Monday, June 27, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day June 25, 2011: The Cornhusker Handicap Day Late Pick Four at Prairie Meadows

I'm not sure about you race fans, but I enjoyed the action at Prairie Meadows this past weekend, especially Saturday night. As predicted, there were money magnets in the races, as both the Iowa Oaks and the Iowa Derby had a 1 to 2 horse taking heavy action and both horses, Daisy Devine and Astrology, finished out of the money. You hard core types know what that means, cha-chang!

I am kicking myself a bit: If you would have bet my pick 4 as I laid out Saturday morning exactly as I had it, you would have spent $180 and returned $1556.50. I went cheap in Race 10, the $12,500 Maiden Claimer and covered only three horses instead of five. These races are hard to predict and I should have just covered what I handicapped, but The Turk is human and I do leave money on the table from time to time. No matter how experienced or good you think you are, you will make mistakes, if that's even the right term. I was comfortable with a $180 Pick Four bet but I hate to over-cover and I out-thought myself. I try not to dwell on the mistakes and I'll move along.

The Iowa Oaks

The Iowa Derby

The Cornhusker Handicap

I had a thought tonight: The sport is marketed constantly to a wide public audience with mixed results. A big problem is so few sports reporters give a hoot about racing. It's time the sport "targets" key reporters and columnists at major old media news organizations and sponsors trips to the track. The track is the drug, the track is what sells itself. The more columnists and radio talk show hosts that talk up their love of the sport, the more it will sink into the mainstream again.

Who loves football wildcard games on Saturday Nights? Prairie Meadows, with the big races going off between 9-10 PM Eastern time, could have been huge had it been marketed by a organization that had racing's best interests in mind, not just the interest of a big track. Just sayin'....

Turk Out!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Nomination Is In: June 25, 2011: The Cornhusker Handicap Day Late Pick 4 at Prairie Meadows

The future of horseracing? Perhaps that's a bit too dour a thought, but micro festivals like this weekend at Prairie Meadows, where racino kickbacks drummed up $1.0 MM in purse money, can attract nice fields, good crowds and handle.

We have a fast dirt track, with tight corners and fun racing under the lights and this Turk is thinking ahead that next year he'll venture back to corn country for these two days of racing. Grade III events? I've seen weaker Grade I's already this year.

By the way, that fine looking horse in the neon green and purple dot silks of RNB Racing is Shadowbdancing, last year's winner of the previous Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap and the Place horse from 2009's edition.

Let's get after it!

Prairie Meadows Race 7-8-9-10

While I built a Pick Four Bet, the races themselves I think will be quite interesting, as there are money magnets in every race and a few second tier runners at longer prices looking to knock their blocks off. Hard not to like!

Race 7 may be the weakest of the bunch, a six horse Iowa Oaks. Daisy Devine is the heavyweight contender here; far from unbeatable but pretty solid, with a Grade 2 Fairgrounds Oaks win.

Little Miss Holly will loom at something greater than 3-1; training sharply at CD for trainer Margolis and a last race winner.

Two that intrigue me are Hearts on Fire and All about Allie. Donnie von Hemel's Hearts on Fire is 5 of 5 in the money on Fast dirt, 2 of 2 in the money at the distance and has placed at PrM. 2nd effort off a 45 day layoff. All About Allie is an Arkansas bred Sanders Brothers home bred and trained who has run well at PrM and while lacking class, seems to be gutty. Only two tosses from the field that is only lacking quantity not quality.

In the Iowa Derby we have two Triple Crown nominees and the Preakness Stakes Show horse ready to rumble. I think the class of Astrology and Caleb's Posse will win the day and its a coin toss for me which one wins it.

In the second tier is a Zayat Stable runner for trainer Bob Baffert, Prayers for Relief. He's a lightly raced, off the pace late runner trying dirt for the first time and I think he'll gain name recognition as the year goes on, just not here, but Baffert didn't bring him to lose so you have no choice but take notice and slot him in the money.

Dreaminofthewin may be a bit of a stretch but this is gambling after all. Irish Lion and Chosen Miracle both have the potential to get up for show money as well, and Chosen Miracle is stretching out to a distance his pedigree suggests is just right.

The main event is a strong and deep field for a racino Grade 3 event. Awesome Gem is the headliner. The West Point Thoroughbreds runner has a last race best 101 Beyer. Surprisingly consistent ant in his 8th year but is 0 of 9 at the distance and always more interested in place and show than win. I'm hoping he draws lots of money his way as I'll be looking in a different direction.

The Michael Maker runner Headache and the Michael Biehler runner Stachys both have my attention. Headache is 12 of 15 in the money on fast dirt and comes in off a 1 1/16 CD N3X win. Stachys has won at PrM and is consistent and fast off the pace.

It Happened Again is a former claimer running for Steve Asmussen with Mike Smith, up. That will do something for your position on the tote board! The five year old is very capable and this is his second effort off a long layoff. Beware.

I like Alexis Barba's Victory Pete. Only the 6 year olds second dirt effort and Bejarano goes up here.

The races are later in the day so check the scratches and changes and the weather to make sure nothing impacts your handicapping. This should be a fun night and I hope you approach it as such, I think racing would do well to have more prime time Saturday night racing shows.

Enjoy the day, have fun, Turk Out!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day June 18, 2011: The Colonial Downs Colonial Turf Cup Day

Happy Fathers Day to all my horseplayer friends, readers and family. That handsome collection of fella's are all the fathers in The Turk's immediate family, taken on the deck of the Turk household where we enjoyed each others company, great food, fine cigars and spirits. There are plenty of fathers no longer with us anymore, and I can think of some wonderful horseplayers that taught me that the races are so much better when you can enjoy them with your family, so no matter where you were today, I raise my whiskey glass and salute all the men who share the fraternity of fatherhood with me.

There were some lovely races to pick from yesterday, and some thrilling stars competing as well. Who can't look at Blind Luck and get excited? For me as a player, I wanted to pick a sequence of races over turf to have a go with, and I settled on the Colonial Downs Colonial Turf Cup day as my weekend target. While I ultimately passed on the Pick Three, I had some success and doubled my money with good handicapping and a reasonable, if not conservative bet strategy.

Let's get after it!

I passed on a Pick Three bet. The sequence seemed really chalky to me and I couldn't get excited about it. I made a mistake too and I wanted a pick four and assumed there would be one from race 6-9 but that wasn't the case; even experienced players make assumptions and mistakes and I wasted time handicapping a 5 furlong maiden two year old filly race, yawn! The lesson is pretty self explanatory and I urge everyone to double check the race conditions before planning bet options.

After my mistake, the Da Hoss didn't go well for me. My chalk was also the bettor's top choice, Mikoshi, who finished a length back in Show. 9-1 Followmyfootsteps took the wire with 12-1 Action Andy for Place, with 15-1 Vanquisher fourth, a combo that powered a $3,650 $1 Super and a $3,700 $2 Trifecta. Nice payouts, but I wasn't in the right zip code on that one. Moving on...

Race 7 was the Edward Evans All Along Grade 3. With heavy duty chalk Aruna singled, I crafted a cheap-o superfecta bet that cost $24 and paid $77. Workmanlike and a reminder that you don't have to be afraid to play with heavy chalk.

The the Colonial Turf Cup I returned to the same bet structure I used on race 6, a five horse superfecta box. I was a bit surprised at the action Rahystrada captured as I had the former claim fifth on my chart, but he made the final cut and powered a $490 superfecta win, with my strong move placing Dark Cove high while the rest of the betting public had him 6th.

All in all the results were better than a sharp stick in the eye even though it wasn't what I'd consider a good betting card. Doubling your money is not some automatic process, but by sticking to sound handicapping fundamentals and then practical betting strategies, you can learn to string good days together. Today's key was identifying contenders from pretenders and then slotting them into the top five, regardless if I thought they'd be under or overlays. I handicap without morning lines and I encourage horse players to do that: Don't let any bias interfere with your handicapping and morning line odds are just that, another players bias. After you handicap and before you prepare bets, take a gander at both the morning lines and the tote board; it's a thrill when you have a horse high on the board and others aren't as bullish, and it's also important to know what to expect if you do win. In Race 7 if I would have done a 5 horse superfecta box for $120 dollars I would have pulled the worst magic trick in racing, turning a big pile of money into a small pile of money.

And finally, the reason why I work crazy hours, why I travel my ass off, put up with a Blackberry that never stops ringing, is also the greatest gift a man could want, my son, Little Turk. He's quite a fine young man and I'm proud to be his dad.

Happy Fathers Day All, Turk Out!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Nomination Is In: June 18, 2011; The Colonial Downs Pick Three including The Colonial Turf Cup

Friends, you have lots of good cards to pick from this weekend, and for me, I'm playing Colonial Downs in honor of Edward Evans who passed away earlier this year.

I went into the handicapping thinking I'd build a Pick Three, but the handicapping comes before the bet strategy for a reason and this sequence looks awful chalky. Chalky can work to your advantage if you can find one runner in one race that is viewed dismissively by the betting public: Singling the chalks ain't gonna get you a seat at the National Handicapping Championship if you're into that sort of thing.

The three race sequence fits in nicely in the Saturday schedule, as all three go off between 7 and 8 PM Eastern. The weather is a mixed bag, hot with a potential for thunderstorms. I'm handicapping for firm to good turf.

Let's get after it!

Colonial Downs Race 6-8

Race 6 is the $50,000 Da Hoss on the inner turf. Mikoshi is 13 of 17 in the money on the turf and 3 of 5 in the money at the distance. Mike Matz has R. Dominguez up, who is riding in Philadelphia earlier in the day. I'll look for a price in the P3 with Pocket Patch: 8 of 16 in the money on turf with 5 wins, into his third effort in his fitness cycle and the 6 year old gelding looks primed. I'll most likely cover Baletti as well; the 7 YO gelded son of Gulch is more than capable.

Race 7 is Edward P. Evans All Along Grade 3. Aruna looks really mighty compared to this group. Trainer Motion puts Dominguez up and the 4 YO Mr. Greely daughter has strung 4 very good races in a row together and she has 4 wins in 9 tries over the grass. Motion has Apple Charlotte entered here as well as Delaware. The Smart Strike daughter is training sharply and has had two strong efforts since early April. Dyna Waltz is a Sheppard/Strawbridge runner who poses a big threat and I may cover La Cloche as well, a Ghostzapper who is also entered at Delaware, so watch the scratches and changes.

And Race 8 is the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup. I like Smart Bid quite a bit and I'm not s high on Court Vision at this point in his career, but with this field, he's still dangerous. Dark Cove and Moryba (Brz) offer a chance for a good price. Dark Cove has seemed poised to be something for so long, now would be a good time as it would really juice this pick three up.

Have fun with whatever you are playing today friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Nomination Is In: The Manhattan Handicap and Belmont Stakes

Sometimes you have to change positions on the fly. I went into the day thinking Pick 4 at Belmont, but I just couldn't get my hands around the way the track is playing and I chose not to place a Pick 4 wager. Good thing, as I would never have picked Justin Phillip in the Woody Stephen.

Pick and choose your spots, and on days with tough weather, watch the races closely. I've got HRTV on, streaming through my Mac Mini that is HDMI'd into the TV and its pretty clear that spreed is striking the lead and staying over distance. It's sloppy and ugly and that's a wild card as a bettor you can either accept and live with, or, novel idea, just don't bet. Anyone who tells you they are a disciplined bettor but then talks about being an action play bettor isn't being honest with themselves or you.

Let's get after these nice Grade I events and do our best with the surfaces.

BEL Race 10 and 11: The Grade I Manhattan Handicap and Grade I Belmont Stakes

I'm going to let the spreadsheet speak for itself and I'm going to instead start mixing drinks and enjoy the rest of the day. These Triple Crown days are fantastic friends and family events and I use them as an opportunity to invite people to the house and spread the gospel of racing. I'm doing my part to market the sport...and drink bourbon!

I'm going Superfecta hunting, have fun friends, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: Leg 2 of Late Pick Four on Belmont Stakes Day; The Just A Game Grade I

The Turk's chalk in the Grade I Just a Game is C.S. Silk, captured to the left in a nice photo by Candice Chavez, who we thank for its use.

Expect yielding turf, no better than soft going. None of the runners had significant soft going experience so I started with a review of their abilities over the expected turf and settled on covering four from this field of nine, in this the second leg of the late Pick Four.

Let's get after it!

C.S. Silk is a five year old mare daughter of Medaglia d' Oro trained by Dale Romans. She's been training over Belmont turf now for the over a month after a so-so effort over yielding turf at KEE in April. Cutting back in distance, 9 of 14 in the money over turf and 3 of 4 in the money at the distance. Very tepid chalk but I'm expecting a decent price and this is gambling afterall!

Aviate (GB) with Kent Desormeaux up, comes in off a win in Grade 2, 1 mile turf event at CD. Tied with Amen Hallelujah with last race best Beyer. Mott's winning 19% of his Won Last Start's and 17% of his Graded Stakes, with a solid 15% over grass.

Strike the Bell is a bit of a stretch but I like the 6 of 9 in the money at BEL and 11 of 15 in the money on turf for Trainer Donk who places Ramon Dominguez up, a 28% winner.

Fantasia (GB), trained by J. Sheppard for Augustin Stables, has a yielding turf, 1 mile win from last October at WO. Winless in 2011, the five year old Sadler's Well mare ran a poor Just A Game a year ago.

I most likely will work Gypsy's Warning (SAf) in too; Team Valor's six year old Leparox up is 14 of 17 in the money over turf with 7 wins and is 5 of 5 in the money at the distance, she's also starting over BEL turf for the first time. 2nd effort in 2011, Trainer Motion is winning 22% of his Graded Stakes and is 19% over grass. Very impressive and demands attention.

I like Amen Hallelujah, just not in this spot. R.Dutrow and IEAH, not so much.

have fun friends, more later, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: June 13, 2011; Belmont Day Late Pick 4 Leg 1; The Woody Stephens Grade 2

Race 8 is the first race of a $1.0 MM all graded stakes Pick 4 and is part of the $1.0 MM Pick 6 for those of you into such endeavours. The Turk is wading into the slop of Belmont and has his eyes on the Pick 4. This first leg is named for the man pictured to the left, Woody Stephens, winner of an incredible five straight Belmont Stakes and trainer of two of Turk's all time favorites, Forty Niner and Danzig.

The weather looks dismal in Elmont, NY today and expect Belmont to be sloppy, muddy and sealed. In general I like horses on the lead in this situation. My pick the very lightly raced Bold Warrior, has already scratched. I'm going to cover three in this race and there is no Superfecta so that's all I'll be doing with this. Pay attention to the scratches and changes all day friends.

BEL Race 8: The Woody Stephens Grade 2

Hard to say who is going to strike the lead and try to keep it. Travelin Man has done it three times in a row and JJ's Lucky Train has done it too.

I've got Arch Traveler, an off the pace Sky Mesa colt as my tepid chalk; Strong at the distance, training well, and a nice win here at BEL in early May.

Little Drama has strung two nice races in a row together but his only off track effort was a hot mess. He most likely won't race on the lead and I'm hedging him down as the day goes on. I like little Drama but I'm not bullish on this track and to conserve betting capital I'm not going to cover him.

I will be covering a wonderful claimer, JJ's Lucky Train; a Place in lone sloppy effort and a good chance to stay near or on the lead.

I'm going to toss Derivative, who has won twice on the slop. D. Wayne Lucas's runner is up against it class wise. I toss at my own peril!

Have fun, more soon, Turk Out!