Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Nomination Is In: The Santa Anita Late Pick Three including the Grade 1 La Brea

The Great Race Place has always held a special place in my heart, a romance that went astray for a few years because of the fumbled dalliance with fake dirt and the number of race days lost to wash outs. I don't have a complete bias against fake dirt: I play it at Hollywood, Woodbine,Keeneland, Presque Island and Arlington, but Santa Anita and Del Mar felt wrong and the material doesn't seem right for the ambient conditions at either location. I exercised my right as a horse player to take my handle elsewhere and I found myself shying away from Santa Anita before the expensive gamble was ended and dirt reinstalled, and my boycott of Del Mar continues, sans the Turf track. The Santa Anita main track is hard and fast and you have to take into account that they play with it often and the track plays differently over time. With that knowledge, I find the best way to have success at Santa Anita is to play Santa Anita, which brings me to today, the last Grade 1 of the year, the La Brea.

Opening Day at Santa Anita was a huge success; Turf Blogger Teresa Genaro writing in Forbes highlighted the renewal in attendance for the opening day card, the biggest crowd since 1994, but correctly identified the importance of Santa Anita on the overall American racing scene.

I'm an oddity: I'm an East Coast horse guy who loves California racing. I don't get hung up on West versus East, I just prefer Santa Anita to inner track racing at Aqueduct (my New York credentials are about to be revoked)and I don't pay much attention to Gulfstream until the Donn Handicap, so Santa Anita gets the drop on everyone for me.

Let's get after it!

Santa Anita Race 7-8-9 Late Pick Three

Race 7 may be the only two year old race I've written about all year, and it may be only the third or fourth I've handicapped. Yes, I have age bias. I'm just not that into the youngsters and the biggest reason is I like to see lots of information on the past performances. I'm not a pedigree expert, nor do I spend much time studying the physical animal, I like numbers and 2 YO's lack numbers. That said, those 2 YOs are 3 YOs tomorrow, ready or not, and I'll be paying attention to them now. I know from keeping my own statistics on my handicapping/betting that I struggle with three year old racing before June. I'm not tragic, just not as sharp as I'd like to be. Last year's screwy "different 3 YO every prep race" winners didn't do much to help my stats. My bread and butter is the handicap division, especially turf horses. Know thyself.

I always come off as a kill joy when I make this point but you don't have to bet every race you handicap. I handicap often just to stay abreast of the talent as well as to see how the tracks playing. I'll pick winners with no money on the table and I use the exercise to give myself a feeling for where I'm at. The idea of action betting that has been in many horse racing betting books is something I rejected and I hope some of my readers will push away from the betting window when they aren't fully prepared to make a strong stab at winning.

The Eddie Logan is a special race, as I've already said it takes alot for me to bet the 2 YOs. Eddie was a Santa Anita institution, and I had the honor of interacting with him just a few years ago. I hope he rests in peace and i have no doubt that if there is a thing such as ghosts, that Eddie's would be a friendly one wandering the hallways near his old shoeshine location.

The son of Scat Daddy, Daddy Nose Best is my chalk in this spot. The Assmussen trainee comes off the pace nicely and is 4 of 5 in the money over the grass already, with the biggest turf Tomlinson of the field.

Stoney Fleece makes the switch from Dirt/Tur, something Trainer Sadler pulls off 25% of the time. A nice Grade 3 1 mile turf effort two back, setting his best Beyer at 83, confirms his ability to compete.

Chips All In is 4 of 4 in the money but goes over the turf for the first time, something Trainer Mullins pulls off 19% of the time, but he's also only 11% going from Fake Dirt to Grass.

The Black is my superfecta wildcard.

In the La Brea I'll be singling Turbulent Descent with a quartet of horses that I think could upset her. She's giving 5 pounds to everyone but I don't place much stock in that. Training sharply and the girl to beat.

My quartet is May Day Rose, Sarah's Secret, Home Sweet Aspen and Great Hot (Brz). Baffert's May Day Rose is a two time Grade 3 winner who came up just short in her last out, a Grade 2 during Breeders' Cup undercard racing. Sarah's Secret has no dirt, no distance, no Santa Anita efforts. She is a Grade 2 winner and a daughter of Leroidesanimaux (Brz). Home Sweet Aspen is perfect in the money over dirt and at Santa Anita. Toss the last effort and hope for a return to form. Great Hot (Brz), with Sutherland up, is a Santa Anita winner and very game.

Race 9 is a pretty good Optional Claimer/N2X; Baffert's Capital Account is off a long layoff, something Baffert does well 35% of the time, and has been training quite well. I also like Carla Gaines's Shrug: Blinkers off (17% angle) and training very sharply at Santa Anita.

Lunada Bay is a Baffert/Mike Smith joint, 30% winners at Santa Anita. Another long layoff horse.

Ron Ellis's 5 YO gelding Believe in Hope is winless in 2011 but had a very good last race out at 6F at Santa Anita. The son of Thunder Gulch has one win in last 8, way back in April 2010.

Carl O'Callaghan is a trainer I think is going places. His Leaving New York has been on the shelf since April and breaks from the 1 spot but has an awful lot of talent.

I'll build a very reasonable Pick 3 that echos my base handicap, with Turbulent Descent singled and a bit of value if I can find it. If i can't string a Pick Three together that has enough value I'll save the betting capital and invest in the superfectas I'm preparing.

Have fun with this nice card. We'll be playing Santa Anita All weekend and before next week I'll put up my track stats that I'm keeping.

Turk out!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays from the Turk and Little Turk

Happy Holidays to my friends, family and readers. The Turk enjoyed some quality downtime from the races following the Clark Handicap, which hard to believe, was a month ago. As a blogger I'm often loathe to take weeks off, but I remind myself I've never really been about traffic, ad revenue, or even good writing, so a few weeks away during the holidays is almost a public service! Seriously, I had nothing to offer over the past few weeks and I'd rather be silent than flap my gums for the sake of flapping.

Without the cycle of handicapping, blogging, betting, post race analysis (wash, sleep, repeat)I was able to go sleep early on Friday nights, push away from the computer screen on Saturday mornings, and think little of the races. This time of year, even though we haven't gotten much snow, I build a fire each Friday and Saturday night, and after Mama and Little Turk go off to bed, Kay, the family wiemaraner and I, will sit in quiet reflection and think on the events that were and the future to come. I like to believe that it's during this time that I elevate myself from drone to human.

The Turk had a good year overall and there is much to be thankful for. My family remains alive and healthy: Papa Turk's mechanical ticker is still ticking and cousin Kevin beat cancer. My nephew Danny, try as hard as he can, healed all his broken bones. My job continues to place food on my table and provide for my families needs. The job is a tough physical and mental grind, but I'm grateful for the opportunity and when it ends one day I'll be able to say I gave it my all. Little Turk became a black belt in his martial art, Bushido Kai. He worked all off season with a private coach and brought his soccer game to a new level as well. Little Turk is a good student, with grades in the low 90's, but more importantly, his report cards are filled with top marks for discipline and conduct and he's becoming a thoughtful young man. Unbeknownst to me, he wrote a paper in school recently about what he wished he could give for Christmas, and he wished he could bring Tim "Tiznow" Reynolds back to life for his family. Speaking of Tiznow, his death in late September might have been the low point of the year. The young man had so much passion for our sport, his death has left a void in many peoples lives, especially his family and young daughter. Lost as well this past year was Rachel Beard, DVM, a passionate horse racing fan and veterinarian. I hope both Tim and Rachel find peace on the other side.

I was blessed again this year to be able to collaborate with some of the best writers on the Internet(and traditional media) covering horse racing: Steve from invited my to join his merry group to vote on Derby Contenders for the second year in a row. It's a raucous group effort that I thoroughly enjoy and speaking of collaborations, I've contributed to some group "Top Five" efforts at Hello Race Fans! and I'm always honored at the opportunity to share my thoughts when they kindly ask. The Thorofan allowed me to handicap for The Handicapper's Corner. The Thorofan is an organization of people united together to give racing fans a voice and an opportunity to come together socially. Turf: An International Gathering of Horse Racing Bloggers and the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance are two groups that I proudly write for, and I have been grateful as well to have my postings available at Raceday 360 Wire.

The subtitle of this blog is "Horses, Handicapping and Hi jinks". I cover the handicapping pretty well along with the horses, but this ol' cigar chomping handicapper may bore you with what he considers hi jinks at this point in his life. In 2011 I was lucky enough to attend races at Santa Anita and Del Mar, as well as witness morning work at both tracks. I visited Turf Paradise, Belmont, Arlington, Aqueduct and Churchill Downs, as well as a brief, few race Saratoga visit. The highlight of the year was the Breeders' Cup with the Turk Clan and our dear friends from North of the border.

I'm going to be playing Santa Anita and Gulfstream primarily over the next several months. I had negative ROI through April the past three years in a row which doesn't surprise me: I don't pay attention to two year olds and the Derby prep races chew me up. I am positive ROI during that same time period with older horses and turf racing. A quick review showed I had spotty results at Aqueduct, Tampa Downs, LA Downs and a few other tracks I don't play often. That makes sense as well and I'll spend the first few weeks of the new year handicapping but keeping my bet exposure reasonable or non existent. I do my best work when I get a feel for how the track plays and with horses on their second efforts of a meet. I'm going to be a patient bettor but an active handicapper and post race analyst, which is my real love anyways (not that I have a problem with large stacks of money).

I'll be back before tomorrow with opening day at Santa Anita. Life is good friends, enjoy it, we are only here for a short while. I'd like to end with a final thanks to all the kind words of support my horse racing friends provided while my loving dog Kay went through a serious health scare. I didn't think she'd still be with me this time last week, and while not out of the woods, there is daylight again.

Blessed Christmas. Turk Out!