Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Nomination Is In: The Fountain of Youth and The Kentucky Derby Point Race Update

The Kentucky Derby Prep Season is over and today begins the Kentucky Derby Championship Series.

My criticism of the current system is that the prep season rewards are too meager, with the leaders after 19 races accumulating only 24 points while today the winners of the Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Risen Star Stakes will each receive 50 points and the Place Horse will receive 20. What it does do it motivate the winners of the big 2 YO races to start running sooner, in February, and maybe, just maybe, it adds one additional start before the Derby for some of these runners, and 2 additional starts for fringe horses in the field.

I like the concept, I just think it will need tweaking. I would like there to be real motivation for trainers to run the horses more often and one tweak I'd suggest is a veto on gate draw for the Derby: If you collect X number of points and you started Y number of races during the Prep and Championship Series, a Trainer should be able to Veto Gate Position 1 or 20, or some variation of this, to improve his odds further and reward him for running. Maybe I'm missing something, but how does Winning Colors make history in this arrangement, how does Eight Belles get her chance? Maybe this closes the door on fillies, as while a filly does draw interest, a dead filly does not. I'm also not down with the suits at CDI deciding which races are in the circle of trust and which ones are not. I'm OK with most of the races they selected, but there should be some slots that rotate every year. I dunno, I'm the Turk, a hack handicapper and not one of the deep thinkers of the sport in general. For real talented voices in horse racing, I strongly urge you to read some of the top writers at Turf or Hello Race Fans!

This weekend we have the first two Championship Series Races. Most horses have two starts left before the Kentucky Derby. In the 1st Leg of the Championship Series, there are 95 points for the taking in a start, with the Show Horse gathering 10 points. In the Second Leg of the Series which begins about 5 weeks from now with The Florida Derby, there are 170 points available in a start, with Place gathering 40 and Show getting 20. A Show finish in one of the Big Races (Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Blue Grass Stakes) and as few as 4 points or a Place in the Prep Season races, and I think you are safely in the Top 20. Let's assume the top ten in the list keep hitting the board, from Shanghai Bobby to Super Ninety Nine, then valuable scraps will be left over for between 14 and 25 other horses to fight for.

I've handicapped The Fountain of Youth Stakes and will be watching the Risen Star today as well. As a fan who doesn't care much about 2 YO's, by following the Prep Race Season, I feel like I am more in tune with this year's key 3 YOs, so in this way the Race Series and Points Method has enhanced my interest.

Let's get after this!

I think Violence (pictured above) is good. I respect the field that he defeated in the Hollywood Park Cash Call Futurity G1 but I don't know that he is 9-5 good until I see it again. I'm going to bet against him and my base handicap supports this by favoring Cerro (Ire), a typical Team Valor International runner; improving Beyers, a cutback of a 1/16 off his last race win at GP. His pilot, Castellano, jumps off for Violence, and that gives journeyman Rocco a chance.

I have Violence in the Place spot but he's talented enough to Win, and a wildcard enough to finish out of the money. I dunno and that's why its called gambling. I'm playing the odds, perhaps against my gut, and I'll cover him in the Top 4 in all spots.

My next five are a jumble and I think very little separates them. Falling Sky and He's Had Enough seem to be the best of the bunch but they have to show it.

Today's a good race day and I'll be back tomorrow to update the standings and talk about implications.

Enjoy! Turk Out.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Wire Players Derby Dozen Poll Volume 1 PLUS The Derby Point Standings and Prep Race Results

We are back. I'm not sure what the popular demand is, but Steve and the team at Wire Players have reassembled a collection of experts from the horse racing world to provide insight into the three year old crop as the chase for a spot in the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby heats up. Why they want the Turk's involvement, folly possibly, but I'm glad to be a part of the crew again.

People who read the Turk know how I ignore two year old racing almost completely. That's not driven by some moral objection to these youngsters running, its just not my bag. I like to see 10 races on a past performance, I like to see the handicap division runners with 20 starts, I like the data that the older horses provides as a handicapper. As a race fan, I like to fall in love with horses and follow them. That generally doesn't start until the Kentucky Derby for 3 year olds because I just don't get that misty eyed about young runners until they do it a few times.

I've warmed up to the changes implemented this year regarding the point system and the rules regarding entry into the Derby. If you haven't followed it closely, you can get caught up on how the system works here.

It's early: the system is geared heavily towards what would be the second, third and fourth starts of the year for most of these three year olds. The nomination group for Triple Crown Races 369 horses, down from 450 in 2007. It's never about quantity, American Racing needs a quality injection, and with youth we have hope.

Anyway, things are about to heat up. I say that as a massive storm barrels up the Eastern seaboard and coats Turk Central in a thick coating of snow. May will come, May will come.

Turk Out!

The Nomination is In: The Donn Handicap Grade 1 at Gulfstream Park

Welcome friends and readers of The Turk and Little Turk, and a special welcome to the readers of the Thorofan Handicappers Corner. I'd like to thank the Thorofan for the work that they do promoting the fans of horse racing and creating a community of horse racing fans throughout the United States.

I look forward to the Donn Handicap every year, the first big older horse division two turn racing. Good stuff for the horse racing fan inside me but a jagged reef for most handicappers. This early in the season you have a mixed bag of horses at different points in their cycle: Some are coming back from the farm, some raced continuously since the Fall, some are on their second runs off a long break. Trainers have targeted objectives for these horses and their objective may not be winning Grade 1 races in early February. All of these factors to me makes for incredible variability, good payouts, and a chance for frustration or glory. The Turk, a proponent of exotic betting, likes to keep it a bit simple when there are this many moving pieces, and quite honestly, not investing my hard earned capital on crapshoots is often the best course of action. It would be a pretty boring and unfulfilling handicap if I pulled the chicken switch, so we will put our best handicap forward and push up to the punters window with some cash.

Let's get it on!

2013 Donn Handicap Grade 1

There should be an interesting pace to this race, with a bunch of horses that might strike the front and try to stay there. With that much speed it may set up perfectly for a late breaker like the 8 year old, Pool Play: A $30,000 Silver Deputy has earned $1.2 Million through 20 of 34 lifetime money finishes. Another two who may break late and hit the wire or the ticket is Ultimate Eagle and Bourbon Courage. I'm leaning in a different direction, I'm going with the winner of the 2012 Florida Derby, Take Charge Indy.

2012 Florida Derby G1 Take Charge Indy wires the field

2012 Clark Handicap G1: A gutty Place for Take Charge Indy

Training sharply for Trainer Byrne, he's coming off a layoff that Byrne wins 20% of the time. Take Charge Indy is 3 of 3 in the money lifetime at the distance, 2 of 2 in the money at Gulfstream, and 6 of 9 lifetime in the money. His last race against a beast in Shackelford at the Clark was gutty. With Johnny V, up, he'll need to settle, relax and show something as a four year old he didn't show as a 3 Year old: Versatility.

The game winner of the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream is a logical win bet as well (I'd paste the video but some video troll at Gulfstream didn't allow for embedding)

2013 Hal's Hope G3 at Gulfstream

A 4 year old Kitten's Joy who has had good results at GP: 2 wins in 3 tries including a 103 BSF win in December.

Graydar is a very lightly raced Pletcher pupil, and he puts a steady hand in Edgar Prado up on him again as they look for their first stakes win.

So what do we do? I have a base handicap with the way I see the race unfolding. I think the speed may wear down and fade but I'm not betting the mortgage on this baby. I'll most likely box my top 4 for a Trifecta: That's a $48 dollar flier and horses that should all stay under 4 to 1. If you want to go safer, there will be a couple of horses under 8 to 1 like Bourbon Courage, Fast Falcon and Pool Play that could strike for Place. Build several bets with one horse keyed to Win and these two boxed to Place. For $18 dollars you can assemble an Exacta with Graydar, Csaba and Take Charge Indy to Win and drop Bourbon Courage, Ultimate Eagle and Pool Play in Place. I like it and I think I found my bet.

The key in playing the horses in my opinion is to do your homework, be prepared and not start handicapping after the last race goes final, have a plan and work your plan. I've been a horse player for most of my adult life, I watch the horses because I love these magnificent animals, but I handicap purely to relieve work stress and relax. Anyone can be break even if you take it seriously and do the work, and with practice you can scrape out a positive ROI. Bottom line though, have fun, it's a great sport.

I'm ignoring Flat Out at my own Peril.

Best of Luck, Turk Out!