Friday, November 26, 2010

The Nomination is In: November 26, 2010; The Churchill Downs Late Pick Three including the 136th edition of the Clark Handicap

Poor Meriweather Lewis Clark. He did so much for our sport yet died by his own hand at age 53. I remember Mr. Clark every year as the race named in his honor shouts THANKSGIVING to me as much as turkey, stuffing, gravy. It's been a wet and cold few days at Churchill Downs, located on property donated and named for Meriweather's mothers family, the Churchill's, mother Abigail and his cousins John and Henry Churchill. The weather and the track conditions may dictate the outcome of the Late pick Three so you have to decide for yourself if the unknowns are worth dealing with. I'm going to keep my risk/reward threshold reasonable and take a swing for the fences. Let's get after it!

Churchill Downs Race 10-11-12 Late Pick Three first post 5:12 ET

Yesterday at the Downs the turf races moved to the slop. Check the scratches/changes, weather and track condition before doing much with these races. In Race 10 the obvious issue will be if it goes to the main track and who gets scratched. Film Charm will join the crowd if it goes to the main track and he should be a player. I like the James Tafel/Carl Nafgzer combo with Sweetest Song on turf or slop. The four year old gray has had very definable third race bumps in improvement in her cycle and today's the 3rd race in her current cycle. A win at the distance and a big Tomlinson Wet Track rating. Redreamit, with Gomez up for Trainer McPeek has an even bigger wet track Tomlinson and races for the second time after being freshened. I like the way Persuading is working for Trainer Romans, with a :46 and 2/5ths bullet in early November.

In the Clark Handicap, I'm backing Duke of Mischief tepidly. I really like his efforts at 1 1/8 miles early this year and I think he'll be flying at the end. My exacta combo is two horses I haven't backed often and I'm still not sure I didn't get enough sleep or coffee before typing this. Redding Colliery is six of six in the money in 2010 and has a >100 BSF in 5 of past six races. The 4YO may be making a statement for 2011 today. Completing a trifecta of horses I never though much of, Win Willy is a great slop track runner and has won four of last 11 and 8 of last 11 are in the money. Dubious Miss intrigues me and I had the six year old gelding on top on some of my tickets; A solid CD runner and winner, a solid wet track runner, I'm watching the tote board with this one.

It's a nice field with Regal Ransom and Redding Colliery proving some serious pace. Successful Dan is rolling of late with two straight >100 BSF wins by a combined 10 lengths. Giant Oak doesn't win much but isn't bashful about minor awards. Brass Hat is, well, Brass Hat. Not alot of handicapping required. This feels more like a goodbye dance than a legitimate shot, now go prove me wrong grey beard! Demarcation and Apart ran solid Ack Ack Handicaps and they could finish anywhere here.

Again, especially if the track is a mess, have fun but keep the risk reasonable.

My last week's Late Pick 4 at Aqueduct was so-so. I did hit pretty good with Spa City Fever but not enough to be competitive.

Happy Thanksgiving Friends. Turk Out!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Nomination Is In: November 20, 2010: The Aqueduct/NYRA Late Pick 4

That handsome son of Golden Missile is Golden Moka, a crazy 8 month layoff horse who never went past six furlongs before shocking the Canadian horse racing Triple Crown Series with a win at the Turk's home track, Fort Erie. Freshened after a dull effort in late September, and not my chalk here, but clearly capable and a great story for horse racing and his connections.

Golden Moka is carrying top weight will be taking on a nice field of speed in the featured race at Aqueduct and the top race in the Pick 4, the Grade III Discovery Handicap. Let's get after it!

Aqueduct Late Pick 4: Race 6 Post Time 2:48 ET

The weather should be fine but keep your eye on ths scratches/changes as there are alot of "also eligibles" in the two turf races. The dirt should be fast and the turf should be firm.

For my presumptive Pick Four I'll be singling Kid's Kate in the Foil. In the Discovery Handicap for a seven horse field I like the match ups quite a bit. I'm backing Shadwell Stables' Al Muhatsib but Teaks North and Dominant Jeannes will be forces to reckon with.

I'll do my job as a blogger a bit better tomorrow and actually say something about these runners in my post race analysis, and for now will have to let my chart speak for itself.

And finally an overdue review of my losing effort at Churchill Downs Last week. While The Turk picked three of four winners in the Pick Four, it was a dull and uninspired effort. Always be honest with yourself and take days off when you need to.

Stage Magic was 9 out of 9 with with and 6th of 9 with the bettors and he undid my handicap. Moving on. I know Sister Turk, Calvin was up at Churchill Downs.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Nomination Is In: The Churchill Downs Pick 4 including the Grade III Commonwealth Turf

This is the image I've had in my mind for one week now: Zenyatta, passing the crowd, already 15 lengths off the leaders. The next trip past the crowd was one of the most exhilarating stretch runs I've witnessed, maybe ever. It'll be some time until I get that mare out of my head. I had such a wonderful time at Churchill Downs I find myself handicapping the card today with some special motivation: A former USS Louisville shipmate of mine, Tom McFadden, and his family, will be in attendance today and I'm hoping they have a great time. Best of the Breed shipmate! Let's get after it.

Churchill Downs Pick 4 Race 7-8-9-10 First Post 3:36 ET

The Pick 4 sequence is a bit tricky so you'll have to decide what the risk/reward is for you. The first race, a five furlong turf sprint has a handful of horses that should be strong, so I'm going to cover four here and take chances later. Delano, a Mott/Leparoux joint, looks strong in this 2nd off a long layoff. Galientos will attract betting action: A More Than Ready trained by Steve Asmussen with Bridgmohan up, slick on slop, trying turf for the first time. Don't ignore another More Than Ready, Ready to Strike.

Not any easier, Race 8 is a $52,000 N2X on Dirt. I like both the coupled entries, Gold Collection and Film Charm, trained by Bill Mott. I plan on singling with these two and rolling the dice. If you wish to risk a bit more betting capital you have at least three good options with Zermatt, Absinthe Minded, and a minor bid by Tizahit. Zermatt, a son of Tiznow has Desormeaux up for Trainer Pletcher.

Race 9 is the featured Grade III Commonwealth Turf. Trainer McLaughlin has Yankee Fourtune who will attract much attention following his sizzling Hawthorne Derby win in early October that came after a 7+ furlong romp at Saratoga in September. for value, I like Dark Cove quite a bit:back to back 89 BSF on firm turf, Theriot is up for McPeek today and the son of Medaglia d'Oro out of Crystal Cove by Kris S. is intriguing. It should be a pretty darn good race.

Race 10 is a 15K claimer that I'll cover three in and if I'm still alive I'll be pleasantly surprised.

It looks like rain is coming to Louisville, but maybe too late to make much of a difference to the surfaces. Pay attention to scratches and changes and most of all, have fun.

Turk out!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day November 6, 2010: The Breeders' Cup Juvenile as well as final Breeders' Cup Thoughts

The Turk needed a 600 mile ride and a full day and a half to reflect on the events I witnessed at the Breeders' Cup. I offer my unvarnished opinion on Life at Ten and Workforce after I work through my post race analysis of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile which I handicapped for the Thorofan Handicapper's Corner. For those who pay attention to that stuff, my superfecta bet would have netted $535.20 and grossed $857.20 if bet exactly the way I laid out on my Thursday posting. As my regular readers know, I don't advocate ever betting anyone blind; Handicapping is the fun, don't deny yourself that opportunity.

Anyway, it was an impressive showing for Uncle Mo. I had Uncle Mo and Boys of Tosconova rated even going into the race but it was pretty clear at this point in their careers Uncle Mo is superior. With power and professional fractions, Uncle Mo struck the lead and gave the most empathic statement of the weekend.

The most disappointing run of the race for me was Jaycito, who I thought was the best of the synthetic runners transitioning to dirt. I also had J.P's Gusto and J.B.'s Thunder reversed in terms of who would do better on the dirt. What I did well was identify that the chalk was the real deal and I didn't oversell Biondetti, Rouge Romance or Jaycito, which seemed to be fashionable contrarian views. Take the time to watch Jaycito: Clearly not liking dirt in his face, Mike Smith took him way wide and at the top of the stretch brought him back to the rail and he was stretching out nice at the end. He's got a lot to prove on dirt but watch him when he returns to the fake stuff.

Handicapping for exotics is all about "slotting" where the horses will end up within the field. In this race it was identifying that there was a talent gap between 1/2 and the rest of the field and that talent gap was on display. You can still make money betting chalk, as my handicap and bet results prove, but it's a dangerous game friends and you really should walk before you run.

Did you watch how powerful Uncle Mo looked as he pulled away in the final 1/16 of a mile. Power. Speed. I wish we'd get a good ol' fashioned 3 YO campaign where he'd race in January, February, March, the Wood Memorial/Arkansas Derby/Santa Anita Derby (suddenly relevant to dirt again) and then the Kentucky Derby. The idea he will only race twice before the Derby is maddening to me but I'm not a "super trainer".

Speaking of the "Super Trainer", I think its a horrible offense played on the bettors to put Life at Ten in the gate only to watch her cantor about with no real attempt to engage the field. I give credit to Workforce's connection's, especially Michael Stoute, for making what was surely the poor financial but right horse advocate position, to not race in the Breeders'Cup Turf. He protected his horse and he protected the $2 punter and for this he was attacked by the establishment as not being "sporting".

I was also happy that Mine That Bird was retired. I might be 110% wrong but I think Trainer Lukas did a horrible job with this horse and the established voices in horse racing are loathe to criticize him.

My Rodney Dangerfield Eclipse award goes to Fly Down: he hangs around and makes you respect him to hit the ticket. Could be a fun four year old. I'm quite frankly tired of this year's 3 YO's. Looking at Lucky may be the best of the bunch but he's flawed too and may be good but doesn't appear to be great. What was Paddy o' Prado doing in the Classic?

Getting back to the Super Trainer, Quality Road had no business in the Classic. Are you telling me he isn't better than Big Drama who won the $2.0 MM Sprint? Anyone remember the Amsterdam? How about the sporting thing to do and take on Goldikova like Gio Ponti did? I love Quality Road and he's been mismanaged for two years in my moronic and humble opinion. The horse won because he was talented and won in spite of his connections. I love Freddie Head and his lifes arc that lead him to this moment with Goldikova. She is so powerful.

The Turk loves Dakota Phone. I saw him for the first time in a sizzling Place to Rail Trip in the Santana Mile on Santa Anita Derby Day 2009. He makes you forget and then, bam! Same goes for Shared Account, who the Little Turk loves and was rewarded for at 46-1. Here Comes Ben disappointed in front of the home crowd. Did you see the betting action on Sidney's Candy? The bettors third choice, a head scratcher to me, again good, not great. Blame was professional and workmanlike. No reason to say goodbye, I wish he ran next year. I was more impressed by Zenyatta's final 1/2 mile than anything else I saw all weekend. She was wonderful and she has my vote for Horse of the Year although no one cares what I vote.

And in the "this never gets old" category, I bring to you Adolph's reaction following Zenyatta's defeat.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Nomination Is In: The Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs

The Turk took on an assignment at the Thorofan Handicapper's Corner to handicap a winner in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. For better writing and some pretty nifty handicapping, take a swing by the Handicapper's Corner as well as the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance home page for some of the most insightful takes in racing.

Two year old horses are difficult to handicap using my traditional methodology. The reason is that their past performances are fairly scant, with this field of ten averaging 3.2 starts in their careers so far. Instead of worrying about what we don't have, let's take stock in what we do have and figure out how to use it best: We have past performances with 16 Graded Stakes starts combined to glean from, we have basic pedigree information, we have trainer/jockey statistics, quite a bit of video on nearly every entrant, and most of all, we have our experience and feel to guide us. What we don't want is our heads filled with the hype laden articles that are floating around proclaiming the next Arazi or Secretariat; Remember, when looking at the winners of this race you won't find unforgettable careers, mostly mixed racing success and a few very good stallions. Let's get after it!

Post 1 Biondetti: The son of Bernardini was born in Kentucky runs in Godolphin silks for conditioner Mahmood Al Zarooni. 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. He represents Bernadini's first Grade I winner. He's on Lasix for the first time with A. Ajtebi up, the pilot of last year's winner, Vale of York. Let's give Godolphin credit for going on the dirt, something they don't do easily or willingly.

Grade I Gran Criterium San Siro Italy

Take what you can from this turf race. Biondetti surges to the lead under a vigorous ride but never fully extends and the Place horse stops his drive just as he pulls alongside to pass. I have him somewhere around :11 2/5ths for the final 1/8 mile (very unofficial). With this being his first dirt action, I don't see enough to sway me yet but make no mistake, he's a classy horse bred for two turns and dirt shouldnt be a problem.

Post 2: 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. Watch Boys of Tosconova, with R. Dominguez up, taunt them as he cruises by.

I really like the sharp and regular work that the horse has gotten at 5 and 6 furlongs since early September. Dutrow's stats are impressive anyway, but 25% of his 2 YO's win, 31% of his 60-180 day layoffs win, 30% of his last winners win. Officer was "distance challenged" but Little Bonnet felt comfortable staying and the results are intriguing.

Post 3: 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. It's his first dirt effort, but he's got the pedigree for that.

He strikes the lead and he doesn't give it up in either of these races. On Breeders' Cup Friday, few closers got very close to the horse at the front by the 1/8 pole. A nice 4 furlong :47 bullet shows he will strike the lead but will he keep it is the question.

Post 4: J.P.'s Gusto: A son 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 but Jaycito seemed better in the last two races and that's what I take away from this. First time dirt as well, he too likes the front.

Post 5: Riveting Reason: Watch the two previous videos of the Norfolk and Del Mar Futurity and you'll find this Maiden. Blinkers on today for Korean Conditioner Cho Myung Kwon, this son of Fusaichi Pegasus will be up against it.

Post 6: Stay Thirsty: Another Bernardini son along as is Biondetti, has one win in three starts and was out finished at 7f by Boys of Tosconova in the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga. Trainer Pletcher has worked Stay Thirsty six times since mid September at Belmont with the most impressive at 5f in 1:00 and 1/5th. Pletcher's stats are impressive: 25% winners on over 60 day layoffs, 25% 2YO, 23% sprint to route, 24% two sprints/route, 26% dirt, 22% routes. The horse is uncoupled from stable mate Uncle Mo with Castellano up, no slouch at 20% himself.

Here's the Hopeful again.

Post 7: Uncle Mo: Hard to ignore the hype here. Son of Indian Charlie, from Playa Maya (Arch) ran an incredible Grade I Champagne as the heavy chalk in early October and appears cocked and loaded for a big effort here.

Breaking his maiden by nearly 15 lengths at Saratoga on August 28

Post 8: Murjan: Another son of Officer, out of Miss Jean 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! He gets 262 race winner R. Bejarano up and lasix for the first time.

Post 9: Rouge Romance: This son of Smarty Jones trained by Kenny McPeak has three starts, winning two including the Grade III Bourbon at Keeneland. A very sharp 5f bullet in :58 2/5ths over the fake stuff on October 23rd shows very tight form. McPeek wins 21% of his Turf/Dirt switches but is only an 8% (with 92 tries) in Graded Stakes.

Post 10: 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. Again, I think he shows the best when compared with other synthetic runners horses.

So what do we make of all this? It's hard to ignore the strong dirt form of Uncle Mo and Boys of Tosconova with the tier just below them being Jaycito and Stay Thirsty. I'm going to look to cover at least three of these horses in a multi race Pick 3 and I'll build what I think is the possible Superfecta outcome for this race. As much as I'd like to show you a long price winning, I just don't see it.

The Turk is taking a handicappers holiday at the Breeders' Cup so I'm sorry if I have disappointed any of my hard core degenerate fans. I'm having too much fun seeing so many of my favorite horses and Little Turk and I are handicapping pretty good winners and straight exactas between races to keep us warm! I am really geeked up to see Gio Ponti, Goldikova, Here Comes Ben, Quality Road, Blame, Haynesfield, and Zenyatta. It's going to be a good day! That's Little Turk above with his 46-1 ticket for Shared Account. He took a position and never wavered. Money Baby

Have fun, Turk out!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Homework Session Part 4

The Turk has a big assignment this week and one that he's woefully prepared to handle: Handicapping the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Readers of The Turk know that I'm not a big fan of the Del Mar, Keeneland or Saratoga baby watch and that two year olds just aren't my bag. That said it's a challenge that I look forward to and its not that I can't or haven't handicapped two year olds, I just don't generally care to.

In order to prepare, I have to do my homework. It's important you understand the players and without alot of information to go by on the PP's, all you really have is your eye, the pedigree, and a leap of faith.

In this fourth and final homework session for this race I present to you Riveting Reason, Rogue Romance, Stay Thirsty and the presumed morning line favorite, Uncle Mo. Let's get after it friends!

Riveting Reason: Trainer/Owner Cho Myung Kwon campaigns this son of Fusaichi Pegasus. The Foolish Pleasure is asking the question on many people's minds now, who is Cho Myung Kwon? With Little Turk hailing from Pusan, South Korea, we are partial to this runner as well.

Riveting Reason was in a good stalking position but never seemed to accelerate here in the Norfolk at the Oak Tree at Hollywood. He was striding nicely, just slow behind Jaycito and J.P's Gusto.

And another uninspiring effort by Riveting Reason in the Del Mar Futurity. Watch it again for Jaycito's strong finish and J.P. Gusto's front running.

Rogue Romance: This son of Smarty Jones trained by Kenny McPeak has three starts, winning two including the Grade III Bourbon at Keeneland. A very sharp 5f bullet in :58 2/5ths over the fake stuff on October 23rd shows very tight form.

Stay Thirsty: Another Bernardini son along with Biondetti has one win in three starts and was out finished at 7f by Boys of Tosconova in the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga. Trainer Pletcher has worked Stay Thirsty six times since mid September at Belmont with the most impressive at 5f in 1:00 and 1/5th. Pletcher's stats are hard to gage: 25% winners on over 60 day layoffs, 25% 2YO, 23% sprint to route, 24% two sprints/route, 26% dirt, 22% routes.

And finally, Uncle Mo. A son of Indian Charlie, from Playa Maya (Arch). Pletcher's other Repole Stable runner won in convincing style in the Grade I Champagne.

Breaking his maiden by nearly 15 lengths at Saratoga on August 28

In Zen terms, we should approach this with a beginners mind. Not beginers in the sense of a neopyte handicapper but as one without a hype filled, preconcieved winner already residing within or Turk craniums.

Who's gonna win? Who knows. Uncle Mo will be a safe pick and Boys of Tosconova and Jaycito will be more stylish because of better prices, but I'm not convinced yet. I'll be back tomorrow with an initial base handicap.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!