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!

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