Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Nomination Is In: August 13, 2011: The Arlington Million Grade I

God gave me a big nose for a reason, but it isn't big enough: John Henry nips me at the wire but I get up for Show Money behind The Bart. The story of my life. I think I've digressed.

Welcome Friends to the Turk and Little Turk's handicap of the Arlington Million. I've been invited today to handicap one of the premier turf events in North America, the Grade I Arlington Million,for the Thorofan's Handicappers Corner. To those of you not familiar with The Thorofan, its an organization inspired by and serving the 29 million horse racing fans in America who deserve a voice.

Arlington Park is a pretty special place to me. I was living north of Chicago in 1985, serving in the United States Navy, when a fire swept through the track , destroying the old place. I joined the curious and the concerned that watched from the edge of the road. It's a wonderful new facility now, under appreciated in the big scheme of things, but just a completely fan-centric race day experience they offer and its one of this Turk's favorite places to visit.

Arlington Park installed a poly surface in 2007, which I don't play often, but when I do, I find it plays pretty fair. For me, the Arlington turf course is the draw. It's maintained immaculately, not like the grass at Soldier Field. The race falls in a nice place in the conditions book, a month or so after the classic distance Grade I turf affairs start happening, races like The Colonial Turf Cup,Arlington Park Handicap, The Man O' War and the United Nations,and it sets the winner up perfectly for The Breeders' Cup Turf. The race attracts some of the best turf horses in the America and the best second tier grass runners from Europe and the race is the cornerstone of Arlington Park's biggest day of the year. All good stuff.

Before I look at this year's field I need to understand what to expect the turf to be like: The course is currently listed as Yielding. The weather leading up to Saturday suggests that rain is possible. I'm leaning towards the course still being soft, possibly listed as good, but I expect it will play fair and not favor speed. You have to make a stand on what you think the conditions will be before you break down the runners. There are some great Twitter and Facebook feeds out there you can tap to get a real time feel for the truth. Take advantage of the new information when you can. On raceday make sure you check scratches and changes and the tote board is always something to keep your eye on so you don't invest too heavily when the odds aren't in your favor.

I also like to take a few minutes and review the past, which is often a window into the future. From the racecharts I've taken a quick peek at the last six editions.

Glean what you like from it, but I'm focused on the favorite has been taking Place money more often than not and that the winner is being identified as one of the top three by savvy horse players. It looks like Show is in play with the average Show horse was typically the fifth favorite of the punters. Only one chalk has one in the past six editions.

When you're looking at this race, or any race with foreign invaders, avoid assigning mythical powers to these animals; Just because they are from Europe don't assume they will dominate. Respect them, sure, get as much information on them as you can, but don't ascribe brilliance too quickly.

Again, I'm leaning towards slightly soft going and I'm going to discount front running speed carrying over distance. I see the pace being set by Mission Approved, Proceed Bee and Dean's Kitten possibly. Cape Blanco (IRE) will be pulled back and kept about 1 length back to the inside. A bunch of closers, lead by Gio Ponti will be poised to strike at the top of the straight.

Flaws: Every horse has flaws that can make you shy away. Gio Ponti hasn't won in awhile. Cape Blanco (Ire) has been anointed, but look at the running lines, very inconsistent and no reason to be so respectful of the expected chalk. Mission Approved is an honest runner who will give you the same effort every race. I like the training at Saratoga and I think the 7 YO is poised for a good year.

Man O' War /Good Turf/ July 9,2011

This can either be a good betting race or a dud. I don't see the longest prices winning or placing under almost any circumstances. I don't think the trifecta will pay that well with my base handicap so I'll consider superfecta or super high-5 and take a swing at the fences.

The base handicap is built and again it's built with certain turf conditions in mind and its built with the pace scenario keyed on Mission Approved. Any scratches from the pace players will force a reassessment. Pay attention to the scratches and changes, as well as the tote board, and use your base handicap to quickly work through your own value versus reward equations. Finally, only bet what you are prepared to lose.

Do your own handicapping and remember the past is prologue. Thanks again for the Thorofan for allowing me to entertain you. I'm hopeful my degenerate core audience will become members soon.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

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