Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Nomination Is In: September 30, 2011; The Tim "Tiznow" Reynolds Memorial at Charles Town

I live in a cocoon of my own invention. A womb. Perhaps it's the years I spent in the military or an entire adult life lived rigidly in the only way I know; my own. I don't let new people into my world easily. Several years ago, before I ever heard the term "social media" I lamented that for someone as outgoing as I was in my 20's, I became stodgy and unapproachable in my 40's. After I started The Turk and the Little Turk in 2008 I began meeting horse racing fans online, at my blog, at Facebook, now Twitter and maybe Google + next.

I met Tim "Tiznow" Reynolds not quite two years ago. He was outgoing, funny, easy to talk to. I can't claim to have known him well, but we exchanged messages more often than I even realized, that is until I went back and reread my Facebook wall and realized we spoke many times a week. The comments we shared ranged the whole gamut of male conversation, from humorous to raunchy, almost always about food/horses/booze. I considered Tim my friend.

The world lost Tim this week. The damage his death brought rippled out from its epicenter and touched hundreds of people who knew him like I knew him, on the fringes of life where daily human contact and friends via "social media" merge.

I mourn for the loved ones Tim left behind. My heart was genuinely touched seeing the world of online horse racing fans converge around Tim's family during these difficult days. A scholarship fund has already been set up, and with the help of the wonderful people at The Thorofan, contributions for young Lauren, Tim's daughter, are tax deductible. I'm going to miss Tim's comments, and I'm going to miss seeing him in the paddock at the Breeders' Cup in seven weeks, I'm just going to miss the young man who oozed passion for life and his loves.

Tomorrow is Tim's wake and then he will be buried on Saturday. Please keep the family in your prayers, a family that already buried their other son two short years ago.

The great people at Charles Town named Friday night's first race in honor of Tim, and never has a race deserved a Turk nomination as this one does.

Let's get after it!

It's a $5,000 Claimer for West Virginia bred Fillies and Mares 3 YO and Up. I've handicapped and will build my bet after I see the odds closer to post. Mama Turk is liking Blingtastic and Little Turk is all over J.J's Devil.

Saturday night I'm going to tie a good drunk on. I'll be sitting at my kitchen table, with a bottle of 'Ol Number 7, playing the ponies on Super Saturday at Belmont, but mourning in my own way. A good cigar later on Sunday and I'll try and banish the darkness of the past week and only remember the funny exchanges that Tim and I shared, like the one about how Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey leaves an aftertaste like pancakes.

I don't know about you all, but music helps and nobody mourns like the Irish.

Turk Out!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rest in Peace Tiznow Tim

You meet people during the course of living life. You meet people and some leave an impression and others don't. What I notice first about people is their intensity; Are they passionate? When they speak, does love flow from them for what they talk about? Are they humorous, self effacing?

One of the Turk's best Facebook friends passed away and the world of horse racing is so much less interesting because of his loss. "Tiznow" Tim Reynolds was the real deal; handsome, funny, passionate.

"You can push me into the cold water
But you can't hold me under

You can bring me down
But you can't make me beg

It's so hard to stay honest
In a world that's headed to hell
You can't make a good living these days
'Cause the truth just don't sell"

Rest in Peace Tim. I will miss your comments in a way I never thought possible.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Third Aniversary Turk and Little Turk

The older Turk gets, the more wistful Turk becomes. My post tonight marks the third anniversary of The Turk and Little Turk blog. We've welcomed 20,577 visitors through the front door in those three years or 571 people a month. The individual readers mean an awful lot to me, much more than the meager traffic number represents in the blogging world.

I've become friends with many of you, meet some of you, shared joy and frustrations with you. I've bridged the gap of impersonal computer blogging and made connections with my readers, engaging in a dialog built on the common love of the equine. Horseplayers, whales, bloggers, wannabes, rescuers, journalists: I've been blessed to meet you all and I thank you for inspiring me to write my blog when I'm tired, when work has me down, when the joy is sucked from my bones. Nothing makes me happier than talking about the races, a pleasure that is possible because of the understanding and encouragement given to me by Mrs. Turk, and my apprentice, The Little Turk.

At The Turk and the Little Turk we don't give a hoot about traffic, demographics, Alexa ratings, blog analytics, none of that. The Ol' Turk cares about the real. We define the real as family, friends, new loves, old loves. We don't discriminate, don't judge, don't preach, occasionally rant, but it's always delivered with passion and it's always straight up, no BS. Win, loose, close miss, plain suck, we just say it.

I'd like to thank Geno from Equispace . I found Equispace sort of by accident in September 2008 while I was mindlessly surfing away in O'Hare Airport. It dawned on me as I read his blog that this was something I'd like to try myself. On a whim I wrote a letter to Geno and he graciously responded. The small world that it is, Geno actually lives no more than 15 miles from my house.

In a world full of irony, Geno replaced an inspiration of mine, The Happy Handicapper, Mr. Bob Summers, who passed away about a year ago. Bob was the longtime handicapper at the Buffalo News and his articles were always positive and full of upbeat language and joy. Bob's writings, and his use of a clumsy third person writing style, was an inspiration to me and he is missed, but Geno has carried on the tradition of writing well.

My only goal for this blog is more of the same, but better. I don't intend to ever write a handicapping book, but I'm writing parts of it every blog entry. I consider my writings a work in progress and I work at my craft. As I'm working, I'm doing my best to articulate my thoughts cohesively. I hope you like it, it is for you I write.

I hope to meet as many of you as possible during the Breeders' Cup. Stay positive, add to other's joy, think before you talk, have empathy. Love one another as you would have others love you.

Here's hoping we break 28,000 visitors by year four.

Thank You Friends,

The Turk and Little Turk

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Nomination Is In: September 17, 2011; The Garden City Grade I

If you are 8 of 8 in the money on turf, win four straight with improving Beyers, against improving company, rip off :47.4 the week before, you get the picture on the blog, and that beautiful More Than Ready girl who races for breeder/owner Emory Hamilton is Hungry Island, my chalk in tomorrows Garden City Handicap.

I've been stewing on the eight horses entered for the inner turf affair for two days now. I don't think it's a great betting race so most likely I'll handicap out the Pick 4 and have some fun that way.

Let's get after it!

Hungry Island has been on a real tear, and everyone steps back, but she still seems to be on an upward trajectory. He big challenge will seem to come from the beautiful El Prado daughter, Winter Memories. Castellano gets the mount after Lezcano was criticized for the trip in the Lake Placid.

Speaking of trips, I see three key races to watch before settling on my handicap; The Lake Placid, The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (just to get perspective on More Than Real) and the Coronation Stakes.

2011 Lake Placid G2 @ SAR 21 August

2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf G2

2011 Coronation Stakes G1 17 June

Gather your information on scratches and changes and track conditions and get a feel for the weather, which should not be a factor.

It's my humble opinion that you shouldn't get too hung up on trip handicapping. I like to judge the late turn of foot and get an honest opinion if the race should count as something you can view as indicative or if the trip was god awful, do you just give out a mulligan.

I don't get hung up on Beyers either. I use them as a predictor, a datapoint that shouldn't be over stressed. I place great emphasis on current form, last two races, works, life time stats in the money for the surface, at the distance, at the track. I'm interested in how often in the last two years the horse has won. I'm OK with a horse that doesn't win, but you have to figure out where to layer that horse in. I'll say it again and again, Morning Lines have no place in handicapping. Trust yourself before letting someone else color your opinion.

I want More Than Real to bounce back but I'm not sure what to make of her; a dull effort in England in the Coronation Stakes, a dull Lake Placid, and slow and not improving works at 4f. I just can't back her right now. Trainer Pletcher is a big time winner so you can't discount, but I am tomorrow.

I'm not sure what to make of Theysken's Theory; I'm not sure of the distance and the turf condition and I think that tomorrows really a primer for her and her connections, who attracted Gomez to the mount. I'm layering her in somewhere between 5th and Show.

Pinch Pie went off at $18.90 in the Alabama, and lets not throw a parade for finishing up track, but she was flying in the last quarter mile. Anthony Dutrow is 27% turf winner and 22% on the Dirt to Turf switch, with the Dutrow/Rose combo winning 34% on 208 starts together the past year. I have a soft spot for Victory Gallop's.

Kathmanblu is Mama Turk's iron stove pipe lock this week. 6 of 7 in the money on turf and 9 of 12 lifetime in the money on all surfaces. Arch Support has super hot David Cohen up but the Arch daughter doesn't win much.

I'm just not that excited about this race as a betting opportunity. I don't see big value turning conventional wisdom on its ear. That said, it's one Turk's opinion and I encourage you to disregard hacks like me and do your own handicapping and take your own opinions.

So what am I gonna do with this effort? I dunno. I seriously doubt I'd bet this race stand alone. I'll spend some time on the P4 and blog about it if I have time. Tomorrow's efforts will be geared towards the Woodbine Mile card as well.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Raceday September 10, 2011; The Grade 2 Grab Bag of the Super Derby and Masters

Who else still looks up expecting to see them? Ten years later and it has yet to mentally compute that they are just gone, these iconic towers that captured in my imagination what the big city was like.

I've stood in the Pentagon, at the very place where the plane struck. I've stood at the edge of ground zero and looked into the pit, remembering the days I visited the building when it was a vibrant and bustling office city.

If you are reading a horse racing blog, chances are you are old enough to have your own 9/11 story. I have mine and I no longer think about the images of the buildings being stuck or falling, I now only think about the names and faces of some of the dead, men and women of a similar age to me, with children, veterans, police and fire fighters. That's all the memory links within my mind lead me to.

Life has gone on for the rest of us, damaged but alive, but for the victims of 9/11, they are locked in time, hopefully resting in peace.

God Bless the United States of America.

I assembled two very simple bets for no reason other than I had plans to see the University of Buffalo home football opener with Little Turk and his buddy, and I had to place the bets and go.

A Trifecta and Superfecta were constructed using my base handicaps. The day was made positive by the Trifecta win in the Presque Isle Downs Masters and the Superfecta win in the Super Derby.

In the hits category I forwardly placed Populist Politics and Awesome Bet in the Super Derby, the 6th and 7th betting public choices, and I had Musical Romance covered in the Masters. I'm looking for misses and i can't really say I blew anything, but that is the fine line of handicapping and betting, one change in position is the difference. I would have never included $46.20 Promised Mandate in my PID Super. I never expected Ariana D. to be so backed, I viewed her as value. Trubs and Meistersinger didn't fire as well as hoped.

Good sized fields with competition up and down the starting gate is much more preferable to me than a five horse Grade I. Good stuff indeed.

Remember the dead, and the loved ones they left behind. Remember the military, the only segment of the American public at war and living as being at war daily.

Turk Out!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Nomination Is In: 10 September 2011; The Grade 2 Racing Grab Bag- PID Masters and Super Derby

One of my favorite things about horse racing is the selection; You would think the weekend after the prestigious racing meets at Saratoga and Del Mar close that there wouldn't be anything that could interest you: How wrong you would be. I'm a horse racing fan first, handicapper and degenerate bettor second. Sure I love Grade One racing on the biggest stages, on national TV, but there is some good stuff out there almost every weekend of the year, and that's what I am, a weekend horse fella.

I debated what I wanted to handicap today and that debate always starts at the stakes schedule. I had alot of options but I settled on handicapping two tracks I seldom work, Louisiana Downs and Presque Isle Downs. Why? Big fields and the PP's just looked fun. I'm easy (relax ladies, I'm not available).

There were some nice turf events at Belmont, Kentucky Downs and Woodbine, and some nice fake dirt events at Arlington, but I printed The Super Derby Grade 2 at LaD and The Masters Grade 2 at PID and I got the red gel pen out and got engaged. No excuses if I don't have fun, I picked my pleasure.

I received my Breeders' Cup purple 2011 Breeders' Cup ball cap in the mail yesterday.

I am such a geek and I'm completely unapologetic about it. I am so excited about the Breeders' Cup this year and I look forward to meeting more of the great folks I've had the pleasure of getting to know through Facebook, Twitter, and the various racing blogs. It's a nice community of fans in horse racing, eclectic to say the least. One of the things I like about horse racing is the passion of, and the acceptance that women receive as turf writers, bloggers, fans and handicappers. What other non female related sport is that accepting? All good stuff!

Anyway, lets get after this!

I've had some intense handicapping sessions over the past few weeks. They have been lucrative to me but also draining. In the past I may have taken a handicappers holiday and put the red pen down for a weekend, but I've decided this year to handicap every week but only ramp up the effort (and the cash I'm willing to lay down) three or four more times between now and Breeders' cup weekend. My goal is to stay sharp and stay engaged with my PP reading skills.

I learned to handicap in an era before You Tube and Google; I use to handicap whole cards on the night shift of my job (I don't advocate this behavior generally, it was just a 12 hour shift and not much to do). I did not trip handicapping and seldom got any feedback on the races that I handicapped except the WPS results in the next days paper. I feel pretty good just looking at the PPs and nothing much else but the funny thing is, no matter how long I've been doing it, if I don't do it regularly I get sloppy. I'll take a bit of a break in November after the Breeders' Cup but for right now, I'm going to keep workin' it.

I checked the weather at Louisiana Downs. Hot but dry. I'm not much worried about the fake dirt track in Erie, PA, about 90 minutes south of Turk.

Lets start with the Super Derby: Prayer for Relief, the Baffert trainee for Zayat Stables and two time graded stakes winner, appears to be a heavy duty chalk in this spot; two late turns of foot on dirt at 8+ furlongs, two Derby wins in West Virgina and Iowa, Baffert 25% off a 30-60 day break, 25% winning last starts, 33% on dirt. Heavy duty expect 6-5, 5-6 something not worth betting; Let's bet against him!

I'm putting Trubs on top; The Al Stall runner is 2 of 2 at LaD, has 4 wins on fast dirt and is very game. Stall has Sellers up and they combine for 32% wins. Stall has stats that stand up to Baffert: 28% off 45-180 day break, 28% off 30 to 60 day break, 33%winners of last start, 32% graded stakes.

Don't want to throw caution to the wind like the ol' Turk? There will be some legitimate prices that should be considered. Alternation with R. Dominguez up, is a strong runner with 4 wins on fast dirt and 1 win at the distance. The Distorted Humor son is off to a fresh start after abandoning Triple Crown dreams and winning the Grade 2 Peter Pan before coming up a bit flat in the Jim Dandy.

10 cent Super's and fifty cent Tri's are on the menu; I like some exotic possibility here with the value coming if Prayers for Rain falters, even if just to Place.

At Presque Isle I'm hunting for value too and I've settled on Ariana D: 16 of 20 in the money on fake dirt, winless in 2011 with 4 Place finishes and I love the running lines, " gamely...all out inside....detirminedly...up late driving". Desormeaux is up, not exactly my favorite rider but a big fish in this pond. Sweet Lorena is a horse for the course but may not be classy enough to win on a track she generally owns: 15 of 15 in the money at PID, 16 of 18 in the money on fake stuff for the 7 YO NY State bred mare from Langfuhr. Beat the Blues should only be ignored at your own peril.

I'm layer handicapping both races. I will be building exotics and who exactly wins is a bit moot and only matters to drive the value of the bet higher or lower. A nice betting menu is available for the PID Masters;$2 WPS, $2 Exactas, fifty cent Tri's and ten cent Super's.

I'm going to sit back and have a bit of fun with these nice sized fields and beatable chalks (at least I hope).

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Nomination Is In: September 9, 2011: The Presque Isle Downs Mile Preview

Life is all about timing. Being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of the right moments is something you learn and it's something I try to teach the Little Turk. Opportunity knocks and you have to answer!

I think Presque Isle Downs gets it. A racino, sure, but slowly but surely improving the race product and they place a big weekend in their calendar the first weekend after Saratoga and Del Mar closes when addicts like me are jonesing for a big field and beatable chalk.

On the Friday night card we have a nice field of 12 runners going after $250,000 in the Presque Isle Mile. Three millionaires and my tentative chalk, Stunning Stag, set to break a million.

If I were writing a handicapping book I'd use these PP's as an example of runners of various class rising and falling, as well as turf and dirt to synthetic angles and distance increase and decrease angles. Take some time with these PP's like the Ol' Turk is doing. I printed them last night and I've been marinating in them. I love the challenge that this field will present and I think there is some money to be made with the exotic options here.

I've laid out my initial thoughts and I'll sleep on it and finish up by early Friday.

Have fun with this, Turk Out!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day 3 September 2011: The All Graded Stakes Pick 3 at Saratoga

Do you remember where you were on August 22, 2006? When the news of Horse of the Year Saint Liam dying in a paddock accident broke I was in an airport flying West on business. I couldn't shake from my mind the fuchsia and teal silks, Jerry Bailey up. There is a sadness that comes with this sport you just have to accept. Rest in Peace Saint Liam. Thanks to Tiznow Tim for use of the photo.

Havre de Grace, the four year old daughter of Saint Liam , made it look too easy yesterday. It was a confident run against a good field and she had more in the tank at the end than anyone else. It reaffirmed by feeling that our American fillies and mares are the best runners we have, the most exciting, and right now, the most gutty. It makes me appreciate Blind Luck a whole lot too as she wins yesterday if she was the won entered.

let's get after it!

Yesterday was a thrilling day as a horse fan, the type of day that doesn't come along very often. I was happy for Larry Jones and Fox Hill Farms, a team that gave me one of my happiest Saratoga memories in the past decade, Hard Spun's Kings Bishop win.

I whiffed on the Pick Three; I didn't want to believe a horse that was claimed in June for $75,000 could win back to back Grade 1 wins but that's exactly what Ask the Moon did winning the Personal Ensign after taking the Ruffian Handicap. Ask the Moon, whose name is now associated forever with Ruffian and Personal Ensign. That would make a good movie script!

The Forego made me sad for Sidney's Candy. Previously trained by John Sadler before being sold to WinStar, the four year old Candy Ride is a turf runner but with Trainer Pletcher at the helm he was switched to the dirt here. i don't mind seeing a horse given an opportunity to take down $750,000, but I wasn't thrilled with how Quality Road's career was managed and I don't see a real campaign being charted for Sidney's Candy either. I respected Sidney's Candy enough to cover him but I wasn't shocked at the dull effort and i was shocked that he was the chalk. I hit the Superfecta and I almost didn't without my late insertion of Aikenite into both Show and 4th. He was really closing at the end.

The betting public had The Woodward cold. The order of finish by ranking on the toteboard? 1,2,3,5,4,6,7,8. I hit a $125 Superfecta on a $54 dollar ticket. Pedestrian, not sexy, but cash is cash. The day I start getting disappointed that I only netted $470 for 3 hours work is the day I'll toss my red gel pens in the river.

With Saratoga and Del Mar ending many casual horse racing fans turn their attention to the NFL, baseball playoffs, college football, etc. I'd urge the new readers I've picked up here at the Turk over the past two months to give the sport a chance to keep you hooked. The Stakes Schedule is full of great races and betting opportunities. Even if you only focus on Saturday racing, which most of the time its all the Turk has time for anyhow, you can continue your handicapping skills and stay engaged with the game. I'm expecting Breeders' Cup 2011 to offer some incredible betting opportunities. Stay sharp friends.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Nomination Is In: September 3, 2011; The All Graded Stakes P3 at Saratoga

Trainer Larry Jones returns to Sartaoga with Havre de Grace, a four year old Saint Liam filly who lost by a neck to her rival Blind Luck in a thrilling Alabama in 2010.

Early in the Saratoga season there was talk of a Personal Ensign showdown between Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. That didn't materialize and then the Personal Ensign didn't materialize after Hurricane Irene had other ideas for last Sunday's day at the track. Last Sunday's loss is our gain as we have three back to back Grade I races to thrill us on the last weekend of Saratoga racing.

When you live in a cold weather locale like The Turk does you savor the seasons, all four of them. Winter to me is Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, Spring is Oaklawn and Kentucky Racing, Summer is Arlington and Saratoga, and then Fall is Woodbine, Belmont, and Breeders' Cup . That's how I view the year and it's bitter sweet for me to realize the summer has slipped by.

Friends and family of mine don't really get horse racing. Some of them try, some of them enjoy going to the track, but they aren't as fully wired in as I am. I write this blog to maintain a connection with my love of racing. No matter how much my job drains the energy from me, I have my family and I have this blog that has brought me many friends around the country who all share the same passions as the Turk clan.

I think I digressed: I'm a big fan of Larry Jones, the man. One of my first blog entries in 2008 was when he announced he was leaving the main stage of racing. I love having him back. I was reading some more talented bloggers recently and a point was made that Trainers need to feel a responsibility towards marketing the sport and that trainers need to be more visible and outspoken ambassadors of the sport. Men like Larry Jones are so charismatic, so genuine, you can't help but root for them in life and at the track. While I love the tradition of the sport, their is such a lack of effort to market the horsepeople that drive the sport.

The Turk has been very active in horse racing charities and he donates a portion of his winnings to rescues. I would never suggest that anyone part with their money, but please think about contributing to the runners who mostly weren't successful at the track and have many years of life ahead and so few people willing to care for them. Anything you can donate helps. There are so many wonderful people doing this thankless work, I hesitate to recommend any particular rescue because I'll miss someone just as deserving a shout out. The Turk will help put any casual fans in touch with the right people and all he asks is to think about these entertainers and their long term care is all of our concerns.

Let's get after it!

Race 8-9-10 Saratoga

Check the weather and scratches and changes. The Live Tote is absolutely critical; Forget the morning lines, build your own fair odds table (or letter grades) and then use the Tote Board to let the bettors tell you where they place a horse within the field. Know the odds and know what the risk/reward of your bet is.

I've built base handicaps for each race. My goal pre race is to "reorder" the horses into layers. Those layers are Win-Place-Show-Exotic and Tosses or Also Rans. I don't really try to identify the winner but instead identify who I think could win. Because it's a cop out to not pick a winner, I always do, but I'm far more interested in nailing the final order on an exotic ticket with a bit of boxing and matrix building.

I've put up some key video on each race. My analysis is there are some vulnerable chalk here. Seperate horse fan from bettor within your mind; Ask the Moon freaked the Ruffian Handicap, but do you love her at 2-1? Do you still love Havre de Grace at 8-5? I'm not answering those questions, I'm just suggesting that I will bet chalk when it makes sense as a bettor, but I won't bet chalk because I'm a fan. I'll save my bet and buy a picture for my wall. Chalk gets a bum rap too; In Layer handicapping, Chalks can't be ignored, but it helps if they finish lower than expected and you have them in the next layer below win. Good stuff friends!

2011 Ruffian Handicap

2011 Ogden Phipps Handicap

2011 Teddy Drone $103K

2011 James Marvin

2011 Whitney Invitational Handicap

2011 Birdstone Stakes

I'm going to let my base handicap speak for itself and i'll break down more of the thought process in the post race analysis. I was suppose to go today to the Woodward, a race I haven't missed in years. The Ol' Turk is tired, mentally and physically. The f**king hurricane caused me alot of work headaches and i'm just drained. I've got my eye on a PID road trip for their big races next weekend and then the Woodbine Mile is on my agenda later this month. We are all set in our plans for the Breeders' Cup too so I will just regroup and I'll be back at the Woodward next year.

Have Fun, Turk Out! Thank you Saratoga in the 25th year of my love affair with you.