last weekend. I'm competitive and I hold this blog and my handicapping to a high standard. My post race analysis is really a post bet analysis and what my post race analysis has been telling me is that I've been nailing winners but not covering enough. I've been on a heavy "less is more" kick and perhaps I took it too far. I had a $200 budget today and I covered who I thought I needed to and spent $144 dollars and then I placed a $20 bet on one horse to win, the horse I suggested was the horse to beat Blame, Haynesfield. Do I think he's better than Blame, no, but the NY bred loves NY dirt as much as Blame loves Churchill Downs. So that was my secret, I was pissed I lost the past two weekends and resolved to not lose again. If Blame wins, if Paddy O' Prado wins, if Unrivaled Belle wins, I'm talking about a Pick Four win that doesn't justify the betting risk. It takes luck too and luck isn't anywhere to be found on a past performance.

Belmont Park Late Pick Four Races 7-8-9-10

So what really was powering my results: I included Ave (bettor's sixth highest choice) in my bet even though I soured on her after the Beverly D. I mentioned pre-race my respect for Attfield/Castellano and I was rewarded. I got the obvious 8th Race right by covering Life at Ten (bettor's second choice) even though I was concerned the speed duel with Rachel Alexandra may have set her back. I rated Winchester high (second bettor's choice) even though I never expected the bettor's to rate him so high, but again the key was I refused to accept the fact that Blame was unbeatable, I refused to consider Rail Trip, and I believed in Haynesfield and I said so.

$2,680 gross earnings on a bet of $164 dollars. Good Stuff indeed.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: Belmont Park October 2, 2010; The All Grade I Pick 4

It's hard to put into words what Joe Hirsch represents to me. You meet so few people in life that you can say that their integrity is without question. You meet so few people in life that did things their way and in the process defined themselves through an unyielding pursuit of perfection within their careers. The greatest tribute to any person is to remember them after they pass away. Elites in society since the dawning of the Enlightened Age built monuments to their greatness while on Earth and their names adorned these physical objects long after their bones turned to dust. Mr. Joe Hirsch isn't remembered because he built a bridge or a building, but because he was revered, honored by the sport that he served. When you wonder what happened to the greatness of horse racing, ask yourself where the dignity and culture of horse racing went to. Ask yourself if dignity can be found at an off track betting parlor. Ask yourself where are the ambassadors to the sport and where its cultural relevance is. Joe's voice has been replaced by legion. The new media has expanded to fill the void left by fading newspaper and magazine coverage. Joe's legacy in print carried on, Joe's legacy of grace, integrity, class and style needs to find its Renaissance. The greatest sport on earth cannot be diminished by the failings of it's human leaders and lets hope that someone will one day have the chance to the next Joe Hirsch instead of toil in virtual anonymity. Let's get it on!

Belmont Park Race 7-10 Late Pick Four

It's wonderful to find weekend after weekend relevant racing at Belmont in the fall and today's edition of Jockey Club Gold Cup Day is no exception. Today is the last prep for many of these horses whose next stop is The Breeders' Cup in early November. The Turk spent most of the week in the greater NY area, and while he would have liked to have stayed for the event in person, he's going to enjoy it plenty with Little Turk from the comfortable surroundings of home, but we are getting pretty excited about our road trip to Louisville for the Breeders' Cup, now just a few short weeks away.

We have an interesting and challenging pick Four in front of us, made more challenging by the incredibly wet weather to hit Elmont in the past few days. Without a very warm sun, the idea that the track or turf will improve to fast or firm seems unrealistic. Make sure your first stop is to See the track conditions, the current weather, and the scratches and changes, as factors beyond the past performances may seriously alter the landscape. I based my handicap on yielding turf and a sloppy main good main track.

In Race 7 we have the Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational . Making arguably the most anticipated arrival from Japan since Casino Drive is Red Desire, grand daughter of Sunday Silence. This 4 YO has beaten and been beaten by some of the best Grade I international talent out there. Getting Lasix for the first time, I'm downgrading just slightly because of the track conditions she'll face, even with wily K. Desormeaux up (not my pick at Belmont all things being even). I'm backing for her first win in 5 starts in 2010 Forever Together. A disappointing last race in Saratoga for Sheppard's runner, I like her on the softer turf and I think Sheppard is a master at preparing for a season's big moment, and the next six week is the season for this Champion. Gomez up. The race features plenty of questionable current form and I like Shared Account, training well since the Diana to be fresh. Trainer Motion is clipping along at 24% off 61-180 day layoffs. I backed Ave (GB) in the Beverly D. and was shocked that she was the post time chalk and she didn't handle the race that well. Has shown an ability to come back strongly in first race back off layoff and has handled soft turf very well in the past. Attfield and Castellano combine for 44% winners on 9 starts. I'd be shocked if Kertanna came up for better than Show. I'm thinking superfecta this race as well and will back three most likely for the P4.

Race 8 is the Grade I Beldame. A six horse field is packed with quality and a bunch of horses who are glad to stop being measured against Rachel Alexandra. Desormeaux, up on Unrivaled Belle, gets my nod here. Trainer Mott at 20% winners on 61-180 day layoffs and the girl has been resting since two Grade I's where she ran a flat effort from the Place spot and couldn't advance and refused to retreat. Came on most people's radar with her stunning defeat of Rachel Alexandra at Churchill Downs, the race where you had to start to worry if the defending Horse of the Year would ever regain her 2009 form. Persistently, the latest Rachel Alexandra slayer, seems to be in a good spot in her form cycle and I like the Phipps Stable runner to give a strong effort today. Life At Ten has four wins in five starts and gave an incredible effort in a bizarre speed duel with the previously oft mentioned Rachel Alexandra in the Personal Ensign. I have no reason to believe that effort took a toll on the 5 YO Malibu Moon mare but that's what I'm saying. Bonnie Blue Flag snuck in under the radar ever so slightly in the Grade I Test and has been training awfully well for Baffert who puts Gomez up. Depending on the price at post time, I may W-P-S this 3 YO Mineshaft daughter.

In Race 9, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic I'm leaning towards Never on Sunday (Fr), another in a long line of Biancone strong turf runners. An eleven horse field, the turf will weigh in on the outcome and as usual, a strong late kick from a pack of horses 1/8 out will be the margin of victory. Paddy O' Prado will get lots of play, rightly so, but facing older horses is never easy and it's the longest race he's run, something is 274 Tomlinson Rating discounts. Those ratings are a minor tool so don't get too hung up on that, I just like others here, like Winchester, trained by turf master craftsman Clement. Should be one hell of a race!

And in the main event, Race 10's Jockey Club Gold Cup, I'm inclined to single Blame but I'm going to take the extra expense and slip in a value horse, which to me Haynesfield is. one win on sloppy dirt and a 460 Tomlinson rating for the 4 YO Speightstown son, toss the Whitney and focus on the Suburban and his 4 wins at Big Sandy, with R. Dominguez up, and a trainer/jock combo clipping away at 32% at BEL. In a real contrarian view, I'm discounting Rail Trip who will have real mud tossed in his 5 Yo face for the first time and instead backing Darley runner Tranquil Manner to bring a good price onto the ticket. I never know what to do with Fly Down.

Last week's post race analysis is up below after the Turk couldn't get to it in a busy week. I had a nice Superfecta win in the first race and ended up slightly ahead on a day when I got little right. Always be honest with yourself about the good work and your bad.

Post Race Analysis of the Late Pick 4 at Belmont September 25, 2010.