Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Bayakoa Grade 2 at Hollywood Park

Beautiful, energized, driven Bayakoa.  If there was anything to get me to end my self imposed end of the year "Handicapper's Holiday" its always a race named in her honor.

Let the Turk be clear: Bayakoa is one of my all time favorites and I still get goosebumps thinking of her.  

I've been gone since the Breeders' Cup, a self imposed vacation.  I think it's important as a handicapper to push away every now and then, especially when you self analyze your post race results and see the pattern of "trying to hard." For me, trying to hard often means trying to hard to be a wise guy, trying to hard to stretch for value when the obvious answer is starring me in the face.  

I like the vacations, its almost like hitting the reset button.  I've paid no attention to the racing since Breeders' Cup Saturday, have no idea which 2 YOs are in the Futures Pool, quite frankly don't care. I'm an older horse fella, even though I'll get sucked into Triple Crown madness like every year. Getting back into the swing of things is always harder than I think it should be: I've handicapped thousands of races but for some reason when I return I feel like I just got handed the red gel pen for the first time.  I ease back in, I pick winners, stay away from the exotics for awhile and try to get my groove on.  

I like to eliminate variables in my handicapping, but between now and March I find that one of the biggest challenges is trying to understand the Trainers intentions.  It's not always to win the particular race he has entered, perhaps its to sharpen for two races down the road or its just to get a few more starts before the owner pulls the plug on the season or career of his runner.

The vacation is over though;  one thing that is always true is I enjoy the time away but I enjoy the racing more when I return and I feel renewed.  Let's get after this!

Again, it's sometimes hard to know what a Trainer's goals are.  Most likely those goals aren't about winning in December when the racing world isn't paying that much attention.  The race's sole million dollar winner, Inglorious, trained by Josie Carroll, with Mike Smith up, has been shutdown since July and seems to be just at the beginning of a path that is expected to lead the Mare to bigger things in 2013.

I like sharper animals this time of year and I'm backing Lady of Fifty this time out: 5 of 6 in the money on the fake stuff, 8 of 10 lifetime in the money and the Aftermarket filly trained by Hollendorfer, with M. Garcia up, has been training sharply at Hollywood since a 1 mile win 5 weeks ago.

Changethechannel is a3 YO English Channel girl who comes in off a sharp same distance win at Hollywood 3 weeks ago.  Game and fast, I like the sharp last out effort and we'll see what happens.

I have  a deep collection of Exotic Players (purple), most likely a bit of indecision after my layoff, but this is a pretty evenly matched collection on paper.

Bayakoa's Trainer, Ron McAnally, brings in his homebred daughter of Empire Maker, Charm the Maker, into the fray. Only two wins, both with today's pilot Gomez up, some really uninspiring Turf work, and no real reasons to hang my fedora on.  I like the class to prevail.

Class Included and Inglorious will be breaking from the outside together;  Class Included comes out of the Breeders' Cup Distaff and I don't like the way the bounce usually goes on that angle. 16 of 17 in the money lifetime but no fake dirt and no distance wins.  Inglorious I expect will run well but how well, hmm.  I'm shading down, just on the edges of Show and Exotic.

I like Willa B Awesome on the fake stuff.  I may make a game time decision after watching the post parade and shade her up.

There it is, my first effort back off a 31-60 day layoff.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Breeders' Cup Classic Super High 5

I'd like to start by saying that it is an honor and privilege to be able to write the handicap for the Breeders' Cup Classic for The Thorofan Handicappers Corner. The Thorofan is an organization of horse racing enthusiasts representing horse racing enthusiasts. I'm proud to be a member and a contributor.

What I'm about to propose is risky, but the upside can get seriously large. I've handicapped and constructed a SUPER HIGH FIVE bet for the Classic. The Super High Five is not a regular option on the betting menu, but for Ye' Ol Turk, it represents my white whale, a glittering jewel that I like to claim not only for the money, but for the prestige as well.

The Base Handicap is as the name implies, my primary view of the field. With both color (Green-Yellow-Red) and with Letter Grades (A-D) my base handicap reorders the field into an expected order of finish. It's no different than what the morning line odds are doing except instead of generating my own odds line (which I tediously did for many years) I rank the horses with a grade below B- outside of the Exotic Pool generally. One of the more consistent comments I've gotten over the years is "Hey Turk, you're a chalk eater." I'm good with that, because I'm an exotic bettor mostly. I often don't really care who wins, as long as I have the winner covered in my matrix, the who's who of horses in the bet and out.

Now you can take the handicap and apply any sort of exotic bet over the top of it. The beauty of taking the time to build a base handicap is if a horse scratches, I'm only sliding horses up or down. Unless the field is devoid of pace, my base handicap allows me to calmly study the tote board before the betting windows close and make value decisions on who I put in the different slots to maximize profit. I'm really not a chalk eater, but I understand the criticism.

Criticism? Who cares. You're a handicapper, you aren't trying to convince everyone who's going to win, you have to convince yourself that your hard earned betting capital is worth putting at stake on a particular contest. You can think anything you want of me when this handicap is done. A handicapper has to have thick skin. It's sort of like a cornerback who just got burned by a beautiful deep ball from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Stevie Johnson (ok bad example): you have to forget it before the next play. I've lost track of how many times one of my toss horses won a race. I don't focus on that, just the big picture overall, am I ahead or behind. Strive for consistency, in your handicapping, your bet construction and your capital investments.

Before I stop preaching, learn to walk away from a race. If this race was on Santa Anita's old fake dirt, with multiple European horses entered, I'd walk away in a second. I like to control the number of variables to as few as possible: I think the weather will be good, I think the track will be fast, I know every horse in the field well, I like my odds of separating the wheat from the chaff. What can't I control? The darn horses, they sometimes got a mind of their own, and nothing kills me more than seeing a neck or a nose separate a horse from the exotics from the also ran's.
Let's get after this before I bore you to tears!

Chalk eater or not, Game on Dude is 5 for 5 at Santa Anita. 5 of 7 in the money at the distance, Trainer Baffert, a 33% winner at SA, places Bejarano up, and the two have combined for 31% wins in 103 starts over past year at the Great Race Place.

Ron the Greek, and Bill Mott in general, have consistently left me a day late and a dollar short. Raise your hand, who saw Drosselmeyer coming last year? Two brilliant work bullets at BEL after a rare dud in his last outing. A Big Cap winner earlier this year gives him points with me but that field wasn't stellar. This Florida bred has consistently over performed and I'm counting him in here.

I love Richard's Kid. I'm shocked that he's 7 already. I hated what amounted to a lost year in Dubai but not my choice. I hated him getting yanked from Baffert, but again, not my choice. 3 of 4 in the money at SA, 5 of 11 in the money at the distance, 10 of 13 in the money over fast dirt, a strong late closer and I like how Trainer O'Neil has him going at 6f. I may be irrationally inflating his chances, but I like him in the top 5.

Nonios has been smokin' in the morning: :46 2/5ths at SA this week. No dirt wins, no wins at the distance and no SA wins for the 3 YO, and Pedroza and Hollendorfer are 4% winners together at SA. Ugh. I like his last race, I think he's on the upswing and I'm looking for value.

Flat Out was my pick last year. His last two wins were at Belmont. He's won at the distance twice, is a two million dollar earner, and he deserves exotic respect: 6 place or shows in last 13 and 9 of last 13 in the money.

Pool Play, the Hawthorne Gold Cup winner, 7 year old millionaire hard knocker. Strong late kick and I think he hits the ticket when it's said and done.

I tossed Brilliant Speed and Handsome Mike completely. If I get burned it will be by the group of Mucho Macho Man and To Honor and Serve. This is an expensive bet and you have to make choices on who you cover, hard choices.

My bet is laid out with three options and displayed at $1 and $2 dollar investments. Who and how much you bet is your business, but invest responsibly. This is a hard bet to hit, so scale the base handicap back to Superfecta or Trifecta to increase your chances of not making a big pile of money get suddenly smaller. For those about to rock, we salute you.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Breeders' Cup Homework: Clockers Corner Digest

Handicapping involves taking multiple bits of information and then applying a final grade (or odds )to each horse.  Information should be treated on a weighted value scale;  For example Tomlinson Numbers may be insightful but as a factor its weight is not very much and shouldn't be one of the key factors used to predict the order of finish.

Clockers Reports on the other hand give me insight into the animals physical condition and how well the runner is training.  While the bias of the clockers comments are present and should be discounted, the work itself should be factored within your personal weighting system.  I tend to ignore the times a bit, just listening to hear that they are within the right band, but focus on the final 1/4, final 1/8, the gallop out, how the horse moved, who was working at the time, the time of the work in relation to the renovation break, etc. 

You can pay for some really good clocker reports but DRF always has Mike Welsch on the scene and its free.  Thanks to DRF. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Breeders' Cup Homework: The Classic

2008 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita minus the fake dirt

The Turk likes to start his homework with a video review of key races.  With today's release of Breeders' Cup PP's, its time to get down to work!

I'll be blunt;  I want to win a huge stack of money on Breeders' Cup weekend.  I think the field sizes and the lack of overwhelming class leaves the opportunity wide open. 

I like to start with the Classic and work backward.  Anyone who knows me knows I don't bother with two year olds.  I'm going to stick with what I know.  I may be an East Coast guy but I played Santa Anita heavy all year for a reason: I wanted to have a feel for the dirt here and I wanted to feel like a Great Race Place insider.  Check that box, I've played and played well the fast dirt and I'm feelin' it.  I've taken some time off the past weeks to recharge my batteries.  All in time now folks.

Let's get after it.

1 1/8 Mile Pennsylvania Derby Grade 2;  Dirt fast track;  Handsome Mike (86); Macho Macho, Golden Ticket

:49 1/5; 1:14; 1:38 4/5; 1:51 3/5

 1 1/4 Mile Travers Stakes Grade 1; Dirt fast track; Golden Ticket/Alpha (100) DH; Fast Falcon

:48; 1:12 3/5; 1:37 1/5; 2:02 3/5

1 1/4 Mile Jockey Gold Cup Grade 1;  Dirt good track; Flat Out (109); Stay Thirsty; Fort Larned

:47 1/5; 1:11 4/5; 1:36 2/5; 2:01 2/5

1 1/8 Mile Awesome Again Grade 1 @ SA; Dirt fast track;  Game on Dude (109); Nonios; Richard's Kid

:48; 1:11 4/5; 1:36 1/5; 1:48 4/5;

1 1/4 Mile Pacific Classic Grade 1; fake Del Mar dirt; Dullahan (110); Game on Dude; Richard's Kid

:46 4/5; 1:11; 1:35 1/5; 1:59 2/5

1 1/4 Mile Hawthorne Gold Cup Grade 2; Dirt fast track; Pool Play (101); Cease; Eldaafer

:49 2/5; 1:13 4/5; 1:40 1/5: 2:06 1/5

1 1/8 Mile Beldame Grade 1; Dirt good track; Royal Delta (106)

:46 3/5; 1:10; 1:35; 1:48 4/5

1 1/8 Mile Woodward Stakes Grade 1; Dirt fast track; To Honor and Serve (105); Mucho Macho Man

:47 2/5; 1:10 4/5; 1:35 3/5; 1:48 2/5

1 1/8 Mile Whitney Grade 1; Dirt fast track; Fort Larned (108); Ron the Greek; Flat Out

:46 4/5; 1:10 4/5; 1:34 4/5; 1:47 3/5

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Post Race Analysis Hoosier Park Late Pick 4

Neck 'n Neck:  Photo by Hearald Bulletin
The Turk spoke at length yesterday about choosing your betting targets carefully, and I must say I am quite pleased with my results from Hoosier Park's late Pick 4, which included the Indiana Oaks and the Indiana Derby.

My first piece of good advice was the consistency of the handicapping that was allowed by having a Pick 4 that consisted of all dirt races with all at two turns, and good weather.  In about 2 hours work (4 hours total when I add in the work pleasure of blogging) I was able to return over $1,100 by just applying my base handicaps over what is essentially lazy betting for me, simple boxes.  I made a key decision that made it possible, a decision I acknowledged pre race, the decision to single Grace Hall in the Indiana Oaks, and then fate helped as well (the scratch of Juanita gave me the cash to go as deep as Salty Strike in the Mari Hilman George).  Fate doesn't just go in the Turk's favor though, the neck that Fourty Nine Watts beat Shadowbdancing by in the Schaefer Mile cost me the Superfecta and an additional $4,200.  Spilled milk, never focus on the losses, there are no moral victories, only cash in or out of the wallet, and my wallet is phat right now.

I followed my basics, which to my five readers, I have articulated ad nausea over the years.  I focused yesterday on current form, current work, in the money records on the surface and the distance, and Hoosier Park work got a premium.  I successfully put Hurricane Ike high up my rankings while the bettors only had him 8th in the field based on his last good race, last year's solid work on this Indiana Derby day. I wasn't floored by Bob Baffert's deep stable that shipped here.  Good horses, but ask yourself why here?  They aren't prepping for Breeders' Cup work, he was trying to win something for demanding owners while he can in this season.  He's good at this, but none of his runners were locks, yet the name Baffert draws action.

About the only disappointment for me was all the scratches in the Indiana Oaks (4 horses); It really made the race not bettable, especially with one entry coupled. The second disappointment was the performance of Stealcase and Eastergift in the Indiana Derby.  I could have survived one of them failing and won the superfecta, but I couldn't overcome both have really poor efforts. 

Good stuff friends, it's racing like yesterday that really lowers my blood pressure and makes me remember why I love the game and this blog. 

Most of October's balance will be dedicated towards getting ready for my biggest betting weekend left in the calendar year, Breeders' Cup.  After going to the last two at Churchill Downs I've chosen to skip this years.  Why Turk?  Simple reason really, I can't  bet like I like to bet when I am at the event.  I get caught up in the social aspects of the races, I meet friends, I loiter.  At Turk Central I will melt down my ADW circuits with my complicated matrix superfecta bets and my goal is a $2,000 plus net earnings weekend minimum.  I never set expectations like that, it's a slippery slope, but I'm serious about these two days this year and I'm upping the pressure I put on myself to prepare.  Preparation is secondary to my profession, so I will fit it in and I have plenty of time. 

Have a good NFL betting day friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Hoosier Park All Stakes Pick 4

Bourbon Courage: Lynn Roberts, Hodges Photography
In my last blog post, a post celebrating the fourth anniversary of "The Turk and The Little Turk" blog, I spoke of a lack of passion I've had this year.  The horses haven't been doing it for me as a fan, and while I'm a good gambler, I'm really a fan, and fans need passion and excitement to keep them engaged.  I'm not a fickle Turk though, this isn't about me shifting allegiances to tennis, WWF Wrestling, synchronized swimming or something eccentric, this is simply an admission that the current crop of handicap division horses makes me yawn more than scream, and the 3 year olds  have been an utter train wreck of injuries and heartbreak. Luckily there are some segments of racing that still get my heart beating, and as in life, its the ladies that hold my interest when all else fails.  I've really enjoyed the fillies and mares this year and sprint racing instead of what has been passing for quality classic distance racing. 

In year five of my blog I'm going to talk about more than just handicapping.  I'd love to tell you what subjects I plan to cover, but that's far more restrictive than I want to be.  I lead a fairly regimented and structured life, and with my blog I'm just going to let my (figurative) hair down and talk about ye' ol Turk and the world around me. 

We are in Breeders' Cup season now, with most of the heavy hitters either already running their final prep races or doing that in the next two race weekends.  The Santa Anita, Keeneland or Belmont tracks are where I am spending my time watching but when I looked for a handicapping opportunity this weekend, my eyes gravitated to Hoosier Park and the late pick 4.  I was turned off (as a bettor)my the field sizes in Santa Anita in the key races I cared about like the five horse Arroyo Seco Mile.  As a race fan I think its important to watch the 5 YO Japanese Trailblazer and the former Santa Anita Derby winner, Midnight Interlude

Big fields and nice pots of money for trainers to hunt for, isn't that what's its about?  It's a shame that racinos pull away product from the treasures of our race tradition, but those states get it and backward places like Illinois and California and New York don't. Anyway, I'm going to avoid religion and politics here at The Turk, but just about everything else goes. 

When I look for places to invest my racing capital I try to eliminate variables and tilt the odds a bit in my favor.  When I look at this sequence a few things popped: All dirt, all two turns, weather doesn't appear to be an issue

Race 9 is the Michael Schaefer Memorial Mile $100K, 2 turn 1 mile race.  By the way, Mr. Schaefer was a US Navy veteran likes yours truly and a war vet, just like yours truly.  Like is the case in big racino racing days, you get a pretty big differential in talent that competes, but you also learn the big name ship in horses don't always win, so don't feel like you have to play the chalk or nothing.  I think its a three horse race for win honors though.

Shadowbdancing is 4 of 5 in the money in 2012, 4 of 7 in the money in 2011, 26 of 32 in the money on dirt and 4 of 5 in the money at the distance and the races lone millionaire. The 7 YO is consistent but never a lock. Ultra competitive, expect an in the money finish.

I'm looking for value and Hurrican Ike represents that; tacked up today by new trainer Michael Stidham, he hasn't run as well as he has since this race a year ago. First time on dirt since a hideous Texas Mile effort in April. 3 of 3 in the money at HOO with 2 wins, winless in 2012.

Good Lord switches turf to dirt, and returns to a surface where he freaked out two back to back triple digits Beyers and sprint distance.

Baffert must be respected, clicking off wins at a 31% clip right now, and he brings Bejarano in to ride Hoorayforhollywood; Most likely the big chalk, its prudent to cover in P4 but I'll take a stand a bit in the superfecta shading him down and not singling.  The 4 YO Storm Cat has the look of the real deal but was a bust in the Grade 1  Malibu and seems to be stuck in an Optional Claimer class. 

Race 10 is the Mari Hulman George $100K. Classy of the DRF to spell Ms. George's name wrong in the Past Performances, a truly special woman and friend to all animals. 

Baffert's Ellafitz will command mondo respect and cash but I'm looking for value and Michael Maker's Juanita, if she goes here (entered KEE R8 7 Oct 12) will be my dark bay or brown hope.  1 win in 1 try at HOO, 4 of 6 in the money at the distance and 10 of 12 in the money on dirt, with 5 wins. 

Absinthe Minded goes for D. Wayne Lukas who I've been a bit critical of, and I should shut the F**K up about him, as he is a legend and he's doing what he loves and I should just view him as I would any 9% trainer and not expect him to be at the top anymore.  I am happy for him to see him get of the mat with his graded stakes win percentage.  This 5 YO ran 5f in 1:00 4/5ths recently and when she's on, she's on, like her Grade 1 Apple Blossom Place to Plum Pretty earlier this year.

I'll take my chances against Salty Strike and Brushed by a Star is capable.

In the Indiana Oaks the lovely Grace Hall goes for Tony Dutrow with Ramon Dominguez up. A dud in the Alabama as a well beaten chalk to Questing et al, a pretty consistent runner, 8 of 9 in the money lifetime and the race's lone millionaire by a bunch.  May single, but we'll cross that bridge later.

Amie's Dini has been training well and will be a big price if you like that sort of stuff, well like just about every player,  Seems to be getting better.  Hmmm.

The coupled Uptown Bernie and Wine Princess will be competitive but I like Bridgemohan's mount Wine Princess a bit more.  Both need to show more speed if they have it. 

I've been an Eden Moon fan all year, you have to go back to 3 March at SA to find a good effort on dirt, and the ship for the Kentucky Oaks wasn't worth the travel expense.

When I rattle on about what I don't like about racing, its the lack of fields and field strength.  I don't care if this field for the Indiana Derby is world class, but its full and vibrant and there is enough class to make this fun.  I was so enamored as I write this I really don't know who I'm backing.  I'll start with Bourbon Courage, the Grade 2 Super Derby winner last time out, with that on the heels of the place finish in the Grade 2  West Virgina Derby. Conventional wisdom is the horse will step back at some point, but we save conventional wisdom for the bullshit pile here at The Turk. I have him on top but I'm not sure if he has the class of others here. 

Easter Gift, a Hard Spun son, has been training well at the Saratoga training track since early August and in the middle of that, a nice win in the slop in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones for trainer Zito.

Fed Biz is a lightly raced Baffert that ran well on dirt at SA and won a stakes at Del Mar over that crappy fake dirt track that I try to ignore. Hard to judge really what he has here. 

I like Stealcase and Neck 'n Neck quite a bit; Stealcase's sire, Lawyer Ron, rest in peace, was a favored colt of mine and his loss still makes me a bit emotional, resonating like the deaths of Tuscan Evening and Lost in the Fog and George Washington still do with me.  Don't tell me you're a race fan if you can't tell me who your heart hangs heaviest for.  Alydar and Ferdinand gotta mean something to you too!

I think I digressed.  Stealcase is a good, not great horse, honest, with a trainer in Mark Casse who is comfortable taking shots.  I like that! The Haskell effort was solid, not embarrassed in the Travers, this isn't out of the question.  Neck 'n Neck  is a Flower Alley, cut from similar cloth. Training well, the Grade 3 winner came just short in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and also wasn't embarrassed in the Travers.

I'll be going vertical and horizontal and we'll see what kind of fun we can make today into.  I hope whatever track you play find races where you can tilt some of the variables your way.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Fourth Anniversary Turk and Little Turk Blog

Four years ago, during my endless business travel across country, I sat in the Chicago O'Hare Airport and surfed mindlessly while a rain delay kept me from home. I came across these blogs about horse racing, all of them with different points of view, and in a moment I knew that this was for me:  For better or worse, The Turk and the Little Turk Blog was born , focused solely on my personal handicapping method and my approach to the game. When I originally envisioned my blog, the subject matter would be strictly "Horses, Handicapping and (personal racetrack) Hijinks.  That's all I offer, no cutting edge commentary, no controversial statements about drug use, politics, historical perspective, nada. I have too much respect for fellow bloggers that focus on those matters and do it far better than I do.

Blogging has changed quite a bit even in the past four years; Many fellow bloggers Tweet more than the blog these days.  The Turk and the Little Turk use Twitter to spread the news of our blog postings, but my personal belief is that the several hours I dedicate to a multi-race handicap, and the analysis that goes into creating it, should be backed up and that if I'm going to talk winners and losers, I need to show the work, even if in outline form, from a credibility perspective. Long story short, I may blog less, but when I do blog, its as old school as you can get with new tools, pen to paper figuratively, and I try to stay true to what I preach.

It was a big year for the Turk: 9,991 individual visitors walked through the front door and over our four years, we have now greeted 30,568 folks with a cup of coffee and no BS, no macho talk. After 473 blog posts, and 636 visitors per month, there is still more Turk in the tank.  I've blogged less this year, but  I try not to focus on quantity and while I wont ramble about quality, I'll say that I'm only blogging about races that truly interest me.  Yes, that is an indictment on racing right now. Lulls come and go, the Turk is here for the long run.

This has been a year of lulls, highs and lows:  The last blog post I ever discussed with my friend Tim was my Happy Third Anniversary posting.  I flew last year to San Francisco, and then drove two hours to Santa Cruz, and when I arrived at my hotel room, I learned he was gone.  I knew life was fragile, but that drove the point home.

My friends, close and just acquaintances, know that I travel quite a bit for work, but what I do may be a bit hazy.  I don't mix business and blogging, but I will say that my job is at times very stressful and demanding.  It's the horses, at the end of the day or the weekend, that take my mind off of those daily struggles.

I had some wonderful horse travel this year: I saw stakes races at Hollywood, Golden Gate, Santa Anita, Del Mar, Arlington, Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Woodbine, Presque Isle and Fort Erie. Not a bad list.  I love watching races with friends and family.  I find myself near nirvana when the Little Turk nails long odds: my boy's no bridge jumper.  The Mrs. may not love the races as much as I do, but none of this would be possible without her support, plus she allows Barbaro and Rachael Alexandra's pictures to adorn our dining room walls.

In year five I do plan on adding more short blog postings mid week to discuss general horse racing observations, notes on horses I'm tracking, and thoughts from a horse player.  These will be included under my "Hijinks" mission statement.

If I bore you, I'm sorry.  If you think I'm stupid or no good, I'm sorry.  What I won't apologize for is caring about the horses, caring about the horse people I meet, and caring about the shrinking community of souls that view the world through horse racing goggles. That's how the Turk rolls.

Thank you for your continued reading and support. 

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Presque Isle Downs PID Masters Grade 2

We all have our racing traditions, and a fairly new one for me over the last few years is to play Presque Isle Downs pretty heavy immediately following the close of Saratoga. For those who have never been there, it's a nice racino near the shores of Lake Erie, about 90 miles south of the Turk's home near Buffalo. With a pumped up purse structure, the track has several big race days that attracts shippers to its very fair playing tapeta surface, the same fake dirt that's in Dubai and Golden Gate Fields, and in the Turk's opinion, one of the best.

Like with the majority of my life, I'm out of sequence with the mainstream. I enjoy Fall Racing more than I do the craziness that is Del Mar and Saratoga, and far more than I do the Triple Crown season. The next eight weeks leading up to the Breeders' Cup is my favorite time of the year in racing, with horses being conditioned towards reaching their peak form, with the best of the best aiming for World Championships. As a fan of the handicap division and turf runners, these next few months represent what I enjoy about racing. I just don't care for two year old racing and quite honestly, I'm not that into three year olds. I like warriors and warrior princesses, I like to see 15 starts in the lifetime line and I like to see lots of tracks and lots of last furlong battles. I'm an information handicapper and a fan of the hard knocker's. Let's get it on!

Groupie Doll seems to be head and shoulders above the rest here. Before injury, two straight Grade 1 sprint wins by a combined 10+ lengths. Training sharply for Trainer Bradley, a :58 for 5f 15 days ago shows her to be fit. She will press the pace before unleashing a powerful close.

The field is big and talented. The Turk likes big fields, 9-12 horses is my preference. Below Groupie Doll is a talented collection of horses that can be had for a price. I'm anticipating Groupie Doll will go off even or less than even money which will create some real opportunities if the daughter of Bowman's Band stumbles.

Salty Strike (pictured above winning the Grade 3 Dogwood) comes in for trainer McPeek off three straight wins and a gritty Grade 3 win in early August. No wins on synthetic, no wins at distance, first PID start, but fast and a winner, 7 of 16 lifetime. No Lasix for this girl: From an article written by Joe Aaron after the Grade 3 Gardenia, McPeek said the medication has had an adverse affect with Salty Strike in the past. "It dulls her a little bit when you give her lasix, so we don't treat her with it," said McPeek. "She doesn't need it. She runs very well without it." How novel. She carries a race high 123 pounds, same as Groupie Doll.

It's Me Mom set a smokin' pace last time out at Saratoga; :21/:43 3/5ths before fading. 6 of 9 wins at PID, 8 of 9 in the money on Synthetics and 8 wins in last 13 starts and 11 wins in 19 trips to starting gate. Expect to strike the first turn on the lead. Only concern is how far she'll drop in the last 1/16. Expecting top four finish.

Ariana D and Sweet Cassiopeia have a shot at hitting the ticket but Atlantic Hurricane, shipping in from Woodbine, has a chance to make the most noise. 11 of 11 in the money over the last two seasons.

Post time is in an hour. I better get after the betting.

I'm thinking Superfecta with most tickets singling Groupie Doll on top.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park

With the end of traditional summer nearing, comes the close to the Saratoga and Del Mar meets, and a feeling that the inevitable winter is coming. Fall racing has its charms: Belmont, Santa Anita, Woodbine, Presque Isle is where I'll be playing and visiting. I've got my mind on PID Masters Day next Saturday, The Woodbine Mile day in two weeks, Jockey Gold Cup Day at Belmont the last Saturday in September and then a Goodwood Day visit to Santa Anita (or whatever name they call the Goodwood now!) That's a pretty good list of racing and it fits my goal of skipping this year's Breeders' Cup and instead seeing some different tracks on their big Fall days. Why am I skipping the Breeders' Cup? No deep seated reason other than I just don't feel like traveling for four days across country any more than my day job makes me do and just as importantly, the lack of stars that doesn't inspire me to make a trip of that size. By the way, keep Paynter in your prayers.

As a race fan, do you look forward to certain days at the track? As a fan I love them, but as a handicapper I've become very reliant on the tools and the space that I have at my disposal in my home. I'm fighting very hard the real urge to withdraw even further from the social interaction of the track and stay full time in my solitary handicapping kitchen haven. I don't have an answer for this, its more of a philosophical dilemma than anything else. The hard core race community are a social bunch, I don't want to be left behind.

Anyhow, my "non blogged" handicapping has been good, not great. My blogged handicapping has ranged from poor to mediocre. As always, I approach my handicapping with the same structured methods I've bored my meager readers with for nearly four years. I know my methods and rules, non exotic, no sexy angles, work. I'm a layer handicapper. I identify the layers that horses will run within and I slot the field accordingly. I should say my handicapping has been average but my bet construction has been below average. Two different sides of the coin. I've had decent handicaps go for waste when I built lousy bets. Often I can correct this by pulling money off the table and making all bets for a few weeks theoretical. My thought process is its easier to work through bet construction bumps in the road when there isn't real skin in the game. Do you take the long view? I like to think that I do. I'd rather take a chance of not cashing tickets for a few weeks in order to correct a bad habit or two. As a 'capper for life, I can live without cashing this weekend if it means I'm primed for a long hot streak. When you can't win to save your life, stop. It's that simple.

I choose today's Washington Park Handicap for no reason other than the field interested me: Geldings Mister Marti Gras and Workin for Hops are Turk favorites and I'm curious to see Prayers for Relief, placed here my Steve Assmussen who doesn't ship into AP often, and Pool Play, the $36.6-1 winner of the 2011 Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. It's not complicated, I'm a horse fan, I wanted to play these horses.

Maybe I say this more when I'm cold, but this is a tough field. There are easier marks on the race card today but we'll just see what we can do with this, no worries.

Let's get after it!

The Turk has set a tentative chalk, the 5 YO gelded son of City Zip, Workin for Hops. Trainer Stidham is winning 21% of his turf/syth switches and he's a 4 of 5 winner at AP when placing Robbie Albarado up. 3 of 3 in the money at AP but winless in four tries in 2012. I like the sharp work and the price should be attractive, perhaps 3rd or 4th on the tote board. DQ'd to third here last year, he returns to meet his foe from that day, Mister Marti Gras.

Chris Block wins 31% of his turf to synth switches, and he tries to get Mister Marti Gras into the win column in his sixth race of 2012. I suspect he will be the betting favorite at post time and there is plenty to like: 3 of 3 in the money on fake dirt and a win here last year in this very spot. A competitive graded stakes runner, modestly bred but an honest runner who's 15 of 25 in the money lifetime. I will take a stand against the win for pricing reasons, but in base handicap terms I find him equal or better to the best here.

I like the late running (and big priced) Hattaash to crash the top three party; Two nice N2X runs at this track, 7 of 8 in the money at AP, Rosie Homeister is up for infrequent graded stake contestant, Trainer Charles Bettis.

Which leaves a big name and a talent to account for: Prayers for Relief is the fields youngster and the only millionare. No wins in 7 tries in 2012, all Grade 1 and Grade 2 except his last try, a Remington Park loss by a nose to Alternation. Asmussen doesn't come to AP often so I'm sure he picked this spot for the former California shipper who did well coming East for real dirt racin'. Could go off at 1 to 1 odds and I'm just not that interested. From a base handicap perspective I should place him in the top three but I'm going to take a chance (gambling after all) that he is no better than Show.

Pool Play is making AP debut today as well, winless in 8 starts on Turf, 14 of 21 in the money on fake stuff, mostly Woodbine's. I may be wrong with him, but the 7 YO doesn't seem right since his 13 month break when he recovered from injury and then found the stallion market a bit, ummm, flaccid.

That's a nice field; I'm tossing the 1 and 2 horses and taking a stand against the expected chalk Prayers for Reliefas well as Pool Play and I'm expecting a late run to put Hattaash to hit the ticket with a long price in tow. Everyone else is in the layer.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Travers Day Late All Graded Stakes Pick 4

The list is legion: I'll Have Another, Bodemeister, Paynter, Union Rags, Hansen. I'm not as disappointed about this year's remaining three year old races as I am thinking about the dearth of good handicap division horses, a cupboard bare now and not getting much of an infusion of talent next year.

I won't prattle on about my opinion on why so many good three year olds have been retired, it's not really important or informed. When you have a problem it's easy to sit around and bemoan who isn't in the room with you to solve it. I find it's always better to take stock in who is there when times are tough, those who have stuck with you and are presently in the here and now. I refuse to allow myself to loose one bit of sleep about who isn't racing anymore: As long as they retired I am happy for them and in three years I'll look for their children and be excited, as excited as I am now when I see Street Sense, Hard Spun, Lawyer Ron (Pest in Peace), Invasor and Bernardini, Flower Alley and Pleasantly Perfect to name just a few.

In the same vein, a handicapper has to have a short memory when it comes to the failures. The Pick 5 on Arlington Million day was for the Turk, a flaming failure. I misjudged the fine line between good and firm turf and overvalued domestic runners and undervalued grade 2 European horses. The handicaps were failures but I limited my betting action and the losses were not of the Greek Tragedy variety. i do listen to what I preach; Pick easy targets. 5 turf races filled with unknown quantities is not an easy target.

Today's not much easier, but as a racing fan, I'm compelled to pay attention and I'll take a run at some vertical and horizontal action on Saratoga's signature day, Travers Day. I haven't been to the Spa on a Travers Day since 2007 when Street Sense held off Grasshopper and Hard Spun won his elusive Grade 1. I wait every year to be wildly inspired to see a particular three year old and I'm still waiting.

The late pick four offers an interesting collection of challenges: a turf race, two dirt sprints and then the classic distance dirt. The names of most of the contestants are easily recognized by even casual fans and there isn't any sort of European past performances to deal with. By all accounts the dirt will be fast and the turf firm. I think the weather is a non event. It's always good to eliminate tricky variables. One challenge the past performances offer are the runners exiting the Jim Dandy ran on a fast, sloppy strip. We'll factor that in a bit.

Let's just get after it!

I'm going to let my base handicaps speak for themselves right now. My P4 base handicap is a $135 bet that I won't make: it doesn't offer much value. I'll slim down and single one race, possibly Contested in the Test as well as slip back to only four covered in the Travers, sneaking Steelcase in for value. I'm going to play the individual races hard, focusing on exactas/tri's and possibly Supers. Again, there are much easier targets than Saratoga, especially turf races and classic distance events, but we'll have some fun and try to keep the bet risk reasonable.

The injury/retiree that bothers me more than the three year olds is Winter Memories. I cannot find the words to describe my love for that horse and her loss has left me a bit numb and I'm feeling it badly today as I handicap the Balston Spa. I like Hungry Island, Zagora, Tapitsfly and Summer Soiree very much, imagine a field with Winter Memories too. There I'm doing it, Pity Party. I'm so glad Winter Memories retired and didn't die on the race track. It's going to be a good race still without her.

Whatever your play is, have fun with it. The Turk will be ensconced in his new leather man of the house chair, with HRTV streaming through a Mac Mini and into the TV. I have my laptop going and I am in my glory. I am a better handicapper in my house than at the track. I'm feelin' it today.

Turk Out!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Sky Classic Grade 2 at Woodbine

The dapper gentleman to the left is George W. Strawbridge Jr., owner of Augustin Stable's and Smart Bid, The Turk's chalk in today's Sky Classic at Woodbine.

The Turk and the Little Turk are quite fond of Mr. Strawbridge for many reasons. He is a sportsman of the highest quality, a true horseman, and his support of the Buffalo Sabres, perhaps saving the franchise in its lowest moments will never be forgotten. I'm also a big fan of Campbell's Chicken Gumbo soup, even the low sodium variety.

I went to Church this morning and as I sat in quiet meditation all I could focus on was how poorly I handicapped the Arlington Million Day Pick 5; Horrendous. I have other things going on today but nothing was as important to me than handicapping the Woodbine card and getting my feet back under me. I can live with getting the races wrong, that happens, I just felt like a hack yesterday and this is the equivalent of taking a nice shower.

Woodbine has a better purse structure than Arlington and has a pretty nice turf course to boot. The two tracks have quite a bit in common for me, as the poly plays pretty fair at both and the turf tracks have the most European feel in North America.

Let's get after today's featured race, the Grade 2 Sky Classic, contested at 1 1/4 miles on firm turf.

Woodbine Race 8: The Sky Classic Grade 2: 1 1/4 Miles on Firm Turf for 3 YO and Up.

This is a nice field of 8 runners with a legitimate 4 or 5 potential winners. I'm making my tentative chalk Smart Bid. Hard to believe but this Smart Strike son is now 6 YO. 2 places in 3 starts at the distance, 10 of 15 in the money on turf and 8 of his last 13 in the money. Cutting back 2 panels from his winning effort in late July. All or nothing I fear, ran a solid place in last year's edition.

Hotep is the type of horse that is always in contention. You must always be aware of his presence. 5 YO A.P. Indy son, born in Ontario, with P. Husbands up for Trainer Malcom Pierce who also sends the former Queen's Plate Winner Eye of the Leopard to the gate. Only 1 win in six tries on the turf, no attempts at the distance, he comes in off a sharp Nijinsky Grade 2 loss by a neck.

The former Prince of Wales stakes winner, Pendor Harbor, with Contreras up, is also trying the distance for the first time but has two wins over WO turf and has been running strong this year. Trainer DePaulo has a goose egg in his Graded Stakes tries over past year.

Scalo (GB) is the 2010 German Horse of the Year. He tries North America and gets a shot of Lasix for the first time. First time going LH in nine races and hasn't run on firm turf in some time. I'm covering him from Place down but betting he doesn't take the win spot today (and giving myself good odds to look foolish-gotta love public handicapping).

New Hall of Fame member Roger Attfield places A. Solis up on Forte Dei Marmi (GB). The two are winless in 17 tries over past year and winless in 7 tries at Woodbine. The six year old Selkirk gelding closes like a freight train with a devastating turn of foot. 4 wins in 12 tries at the distance, another feast or famine type.

I feel better already. Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Post Race Analysis of The Arlington Million Pick 5

I dreamed last night that my losing tickets were shredded and used as confetti on my "loser parade". Yeah, I had a bad day. As a handicapper you know it will happen, but it's been some time since I had such a spectacularly bad day.

The Turk has rules, rules I take seriously, but being human I sometimes break my rules. The key rule broken yesterday is to bet easier marks than an all turf, all Stake races, Pick 5 with Past Performances littered with Europeans and the turf less than firm. If there is any analysis to be performed, that is it. I knew these would be hard races but I didn't anticipate how much blood would be shed.

I've been a Little Mike fan for two years now but I would have never picked him to win a Million. As a horse fan, I'm happy for the connections of this Florida bred. It reminds me how these animals have brains and instincts and guts and those intangibles can't be ignored.

My thoughts are with the Live Oak connections today as Zo Impressive was vanned off after the Alabama in Saratoga. This Hard Spun daughter and Grade 1 winner didnt seem comfortable and still had the guts to finish fourth. Hard Spun and Little Mike remind me alot of each other.

Speaking of Hard Spun, his British born daughter, Questing is turning into quite the freak, winning her second Grade 1 on the track her father won the Kings Bishop on in 2007.

Whenever I have a day like yesterday my confidence as a bettor can be shaken. Confidence is a key component in what I do, and when I feel a lack of confidence I find myself betting timidly. I find the best medicine is to just back after it, picking winners and exactas. I'll head to Fort Erie Tuesday night and take in the early evening post times to get the mojo going again.

Not much reason to break these races down too much. I'll follow some of the horses out of these races and see what I can do with them next time out.

2012 Arlington Million Grade 1

2012 Beverly D. Grade 1

2012 Alabama Grade 1

2007 King's Bishop Grade 1

The Turk's red pen will rest today. Even horses get sent to the farm to recover now and then, I think I will retreat to the back 40 for a cigar.

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Arlington Park Late Pick 5 (Races 7-11) on Arlington Million Day

That crew of horseplayers is the Corbin Gang, who hosted one heck of party early this year at Arlington Park to celebrate the graduations of Turk Cousins, Braden and Mac. Horseplaying is a family activity, it brings people together in both glorious success and flaming failure.

The Ol' Turk loves Arlington Park. The plush grass carpet is the finest in North America and , cough, the poly plays fair. On top of that, it's lovely. The architecture was well thought out and the facility is in excellent condition. I worry about Arlington Park though. Stuck in a State where corruption is rampant and special interests and politics can't get out of the way, the purse structure has made this wonderful facility almost irrelevant in the national racing structure. With no disrespect to Race Track Casinos, the advantage these facilities have to attract the best horses running for the most money is overwhelming Arlington Park. I hope sanity will come at some point.

The Turk returns to finish off a horizontal Pick 5. In the process I fleshed out some of my vertical handicaps, particularly the Secretariat and The Beverly D.

These sort of races, with the foreign invaders of various quality tossed in, can be very challenging. My Pick 5 isn't very dynamic and maybe even is a bit chalky, but that's the way I see it unfolding. I wanted to keep the bet to a reasonable size or I have a $32 bet at $1 or $64 at $2. I'm still mulling if I place it or not. W'll see.

Let's get after this!

Vertiformer has scratched out of the St. Leger in favor of the Million. I'm not so sure he didn't scratch out of the wrong race but what do I know. You can find the rest of the Scratches and Changes here. All of these races are on the turf and it's listed as Good. Hmmmm.

I'll be building exotic bets based on my base handicaps. I'll ditch the Pick 5 bet if I reach my determined betting limit. These are high risk, Ok reward bets, requiring quite a bit of skill. There are more variables involved than I'd like so I approach these more as a horse fan than as reclusive whale. As I like to talk about, pick your marks to bet, and there are easier bets than these. For a mixture of challenge, skill and beautiful ascetetics, nothing compares to this today except the Alabama.

Have fun whatever you do. These are the good days of the horse racing year.

Turk Out!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Arlington Million Grade 1

Hello friends and welcome to the Thorofan Handicapper's Corner, a feature brought to you by the fine folks behind The Thorofan, an organization dedicated to horse racing fans and the racing experience. This is a big weekend of racing and the Thorofan has you covered with Paul Mazur handicapping The Beverly D at Arlington Park and the Sword Dancer and Alabama at Saratoga are being covered respectively by Laurie Ross and The Turf Queen respectively. Good stuff indeed!

I've watched all meet at Arlington for the stars to appear and I realize two issues are at play: A lack of star power horses in general, so fewer to go around, and with the purse funding at Arlington right now, horsemen are just staying away. Surely I thought that would change for Millions Day but I'm not so sure. While as a (thoro)fan I'd rather be getting excited about a star horse, I have a choice as a gambler to either bet this race or find another mark. I'm not here to discuss the quality of the runners or to bemoan the genetics of these equine athletes: I'm here to rank the likelihood of which horses can win, place,show or hit the exotic ticket and my secondary goal is to build a bet that will regard the gamble of my money. When I look at this field I see parity and uncertainty, and those are two key ingredients in big payouts. Let's get after this!

The weather looks like it will be good for Friday and Saturday. The Arlington turf course is world class and I consider it the best turf course in America. The Arlington website will provide you in depth information on the condition of the course and we'll assume the turf will be good to firm but not rock like. The track condition is updated around 12:30 ET over the weekends.

Eleven horses are entered with the 11 post horse Vertiformer cross entered in Saturday's Race 7, the $400,000 St. Leger. I'll assume he's going here for now but I think he's better suited at the shorter distance.

The Turk typically handicaps a race and then builds a bet based on the handicap. The concept that I developed for myself is to build a "base handicap" which is a predictive order of finish regardless of odds. I do this with as little "bias" as possible. I do not look at morning line odds nor do I read handicaps of the race before I build my base handicap. With the base handicap written I can spend the 20 odd minutes or so before a race goes to the starting gate and study the tote board odds looking for value within the base handicap. That strategy works well for me but I often overlook a key early step; After my first read of the Past Performance I earmark what sort of bet may be possible with the race. I've been a handicapper for a long time so this step doesn't take me long. With one quick glance I can pretty much determine if the race has exotic potential or if I'm scratching for even an opinion on the potential winners. Races like the Million or the Breeders' Cup Turf races attract foreign invaders which add a degree of difficulty with making the field apples and apples for comparison purposes. My first read of the Millions' Past Performances is murky; 3 first time lasix runners, 10 previous wins at AP, 19 wins at 10 panels, 3 millionaires, a bunch of sub 110 Racing Post Ratings, and in my mind two potential winners, Boisterous and Treasure Beach (GB). What I also took away from my review is the parity: I'm tossing out from the Top Four only two runners to begin with, Cherokee Lord and Vertiformer. I have given many of the field a B grade which slots them anywhere from Place to 4th. Ugh, The Ol' Turk has his work cut out for him but there are is nothing but potential with this race (The potential to look smart and win money and the potential to look like an fool-As a handicapper, especially one willing to give his selections this far in advance of the race, you have to have thick skin.)

The Arlington Million Grade 1: 1 1/4 Miles on Turf LH

After my full review I increased my toss list to four horses, adding Willcox Inn (3 of 4 at AP) and Crackerjack King (not the Sausage King in Chicago but he is a big deal in Italia). When I think about all the ways I can look dumb in public, none come to mind better than a toss horse winning a race i handicap. It happens, move on.

Adian O'Brien's Treasure Beach is the 4 YO son of Galileo has a win at Arlington but has not fared so well after returning two more times to North America. To me he represents the best of the invaders, a well traveled campaigner making his third effort since 14 July.

is just an honest 5 YO son of Distorted Humor. He'll run his race and it will either be good enough or not. I like the switch to Lezcano and I think he's clearly in the win mix here.

I'm going to build several Exacta's based on my base handicap tied to these two potential winners.

A $2 Exacta (which I won't bet but just to give you some idea of the bet magnitude) of the #2 and #6 Boxed Over #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 and #8) is a $24 bet. There is a combination in there that makes sense at $24 but do yourself a favor, bet no more than a few selections and hope for the best.

Have fun with this friends; This is still a premiere race, even in a year where the premiere talent may not attended.

Turk Out!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Bob Summers Memorial Cup $30,000 at Fort Erie

The metaphors can't be any starker and more poignant for me: A track I love, Fort Erie, fighting to survive, honoring a man who loved that track and wrote beautifully of it for many years.

It's hard for me to believe that it's been almost two years since this world said goodbye to the Happy Handicapper, Mr. Robert Summers. Bob was a very good handicapper with a keen eye. His writing was professional and his personality as a horse player always shined through. HH was able to translate his observations into the written word in a disarming way. I exchanged emails with Bob from time to time and he was always very pleasant and willing to talk about the races. Bob was one of the great influences in my life as a writer and a handicapper and I miss his byline.

Which brings me back to Fort Erie. The Turk would have loved going to Fort Erie today to watch the races but life (read: work) and duty calls and I must travel. The Turk believes in God and while I don't believe I have any influence with God, I keep looking heavenly for some reprieve for the death sentence that the track has been given due to the short sightedness of Ontario's politicians. Horse players need to understand that Saratoga, Del Mar, Gulfstream and Churchill Downs cannot exist as they exist today without the second tier tracks and the horsepeople that work them. If we stand by and watch tracks close, where and when do we stop shrugging our shoulders? Would you be OK without Arlington? Golden Gate Fields and Hollywood? Aqueduct and Suffolk Downs? Pimlico? It's a slippery slope that doesn't end until the horse racing game that we know now doesn't exist anymore. i seldom link to myself but please follow this link to get the information you'll need to write the decision maker in Ontario and express your support for Fort Erie.

Let's get after this!

Race 11 FE: The Bob Summers Memorial Cup $30K; 6f on Dirt for 3 YOs and Up who....

Claimed from Steve Asmussen and Zayat Stables, 4 YO gelding Jeffery Armin seems to have settled into a consistent grove. 3 straight wins , all at Fort Erie, and stretching back out 1/2 panel, he's been training very sharply. I expect he'll be the post time chalk.

6 YO mare Mountain Echo runs for a strong trainer and has 6 wins in 8 starts over the Fort Erie dirt.

Mia's Miracle is a reach to add some value to the triactor. This paceless field is offset by the 4 Yo gelded son of Orientate's ability to come off pace late. There should be lots of speed to aim at.

Molinaro Warrior is 5 for 5 in the money at Fort Erie, 10 of 17 in the money at the distance, and 8 of 8 in the money over fast dirt. Trainer Armata clips along at FE at 38% and is a 28% winner here coupled with Dacosta, up.

Big Brother Joe will need to shuffle out of the gate but he's another strong local runner, 15 of 17 in the money at Fort Erie and 12 of 17 in the money over fast dirt.

I think the top two are a few lengths better than the others on paper. That said, its run over dirt and there is alot of comparable speed in this race and it could come down to trip. The track was very muddy on Sunday but it will dry quickly Monday in the heat and breeze.

I'm building exactors and triactors- $0.20 Superfectas are also in fashion at this wonderful jewel of a track.

Enjoy friends, Turk Out!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Nijinsky Grade 2, Post Race Day Results for the Osunitas Purse at Del Mar and a SAVE FORT ERIE Plea

Far be it for me, The Ol' Turk, to start a handicapping blog by making an impassioned plea, but a horseplayer has to do what a horse player has to do. Beautiful Fort Erie, which I believe is one of the five oldest race tracks in North America, is scheduled to be closed because of government shortsightedness (Ok more complicated then that but that's the Readers Digest version). Horse players from all over North America can not sit idly by while race tracks are allowed to be closed. I urge all of you to send letters and emails, like the good people of Fort Erie are doing to the Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty; You can follow this link for the best way to contact him.

We cannot stand idly by when tracks start to close. There will be a domino effect that will spill over and just because you don't think that Fort Erie or some other track isn't important as long as you have your precious Del Mar or Saratoga, think again.

OK, thank you for listening and I hope I stir some of my degenerate gambling base to action.

The Nijinsky could have been a great race with 2 or 3 more combatants. This is an impressive 6 horse field with 5 legitimate contenders. I'm going to take a run at a exactor based on my base handicap below.

Imagining looks like a strong Phipps Stable runner and I regret not being able to make the drive up to Woodbine today just to see the four year old sonm of Giant's Causeway. Cutting back in distance, he'll be strong to beat.

Pender Harbor, Hollinger and Riding the River will have something to say about that.

As far as Del Mar yesterday, flip Imperialistic Diva (Ire) and Broken Dreams and I have that race dead cold. Such is life as a horse bettor. I find its best to study the results and move on. I've noted how well Byrony (Ire) closed with a late turn of foot and how Halo Dolly tracked along. I continue to advocate not being concerned about contributing to the tracks handle in the first few days of the meet; Watch the races and read the race charts before jumping in with real cash wagers.

Have fun with it friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Osunitas Purse at Del Mar on Eddie Read Day

Eddie Read Day at beautiful Del Mar. While The Turk has struggled to consistently pick winners on the fake dirt by the surf, Del Mar's turf course still sounds a sirens call to this lover of lawn.

The Turk was prepared to handicap the Eddie Read as is my usual custom, but I was less than underwhelmed by the field, in size at least. In prepping for a "Pick something" string of the card, my attention was captured by the eighth race, a restricted Filly and Mare event, The $85,000 Osunitas Purse Stakes; 10 pretty evenly matched ladies going 1 1/16 miles over the turf. I guess you could say I found an Eddie Read that doesn't doesn't have anyone as classy as say, the beautiful Acclimation pictured above, but a more interesting race to handicap.

Let's get after it!

Two Irish diva's top my base handicap. Imperialistic Diva (Ire) cuts back in distance for Trainer Callaghan. 2 of 3 in the money at the distance. Will have to be at her best, but she seems to have stepped forward, even with mixed final results.

Byrony (Ire) has done nothing wrong in two North American starts for Trainer Sadler. A slick turn of foot should see her stalk and go in the final eighth.

Hard to Resist and Halo Dolly seem to me like the next layer down. Hard to Resist breaks late in a fashion similar to Byrony(Ire) and they could be chasing each other for the win. the four year old daughter of Johannesburg is 3 of 4 in the money in 2012 and enters off a career best 91 BSF at 1 mile over HOL turf.

Halo Dolly has 5 turf wins in 7 starts and will challenge from the front the whole way. The 4 YO has one win over Del Mar turf already.

Briecat, the seven year old Mare who sparred more than once against the great Zenyatta still has enough to win but I'm thinking she can at least find the exotic tickets and the same goes for recent claim Jet Blue Girl.

Have fun with it! Turk Out!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Sanford Stakes Grade 2 at Saratoga

Welcome to The Thorofan Handicapper's Corner, I'm The Turk and today's challenge is the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes, a six furlong race for two year olds over the dirt at Saratoga.

Like a milepost along the thruway, when it's Sanford Stakes time, I know it's finally summer. That handsome fella pictured above is none other than the last great racehorse to win the Sanford Stakes, Afleet Alex in 2004. It's ironic that the "it" Stallion for me right now is Scat Daddy, the 2006 winner. Maria's Mon, the 1995 winner produced two Kentucky Derby winners, Super Saver and the speedy Monarchos. Forty Niner, 1987's winner, is from Mr. Prospector and went on to win the Haskell and the Travers Stakes. No need to point out the accomplishments of Affirmed and Secretariat, the 1977 and 1972 winners respectively. I think the moral is two year olds, you're in good company if you win this race.

While I am a handicapper I am stepping outside my comfort zone with this race: There are 19 starts between the 9 starters entered. A sore subject to be sure, but there are new rules governing the number of starters in juvenile races this year at Saratoga. It's important to understand that applies only to maiden juvenile races and there are differences between sprints and routes. Getting back to my point though, it's a different set of challenges when dealing with young horses, even horses of such class as these. Without 10 races per horse in the past performance and a video history of each runner I feel a bit lost. So what to do, throw darts? Pick by names? No, let's review what we have to work with and then build a realistic bet. I'll leave it to each of you how much investment capital to wager on such unknown quantities, but for me I have a limit and I won't exceed it. We'll build a bet strategy on a not to exceed basis.

The handicapping process still has the same steps and the first thing to do is understand the weather and the expected track conditions at post time. As I'm writing this on Friday, it's hard to say right now how things will be as it looks like there is a pretty good chance of rain this weekend, enough to have running water at the Spa (how novel.) Not surprising, only one horse has run on an off track, Bern Identity, who coincidentally has the lowest wet track Tomlinson number of the field at 360. I think we will have to ignore track condition for now as a handicapping factor. Let's start to collect our information on the people and the horses.

Trainer Stats give you a window, albeit a window with a curtain, as to who is doing well with youngsters and who isn't. Not surprisingly Steve Asmussen and Todd Pletcher start quite a few 2 YOs and both have won 67 juvenile races over the past year. I'm surprised that Dale Roman's hasn't had more success, not surprised at how poorly D. Wayne Lukas's numbers are and Wesley Ward is stealthy strong as always.

Let's take one more look at this group and see how they are doing in graded stakes races as well as how strong the jock/trainer records are:

How much weight should you put on the information in the past two charts? It's indicative of what you'd expect and quite frankly regular horse players could have guessed who would be better than others in which categories. That said, this is gambling, err, speculative investing on unproven commodities. For me, betting on 2 YOs is about having fun and swinging a bit for the fences. There's not much sense in building elaborate matrix style superfectas like I do for the handicap division because there's just not enough to hang your hat on. Let's figure out a bet strategy and stop chewing our gums:

The most likely chalk is Rose Junction: Pletcher is monster obviously, and the charts above highlight is success. Pletcher is 24% off the layoff and 32% after last start wins, and piling on he's 30% in sprints and 29% on dirt, top numbers with this group. It wouldn't be that fun to pick the heavy chalk so I'm going to be contrarian and Wesley Ward's Handsome Jack; the only gelding in the field (insert lost manhood jokes here) he's been training really sharp over the main track at SAR and ran strong from 3 wide in a close defeat last time out at 5.5 furlongs when he went to post at 8-1.

Bern Identity, saddled by Kelly Breen for the Hall's, with Napravnik up, ran 3F in :34 2/5ths this past week and will press the pace hard. The son of Bernstein who died way too soon for any ones liking blew the doors off last time out, winning by nearly 14 lengths. Things that make you say hmmmmm.

As my chart shows the remainder of the field is in a kinda-sorta exotic slot or I tossed them: Hightail (Lukas), Brave Dave and Good Tickled get to play the role of horse who makes the Turk like foolish. Special Jo, Onetwentyeight and John Gordon get some considerations.

I limited my suggestions to just three: An Exacta that has a 50-50 chance of breaking even or losing money, a 5 Horse 10 Cent Super that doesn't cost much and could do well if the chalk falters and a 6 horse super box that is overkill most likely. I will also watch the tote board right up till post time and look for the 3rd or 4th bettor's favorite and place a small win bet. If you're going to be speculative, might as well be a bit reckless now and then too, after all, this is gambling.

Whatever way you play it, have fun. I'll be at the Spa this coming Wednesday and Friday and then again for the Alabama weekend and the Woodward Stakes. Turk Out!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Post Race Analysis for Race Day 14 July 2012: The A Gleam and American Oaks at Hollywood Park

Beautiful Switch, after such a tough 2011 campaign, bounces back strong in last weekend's American Oaks, securing a starting position in the 2012 Breeders'Cup.

The American Oaks was the sort of handicap that reminds me that I'm pretty good at what I do. That's not cockiness, and its not arrogance, it's confidence. I'm placing my hard earned investment capital on the line and I need to know that I am not going to turn a big pile of money into a much smaller pile.

Handicapping isn't my problem, it's the easier part of the two part equation. Bet construction is always the most critical piece of the puzzle. I'm a Superfecta and Pick 4 fella and there's a fine line between overcovering and undercovering, spending too much or too little. I find that while tedious, I must keep good betting records and constantly analyze if my ROI meets or exceeds my investment hurdle.

Just using these two races as an example, the two superfectas cost me $480; That's more than I'm usually comfortable investing but I felt confident that I would hit one or both. Again, arrogance? No, my readers will see a continual involvement of myself at Hollywood this meet. I watched video every race day and I studied the race charts of every stakes and high level allowance race. At the end of each meet is when I do my best, a nugget only gleaned by self analysis.

The rare occasion for me comes along when Handicap and Bet Construction are both perfect. This wasn't one of those weeks, as I rushed the bet construction because of time constraints.

It's always better to realize you made a mistake while not costing yourself too much money. I made about $1,000 last weekend, so why am I so gloomy? At an investment of $480 if I don't win every three races I'm losing money, and again, with an investment hurdle of 20% ROI, I need to win more than 2 out of 3. I'm not that good!

I screwed up but it didn't cost me badly, but its the type of bad habit that can be the difference between a good disciplined bettor with a positive ROI, and a unsuccessful bettor.

The A Gleam Handicap Grade 2

The American Oaks Grade 1

You don't have to become a CPA to have good betting history, and in fact most online betting options have exportable histories to EXCEL. I keep a running spreadsheet and I make a point of reviewing my investment results every week. betting on horses is alot of fun, but winning those bets is even more fun!

Turk Out.