Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Fourth Anniversary Turk and Little Turk Blog

Four years ago, during my endless business travel across country, I sat in the Chicago O'Hare Airport and surfed mindlessly while a rain delay kept me from home. I came across these blogs about horse racing, all of them with different points of view, and in a moment I knew that this was for me:  For better or worse, The Turk and the Little Turk Blog was born , focused solely on my personal handicapping method and my approach to the game. When I originally envisioned my blog, the subject matter would be strictly "Horses, Handicapping and (personal racetrack) Hijinks.  That's all I offer, no cutting edge commentary, no controversial statements about drug use, politics, historical perspective, nada. I have too much respect for fellow bloggers that focus on those matters and do it far better than I do.

Blogging has changed quite a bit even in the past four years; Many fellow bloggers Tweet more than the blog these days.  The Turk and the Little Turk use Twitter to spread the news of our blog postings, but my personal belief is that the several hours I dedicate to a multi-race handicap, and the analysis that goes into creating it, should be backed up and that if I'm going to talk winners and losers, I need to show the work, even if in outline form, from a credibility perspective. Long story short, I may blog less, but when I do blog, its as old school as you can get with new tools, pen to paper figuratively, and I try to stay true to what I preach.

It was a big year for the Turk: 9,991 individual visitors walked through the front door and over our four years, we have now greeted 30,568 folks with a cup of coffee and no BS, no macho talk. After 473 blog posts, and 636 visitors per month, there is still more Turk in the tank.  I've blogged less this year, but  I try not to focus on quantity and while I wont ramble about quality, I'll say that I'm only blogging about races that truly interest me.  Yes, that is an indictment on racing right now. Lulls come and go, the Turk is here for the long run.

This has been a year of lulls, highs and lows:  The last blog post I ever discussed with my friend Tim was my Happy Third Anniversary posting.  I flew last year to San Francisco, and then drove two hours to Santa Cruz, and when I arrived at my hotel room, I learned he was gone.  I knew life was fragile, but that drove the point home.

My friends, close and just acquaintances, know that I travel quite a bit for work, but what I do may be a bit hazy.  I don't mix business and blogging, but I will say that my job is at times very stressful and demanding.  It's the horses, at the end of the day or the weekend, that take my mind off of those daily struggles.

I had some wonderful horse travel this year: I saw stakes races at Hollywood, Golden Gate, Santa Anita, Del Mar, Arlington, Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Woodbine, Presque Isle and Fort Erie. Not a bad list.  I love watching races with friends and family.  I find myself near nirvana when the Little Turk nails long odds: my boy's no bridge jumper.  The Mrs. may not love the races as much as I do, but none of this would be possible without her support, plus she allows Barbaro and Rachael Alexandra's pictures to adorn our dining room walls.

In year five I do plan on adding more short blog postings mid week to discuss general horse racing observations, notes on horses I'm tracking, and thoughts from a horse player.  These will be included under my "Hijinks" mission statement.

If I bore you, I'm sorry.  If you think I'm stupid or no good, I'm sorry.  What I won't apologize for is caring about the horses, caring about the horse people I meet, and caring about the shrinking community of souls that view the world through horse racing goggles. That's how the Turk rolls.

Thank you for your continued reading and support. 

Have Fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Presque Isle Downs PID Masters Grade 2

We all have our racing traditions, and a fairly new one for me over the last few years is to play Presque Isle Downs pretty heavy immediately following the close of Saratoga. For those who have never been there, it's a nice racino near the shores of Lake Erie, about 90 miles south of the Turk's home near Buffalo. With a pumped up purse structure, the track has several big race days that attracts shippers to its very fair playing tapeta surface, the same fake dirt that's in Dubai and Golden Gate Fields, and in the Turk's opinion, one of the best.

Like with the majority of my life, I'm out of sequence with the mainstream. I enjoy Fall Racing more than I do the craziness that is Del Mar and Saratoga, and far more than I do the Triple Crown season. The next eight weeks leading up to the Breeders' Cup is my favorite time of the year in racing, with horses being conditioned towards reaching their peak form, with the best of the best aiming for World Championships. As a fan of the handicap division and turf runners, these next few months represent what I enjoy about racing. I just don't care for two year old racing and quite honestly, I'm not that into three year olds. I like warriors and warrior princesses, I like to see 15 starts in the lifetime line and I like to see lots of tracks and lots of last furlong battles. I'm an information handicapper and a fan of the hard knocker's. Let's get it on!

Groupie Doll seems to be head and shoulders above the rest here. Before injury, two straight Grade 1 sprint wins by a combined 10+ lengths. Training sharply for Trainer Bradley, a :58 for 5f 15 days ago shows her to be fit. She will press the pace before unleashing a powerful close.

The field is big and talented. The Turk likes big fields, 9-12 horses is my preference. Below Groupie Doll is a talented collection of horses that can be had for a price. I'm anticipating Groupie Doll will go off even or less than even money which will create some real opportunities if the daughter of Bowman's Band stumbles.

Salty Strike (pictured above winning the Grade 3 Dogwood) comes in for trainer McPeek off three straight wins and a gritty Grade 3 win in early August. No wins on synthetic, no wins at distance, first PID start, but fast and a winner, 7 of 16 lifetime. No Lasix for this girl: From an article written by Joe Aaron after the Grade 3 Gardenia, McPeek said the medication has had an adverse affect with Salty Strike in the past. "It dulls her a little bit when you give her lasix, so we don't treat her with it," said McPeek. "She doesn't need it. She runs very well without it." How novel. She carries a race high 123 pounds, same as Groupie Doll.

It's Me Mom set a smokin' pace last time out at Saratoga; :21/:43 3/5ths before fading. 6 of 9 wins at PID, 8 of 9 in the money on Synthetics and 8 wins in last 13 starts and 11 wins in 19 trips to starting gate. Expect to strike the first turn on the lead. Only concern is how far she'll drop in the last 1/16. Expecting top four finish.

Ariana D and Sweet Cassiopeia have a shot at hitting the ticket but Atlantic Hurricane, shipping in from Woodbine, has a chance to make the most noise. 11 of 11 in the money over the last two seasons.

Post time is in an hour. I better get after the betting.

I'm thinking Superfecta with most tickets singling Groupie Doll on top.

Have fun, Turk Out!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Nomination Is In: The Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park

With the end of traditional summer nearing, comes the close to the Saratoga and Del Mar meets, and a feeling that the inevitable winter is coming. Fall racing has its charms: Belmont, Santa Anita, Woodbine, Presque Isle is where I'll be playing and visiting. I've got my mind on PID Masters Day next Saturday, The Woodbine Mile day in two weeks, Jockey Gold Cup Day at Belmont the last Saturday in September and then a Goodwood Day visit to Santa Anita (or whatever name they call the Goodwood now!) That's a pretty good list of racing and it fits my goal of skipping this year's Breeders' Cup and instead seeing some different tracks on their big Fall days. Why am I skipping the Breeders' Cup? No deep seated reason other than I just don't feel like traveling for four days across country any more than my day job makes me do and just as importantly, the lack of stars that doesn't inspire me to make a trip of that size. By the way, keep Paynter in your prayers.

As a race fan, do you look forward to certain days at the track? As a fan I love them, but as a handicapper I've become very reliant on the tools and the space that I have at my disposal in my home. I'm fighting very hard the real urge to withdraw even further from the social interaction of the track and stay full time in my solitary handicapping kitchen haven. I don't have an answer for this, its more of a philosophical dilemma than anything else. The hard core race community are a social bunch, I don't want to be left behind.

Anyhow, my "non blogged" handicapping has been good, not great. My blogged handicapping has ranged from poor to mediocre. As always, I approach my handicapping with the same structured methods I've bored my meager readers with for nearly four years. I know my methods and rules, non exotic, no sexy angles, work. I'm a layer handicapper. I identify the layers that horses will run within and I slot the field accordingly. I should say my handicapping has been average but my bet construction has been below average. Two different sides of the coin. I've had decent handicaps go for waste when I built lousy bets. Often I can correct this by pulling money off the table and making all bets for a few weeks theoretical. My thought process is its easier to work through bet construction bumps in the road when there isn't real skin in the game. Do you take the long view? I like to think that I do. I'd rather take a chance of not cashing tickets for a few weeks in order to correct a bad habit or two. As a 'capper for life, I can live without cashing this weekend if it means I'm primed for a long hot streak. When you can't win to save your life, stop. It's that simple.

I choose today's Washington Park Handicap for no reason other than the field interested me: Geldings Mister Marti Gras and Workin for Hops are Turk favorites and I'm curious to see Prayers for Relief, placed here my Steve Assmussen who doesn't ship into AP often, and Pool Play, the $36.6-1 winner of the 2011 Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. It's not complicated, I'm a horse fan, I wanted to play these horses.

Maybe I say this more when I'm cold, but this is a tough field. There are easier marks on the race card today but we'll just see what we can do with this, no worries.

Let's get after it!

The Turk has set a tentative chalk, the 5 YO gelded son of City Zip, Workin for Hops. Trainer Stidham is winning 21% of his turf/syth switches and he's a 4 of 5 winner at AP when placing Robbie Albarado up. 3 of 3 in the money at AP but winless in four tries in 2012. I like the sharp work and the price should be attractive, perhaps 3rd or 4th on the tote board. DQ'd to third here last year, he returns to meet his foe from that day, Mister Marti Gras.

Chris Block wins 31% of his turf to synth switches, and he tries to get Mister Marti Gras into the win column in his sixth race of 2012. I suspect he will be the betting favorite at post time and there is plenty to like: 3 of 3 in the money on fake dirt and a win here last year in this very spot. A competitive graded stakes runner, modestly bred but an honest runner who's 15 of 25 in the money lifetime. I will take a stand against the win for pricing reasons, but in base handicap terms I find him equal or better to the best here.

I like the late running (and big priced) Hattaash to crash the top three party; Two nice N2X runs at this track, 7 of 8 in the money at AP, Rosie Homeister is up for infrequent graded stake contestant, Trainer Charles Bettis.

Which leaves a big name and a talent to account for: Prayers for Relief is the fields youngster and the only millionare. No wins in 7 tries in 2012, all Grade 1 and Grade 2 except his last try, a Remington Park loss by a nose to Alternation. Asmussen doesn't come to AP often so I'm sure he picked this spot for the former California shipper who did well coming East for real dirt racin'. Could go off at 1 to 1 odds and I'm just not that interested. From a base handicap perspective I should place him in the top three but I'm going to take a chance (gambling after all) that he is no better than Show.

Pool Play is making AP debut today as well, winless in 8 starts on Turf, 14 of 21 in the money on fake stuff, mostly Woodbine's. I may be wrong with him, but the 7 YO doesn't seem right since his 13 month break when he recovered from injury and then found the stallion market a bit, ummm, flaccid.

That's a nice field; I'm tossing the 1 and 2 horses and taking a stand against the expected chalk Prayers for Reliefas well as Pool Play and I'm expecting a late run to put Hattaash to hit the ticket with a long price in tow. Everyone else is in the layer.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!