Friday, November 1, 2013

The Nomination Is In: The Breeders' Cup Classic Grade 1

Welcome friends to The Thorofan Handicappers Corner and this handicap of the Breeder's Cup Classic presented by The Turk, with the aid of his trusted sidekick, The Little Turk. I'd like to start by thanking The Thorofan for the opportunity to share my thoughts with their readers, and I'd like to encourage horseplayers to consider joining the growing ranks of a premier fan based organization like The Thorofan.
Handicapping and Gambling are different sides of a coin to me.  I almost always start with a base handicap.  My base handicap is just a reordering of the horses within a range of expected finishes, what I layers.  I try not to get too emotional about the horses, but its hard as a fan and a handicapper.  That said, when I'm investing money, I try to leave emotions at the door and remain completely objective.  One way I do that is to not get caught up too much in the pre race hype that accompanies these major horse racing events.  I tend to avoid reading the slew of excellent turf writers who cover these events, especially the human interest pieces.  Perhaps that takes away some of the fan experience, but it also helps me eliminate outside biases.  My point is that my almost 30 years of handicapping has taught me that a consistent approach to handicapping is important to improving your ROI into the black. 
I think I digressed and I tend to do that!  I start with a base handicap and I develop an opinion as to how many legitimate horses are in a field and what the pace situation is expected to be.  With that thought I can layer speed, stalking and closers into what I believe is the right layer of finish.  I seldom enter a handicap with a particular choice on the betting menu already chosen, but for major racing events, I am held is sway by the Super High Five, that shining cup at top of the mountain that few sip from.  OK, dramatic yes, but as a handicapper and bettor, its my ultimate challenge, as elusive as a Pick 6, and a crazy adrenaline rush when you hit it, which I  have on several occasions.

If you are looking for a safe win bet, leave now, as this is not the blog for you.  That said, when I prepared my handicap I saw a layering that lends itself to The Super High Five, and that is a layering of the talent level of the horses within the field, which I think is pretty defined, especially with the scratch of Ron the Greek, an especially hard horse to layer.  You can keep up with any other scratches or changes here.

Let's stop chatting and get after this.

When you enter a handicap with a particular bet in mind, which again is not my typical approach, I take one of two tacts:  I see value and I have a wide open win spot OR I have an overwhelming favorite and I am going to back the favorite, either singling or having no more than two horses layered to win.  With Game on Dude here, I am taking the later approach, placing him as a single on my ticket, and moving on.  A couple of thoughts:  A boxed 7 horse $1 bet on the Super High Five would cost you $2,520, a six horse box is $720 and a 5 horse box is $120.  These are expensive bets.  They pay out in the thousands, and I've hit a few that have paid out $4,000 and I've come within a head bob of $75,000.  You can't cover everybody in an exotic bet.  You will have to make choices based on your read of the past performances, how the track is playing, and ultimately have some luck.  Game On Dude is 5 for 5 in 2013, 7 wins in 8 starts at Santa Anita, 8 of 11 in the money at the distance, 10 of 16 on fast dirt, training fast and Hall of Fame jock Mike Smith up for Baffert.  I'd place his odds of winning at 2 in 3 tries and that's good enough for me to make this single selection.  Would there be more value placing him Second and having an upset winner, perhaps Will Take Charge, nipping him at the wire: Absolutely and I encourage my readers to have the stomach to make those type of bold bets, as the payout will be phenomenal. 

Which leads me to my next digression: Make your own opinions.  I've been handicapping for many years, and blogging my handicaps for some time too, and I've never once said that I had an iron pipe lock of a handicap and that you would be foolish to ignore my opinions.  Wrong! I have stunk this Handicappers Corner up to high heaven over the years, but I've also had my share of success.  Just have fun and bet responsibly.  I think I digressed again.

I have a three horse layer for Place:  Will Take Charge is a horse I loved early on the Derby trail and was happy for Lukas at the Travers and the PA Derby that this horse he patiently conditioned had arrived.  Boon or Bust, I have him 2nd through 5th.  Mucho Macho Man I think is the best of this group: He's run awfully well at Santa Anita but there is absolutely nothing to make you think he wants 10 panels.  The only difference between my $96 and $84 dollar bet ideas is being a bit more behind Mucho Macho Man and only covering Place and Show.  Finally, the champ, Fort Larned, cannot just be casually ignored (like I did last year).  I'm not sure he's been challenged all year and I don't have any sort of feel for him.  I think he could finish anywhere from Place to 8th. 

My last layer is Palice Malice, Flat Out and Paynter.  Any of them are good enough to go Place-Show and you could make a strong case to flip flop Palice Malice and Mucho Macho Man and Paynter or Flat Out with Fort Larned.  Again, you have to make choices. 

Choices.  Such a dirty word sometimes.  Toss outs are a choice and historically someone from this group will gallantly charge into 4th or 5th place, 12 lengths behind the winner and screw up the bet.  I like Last Gunfighter quite a bit:  4 wins in six starts in 2013, 6 wins in 12 fast dirt moments, and nice connections with Trainer Chad Brown and Castellano up.  Moreno will have early speed.  I'm expecting a deep fade in the last 1/8 mile, and I need that fade to be at least to sixth place.  Declaration of War is clearly very classy but I'm not biting and I am completely discounting Planteur (Ire), always a kiss of death.

I know I have at least one or two more iterations of my bet structure to make before tomorrow.  Play with your own, watch today's dirt races and see where the winners at a 1/8 pole, at the 1/4.  I expect most of the winners on dirt at Santa Anita to be the early speed, with the wild card being an extra length of track to cover. 

Have fun friends, Turk out!