Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Nomination Is In: January 30, 2011: The Holy Bull Grade III at Gulfstream

That handsome fella who is enjoying his retirement is none other than the 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull. A Travers Stakes, Woodward Stakes, a Florida Derby and a Haskell is often enough to win such awards. Injured in the Donn Handicap as a 4 YO, he went on to become an influential sire to such notables as Giacomo and Macho Uno, sire of today's contestant, Mucho Macho Man.

The Turk enjoyed handicapping this race as we have a nice field size of nine and an interesting collection of runners with parity between most of them and a clear cut chalk difficult to name. Early on I decided I'd go Superfecta hunting and not worry about who will win exclusively. Let's get after it!

Gulfstream Park Race 10 The Grade III Holy Bull: Post Time 5:26 ET

As always, sit down and check the weather, scratches and changes and track condition. Skip the BS articles at DRF and on the internet and by all means ignore the morning lines: Take a mind of freshness into the handicapping process, unfettered by others opinions, there is time for that later.

The weather should be fine, with a chance of light rain mid day, and the track should be fast.

Gourmet Dinner and Mucho Macho Man will attract alot of betting dollars and should be 1-2 with the bettors. As its early in the 3 YO season, all of the runners have questions to answer, so when you scan the PPs the picture won't always be crystal clear and that is where experience and luck help. Gourmet Dinner laid an egg last time out, going to plastic in the Grade ICash Call Futurity. Before that he was 4 of 4 in the money on dirt with three wins and already $869,660 in purse money fueled by the win in the Delta Downs Jackpot Grade III.

Mucho Macho Man, son of Macho Uno and Grandson of Holy Bull, is off after a long layoff, something Trainer Kathy Ritvo didn't do well at all over past year, and she also seeks to erase the 0% Graded Stake stat she is carting around. On a four race progression of improving Beyers and off a 99 BSF effort at 1 1/8 on fast dirt at the Big A. Training very well at GP beating 120 horses over 3 workouts at 5f, all around :59 even. Only 1 win to show for 5 efforts. I think he is very strong but want to see an effort today.

Dialed In may be the best of the bunch but he's only making his second start for Trainer Zito. The son of Mineshaft has been working very strong at 4F .

I'm backing Black N Beauty as my tepid chalk. Trainer Dale Romans brings the Devil His Due sired runner in fresh off a 1 mile winning effort at GP on 7 January and I'm taking a leap of faith regarding where he is in his form compared to the others.

I built a superfecta matrix and sufficiently covered how I think the race could unfold. I expect Black N Beauty will strike the lead at some point, perhaps early, and it will come down to if the stalkers can overtake. I backed Major Gain Printing Press and Leave of Absence for minor awards and off all of them I feel like I'm discounting Printing Press at my possible peril. I can't promise I won't cover Printing Press and 3 and 4 and to keep cost similar, drop someone else along the way.

Have fun with it, Turk Out! Handheld Turk is handicapping the race as well and the results will be up for him in the post race analysis.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Handicapper Homework for Gulfstream Park: The Holy Bull Stakes and the Donn Handicap

Mr. James Donn (pictured on the right), purchased Gulfstream Park in 1944 after it sat dormant for 5 years following its construction. For the next sixty years, a Donn, first James Donn Jr. and then his son, Douglas, led the track by the sea towards being the top destination for east coast trainers and horses during the winter months. The Donn Handicap's inaugural run was in 1959 and the Florida Derby started 1952, The Fountain of Youth 1945, The Gulfstream Park Handicap in 1946, and this weekend's target for me, The Holy Bull Stakes in 1972.

Today is the Sunshine Millions, and while the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic can often be compelling, the whole affair of six races between newly dirted Santa Anita and Gulfstream contested over two hours isn't enough for me to stop hunting my real targets. I'm going to keep my focus on studying the track report, reviewing the statistics on the jocks, the trainers, analyzing the results at distance and surface and between today and tomorrow The Turk will do his handicapper homework in preparation for the first important older horse race of the year, The Grade I Donn Handicap next Saturday as well as the Grade III The Holy Bull tomorrow.

The ol' Turk is flying to Calgary and Vancouver this week on business, and homework time will be tight for me as the week goes on. By the time I land in Toronto next Saturday morning after taking a red eye back I'll have little time, on top of little sleep, to just sit down and start handicapping. If you want your ROI to go up, you have to focus on the less sexy aspects of handicapping, leg work. Everybody wants to go to the party, nobody wants to stick around and clean up. Push yourself to be disciplined friends.

When I think about what horse racing was, and possibly what it is missing today, I can't resist my belief that tracks belong in the ownership of custodians of the sport and not corporations. While the Gulfstream of memory from my 1988 visit was more fond than my visit recently, it is hard to argue that the seating is right sized, it's part of a destination, and that the business model is better positioned for 2011 than 1951. It doesn't mean we have to like it but numbers always drive good business and the numbers on horse racing are appalling: A recent Harris Poll showed a 4% drop from 1985 to 2010 the popularity of horse racing with the American public. The sport now ranks 13th overall in popularity, below track and field, bowling and tied with swimming. 1% of Americans claim that horse racing is their favorite sport. That's only about 250,000 people over the age of 18. Ugh, but I digress.

An Equibase Track Bias Report ($3 per report at will give you the last four days of racing in a very detailed, but not always intuitive, analysis of running style and post positions of the top four finishers as well as information for the previous 12 months. It will take some time if you have never used these reports to "decode" but the effort is worth it and it's something you can't be doing with little time moments before the windows close. If you play a track regularly, a report of this type is less critical, but rain and track maintenance can change a track profile from week to week so ignore information at your own peril. Not surprising, I'm slightly favoring middle post, stalkers and front runners and I want to see my selections between 2-5 lengths back of the leaders at first call in the PPs. is a handicappers good friend. You can get 10 day forcasts,go backward several days and get hour by hour forecasts when inclement weather threatens. Gulfstream appears to be dry for this weekend but it looks like the track may see rain leading up to next Saturday.

For Jockey and Trainer statistics my method is to mix printed materials and current information usually available at the track websites. American Turf Monthly magazine ( generally prints a Betting Guide for the major tracks just before they open a meet. The January 2011 issue contains the Gulfstream Park Betting Guide. I treat the article as background information that must be built upon. An interesting figure from this years guide is that in 2009 358 different trainers started a horse and only 17 had 10 or more winners. In a respectful way they point out which trainers are running well and which ones are doing poorly. Dirt, turf, sprints, routes, you will find the statistics and you will generally find a disclaimer as well; past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Take the statistics and then compare them to what you find at the Gulfstream Park website. It's intersting to look at the data from the current meet and compare them to the previous meet of the betting guide and you will spot anolmalies.

Nine runners are entered for the Holy Bull which starts from the shoot and is contested at 1 mile with one turn. The Donn starts and stops in the same spot around two turns for 1 1/8 miles. The Grade II Forward Gal goes off tomorrow as the 8th Raceat 7f for 3 YO fillies. These two graded stakes with an allowance race in between will be the Pick Three I'll handicap and blog about tomorrow. Today I will study the race charts of races contested on dirt at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfsream this meet and I'll watch video on any horses potentially in the Donn.

Leg work, not sexy, but winning is and its not a bad price to pay.

From last week at Fairgounds.

Race 8 and 9 went as I expected: Bouquet Booth won the Silverbulletday and the only surprise to me was how well bet down she was by the betting public, something I didn't expect. I reckon the 1% of American's who love horse racing have good betting sense too. Can we get some of the dumb money back somehow? I was not at all high on Seans Silverdancer who was the bettors third choice and finished last and expected a better showing by Aide. I did box my top four for $48 on a $2 Tri Ticket that returned $214 powered by Daisy Devine in place who I was bullish on and the betting public, not as much.

Race 9 was the Grade III Bradley Handicap on the turf and my chalk, Gran Estreno (Arg), the 8 YO, didn't disappoint. Dubious Miss getting up for Place was the surprise for me in this one. $10 bucks worth of exactas were blown on that and I was alive in the Pick Three after 2 and up $156 net as well.

In the Lecompte, Wilkinson's rail skimming late move to the wire over Pants on Fire with just a few hops to go was the most impressive 3 YO action I've seen so far in 2011. I liked the guts Wilkinson and Gomez showed going into a tight hole and taking the wire by a neck. Pants on Fire should be watched closely coming back too. My chalk, Action Ready, was a distant Show. I boxed my top four (in a five horse race) and got lucky that Wilkinson as the bettors third choice was in and Justin Phillips, bet WAY to heavy and the chalk, was last. I lost the Pick Three but exited the three race sequence up $162.80.

The Turk is still struggling a bit, but leg work will help me break through. Have fun with the Sunshine Millions, I'll be back tomorrow with the Holy Bull and the Pick Three. Turk Out!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Nominations Is In: January 22, 2011; The Fairgrounds Pick Three on Lecomte Day

The handsome winner of the Lecomte last year was Ron The Greek, who won from a field of ten that ultimately yielded no significant 3 YOs. The Turk and his sidekick, The Little Turk, are watching as many of the 3 YO preps as we can and if you have a chance, take a look at the 1st edition of the 2011 Derby Dozen Poll voted on by some really savvy people...and me.

Today we are greeted with the malady affecting tracks all over the United States, a small field in a stakes race. We won't let it bother us too much and just like a party, we won't worry about who isn't here, we'll just focus on who is here. It's important friends to know that you have no obligation to actually bet. You can handicap the races, watch the races, and not have "action plays". That said, we have a three stakes race sequence here that has a feel of wide openness and I'm going to take a run at it with a low risk Pick Three.

Let's get after it!

Fairgrounds Race Track: Race 8-9-10; First Post 4:42 ET

Fairgrounds isn't a track Turk plays often, nor is it one I've ever done well at. That's not a coincidence; It takes time to study the race charts, read the writings of the handicappers who do know the track best, study who the local big fish are, and there is only so much time in a day to recreational handicappers, so my strong advice is always to stick to just a handful of tracks and learn them well.

I'm ignoring my own advice, which I don't do here very often, because I had a hankering to play this sequence more than what else was available today. I'll go in armed with humility and slightly defensive and I'll save the bigger betting action for my base tracks: Gulfstream this time of year and more recently the new dirt surface of Santa Anita. Do you have a favorite track? There is no purer pleasure then to walk into your cathedral of choice and watch graded stakes action. About this time of year when it's 5 degrees F outside I start thinking about the lush green of the turf track at Arlington, the cheering crowd at Race 1 on opening day at Saratoga, or the buzz at the 1/16 pole when mighty Zenyatta was chasing down Blame at Churchill Downs. It's these moments when I realize how much I love horse racing and the people involved. A sport that's become irrelevant to most Americans being contested at the highest level by true sportsmen and women. I think I digressed!

Before I get back on target, I'd be remiss to not say how my heart broke at the news of Miesque passing away. Horses like Miesque make me feel my own time on earth passing away, as it seems like yesterday to me watching her Breeders' Cup Mile wins in 1987 and 1988.

The main track yesterday was listed as fast and the turf track was listed as yielding. Looking at the weather it should be dry but not sure how dry the track will get so pay closer attention as the time draws near.

In Race 8, The Silverbulletday, an eight horse field of 3 YO fillies compete at 1 mile and 40 yards on the dirt. The pace scenario is hard to gage, but I expect Seans Silverdancer will strike the lead early and three good off the pace closers will set up, Chloe Kate, Bouquet Booth and Aide. Of those three, I like Bouquet Booth the best: A Grade III winner, 4 of 4 lifetime in the money and training sharply at FG since racing last in late November. The barn wins 225 of races off this length layoff and the Margolis/Bridgmohan combination wins 45% of the time together at FG. This isn't a slam dunk, maybe not even in the to three, but he represents a legitimate winner who won't be the chalk. The likely chalk is Aide, with very lofty connections and one of my favorite sires, Arch. Clearly talented, with a nearly 20 length victory one race back, and with Gomez up for Albert Stall, this filly will attract alot of betting action. Clearly we are hoping she'll lose this one to enhance the pick three payout.

Daisy Devine won the last time out to pay $80.20. The lightly raced daughter of Kafwain can't be expected to win again at those type of odds, and I think we'll see her hit the ticket. Little Miss Holly has improving Beyers and has been competitive and don't discount on the exotics Ambient who ran strongly on a tiring yielding turf at one mile last time out.

In Race 9, a 1 1/16 mile affair on the turf for older runners, Gran Estreno (ARG) has a good chance to be the chalk at post time and I think he's rather deserving; The 8 YO has strong Beyers, a nice late race turn of foot, and solid FG connections with Trainer Stidham clipping along at 29% and Stidham/Napravnik winning 29% of 28 starts together here. 10 wins in last 21 tries for Argentinian bred.

Bill Mott's Midnight Mischief with Theriot up, comes in after faltering as the tepid chalk in a grade III in December. The 5 YO Medaglia d'Oro horse is 3 of his last 11 and has only one win on turf in six tries with a puny Tomlinson rating.

Strike Again, a Smart Strike on the Dam's side and a son of Dixie Union, is 5 of 15 overall, 5 of 14 on the turf and 4 of 5 in the money at the distance. His worst efforts have been on turf less than firm.

Red Strike is a four yeas old gelding from Smart Strike, lightly raced and starting for only the 4th time. Throw the sloppy off the turf last race out and I think you may be looking at the best chance of real value in the Pick Three and any inner race betting.

And finally in The Lecomte I think there are three legitimate chances to win and the uncertainty will hopefully make a decent betting race of this paltry field. Most likely the least of the three to be loved by the bettors is Action Ready. The son of More Than Ready makes a turf to dirt switch, something Bret Calhoun pulls off a staggering 30% of the time with 83 tries. Most of Calhoun's stats are off the hook and he's approaching supertrainer status on Dirt with 26% and now just needs to improve his 16% graded stakes wins. I think he's improving and he's fresh into his race cycle with today being his third effort since December 1st. Lots of bettors will gravitate to Justin Phillips. The erratic last race winner adds blinkers, which Asmussen wins 26% of the time. I took Calhoun to task for his Graded Stakes win percentage and was surprised to see this barn down to 12%. Pants on Fire comes in of two nice efforts, discount if you wish for where they were. I'm discounting at my own peril.

And last Monday's Martin Luther King Day efforts served the purpose and they are deconstructed below.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Dirty Derby Dozen Poll: Call to Post-1st Edition: January 20, 2011

Another year, and another gathering of some of the brightest, most articulate voices from the new and old media covering horse racing....and me.

Yeah, the Ol' Turk is a hack but somehow got himself invited to join this prestigious group lead by our host and friend, Steve from

Our mission is to take the pulse of three year old horse racing every three weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby and hopefully identify the contenders, eliminate the pretenders, and most importantly, add some snarky yet poignant comments along the way.

Let's get after it!

We'll be back in three weeks and update after a few key prep races. Have fun with it, Turk Out!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Nominations Are In: January 17, 2011: The Jimmy Winkfield and The Smarty Jones for 3 YOs

From our friends at Wikipedia, James "Jimmy" Winkfield (April 12, 1882 - March 23, 1974) was a Thoroughbred jockey and horse trainer from Kentucky, best remembered as the last African American to ride a winner in the Kentucky Derby.

Winkfield was born in Chilesburg, Kentucky and began his career as a jockey in 1898 at age sixteen. He was suspended for four years after just one race for his involvement in a four-horse accident at the starting gate. However, he returned in 1900 to ride a horse named Thrive in the Kentucky Derby, finishing third. He rode the race again in 1901 and 1902, winning on His Eminence and Alan-a-Dale respectively - in 1901 alone, he won 220 races. He competed in his final Derby in 1903, finishing second on Early.

Later that year, Winkfield emigrated to Russia where he was greeted as a celebrity and in the name of the Czar Nicholas II competed at racetracks all over Europe. He won the Russian Oaks five times, the Russian Derby four times, the Czar's Prize on three occasions, and the Warsaw Derby twice. The Russian Revolution caused him to leave the country in 1917 and he moved to France where he resumed racing, scoring numerous wins including the Prix du Président de la République, Grand Prix de Deauville, and the Prix Eugène Adam. He retired as a jockey at age fifty having won more than 2,500 races then began a second successful career as a horse trainer.

Winkfield lived on a farm near the Hippodrome de Maisons-Laffitte (racetrack) in Maisons-Laffitte on the outskirts of Paris. He remained there until fleeing the German occupation of France during World War II. After the war, he eventually returned to the farm at Maisons-Laffitte where he lived until his death 1974.

In 1960, Jimmy Winkfield made an appearance at the Kentucky Derby to celebrate 60 years since his historic victories. In 2004 he was inducted posthumously into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack is run in his honor.

In 2005, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring Jimmy Winkfield. The full details can be read here at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

As for Smarty Jones, well Smarty was a darn fine horse that won a couple of races you might have heard of in 2004, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

OK, what do we have here today? A couple of three year old non graded stakes, just to get a feel for the talent pool belong Uncle Mo, which, with just a few exceptions, hasn't lit the house on fire yet, but The Turk's a patient man and it isn't just about the Triple Crown, its a long season and you have to do your homework. Let's get it on!

Aqueduct Race 8: The Jimmy Winkfield and Oaklawn Park Race 8: The Smarty Jones.

I don't know what do do with these short fields and the talent gaps that exist inside of them. I don't want to lament too many racing days and not enough quality horseflesh, but that's what brothers gotta do. That said, I'm keeping my betting action light and I truly believe you have to handicap and analyze constantly to learn who's out there running, so here we are.

At Aqueduct, a six horse field competes in the Jimmy Winkfield. A Rick Dutrow trained horse for Jay Em Ess Stables, Rift, seems to be the class of the group. A son of Not for Love, C. Velasquez is up today. In his previous three starts he's been in the money each time and has one win on the inner dirt.

Royal Currier is a son of Red Bullet, winner of the Preakness and the Gotham. Training nicely and comes in with two straight wins and 6 of 6 lifetime in the money. I like him for a value win bet.

Fort Hughes is a son of Henny Hughes, winner of the King's Bishop, the Vosburgh, The Champagne and Hopeful and a place in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and career earnings totalling $1.124 MM. The Darley Stables Colt, trained by K. Mclaughlin with E. Castro up, starts for the third time and has two solid previous efforts.

Trainer Levine and jock D. Coen have 23% of their races at the Big A. Bambi Bound, coming off a good 6f inner track effort in early December has a chance at minor prize, but pay attention for future restricted NYS bred action.

And at Oaklawn, a Harlan's Holiday son, Grant Jack, comes in off a win for Trainer Bret Calhoun, something he wins with 31% of the time after 212 tries. Harlan's Holiday won over $3.6 MM in his career with big wins in the Donn, Florida Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes and I like this horse as he stretches out further.

Archarcharch is a son of Arch, sire of Blame and a Grade I winner. Comes in off two solid and improving efforts for trainer Fires and jock Court. Fires stats are pedestrian at sprints/routes (7%), won last starts (0%) and just 10% of routes. He also saddles Bluegrass Bull who I don't think much of right now.

Again, I'm watching and learning more that betting. This type of legwork during the season helps you go for the bigger scores as the season rolls on.

And always, study the race charts and deconstruct your handicaps in a post race analysis. The following was two stakes from Santa Anita over the weekend, The Sham and San Fernando.

In the Sham, Tapizar struck the lead at the 1/4 pole and never gave it up. he never had to deal with any sustained pressure from Uncle Sam, the bettors second choice that I wisely discounted. Clubhouse Ride was clearly second best and the rest were an afterthought.

In the San Fernando, pre race I wondered in Mike Smith could make a difference with a horse content to win minor awards and it seemed that he did. Indian Firewater paid $13.00 for the winning effort. I discounted the chalk down, Thisskyhasnolimit and he weakened when he shouldn't have. Tweebster gave a good accounting and I'll look for his run back but I won't not so much with Haimish Hy.

Enjoy the holiday and enjoy the Eclipse Awards as well. I think these types of award shows are a joke, but I want to see if common sense prevails on Horse of the Year or not from curiosity standpoint. Turk out!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The 2010 Turk-clipse Awards

Here we are, another year come and gone and another year for one of the most stale award shows on the planet, the Eclipse Awards.

The Turk isn't a big fan of Award Shows or for that matter, Hall Of Fame's. I know, I'm being a stick in the mud but I'm entitled to my opinion and all six of my readers are entitled to ignore it.

Athletes compete in the arena, or at a race track, and their efforts are timeless, locked in a moment, forever remembered for what they were, defined on their own merits, not by how journalists vote or wish to interpret the importance. The subjective comparisons marginalize some and overly praise others.

Ask Joe Race fan who the Horse of the Year 2010 was and many will tell you Zenyatta. She made people care like they haven't since Big Brown was on the verge of a Triple Crown, Barbaro valiantly fought for his life, or Rachael Alexandra's campaign for the ages. Ask the intelligista though and you'll get clinical analysis about Blame, a darn fine horse that may be deserving of a fancy trophy but lacking as the type of animal that stirs passion like Zenyatta.

OK, I bitched and whined about the award show, but I'm also a hypocrite because I watch every year, usually enjoying the Paulick Report live blogging at the same time. I'll never be confused as a journalist or an important new media voice, or worse, old media intelligista, but I watch racing closely and I'm using my blog to cast my own votes.

Here we go players!

Horse of the Year: Blame, Goldikova (IRE), Zenyatta

Two-Year-Old Male: Boys at Tosconova, To Honor and Serve, Uncle Mo

Two-Year-Old Filly: Awesome Feather, R Heat Lightning, Turbulent Descent

Three-Year-Old Male: Eskendereya, Lookin At Lucky, Paddy O'Prado

Three-Year-Old Filly: Blind Luck, Evening Jewel, Havre de Grace

Older Male: Blame, Quality Road, Richard's Kid

Older Female: Life at Ten, Unrivaled Belle, Zenyatta

Male Sprinter: Big Drama, Majesticperfection, Smiling Tiger

Female Sprinter: Champagne d’Oro, Dubai Majesty, Rightly So

Male Turf Horse: Dangerous Midge, Gio Ponti, Winchester

Female Turf Horse: Goldikova (IRE), Proviso (GB), Tuscan Evening

Trainer: Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, John Shirreffs

Jockey: Ramon Dominguez, Garrett Gomez, John Velazquez

The Nomination Is In: January 15, 2011: The Sham and San Fernando at Santa Anita Park

The Turk is back in snow filled Buffalo after a long work week in California.

I've not felt very sharp with my handicapping since shutting myself down for a break after the Breeders' Cup. Any horseplayer knows what I'm talking about: You have stretches of time when you feel unbeatable and then others where you can't seem to find clarity when starring at the PP's. I've been handicapping long enough to know the best way to start to get your groove on is to just keep handicapping, analyzing the race charts afterwards, and focus in on something you're good at in order to build confidence.

I don't preach one thing here and do something completely different. I've been increasing the number of handicaps I work on each week, decreasing my actual betting, and gaining confidence as I count my virtual winnings and ROI.

I also find it helpful that I can ignore playing synthetic tracks if I want to. That wasn't an anti plastic rant as I was growing indifferent to the surface, but it is very nice to be handicapping this wickedly fast Santa Anita Dirt Track and not think about if I need to apply my turf racing angles when on plastic, or even worse, having to think about what version of plastic the track happens to have. Tedious, and I feel free of that.

The Turk is again involved this year with a project by Steve over at to identify the best three years old on their march to the Kentucky Derby. The panel of voters is impressive and deep and I'm humbled to be counted among them. We had ALOT of fun with this last year and we will be back this coming Wednesday, and will be out with a new polling every three weeks after that until the day of the Derby post draw. I hope you tune in and have some fun with us.

The Turk's Blog is subtitled "Horses, Handicapping and Hijinks". I'm going to add in 2011 a monthly Hijinks post where I will give advice and tips on gifts and gear for horseplayers and men of certain age with discriminating taste as well as travel stories and fun times at the track. As much as I enjoy the horses, the conversations I've had with strangers at the track are some of my favorite moments.

Anyway, that's about how deep my new year resolutions go towards my horse racing passion, more of the same would sum it up! Let's get after two graded stakes at Santa Anita today.

Santa Anita Race 3 and Race 8

The long travel week left me just wanting to do some handicapping and inner-race betting. These two races seemed like interesting targets. In the Grade 3 Sham Stakes a five horse field will go 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. Tapizar makes his forth start for Steve Asmussen who puts Gomez up today. First start for the son of Tapit, and coming off a layoff since Thanksgiving Day. The colt has been training nicely at Santa Anita with a 6f in 1:12 2/5ths and 4f in :47 1/5 and I will expect him to be a heavy chalk but I'm looking at Clubhouse Ride to give him a tussle. Making his 11th start already, he comes in with three straight show efforts and a blazing 4f in :45 3/5ths this week. 7 of 10 in the money and a 422 Tomlinson at the distance, Valenzeula is up for Trainer Craig Lewis, owner of 9 Grade Stakes starts and no wins. Baffert's wildcard Uncle Sam makes just his second start and I need to see a bit more today before getting to caught up, but Bejarano is up and he has one win on this dirt track already.

In the Grade 2 San Fernando, a scratch by Sidney's Candy while he gets healthy leaves a wide open race. I'm looking at the speed of Tweebster to be a serious challenge for the others. Indian Firewater will run with him, but the colt has 6 places in 13 starts and seems content being close but not winning. A switch to Mike Smith today may prompt a better finish but previous jocks were no slouches either. Thisskyhasnolimits has been very consistent for the past 4 races and will fire off a good effort and I expect he'll find the ticket. Hamish Hy is an interesting entrant, with no dirt or distance efforts but a Grade I turf horse can't be ignored. Trainer Art Sherman has won 3 of 6 turf/dirt switches.

I haven't had time to blog out my post race analysis from last week, but below is the Pick three from Gulfstream and missed by 1 1/4 length when Detirminato edged out Leave of Absence. I was happy to identify the winners of both other races. An OK effort I reckon, but you either win money or you lose money, no moral victories. The pick three paid $320 on a $1 dollar bet, fueled by Detirminato's win, but in the easy mark category, I had The Hal's Hope pegged with what seemed to me a very simple superfecta win. I boxed but still walked away with nearly $135 bucks, offsetting my $30 loss on Pick Three and $10 on a Spectacular Bid exacta bet gone slightly off target.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Nomination Is In: January 8, 2011; Gulfstream Park Pick Three including the Hal's Hope Grade III

The holidays are over, and when you live in Buffalo, all you have left to look forward to is two solid months of miserable cold weather and snow and short, dark days. It's not hard to turn your eyes south and focus on the fact that the horse racing season has begun. The Hal's Hope and the Spectacular Bid are a good way to reengage with Gulfstream Park, where many of the best horses in America have been wintering and planning their campaigns. Let's get it on!

Gulfstream Park Pick Three Race 7-8-9

This is a challenging three race sequence. I'm OK with handicapping any race, but the other side of the coin is actually betting, and when I got done handicapping these Past Performances I was left with the feeling that I was either dead on or wildly whacked. The Turk is a big advocate of responsible betting. That wasn't a moral message about controlling your vices, as the Turk also doesn't judge anyone. What I mean by responsible betting is long ago I gave up the notion I had to bet every race I watched or handicapped. I pick and choose my marks, and I watched my personal ROI skyrocket as I got over the inclination of reflex betting. I still lay duds from time to time, but its fewer and farther in between because I'm perfectly OK with holding back the bet, handicapping, and then critiquing my handicap after the fact to try and analyze why I was so risk averse. Funny things happen when you do this: Sometimes you win and leave good money on the table, and sometimes you lose. Either way, learn something from every handicap, and of course, have fun!

Race 7, the Spectacular Bid, was won last year by a Turk favorite, A Little Warm. We again express our remorse over the loss of A Little Warm's owner, Edward Evans. Nine horses are entered and I struggled with naming a chalk. As a bit of a stretch, and an eye towards value, I placed Grande Shores on top. The son of Black Mambo comes off the pace well, and there will be a hot pace with Wildcat Formation and Duel Exhauzt, and I think he's improving and may catch a few of the assuredly better colts off their games today. To not like is the 0% win Jock/Trainer combo in 25 races at GP.

Leave of Absence runs back after a a 94 BSF at the Big A in November. Training sharply, the Harlan's Holiday son is trained by Richard Violette.

Gangsterontherun is my expected winner, also making his third start like Leave of Absence. Solis is up for Trainer Wesley Ward and the horse has been training very sharply at GP since Thanksgiving and put up two :47 3/5 4f efforts recently.

A tough race indeed and if I wanted to over cover I'd throw in Duel Exhauzt and a Desormeaux mount, War for Gus.

Race 8 is a stocked 1 mile turf N3X Optional Claimer. I think that Guy's Reward and Sleepless Knight are the best of the field. Kelly Breen trained Sleepless Knight is coming off a long layoff, something he only wins 11% of the time, but has won 3 of 6 turf races and 5 of 6 in the money.

Guy's Reward won on yielding turf last time out at CD in late November. The 4YO son of Grand Reward has Desourmeaux up again and Desormeaux and Trainer Romans win together 30% of the time. Expect a nice late turn of foot.

I like the Roger Attfield runner Jimmy Simms to challenge based on the 6 YOs consistently purposeful running. Asphalt is a 4 YO War Chant son who is 9 of 12 in the money on turf. Trainer Eddie Kenneally wins 21% on turf and Leparoux/Keeneally win 20% of the time together in a many start relationship. Dark Cove and Oil Man (IRE) loom as possibles as well. If Dark Cove runs he may need a new jock as Leparoux is assigned to him as well.

And in Race 9, the Hal's Hope, one monster looms, one challenger is possible, and one deja vu horse reemerges. The monster seems to be Morning Line. Nick Zito's runner has two straight 100+ BSF including a very gutty Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, losing by a head to Dakota Phone. 6 of 7 lifetime in the money for the 4 YO son of Tiznow.

Soaring Empire (pictured above) also has two straight 100+ BSF efforts including a deceptive 6th in the Cigar Mile Grade I. Trainer Cam Gambolati is winless in four graded stakes efforts and only started 78 runners in 2010.

Rule returns is the deja vu moment, as last winter he seemed on the verge of a breakout only to be shutdown after failing in the Florida Derby as the chalk. Trainer Pletcher wins 23% of his greater than 180 day layoffs but this seems daunting. Takleberry will gamely provide pace.

I've put together two variations of a $36-$30 dollar pick three bet that is defensive and maybe meek. I may have to rethink as scratches and changes flow in.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rest in Peace Edward Evans

This shocking piece of news to start the New Year is borrowed liberally from Ron Mitchell's article at the and we thank them for our use.

Edward Evans, whose racing and breeding program at Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, Va., produced numerous stakes winners including 2010 multiple grade I winner Quality Road , died Dec. 31 in New York. He was 68. Thanks to Sarah K. Andrew for this wonderful portrait of a horse that surely gave Mr. Evans great pleasure.

“We will miss the man first and the sportsman second,” said Spring Hill manager Chris Baker. “I will miss him personally and the sport will really miss him. He was one of a kind the way he went about his business.”

Evans was the son of Thomas Mellon Evans, a successful owner and breeder who counted 1981 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Pleasant Colony among the stakes winners produced on his Buckland Farm. Edward Evans purchased 2,800 acre Spring Hill Farm in 1969 and among the more than 100 stakes winners he bred were 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam as well as homebred stakes winners Gygistar, Tap Dance, Cat’s At Home, Minstrella, and With Ability. Other recent stakes winners he raced included grade I winner Cat Moves, and grade II winners Malibu Prayer and A Little Warm.

Evans invested many years in breeding his best mares with top-quality stallions, adding the fillies to his broodmare band upon retirement. Included among his broodmares were millionaire runners Raging Fever, Summer Colony, and Gold Mover.

One of his best purchases came at the 1999 Keeneland November breeding stock sale when he bought the Strawberry Road mare Kobla, in foal to Mt. Livermore, for $1,050,000. Kobla, winless in two starts at the racetrack, is out of the graded stakes-winning Alydar mare Winglet, and her full sister was the 1997 champion 3-year-old filly Ajina. In 2006, Kobla produced Quality Road.

Just last week, Yale University announced that Evans, a member of the 1964 graduating class, had given a $50 million gift to the Ivy League school toward the construction of a new building at the School of Management. The gift will fund a portion of the estimated $189 million construction costs and the building will be named after Evans. University officials say it’s the largest gift ever given to the School of Management.

The Nomination Is In: January 1, 2010: The NYRA Pick 4 including the Count Fleet Stakes

Yeah, it looks JUST like this. the glamorous people, wandering up the driveway, to watch the Count Fleet Stakes in mildy inclement weather. Come on down and check it out. Well, not really, but there are construction trailers and signs pointing to a different future and the old barn ain't too bad and when you get hungry, check out Don Peppe around the corner for some great food.

Happy New Year Friends and Readers of the Turk and Little Turk. The holiday season is always special, and New Years Day is once last chance to relax and recharge the batteries before the grind begins anew. I took a gander over at Santa Anita, but a five horse field in The Robert Frankel Grade II and a not so interesting rest of the card turned my eyes back to the NYRA Pick 4 at Aqueduct and a not so exciting claimer and maiden race that are intermixed with the Count Fleet and ChampagneforAshley Stakes. Let's roll with it!

Aqueduct Pick 4 Race 6-7-8-9

The Count Fleet has been contested by horses of good caliber, with Haynesfield and Smarty Jones just two notable alumni. Today's edition has a few potential stakes winners; Pants on Fire with two time winner R. Dominguez up, comes in with a near win on the track and a trainer in Kelly Breen who wins 24% of 2nd races off 45 day layoffs.

Rush Now is a stakes winner with a 38% winner combo at the Big A of Rose up and Anthony Dutrow conditioning. Dutrow's stats are pretty gaudy and I won't rattle them all off but 25% stakes winners on 75 tries is sweet.

J J's Lucky Train and Arthur's Tale, especially Authur's Tale, look strong and if you want more than a chalky taste in your mouth,the son of Bernadini may be a good direction to look.

In Race 8, the ChampagneforAshley Stakes, three horses stand out: Eminent Tale has been off since mid November and training regular at Aqueduct. The modestly bred runner starts for Dick Dutrow Jr. who wins 28% of 2nd off 45 starters and 26% of his dirt races.

Beau de Beaupre comes in winning two in a row, including a stake at Aqueduct.

Sky Music is a Pletcher/Dominguez joint looking for a bounce back after a last race erratic effort as the heavy chalk.

I'm pushing the time for this sequence, so have fun, Turk Out!