Saturday, November 26, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day 25 November 2011: The Clark Handicap Grade 1

The reason I perform post race analysis is to learn what I did right and wrong. A successful bet is a three part process: I handicap the race and create a base handicap. My Base Handicap orders the horses, similar to a morning line, except I assign letter grades, and any horse B- or above is considered for Superfecta. I watch the live tote board right up to the moment I must place the bet. My base handicap is built devoid of considerations of value, underlays or overlays, and I will "reorder" slightly depending on relative values when it makes sense. My Bet Construction consists of several patterns I generally follow, i.e. "box the top five", "single the top horse and box the bottom 4", " Box the top four and include more horses in the 4th spot". I like to build consistent bets and I like to bet consistent amounts. Adding consistency takes away unnecessary thoughts in the minutes leading to post. Those three items are all key to my methods and drive my success and my failures.

I left $5,900 on the table yesterday when I screwed up my bet construction after nailing the base handicap cold. Cold. I had three horses, all listed as "A". Frequently my base handicaps are misunderstood as being an exact order of finish. I'm more jaded and cynical than that! I had three runners (Mission Impazzible, Flat Out and Wise Dan) in Blue and all Three were listed as A. In my base handicap, any one of them could finish in first. That doesn't happen often but as I said, I was torn yesterday and whomever was my chalk, it was a tepid 7-2 at best. But consider this: If there was a Super High Five, I had the top five out of 13 identified and ready to be boxed. All I needed to do yesterday was box my top five and I had the Superfecta. Why didn't I?

I could make excuses and rationalize but the bottom line is I didn't trust in my base handicap enough. I said it in my writeup. I broke one of my key rules, build the handicap and trust the handicap, and bet the handicap. The top 5 boxed for $2 is $240 bet. If you play ten of these and lose all ten you'd be out $2,400, but it only takes one like yesterday to post a 50% ROI. By keeping post race analysis I know I'm clipping away at nearly 4 out of ten Superfectas in the past 6 months. I broke my consistent betting rule and I left a nice score on the table (it also helps to know I am much better from August to November than I am January through July. Why? Better information on the PP's).

Let's analyze and take some positives out of this self imposed self mutilation moment.

The key yesterday was I expected the Breeders' Cup runners to regress. You sharpen the point of the spear to be ready on the day of the $6.0 million dollar race, not the $500,000 race. Those horses were primed for maximum effort on November 5th. They are ready for the farm. On class alone they ran better than most of the field but this is a common angle you can use every November from now until forever, these Breeders' Cup bounce horses will attract money and these horses will fail to fire.

I liked that I backed Mission Impazzible. I questioned pre race where the pace would come from except Will's Wildcat and not surprisingly Will's Wildcat struck the front and Mission Impazzible set up in stalk. I liked Mister Marti Gras, not something I can say has ever happened before. I liked the Ack Ack, I liked where he was at in 2011 and I liked Trainer Block and the cards he's playing that seem to be aces.

That's the handicap in a nutshell: I discounted Prayers for Relief and Headache, I had Ruler on Ice lower than the tote board ranking and I wasn't sold that Flat Out would be any better than he was three weeks ago and he wasn't, while at the same time expecting Mission Impazzible and Mister Marti Gras to hit the winning tickets.

What I got wrong was not betting my time honored method when I'm unsure; I trust my handicap and box five to get four or I box four to get three. I left money on the table. The realist me knows that will happen. The practical me knows that I have to minimize that by following my methods. The competitive me is pissed off because I love nothing more than to beat the game. The blogger in me doesn't mind so much because it gives me an opportunity to write about failure and how analysis and failure grouped together can really drive your forward in the bad times. The sensitive and emotionally fragile me? Doesn't exist, sorry.

Another time honored method I won't fall into is placing Wise Dan on too high a pedestal. Sure on paper he beat a realy nice 13 horse field convincingly, and he's had a nice campaign on lots of surfaces, but I'll look to beat him next time out. That's what the bettor in me does, ignores the hype. The fan in me was pretty thrilled with the race but not thrilled enough to get to into the Horse of the Year discussions: Too many have a minor share in that prize and I get the feeling it will be a popularity vote that deciedes this Eclipse Award, not that they let this idiot internet hack vote.

I am not a computer, I make mistakes. Consistency over a long period of time is the only real way to measure success and failure. The cathartic nature of blogging is that I can admit my failure and move on. I'll let this one go and regroup to make a stack of bills on the next one.

Have fun friends, Happy Thanksgiving, Turk(ey) Out!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs

Baseball fans get all misty eyed talking about Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, and as a hockey fan, I was saddened to see our Buffalo Memorial Auditorium condemned and knocked down in the name of luxury suites and more concessions. There is something special about these old places; places you shared highs and lows with, maybe with your father, your friends, your girlfriend, now your wife, your children.

Fenway and Wrigley were built in 1911 and 1914 respectively. Churchill Downs has existed since 1875, with the iconic twin spires going up in 1895. The driving force behind the creation of the track was Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, grandson of the famous American explorer, General William Clark of the William and Clark expedition of 1804-1806, the first transcontinental expedition of the United States, and whose mother was from one of Kentucky's first and leading families, the Churchill's.

At the age of 29, Meriwether Clark saw the first edition of this race run. As in all things in life, you don't really own something unless you really own it, and his mother's two brothers left the land to others after their death and Meriwether found himself as nothing more than a race steward by 1897. Already hurt deeply by poor financial investments, and followed by the loss of the track, Meriwether committed suicide in 1899 at the age of 53 years old. One can't help but think he stands along the rail along with all the other horse players we've said goodbye to over the years, players like Shawn Murphy, Rose Rizzo and Tiznow Reynolds, watching our equine heroes run over the same route of dirt in the South of Louisville that he walked so many years ago.

I love old racetracks. I stare out at the track and I see and hear the ghosts of races past thundering up the stretch. The Clark Handicap is a tradition of mine, a wonderful post Thanksgiving Day event that I look forward too, an echo of the season that has essentially concluded, a harbinger of the coming winter, and a hint of handicap division to come once the sun returns.

I'd be remiss if I didn't give my thanks to The Thorofan, and their Handicappers Corner for the opportunity to write about today's race. I am thankful in these economic times for the means to write these types of articles; I thank my employer. I thank my loving family. I cherish my friends even though the introvert that I am doesn't make me a very social friend. I thank my pets.

Let's get after this!

When people ask me what I'd like as a horse player, THIS is what I describe: a greater than 10 horse field, with trainers aggressively running their well conditioned animals back to the track on short rest (relative to the times we live in), and just alot of parity in the starting gate.

My base handicap reflects that parity. There are plenty of horses to spread money around and the tote board favorite most likely will be Flat Out: the five year old son of Flatter was the Breeders' Cup Classic chalk just three weeks ago. He'll be in my top four from a betting perspective but I'm placing him down a bit in the handicap. There's little to dislike with Flat Out but this is gambling, not play it safe "handi-pandering", so I'm going to place Mission Impazzible on top for what would be his biggest win so far. Trainer Pletcher is 25% in 2nd races off 45-180 layoffs and Mission Impazzible has been training sharply at Churchill since his first run back at KEE as the well beaten chalk. Has ran well here, including a loss by a neck in the Stephen Foster and he also didn't embarrass himself in the Woodward.

I'm a superfecta bettor usually, but this race is a true dichotomy for me: I love it as a race fan, but as a bettor there are much easier marks. That said, it's an interesting race that will require some thought on the bet construction. Where the pace comes from besides a well outclassed Will's Wildcat, I'm not sure. The bet comes after that handicap so let's keep trudging through that. By the way, the track should be fast. It's an important point that you need to always identify before going to far.

Ruler on Ice was up for Show in the Breeders Cup Classic, making a very hard late run. He's been firing since the Belmont Stakes but at some point he's going to want to run back to the farm. On class and guts alone I'll place him in the top four, but his post position and his 9 previous starts this may catch up to him.

Wise Dan was the bettors second choice that pounded Mission Impazzible at KEE last time out. He ran twice on dirt in 2011 at Churchill Downs, two weak efforts, one as the chalk. He's winless on fast dirt, has two slop wins, 4 fake dirt and turf win in his resume. His placement in my handicap is his high water mark and most of my tickets will have him 4th or out of the money.

As is the case sometimes, as I'm writing this I find myself making a case for the horses I have lower in the handicap. The horses I have listed in my exotic pool are all more than capable of Place and Show. Mister Marti Gras won the Ack Ack here Breeders' Cup weekend. He's 6 of 8 in the money in 2011 11 of 18 in the money the past two years, with 1 win at CD, 1 win at the distance and 1 fast dirt win. Trainer Block has super trainer-esque stats, 26% on Dirt and 23% of Graded Stakes, as well as 26% won last start.

Prayers for Relief has been training lights out at Santa Anita, :46 2/5ths at 4f and 1:11 3/5 at 5f; The Iowa, West Virginia and Super Derby winner, falling short and out finished in the Oaklahoma Derby last time out. An exciting horse and someone to look forward to next year, he could finish anywhere on the board. Did I mention parity?

Headache had a great view of the Breeders' Cup Classic, at the back of the pack. The five year old had a great year, winning the Cornhusker and the Hawthorne Gold Cup. 8 Wins in 19 starts on fast dirt, 3 Churchill Downs wins in 8 tries.

General Quarters, the poor man's Musket Man. His 27th career start for the 5 year old trained by Tom McCarthy. Hasn't run well in a big spot in awhile with the exception of a gutty place over fake dirt two back.

Eight runners I've "layered" somewhere into the top four. Five horses I've tossed. I've done this long enough to know there is a good chance I'll be discussing how one of the five I tossed messed up my superfecta, but you can't cover everyone.

So what will I do with with this:

Maybe it's the Turkey Hangover, I just don't have a great read on the Superfecta. I've assembled a $400 dollar ish $2 Super that I won't play, a much cheaper version that is much cheaper but I'm not sure if its any good and and low priced trifecta that may be too chalky to be worth the bet.

You never get hoodwinked by The Turk, if I don't have an opinion, I don't have an opinion. I could play the 10 cent or $1 variety of Superfectas today or I may just scour the tote board and take $10 and assemble 5 fun exacta's with Mr. Marti Gras and Mission Impazzible playing with some underlays.

There you have have, a Turk tossing out a turkey of a handicap on Clark Handicap day. Sometimes the wishbone doesn't break your way.

Have fun friends, Turk out!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day 19 November 2011; The G3 River City Handicap and G1 Hollywood Turf Cup

Blues Street with Albarado, up, comes streaking home in the River City Handicap, a key race in a pleasing day of gambling for me. Thanks to the Louisville Courier-Journal online, the talented Jennie Rees and photograph most likely by Reed Palmer.

I felt really bad yesterday after posting my blog as I think I committed the ultimate sin; it was boring, and worse, preachy. The purpose of The Turk and the Little Turk primarily is to highlight my handicapping methodology developed over a long time. It's not sexy, nor is it overly technical. I would love to talk about taking months with my slide rule and stacks of old race forms while I developed a mathematical view of a horses ability to cover a route of turf and how his time would relate to other horses. Never happened and I wouldn't know where to start. I stress consistent handicapping using a horses ability over his career to determine his chances on any given day. Workouts, Class, Trainer Stats, these are the things that I key on, with a nod to Pace. I ignore two year olds because there just isn't enough imperical data on their past performances for me to make my analysis complete.

My post was boring yesterday, something of a dog, and I'll work harder at that now that I'm calling myself out. What wasn't boring was the results; the Turk took down over $2,000 on wagers of about $150 by just doing what I do best- ignoring the pre race hype, building a base handicap,not getting too hung up on if I have chalk on top, studying the tote board leading to post, and making sound bets, constructed on principles I use week in and week out.

Let's get after this!

When you ignore morning lines and pre race news articles over the course of time you'll notice your handicaps will share many similarities with the tote board and the race day lines; With experience you should be able on a 10 horse field to identify the 3 longest shots as well as the top three, with the middle four up for subjective slotting. What I like about ignoring the pre race morning line is it gives me something to compare my base handicap to and allows me to spot a contrarian position I may have taken. Sometimes it's just a subtle difference like my chalk being the Place or Show horse.

I took some similar views on yesterday's races: I felt strongly about my chalks and was prepared to build bets around them. In both races I used my base handicap and built a matrix bet, keeping my bet exposure low. in my boring post I stressed I was just in skills maintenance mode and didn't plan on going for broke with my bets. Both races I crafted $2 Superfecta Bets for reasonable amounts of money, $30-50 dollars each. In both races I built $10 Exacta bets with singled chalks. I kept things simple but the results were stunning.

We try to put our money where our mouth is at The Turk. 10% of today's winnings went to horse charities that are dear to me. The Turk has donated either cash or solicited online auctions that benefited horse charities to the tune of over $2,000 this year. I only say that because I'm imploring the good people of this sport to take care of our own, the workers on the backstretch and our retired runners. There are some wonderful people out there doing tireless work to save every equine life. Those people inspire me deeply. These are very tough economic times and anything you can spare goes a long way.

OK, I've now been boring, preachy, and I've solicited charitable contributions all in one blog post. I'll shut-up for now.

Good Times. Have fun, Turk Out

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Nominations Are In: The Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup and the Grade 3 River City Handicap

Handsome Sanagas, winner of the Grade 3 Sycamore at KEE last time out. With his late moves, the five year old Graham Motion trainee is like a riverboat gambler, a gambler out on the Sanagas River perhaps. I digress.

I know many horseplayers who tune out after the Breeders' Cup and only wake back up during the Triple Crown preps. There's nothing wrong with that at all and I think it is important to take handicappers holidays from time to time. For me to stay sharp though, I have to handicap, even if at a reduced volume. I don't need to handicap whole cards, just enough races to keep me fresh.

As I scale back my handicapping, I try to stay in touch with tracks that I plan to be aggressive at in the future. Clark Handicap day at Churchill Downs is important to me so I've been playing Churchill regularly, and then Hollywood will hold my interest between Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas when the start of the Santa Anita winter meet and Gulfstream will keep me occupied. It doesn't matter what your interests are, but I do think it's important to have a plan, to have a focus on certain tracks.

I handicapped for years without betting a nickel, just picking horses and looking at the results the next day. Have you ever seen Conan the Barbarian? In the movie, Conan is strapped to this wooden wheel, and he walks around and around and around for years, going from a small boy to big muscular Arnold. The idea is that while repetitive and at times boring, it made him big and strong (that and steroids perhaps). Well, all that handicapping for years, whole cards at a time, was my "Conan pushing the wheel in circles" moment. If you are new to the game, first of all I welcome you, I want you to stay, and I want you to get better. The best way to enjoy the game is to break even or win and in order to do that, have your own Conan moments and handicap all the racing you can, especially during this lull in the racing season.

I care about being at the top of my game from July to November, just like the horses in the handicap division, and to get there I have to pace myself, sharpen my skills, and keep it fun. It's been my experience that if I'm not 100% committed to my handicapping effort I'll lose money

Long story short: For the next two months; I'll keep the betting exposure low and just work on my chops. I urge my readers who may have been turned on by the Breeders' Cup and are new to the sport to keep things simple; identify winners. If you can't consistently pick the winner, regards of the odds, out of the PP's, you shouldn't be betting exotics. Try stringing together exactas. Handicap and pick the top 3 but wager no money. Try tossing 25%of the field and seeing how you do with that, another skill you must master. Keep score and be honest with yourself.

This can be a very rewarding mental diversion, don't put too much pressure on yourself by allowing your betting to exceed your experience and skill level.

Let's get after this!

Hollywood Park Race 8 and Churchill Downs Race 9

We'll work backwards: At 7:07 Eastern the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup goes off at 12 panels and firm turf.

My initial thought is I'd love to see at least 3 more horses to make this a 10 horse field but not my call. With seven horses, if even one scratches I'm much less interested as a bettor. Other early thoughts are the race seems to have some real quality on the front end which means prices will be short and the race less bettable unless I find some real value that will hit the top four.

I like Sanagas (Ger), the most likely post time chalk, to win: While a nice win in the Sycamore, the last two turf efforts were willing and confident. 6 wins in his last nine starts and 4 of 6 in the money on turf. Trainer Motion is winning 24% of his Won Last Start starters and 21% of his graded stakes. He places Maragh up, and the two have won 25% of their efforts together.

Norvsky is a late moving horse as well; The five year old gelding won in late October at 9 panels under Bejarano. The distance question should make or break this choice and should also influence the price in the direction I'd like but the question is real as he's never tried the distance but there is lots to like still; 7 of 8 in the money in 2011, 5 of 5 in the money in 2010, 15 of 16 lifetime in the money, 11 of 12 in the money on Turf and 5 of 5 in the money at Hollywood Park.

Bourbon Bay is a dependable runner with six wins in last 13 starts. Last win was a Grade 3 fake dirt effort at Delmar in late July and seems to have struggled slightly since coming back from Dubai although his Beyers are consistent. he just missed by a head as the chalk in the Del Mar Handicap. Trainer Drysdale is a darn good horseman who wins 19% of his graded stakes efforts. Gomez is up and he and Drysdale have had very little success together in the past year, 1 win in 16 tries. More than capable of striking anywhere in the top three.

I think it gets murky after those three with Miss Match and Falcon Rock seeming the best of the bunch. Miss Match (Arg) is also trained by Neil Drysdale, who places Mike Smith up. My recollection in the stands at Churchill Downs was that Miss Match was almost walking down the stretch the last 1/4 mile in the Distaff, a class test that didn't go so well. A nice last move before that in the Goodwood but her two wins in 2011 both came before April. No turf wins, no attempts at this distance, lots to overcome.

Falcon Rock (Ire) has been on the bench since mid July, a break Trainer Callaghan wins 6% of the time. No wins in 6 starts on Hollywood turf, 2 wins in 19 tries on turf, 1 win in 7 starts at distance, the 6 year old gelding looks the part but only has 2 wins in 22 tries but does have 9 Places. Some horses just don't like to win and while I said 1 of 7 at the distance, 7 of 7 in the money at the distance and 12 of 19 in the money on turf. Gomez jumps off here and Flores is up.

In the River City Handicap, Eddie Kenneally is the trainer of Blues Street now, taking over the super trainer after a poor effort by the 7 year old gelded son of Street Cry in a grade 2 affair at Saratoga where his running line reads "folded". Blues Street is my tentative chalk; This is his 30th lifetime start and he's been in the money 19 times. a nice one mile effort where he just missed at KEE in early October.

If he falters, Tajaaweed will be right there: A bullet work early this week, the 6 year old Dynaformer son looks to erase the poor effort in his stable owners Shadwell Turf Mile. He has run sharply at Churchill Downs this year, just loosing to Turk favorite Turallure in July at 1 1/16 miles on firm grass.

Speaking of that the weather should hold out and the track is currently listed as firm.

This race also could benefit from a few more starters but the quality seems pretty consistent and of the two races, this may be a better bettors affair (say that fast three times!) Below my top two I like Allie's Event who should be good value. Breeder/Owner and Trainer Lori Smock had a bullet work at 5f in 1:01 /5ths at TP this week and has seen her 5 year old run consistent efforts since finishing fourth in last years edition of this race.

Gleam of Hope also put up a bullet 5f in :59 flat at KEE. 6 of 9 in the money on turf for the four year old gelded City Zip son.

Cherokee Lord may be poised for a good effort and comes in off a win at RP in mid October at 1 1/16 over firm turf. Expect a stalking effort and see if he fires.

Have fun with it as that's the goal for me today; I'm coming back for serious play on Churchill Downs for Thursday and Friday and then I'll downshifyt again for a few weeks.

Turk Out!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Post Race Analysis for Race Day 12 November 2011; The Churchill Downs Late P3

Getting back to work after the Breeders' Cup as a handicapper, the easiest thing for me to do is to continue working a dirt and turf surface that I'm comfortable with. As long as the weather holds up I'll bet this track right through one of my favorite race days, the day after Thanksgiving and the Clark Handicap.

Today's Mrs. Revere G2 looked like a very strong collection of three year old fillies on paper and the race didn't disappoint. For those who pay attention, Marketing Mix has been on an ascent since late July and looks primed to be a real force next year.

Let's get after it!

Churchill Downs Race 8-9-10

The Pick Three was the planned cornerstone of my betting day but it turned out to be a bust after the first leg. Not much to say really, I was just off in Race 8 and 10. In race 8 I had the 12 horse, Afleeting Lady fifth on my board. In race 10 I tossed the four horse, Media Contact; 0 of 4 at CD, 0 of 5 at the distance but 6 of 7 in the money on fast dirt and I either missed that or discounted it.

In the Mrs. Revere my only regret was the betting public was all over this race and there were no contrarian positions to take. The Superfecta was 1-2-3-4 on the tote board. I do this regularly and that doesn't happen very often. I felt comfortable singling Marketing Mix in my Super and I bet a straight Exacta with Marketing Mix/Bizzy Caroline. It was a chalk fest but that didn't stop me from making some good money management decisions and turing a low risk positions of $80 into $520.

There is money to be made on every card at every track on every day of racing, it just won't always be as sexy as the Breeders' Cup.

Turk Out!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Nomination Is In: November 12, 2011; The Late Pick Three at Churchill Downs including The Mrs. Revere Grade 2

This picture sums up my 2010-2011 Breeders' Cup experience at Churchill Downs over the past two years; it blew by. It really is hard for me to believe that two of these events have come and gone and I'm loathe to compare the two years because that's not really fair with the solar eclipse of a mare, Zenyatta, creating such a huge buzz in the grandstands last year. On Friday the Turk Clan parked in the prepaid lot right next to Roy and Gretchen Jackson, the owners of Barbaro. I asked Mrs. Jackson if it was difficult for her to come back to Churchill Downs and she answered my awkward question kindly and said it was a place of great memories for her. Thank you Mrs. Jackson for being so forthright with me.

I had a decent two days of gambling, more or less break even. My biggest thrill was Amazombie winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint and my lowest low was being "that guy" loudly telling everyone that Court Vision should have been retired only to watch him win the Mile. I had my money on Turallure and I have a real soft spot for the Woodbine Mile and I should have bet the Woodbine Mile Exacta as that paid a sick about of mooola. Long Live Goldikova, she was a real special treat, and her connections were very sporting with the way she was campaigned, a real lesson to some of our American runners.

I swung for the fences with the Super Hi Five on the Breeders' Cup Classic. If I had won, you'd know about it by now. I had tossed Ruler on Ice but I had the other four. We'll revisit that bet more times in my life. I had Game On Dude to win and really thought I had a sleeper after I jumped off Flat Out. I don't know if there was any more Chantal could have milked out of him, but the way Drosselmeyer flew up the outside, I just don't think she saw him or there was no response. Either way, I enjoyed myself and i enjoyed the weekend for what it was: Multiple Grade 1 winning horses with long odds on very good animals in every race.

The Turk is never going to be confused as being gregarious in my social life. I fake it well in the business world but I'm a pretty reserved fella. I loved walking through the paddock, seeing the excitement, feeling the vibe of people digging horse racing (and vodka). I woke up early on Saturday morning and channeled some positive energy, driving to Mt. Washington before winding my way back to Churchill Downs to watch the horses from the fence line on Longfield Avenue graze and be happy.

The glamour of racing cards with multiple graded stakes one after another is just about over the calendar year. I like to handicap in November and December to sharpen up and look for 3 year olds who were lost in the shuffle and will be staying in training for 2012. I just don't give a hoot about 2 year olds and I never will- I'll get excited about them when the long Derby Trail begins again. I'll be handicapping Churchill until after the Clark and then I'll bounce over to Hollywood park, where I have had some really big December's in the past few years.

I've got a Pick Three at Churchill Downs that I've been noodling over which includes the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere. Let's get after it!

I really like Hungry Island's 2011 body of work but the Garden City, while looking like an off the board effort deserves a look;

She came out of traffic in a perfect striking position but it was Winter Memories day. I liked the rally. That said, I'm backing Marketing Mix to win.

Marketing Mix is a Medaglia d'Oro filly out of Instant Thought (Kris S.) The Ontario bred will have grass master Leparoux up for trainer Tom Proctor, who's a 20% turf winner. A solid 2011 Woodbine campaign, a win in an always competitive Wonder Where, a nice Pucker Up G3 at Arlington and a Place to Together in the QE2 Cup G1 at Keeneland. Training sharply and running well, a deadly combination.

Bizzy Caroline breaks from the two post for trainer McPeek with M. Cruz up. A dreadful Del Mar Oaks G1 was followed up by a Place in the G3 Valley View at Keeneland. A bullet on the poly track there last week. 5 of 8 in the money lifetime over turf, 2 wins in 2 starts on CD turf, the Afleet Alex daughter looks like a handful.

Smart Sting is a Smart Strike/Perfect Sting joint, trained by Roger Attfield. I was ecstatic to see Mr. Attfield win his first Breeders' Cup race (could that possibly be i thought, but yes it was) with Perfect Shirl in the Filly and Mare Turf. Wow! Johnny V is up. 5 of 6 in the money in 2011 with 2 turf wins, but winless at the distance and winless in one effort at Churchill. Comes off a 8.5 furlong fake dirt G3 win and a decent Virginia Oaks G3 effort two back.

Sea Level Drive is easy to overlook but I'm intrigued. An N1X winner on poly at Arlington, she ends up in Leigh Bently's barn, runs a well beaten Place to Marketing Mix in the Pucker Up G3 at 25.5-1 odds and follow that up as the 1.3-1 chalk in an N2X win at 8.5 furlongs on the fake stuff at KEE. This Malibu Moon should like the turf here and Trainer Arnold has her back but there is some baggage there: Arnold is a 3% winner on Fake Dirt to Turf crossovers and a 7% stakes race winner.

Hungry Island, Louakhova and New Normal round out my exotic covers. Louakhova has never finished off the board in 7 starts and won in her North American debut at 1 mile on yielding turf in October. I may be foolish not covering her in the P3 but you can't cover everyone friends!

The New Normal has been training well at Woodbine for Trainer Frostad. Friends, if you aren't paying attention to the good horsemanship north of the American border, pay more attention, especially to Woodbine. The Canadians love bringing good horses south in the Winter. A G3 winner as a two year old, she's been training well but this is first race off a long layoff, a break Frostad wins 15% of the time off of.

I'm going to assemble a Superfecta for the Mrs. Revere and I will most likely follow my alternative bet selection for the P3, perhaps stretching out to one more horse in the Mrs. Revere, Louakhova and downplaying Smart Sting. Hmmmmm. Things to think about minutes before the gate throws open. By doing your handicapping well in advance, I can focus on bet construction, allowing the tote board to help me make some value judgements.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Nomination Is In: The Breeders' Cup Classic Grade 1

"Go Big or Go Home" It's a fairly macho statement, spoken by Type A personalities just to let you know their outlook on life. The Turk's feeling macho: Let's swing for the fences with a statement bet, the kind of bet you hit and you brag about for life. Anything that carries lifetime bragging rights should be sufficiently difficult and I present to you the challenge before us, the Super Hi Five: The top five finishers selected in order.

I tried to find the etymology of this statement, go big or go home, and Google keeps pointing me to a petite female named Eliza. Go figure, but I digress and for now imagine a bald, handsome, cigar smoking handicapper, nattily dressed with a Korean kid in tow standing at the betting window smiling at the the glazed over teller and leading with "Go Big Or Go Home", which to him she replies "read the sign: track, race, and bet". Respect.

It doesn't get much bigger than the Breeders' Cup Classic or the Super Hi Five Bet. Before I go to far I'd like to thank the Thorofan for inviting me to handicap such a prestigious race for the Handicappers Corner. I'm honored to not only be associated with a group like The Thorofan as a guest handicapper, but I put my money where my endorsements are and I'm also a dues paying member.

The Super Hi Five, Go Big or Go Home. Is it harder than a Pick Six? That's relative but I'm going to say yes. It's so random who trots home in fourth and fifth, Win Place Show for that matter, that all you can do is the layer the horses into the slots you expect them to finish within and place the bet. Boxing the top seven horses on the tote board would cost you $2,520. That's pretty pricey. I assembled a chart of the last eleven Breeders' Cup Classic races and it would strongly suggest you are wasting your money using the tote board as a gage: The chalk finished in the top five 8 of the 11 years, the bettor's second choice only 4 times. Ugh, you get the idea.

I'll go off on a tangent one more time and suggest that this sort of gamble is extremely high risk, but the payoff reward can be significant. Don't bet the milk money or the mortgage money and stop reading now if you aren't interested in such an unlikely proposition (The Turk isn't that macho really. I won't tell on you if you place show bets, honest, I'd still love to hang with you in the paddock). From my base handicap you can easily assemble Win-Place-Show- Trifectas and what seems like a conservative bet after talking about the Super Hi Five, the Superfecta. Whatever you do, do your own handicapping, only bet what you are comfortable losing and study after the race what you got right and what you got wrong, its the best way to get better at this.

If you've never been to the Breeders' Cup I hope you can find the opportunity in the future to attend. It's two days of total immersion within our sport. Everywhere you look is regal purple and splendor.

Let's get after this before I get all misty eyed.

The Breeders' Cup Classic; 1 1/4 Miles on Dirt

Over the last week I've assembled quite a bit of readily available video on the Classic runners. Video is an important tool to the Turk. I have no special insights into the way the animal physically appears and you won't find me rambling here about switching leads, no for me the video is strictly about the trip. When I look at the past performance I get a pretty good idea of what happened but its like a black and white TV for anyone old enough to remember how lame that was, but taking the PP's and watching the video is like unlocking the HDTV settings on your phat plasma; you get a real indication of the "extenuating circumstances" as I like to call them.

Another notion you must learn to control if you are going to be a good bettor is the concept of "feeling good about the bet". You may be confident in your abilities, and by all means you should be if you are even trying this, but you never really know how things are going to turn out. When I analyzed my own betting years ago I often found myself getting very conservative on the exotics, clinging to the tote board ranking like a life preserver. When you handicap publicly like I do, its easy to be embarrassed. The average punter who loses at the windows doesn't write 10,000 words about who is going to win only to see that horse come in last, but that happens at the Turk and the Little Turk from time to time and it will happen again. The point is you have to assemble your handicap and place your bet, and you must learn to not negotiate with yourself, against yourself. Resist the urge to add 10 of the horses to the mix. You can't cover everybody and no handicapper or bettor is always right. I urge you friends to be a brave pari mutuel commando.

A real good tool during weeks like this is the Clocker Reports. You can pay money and get some really kick ass opinions and insights or you can be like me and watch the free ones at Daily Racing Form. They are pretty hype free. Also this week, I grabbed a web address from a PR guy at Churchill Downs for the official work tab. Just play with the date in the address bar. I like the work tabs quite a bit just to get a feel for how the runners are moving leading into the weekend. Remember, its not what a horse did in May or June, it's about what they have been doing since late August and September. I love to see on the Past Performances race efforts in Grade 1 company, on dirt, at or near the distance, punctuated by solid work at 4 and 4 furlongs. That floats my boat.

It's really a flip of the coin for me but I like Harve de Grace and Flat Out to be very competitive here. I'll cover both through positions 1-3 on my versions of my bet. I guess I should say because this is going up on the Thorofan Handicappers Corner by Thursday or Friday morning, I'll be tweaking my final bet a bit right up until Saturday. If your interested, you can find it at my blog my final matrix.

Flat Out lost in the Woodward to Harve de Grace. one of the real shames of the Fall was the track conditions and the field sizes on Super Saturday at Belmont, but that wasn't Flat Out's fault and he took care of business in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Training sharply, I dislike the 0 for 2 goose egg at Churchill Downs.

Harve de Grace also followed up the Woodward with a romp on Super Saturday in the slop. She's been training over the poly but her past performances are just epic and I'm really curious what she still has in the tank at this point in the season and the distance is a question as well and she has a small Tomlinson for the distance (mild indicator) and she has a goose egg in two grade 1 tries (The Alabama and Delaware Handicap) although she was a narrowly beaten Place in both. i think its feast or famine: She either really runs well or she drops out of the top five. That's my gut and I may revisit my bet and cover her positions 1-5 or be brave and cover her 2-5.

So You Think (NZ) is a monster on paper with one glaring issue: first dirt. This is the 5 YOs sixth straight Grade 1 effort, where he is 17 of 19 lifetime in the money on turf and a staggering $7,587 million in career earnings on 12 wins. She's picking up the post race feed bill. Aidan O'Brien places the horse on lasix for the first time and adds blinkers. He has gone left handed before, something you should always note. Came up flat in the Arc de Triomphe. I'm thinking I have him too high, he's just got alot to overcome. It's the Animal Kingdom spectre that looms in the back of mine and others heads that I just don't dismiss him outright. I'll say this: Who knows how he responds to dirt in his face, especially if he rates in a stalk and faces real traffic. I don't think he can win so I doubt I cover the top spot with him. Very curious to see how he works Thursday over the surface.

My next group for betting purposes are who I see finishing anywhere from Show to Fifth: Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, Drosslemeyer and Game on Dude. Game on Dude is 6 of 7 in the money in 2011, has won 5 of last 13 starts for Trainer Baffert, is 7 of 9 in the money over fast dirt and has put up big speed figs at the distance. It can't be discounted and his Goodwood effort was very solid. He's my wiseguy winner, especially where I expect to find him on the toateboard.

If I'm sneaking horses up as I'm slipping down So You Think it's Uncle Mo and Game on Dude. I have Headache and To Honor and Serve on the fringes of the exotic ticket. Somebody has to be tossed or we'll be spending a fortune and Ruler on Ice, Ice Box and Rattlesnake Bridge are on my list, but any of them can finish fifth or better and fudge up the works. This is gambling after all.

I'll be in Churchill Downs with my family as well as friends. I'm going to Go Big and Most Likely Go Home as well but it's been a good year at the windows for me and I've made some pretty nice stacks of green, it's time to swing away.

My last shout out to The Thorofan is thanking them again for what they have done to help The Tim "Tiznow" Reynolds family. Tim was an incredible race fan who passed away at way too young an age, leaving behind a wife and young daughter, as well as a grieving family and friends all over the country. If you can, please read the information about Tim at the Thorofan and your donations there, with a PayPal option, are going towards the education of his young daughter.

Turk Out!