Oh Mighty Risen Star, how we gather today in your honor and memory. Winner of the 1988 Preakness and Belmont Stakes, son of Secretariat and the namesake of today's key Kentucky Derby prep race.
The season is heating up quickly and this is one of the first all star weekends of the year, with the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream tomorrow, and Union Rags and Algorithms getting it going on the Derby Trail. As a horse racing fan this is the sort of stuff that stirs the slumbering soul.
The Turk hasn't been very sharp lately. I downshifted after the Breeders' Cup and while I've had some success in my non-blogged handicapping, I haven't been very good on the ones that mean the most to me, the one's I share with my readers and friends. I go through funks just like everyone else and its these funks I think about when I get on a run and I get comments from folks that I "never lose". Everyone loses friends, what I think I am good at is understanding when I'm in a funk I can't gamble my way out of it. For me, the best thing to do is to pull money back off the table and just handicap. When the handicapping is good, the betting will follow.
For now, I think I'm still in a funk and I am ratcheting up the number of races per week I'm analyzing and after doing this for many years I know very well, all funks will pass.
Let's get started with the Pick Four at Fair Grounds today!
Fair Grounds Races 9-12: First Post 4:55 Eastern Time
Track condition is not apparent yet. The track is currently listed as fast and the turf yielding. The weather today looks like a mixed bag. The biggest wild card for the pick four would be if races are pulled from the Turf. We'll deal with that as we go.
Race 9 is The Mineshaft Handicap, a Grade 3 event. Trainer Asmussen is having one heck of a meet at Fair Grounds and is atop the trainer standings. He saddles Thisskyhasnolimits who comes in off a career best 101 Beyer at this distance. 5 of 9 in the money at the distance and 8 of 16 in the money on fast dirt, the 5 YO son of Sky Mesa with Sellers up looks to go hot early and throttle the competition.
Coming with a late run with be Fast Alex: the 5 YO Jim Tafel bred son of Afleet Alex is attempting to give Greg Geier a much needed graded stakes victory.
Gladding ships in for Trainer John Sadler. Training very sharply at San Anita but on the bench since the Ack Ack where he couldn't hit the board after setting the hot pace. No wins at this distance, I'm expecting a fading finish and I'm not covering the win.
Alma d' Oro has Castellano up for Trainer Pletcher who's only started 2 races at Fair Grounds this meet. Set a dirt best 98 Beyer in a Show loss to Thiskyhasnolimits last time out. Pletcher 28% off the layoff he had after the Clark.
Pants on Fire has been on the shelf even longer, since the Haskell. Winner of the Louisiana Derby, training well but may need an effort to improve conditioning. Trainer Breen 10% winner off 180 day plus layoffs. Hot jock Napravnik is up.
Race 10 is a 5.5 panel turf sprint. I'm going to approach it as being on yielding turf. I most likely will bail out of a Pick 4 if either Race 10 or 12 is moved to the main track, so I'll be watching closely before I have to commit.
Zeb is a 5 YO gelding who is 3 for 3 on FG Turf and training sharply. Trainer Foley does well off the 61-180 day layoff, winning 22% of the time, and he wins 20% of the time he saddles with Napravnik. Class jump and longish layoff but I'm hunting for P4 value.
Cactus Son is a bit sharper and won on off-turf 25 January at this distance. Trainer Burgess wins 40% of of his turf sprints on 20 tries. Sellers up.
Country Day, Chamberlain Bridge and Lonesome Street all merit consideration. Chamberlain Bridge, hard to believe he's 8 now, still has wheels and looked very good on Fair Grounds yielding turf in December. he's got top weight today but ignore him at your peril.
Lonesome Street is cutting back in distance and is a wild card as to how Castellano positions him. I should cover but I won't.
Country Day is the one I'll most likely regret not covering, but you cant cover everyone. Let me repeat, you can't cover everyone, especially a horse that might end up at 2-1 and comes in off long layoff. Winless at FG, only 1 turf win in 8 starts for the 6 YO son of Speightstown. Strong, game effort Placing against Regally Ready in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. I like him if it shifts to the main track, along with Joe Hollywood and Southern Style.
In the Risen Star some highly talked about yet still unproven Triple Crown nominated runners head to the starting gate. Trainer Larry Jones has coupled entry Mark Valeski and Mr. Bowling for owner/breeder/former Governor Brereton Jones. Mr. Bowling was a head winner of the LeCompte. I'm backing Mark Valeski who comes in off a OC win and some nice work, with Napravnik, up.
El Padrino ran a smoking 100 Beyer in an OC at GP for Trainer Pletcher and he will surely get a good test today.
In a hunt for P4 value I may take a flyer on Afford, son of Street Sense, winner of an N1X here in early February. Z Dagger goes for Asmussen off the LeCompte head loss as the chalk to Mr. Bowling.
I'll be watching the early races and watching the tote board leading up to Race 9 before I make a decision on the pick four. As it sits now I've built a 3 X 3 X 3 X 3 =$81 1 dollar bet and that's too rich for how I feel as a handicapper right now. There's nothing wrong with taking a step back when you are struggling or when the conditions aren't optimal (off track, chance of surface switch etc) and just playing the races vertically instead of horizontally. Super High 5 is offered on race 12, I'd rather throw the dice at that then some stupid scratch lottery ticket.
Whatever you do personally, do it after careful thought.
Have fun, Turk Out!