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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Nomination Is In: Hollywood Race Track on Saturday: A Gleam and American Oaks

The all business, Lady of Shamrock, with Mike Smith up, daughter of Scat Daddy, looks to take the next step in filly turf racing in this weekend's American Oaks at Hollywood Park. Thanks to Benoit for the wonderful action picture.

California racing shifts to Del Mar on Wednesday but the Turk will be saying goodbye to California racing until the fall meet at Santa Anita. I'm a hypocrite, I know, but I do well on some fake dirt courses, and Hollywood seems to be one of them, and I don't do well at others, and Del Mar seems to resemble that remark. The Turk's been spending quite a bit of time in Southern California lately and I hope to make a trip to Del Mar in the next few weeks to try and improve on my putrid feel for the racing there.

Is Saratoga really upon us? I preferred opening day on a Wednesday, and I'd rather see a shorter meet with fewer races than a watered down product, but the NYRA doesn't ask my opinion. The Turk will be there opening day as well as several other times throughout the meet, including Alabama and Woodward Day. Why don't I have the same aversion to playing Saratoga as I do Del Mar? I'm not that good at Saratoga either, but hey, I'm an established hypocrite, see my previous paragraph.

What The Turk is, besides being a hypocrite, is a disciplined bettor. I'll handicap a track for days without placing a bet- I like to get a feel for how things are playing on both surfaces and at different distances before I wager hard earned investment capital. At Hollywood, Santa Anita, Woodbine, Arlington and Churchill Downs that approach seems to work and I get locked into a serious winning riff. That approach doesn't cut it at Del Mar and at Saratoga the jury is out on my lifetime ROI, but if I had the nerve to look, I'd say not so good.

All that said, I'll be handicapping lots of races at Saratoga and some at Del Mar, never let it be said I didn't warn you to take these picks with much skepticism.

Let's get after this!

BHP Race 8 and 9: Saturday July 14

I have loved the quality of runners at Hollywood all meet. There are no world beaters, but some really competitive horses and some quality fields. I think these races are no exception.

In the A Gleam, I'm dropping a Thoroughbred Legends Stable runner, Glamorista in as the chalk: 4 of 5 lifetime in the money for this lightly raced mare, a step up in class, but I like the odds this horse will go off at and I'll cover her in all spots in my Super. Sutherland up for Baffert, the Hollywood Gold Cup team.

Another long shot fills my Place spot, Sugarinthemorning. This Candy Ride daughter has Placed three times in last four startsand Trainer McAnally has had her on the bench since late May. A bit high here but I'll also be covering in all spots in my Super.

Switch is a Turk favorite and I'm expecting a change to Gomez might be a good shake-up move for trainer Sadler. I doubt I'm the only one who gets a chill seeing Calumet Farms listed as the breeder, I wish we still had the devil red silks to watch as well but greed screwed that up I reckon. A sharp 6f 1:12 and 1/5 work signals good form. I'm thinking she breaks out here, so I can't let my Super get too pricey.

The next four are all exceptionaly even so this has the potential to be a nice pot for whoever can decode it, even if Switch goes off as a heavy favorite and wins.

In the American Oaks, I like Lady of Shamrock; 5 of 7 in the money on turf but no HOL turf wins and no attempts at this distance. A late turn of foot, I dont think the distance will be the issue.

Colonial Flag and Miss Cato (GB) are two I like alot. Mike Matz ships in Colonial Flag off a close Place in the Regret last month. Maragh ships in as well to take over for Leparoux. I had her on top that Stephen Foster day race.

Miss Cato (GB) gets lasix for the first time and races in North America for the first time as well. 7 of 7 in the money. Not sure if she'll like the turf, I guess we'll find out.

My Gi Gi was demolished in the Breeders' Cup, placed there for who knows what reason, but seems to be building on her turf base and she comes in off a G2 win by a nose and G3 loss by a nose. She's game, no doubt.

There's some nice racing this weekend at Arlington Park and I'll focus my efforts at Hollywood and Arlington this weekend. At Hollywood I'll bet just these two races, focused on exotics, Tri's or Supers. I'll follow my base handicap that i have here and keep both wagers reasonable.

Turk Out!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Hollywood Gold Cup Grade 1

The Turk feels heavily invested into Hollywood Park this meet; I've traveled there twice now from Buffalo, and when I wasn't betting and winning, I was wandering the facility and thinking about what it must have been like in another time, another era, when names like Noor, Swaps, Roundtable and Native Diver were revered as the champions they were.

To me, my favorite races are the ones that crown the champion of the current meet at a particular track, and I'm quite fond of the handicap division, so it's the Hollywood Gold Cup, The Goodwood, The Clark, The Woodward, its those races that stir this horse racing fan's soul.

A nice field and better weather than the sauna that is the East Coast has my eyes turned to the Hollywood card today. Let's get after it!

The huge post time favorite will be Game on Dude: 4 straight 100 Plus Beyers including a freakish 115 in The Californian at Hollywood in early June.

I'm going to back Richard's Kid just slightly in a hunt for value: Baffert with Bejarano up win 32% of the time. A nice workout/race win at 1 3/8 at HOL in early June after coming back from Dubai after a one year, five race, failed experiment.

I think the next three are pretty even; the filly Love Theway Youare comes in off a Grade 1 Vanity win.

Kettle Corn is an obvious choice; the winner here in December in the G3 Native Diver, a game Show after a bad start in the Mervin Leroy in May, and an exhaust fumes Place in the Californian.

I like Spud Spivens to make some exotic noise with nothing other than my gut, some nice work and an exit off a solid Allowance race close in May. I think he'll have plenty of pace targets to shoot for and wouldn't be surprised to see him fourth.

Thirtyfirststreet is still more than capable but I cant cover everybody. Anthony's Cross seems over matched here.

Nice field, should be perfect conditions as well. Have fun with this card friends.

Turk Out!