Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Nominations Is In: January 22, 2011; The Fairgrounds Pick Three on Lecomte Day

The handsome winner of the Lecomte last year was Ron The Greek, who won from a field of ten that ultimately yielded no significant 3 YOs. The Turk and his sidekick, The Little Turk, are watching as many of the 3 YO preps as we can and if you have a chance, take a look at the 1st edition of the 2011 Derby Dozen Poll voted on by some really savvy people...and me.

Today we are greeted with the malady affecting tracks all over the United States, a small field in a stakes race. We won't let it bother us too much and just like a party, we won't worry about who isn't here, we'll just focus on who is here. It's important friends to know that you have no obligation to actually bet. You can handicap the races, watch the races, and not have "action plays". That said, we have a three stakes race sequence here that has a feel of wide openness and I'm going to take a run at it with a low risk Pick Three.

Let's get after it!

Fairgrounds Race Track: Race 8-9-10; First Post 4:42 ET

Fairgrounds isn't a track Turk plays often, nor is it one I've ever done well at. That's not a coincidence; It takes time to study the race charts, read the writings of the handicappers who do know the track best, study who the local big fish are, and there is only so much time in a day to recreational handicappers, so my strong advice is always to stick to just a handful of tracks and learn them well.

I'm ignoring my own advice, which I don't do here very often, because I had a hankering to play this sequence more than what else was available today. I'll go in armed with humility and slightly defensive and I'll save the bigger betting action for my base tracks: Gulfstream this time of year and more recently the new dirt surface of Santa Anita. Do you have a favorite track? There is no purer pleasure then to walk into your cathedral of choice and watch graded stakes action. About this time of year when it's 5 degrees F outside I start thinking about the lush green of the turf track at Arlington, the cheering crowd at Race 1 on opening day at Saratoga, or the buzz at the 1/16 pole when mighty Zenyatta was chasing down Blame at Churchill Downs. It's these moments when I realize how much I love horse racing and the people involved. A sport that's become irrelevant to most Americans being contested at the highest level by true sportsmen and women. I think I digressed!

Before I get back on target, I'd be remiss to not say how my heart broke at the news of Miesque passing away. Horses like Miesque make me feel my own time on earth passing away, as it seems like yesterday to me watching her Breeders' Cup Mile wins in 1987 and 1988.

The main track yesterday was listed as fast and the turf track was listed as yielding. Looking at the weather it should be dry but not sure how dry the track will get so pay closer attention as the time draws near.

In Race 8, The Silverbulletday, an eight horse field of 3 YO fillies compete at 1 mile and 40 yards on the dirt. The pace scenario is hard to gage, but I expect Seans Silverdancer will strike the lead early and three good off the pace closers will set up, Chloe Kate, Bouquet Booth and Aide. Of those three, I like Bouquet Booth the best: A Grade III winner, 4 of 4 lifetime in the money and training sharply at FG since racing last in late November. The barn wins 225 of races off this length layoff and the Margolis/Bridgmohan combination wins 45% of the time together at FG. This isn't a slam dunk, maybe not even in the to three, but he represents a legitimate winner who won't be the chalk. The likely chalk is Aide, with very lofty connections and one of my favorite sires, Arch. Clearly talented, with a nearly 20 length victory one race back, and with Gomez up for Albert Stall, this filly will attract alot of betting action. Clearly we are hoping she'll lose this one to enhance the pick three payout.

Daisy Devine won the last time out to pay $80.20. The lightly raced daughter of Kafwain can't be expected to win again at those type of odds, and I think we'll see her hit the ticket. Little Miss Holly has improving Beyers and has been competitive and don't discount on the exotics Ambient who ran strongly on a tiring yielding turf at one mile last time out.

In Race 9, a 1 1/16 mile affair on the turf for older runners, Gran Estreno (ARG) has a good chance to be the chalk at post time and I think he's rather deserving; The 8 YO has strong Beyers, a nice late race turn of foot, and solid FG connections with Trainer Stidham clipping along at 29% and Stidham/Napravnik winning 29% of 28 starts together here. 10 wins in last 21 tries for Argentinian bred.

Bill Mott's Midnight Mischief with Theriot up, comes in after faltering as the tepid chalk in a grade III in December. The 5 YO Medaglia d'Oro horse is 3 of his last 11 and has only one win on turf in six tries with a puny Tomlinson rating.

Strike Again, a Smart Strike on the Dam's side and a son of Dixie Union, is 5 of 15 overall, 5 of 14 on the turf and 4 of 5 in the money at the distance. His worst efforts have been on turf less than firm.

Red Strike is a four yeas old gelding from Smart Strike, lightly raced and starting for only the 4th time. Throw the sloppy off the turf last race out and I think you may be looking at the best chance of real value in the Pick Three and any inner race betting.

And finally in The Lecomte I think there are three legitimate chances to win and the uncertainty will hopefully make a decent betting race of this paltry field. Most likely the least of the three to be loved by the bettors is Action Ready. The son of More Than Ready makes a turf to dirt switch, something Bret Calhoun pulls off a staggering 30% of the time with 83 tries. Most of Calhoun's stats are off the hook and he's approaching supertrainer status on Dirt with 26% and now just needs to improve his 16% graded stakes wins. I think he's improving and he's fresh into his race cycle with today being his third effort since December 1st. Lots of bettors will gravitate to Justin Phillips. The erratic last race winner adds blinkers, which Asmussen wins 26% of the time. I took Calhoun to task for his Graded Stakes win percentage and was surprised to see this barn down to 12%. Pants on Fire comes in of two nice efforts, discount if you wish for where they were. I'm discounting at my own peril.

And last Monday's Martin Luther King Day efforts served the purpose and they are deconstructed below.

Have fun, Turk Out!

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