The holidays are over, and when you live in Buffalo, all you have left to look forward to is two solid months of miserable cold weather and snow and short, dark days. It's not hard to turn your eyes south and focus on the fact that the horse racing season has begun. The Hal's Hope and the Spectacular Bid are a good way to reengage with Gulfstream Park, where many of the best horses in America have been wintering and planning their campaigns. Let's get it on!
Gulfstream Park Pick Three Race 7-8-9
This is a challenging three race sequence. I'm OK with handicapping any race, but the other side of the coin is actually betting, and when I got done handicapping these Past Performances I was left with the feeling that I was either dead on or wildly whacked. The Turk is a big advocate of responsible betting. That wasn't a moral message about controlling your vices, as the Turk also doesn't judge anyone. What I mean by responsible betting is long ago I gave up the notion I had to bet every race I watched or handicapped. I pick and choose my marks, and I watched my personal ROI skyrocket as I got over the inclination of reflex betting. I still lay duds from time to time, but its fewer and farther in between because I'm perfectly OK with holding back the bet, handicapping, and then critiquing my handicap after the fact to try and analyze why I was so risk averse. Funny things happen when you do this: Sometimes you win and leave good money on the table, and sometimes you lose. Either way, learn something from every handicap, and of course, have fun!
Race 7, the Spectacular Bid, was won last year by a Turk favorite, A Little Warm. We again express our remorse over the loss of A Little Warm's owner, Edward Evans. Nine horses are entered and I struggled with naming a chalk. As a bit of a stretch, and an eye towards value, I placed Grande Shores on top. The son of Black Mambo comes off the pace well, and there will be a hot pace with Wildcat Formation and Duel Exhauzt, and I think he's improving and may catch a few of the assuredly better colts off their games today. To not like is the 0% win Jock/Trainer combo in 25 races at GP.
Leave of Absence runs back after a a 94 BSF at the Big A in November. Training sharply, the Harlan's Holiday son is trained by Richard Violette.
Gangsterontherun is my expected winner, also making his third start like Leave of Absence. Solis is up for Trainer Wesley Ward and the horse has been training very sharply at GP since Thanksgiving and put up two :47 3/5 4f efforts recently.
A tough race indeed and if I wanted to over cover I'd throw in Duel Exhauzt and a Desormeaux mount, War for Gus.
Race 8 is a stocked 1 mile turf N3X Optional Claimer. I think that Guy's Reward and Sleepless Knight are the best of the field. Kelly Breen trained Sleepless Knight is coming off a long layoff, something he only wins 11% of the time, but has won 3 of 6 turf races and 5 of 6 in the money.
Guy's Reward won on yielding turf last time out at CD in late November. The 4YO son of Grand Reward has Desourmeaux up again and Desormeaux and Trainer Romans win together 30% of the time. Expect a nice late turn of foot.
I like the Roger Attfield runner Jimmy Simms to challenge based on the 6 YOs consistently purposeful running. Asphalt is a 4 YO War Chant son who is 9 of 12 in the money on turf. Trainer Eddie Kenneally wins 21% on turf and Leparoux/Keeneally win 20% of the time together in a many start relationship. Dark Cove and Oil Man (IRE) loom as possibles as well. If Dark Cove runs he may need a new jock as Leparoux is assigned to him as well.
And in Race 9, the Hal's Hope, one monster looms, one challenger is possible, and one deja vu horse reemerges. The monster seems to be Morning Line. Nick Zito's runner has two straight 100+ BSF including a very gutty Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, losing by a head to Dakota Phone. 6 of 7 lifetime in the money for the 4 YO son of Tiznow.
Soaring Empire (pictured above) also has two straight 100+ BSF efforts including a deceptive 6th in the Cigar Mile Grade I. Trainer Cam Gambolati is winless in four graded stakes efforts and only started 78 runners in 2010.
Rule returns is the deja vu moment, as last winter he seemed on the verge of a breakout only to be shutdown after failing in the Florida Derby as the chalk. Trainer Pletcher wins 23% of his greater than 180 day layoffs but this seems daunting. Takleberry will gamely provide pace.
I've put together two variations of a $36-$30 dollar pick three bet that is defensive and maybe meek. I may have to rethink as scratches and changes flow in.
Have fun friends, Turk Out!