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!