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!

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