Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Wireplayers Dirty Derby Dozen Poll IV and Comments on the State of Racing from a Living Legend

Here at The Turk friends, when the going gets tough, we dig in and get tougher. We are now six weeks away from the Kentucky Derby, but the way the runners are babied, errr prepped, these days, the contenders have only one more race in them (or televised workout in the case of The Timely Writer)to show us what they got.

At the Turk and the Little Turk, we need all the information we can gather on the horses that will enter the starting gate if we have any chance of returning a profit. As a service to my readers, The Turk was able to gather Mr. Lawrence Taylor's thoughts on the matters at hand.

Mr. Taylor, a champion himself and noted sportsman, has been a bit distracted this spring and I encouraged him to review the latest edition of the Dirty Derby Dozen Poll, voted on by some of the best and brightest names in horse racing, and me. His reaction and his body language was one of a confused and frustrated pedigree expert, and literally mid interview he stopped to review his vast database of files and gather his thoughts.

While the whole transcript, and possibly video, will be available later, some of LT's comments are very hard hitting and you aren't going to want to miss them if your a horse racing fan. We appreciated his candor and his willingness to challenge some of the conventional thinking within the sport. Without further delay, here are some excerpts of our discussion.

Turk: What do you think of the 3 Year old Crop this year as a whole?

LT: “Have a nice day. I don’t know. You never know what you’re gonna get. If it’s going to be a pretty girl, and ugly girl, or whatever it’s gonna be. You can only ask."

Turk: But what about the 3 YO colts, I guess we can talk about the fillies later?

LT: Are they 3 years old? "I don’t card them. I don’t ask for a birth certificate.”

Turk: Moving on LT, much has been made about the way Trainer Pletcher is preparing Uncle Mo. Have you had a chance to reach out for Todd and discuss his approach?

LT: “It happens, you know…," he knows what he knows, you know? "I had been on the road from about 10/11 days and stuff and I came into town and actually I made a phone call to a friend of mine that I … and he made a phone call....”

At this point in the interview, Lawrence scribbed out notes on his Fair Grounds past performances for the LA Derby and sat in quiet reflection for ten minutes.

Turk: How do you compare a horse like Soldat or The Factor to Uncle Mo?

LT: "that’s not my M.O."

Turk: Do you mean they don't compare to Uncle Mo favorably?

LT: "sometimes I make mistakes and I may go out there."

Turk: Are you saying you can't see anyone challenging Uncle Mo?

LT: "I got caught up in all the fray—all the aftermath and stuff but now all of the sudden it’s something different. I guess it’s soup time now so it’s a different story. I don’t get down like that. I don’t play games like that.

Turk: Do you do your own handicapping Lawrence? Do you use the sheets at all?

LT: “I have used the services before, you know. And I guess it is one of those crimes and you never think you’re gonna get busted with, because everybody does it until you get busted for it. And then it’s just more embarrassing than anything else.”

Turk: Does your wife ever complain about the amount you put down on the ponies?

LT: "But now, it is what it is. I don’t really worry about that. My beef is not with her. I take my punishment like I should. My problem is at home with my wife. So that’s the only one I really have to answer to.”

I hope friends that you were able to gleen something from that like I did.

Until I can distill the rest of LT's wisdom on the subject, I give to you the Wireplayers Derby Dozen IV.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day March 19, 2011; The Oaklawn Park Late Pick Four including the Azeri and the Rebel

That smilin' cowboy to the left is Larry Jones, the winning conditioner of Havre de Grace, the 2011 winner of the Grade III Azeri at Oaklawn Park on Rebel Stakes day.

The Turk netted $140 bucks but came up just short of his targeted Pick Four bet when the last leg, a Maiden Claimer, didn't go our way. A Superfecta bet on the Azeri did well for me, as I didn't think it was too complicated to have Havre de Grace and Blind Luck 1-2 and then find a few others for Show and 4th. My Superfecta bet in the Rebel came up just off, as Sartaoga Red and JW Blue snuck in ahead of lumbering duo Sway Away and JP's Gusto. Sway Away was a real disappointment and I'm curious where he turns next, while J.P's Gusto is about what I thought he was. The race was very different then what I handicapped with the scratch of Elite Alex and then the late scratch of Alternation, but no excuses.

What do we make of The Factor. I've loved him this spring but perhaps wrongly pigeonholed him as a sprinter/miler. The gallop out showed me he's got 1 1/8 no problem and 1 1/4 may be within reach.

Oaklawn Park Pick Four March 19, 2011

We've finally reached the most interesting part of Derby prep time. The serious runners of the 3 YO crop will be making plans for their final preps and horses we may be discounting at this point will slip under the radar. What a great sport, ain't life grand?

Have fun this week, be safe, show your friends and family you love them. The Turk gave up bourbon and cigars for lent so I'm overcompensating with coffee to keep my cheery disposition intact.

Turk Out!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Nomination Is In: March 19, 2011: The Oaklawn Park Pick 4 including the Rebel and the Azeri

Pictured to the left is a scene that never gets old, Blind Luck and Havre de Grace trading strides to the wire. Havre de Grace, in the Fox Hill Farm red and white silks is now trained by one of The Turk's favorite trainers, Larry Jones, and all seems right in the equine world again. Blind Luck has had two unimpressive efforts as the heavy chalk on Santa Anita dirt, but she brings an impressive 17 of 17 in the money record into today's Azeri at Oaklawn Park and these two four year olds most likely will stage another battle, with only a few others that may challenge them.

Let's get after it!

Oaklawn Park Race 8-9-10-11: the Late Pick 4 including the Grade III Azeri and Grade II Rebel

As always, start your day with a quality past performance. My choice is formulator Deluxe from Daily Race Form that allow me to tailor the information I print, like having split times and workouts embedded in the running lines, and delete the things I don't want, like morning lines. Use whatever makes you comfortable: The Turk endorses no particular product (although I was asked, the only real endorsement deal I have is a product that is uniquely classy and artistic) Also check the track website, the scratches and changes and the weather.

In the opening leg of the late Pick Three and Pick Four we have an Optional Claiming Race with a price tag of $40,000 on two of the runners, run at 6 furlongs for fillies and mares 4 years old and up. While not high on Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, he's clipping along at 19% at this meet and his Glowing Report is my chalk. The filly runs for the fourth time in 2011, in the money in all of them. She'll be challenged by Eve Giselle, unraced in 13 months, Bikini Bella who runs with a price on her head and Bell's Shoes. I may flip Eve Giselle and Bikini Bella but my top four is set.

Race 9 is the Azeri and will be challenged by a field of seven. Blind Luck has run twice since running a solid final quarter to Place as the chalk behind Unrivaled Belle in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She's Placed twice as a heavy chalk at Santa Anita this spring in two Grade II's with small fields and no pace. The last one, The La Canada is worth looking at for her closing kick.

The La Canada Grade II 13 February at 1 1/8 miles

A paceless, four horse graded workout. Yawn. Gomez gets the mount for trainer Hollendorfer. I'm most impressed by 17 of 17 in the money; 4 wins on fast dirt, 4 fake dirt wins, 4 wins at this distance and a win at OP, $2.45 MM in earnings for an $10,000 foal. Awesome. I wish her luck and she could easily win today, but I'm backing Havre de Grace. First time back since the Breeders' Cup Distaff, but training very well. Perhaps its too much too soon but Trainer Jones wins 38% of his first time with trainer runners and 42% of his 61-180 day layoffs and she ran very well off a longer break before. It's a flip of a coin.

Spacy Tracy and Absintheminded seem to have the best chance to send the chalks to the curb. Spacy Tracy is Anthony Dutrow trained and looks to turn the table on his previous charge, Havre de Grace. Two very sharp 4F in :47 and change makes the six year of Mare look attractive. Absintheminded, with Borel up for Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is in very good current form and makes the third start of her current form cycle. She bombed in three graded stakes races in 2010 before bouncing back against softer competition. Consider defensive bets at the right price!

In Race 10 we have the Grade II Rebel. Let's look back first at two key races, The Southwest at OP and The San Vincente at SA.

The Southwest Stakes Grade III 21 February at 1 Mile

6 wide at the top of the stretch, Archarcharch was in good position and drew away but Elite Alex had a lousy trip and was coming on and Picko's Pride had a good final 1/4 mile too, while J.P.'s Gusto was game and needed a few more hops (or an extra 1/16 of a mile).

The San Vincente Grade II 20 February at 7 furlongs

The two races are similar in that I like the losers a bit more than the winners, with no disrespect to Archarcharch or The Factor intended.

My chalk, albeit tepid, is Sway Away. I like the way he grinded through the smoking fast opening fractions and rallied and he wins with 30 more feet. I'm a big fan of The Factor already, and maybe I'm wrong, but he seems more like a dominant one turn sprinter. We'll find out. His sire, War Front was a grade II winning sprinter and its hard, not impossible, to outrun your DNA.

Elite Alex was six wide and was very impressive coming up the lane in the Southwest. J.P's Gusto had a better trip and I reckon should have beaten Archarcharch but didn't. Both are formidable. Picko's Pride took a big run up the lane too but let's keep him in perspective. The Factor and Archarcharch will be competitive and I also expect a good run from a Distorted Humor son, Alternation. Training very sharply and comes in off a nice N3L at 1 1/16 miles at OP. Watch the tote!

If your inclined to such things, the pick four ends with a 6f sprint maiden claimer with a $15,000 price tag with nine runners. I've narrowed it down to four, with the 7-3-6-8 my picks. Semiconductor/7 lost by a length in late February at OP at 6f but ran well. Thundersong/3 is the class of the bunch. Who knows but have some fun with it but keep it real: You can't cover everyone.

I'm looking forward to a good day of watching and reasonable betting. The day seems chalky to me and its going to take someone stretching themselves to make the payouts more than pedestrian. Keep the multirace bets within reason as its never fun to spend $100 bucks to make $50.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Raceday March 12, 2011: The GP Pick Three, Tampa Bay Derby and San Felipe

Just like I drew it up! Well, yes and no. The Turk and Turk Clan turned yesterday into a fun day of racing, with a rare break from Little Turk's soccer, we were able to build a fire and settle in for the return of Uncle Mo running as close to a televised workout as you can get. We had family over for dinner that ended just in time for the San Felipe and when it was over, The Turk had gained over $1,100 dollars in winnings with some pretty low risk wagers.

My target was a Pick Three built around a single for Mo, but sometimes things just unfold, not like you drew them up but the randomness can produce interesting, sometimes better, results. The Turk unapologetically believes in his betting principles, even when he is going through difficult weeks, as consistency I find is always the best way out of the dark valley. My handicapping allowed me to identify some value and my betting discipline allowed me to keep risks low and rewards darn good.

Let's go!

I thought the Timely Writer was a lousy bet and I wasted no money on it. That's a skill I didn't possess 15 years ago. I thought Rattlesnake Bridge was second best and he was second best alright. Uncle Mo was moving nice through the last 1/4 mile but I still don't know what the point of this race was and why he wasn't racing a month ago, but hey, what do I know!

The Pick Three fell apart with Joes Blazing Arson who I had dead last and the bettors had 6 out of 9. A simple superfecta matrix with the top two in spots Win and Place and the next three bet Place through Fourth kept the bet to $48 dollars but it didn't matter this race.

In the Gulfstream Handicap the exact same superfecta bet came in for $773.80. I discounted Rule a bit and the rest of them just sorta fell into place for me. That's three races now for Rule and the smart trainer should rethink his conditions book strategy. I liked Jackson Bend and will pay attention to his next race back, and Soaring Empire and Tackelberry continue to make a fan of me. Typical Duke of Mischief, close, on the ticket, no winner.

The best handicapping of the day was my identification of Watch Me Go, who I had as an A- and expected a Place or Show result. My eyes got big looking at the tote board and the $10 win bet at 43-1 paid very nice. Did you see the exacta payout of $194, Tri at $7,900 and Super at $19,000? Wow. Never in a million years would I have inserted Crimson Knight.

My second best handicapping and betting move was backing Premier Pegasus on the win bet. As the bettors 4th choice and 7-1 I thought it was a no brainer. Jaycito impressed me and i didn't think too much of Bench Points, my mistake.

It was a fun afternoon of horse racing and winning a few bets made me feel confident again. I'm looking forward to the Rebel next week. Have fun, Turk out!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Nomination Is In: March 12, 2011; The Gulfstream Park Late Pick Three and the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and San Felipe

Spectacular, Spectacular! The Turk is settling in with a roaring fire, a red gel pen and the form and have the cards at Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Santa Anita sized up for what should be a truly exciting day in horse racing, albeit one that may ultimately end up pretty chalky for bettors, but exhilarating for fans of the sport nonetheless.

Uncle Mo makes his long awaited return since his commanding victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The undefeated two time Grade I winner has won three times by a combined 23 1/4 lengths but is placed in a soft spot in The Timely Writer. Far be it for Turk the handicapper to question Trainer Pletcher but horse racing fan The Turk hates the idea of two preps and a Kentucky Derby run. I hate it! This race isn't much more than a hand ride morning work and while I love the horse, I wouldn't be sad to see someone shock him, but I cant see it happening.

At Tampa Bay Downs, Brethren looks very strong but there are a few untested and interesting runners and connections (always love to see a Nafzger/Tafel combination)who will try and shake this apple cart.

Finally around 7:07 Eastern Time, The San Felipe goes off over fast dirt at Santa Anita (doesn't that still sound great? I almost have the fake dirt taste out of my mouth)and Runflatout looks like a monster in the making but also has a handful of very serious contenders who are trying to make their hooves heard.

That handsome fella above is Soaring Empire, my chalk in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. The picture came from a very nice Flicker feed and I thank them for the unauthorized not for profit use.

I hope you're as excited as I am, let's get it on!

Race 8, The Timely Writer was hand picked by Pletcher who has been sharpening the son of Indian Charlie patiently and regularly. Uncle Mo seems like he's just throwing his hockey stick over the boards and expecting a win but give some consideration to two of the challengers, Rattlesnake Bridge and Rocking Out. Rattlesnake Bridge, if he can rate within a few lengths, can close fast, and the son of Tapit has connections in McLaughlin/Lezcano with experience while the horse makes only his second start. Rocking Out represents Dick Dutrow's attempt to be a spoiler.

In the Grade III Palm Beach over the grass, I'm expecting Pluck to scratch but I left him in until that's official. Pluck is with Graham Motion's barn now since leaving Pletcher and will most likely reemerge at Tampa Bay Downs today.

Without Pluck, I like the promise of Queen'splatekitten. With a name like that, the Canadian bred Kitten's Joy colt will have serious expectations when he returns north to Woodbine. Loved the late kick last time out. The pick.

Master Dunker is a bit more seasoned than Queen'splatekitten and Trainer Fawkes comes in off of two solid races at GP. Fawkes clips along at 33% in graded stakes and clearly finds good spots in the conditions book.

Ari C is a bit of stretch but not unreasonable. The stable mate of Queen'splatekitten looks like the best of the bunch.

At 5:20 Eastern or five minutes before the final leg of the Gulfstream Park late pick three the Tampa Bay Derby goes off. With no Uncle Mo, Brethren is the looming monster both on the track and at the betting window. The son of Distorted Humor comes in off a 4 length win as the chalk. Expect to see more speed from him as he'll have to string some sub :23 3/5 times together to draw clear of this bunch.

Free Entry is trained by Chad Brown who combines with Alan Garcia to win 30% of their races. The horse has shown a strong late kick and expect to see him sitting just off the pace to apply the pressure to Brethren.

Watch Me Go will bring early speed and if he has much left at the end i see him holding on for a placing on the exotics I'm building.

The horse I am interested in seeing run is Beamer. The son of Vindication out of an Unbridled mare, Untarnished. I love seeing the two old lions in winter, Jim Tafel and Carl Nafzger campaigning together, something that makes horse racing so special.

And in Race 10, the Gulfstream Park Handicap, four or possibly five of the field of eight have honest to goodness legitimate win potential and that is something that should get bettors salivating. As I said previously, I'm backing Soaring Empire but will be watching the tote board and looking for some value in a defensive win bet and exacta. I like the son of Empire Maker's last two GP outings, and I like how he settled and rallied behind Tackleberry last time out.

Oh how tight this one appears to me. Hard to deny just how well Takleberry has run at GP this meet and the pride of Luis Olivares's barn will be strong and hard to beat again today.

The Duke of Mischief is ALWAYS in a position to win but hasn't won in his last four races. Only millionaire in the field, Fawkes puts Joe Bravo up after the injury to regular rider Coa.

Rule makes his third start after a very long layoff. He ran well for Trainer Pletcher and team WinStar in the Hal's Hope and faltered when it counted in the Donn. The horse has great numbers: 8 of 8 in the money on fast dirt, 3 of 3 in the money at the distance and 3 of 3 in the money at GP but no wins.

And finally at Santa Anita at about 7:07 Eastern, or about an hour after the Turk has his daily vitamin intake of one rare piece of aged beef, The San Felipe goes off with a field of big names and it is shaping up to be a wide open affair. Runflatout is one victory removed from being a maiden, but what promise and potential. Trainer Sadler and jock Rosario combine for a 28% win rate over 99 races at SA. Training very sharply, I particularly liked the 1:24 2/5ths 7f work and the 1:10 2/5ths 6f work in past two weeks.

Awesome Patriot returns after looking so good over the slop late last year here. Training well for Baffert, Bejarano is up. Baffert's other entry is new to the barn, Jaycito, with Garcia up. I'm taking a watch and see approach.

Premier Pegasus goes for Kwon Cho Myung. As Little Turk is Korean, we are partial to him. A 96 BSF in the San Vincente, he loses the blinkers and comes in off a strong :57 3/5ths work this week.

Watch for Albergetti to burn it up out of the gate. Comma to the Top needs to show something on dirt today. I like Quail Hill, especially at the price he'll be fetching.

Betting to me is a secondary issue today, I'm going to enjoy the bets I make of course, but today is about being a fan. A day after those idiots in the National Football League couldn't figure out a way to split up the money they fleece from suckers like me, I'm reminded that my favorite equine stars never go on strike, never holdout, are never locked out, and would literally work for sugar cubes and peppermints. The Life at Ten fiasco illustrates how humans do their best to screw up a sport that the masses just don't seem to appreciate anymore, but that's their loss and not ours friends.

Last but not least, we remember Uncle Domenico Schepis, Mama Turk's uncle who passed away in the small Sicilian village of Condro`. I am the superstitious type and the man we use to call 'Memo, or Uncle 'Memo, sure is close to Uncle Mo. That's good enough for me. Rest in Peace Uncle 'Memo.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Wire Players Dirty Derby Dozen Volume III

Nine weeks until the Kentucky Derby and what do we know about the contenders? Not as much as this horseplayer would like. That's OK because we few, we merry band of horse racing fans, bloggers and media types won't let the lack of facts and knowledge get in our way.

The third edition of this year's Wire Players Derby Dozen Poll is out today and six new horses have cracked the lineup. We all patiently await the appearance of Uncle Mo, and the Timely Writer on March 12 may be a Derby Prep I never saw coming.

I hope you enjoy our Derby hopeful rankings. Most of the folks I'm associated with know what they are talking about and for my methodology, well the Little Turk captured my image above on a cell phone camera as I threw the chicken bones down and came up with my choices. Yes, Yum Brands KFC chicken bones.