Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park

The Turk would like to thank the fine folks at The Thorfan and the Handicappers Corner for the privilege of throwing darts against the wall, errr, handicapping this weekend's Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

The Turk loves the handicap division because the richness of information over several seasons that unfolds on the past performances stirs the mathematical intrigue in me. Horse racing for me is a two for one value; I get jazzed by the handicapping and the gambling, especially when I win, but I'm also able to put aside the money side of things and just be a super fan. Like everyone, I dream of the next Triple Crown winner, and I honor the eleven previous winners, but it's the older runners on the dirt and the turf that really do it for me. Last year was a bit lean on returning heroes and it's time that the cupboard gets restocked with superstars older than 3 years old.

There are some great minds on this internet-thingy handicapping: The Handicappers Corner, The Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance and Turf: An International Gathering of Horse Racing Bloggers are great places to go and bounce your own thoughts off of people who are right pretty often. I believe strongly in building handicaps without outside influence, so I really hope you have already built your handicap and you are just using this to gage your own thinking.

I was musing the other night that my own racing year mirrors the handicapping division: I shutdown after the Clark Handicap, I go to the farm (OK Chipolte's and the corner bar) and just chill until early January, I show back up in Florida and start running again, getting my stride up before taking another break in May, only to pick it up around Saratoga/Haskell time and making the strong run back to the Breeders' Cup. Turk buddy, what the heck are you talking about? I'm sayin' that I'm rusty in the handicapping and I've been resting my red pen since the Clark, just like some of these runners have been resting since that same race. If I graphed my ROI, which I do, I'm at my absolute best at the end of the season when the horses are a pretty known quantity and my handicapped skill is at its proverbial "3rd race after a layoff" best. I ain't there yet but let's take a swing at this race anyway.

Gulfstream Park Race 10: The Donn Handicap

One problem with being an internet hack handicapper is exposing your thoughts before you have enough information. Without blogging I'd have my base handicap for the Donn done on Friday night but my bet strategy would be formed once the track conditions and scratches and changes
firmed up. I also like to stare at the tote board for as long as possible to make sure my superfecta investment makes sense. Perhaps the worst feeling I know is "investing" $50 to make $30. The weather at Gulfstream this weekend looks like it has the possibility to continue to be inclement, and I've built my base handicap with a slant towards slop.

So where am I coming from? Flat Out has four progressively decreasing Beyer races in a row. He looked like a horse that needed a break after the Clark Handicap, but many Breeders' Cup combatants put in dull efforts in thier first races back. Trainer Dickey got a turf effort in for God only knows what reason except possibly to increase sire value, or he just couldn't find a better spot in the conditions book. I dunno, seems like an Allowance race over dirt and 1 1/16 would have been better but the point is he got work in and this is his second effort off a 45-180 day layoff. Surely Turk that's a winning angle? 0% for Dickey but only his 5th try. Jock Solis is just a 6% winner at Gulfstream. On the positive side, I liked his slop effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and he is a bit sharper race wise than some of his cohorts, at some point I have to believe he reverses course and returns to form. This weekend would be a good time!

Dick Dutrow, not my favorite trainer but a solid horseman nonetheless, brings in Trickmeister, 5 wins in 5 starts lifetime at age 5 after beating up on shoulda, coulda, woulda types like Our Dark Knight. Ramon Dominguez and Trainer Dutrow combine for 32% wins and the son of Proud Citizen has been sharpening up over the Gulfstream Park track since New Years Eve. I want to be careful he's not too high on the toteboard but I will cover him in all four spots in my Superfecta.

The presumptive bettor's chalk will be Shackleford. I love the horse but there are red flags; winless since The Preakness, before that an N1X. A loser to Coil at the Haskell by a neck and trounced at the Travers, a loser to Wilburn at the Indiana Derby, only to choke to Caleb's Posse in the Dirt Mile. I am tickled pink to see him back and excited for Dale Romans and his barn, but I am concerned. He's a tepid B for me, Top Four on expectations and class.

Ruler on Ice, the Belmont winning gelded four year old son of Roman Ruler, is back for popular trainer, Kelley Breen who places Rosie Napravnik up. Also resting since The Clark, some very impressive bullets at 4 and 5 furlongs and a very solid resume on slop may make me reconsider and move him further up the handicap.

Soaring Empire and Redeemed will round out my top six Superfecta candidates. Soaring Empire is more of a one turn specialist and he enters off a disappointing 6th in the Hal's Hope after winning in 2011. I like the 5 YO an awful lot and I am very interested in seeing how he goes over the slop. He does own the best Tomlinson (453) over the muck. Redeemed is Dick Dutrow's other runner who is taking a jump up in class but is worth a look. The one that could make me look stooooopid is Hymn Book, but then again, a son of Arch, ridden by Johnny V for Shug McGaughey is just screaming to not be ignored. You can't cover everyone and you'll go broke tryin; build your handicap and bets with an eye towards the bottom line.

I'm going to assemble a Superfecta that approximates my base handicap. If I don't like what I see on the tote board or if more than just Al Khali scratches (I'm going to guess he does)I may retrench to a Trifecta just to keep my action reasonable and in line with where I feel my handicappers touch is right now, which is, well, "1st effort off a 60-180 day layoff".

Also, sorry for the gratuitous $6,000 dollar pile of winnings on my desk. I'm stroking my bad motherf**ker handicapper mojo back up, just like a trainer takes a horse out for a nice blow before a big race. It's my "It's Britney, Bitch" moment.

Great talking to you friends. Enjoy the races, Turk Out!

1 comment:

Tony Bada Bing said...

Trust your judgement, but just can't get myself to like Flat Out. If I'm right & the track is drying out by the Donn post it will be even quicker than usual. This may give Trickmeister & Shackelford an edge. Long shots Hymn Book who chased To Honor last out & for unknown reasons Where's Sterling.