Friday, August 16, 2013

The Nomination Is In: The Sword Dancer Grade 1 at Saratoga

The Sword Dancer Grade 1: A Handicap by The Turk and the Little Turk.

Friends, thank you for reading and welcome to this handicap written for the Thorofan Handicapping CornerThe Thorofan is an organization of racing fans who cater to the racing fans.  It's run by some great folks and is spreading every year.  If you are like me and crave a bit of horse talk on a regular basis, then you will find all the social interaction you need here. 

The handsome man and equine is none other than J. Elliot Burch and the 1959 Horse of the Year, Sword Dancer.  Burch, a Hall of Fame Trainer, just recently died in 2011 but he belongs a part of every Saratoga summer, as his charges won many a race just off of Union Avenue. Burch is a four time winner of the Travers Stakes, a feat alone that reserves reverent remembrance.  I personally remember Sword Dancer as a two time Woodward Stakes winner, a Travers winner, a Belmont winner, and Sire of Damascus, winner of so many races except the Kentucky Derby, conditioned by yet another Hall of Fame trainer, Frank Whitely Jr. 

The Turk likes turf racing.  The pace scenario is typically understandable on the races between 1 3/16 and 1 1/2 miles: stay close, keep a clear lane, run like hell at the end.  You'll get your occasional maverick who wants to charge out to a 20 length lead and wire the field, but most of these races run the same way.  My keys have always been to identify class, late turn of foot and who's done it before. 

Races as investments are risk/reward: You put your investment capital on the line and you expect a return. I'll save diatribes about take out for others as I accept take out as a market condition that I just have to factor in.  One thing I like about Turf Races of this kind usually is the field size, as anytime you lump 10-14 horses together there will be prices to be found, even on the cream of the crop. 

I think there is a clear dividing line with this field of 13, as my initial count has five possible victors and I expanded my exotic pool to eight.  I like to start by watching some video of the last race or two from some of the key contenders. 

6 July 2013; Monmouth:  1 3/8 Miles Firm Turf;  Grade 1 United NationsBig Blue Kitten, Teaks North

13 July Belmont Park;  1 3/8 Miles Turf Good- Grade 1 Man O' War; Twilight Eclipse, Al Khali, Optimizer, Exclusive Strike, Boisterous

I like Boisterous and Big Blue Kitten at the top of the chart and if forced to single I'd take Boisterous but that's pretty light chalk.

Boisterous is 15 of 21 in the money on Turf and 9 of his last 11 in the money.  No wins in only one try at this distance and one win on Saratoga grass.  This 6 YO Distorted Humor son, Trained by McGaughey and ridden by John Velazquez rattled off :46 2/5ths  on the grass here on August 5th.  Maybe likes softer grass and is carrying 123 pounds, so thoughts to consider. 

Big Blue Kitten is coupled with the veteran gelding Stormy Lord.  Winner of last two firm turf runs, the Grade 1 United Nations and a $100,000 OC at Churchill Downs two days before the Kentucky Derby.  The 5 YO is 15 of 16 lifetime in the money, 13 of 14 in the money on turf, a winner at Saratoga, but new to this distance. Trainer Chad Brown is winning 29% of turf starts and 31% of routes and he's 33% off the break. 

Optimizer, owned by Calumet Farms and trained by Wayne Lukas is a 4 YO English Channel son with 27 career starts already, 15 on turf, and 10 of 15 in the money with 5 wins over grass. He doesn't win much but he'll be competitive.  I'll be looking at him for Place and Show in the Trifecta. 

Twilight Eclipse still has something to prove.  While I can't embed because Gulfstream aren't as blogger friendly as they could be, check out the Pan American   at 1 1/2 miles from earlier this year.  I'm not sure he beat much except maybe Newsdad and Teaks North, but he looked good doing it with a perfect rail trip. Castellano, the pilot that day, is up again.  Seems to be improving for Tom Albertrani. 

Teaks North is a hard knocking horse I've always appreciated.  If I'm trying to keep the investment lower though I drop him out of the Trifecta, but I do it at my own peril.  Capable of Show or Last. 

Exclusive Strike is a 6 YO Smart Strike gelding, perhaps singularly the turf horse I've lost the most betting his offspring but I don't hold it against him!  It's class warfare with him, great in OC 16K affairs, not so much in this company. 

Nutello:  Your guess is as good as mine.  A Kentucky born Lemon Drop Kid son from Nutcase returns from France without much success in graded stakes action but 5 wins in 13 starts.  No idea.

Al Khali, London Lane (Colonial Turf Cup 2013 Winner) and Tannery (Ire) are mild threats for Show and little separates them from Teaks North, Exclusive Strike or Nutello. 

Judging from my numerous betting options I really don't know what I'm doing, but I'm writing this on Friday and I have time to check the Turf Conditions and Scratches and Changes.  The last part of my decision making process is always an honesty moment with myself:  Do I want to bet this?  I'm a horse tracker investor, so I'm not opposed to it, but what is my likely chance of success?  My ROI on American 12 panel racing is not very good and in fact a money loser over the past four seasons, albeit with only a sample size of about 25 races.  Ultimately it will come down to the tote board and if Boisterous and Big Blue Kitten can stay closer to 3 or 4 to one each.  I will keep working my options until I get my two dollar investment between 30-50 dollars. 

Good stuff friends, as always, have fun and don't bet what you need to live.  If you have a problem, get some help, there is plenty out there.

More importantly, I've never asked the readers of The Turk for anything, and I'm not asking anyone to do something now, but if you could consider the fundraising request below I would deeply and humbly appreciate it. The people involved with this young colt, Timothy James, are all very good and decent folks who need help paying for emergency colic surgery.  Animal people understand this. From Facebook today

"....Timothy James (the colt) had to have emergency colic surgery last night & needs financial support along with the many prayers. He is named after our Son who sadly died 9/26/2011. His owner, Maria Borell & Timmy are now "family" to us & we want to help ease their great financial burden. Our Facebook Friends/Family all know what this special colt means to the Reynolds' Family. What an amazing memorial tribute this would be to our Tim "Tiznow"! Thank you in advance, from the bottom of our hearts, for any support you that you are able to send!!"

Thank you from the Turk in advance

Turk Out!

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