Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Nomination Is In: July 28, 2011; 100K Optional Claimer on Turf at Saratoga

Handicapping is like working out in the gym; the more you work your muscles, the more you condition your body, the less body fat will collect in your mid section and you become sharper, fitter. The more you work that red gel pen, the more you begin to see the patterns from race to race, the more you start to see a dividing line of talent on the past performances, separating the contenders from the pretenders. The best of both worlds is to keep your body conditioned in the gym and your mind conditioned by handicapping races, but for some folks, one out of two ain't bad!

Handicapping mid week an optional claimer at Saratoga is not that different than handicapping a minor stakes or even some Grade 3's: You'll recognize most of the horses but the competition will be as good or better. This example is no different. The key for me is keeping my handicapping sharp and this gives me an opportunity to look at some nice horses and feel like I'm at the Spa even tho work has conspired to keep me apart from one of my true loves. Let's get it on!

Race 4: OC 100K; 1 Mile on Inner Turf

Sharp trainers read the conditions book and find spots for their charges who need a boost. The conditions here are as follows: 3 YO and up which have never won $40,000twice on the turf since January 28, 2011 OR which have never won four races other than Maiden, Claiming Starter, Starter or Restricted or Optional Claiming Price of $100,000. It goes on regarding how weights were assigned yada yada yada, but you get the point. Loup Breton's trainer, Mr. Pletcher can read the conditions book and he sees this an opportunity to slip Loup Breton's 12 of 26 turf record in the money, with 5 wins into a spot he can win. My guess is he'll be the post time chalk. Let's see if we can't identify a chalk beater.

Exhi in the 2 spot is the field's money leader; only 4 YO, a Grade 2 and 3 winner on fake dirt at Keeneland and only 1 win over grass. Has been training very sharply over Saratoga training turf track. Pletecher is 32% Synth/Turf. Pletecher's second rider is Castellano who's no slouch. While attractive, I'm leaning towards Lonesome Street; Trainer Maker has top lawn jock Leparoux up and the 4 YO likes the distance and the surface conditions. Improving and I think you'll find at least 5-1 at post time.

My base handicap is what I'm leaning towards and a five horse boxed super would be my bet, but this is more about staying sharp than anything else.

Keep your gel pen active, its the best way to get better.

(Thanks Hank for allowing me to use you as the punch line, I am a fan at least!)

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Nomination Is In: The Eddie Read Grade 1 at Del Mar

The house that Bing built...literally. 1936, and one of America's biggest stars, Bing Crosby, lays the cornerstone of the Del Mar racetrack that was to open the following year.

Thinking of Bing, I think about the fame that was thrust upon stars of the past; it would be wrong to wax poetic about how stars of the past handled their 15 minutes of fame with more aplomb than the current generations. Bing was a real class act, a gentleman showman, but no one is perfect, and I always get a bit worried by those who seem too Rockwellesque. I was saddened to hear of the death of Amy Winehouse today, not because I was a fan, which I was not, but because of her senseless decay into filth, drugs and an unrepairable moral compass. I was saddened to hear of Mike Smith's arrest for alleged DUI, Michael Baze's and Chris Antly's deaths, of Robby Albarado's arrest earlier this year for a domestic incident, and I wish these people we hold in such high regard could step away from the their bodies for a moment, step away from the enablers, and see that life's too f**king short to piss it away.

The Turk lives in the grind everyday and he knows a bit about working away and keeping it real. I don't pretend to be perfect but I try to teach the Little Turk that happiness comes from within and to love oneself, because it's the folks who aren't comfortable in their own skin, no matter how much fame and wealth they have, that can't keep it together.

OK, I'm done with my Sermon from the (kitchen chair) Mount. Let's get after some Grade 1 turf racing at the seashore heaven, Del Mar.

Del Mar Race 8: Post Time 8:30 ET

My base handicap is no shock with Caracortado up top, but hey, only one win in five starts in 2011 so let's not rush out and plan the ticker tape parade quite yet. As handicappers we can acknowledge the greatness of the animal on paper, but as a bettor I'm thinking about depressed odds on him and a legit contender going off a real nice price.

A layer of quality just below Caracortado includes Acclimation and Smart Bid, both most likely to be in the top four with the betting audience. Cutting just another bit deeper I find Jeranimo from the one post and Leroy's Dynameaux as two likely to be serious value with the ability to finish well. I'm not overlooking Celtic Princess either.

I've built my base handicap and my base bet would be a five horse superfecta box. My hope would be Caracortado finishing Place or Show and some much longer odds taking top prize. I'll most likely spread my money around on my betting options and look at some of the value players, the third/fourth and fifth bettor's favorites on the tote board just before post, and make up some exacta combinations.

It's early and I don't want to commit yet. The Turk will think a bit more on the bet and we'll see what happens.

Have fun, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: The Sanford Stakes at Saratoga

When I think of emphatic two year old victories, I think of the winner of the 2004 Sanford Stakes, Afleet Alex, the record holder in this race with a time that was about six lengths off the track record set in 1972 by Spanish Riddle, a stable mate of the 1972 Sanford Stakes winner, Secretariat.

I'm off on a tangent as the Ol' Turk is inclined to do, but Spanish Riddle's story is fascinating; incredible speed only to lose part of a leg to amputation, fitted with a prosthetic device and he went on to stud for several years before dying of colic.

Before I go too far, let me thank The Thorofan for inviting me to handicap today. The Thorofan is a grass roots group of racing enthusiasts who are doing their part to bring the game to new fans as well as build a socially inclusive community at the track.

Handicapping two year old stake races in July isn't for the faint of heart; You'll lose, get use to it. But that said, it is gambling, we are capable of making educated guesses and completing analysis, so let's take a look at the field and make some general observations.

The Turk strongly believes in ignoring morning line odds until you've done your own handicapping. If you are going to skip morning lines, I'd also go the extra distance and encourage you to not read the bloggers and old media types telling you who they think will win until you also do your own work. It's not that I don't want you to read my ramblings, I just want you to put aside the bias of other people and build your own handicaps from scratch.

Morning lines or not, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to have your eyes drawn to the six horse, Overdriven. A Team Repole Stables joint, with Todd Pletcher and Johnny Velazquez already combining to put up a 100 Beyer at Belmont earlier this month. This horse will attract heavy betting action so what do we have: A heavy favorite balanced off by a decent sized field of 8. I'm trying not to prejudice my handicapping but right off the bat I'm thinking how do we beat the heavy favorite? The horse is making his second start after all, let's reserve the talk of Triple Crown contender for a little bit and let him earn respect.

That said, you still need someone who can beat him. The Turk is an information handicapper, a Past Performance tea leaf reader who likes to scour the Daily Race Form and Equibase race charts for information. One issue with two year olds is there is just not many running lines to lean on. You got a bunch of potential but not many results. If I don't have running lines to analyze, I'll take the step of studying the way the race has unfolded over a period of time. In this case, I've looked at the last 10 Sanford Stakes for guidance, courtesy of free Equibase historical charts

What did we take away: Six times the chalk won. Seven times the one or two post Placed. Seven wins were by more than 3 lengths. Five times the winner broke from one or two post.

You spend time studying these angles and you can often feel compelled to "apply" the information. I don't think much of the post one or post two horse, Tarpy's Goal and Moonrush respectively. They are babies and who knows what they will become but I don't see it for tomorrow and I am handicapping for tomorrow and not for next year and not for when they stretch out. Tarpy's Goal regressed the last time out, drifting out and coming in Show as a beaten chalk. Moonrush may be on the lead at the top of the stretch and if you are going to take a flyer, take it here for Place or Show. D. Wayne Lucas can't buy a graded stakes win right now.

So what do I think?

I like the closer, Power World from the 7 spot to win. Trainer Neil Howard clips along with 18% 2 YO winners and a 12% overall win rate, and he puts Prado up who clips along at 9% winning. those aren't knock the socks off numbers but I like his improved Beyer in grade 3 company and I like the sire Distorted Humor an awful lot. I'm looking to beat chalk and he looms logical to challenge.

The before mentioned expected heavy duty favorite will be Overdriven. The Tale of the Cat son out of Air France turned a :59 1/5 over 5f at SAR last week off the 100 Beyer at BEL on the first of the month. Trainer Pletcher has some pretty gaudy stats: 28% 2 YO winners, 29% won last start, 28% dirt, 30% sprints and 24% Graded Stakes. The jock/trainer clipped along at 32% of 88 starters at Saratoga last meet.

My next two are trainer by Wesley Ward who is putting up some good numbers himself: 30% 2 YO winners, 28% Dirt winners, 29% Sprint winners but 14% Graded Stakes. Black Rhino switches from the grass, something Ward does very well, but did not look good over dirt his first time out. Bless the Soldier is a Ward homebred who may ship to Monmouth instead so pay attention on race day to scratches and changes.

Finally, Jack's in the Deck has Dominguez up, that's 26% winner on 752 mounts Ramon Dominguez. A Grade 2 winner already, this Maryland bred is piloted from the outside and has a very strong closing kick.

How will the race unfold? Moonrush, Bless the Soldier and Black Rhino will race out the gate and churn out a :22 opening 1/4 mile. Jack's in the Deck will drift to the back with Power World and Overdriven will be rated into a stalk.

I'm gambling for the pure pleasure of it, but with the two year olds, as well as the competition that is present at a prestigious meet like Saratoga, you need to be prepared to lose. You only need to be smart now and then to stay slightly ahead and its my experience that I can do better with older horses at longer distances than I can with spa babies at 6 furlongs, so I'm going to keep my betting action reasonable.

I could go one of two ways. First up, Exacta. If I'm assembling an Exacta I'm only doing it with the chalk either in Place or out of the money and I'm hunting for value. Something like the 7 over the 8 or the 7 over 2 would get your 42 bucks back in buckets. I'd take 8 bucks and put together 4 combinations that don't include the chalk and see what happens.

My first love is Exotics, Superfecta's in particular. The 10 cent variety are available here and for $6.60 I can put the 6-7-8 OVER the 6-7-8 with the 2, 4,5,6,7,8, OVER 2,4,5,7 and 8.

I assume Overdriven finishes no lower than third and I give speedball Moonrush a chance at Show or fourth and I give Jack's in the Deck respect to hit anywhere.

OK, you've handicapped, it's safe now to look at the morning lines and the rantings of bloggers. Build your bets and let the dice fall how it may. Thanks for reading and hopefully you'll do well based on your own opinions.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Nomination Is In: The 76th Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie and Post Race Analysis of Millions Preview Day

The Turk likes to recharge his handicaper batteries from time to time, and there are fewer places that do that as well or as quickly as the beach. Last summer I took the entire month of July off, as a blogger and a handicapper. I restarted in August and had a very good string of races post handicappers holiday, and I can point to other personal examples of when I stopped handicapping for a bit only to come back stronger. It's funny too, I don't like to take breaks during a dry patch, it's often after a big signer that I need a break, as I get sloppy after I get phat.

Anyhow, the Turk is spending quite a bit of time on Arlington turf races this summer and I have the video of the Millions Preview Day from last week and I handicapped my home track, Fort Erie, for the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, The Prince of Wales Stakes. The Turk Clan was thrilled by Blind Luck/Harve de Grace getting it on again yesterday. It's that sort of rivalry that drives enthusiasm and anticipation for the races. I'm proving that I can vacation and still keep in touch with the races.

The Modesty Handicap Grade 3

The American Derby Grade 2

The Arlington Handicap Grade 3

Sister Turk is liking Pender Harbor and she knows horse flesh. Mrs. Turk is all about the Welloiledmachine's name. Grandma Turk has Show Money on Check Your Soul, Papa Turk has his money on Jock Carignan and Oh Canada. Little Turk, god bless his soul, likes class 'capping and has Bowman's Causeway and Deana and Daniel Turk are still mulling the pages of the Form over.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Nomination Is In: Arlington Park Millions Preview Day All Graded Stakes Pick 3

Greatness: The word is used much too often in our culture. The professional sports world is a classic example where we are bombarded with being told which over hyped athlete has achieved "greatness". The Turk doesn't like to toss that word around easily, but friends, one of the saddest deaths in racing in the past few years was the great, Tuscan Evening, winner of the 2010 Modesty Handicap. I went to look for a picture that captured her spirit and this Jamie Newell photo gazes right into the mare's soul. Thanks to Jamie for this image and check out more of Jamie's inspired work at this link. If I talk too much about what that animal meant to me I'll get emotional, and I'd rather just remember her spirit and her will to win and know that she's on the other side waiting by the Rainbow Bridge for her kin and connections to join her.

The Little Turk has a soccer tournament this weekend which will limit my horse playing but not my handicapping. It's important to study the various racetracks you wish to play and the Arlington Millions is always a mid summer target of mine, so today's Millions Preview Day is like required reading. I'd like to hope that one day when Illinois racing is stabilized and Arlington Park becomes the track it is capable of being that they will do one key thing: You've got to get the purses much higher on Preview Day to attract the types of horses that will actually come to Millions Day. I won't even complain about the poly track, which I dislike, but turf favoring trainers do feel better about running over the plastic when the races come off so I won't rant about that today, but the purses have to get better.

Arlington Park Race 8-9-10

I've assembled no bet as I'm unlikely to play the sequence. That said, I'd be comfortable playing it as handicapped, as a Pick 3, with all the horses in blue covered as the base bet and then making some tough choices to get the investment to a reasonable size.

The races themselves will lend themselves to good betting and I see value in each of them. Today's a good day to play the 3rd and 4th bettors favorites on the tote board to win when you're drinking and socializing and not really handicapping, not that I condone such behavior! Saratoga and Del Mar open soon. I digress, but what a great thought.

Anyways, have fun with this friends or any other races you will be playing. I'm a big Summit of Speed fan and generally I dig the Hollywood Gold Cup, so in between soccer games I'll be checking in, keeping it on the down low of course. The post race analysis will be more important to me and studying the race pace and the way the jocks and trainers play it. Hopefully Millions Day will have the same great weather and track conditions: Firm, 5 inch grass height, cut and watered, temp rail 6 feet in or lane 3.

Good Stuff, Turk Out!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day 3 July 2011: The Chicago Handicap Grade 3 at Arlington Park

The Turk came as close as he's ever come to bragging earlier today when I discussed my handicapping knack: Identifying the top four. Now friends, I wasn't bragging, but I was pointing out that I'm less of a "winner picker" and more of a "layer identifier". OK Turk, WTF is a layer identifier?

While every field is different, within each field their are horses that are capable of winning, some capable of place and show, some capable of being on an exotic ticket and others that are just toss outs. Horses are wonderful animals but they don't read bald idiot bloggers like me, so there are factors like pace and traffic and sub-optimal surface conditions that sometimes blur the lines, sometimes wipe them out, but over time, over the mean average, results happen. I'm good at identifying which group each horse will fall into and with that, I'm disciplined enough to bet consistently, understanding I'll loose as many as 6 out of 10 boxed superfectas, but those 4 winners, those marvelous 4 winners, generally signers, more than make up for it.

A successful bet always starts with the handicap. It helps to have a field of sufficient size and quality. Regardless, the handicap is the key because without the ability to either "winner pick" or "layer identify", no matter how good a bettor you are, you just won't win. The Turk took down over $2000 on a simple 4 horse boxed superfecta, using the bettors least favorite horse, La Rocca as the Place horse, exactly where he ended up finishing. I don't get that hung up with "winner picking", I had the winner in my box and the payout is only a function of where the odds finish. La Rocca is the handicapping smarts you acquire after looking at Past Performances for multiple decades and the bet is the discipline that comes from, well, being disciplined (thanks Dad and the US Navy).

Arlington Park Race 9: The Chicago Handicap Grade III

So what did I like about La Rocca? Trainer Stidham is clipping along at 32% at AP, but he had two enties, the second, Lookn Even Finer, had Rosie Napravnik up, while La Rocca had 10% AP winner S.B. Martinez up. At first glance you may think the trainer is favoring Lookn Even Finer: look out for that angle, the weaker of a trainers two entrys. I liked the long and continuous AP track work, especially the 4F :47 and 4/5ths and 5f 1:00. I liked the 22% first time with trainer stat. The final sell for me, while Stidham is only 7% winner with >180 day layoffs the horse responded well off a long layoff from late 2009 into 2010. The last factor? Nobody else was that impressive as I rattled off the good and bad pre-race.

Home's the Best, the Illinois bred, was vanned off at the end of the race. Here's hoping the 7 year old mare is OK.

This is the kind of race that fuels my positive ROI and its a good example of what I try to explain to my readers and the ingredients to success: a solid pre race handicap, the horses slotted and fair odds gaged, and a consistent type of bet (at a bet amount I was perfectly comfortable losing and still being able to pay for Little Turk's braces).

Happy Fourth of July friends. I'll be back tomorrow with my fifth track of the weekend, Churchill Downs and the Firecracker Handicap over the grass tomorrow. Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: The Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park and a Post Race Analysis of Graded Stakes Grab Bag

The Turk likes to take time to celebrate the little steps along the long road of life and The Turk and Little Turk have reached a milestone, 400 Blog Posts.

In the big picture those 400 Blog Posts didn't add anything to society but they did do wonderful things for me personally: I've met some truly interesting people and I have acquaintances and friends I can meet at all the major tracks around the country when I'm looking to enjoy a social moment and not just a hard core degenerate betting experience. Before the blog, before Facebook, Twitter, the web, I was alone in the horse racing experience, buying the form and placing my bets. The world spilled wide open and it was satori to realize that like minded people all over the country existed. The Turk and the Little Turk started as a simple outlet to post the 3H's: Horses, handicapping and our personal hijinks's. We've kept our simple approach and we have no intention of being anything other than what we currently are.

Thank you all for reading!

I enjoyed the smorgasbord of racing I handicapped yesterday, even if after I handicapped I felt that it was a pretty uninspiring collection of betting races, as the fields were a bit small and, quite honestly, I had no feel for a few of them. The best handicap and potentially the best bet I would have made was the Superfecta on the United Nations, powered by Teaks North finishing on top.

I'm in full blown 4th of July weekend relaxation mode; I always thought this would be the best weekend for the Millions preview at Arlington but the folks there think differently. As much as I love to handicap the grass at Arlington, I pretty much have had extremely mixed results handicapping the fake dirt there over the past two years. Today I take a swing at The Chicago Handicap, a seven furlong affair for Fillies and Mares, with my only real objective being to play the card and get a feel for the surface again.

Let's recap yesterday briefly and get to today's Chicago Handicap.

The Dwyer

The Suburban Handicap

The Shoemaker Mile

The Triple Bend Handicap

Everyone should have their own style of handicapping and betting; mine is to handicap, without morning lines or any pre race hype news articles, and then build a bet strategy after that. One downside is I often handicap races that have little to offer as betting opportunities to make cash at, but if you study the Past Performances, the Race Chart and the video, the effort is seldom wasted. Dominus was allowed to go through easy fractions in a yawner of a Dwyer. We wondered aloud where the pace would come from pre race and it never really came. With the scratch of Rocking Out the field dropped to six, the super option went away and this became a race to watch and keep the wallet in the pocket. We did have Adios Charlie finishing in Place. I keep stats for myself, which I don't bore you folks with, of my base handicaps that are contrarian to heavy chalk. Even without betting I take something away from this race and we move along.

In Race 10, The Suburban Handicap, I must admit that this field left me perplexed. In the history of my 400 blog postings I'm not sure I ever put up a handicap where I didn't toss someone, anyone. I had no intention of betting this race and I didn't and I'm glad as I would have never bet Flat Out. I was impressed by Hymn Book, who I discounted, but the bettors didn't, off the strong last race off the turf effort beating I Want Revenge (which use to mean something, but I am confused by what distance Rodman is best suited for because I dunno.

There is no bragging, ever, from the Turk. I keep to a strong code and bragging is prohibited. The closest I may ever come to bragging will be to describe what i do well as a handicapper. The United Nations is the text book superfecta win I assemble pretty regularly. A nice 10 horse field with a very clear line between who will be in the top 5 and who wouldn't be. Teaks North past performance had a bullet handride 4f :47 effort and a Grade 3 96 Beyer win effort at Monmouth on June 12th. I disliked the lack of wins at the distance but I made note of the 3 of 3 on Monmouth turf and 4 wins in nine tries on Turf. Nice win but I expected a top four finish, not exactly a win spot. The others just slotted in and the super paid $377. I call those workmanlike, not sexy.

The two Hollywood Park races I passed on as well and we'll just leave it to the video to tell those stories.

I handicap many more races than I could possibly blog. I'll handicap the whole Arlington card today and I'll start handicapping Arlington more over the next several weeks as I target Millions Preview Day and Millions Day. A fairly even collection of fillies and mares will contest today's Chicago Handicap. Florida Bred Hooh Why is is lifetime money winner as well as the high Beyer on fake dirt. The 5 Yo mare comes in off an N3X win at 7f on the AP fake stuff in mid June, but some 25 Beyer points lower than her lifetime best. Tidal Pool brings some name recognition and a 0-60 Graded Stakes streak in for D. Wayne Lukas. Dr. Zic competes almost exclusively in graded stakes action but doesn't win much; a nice Grade I at KEE in April 2010 seems along time ago now. Devil By Design is coming off a very long layoff, something Bill Mott wins 16% of the time. The 5 YO Medeglia d'Oro daughter hasn't done much in 11 months. La Rocca is with trainer Michael Stidham for the first time, a 22% win angle but he puts Martinez and his 10% win rate instead of Napravnik and her 21% win clip, whom he has up on his other entrant, Lookn Even Finer, who switches from turf/synth at a 24% clip and 23% winner off the fillies last race win. the former claimer is starting to grow on me.

Who did I miss? Illinois Bred Home's the Best ran a nice 93 Beyer at 1 1/8 miles over the fake AP dirt in late May and Hot Hot Mama doesn't have much but her name to excite me.

I handicapped and I'll watch to see how it all flops out. Have a good holiday weekend.

Turk Out!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Nomination Is In: Graded Stakes Grab Bag: 5 Races, 3 Tracks and 1 Fat Cigar on Standby

Life is full of complications, dichotomies, and at times, confusion. One day you wake up and you're told that red wine is bad for you, the next day it's good for you. More protein, less fat, more fat, eat carbohydrates, don't eat carbohydrates, reading in the dark is bad, no it's OK, to this, not that, blah blah blah. Our poor society seems to be stuck developmentally as well. Why can't we tear eyes away from the trial of a sad figure who failed her child on so many levels? Why do we spend taxpayer money building overpriced stadiums for professional sports that print dollars, only to have these billionaires lock out the millionaires and deny the minimum wage employees their own incomes? Why do we spend more than any sane country should on education only to not see tangible results? The Turk is troubled by the world, and I have no answers for any of the questions that leave me thinking, but what I do have is a game I turn to, a collection athletes that never go on strike, that want nothing more than to please and be cared for. A game that allows me to analyze, compare, wager if I choose. A game that is far from perfect but does offer up slices of heaven.

If you're a horseplayer you are most likely a hedonist at heart. I'm not talking about scantily clad folks lounging around a poolside bar in the Caribbean thinking about who next to introduce themselves too (although there is nothing wrong with that!) I'm talking a more pure pleasure seeker, one who looks at the horses, sees beauty, looks at the game and sees opportunity. Risk and Reward: I handicap, I bet, I win, I lose, but at the end of the day I have calmness and the belief that of all that is bad in the world, I still have the horses, I still have my family, and I still have my health, not in that particular order.

I have a Romeo Y Julieta waiting for me today no matter how I handicap. Inside my humidor, amongst the 100 or so sticks of pleasure is a special cigar, an aging piece of old Havana. I hold it in reserve for a magical day at the windows, without any definition of what a magical day would mean. I can't predict when that day will come, and I'm not even sure how to predict the possibility of its arrival, but I keep playing the races, and I win my share, and I know it isn't far the rapture (maybe I'm off by a few months too?.

Anyhow, I don't often to burden my readers with the ramblings of a middle aged handicapper but I guess today was just one of those days. I'm feeling a bit blue because I missed an opportunity to see old friends last night as duty called. As therapy I've assembled a series of races, like I would if i was marketing the sport to grow the game not just the objectives of certain people, organizations or track conglomerates. If I were the czar I would bundle 2 hours each Saturday night of graded stakes action from multiple tracks and go bam...bam...bam...across the TV screen until the two hours was up, and I'd do it again the following week. I would stop trotting C list celebrities out on the screen and I would instead enlist the best communicators of the game we have and let them sell it. I liked my idea last week too: I'd target sports columnists at all the major papers and start bringing them to the track, because the track sells itself. Slowly but surely these folks, either on the radio, or in the opinion pieces, will start to talk horse racing.

You poor folks, let's just get after it!

Five Races, 3 Tracks, all Graded Stakes over 172 Minutes stating at 5:16 ET

I'm not sure where I come out today. While The Ol' Turk is mostly a Pick Four player, sometimes I just want to be fan and watch the races without much concern over the tote board and my ADW account. I've built handicaps I can play and have some fun with, and I'll most likely go no deeper than exactas an tri's, but we'll see. I started at Belmont, jumped to Monmouth and ended at Hollywood, with a little break near the last race to char grill some good eats.

The Dwyer at Belmont leads us off at 5:16. 7 horses, 1 turn for this grade 2 event with the 3 year olds. Adios Charlie will attract heavy coin, perhaps serious show pool money, but I'm looking for Tech Fall to take a step forward. A quick peek at the morning lines after I handicapped showed he was 10-1. I'll be happy with anything >6-1. Anthony Dutrow's runner makes only his 5th start, with R. Dominguez up for the first time. The son of Birdstone has steadily improved and is working in the morning very well. He'll come just off the pace. A pace set by who? Harlan's Hello will press the pace before fading, and Dominus should be there as well, but I would expect Adios Charlie and Tech Fall to duel in the stretch, with perhaps a bid by an Angel Pena trained Cool Blue Red Hot or Dick Dutrow's Rocking Out. Adios Charlie has been training very nice at Saratoga but Trainer Hough only wins 7% of his 31-60 day layoffs. We'll be expecting him to run good at the Spa.

The Suburban is next up, sans Haynesfield this year, the race that made him a real player. It's a solid six horse field, but its still six horses that would be so much better with 8 or 9. I like Rodman to win. I think he is the pick but just behind him are some real quality runners which makes this quite interesting. Colizeo will need a good trip and look for a setup to run against. Convocation has had mixed results since placing in this race last year. Hymn Book came off the grass last time out and ran good over a sealed big sandy but I'd put him behind Icabad Crane and Flat Out. This is gambling folks, I have no idea how this one will unfold.

Monmouth offers up one the the great Grade I turf events of the year, the United Nations. If you're a fan of the grass, you'll love this 1 3/8 classic. My chalk is Bourbon Bay; 3 of 4 in the money this year and 5 of 5 in the money in 2010, as well as 13 of 17 in the money on grass. Alan Garcia is up, 16% winner, hmmmm. He ships in from the left coast where he has trained steady for Trainer Drysdale. Sucker for the name too.

It's a coin toss with Chinchon and Stacelita, two Euros that can really stay. Stacelita, 5 YO mare, with Joe Bravo up, has $1.5 MM in earnings in 14 starts with 8 wins while Chinchon, the 6 YO horse has $1.9MM in 23 tries with 5 wins.

Teaks North and Sleepless Knight, the Breen trained George and Lori Hall runner, seem to be logical Show and Exotic contenders, with Eldaafer somewhere in the exotic mix possibly, while everyone else is getting tossed for better or worse. Teaks North may be peaking and is 3 of 3 over Monmouth turf. He seems to represent some real value. Watch the tote board!

The grilled will get started around this time but while it's heating up I jump to Hollywood about 1/2 hour later for the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. I may be a bit giddy from my earlier blog ranting but I'm backing Liberian Freighter over most likely higher ranking and superior animals, Caracortado and Courageous Cat. Martin Garcia is up and I expect the 5 time Hollywood Turf winner will bounce back from his last 1 mile effort in the Grade 2 American.

Courageous Cat comes in off a huge last race winning Grade 3 effort on good turf at Belmont. The Mott trainer tries Hollywood for the first time. Caracortado needs no introduction but does need a win, as he's had some dull efforts lately. Victor's Cry makes his first try back after going to Dubai but once this last year on long odds. Blue Chagall is background noise.

With a 90 minute break to eat I'll end with the Grade I Triple Bend Handicap. I'm intrigued byu a class challenged Color of Courage, a 4 YO gelding who has 2 wins at HOL on the fake dirt and two straight 100 + Beyers in the process. Mike Smith left him for Amazombie, as he would of course do, but don't discount.

Amazombie and Smiling Tiger are the two heavy hitters here, with M One Rifle in the next pack back. Camp Victory might not be buying that conventional thinking and with Talamo up, the Forest Camp claimer may be ready to turn the tables.

So there you have it, good stuff all the way around. I don't think weather will be a concern today, but check the track conditions, scratches and changes and the tote board for value. Do your own handicapping and don't let morning lines, TV talking heads or bald handicappers like me influence your thinking in any way.

Have fun, Turk Out!