Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Nomination Is In: The Gulfstream Park Park All Graded Stakes Pick Three and a Post Race Analysis of the San Vincente

The end of February marks the start of the heat up on the road to the Kentucky Derby and today someone will emerge from the Fountain of Youth as a favorite in the coming Florida Derby, a key battleground on the run to the roses.

The Turk turns his red gel pen today at the all graded stakes Pick Three which features a solid Grade II field of fillies in the Davona Dale, a field of mixed expectations in the Grade II sprint, The Hutcheson, and then the main event, the Grade II Fountain of Youth.

Thanks to Alex Feldstein for the kewl picture of the Gulfstream Park starting gate. Let's get it on!

Gulfstream Park Pick Three Races 8-10 with first post 4:14 ET

As always, check the weather, the scratches and changes, and the track condition prior to sitting down with your past performances. As I'm doing my handicapping a day or two before the actual race, the subtle differences in the field composition is what screws my pace expectations and base handicap up the most, but no crying, just planning, will lead you out of the valley of darkness.

Race 8 is a one mile one turn Grade II, the Davona Dale, for three year old fillies. I've attached some key race video from the Grade II Forward Gal for fillies from Holy Bull day in late January.

A Grade II for three year old fillies in January? Really? Many of the runners were in the first race of their cycle, not to take anything away from the winner, Pomeroys Pistol who opened up a 4 length lead before hanging in at the wire, but where was the response from the competition at the top of the stretch? Absent.

I'm backing one of those no response fillies, the bettor's chalk from the Forward Gal, Dancinginherdreams, with Leparoux up for trainer John Ward. a sharp :47 4/5ths work last week signals good form and I expecting the extra panel will be hers.

Oh Carole may be a bit of a stretch, and I placed her there without looking at the morning lines. I stopped just now and took a peek and the track 'capper had her at 4-1.

I guess I'll digress and suggest friends that what I did just did should be how you use morning lines: build your own running line (or assign letter grades like me) and then look at some other analysis like morning lines or internet hacks like The Turk (Note: You'll find some really good handicappers on the internet too, like my friends at the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, but still, never let anyone influence your opinions or you will never get better.

Oh Carole comes in off a driving win in an N1X on Forward Gal day. Leparoux leaves for Dancinginherdreams but that doesn't mean this girl ain't good an Castellano/Kenneally combined for an overall 29% winners over past year.

I don't know what to make of R Heat Lightning: Making the 5th graded stakes start of her career (the rest of the field have six graded stake starts combined), the horse clearly has very good quality after winning the Grade I Spinaway and placing in the Grade I Frizette and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Also had no response in the Forward Gal, her first race off the layoff and has been training sharply with 4f in :47 and a Pletcher 26% win rate for the 2nd effort off 45-180 days, an a Pletcher/Velazquez team that wins at GP 25%of the time. Don't ignore.

I like Pomeroys Pistol to possibly find the exotic tickets as well as the journeywoman of the group, Evil Queen, making her 11th start.

Not to sound like a broken record, but a Grade II sprint race like race 9, The Hutcheson for Three Year old's in late February seems a bit pointless. That said, the field has 41 starts and has won 22 times, so we'll leave the discussion of what constitutes a graded stake to more intelligent types and handicap whomever shows up.

I like Madman Diaries as my chalk, the morning line 6-1 and fourth choice. A homebred for trainer Wesley Ward, training very sharply at 5f. Ward wins 31% of the time coming off 61-180 day layoff, and this horse has been off since the Breeders' Cup, my only negative. Ward wins 38% of his Turf/Dirt switches and 44% of his route to sprint switches and a gaudy 29% of his dirt races. Very impressive.

Travelin Man will be the bettor's chalk and comes in off a solid 106 BSF maiden breaker in early January. His work has been pedestrian and I'm not going to get all giddy yet but we will take hime seriously.

Crossbow is a Bernadini son from a Forest Wildcat mare. Dominguez gets the mount for trainer McLaughlin and looks to step forward after two solid previous races. Could step forward or step back, we'll see.

Flashpoint is another maiden only winner with high expectations. The Florida bred son of Pomeroy will look to run loose and I'm thinking he'll fade near the end but we'll see.

I like Razmataz and Manicero to possibly hit the exotic and I've soured on Black N Beauty since the Holy Bull but the distance drop may be the ticket. Leave of Absence needs to do something today.

In the Fountain of Youth I'm a fan of To Honor and Serve but I'm backing Gourmet Dinner today. This is a gut call for me, not the best handicapping methodology, but at least honest. Dominguez is up for trainer Standbridge. the Florida bred banged out a smoking 3f in :34 4/5 this week and a :47 3/5 the week before at 4f.

This is gambling, and while I'm gambling I'll throw Shackleford in there for place: a nice N1X win in early February and I expect him to rate off the pace and be there late.

To Honor and Serve is a heavy hitter, a $575,000 KEE sale sticker price on the trendy Bernadini son. A two time Grade II winner. Training well for Bill Mott, I just want to see what he has before getting misty eyed.

Soldat goes on fast dirt for the first time today. I'm a fan of War Front's and Danzig heirs but I'm being fickle and tossing the 103 BSF on the slop in mid January and dialing his BSF expectations back to low 90's. If you're going to be wrong, swing for the fences!

I'm planning a Pick Three that looks like this:

And finally, while still not 'capping real well right now, I nailed a no brainer pick three at Santa Anita last week, singling The Factor and making a good bet strategy with the two low level races that sandwiched The San Vincente. Consistency and pattern recognition is always more important than fancy betting angles.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Nomination is In: February 20, 2011: Santa Anita Pick Three including The San Vicente and Post Race Analysis of the Fair Grounds Pick 3

I'll admit it, a 108 Beyer Speed Figure and impressive work, coupled with Bob Baffert and M. Garcia, has me intrigued by the son of War Front, the grey/roan The Factor. This seven panel affair features six Triple Crown nominees should make for an interesting Sunday at the Great Race Place. I'm reckoning The Factor will win, but he'll be pressed by some horses that can be had a good price, namely Premier Pegasus, Sinai and Indian Winter. I'm featuring The Factor as a single in a very cheap Pick Three comprised of two maiden fillies crapshoots and the San Vincente.

Let's get it on!

Santa Anita Pick Three Races 7-8-9 First Post 6:37 ET

In The San Vincente, I'd like to bet against The Factor, and I'm sure I will for $2-$4 dollars on a horse >4-1 but the race seems to be his to lose. 5f in :58 at SA and 6f in 1:12 and 7f in 1:24 2/5ths over the past six weeks. Nice and steady. In case you didn't see this video, watch the explosiveness but remember it wasn't against much.

Baffert's other entry is Sinai. Most likely a stalker, He'll go blinkers off today and he's been training very sharply. Bejarano is up.

Indian Winter beat several of today's runners in an ungraded stake in mid January returning $20. he will most likely stalk as well.

If the fractions get hot City Cool will be able to put up :21 and change and I think Metropolitan Man will also apply pressure to The Factor. Will he rate or will he put the pedal down? I'm going with the latter.

In Race 7, a MSW 54K for California bred fillies, I like Tribal Mistress, Whoopsie and Maggie McGowan in that order. Closing out the P3 Race 9 is a 30,000 Maiden Claimer for fillies 3 YO and I ike Sparrow, Little Mokush, Cheeky Changa and Together Webetter in that order.

i was a bit of a hot mess in yesterday's pick 3 at Fair Grounds. In the Mineshaft I hit a boxed trifecta in an overall losing effort for the day. I pride myself on the grass but I would have never picked Expansion for the win, nor did the bettors who had him 8th of 9 in The Fair Grounds Handicap.

In the Risen Star I backed Santiva and I'm not that disappointed in the effort. I had Mucho Macho Man third, same as the betting public, but he did well in the stretch. I wasn't high on Rouge Romance and expected more from Machen.

Have fun, Turk out!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Nomination Is In: February 19, 2011: Fair Grounds all Graded Stakes Pick Three

The Ol' Turk has been travelin' his arse off the past several weeks and feels like he was taken off the Derby trail himself. One horse he has been excited to see for several months is Santiva, the son of Giant's Causeway, seen above bearing down in a way that has defined his promise so far. Santiva gets Mike Smith up today and Trainer Kenneally gets to take a run with him after both Pletcher and McPeek had him in the barn. Let's get after the all graded stakes Pick Three today at Fair Grounds that features The Mineshaft (with a more compelling field than The Donn) and the Fair Grounds Handicap. Alrighty then.

Fair Grounds Race 8-10; First Post 4:42 ET

As I finish writing my post, I know there will be scratches and changes so please pay attention and I'll modify my spreadsheet as the time comes. The weather shouldn't be a problem and the track is listed as Fast and the turf as good.

I'm backing Apart in race 8. Trainer Stall has the 4 YO making his second start in 2011, something he wins 28% of the time, and has Campbell up, whom he clips along with at 31% win rate. A sharp Grade 3 winner in November and a good finish for Place in January.

Mission Impazible also makes second start of 2011. The winner of the Grade 2 LA Derby last year had a long layoff after a poor Kentucky Derby finish. Love the breeding and the patient approach to bringing him back.

I was about to wax on about the coupled entry, specifically Country Flavor, but they were just scratched. Ugh! A pretty even group sit behined the first two and I expect that Demarcation will run well. 3 of 3 in the money at the distance, 7 of 12 in the money on fast dirt and 4 of 5 in the money at Fair Grounds and a 20%winner Napravnik up for the 7 YO gelded son of Gulch. Mad Flatter is scratched too and I'll just reorder my handicap as i don't think the race pace will change terribly except Mad Flatter; would have rabbitted.

The Fair Grounds Handicap is the Turk's kinda race, at least it was before the defections, but it's still got me excited. Le Gran Cru, Midnight Mischief and Hidden Glance bail out of this spot where I thought they were a better fit and go in the Mineshaft instead. I built a base handicap I'm comfortable with and if you have your homework done in advance you'll learn to not stress over scratches/changes, you just look to your work and fit the next runner in.

I like the top four quite a bit and in my estimation that is in order Workin for Hops, Loup Breton, Gran Estreno and Telling.

Working for Hops is one of two uncoupled Stidham runners and makes his first start since September, something the trainer does win a 30% win rate. He combines with Napravnik and they clip along together at 33% at Fair Grounds. A very consistant runner that gives an honest effort.

Loup Breton (Ire)goes for Trainer Pletcher after transfering from the world's most interesting man, Julio Canani. The 7 YO is a classy Grade I runner, 5 of 7 in the money at the distance and 12 of 24 in the money on Turf with 2 wins in last 12 goes but over a year since last in winners circle.

Gran Estreno (Arg) is another honest horse for trainer Stidham. Two straight wins and three of four. Telling can only seem to win in the Grade I Sword Dancer, but it's like riding a bike, isn't it? No wins at this distance even with a race best >400 Tomlinson. Joinem and Dubious Miss represent exotic ticket moneky wrenches.

And the latest in tea leaf reading, also known as Kentucky Derby prep race handicapping, we have The Risen Star. Speaking of the Derby possibles, check out the latest poll from The Wire Players crack collection of turf writers and bloggers.

I've been waiting for Santiva for awhile. I loved him in the Kentucky Jockey Club up the stretch and I think the son of Giant's Causeway has guts and a kick.

Also, check out Machen:

Have fun with this. I'm going to be betting each race as well as my reasonably priced Pick Three. Turk Out!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Nomination Is In: February 5, 2011: The Gulfstream Park Pick Four including the Grade I Donn and Turf Handicap

That's Little Mike who ran out front and won by a head bob in the Grade III Fort Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park on January 9th. This Florida bred son of Spanish Steps three that he beat that day, including my chalk, Battle of Hastings (GB) and an intriguing filly Justaroundmidnight (Ire) in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, the second leg of the Pick Four I'm working for today that also includes the Grade I Donn Handicap and two Maiden Special Weights.

Let's get after it!

In Race 8 some pretty sharp looking three year old Maidens go into the gate, and I'm covering California/6, Cal Nation/12, and two also eligibles, Arch Traveler/15 and Ninja Babe/14. Watch the scratches and changes on this as i expect we will lose at least two or more of these runners. If that's the case my alternates are in order Kanagaro/3, Eighth Avenue/10 and Benergy/11.

Race 9 is the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and a fine collection of quality and parity is entered. Battle of Hastings (GB) comes back after running well in the Fort Lauderdale only to get stuck in traffic. Leparoux is up for trainer Greg Fox who is clipping along at 38% wins on turf and 42% routes, but only 19 races he saddled in 2010. A nice River City Handicap win Breeders' Cup weekend at Churchill Downs showed plenty for the gelding.

Little Mike looked very impressive in the Fort Lauderdale.

GP Race 8 January 9, 2011: The Fort Lauderdale Grade III 1 1/16 Turf

6 of 6 on the turf, 7 of 10 lifetime for Little Mike who made a fast assent to graded stakes action for Trainer Allen Iwinski before be shifted to Dale Roman's barn who sports a 15% win rate on turf and 11% in graded stakes. I'm betting against him winning this Grade I but who knows. Joe Bravo is up again.

As this is gambling, I'm covering Justaroundmidnight (Ire), a four year old filly for Trainer Biancone who had a mad turn of foot in the Marshua's River Grade III for fillies on 9 January.

The Marshua's River Grade III

My guess is she will still be available at a good price, perhaps not 26-1 but still good. This pick four would be luscious with her inclusion.

I'm shading Twilight Meteor back just a bit; the 7 YO won his last start for trainer Wolfson who takes over after an aborted attempt to find value for the Smart Strike son at stud. I love the turf horses but its a tough economy,so stud duty will have to wait and we get another good runner to hold onto for awhile longer.

A nice group of next tier runners can easily jump up and wreck my day: Get Stormy is capable of explosive running on the lead and he's capable of not rating very well too. Smart Bid is winless since 2009, 3 of 3 on turf in the money and unraced at today's distance. Teaks North and Sal the Barber are possibly two grades above where they should be in stakes action.

I've already rambled enough about the Donn, here and at the Thorofan website so I'll save you the noise.

In Race 11, a Maiden Special Weight 48K for 4 YO's contested at 6 1/2 furlongs I like Macarthur Casueway/5 who is an incredible 8 of 9 in the money and no wins. I'm covering Pletcher's Blimey/6 (Pletcher a staggering 20% on 1st time starters), City Wolf/8 for Reade Baker who adds blinkers and 2nd starter Wear the Clown/9 who lost by a half length at 6f and threw up a 90 BSF.

I plan on playing the two Grade I's and then the Pick Four. Have fun with it and ignore the blathering idiots like the Ol' Turk and do your own 'cappin.

Turk Out!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Nomination Is In: February 5, 2011: The Donn Handicap Grade I

Gulfstream Park is a place that the Ol' Turk likes to day dream about when the snow is flying and the temperature is frigid. The Turk was honored to handicap one of my favorite races of the year, The Donn Handicap for the Thorofan website and their Handicappers Corner. Take a swing by and see if their fancentric organization is right for you.

I'm a fan of horse racing in general, but when forced to articulate my feelings I'd tell you my true passion is older horses on dirt and turf. I'm a numbers handicapper; I soak up the data on the past performances and the race charts and older horses offer more information to scour over a longer period of time, and well, the past is usually prologue.

The Donn Handicap is named after the Donn family that owned and managed the track for sixty years, starting with James Donn, and then James Jr and finally Douglas. The 2011 edition of the race mirrors the state of the older horse division nationally as well: A dearth of established stars but a deep bench of horses where at least a few of them can become real fan favorites. Nine horses will enter the gate and at least seven of them have what it takes to become force in the older division and just haven't been able to be consistent or healthy enough to create a buzz.

Let's get after it!

Race 10 Gulfstream Park: The Donn Handicap Grade I; 1 1/8 Miles on dirt for 4 YOs and Up.

As always, get your information and your past performances before you sit down to handicap. gives you hour by hour information and is invaluable when trying to sort out what track conditions will be like. Weather does not appear to be a factor here. Get the scratches and changes as well. For me, I like Daily Racing Form Formulator PP's with works mixed in with race lines, fractional running times and full jockey/trainer stats. One thing I skip is morning lines. Build your own opinions and ignore the morning lines until after you are set in your outlook. If you don't always play the particular track where the race is, take some time to familiarize yourself with the track website to see what information you may gather. And while this isn't something you can get and start using right away, an Equibase Track Bias Report, available from Equibase for $3, packs an incredible amount of information onto several pieces of paper: You'll find the past four days worth of races condensed down to which post positions were winning, what running style was winning, and where the winners were at first call. The past twelve month statistics by race surface and general distance gives you the information as was predicted pre and post race. The report is dense but once you get use to it, and it took me several weekends, it does unlock a window into how the track plays.

At first glance, it appears that Morning Line and Rule will provide the pace. Stalking this group will be I Want Revenge, Square Eddie and Eldaffer, and closing speed will be provided by Giant Oak and Fly Down. Everyone else, I don't know what they will do and I'll assume they are mixed in 3-6 lengths back.

No particular strong chalk jumps off the page either which is fine from my perspective as several horses will receive betting action and keeps the odds from being too depressed on someone very good. What I do think I see is two separate layers, a current ability line if you will, which I denote with color in chart breakdown. The horses in blue I expect will W-P-S, in what order, well that's still debatable. The horses in yellow I don't think can win but have the ability to get up for place possibly, but most likely show or fourth, and the horses in red are the dreaded tosses that will inevitably sneak up and ruin your day on occasion. Handicappers have to be like cornerbacks after getting burned for a touchdown: Let it go and move along!

When I see these ability levels appear strong to me I start thinking superfecta. Superfecta to me is a matrix, like boxing except I'm selectively picking and choosing who is in and who is out in spots 1-4. These types of bets can become pretty expensive and are not to be trifled with unless you feel pretty good about your experience and skill level. My rule of thumb is if you can't string exactas and trifectas together then don't bother with the Super. The same logic goes with Pick Sixes, save em' for the whales and work the Pick Three and Pick Four and keep your financial exposure reasonable. Don't be scared off by heavy chalk when you are looking to build an exotic bet: There's nothing wrong with having one spot singled as long as you think there will be some volatility in spots 2-4 but again, be careful of your bet size and don't try to cover everyone, this is gambling after all. Worse than losing a bet from a prestige perspective is winning a bet that only returned half of what it cost.

For my chalk, I'm banking on Rule. Rule returns after a tune up in the one turn, 1 mile Hal's Hope. The son of Roman Ruler returns with Castellano up for Trainer Todd Pletcher (pictured above). This is Rule's second effort after a being shut down after failing to close out the Florida Derby last year as the chalk. Pletcher wins 26% of his second efforts off >180 day layoffs and he and Castellano win 32% of the time at Gulfstream.

Take some time to watch Rule and Morning Line dig in on the stretch run. The effort was four weeks ago and I think it will really make him sharp here. I like where Rule is with his form compared to some of his rivals who are just getting going after long layoffs. Expect him near the front or on the lead from early on and it will come down to if he can hold off the closers in the last 1/16 of a mile.

The Hal's Hope Grade III

Fly Down is a horse I have overlooked to my own detriment several times. Trainer Nick Zito is off to a fast start at Gulfstream, winning 24% of the time this meet, a bright spot when contrasted against his graded stakes win percentage of 8% over past 48 chances. A fine string of consistent efforts now going back six races to last year's Grade II Dwyer. He'll be closing fast at the end and with any closer you just wonder if he will have a clean trip to the wire and if the speed on the front end will carry.

Morning Line is an impressive son of Tiznow; 7 of 8 in the money lifetime, three straight 100+ BSF and training very sharply since the Hal's Hope. A loss by a head bob cost him the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. He'll be trading strides with Rule from the get go and I'm betting against him to win but I expect he will be in the top four. I type this and it's a bit of dilemma for how to place Morning Line, as on paper he's very similar to Rule and they both exit the same race with the same sort of effort and finish. Both are starting their ninth races and both have almost $900,000 in earnings and both have identical lifetime best 104 BSF. From a class perspective I think Morning Line has the edge and his Tomlinson's support that with a race best 410 at the distance and a race best 439 on the slop. Reminding again, this is gambling and you can't be too wishy-washy in your selections as this isn't T-Ball, no ties and someone will win. I'm shading him down here and covering him in the superfecta matrix up and down the finish order. Take a stand and live with it.

Those three horses are the top talents in this race but the next group back of them are dangerous and capable. Giant Oak doesn't win very often, only one win on fast dirt in 11 tries,12 of 23 in the money and 1 of 6 at the distance, but the 5 YO son of Giant's Causeway seems to have turned the corner since returning to dirt at Hawthorne and then at Churchill Downs. Trainer Chris Block wins 28% of his won last start efforts and both he and jock Bridgmohan are looking for their first win of the meet.

Eldaafer is the six year old gelded son of A.P. Indy. One win at this distance and 4 wins on fast dirt , 14 of 24 lifetime in the money . Two straight Grade III wins, perhaps a bit slow but game enough over distance to crack the top four. A Breeders' Cup Champion at the marathon distance. Trainer Diane Alvarado and her jock, Edgar Prado have little race history together. The horse has never placed in 24 tries.

Square Eddie and I Want Revenge both offer uncertainty: Square Eddie flies in from California after winning a comeback 6.5 furlong N2X. Only his second start on dirt. I Want Revenge has been training nicely since mid December and takes to the starting gate for the first time since August, when he was rambunctious in the starting gate and lunged skyward. The race world is still waiting to see the explosive form he displayed at Aqueduct while becoming the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby two years ago.

As my chart shows, I've built two $1 dollar superfectas, one valued at $64 dollars and the other valued at $20. You get what you pay for and the $64 variety offers more choices in the third and fourth spots, where I see the uncertainty coming. The $20 variety puts skin in the game but things have to break exactly like I see it pre race and I'm not Nostradamus. Play with your own matrix and perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle, like adding back in Morning Line to win and paying around $42.

Good luck and have fun with it. Check out the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance home page for more analysis from some of the top racing bloggers in the business.