Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Nomination Is In: December 18, 2010; The WL McKnight Handicap

The Turk has enjoyed a handicappers holiday since shutting down is red gel pen after the Clark Handicap nearly a month ago. I think it's important to put the Daily Race Form Past Performances down several times a year and clear your mind, but just like the horses I handicap, if my break is too long I can get dull.

That said, this is a tough time of the year to open the conditions book and find a race that sparks my creative juice. The snow is falling rapidly here near Buffalo, and not being able to see the grass has me thinking longingly for those idyllic days watching the turk course at Arlington and Saratoga. With that, I have the 1 1/2 mile W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder Race Course to get me thinking about those days that will come again. I thank the talented Sarah K. Andrew for the picture that provides a bit of holiday cheer. Remember, horse pictures make a great Christmas gift, and please go and look at what Sarah has to offer. Lets get after it!

The track condition was firm yesterday but the weather forecast may soften it up just slightly by post time. Typical of a 1 1/2 mile turf race, you find an odd assortment of horses in the field, from proven distance competitors to horses who haven't really fit in anywhere else and the connections are seeing if they like the extra real estate. It's a niche race and its usually run by niche horses. Even the best in the niche don't dominate, so look for value instead of chalk.

Race 11 Calder Race Course Post Time 4:45 ET: The W.L. McKnight Handicap Grade 2; 1 1/2 miles on Turf

The big names are out for this race: Telling, Presious Passion, Prince Will I Am, and Musketier all represent good win opportunity, but I'm looking at Rescue Squad at the right price. After I handicapped (and never before!) I checked the morning line and Rescue Squad is installed at 6-1. Hmmm. A nice last race go around against Grassy in a grade II for the 4 YO son of Dynaformer. The colt has never won at the distance, never raced at Calder, but is training well, had a nice 4f handride in :47 3/5 ths and I'm hoping to find him more like 8-1.

I can't remember the last time I didn't approach my bet strategy from a multi race perspective, but I am today, and I'm taking for me the unusual step of building my handicap and bet strategy at the same time. With that in mind I'm slotting Telling followed by Price Will I Am as Place and Show. Telling, the Little Turk's chalk, is a consistent 6 YO who has won at this distance twice, is 9 of 18 in the money on turf, and strings together good performances. Unfortunately for Telling, since getting freshened after a Grade I win in August he has not been nearly as dangerous. Words like No Kick and Lacked Response aren't great to see, but he's quality horse flesh and I think he'll be somewhere from Place to fourth.

Prince Will I Am is a baby at 3 YO in a niche that is usually filled by older horses. 3 of 3 in the money on turf, he comes in off a wild DQ in the Breeders' Cup Marathon and a win in the Grade I Jamaica.

Presious Passion is always dangerous if left on the lead to long, but I'm expecting he will be reeled back in today.

I'm leaning towards a Superfecta fun built around a matrix of my base handicap. I'll keep the risk low and remember this is more about engaging my brain than anything else.

I'll be back this weekend for some last minute gift ideas for the gentleman horseplayer in your lives. Turk Out!

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