Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Nomination Is In: May 29, 2011; The Connaught Cup Grade II on turf at Woodbine

The weather up in the Turk's neck of the woods has been rainy, with rain and a bit more rain. We aren't complaining because we haven't had to suffer through the devastation of tornado's like we have seen in the Midwest, but we have had to sacrifice much of The Little Turk's May soccer schedule and the early season turf racing at Woodbine.

Turf racing in the north is a cherished commodity, a sign that its warm enough to actually grow grass. Today's 77th edition of the Connaught Cup is one of those little signals to us northern folk that its OK to go outside without a layer of fleece on. It also gives us an opportunity to remember Prince Arthur, The Duke of Connaught and the Governor General of Canada during the first Great War, something my core audience of degenerate, hard core gambling types like to do.

I'm not sure if its a sign of a mini resurgence in horse racing or not, but The Turk and Little Turk's website traffic has blown up this month, setting an all-time high mark for visitors. Thanks for all my friends and readers who humor the Ol' Turk by dropping by.

I'm excited to again say The Turk Clan will be making our way to Churchill Downs later this year for the Breeders' Cup, attending with our dear friends, Cathy the Canadian Turk and her family. More on that when it gets closer, I need to remember that is a time of the year when grass doesn't grow at my house or Woodbine, a thought to depressing to dwell on.

Let's get after this!

Woodbine Race 8: The Connaught Cup Grade II on Turf

My initial thought after building my base handicap was that this race was too chalky to consider. I think an awful lot of Grand Adventure, and I really see this as his race to lose. The 5 YO son of Grand Slam, trained by Frostad, with Husbands up, is a classy serious runner with 5 turf wins in 15 starts, 2 of 2 at this distance and 5 of 10 on Woodbine grass. That doesn't mean he's unbeatable, in fact its been 11 months since he did win. That said, I like the 5 1/2 furlong soft turf effort he had at Keeneland in April and I'm going to back him as a single instead of betting against him.

The only way I can back the chalk as a single and make this interesting is to find some real value below him. Hailstone is a big leap of faith; Also running after trying Keeneland turf, he cuts back from a mile and sixteenth for trainer Casse.

Macias was a well thought after Bob Baffert runner as a two and three year old before being vanned offat Delmar last August. He switched to Asmussen's barn and the Zayat runner had a nice poly effort in Keeneland in late April. Plenty good for the top four!

Hollinger has been training very sharply at Woodbine and makes his second start off a greater than 180 day layoff for Roger Attfield. I'm looking for a minor prize.

I'm betting against a few runners and need them to lose to make this gambling exercise well played. Artic Fern is lightly raced and tries turf for the first time. The gelding has shown flashes of being special, I'm hoping not today. I'm a Signature Red fan and I expect he's the one that will trip me up a bit. I'll most likely cover him and cut someone else back. That other is Woodbourne, who I have higher right now but am rethinking and most likely will slide down below Signature Red.

The beauty of handicapping in advance is giving yourself time to reshape and rethink a bit just before heading to the window. It's not easy but try to do your handicapping before you go to the track and face the distractions that present themselves.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Nomination Is In: May 30, 2011; The Met Mile Grade I at Belmont Park

The Turk is honored this week to be writing this handicap for The ThoroFan, a thoroughbred racing association that gives fans a voice.

The Metropolitan Handicap, better known as the Met Mile, is one of the Ol' Turks favorite races each year. When you live in snow country as I do, Memorial Day is the traditional start of warm weather that will end, well, right about Woodward Stakes Day. Non horse people may have said Labor Day, but passionate folks, people who gravitate to organizations like ThoroFan most likely think all year of the next big stakes day. If you are reading this I'm sure you understand what I'm saying.

This edition of the race, with the mid week news that expected chalk Morning Line was scratched by trainer Zito with a foot issue, is pretty wide open. The eleven runners have a combined one grade one stakes win, that by the handsome five year old son of Speightstown, Haynesfield, who has five Belmont Park wins as well, only one less than the rest of the field combined. We still seek someone to step forward and take the mantle as best older horse in training in America.

It's an oddity to me that races contested at one mile are not the most competitive in the United States, and you only need to look at this year's Kentucky Derby to understand how few horses are true classic distance runners in training right now. 8 furlongs with speed is what we seem to have bred. Imagine the gag fest in a few short weeks when the classic distance challenged amongst us add another 1/4 mile to the effort. Some failed runners over the past few years would have been so much better off just running the mile distance. I still think last years winner of the Met Mile, Quality Road was miscast and should have been a Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile contestant. He should still be in training too but I digress.

This is also the first Breeders' Cup "Win and Your In" race of the year, and the winner receives entry fees and $10,000 in travel expenses, as well as possibly a rub down and peppermints, but let's keep that on the down low, what happens in the stalls at Churchill Downs really should stay at Churchill Downs.

Let's get after it!

Belmont Park Race 10: The Met Mile

The spreadsheet shouldn't necessarily be viewed as the predicted order of finish: I slot the horses into ranges from the win spot to out of the money, and then I take post position, expected pace factors, track surface conditions and build my bet. My preferred betting plan these days is a Pick Three or Pick Four multi race bet, with superfecta and trifecta betting within the races. I like to handicap the races at least the night before and use the time leading up to the windows going closed to adjust my bet based on scratches and changes, trusted paddock reports but most importantly how the track is playing.

It's important to understand the track configuration as well; Belmont Park has big sweeping curves, and outside runners can bring speed into those sweeping corners and explode onto the stretch. Typically Belmont at this distance favors stalkers, but that's a generality and you should look for races the day before and on the undercard at the same distance and see what happens with the speed.

After building my handicap I made a decision to give Haynsefield my tepid chalk as I expect him to bounce back from a dull effort in the Grade III Winchester at Belmont on 30 April.

Haynesfield is six of seven in the money at Belmont. Two races back in the Cigar Mile he posted a career high 111 Beyer in a game second to Jersey Town. This is his second effort off a long layoff. There is no heavy chalk, and with morning line of 7-2, I think it's realistic he'll slip to 4-1 and I'll take stand with him at that price.

After Haynesfield, I see a group of four horses capable of winning and most likely three of the four will be in the money.

Aikenite is a horse I never thought much of as a three year old. A year can make a big difference and I was impressed by his effort in the Grade II Churchill Downs. He's quietly strung three 100+ Beyers together for Trainer Pletcher and this is his third effort in his form cycle and its not inconceivable to run another big race. Currently at 9-2, I see him slipping to 7-2 in my fair odds table.

Caxia Eletronica starts for the 42 time, a staggering number by today's stake race standards. He's a hard knocker, winning 13 times, 27 of 41 in the money, 22 of 34 in the money on fast dirt and 7 of 13 in the money at the distance. Yup, hard knocker. he had a perfect trip in the Winchester and the Repole Stable runner is a four legged Roy Hobbs. A sharp :59 1/5th at 5f a week ago signals continued good health and form.

Tizway ran a solid show in this race last year. He looked wonderful winning the 1 mile Kelso at Belmont last October, and while he hasn't won in 2011, he's been placed in some tough races and ran against some solid competition. He's game and he'll finish well.

I really like the four year old Empire Maker son, Soaring Empire. Training very sharply, the fresh runner hasn't gone to the gate since March. He'll be flying at the end.

After these five there are a few dangerous runners. You can't cover everybody and one thing I've learned as a bettor is to build the handicap and bet the handicap. OK Turk, what do you mean? I handicap the race and then when I go to bet I don't toss in one more runner just to be safe. The next three my handicap are all good enough to win, but I've shaded them down. Only four horses will fill out the superfecta, someone will be on the outside looking in. It's not personal, some of the uncovered I may like, but you have to have conviction and then you got to let it ride.

Tackleberry concerns me: On lasix for the first time, trainer Olivares has been quoted as saying he's breezed with lasix and looked good on it. I expect him to bring the early heavy speed and I'm banking on him faltering out of the top four but all it takes is a neck into a blanket finish to foul the works. A Grade II winner, what the gelding gives up in class he makes up in guts. I like Tackelberry but I'm not covering him here. This is gambling after all.

Ibboyee is a force in state restricted affairs and he's in deeper waters here. I'd like him more if he had at least one win at Belmont or one win at the distance or if his last win wasn't at Finger Lakes.

Kensei has been sharpening nicely for Trainer Assmussen but he has not run well at Belmont with the exception of the Grade II Dwyer in 2009.

I've tossed from consideration Stormy's Majesty, Yawanna Twist and Rodman. All of them have the potential to find the top four spots but you'll drive yourself nuts if you don't take a stand and eliminate from contention some entrants.

The Superfecta bet isn't something you are going to hit every time and if you can't consistently pick winners and identify a group of six horses that the top four are a part of, take a step back and look at the exacta and trifecta. Losing money isn't fun and I only place these bets because I have a multi year history I can draw on that tells me I can do a bit better than break even and occasionally when I get some longer prices into the top four I can hit a signer. It's not a bet to chase with heavy chalk and smallish fields. The 10 cent variety will give newcomers to the bet and casual bettors a chance to be competitive without risking the mortgage money. Bet responsibly.

Have fun with this friends and remember true spirit of Memorial Day. I appreciate the opportunity to handicap for the ThoroFan and I thank the wonderful Sarah K. Andrew for use of the fantastic picture of Haynesfield.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day May 21, 2011: The Late Pick 4 Preakness Day at Pimlico

Is your bourbon glass half full or half empty?

I find myself asking that as I sat here alone going through the days events. On one hand I am blogging about a day with an over $5,000 profit, yet, as I studied the race chart, I realized that I had the Super High Five choices cold within my Superfecta bet on the Preakness, and the Superhigh Five paid a whopping $49,742.

I left alot of money on the table with a bet I never considered. My creature of habit ways that I preach as the secret to my consistent results can sometimes work against me when considering new ideas.

My nature is half full and I'm not regretful at all. I'll learn from this and when I have the feeling like I had today I'll consider the Super High Five and maybe karma will be there for me.

Let's get after it!

Pimlico Pick 4 Race 9-12

i could taste this Pick Four and in the end it didn't work out. I was high on Shackleford for the Kentucky Derby but I really thought the speed wouldn't carry today and it did.

Race 9 started great for me; I loved Shared Account but I went into the race planning to bet against her and I nailed No Explaining cold. I'm a big Roger Attfield fan over the grass and his filly looked great up the stretch. I placed for me a rare win bet which paid $8.80 and I had a simple four horse superfecta box that I cashed as well.

I passed on betting in race 10 with the scratches, especially Pleasant Prince, my chalk. I covered Apart in the Pick 4 and stayed alive. I like the way the colt battled, something I hadn't seem much in him previously.

I was high on Baryshnikov in race 11 and he only faltered ounder a gritty effort by Paddy O' Prado who I wisely covered in the Pick 4 to stay alive again.

And finally in the Preakness I had tunnel vision on betting the Superfecta and never considered the Super High Five. Never once did I consider the bet. I'm not too proud to admit mistakes and I'll learn from it. Even the Ol' Turk learns new tricks as time goes by. I went deep into my handicap for the Superfecta, skipping over only Flashpoint who I thought would rabbit and falter, which he did. I didn't cover Shackleford in the Pick 4 as I thought he'd fizzle and die to, but in reality, I was too conservative. Adding him to my Pick 4 would have cost me an additional $96 and I would have netted $255. I don't like to over cover in the P4, so ( have to love with it.

I'm not going to sing the blues about woulda, shoulda, coulda bets. I hit a big time signer and I was all over this card as well as the Black Eyed Susan card. Staying consistent and keeping an open mind about opportunities like the Super high Five is the lesson I'll take from this.

I'm drained. Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: May 21, 2011; The Preakness Day Late All Graded Stakes Pick 4

These are the good days in the racing calendar friends; We have a new Kentucky Derby champion, Animal Kingdom, hope is flowering like Maryland's Black Eyed Susan's about a possible Triple Crown, and a wonderful all graded stakes Pick 4 gives us an opportunity to handicap and then bet within the races and vertically throughout the later stages of the card. Two turf races run at something less than firm and two dirt races that most likely will be listed as fast, but not speed carrying, is what it looks like to me and I'm feelin' it. Let's get after it before my devout readers get raptured!

Pimlico Race 9-12: The Late Pick 4 including The Preakness

Keep an eye on the weather and the scratches and changes. The best thing to do is watch some of the undercard and get a feel for how the two track surrfaces are playing.

Race 9 offers a 1 1/16 mile turf affair. The eight horse field is pretty strong with heavy chalk Shared Account, and some overseas breds, No Explaining (Ire), Desert Sage (GB) and Dyna Waltz (GB). I'm going to hope that the Breeders' Cup champ Shared Account is a bit off her game off a +180 layoff (trainer Motion does win 15% of these tho) and that one of the invaders takes the top spot. I'm a Roger Attfield fan and his No Explaining comes in off a nice yielding turf effort at KEE about 1 month ago, while Chad Brown has turf maestro Leparoux up on Desert Sage off of two nice wins and now stepping up in class. Dominguez is up for Team Sheppard and Strawbridge on Dyna Waltz, a formidable threesome.

Race 10 is a wide open grade III dirt mile and one sixteenth: Trainer Motion brings Icabad Crane, the NY bred son of Jump Start in as an expected chalk but Wesley Ward restarts Pleasant Prince and I'm hoping for the right price. Both are logical win candidates and Researcher and Apart should be factored in as well. My 'tweener is Colizeo, who I still may cover if I go the 50 cent route; 7 of 8 in the money at the distance and 9 of 12 on fast dirt for trainer Pletcher.

The Grade II Dixie on turf marks the return of Paddy O' Prado, who a year ago started his march towards turf powerhouse after finishing up the track in the Preakness. Will be heavily bet, covered by me as well, but I'm looking for two horses, Baryshnikov and Slews Answer to provide incredible value on this bet if they could take the win spot. Slews Answer is a lightly raced Trainer Motion charge (is it me of is he everywhere now?)and the Ghostzapper son out of Slews Final Answer was bred for this surface and distance and only lacks in experience. Baryshinikov is a 5 year old journeyman with 33 starts, 7 wins and most likely a price around 12-1.

In the Pick Four finale, the Grade I Preakness , I'm backing Animal Kingdom, but I rate Mucho Macho Man, Dance City and Astrology strong contenders. I won't ramble any more than that and we'll just watch it and see what happens.

I'll be building superfectas based on my base handicaps and I will be watching the undercard and adjusting if need be for the track conditions. Dialed In may rank higher if the speed dies on the front end like yesterday but I'm just not there with him.

Have fun friends, don't take it too seriously, bet responsibly and enjoy!

Turk Out!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Nomination Is In Part 2: Black-Eyed Susan/Preakness Double

Well it's not quite as exciting as when the bean counters bring out the votes at the Oscars, but The Turk has finally gotten around to his Preakness picks to finish his Black-Eyed Susan/Preakness Double.

I'm swinging for the fences friends. The more I look, the more I like the filly Hot Summer, but I'm letting her go and I've loaded up the Black Eyed Susan selections with longer odds and more rewards. The goal of my bet should be to keep the number of selections low, so in order to find value I'm taking what would be my B-/C+ horses and making them my A+'s.

Let's get to it!

In the Preakness, I see four strong win chances with Astrology, Dance City, Animal Kingdom and Mucho Macho Man, and then I have the heavily hyped Dialed In, a fine colt but I'm gagging on all the praise about his final quarter in the Kentucky Derby. I need to listen to my own advice and not read or listen to pre race hype.

I love these multi day double bets, it really gets me jazzed as a horse racing fan. My main focus on today and tomorrow will be Pick 3 and pick 4 as well as inner race Superfectas. I'll be handicapping at least 4 races for tomorrow that I'll blog later, but this Double Bet is a chance to swing for the fences and have some fun. I'm keeping the covers to a minimum and my bet just 2 in the Black Eyed Susan and 4 in the Preakness.

I am a horse racing fan and I'm always hoping for a Triple Crown, so I wish for Animal Kingdom to win, but as a bettor I like Dance City to go at better than 12-1. I like him at this distance, his Arkansas Derby and his work since.

Again, don't break the bank on the double bets, have some fun with it instead.

Turk Out!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Nomination Is In: May 20 and 21, 2011:The Black-Eyed Susan & Preakness Stakes Double

OK, I'm a big fat liar! I sit here on Thursday night before Black Eyed Susan day at Pimlico and I have not finished the back half of one of my favorite bets of the year, The Black-Eyed Susan/Preakness Double. As a working class fella I get busy sometimes,and my job doesn't seem to give a s**t about the stakes schedule. I'll finish my Preakness selections and update my chart tomorrow. Let's just look at the Black Eyed Susan right now and think about a low priced bet with a good chance for a high return.

With 14 starters in the Preakness and only 6 in the Black Eyed Susan , I have to tell you, the bet's value seems to me to have its value drivers coming from a long shot in the smaller field, while the larger Preakness field I'm thinking will finish sorta chalky. The Ol'Turk may be crazy, but hey, I refer to myself in the third person so how sane can I be? Lets get after this!

Pimlico Race 12: The Grade I Black Eyed Susan

I really hate small fields. I find small fields in Grade I racing to be the biggest sin of all. I had to get that off my chest.

I'm looking for value in my Double Bet and betting chalk on both ends isn't going to do it for me, so we'll assemble something that will either bring us fame and glory or leave us as a hot mess.

I'm looking to hang my chances on hot mess status with Love Theway Youare; Little Turk's favorite trainer, Myung Kwon Cho, brings his Arch daughter in off a nice N1X win at 1 1/16 miles on fake dirt at HOL. That came off a win at SA on the dirt. Seems posed to strike at a good price and a 416 Tomlinson wet rating doesn't hurt. Steps up big time in class and we'll hope she hits the wire first but don't bet your mortgage.

Royal Delta comes in off a last race best Beyer and training very sharply with a 5f :59 2/5ths at BEL 8 May and :48 at 4f this past week. Trainer William Mott places Lezcano up on the Empire Maker daughter and the two combine to clip along at 24%.

I think I'll only cover three and in my "all covers offer value" mindset I'll back Coax Liberty; Go Go Gomez is up for Trainer James Lawrence and the stakes winner has the most starts in the field at 10 and has been in the money 8 times, with today's wildcard being the full 1/4 mile she adds in distance from her comfort zone.

Today's handicap isn't for the faint of heart but with the Double Bet, I like to swing for fences a bit.

Have fun and enjoy the weekends races.

Turk Out!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day 14 May 2011: BEL Race 9: The Peter Pan Grade 2

Ramon Dominguez! You know Ramon helped make my wallet over $800 thicker this afternoon with his win on Alternation in the Grade 2 Peter Pan, the key single in my Superfecta win.

I betcha Ramon carries a wallet; it's the one that says bad mother f**ker on it! I reckon I digressed, anyway....

As a handicapper I get a sense of when the seas are parting. Don't get me wrong though, that is no sure sign of dollar bills being handed my way, but that feeling underlies what I call pattern recognition. On paper, The Peter Pan unfolded for me in terms of class and pace. While I didn't pick the order 1-10 perfectly, I did clearly see the line between the top four and everyone else, and thats as close to clarity as you get in this game.

The Arkansas Derby to me has become one of the key dirt races of every season and Oaklawn Park seems to be a great place to launch your campaign. Alternation took defeat in Arkansas, added some sharp work and gave a nice final kick to win today.

BEL Race 9: The Peter Pan Grade 2

The gambling part of the day involved singling Alternation. Sometimes you just have to take a stand and thats how strongly I felt about the quality of the Arkansas Derby field and how ready I thought this colt was today for conditioner Von Hemel. The rest of the bet just involved making the cut off just below my sixth favorite, leaving five horses in the red, four horses when Isn't He Perfect scratched.

The Turk is a pretty happy cigar smokin', bourbon drinking bald fella right now. The Little Turk's U-11 Soccer team won both games today and made the Championship game in the tournament which is tomorrow, yet I still found time to handicap, bet and take down a superfecta. Life is good.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Nomination Is In: May 14, 2011 Belmont Park: The Peter Pan Grade 2

You focus and focus and focus on the Kentucky Derby and then boom, it's over! Are you feelin' Animal Kingdom in the Preakness? The Ol' Turk isn't thinking about it yet, I'm putting that off for a few days and just engaging my brain on a nice looking Grade II contest of three year olds racing at Big Sandy. It's starting to feel a lot like spring time now and one of my favorite races, The Met Mile, isn't that far off (can I get an Amen?).

I took a look at the Grade 2 Jimmy Murray Handicap as well that goes at Hollywood Park over the grass at 5:03 ET. The stayers will be running 12 panels but with the scratch of the mare, Restless Soul (no relation)we are left with a five horse field of which only three have any real chance and you have to ask yourself, what's the point? I'm not going to rant, I've been ranting a bit too much lately but I need a better group than this for a grade 2, really graded stakes committee? Isn't the Breeders' Cup Marathon at 14 furlongs only a Grade III?

OK, let's just get it on!

Belmont Park Race 9 Post Time 5:17 ET: The Peter Pan Grade 2

This is a deceptively nice field of colts and geldings: Alternation comes in off a troubled trip and a good finish in the Arkansas Derby and is 4 of 5 in the money on fast dirt. Will it be fast? Check the track conditions as well as the weather and scratches and changes before you go too far. I'm gambling it will still be fast at 5:20 PM.

Newsdad has no wins on dirt and no wins at the distance and I'm thinking the Mott/Garcia runner will fire big in this spot and comes in off a nice late kick over fake dirt in a Grade I at 1 1/8.

Joe Vann comes in off a win in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne: 5 of 7 in the money on fast dirt for Trainer Pletcher who places Castellano up who is clipping along at 37% at BEL right now.

Uncle Brent has been training sharply since winning a stakes race at Oaklawn in mid April at 1 Mile.

I'm thinking Prime Cut and and Adios Charlie round out the top 4 contenders and I'll build some sort of superfecta out of this as the time draws closer.

The Little Turk's U-11 soccer team, the Fire have a tournament tomorrow and the Big Turk is going to start thinking about the Black Eyed Susan/Preakness double, his main betting goal next weekend.

Have fun with it, Turk's out

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day May 7, 2011: The Kentucky Derby, The Churchill Downs and Turf Classic

I'm sitting here the next day and I can't help but revisit the Past Performances for the Kentucky Derby. in hindsight there are some things to really like about Animal Kingdom on paper, but the thing I missed on was he was one of so few bred to go the distance. That final damn one eighth of a mile, 660 feet, it might as well be from here to the moon for most of that field. As a handicapper I knew he could handle the distance but I dinged him for no dirt starts and a rather undistinguished prep campaign that ended six weeks ago. I tip my Panama straw hat to some very fine handicappers who were touting Animal Kingdom to me. I was blind, but now I see my friends. An especially big shout out to Steve and Tony Bada Bing, as well as the others on the Derby Dozen team that had Animal Kingdom 6th on the final poll.

I had 695 gross reasons to celebrate yesterday ($295 net)which no matter how you shake it, is still better than losing. More importantly, I made some kick ass mint juleps, with and without alcohol for Little Turk and the Canadian cousins, Shane and Serena Turk. We had a nice Derby party at my house and all who attended seemed to enjoy themselves well.

While I am happy for Team Valor, these offbeat prep campaigns only seem to enable others to try and go off of six week layoffs and limited starts and I don't want anything perpetuating that trend. Funny me, I actually want to see the horses run! Anyway....

Churchill Downs Race 9-10-11

I would be stewing right now but I felt pretty good about Get Stormy wiring The Turf Classic. I kept the betting pretty simple because of the distraction of muddling the mint and in general, the handicaps weren't that bad. This wacky Triple Crown season continues and I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday. The company seemed to enjoy the coverage on Versus, the HRTV coverage earlier in the day was good, and NBC was pretty good too. I didn't think there were too many bad moments but I wish the TV folks would stop feeling like they need to show us D List celebrities. My favorite moment was Aaron Rodgers talking about "...the last two minutes of the race" being the most exciting. Good job Aaron, I agree, the first 2 seconds yesterday were very forgettable.

I'd be remiss in not saying Happy Mothers Day to all the Mothers who read The Turk, as well as Mrs. Turk, Momma Turk and Sister Turk. My Mother and Sister taught me how to be a gentleman and carry myself with dignity and aplomb. I thank you both!

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Nomination Is In: May 7, 2011; The 137th Kentucky Derby and an All Graded Stakes Pick 3

Our friend taking a nap off to the left is none other than Breeders' Cup Juvenile Champion and the 2011 winner of the Timely Writer Stakes, Uncle Mo. I never blame the horse, but I do question in hindsight the humans that surround the horse. I also found myself shaking my head, but not surprised, with the USA Today this week, in particular an article written by Tom Pedulla. In the article published on Monday May 2nd it was represented that Uncle Mo had a "textbook" workout (Trainer Pletcher's words) and that he was good to go in the Derby, with owner Mike Repole stating that Uncle Mo looked like a different horse than the one that left Belmont Park two weeks earlier.

The Turk is not a trained journalist nor do I pretend to be, but I find it odd that this article was nothing more than a regurgitation of what Trainer Pletcher and Owner Repole had to say. It seems to me that Mr. Pedulla, the 2009 Maryland Jockey Club David F. Woods Award winner, should have got the opinions of a few other observers with perhaps a bit less bias, assuming he had the inches and newsprint available to him from his editors, and if he didn't, again, I am not attacking Mr. Pedulla whom I respect.

Mike Welsh, from his duties as the clocker writing updates for the Daily Racing Form described the workout as well, taking time to note how Stay Thirsty was able to hang well with his far more talented stablemate. It seems Mr. Welsh took the glass is half full approach and attributed Stay Thirsty's work as improving versus my opinion that Uncle Mo was not "textbook".

Mr. Welsh didn't so much contradict Trainer Pletcher's comments but did provide more color. I'm more disappointed that what passes for an article in a national newspaper in the biggest week of the horse racing season was nothing more than an opportunity for Trainer Pletcher to perpetuate the feeling that nothing was wrong with his charge. Just a few days later, another Daily Racing Form article showed a picture that showed Uncle Mo working with a very high action. It seemed apparent that this horse was not ready.

I'd love to understand what the plan was for Uncle Mo as a three year old. The way he was prepared you would think he was made out of glass. We are led to believe that one hundred and thirty seven years of lessons could be thrown away and you could baby your equine into being a classic distance winner.

When will owners and trainers understand that they have the biggest obligation of all to regrowing the sport back to prominence. If the horse is healthy, it must be campaigned. A trainer studies the conditions book and plots a course through the year, planning out the fitness cycle to peak at the time and place of a key race. Owners have an obligation to campaign their horses, travel them as needed, and grow the sport through fan interest. The owner and trainer have much more of an ability to improve the state of the sport than an organization like the NTRA. The horses will generate the buzz and people will come. I would have gotten on a plane to see Uncle Mo in a race at Gulfstream this winter, but not the Timely Writer. How huge would it have been for Uncle Mo to challenge the field at the Arkansas Derby instead of trying a softer spot at the Wood only to get his hay handed to him?

I just don't think all the rich folk at the top of the sport get their obligations. I also don't get why you'd place a horse with a trainer who is more of an managing director than he is a hands on horse flesh conditioner. If Uncle Mo was in a barn that had 15 horses, do you think the trainer would have pussyfooted around? Mr. Pletcher knows horses, of this I have no doubt at all, but with that many high profile horses a man can only spread himself so thin.

The Turk likes to handicap and he's a race fan first and foremost. I get upset when I sense I lack of leadership and I really don't like to read bullshit like I read in the USA Today this week. You prep the horse to shake him down and part of greatness is being sturdy enough to handle the stress and strain of the preparation. You can't just open the doors for a party without doing any planning, unless your party is a crackhouse I reckon. OK, enough rambling.

Churchill Downs Race 9-10-11, the Pick Three including the Grade II Churchill Downs, Grade I Turf Classic and Grade I Kentucky Derby

I was spittin' mad with myself when I went back to my marked up PP's for the Oaks to see I had Pretty Plum a 1st to 4th and an "A". I talked myself out of placing her as high in the final analysis. I would have never put St. John's River so high but the stretch was dead and speed came to die, perhaps an indication that the track wasn't exactly fast. In hindsight St. John's River had a great late kick.

I'll let my spreadsheet speak for itself right now. The horses in blue are my considerations for the pick three. I'll be playing the races vertically and horizontally as well and the card was excellent and has me really jazzed for the first time in awhile.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Friday, May 6, 2011

It Takes a Village: The Canadian Turk Returns to Handicap the Kentucky Derby

The Ol' Turk has asked Cathy, the Canadian Turk to share her thoughts with the readers of the Turk and Little Turk for tomorrow's 137th Kentucky Derby. Cathy goes way back in racing and her street cred is unquestionable: A Steve Cauthen poster on her wall as a child, a bag of Churchill Downs dirt and a run up the stretch , blond hair waving in the breeze that's the stuff of legend. She's a serious journalist, the closest thing to a professional here at the Turk, and she was kind enough to write her second guest blog post for us.

Without much further babbling, I present, Cathy the Canadian Turk.

Seattle Slew. Mine That Bird. Super Saver. One of these things is not like the others. And, after spending a good deal of time studying the PPs for this year’s Kentucky Derby field, I have my suspicions the winner may more closely resemble the latter two horses than the former. To sum it up: This year’s field radiates mediocrity.

The Beyers are subpar at best. With Uncle Mo scratched, only Soldat has earned a 100+ speed figure, which came in a January allowance race at Gulfstream Park. The main prep races (and I no longer count races on synthetic as main preps) were all won by outsiders, with the favorites falling like cheap wooden signs in a windstorm. And don’t even get me started on the conservative prep schedules that have become the norm. It almost makes one miss the old era of D. Wayne Lukas. Almost.

Having said that, it is still the Kentucky Derby. And just like a bad day at the track is better than a good day almost anywhere else, so too is an average Derby field better than good field in almost any other race. And I have an inkling there will be some serious money to be made in the exotics. Therefore, I am concentrating on a trifecta that will pay enough to buy me a box seat at next year’s Derby. (OK, I’d be happy with infield, or even not losing money).

I’ll begin with the favorites:

Dialed In: My first thought is to hang up on this one. I don’t like the fact he hasn’t raced since early April, and I don’t like the fact he will have to weave in and out of horses down the stretch, without a lot of seasoning behind him. Throw in his workouts, which I heard one analyst describe as “lackluster,” and the low odds, and my inclination is to pass. But, with Mo out – and weren’t we all curious to see what he’d do? – I am going to put Dialed In back in my exotics, letting him fill the slot I had reserved for Mo. It’s almost solely based on Nick Zito knowing how to get a horse ready for this race, but I won’t be surprised to see him finish up the track.

Archarcharch. Boy, was drawing the 1 slot badbadbad. I loved the way this son of Arch looked in the Arkansas Derby and, though he’s a closer, we all know what that post can mean. Anyone remember Lookin’ at Lucky’s trip from the same slot last year? Still, if by some chance Jon Court can take him back and keep him out of trouble, he will be there at the end. He’s never run a bad race, except for the Smarty Jones in January, when the horse next to him flipped in the gate. And with a 10-1 morning line, there are too many pluses to resist throwing him in my exotics.

Nehro. He’s the now horse for a good reason. Another couple jumps in Arkansas and he would have been a clear winner. Again, I don’t like the lack of seasoning or the fact he’ll have to work his way through horses in the crowded Derby stretch. However, Nehro stalked the pace in the Louisiana Derby and only lost by a neck. If he can stay close to the pace this Saturday, in my opinion his chances will be greatly improved. Having a vet like Corey Nakatani in the saddle is another bonus. I think he’ll go off at less than 6-1, but I still can’t see not playing him. A horse improving at the right time is always dangerous.

The longshots. There are longshots aplenty but I’ve narrowed it down to three: Soldat, Shackleford and Pantsonfire.
Here’s what I like.

Soldat. Throw out the Florida Derby and you have a horse who’s never finished worse than second. Everybody has a bad day, and maybe Soldat’s occurred on April 3. He’s now the sole owner in the field of a 100+ Beyer and can stalk just behind the speed. He ran well at Churchill last year, albeit on the turf. At 12-1, the odds are right.

Shackleford: He threw in the towel in the Fountain of Youth, and maybe that was his bad day. He bounced back and was just a head behind Dialed In in the Florida Derby, but I’m betting at post time his odds will be three or four times that of Dialed In. I cashed a nice ticket on Funny Cide a few years back, using the same theory after he finished just behind the much lower-priced Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial. He has a win at Churchill and has had some nice workouts. If I can get 12-1, I’ll be a happy camper.

Pants On Fire: Like Soldat, he’s had eight career starts, which I like. I wish he’d had a prep between now and the Louisiana Derby, but again, throw out his bum effort in the Risen Star and he’s never run a bad race. He also beat Mucho Macho Man and Nehro and was very game in his last start. 20-1 seems like a bit of a steal. Plus, I just can’t stop saying his name.

My strategy will be to combine these six in a trifecta, but I’ll wait to see what the odds are before deciding if I’ll do a box or key a few on top. I will not be surprised to see a giant exacta, so I may just box my three longshots in an exacta play and hope for the best.
It’s been a tough first Saturday in May for us handicappers, and I tip my Derby hat to all of you. After trying to figure this field out, instead of a Mint Julep, I’m more in the mood for a glass of water and a couple Excedrin. But horse racing is all about hope, and I will be full of optimism tomorrow when the gates open. Have a great Derby Day and good luck!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Nomination Is In: May 6 and 7, 2011: The Kentucky Oaks- Kentucky Derby Double

Well it's finally here! We horse fans start watching 2 year olds like mystics reading tea leaves or chicken bones and graduation day always comes the first weekend in May.

The Turk has done a fair share of handicapping and gambling over the years. At the end of the day, I'm a horse racing fan and having days like this with multiple graded stakes and graded stakes caliber horses puts the fire back in my soul.

I got grumpy the past few weeks. I hated the way Uncle Mo was handled as a three year old and everywhere I looked I saw horses that looked like fine Grade II 9 furlong horses but so few classic distance runners. I let go some of my bitterness when I printed the Oaks day past performances and felt that feeling again.

The unexpected benefit of handicapping the Oaks-Derby Double is that I have no choice but get down to seriously looking at the Derby closely: It's one thing to vote on potential like I did with the Derby Dozen Poll, but its quite a different thing to take into account track conditions, current form, post position etc.

Let's get it on!

A nice thirteen horse card greets us with a a gaping hole missing since R Heat Lightning dropped out of contention. Coupled with the faltering of Uncle Mo, we have an opportunity to have a good will pay on this double bet and that my friends is why we play this game, the opportunities that present themselves.

After some internal debate I settled on five possible victors who'd I'd love to cover, but my very light chalk is Kathmanblu: 8 of 9 lifetime in the money, 5 wins, a Grade 2 and 3 win, and a solid CD 1 1/16 win on fast dirt. The McPeek runner with Leparoux up, expect an of the pace win in the deep stretch.

Daisy Devine might not win a class battle but she's a tough girl working well and coming in off a Grade 2 dirt win at 1 1/16 miles. The McKeever/ Graham combo wins 27% of the time together and placing her here for me represents some value, as we are afterall, gambling!

Joyful Victory looms large and I would expect her to be the bettors chalk: Her last two wins, a grade 3 and grade 2 she's won by almost 16 lengths combined for the Turk's favorite dirt trainer, Larry Jones. She'll be flying off the pace late as well.

Zazu is interesting to me: Losing my a neck to Turbulent Descent in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks after beating Turbulent Descent two back. Nice speed figs from SA this winter and this fillie is ultra consistent.

And finally Summer Soiree is a recently transferred from Larry Jones to Graham Motion, with Saez up, and enters off a grade 3 win by 10 lengths. This War Front girl looks pretty serious and will look to strike the front and not give it up.

I guess we need to discuss the track condition I am assuming is fast. Make sure you check in on scratches and changes, the weather and track conditions before you finalize your choices.

For the Derby I considered dropping Uncle Mo completely off, as fear of a Life at Ten sequel is something i don't think Team Mo want any part of. I don't plan on covering him in the Double Bet and that represents the type of risk a bettor has to take. Playing it safe and covering everybody is the best way to take alot of money and turn it into a smaller pot of money.

For two weeks now I planned on making Archarcharch my chalk but post one is quite a hurdle. You have to go back to Winning Colors in '88 and Ferdinand in '86 to see success there. That said, I like his chances quite a bit and love the work and gallop outs he's been doing all week. My chalk is Nehro who I have regarded lightly but I am more compelled after spending some time in analysis: great late kick, a late surge and strong run in the Arkansas Derby, an he seems to be reaching the top of his fitness cycle at just the right time.

I'm expecting Archarcharch will be close and Midnight Interlude seems to be sharpening up well: This lightly raced, inexperienced colt won the Santa Anita Derby just after breaking his maiden. Trainer Baffert seems to be pushing the right buttons in his conditioning and I think he looms as a possible.

Dialed In is a feast or famine late runner who will be heavily bet. He could win but its far from assured and I'm betting against it for the bet sake. I like Shackleford's current form quite a bit as well and Mucho Macho Man will round out my potential covers.

So there we have it. The Turk will be back tomorrow with more racing from Oaks Day and again on Staurday with the Derby Day Late Pick 3.

Have fun, Turk Out!

The Wireplayers Dirty Derby Dozen Final Poll 2011

DJ, cue Waltzing Matilda. The Wire Players Derby Dozen Pool has reached their final opinions for 2011. I say farewell to Brian, Rob and Geno and Derek, so long to Carly, Brian and Jessica, see you soon to Tony Bada Bing, Ten Cent and Dylan and fair winds and following seas to the Falcon of horse racing, Steve.

The Turk loves the sport of horse racing and never tires from trying to spread the gospel of Ruffian, Hard Spun, Turkoman and Commentator. It's folks like these in the Derby Dozen Poll that bring passion and energy to our sport, and as long as we have that, we have hope. We also have the equine: Never asks to be a free agent, works hard, sacrifices, seeks glory for sportsmanship sake, sometimes gives the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our entertainment. Forget the idiot professional football players who can't keep their twitter accounts or thier other twitters in thier zippers and embrace the horse.

The Turk is planning on handicapping a fast main track for Saturday with soft turf for the ones on green. I like Archarcharch and Mucho Macho Man but the heavy capping begins tonight.

Have fun friends. Turk Out!