Thursday, December 30, 2010

Post Race Analysis for Race Day December 26, 2010; The Santa Anita Pick Three and the Malibu Grade I

This Turk loves this time of the year; from Thanksgiving until New Years Day I just feel at peace with the world, in tune with my friends and family, and renewed to start the grind of another year. Life's grind does get me down, as this Turk works his arse off, and just before Christmas I invoked the time honored tradition of retail therapy and I bought myself a Mac Mini.

I liked the idea of a small computer attached to my audio-visual gear for a long time, a perfect place for streaming and storing. The lure of a full sized HDMI plug that would connect right into my TV was too much to pass up. With that, I took my HRTV Subscription and I had graduated from watching the races on my laptop to having it on the big screen with fantastic sound. I'm not a tech guy but I love when I add some modernity to my life and it just fits in with me and not the other way around.

This Turk could barely contain himself on Sunday when I settled in with the Santa Anita opening day Past Performances. I had the all Graded Stakes Pick Three targeted for handicapping, which I did, but I had two serious problems; the surfaces and the competition. The dirt track not only is brand new, but it was sealed and I had no idea what it would be like at show time. The turf Sir Beaufort I suspected would end up in the dirt, and then the real killer was my handicap, it was very very chalky. Sidney's Candy, Twirling Candy, Switch, was there really any doubt? Just a little, not much.

So what to do? Without much fanfare I dumped the Pick Three idea after seeing the scratches flow in and the turf races moved the main track. In response I spent my budgeted $24 on The Malibu Superfecta and I was locked in solid, dropping Noble's Promise to 5th and nailing the other four for a cool $445.70.

Santa Anita December 26, 2010; Race 6-7-8

The track was incredibly fast, and Trainer Baffert thought it was a full second fast. Regardless, Switch was very impressive and took Spectacular Bid's name down off the track record. Sidney's Candy continues to impress and is the perfect example of why you shouldn't just judge three year olds based solely on the Triple Crown races. Sidney's Candy also reminds us of why sound three year olds that get retired aren't getting a fair shake to become the best they can be.

I took my $24 and boxed my base handicap for the Malibu. I had Twirling Candy/Alcindor at the top and Alcindor had the lead at the 1/2 only to have to dig in and finish exotically. Noble's Promise, the bettors top choice, lacked a kick when a kick was required. Smiling Tiger continues to impress and Twirling Candy was very game. The sprinters are well represented heading into 2011.

The bet was only possible because of the handicap. I believe, and say here regularly, that if you do your homework and build your handicaps, you'll be prepared to be nimble when it's time to actually hand money over at the window. It takes discipline, but handicap the races in advance and not the 30 minutes in between races and you will add crispness to your betting and be a clear headed gambling fool like the hard core players that read the Turk.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Nomination Is In: December 26, 2010 Santa Anita Pick 3

Merry Christmas to my friends, family and readers of the Turk and the Little Turk.

To me, the day after Christmas and the opening of the Santa Anita winter meet always signals the start of the new season. I hope everyone had a relaxing few days. I've enjoyed a handicappers holiday, decompressing and getting ready to hit the ground running hard with Derby fever that will set in soon.

We've had an addition to the crack staff of handicappers at the Turk, so please, meet the newest Turk to the team, we'll call him HandHeld Turk. He's a derivative of a model developed by Mattel. I'm just now doing some research on Handheld Turk but I have found some interesting threads on the internet and I have anecdotally from my Aunt, whose father, a genuine old school horseplayer, swore by this machine. I'd like to think he's looking down from heaven and glad that its found its way into the Turk clan. When I get a bit more comfortable with inputting information into Handheld Turk I'll give him a forum for making his selections. Yes, Handheld Turk is greater than 21 years old and is eligible for the fringe benefits offered here at Turk Central, namely unlimited bourbon and cigars. OK, let's get after it!

Santa Anita Race 6-7-8 Pick Three; Post Time 5:30 ET

There's been much written about the switch back to dirt at Santa Anita. I had begun to accept that the fake stuff was here to stay and I'm still a bit shocked at how suddenly the surface was replaced, especially after two successful Breeders' Cup events. I reckon the lost days when it rained is what ultimately did it in, but the switch back to dirt was welcomed by me and it sure does make the winter meet seem relevant again as a place to prep for the Triple Crown races. Today though, we are faced with a new surface and days of bad weather that have taken a toll. It makes sense as a handicapper to watch the races, study the race charts, but limit the amount you are willing to invest with unknown and unpredictable variables at work.

I've built a Pick Three bet around two Grade I sprints and a Grade II turf route. I'm hopeful that the surface will be race worthy, but we'll see. There are some really nice horses lined up for Boxing Day racing and that is ultimately what I always care about the most.

I'll let the handicap speak for itself right now. I'm going with a chalky group of runners in the $24 variety of my prospective bets. I will watch for scratches and changes right up to post time of Race 6 and then roll the dice. I'll be watching the races on my new set-up: My Mac Mini is now connected to the TV via an HDMI cable and I'm streaming HRTV. I'm pretty excited that horse racing friends are coming over today and we'll be able to enjoy the races and good food, courtesy of Mrs. Turk, in comfort.

Enjoy friends, have fun, Turk out!

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!