Friday, April 30, 2010

The Nomination Is In: The Kentucky Oaks-Turf Classic-Kentucky Derby Pick Three

So I had it all planned out. This Turk's been happily wearing his Mine That Bird hat since last Father's Day (Thanks Mrs. Turk)and after the Wood Memorial I went to and got myself a sporty Eskendereya hat. Hopefully I'll be proud to wear that hat later this summer.

I try to enjoy Oaks/Derby Day as a fan more then a horse player. These are big fields, the best of the best, and when you factor in new distances, heavy rains, the handicapping trends towards hope-capping instead of intelli-capping. All that said, I'm busting out a few bucks from the YouBet account and I'm going to have some fun with a multi day, multi race bet, The Oaks/Turf Classic/Kentucky Derby Pick Three and the Oaks/Derby Double.

Because of the multi day event, I've had to handicap tomorrows races with the expectation that the rains could be very heavy. I've handicapped the Kentucky Derby with the expectation that the track will be very sloppy and I've handicapped the Turf Classic on and off turf. The BIG wildcard will be scratches. We can't worry it. I'll be back tomorrow to handicap Pick Threes and Pick Fours and assemble some inner race betting and we'll assess then. Let's Let it Ride!

The Oaks/Turf Classic/Kentucky Derby Pick Three (spreadsheet attached)

I'll be betting as I laid out for the Oaks as well as the Pick Three. I'm also going to bet the Oaks/Derby Double and eliminate the wildcard of the Turf Classic.

Have fun with it, more soon. Turk Out!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Kentucky Derby: A Guest Handicap by Cathy (the Canadian Turk) and The Wire Players Dirty Dozen Poll Final Edition

Life is amazing. I find the symmetry to life to be the most amazing thing. If you live long enough you'll find people enter your life, leave your life, and reenter again when you never expect it. Case in point is today's guest handicapping blogger at The Turk and the Little Turk, Cathy, the Canadian Turk.

I went to high school where I met my wife. My wife has had a friend from second grade on who I also went to high school with. We all traveled in different social circles: My wife was an upstanding citizen, I was an underachieving vodka drinker, and Cathy was a hippy chick, think Stevie Nicks. What Cathy also was at a very young age was a huge Horse Racing fan with a crush on Steve Cauthen and Affirmed. Cathy went on to become a fantastic journalist with a unique voice.

Last year, Cathy's family joined The Turk's clan for a great day at the races at Arlington Race Track. Since then I've been lobbying for her to share her fantastic insights and handicapping acumen to The Turk. We are honored today that she has accepted and without further blathering from me, I present to you Cathy.


By the evening of April 3, I had the 2010 Kentucky Derby all figured out. As Eskendereya waltzed all over his Wood Memorial “competition,” I knew it was my year to get revenge for 2009. After last year’s Wood, I also had things all figured out. It was I Want Revenge, then Pioneerofthenile, then everybody else. This year, I was convinced all I needed to do was put a couple longshots under Eskendereya in a trifecta, and I’d be laughing all the way to the windows.

But, déjà vu, the Derby gods decided to again smack down my smugness a week before the race, leaving me scrambling. It’s not pretty to walk around carrying PP’s everywhere you go, tell your son he can’t do homework on his laptop because you need to read handicapping blogs while you watch TVG or tell your kids to fill you in later about school so you can hear Steve Byk’s radio show in the car.

It’s been a lot of last-minute work, but by George, I think I’ve got it. (Of course, I think that every year and am usually wrong, but that’s another story.) There’s money to be made, usually lots, by winning the trifecta, so that’s where I concentrated my efforts.

First things first. The Derby is the biggest field you’ll ever handicap, and I usually begin by throwing horses out. I always start with the ones that have no business in the race (Full disclosure: I did put Mine That Bird on this list last year, but so did most people). So, bye-bye Homeboykris, Backtalk, Dean’s Kitten and Make Music for Me.

Next, I threw out all the synthetic/turf specialists – except for Sidney’s Candy – due to their dismal Derby showings in the past. Because of the unusual amount of speed in the race, I made the decision to throw out all front-runners – again except for Sidney – because I truly believe they will burn each other out.

That left me with a much smaller group to seriously handicap and the more I study, the more I’m Looking at Lucky. He is my top pick and having Baffert in your corner is a bonus.

However, things can and often do go wrong in the Derby, so I need to cover my bases and my posterior. So, the strategy is to put my top three horses on the top and middle of the tri, then add a handful of longshots on the bottom. The 3-3-8 bet I devised on a $1 tri will cost $36, but if it comes in ….sorry, but I know not to get smug again.

Here’s who I picked and why:
THE TOP THREE (Will bet in 1-2-3 slots in my trifecta )

LOOKIN AT LUCKY: He has never run a bad race, ran well in his only dirt start and has been knocked around enough that he won’t freak out when things start getting bumpy in the Derby. His rail post doesn’t scare me – he became fairly familiar with the rail in the Santa Anita Derby and never gave up. These are the qualities you want to see in a Derby contender.

SIDNEY’S CANDY: I was ready to throw him out, but just can’t. He will either win or be completely out of the picture when they cross the wire. Not wanting to look like a fool on May 2 (I know how that feels and I don’t like it), I will add him, although I believe he will not be the same on dirt.

NOBLE’S PROMISE: Throw out his Arkansas Derby and you have a horse who’s never run out of the money and finished barely behind Lucky in his last two starts. If he improves, even slightly, he’ll be there at the end. And his odds should be sweet.

THE REST OF THE BEST (All in the 3 slot)

ICE BOX: Nick Zito, and the fact that the Derby gods love a good comeback story.

DUBLIN: D. Wayne Lukas, and the fact that the Derby gods love a good comeback story.

AWESOME ACT: Lots of excuses in the Wood, and a better wiseguy pick than Mission Impazible

SUPER SAVER: Calvin Borel, plus ran well on a wet track and should be able to rate

JACKSON BEND: Chased Eskendereya, but could get a slice here. Did I mention Zito?

Noticeable in their absence are Devil May Care, who I just don’t think is as good a filly as others who’ve done well in the Triple Crown, and Mission Impazible, who seems to be the big wiseguy horse, meaning his odds will be too low. I may also throw $5 across the board on Noble’s Promise if the odds are right. And, just to be safe, I’ll lay the PP sheets on the couch, see whose name the dog sits on first and put a few dollars on that runner.

Best of luck to the one and only Rachel Alexandra and Happy Derby Day 2010 everyone!

Thanks Cathy! The Turk will be adding his Oaks/Derby Double Handicap as well as the Pick Three on Derby Day as well tomorrow.

And for followers of The Wire Players Derby Dozen, the final poll has been released. This was a really fun and collaborative effort led by Steve at Wire Players and I want to thank him for inviting Ye'Ol Turk to participate.

Have fun with the Derby and Oaks. Don't take these one's too seriously, they are meant to be treasured and remembered. Turk Out!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Nomination Is In: April 21, 2010: Opening Day at Hollywood Park- The Harry Henson Stakes

Returning readers of the Turk don't come here for cutting edge commentary or breaking news. There are several wonderful aggregate news sources such as the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance Home Page where you can find that sort of writing. What you do get here is a middle aged man, referring to himself in the third person, who occasionally rants that the World is turning upside down. The idea of the horse racing world losing a beloved track, an institution like Hollywood Park in the name of some retail development turns my stomach and is a signal to this lone Turk crying out in the wilderness that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalyspe are about to ride. I intend to visit several times this meet for no other reason then to savor the place as it was and hope that what's planned to come never happens. I feel like how my distant Roman turk cousin must have felt in early September, 476 AD when the City was about to fall for the last time. Ok, I digress, but I hope it doesn't take a major track falling in Southern California to wake up the forces who oppose more mindless California development to stop this now. These idiots are giddy that they can rip down venerable Hollywood Park to put up more big box crap. Have you been to California in the last two years? Yeah, they need this! Same idiots that tell me I can't smoke my cigar in the city park.

The Turk took a mid week vacation day and had some time to handicap Opening Day at Hollywood Park. Let's get it on!

Race 7 Hollywood Park-Post Time 7:05 ET; The Harry Henson Stakes 60K; 6 furlongs on Turf for 3 YOs.

Always gather your information, like weather and track conditons and scratches/changes.

At first blush we have a collection of ten runners who collectively have 13 Turf starts and 2 wins and 1 show.

Handicapping without morning lines, I have Face and an Ace on top to win, owner of the only 2 turf wins in the field, and a last race win on turf at SA in late March. Trainer P. Gonzalez has some real WOW stats: 26% turf wins on 31 starts, 29% sprint wins, and his combination with Jock R. Bejarano is productive with 38% wins on a slim 8 starts.

The world's most interesting man, Trainer Julio Canani saddles Big Man has a Sign . Dropping back in distance from 1 1/16 on poly in March and training sharply. Canani has some very impressive stats as well; 30% sprint wins, 25% 1st Turf, 22% Turf. Teamed with M. Pedroza they win 33% of the timw on 48 starts.

Smiling Tiger seemed like a tiger when he was running Show to Make Music for Me and Looking at Lucky in Grade 1 and Grade II events late last summer. Training strongly since early March, I think he'll need a race or two to get his hoofs under him.

It's way too early to have a bet strategy. I'll be sitting around an airport in Boston by the time this goes to Post so if I have time on my hands I'll string a Superfecta together using a matrix of my base handicap. Watch the tote and look for some value if it presents itself.

Have Fun, Save Hollywood Park, Go Sabres, Turk Out!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day April 17, 2010: The Aqueduct Pick 4 including the Distaff Handicap

That good looking sire to the left is an A.P. Indy son, father of Pashito the Che and yesterday's Distaff Handicap winner, Tar Heel Mom, Flatter.

The Turk found success yesterday with the Aqueduct card. On a sloppy sealed track we "assembled" a Pick 3 and Pick 4 winner as well as an exacta and trifecta win and a handicap of the Distaff Handicap that we nailed the exact order of finish prerace. I made a point of discussing pre-race that the card at Keeneland with the Lexington and the Giant's Causeway, or Santa Anita with The Santa Barbara were more attractive but that I wanted to play the Big A card. Remember, don't be married to playing a particular place, look at the cards and pick the one you think you can win. Let's get after it!

Aqueduct Race 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 : The Pick Three and Pick 4 including the Distaff Handicap.

The bet construction followed my pre-race analysis nearly identical. Readers of the Turk know that I like to prepare my base handicaps and then use that base handicap to assemble my bets. Race 7's winner was the third shortest price on the board, Odessa's Hope. Our Special Effort had control to the top of the stretch but tired and with D. Cohen up, Odessa's Hope powered away to win by 2f.

Race 8 was won by the fourth lowest price, Positive Pitch. Two legs of the Pick Four were now in the books, won by my last horse included in the bet construction. Good stuff, let's keep going.

Race 9 was the Grade II Distaff Handicap. I really liked this field and this would have been a much more competitive field on a fast track, but it was sloppy and sealed and one horse stood out on the PP's as the one to beat on slop, a strong runner on her own, Tar Heel Mom. Taking control at the 1/4 pole, she fired off fractions of :22, :44 4/5, 1:10 1/5 and then brought it home at 1:24 2/5ths and was pressed just slightly at 1/2 pole and then not again. The Turk put all five starters in exact order pre race and I had a $2 exacta and $2 Trifecta win to show for it. Don't be influenced by hard talkin' handicapping types that would tell you that nailing chalky exactas and trifectas isn't worth the effort: $42.20 gross on $4 bet is always worth it!

Race 9 brought to an end the late Pick Three which the Turk took down for $119 on a $36 dollar bet. I took it but one race was left to complete my goal, a Pick Four win.

Race 10 almost got away from me. My pre-race chart excluded Ballast (Ire). It was a big field of 10 in a one mile turf claimer and as I wrote my blog entry I got more and more enamored with the experience of Ballast (Ire): This was the 9 YO geldings 47th Turf start, 25 of 46 in the money on Turf and recent steady turf efforts. 1 win in the last 13 efforts almost turned me away but I inserted and completed my day with the Pick 4 win. I did not expect Ballast to be the bettors top choice. In the vacuum of my office I had him slotted no better then 4th choice, but my top choices are still out there running as I type.

So what to take away from this? Today was about bet construction more then my ability to pick single winners of difficult races. The easiest of the bunch was the Grade II Distaff Handicap, and I nailed that exactly, a feat more rare then I would expect. The other three races were just the ol' Turk tossing most of the field and settling on the expected favorites and inserting some value as well. My rule of thumb is if I have three choices in a race, at least one has to be a reasonable price with a reasonable chance of victory. I got that and got decent payouts on my bets.

I'd be remiss to not mention Tuscan Evening (Ire). I first handicapped Tuscan Evening last November at Hollywood and was impressed, but what she did at Santa Anita this meet was really special. Congrats.

Have fun with your bet construction. Turk Out!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Nomination Is In: April 17, 2010; The Aqueduct Late Pick 4 including the Grade II Distaff Handicap

The are several nice stakes races going on today: Keeneland's Lexington Stakes, The Charles Town Classic, and at Santa Anita, The Santa Barbara. Instead of handicapping those, I thought I'd dig in for a little gritty Aqueduct action for no other reason then I'm a New York fella at heart. That's Justwhistledixie, with her connections from West Point Thoroughbreds, and previous trainer K. McLaughlin. She's under the care of Bill Mott now, and she's at a longer price most likely today then she's been in awhile. A smallish but talented field of six after two early scratches greets her in the Grade II Distaff Handicap, the featured race today at the Big A. Let's get it on!

Aqueduct Race 7-8-9-10: The Pick Four

Gather your information before you start. You'll find the weather here and the scratches/changes here.

Race 7 is a $15,000 claiming race for 3 YOs foaled in NYS. There are a few horses here that have had good efforts in the slop; Our Special Effort/1 has a career best BSF of 66 on a sloppy Aqueduct track.

That said, I'm going with what I consider better horses in the first leg of the Pick Four. Odessa's Hope/6 is a 4 Yo with D. Cohen up for Trainer Gyarmati. Blow Up/9 is dropping back in class for Trainer Toscano and Never Give Up/10 also drops in class for Trainer B. Brown. brown has great stats with 21% claimer wins, 24% Won Last Starts, and 25% 2nd Off Over 180. Considering singling.

Race 8 is a 6 furlong 40K N1X for Fillies and Mares. I like three here and I think the bettors will too: Risky Rachel/2 has a good win on slop, Spanish Luck/4 is trained by R. Reid who has fantastic stats and this horse has the most earnings per race of the field. Positive Pitch/7 is a B. Levine trainee with a win at the distance but never on slop. Thinking of just betting the first two here.

Race 9 is the Grade II Distaff Handicap. Tar Heel Mom has 3 wins on an off track which makes her hard to ignore. Justwhistledixie is a quality horse who hasn't won in four races. Mott drops her distance and brings her in after sharpening her since late February. Matchless Orinda will provide lots of early speed but will fight the slowing track as she goes. Trainer Pletcher's Hour Glass also has shown a strong affinity for off track and is the most consistent runner of the bunch. I'm going to bet some exacta/trifecta combinations straight and have a bit of fun with it.

Race 10 is a 1 mile turf affair, currently still listed as on the turf. Marina Market/5 goes for Trainer S. Asmussen for the first time, something he pulls off wins with 21% of the time. No turf wins yet but Asmussen is 17% on the Dirt/Turf switch. Sydney Road/10 has 3 Turf wins and 5 of 7 in the money on Turf. Ballast (Ire) has 9 turf wins and is 25 of 46 in the money on Turf. I am considering inserting Ballast into my Pick 4 as long as I don't exceed my bet allowance of $54 dollars.

Have Fun with it, Turk Out! Go Sabres!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Wire Players Dirty Derby Dozen Poll Out Now

As horseplayers and fans, you take these polls to their logical limits and then you have to let them go. It's an odd year, no doubt about it. The graded earnings requirements have several "any other year" Derby starters possibly on the outside looking in, horses that Placed in Grade I three year old races. The debate has been hot and heavy the past few days as to the merits or the current system and how the paradigm has changed with the advent of lucrative race-casino 2 YO stake races. Thanks again to Steve at Wire Players for the work he does with this poll. Steve gave a shout out this week to a young man who's out there in today's odd popular culture trying to convince others his age that horse racing isn't just something that use to be popular. He's got some nice insights and check him out!

The Turk takes no strong position either way. I'm going to handicap the horses that are in the starting gate and not worry about anyone who isn't. It's almost time to start handicapping the Oaks/Derby double. What a magical time of the year!

Have fun, Turk Out.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day April 10, 2010; The Blue Grass Stakes Grade I at Keeneland

I shouldn't be happy but I am a bit. I started handicapping the Blue Grass Stakes on Wednesday evening, as I had a Friday morning 10 AM deadline to have the handicap finished for insertion into the THOROFAN website. I handicapped off the preliminary past performances, sans morning lines. Right off the bat I knew that the bettors would be divided amongst these horses, as there just wasn't accomplishment to go along with thier quality and class. Nowhere in my handicap did I mention that fine looking May foal, Ghostzapper's son, Stately Victor. After reviewing the PPs again this morning, about the only thing I denoted in red was that the horse made some move in every race he was in and I liked Trainer Maker's stats.

So I created this handicap of a Superfecta bet and I'm watching the post parade and I see the odds line and I go from feeling bad about my handicap to feeling pretty good. I thought I presented a pretty chalky view of things to my readers but the Keeneland bettors thought otherwise, installing Interactif as the top choice and Paddy O' Prado as the #2 choice. I've done this long enough to not second guess myself, plus there was NO WAY if I did win but changed my bet could I tell my readers that I know I said this, but I did this, and wow, look at me I'm the f**king King of the World! I plunked down my "aggressive" pre race superfecta handicap for $32 dollars but here's the but, BUT I also did what I said I would do pre race, I placed about 10% of my total betting dollars defensively.

I expected to get some snide comments about "defensive betting" and I would have deserved them. It's not a good practice to have conviction and place a bet and then turn around and spend more money on some horses you already said wouldn't win. I said pre race that the defensive bet isn't always a good answer but when you don't feel like your bet will return much, and that your risk/reward is a bit off kilter, go ahead and do it and potentially you'll cut the loss of a lousy exotic bet by returning something with the defensive bet. Pre race the only time I mentioned Stately Victor was when I discussed using him in defensive bets. My eyes lit up when I saw the odds and I put him in the Place spot on two stright exactas, bet him to win once, and also dropped a win bet on Aikenite who was set to pay $11.40.

I'm still shaking my head a bit at how the race unfolded. Fast fractions for poly, not suicidal, but fast, and alot of pressure from Paddy O'Prado that forced other riders to go way too early. Stately Victor sorta walked through and went on for a daylight seeing 4 1/2 length romp. The Kentucky Derby picture, already a bit cloudy, didn't clear up at all, not that I expected a fake dirt win by anyone would have done that. I was disappointed that my handicap for the Thorofan readers was so pathetic, but hopefully some of them drew on my defensive bet theme as well as got a little out of my simple methods.

Race 9 KEE: The Blue Grass Stakes Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on poly for 3 YOs

As I also said pre race, you can handicap, analyze, make fancy colorful spreadsheets, but you can still be wrong. I was wrong and right today, not the bet I wanted to win, but I never turn the winners away either nor should you.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Nomination Is In: April 10, 2010; The Blue Grass Stakes Grade I at Keeneland

Beautiful Keeneland, my heart may come back to you, but it hasn't yet. The old Turk spent his formative years defending American freedom's on the frontline of the Cold War. Occasionally on our time off we'd come face to face with other young and formative Americans who didn't like us. We were taught, much to our chagrin, that our biggest role was to defend the rights given to all Americans under the Constitution, especially the rights of assembly and free speech.

I'm good with defending the free speech and conduct of people who do just asinine things. If I'm going to defend their rights, I'm exercising my own to bitch a bit about fake dirt. Keeneland, built on hallowed blue grass, next to one of the shrines of American horse racing, Calumet Farms, killed me when they installed a fake dirt track made of a little bit of this and that. As much as I hate what the steroid era did to the record book in baseball, I hate how 70 years of dirt track statistics and tradition were tossed out the window. I digress, but I retain the right to not play Keeneland because I just don't like what they did. This irrational position is not even consistent in the Turk's world because I just accept Woodbine and Santa Anita, and Del Mar and Hollywood, but I have a real issue with this cathedral being desecrated like this.

I was happy to be asked to write a "Handicappers Corner" article this week for the Keeneland run Blue Grass Stakes. I set aside my bias and did my best to explain my handicapping style to an audience of people passionate about horse racing. Thorofan is a grassroots organization that started as a small seed and is now a sapling focusing on the racing fan. I wish them the best as they try to create a place for casual fans to find social interaction with like minded folks. I'd like to thank Geno from Equispace. Geno is one hard working cat this time of the year yet he finds time to support and advertise and grow a sport that many people in our society just consider dead. Hat's off to Geno.

Race 9 at KEE: Post Time 5:30 ET; The Blue Grass Stakes; 1 1/8 Miles on polytrack for 3 YOs.

The handicap for Thorofan was written as a bit of a tutorial. For the hardcore gambling types that visit this blog it's important to point out that the method employed in this handicap is sound. You can be sound and correct and still wrong. I would never tell someone that I'm OK with a handicap if I wasn't so I stand firmly behind the handicap. That said, it's a surface I struggle with and it's a track I don't handicap much, so I'm going to have some fun with this race and then leave quickly!

Check for scratches and changes. I've marked up the Past Performances and as is my general custom, I handicapped without morning lines or reading and pre race news articles. I was only surprised when I did look at the Morning Lines that Odysseus was 7-2 and slightly behind 3-1 Pleasant Prince. It was also interesting to read the comments from the connections of Odysseus why they choose the Blue Grass instead of the Arkansas Derby. Either way, I like to handicap the way I see the information fall off the past performances and not put too much stock into what is written. I found over the years I was shading my handicaps sometimes on the quotes in an article. Right or wrong, I do my best to block it out.

At first blush this is a pretty similar group of runners; 7 of the 9 have only I win, 4 last race winners, no winners at the distance, 94 is the best synthetic BSF of the bunch and only one synthetic win in the whole field. As a handicapper I believe you have to take a stand with your base handicap and then you can shade a little bit with part wheels or boxing in the bet construction, moving horses up and down the order of finish.

I’m backing Pleasant Prince to win. Trainer Wesley Ward had three good GP efforts this spring losing to Ice Box twice by a nose and a ½ length. Owns the race best career BSF at 99. Training nicely with a smoking hot :58 2/5ths seconds at 5 furlongs. J. Leparoux is up, and Ward/Leparoux have won 30% of their races together over the past year. Expect him to sit in a stalking position until the ¼ pole.

Odysseus had a dominating 15 length romp in late February and then beat Schoolyard Dreams by a nose in thrilling stretch drive at the Tampa Derby Grade III. Three wins for Trainer Albertrani who wins 28% of his Graded Stakes but only started three runners on synthetics over the past year, all losers. Is 4 for 4 lifetime in the money with three wins. Has shown a tendency to churn some fast early fractions and he has the guts to rally and re-rally if need be. Much to like here.

I want to make a case for Interactif to win, but I can’t see it in the base handicap. A closer loser to Sidney’s Candy in the Grade II San Felipe at SA in mid March and loser by a nose on the turf in February at GP. He’ll make a top of the stretch move and I think will find the top four.

It’s important to point out some information that handicapper and all around horse guy Jeremy Plonk put together which you can find at the excellent Keeneland website. 43% of Keeneland springs meeting winners during the polytrack era come in off a dirt effort. I think the fact that 49% of the spring meet winners have never made a poly start and 63% of spring meet winners made only one previous poly start is very compelling. Information gathered. File it away and look at the handicap through the prism of all the information. Groovy stuff, let’s keep going.

Make Music For Me comes in for his 2nd race off a 45-180 day layoff, something Trainer Barbra has tried three times in the last year, losing all. Making a turf/synthetic switch after a strong turf win at 1 mile in early March at SA. Lost three times as a 2 YO to Looking at Lucky. Training at 6 furlongs at HOL sharply. One of two Bernstein colts in the field. Mike Smith up for his fourth race with the colt.

Aikenite and First Dude, round out the dividing line of strong Top Four Contenders. Aikenite has run a good Show finish at KEE losing by a ½ length in a Grade I event as a 2 YO. His lone victory was his first race in August in Saratoga. He’s a quality colt but where he stands in the 3 YO group is hard to say. Garret Gomez takes the mount.

First Dude, a Dale Romans trained horse with R. Dominguez up, is a work in progress, only one win in January that he followed up with two decent efforts at GP, including 5th in the Florida Derby. He has the potential to hit Show or 4th and any better is hard to fathom at this point in his career. Another Dale Roman’s conditioned horse is Paddy o’ Prado. Paddy o’ Prado comes in off a very nice Grade III turf win at 1 1/8 miles and has been training sharply over the Keeneland main track. Ken Desormeaux is on the mount for the first time.

So what to make of it?

I built a rather chalky superfecta for the Thorofan article. I presented it with two possible angles, one conservative and they other a smidge bit more aggressive.

I mentionioned, albeit briefly, the concept of defensive betting. I use to do more of it, but I still do when I think a bet that I construct has a high risk for a medium or low reward. I keep the defensive bets small, perhaps 1/4 of my total bet amount. For example, I'm prepared to spend $60 dollars today. I'll take $6 and bet 3 $2 Win bets, perhaps a few >6-1 longshots with potential OR three straight exactas that have a bit of value associated with them. The downside, and why I don't do this much, is if the base handicap hits then the medium reward payout is diluted by the defensive bets. Catch-22.

I'm going to watch the tote board and then consider three straight exactas with one of my top three in the top spot and most likely Stately Victor or Paddy O' Prado in the Place spot.

The Turk would be remiss to not remember Personal Ensign who passed away this week of natural causes. A beloved horse with race fans, she would have been massive in a different era when horse racing heroes were revered. She's revered in our shrinking community and we wish her peace.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Nomination Is In: April 3, 2010; Aqueduct Pick 4 on Wood Memorial/Carter Handicap Day

That fine looking runner to your left is a Turk favorite, Musket Man, one of several Turk Family clan favorites running in big field of stakes races at the Big A. Thanks to Wendy for the use of the nice picture.

My immediate feeling earlier in the week was that I wanted to handicap the Pick 4 at Aqueduct and possibly Santa Anita this weekend as my featured handicaps for this humble blog. After a few hours of handicapping, you could say I have buyers remorse. Why? Small fields are not your friend. I like the runners in these four races but it's hard to find value with six horse fields and. There is no true heavy chalk nor are there many flat out tosses. While I like the challenge and the Suduko-esque nature of a Pick 4, I'll be watching the scratches closely and making a call before the Pick 4 goes off if I want in or not. If I am in, I'm going to keep the risk minimal and try to bring the bet in around $36 dollars. Without superfectas, I'll bet the individual races and be a bit defensive with the goal of breaking even at worst or turning a better then 50% ROI at best. That's my strategy at 9:30 ET, we'll see as my third cup of coffee kicks in where I flop out later. Let's get it on!

Aqueduct: Race 7 - Race 8 - Race 9 - Race 10

Race 7 is a 7 furlong sprint and it marks the return of Eightyfiveinafifty, back from a vacation in the Aqueduct parking lot his last time out. Trainer Contessa gives the mount to R. Dominguez, a combo that wins 22% of the time at the Big A. Owns a race best 105 BSF and has been training sharply. Originally scheduled to be coupled with another Contessa trainee, Castaneda, that fine son of Yonaguska won yesterday's 8th race at Aqueduct. Eightyfiveinafifty has alot to prove today and this is far from settled. The Turk may hunt for a deeper selection here before I place the Pick 4 and maybe we watch the tote board and bet one of the two possible contenders, Raynick's Jet or Hurricane Ike.

Raynick's Jet breaks from post 2 for Trainer S. Asmussen, with Cohen up, a combo that is working for the 10th time together but clips along at 44%. Comes in off a 6f inner track N1X Win in early March where he added 18 BSF points to his previous lifetime best. Hurricane Ike goes on dirt for the first time for trainer Sadler who has a pathetic 16 Dirt races and 6% win rate over past year. You have to ask yourself then, why here? Training sharply, a :45 3/5's 4f work in late March. I think that's as deep as I'll go here.

Race 8 is the 1 1/8 mile Excelsior Grade III with a six horse field. While not big on quantity, the quality is excellent with at least four horses having legitimate chances to win, Nite Light, Goldsville, More Than a Reason and National Pride.

I'm backing Nite Light, the 6 YO Edward Evans/T.Pletcher/J. Velazquez combo. Pletcher and Velazquez clip along at a gaudy 32% at the Big A and 22% over 400 races in the past year. Only 1 win in the last 9 starts, 4 of 4 at the distance and 11 of 13 on fast dirt and 15 of 19 in the money lifetime with a last race98 BSF where he finished for Show to Place horse National Pride in The Stymie.

National Pride a Darley trained by McLaughlin turned a :47 3/5ths 4 f burner at the Belmont training track last week. 1 win in last 7 starts, 4 of 10 on Fast Dirt, winless at the distance and a last race best 99 BSF. Migliore up, 2 wins at the Big A, most in the field.

Goldsville goes for the second time since switching to Trainer Hushion. the 5 YO is 3 of 19 lifetime, 1 win in last 8, 3 wins in 8 Fast dirt starts, unraced at this distance and winless in 3 tries at Aqueduct. A nice inner track win in early March put him in position for today. Trainer Hushion,with Dominguez up win 63% of the time as they go for race 25 together at the Big A and 56% of the time over past year in their 40th start together. Trainer Hushion wins 32% of his routes and 30% of his 2nd off 45-180 day layofffs and 26% of his Won Last Starts. Watch the tote on him. More Than a Reason is a 5 YO son of More Than Ready and is starting his 48th race. Wow! 27 of 47 in the money lifetime, 4 wins in last 29 starts, 4 wins in 29 starts on Dirt and a whopping 6 off track wins. Capable, most likely will fall to 8-1 or higher.

Another six horse field greets you in the Wood Memorial. The romping Fountain of Youth Grade II winner Eskendereya tries to extend his dirt winning streak to 3 straight. An impressive 106 BSF from last race, has been training progressively faster at 5f as he prepared for this.the son of Giant's Causeway has won at 1 1/8 miles and is a potential single for me as I try to keep the bet reasonable in the Pick 4. He'll most likely press the pace himself and sitting off his flanks should be Jackson Bend, Schoolyard Dreams and Awesome Act as this is a four horse race.

Jackson Bend and Schoolyard Dreams represent the best chance to upset Eskendereya late. It's not that I don't respect what Awesome Act did in the Gotham, and I respect Leparoux, but I'm being decisive and we'll see how it works out. Jackson Bend doesn't hold up well on the PP's, looking a cut below, but I like the guts and an interesting jock switch to C. Borel signals what Trainer Zito is looking for. 8 of 8 in the money. Schoolyard Dreams has been impressive at Tampa Bay Downs this winter for Trainer D. Ryan. a :46 4/5ths 4f rocket a week ago is an eye opener. This will be a fun race to bet and I'll be looking for the value horses, especially Schoolyard Dreams at 4-1 or higher to provide a hedge against the risk overall on this card. Little Turk refuses to discount the Gotham and backs Awesome Act while Mrs Turk goes value shopping and bets Most Happy Fella.

And then Race 10 is the Carter Handicap. Turk favorites Munnings and Musket Man square off here in a five horse/six total with a couple field. I like the guts and grit of Musket Man. I'm not sure if this is a race he should be in, but it appears Ryan is taking his 4 YO star slowly back from the bone bruise that ended his magnificent 3 YO season. He'll be up against a serious speedball in Pletcher's Munnings. Musket Man, son of Yonguska is 2 for 2 at this distance and himself put up a :46 4/5th rocket for Ryan as well last week. Munnings, the son of Speightstown from Dam La Comete was bred for greatness, and he shows flashes.

Warrior's Reward has 3 wins in last 11 starts, 7 of 8 lifetime on fast dirt, 2 of 3 at the distance and has been training sharply for Trainer Wilkes.
the 4 YO son of Medaglia d'Oro strung together a nice late summer campaign last year and enters off nice N2X with Leparoux up.

It's still early in the day. My handicaps are complete but before I place my bets I'm going to walk the dog, have a cigar, and clear my thoughts. It should be a fun day. I hope you have fun too this Easter Weekend, Turk Out!