The Turk is back in snow filled Buffalo after a long work week in California.
I've not felt very sharp with my handicapping since shutting myself down for a break after the Breeders' Cup. Any horseplayer knows what I'm talking about: You have stretches of time when you feel unbeatable and then others where you can't seem to find clarity when starring at the PP's. I've been handicapping long enough to know the best way to start to get your groove on is to just keep handicapping, analyzing the race charts afterwards, and focus in on something you're good at in order to build confidence.
I don't preach one thing here and do something completely different. I've been increasing the number of handicaps I work on each week, decreasing my actual betting, and gaining confidence as I count my virtual winnings and ROI.
I also find it helpful that I can ignore playing synthetic tracks if I want to. That wasn't an anti plastic rant as I was growing indifferent to the surface, but it is very nice to be handicapping this wickedly fast Santa Anita Dirt Track and not think about if I need to apply my turf racing angles when on plastic, or even worse, having to think about what version of plastic the track happens to have. Tedious, and I feel free of that.
The Turk is again involved this year with a project by Steve over at Wireplayers.com to identify the best three years old on their march to the Kentucky Derby. The panel of voters is impressive and deep and I'm humbled to be counted among them. We had ALOT of fun with this last year and we will be back this coming Wednesday, and will be out with a new polling every three weeks after that until the day of the Derby post draw. I hope you tune in and have some fun with us.
The Turk's Blog is subtitled "Horses, Handicapping and Hijinks". I'm going to add in 2011 a monthly Hijinks post where I will give advice and tips on gifts and gear for horseplayers and men of certain age with discriminating taste as well as travel stories and fun times at the track. As much as I enjoy the horses, the conversations I've had with strangers at the track are some of my favorite moments.
Anyway, that's about how deep my new year resolutions go towards my horse racing passion, more of the same would sum it up! Let's get after two graded stakes at Santa Anita today.
Santa Anita Race 3 and Race 8
The long travel week left me just wanting to do some handicapping and inner-race betting. These two races seemed like interesting targets. In the Grade 3 Sham Stakes a five horse field will go 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. Tapizar makes his forth start for Steve Asmussen who puts Gomez up today. First start for the son of Tapit, and coming off a layoff since Thanksgiving Day. The colt has been training nicely at Santa Anita with a 6f in 1:12 2/5ths and 4f in :47 1/5 and I will expect him to be a heavy chalk but I'm looking at Clubhouse Ride to give him a tussle. Making his 11th start already, he comes in with three straight show efforts and a blazing 4f in :45 3/5ths this week. 7 of 10 in the money and a 422 Tomlinson at the distance, Valenzeula is up for Trainer Craig Lewis, owner of 9 Grade Stakes starts and no wins. Baffert's wildcard Uncle Sam makes just his second start and I need to see a bit more today before getting to caught up, but Bejarano is up and he has one win on this dirt track already.
In the Grade 2 San Fernando, a scratch by Sidney's Candy while he gets healthy leaves a wide open race. I'm looking at the speed of Tweebster to be a serious challenge for the others. Indian Firewater will run with him, but the colt has 6 places in 13 starts and seems content being close but not winning. A switch to Mike Smith today may prompt a better finish but previous jocks were no slouches either. Thisskyhasnolimits has been very consistent for the past 4 races and will fire off a good effort and I expect he'll find the ticket. Hamish Hy is an interesting entrant, with no dirt or distance efforts but a Grade I turf horse can't be ignored. Trainer Art Sherman has won 3 of 6 turf/dirt switches.
I haven't had time to blog out my post race analysis from last week, but below is the Pick three from Gulfstream and missed by 1 1/4 length when Detirminato edged out Leave of Absence. I was happy to identify the winners of both other races. An OK effort I reckon, but you either win money or you lose money, no moral victories. The pick three paid $320 on a $1 dollar bet, fueled by Detirminato's win, but in the easy mark category, I had The Hal's Hope pegged with what seemed to me a very simple superfecta win. I boxed but still walked away with nearly $135 bucks, offsetting my $30 loss on Pick Three and $10 on a Spectacular Bid exacta bet gone slightly off target.
Have fun, Turk Out!