Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Met Mile for the Thorofan Handicappers Corner

Welcome to the 2012 Metropolitan Handicap, better known as the Met Mile. Before I go to far, I'd like to thank The Thorofan for inviting the Ol' Turk to handicap for the esteemed Handicappers Corner.

For those of you not familiar with The Thorofan, I gravitated to them because their stated goals appealed to me:

Retain and enrich existing fans.

Seek out and attract new fans including those who are unable for physical or other limitations have not yet had the opportunity.

Give each fan, regardless of involvement, a voice to the industry regarding their interests in the betterment of the sport.

Hard to argue with that, and I am happy to promote an organization that I am a proud member of.

The Met Mile is part of my Memorial Day tradition. I honor our American War dead in the morning, gather with family in the afternoon, and we make this race part of the late afternoon activities. As a horse racing fan, and a person trying to promote the sport, I always try to make the races part of our family traditions, showing my love for the sport to the nieces, nephews, friends and future thorofans.

So with that build up, I'll be honest, seeing a six horse field doesn't thrill me. Superfecta is out, and if there is a scratch, ugh, it will be something similar to the Winchester, embedded below. As a horse racing fan I'll enjoy seeing some of my favorite horses contest this prestigious race, but as a bettor, I'd generally pass on a six horse field.

With a favorite that will be less than 2-1 and perhaps a post time chalk at 8-5, what do we do with this, how do we plan? Looking at the wager menu, Exacta, Trifecta and the Double are the bets de jour, and I think I'll target a value exacta. A value exacta Turk? Yes, we are going to toss the presumptive chalk and piece together no more than 4 combinations, or $8 worth of $2 exactas on the hunt for a will pay that at least doubles our investment or a bet that pays out greater than $16.

My initial read of the six horse field is that the quality of horses and the competitiveness of this race is high, with 5 of 6 runners currently millionaires. You know, many eleven horse fields have the same or fewer quality runners as this group, but it's those five other horses that help to keep the prices slightly more attractive. Nothing like a Duke of Mischief, a Mucho Macho Man or a Wilburn to drive an 8-5 back to 3-1.

I find it helpful to assess current form first. To do that I like to visual handicap, a combination of trip handicapping and visual appearance of the horses, especially in the last 1/8 of a mile and the gallop out. You Tube is a great resource for this sort of thing, even if sometimes you may have to hunt an peck a bit to find what you are looking for. I've gathered some of the key races that I think will help me decoded today's field.

2012 Affirmed Success Stakes Restricted NY STATE 7f

2012 Carter Handicap 7f

2012 Churchill Downs 7f

2012 Winchester 1 Mile

2011 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile

There are a few things not to like about the 2011 Preakness Stakes Winner, Shackleford; Romans and Velazquez are winless together over past year, Velazquez is up in place of regular pilot Castanon, Velazquez is only a 7% winner at Belmont right now. Continuing to pile on, the horse is winless at the distance, winless at Belmont, and has only one win, his last in the Churchill Downs since the Preakness. All that said, I don't believe he'll be the bettors chalk and I'm installing him as my chalk and my single in the great exacta value hunt. I got the negatives out of the way, on the positives side of the ledger, a gutty stretch run in his last race and a decent enough effort in the Carter Handicap.

I am a big Jackson Bend fan; 19 of 25 in the money, 6 of last 7 races in triple digit Beyers. The 5 YO son of Hear No Evil has only one win in five tries at the distance, winless in two starts at Belmont, 18 of 22 in the money on fast dirt.

I expect the bettor's will reward Caleb's Posse with the chalk; Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile reigning champ, 2011 King's Bishop winner, with last two races lost by a combined neck and nose. Trainer Von Hemel, with Maragh up, combine for 43% winners. Trainer Von Hemel has a 31% win rate in graded stakes. I think the race sets up perfect for him, as he'll be off the lead and will have at least three targets to shoot for. I suspect he'll be wide out of the turn and he'll make his run there.

In the "one of these things is not like the other" category, Saginaw makes a big class jump up to enter this race. Trainer David Jacobson felt pretty good about his chances and runs him back on eleven days rest after winning the NY State restricted Affirmed Success Stakes. The six year old gelding has three wins at Belmont and is 12 of 13 in the money at the distance and 11 of 15 in the money on fast dirt.

It doesn't seem possible that Caixa Eletronica is seven years old, but he is, and he makes a whopping 53 start in this race and is 35 of 52 in the money, with 7 wins in his last 16 starts. A winner off the pace in the Charles Town Classic last time out, his best efforts come right off the pace, but it will be an almost career best for him to strike a win against this group and even Place seems unlikely. I think I found my value, now he has to do the work.

Trainer Mott's To Honor and Serve is a fine horse, winner of the Winchester last time out. He's 2 of 2 at Belmont and 3 of 3 at one mile and 10 of 12 in the money on fast dirt. All that said, I'm lukewarm on him. Mott and Lezcano do win 32% of the time together at Belmont.

There is quite a bit to like about To Honor and Serve and I wouldn't be surprised if he won this race. I'm more impressed by the quality of the field now since I went a bit deeper on the analysis, but you can't cover everybody.

Today's handicapping and betting exercise is really more about the bet construction than the handicap. I made a decision early on to bet Exacta and I made a decision to slot the bettors chalk no higher than Place. I'll bet no more than $6 to $8 dollars making straight Exacta Bets that single my chalk, Shackleford, and then cover everyone with the current exception of To Honor and Serve. Does that mean I like Saginaw more than To Honor and Serve? No, but this isn't a popularity contest, we are betting real money and I'm willing to risk $8 to make $16 or more and Saginaw represents that chance more than To Honor and Serve. Maybe the better argument is should I cover To Honor and Serve to Place and drop Caleb's Posse, especially if 8-5, and the answer is maybe.

You can't cover everyone friends; It's not good money management to lose bets, we can all agree on that, but its also not good money management to risk alot of capital on a small return, made smaller because you threw in an extra horse. If you have to do that, take more time becoming a better handicapper and save your capital for when you are ready.

I know it's a smallish field, made possibly smaller if Saginaw runs on the 27th as is possible, so gather your family around the TV at race time and try and make the race, perhaps not this particular edition of the race, a real family tradition like I have in mine. That's the true spirit of The Thorofan, bringing fans back.

Turk Out!

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