Friday, March 29, 2013

The Nomination Is In: The 100th Edition of the Louisiana Derby

What a finish!  The Risen Star Stakes horse racing fans, run at the Fair Grounds in late February was one of the more thrilling finishes this Kentucky Derby prep season.  I've Struck a Nerve, the huge long shot winner is off the Derby trail with an injury, but many of his combatants, like Code West in the shocking pink and Palace Malice in the kelley green and yellow dots, along with Golden Soul, Proud Strike, and Mylute are back in Saturday's one hundredth running of the Louisiana Derby

I'd like to thank The Thorofan for the opportunity to handicap what should be a wide open race.  As a race fan, this is what you look forward to: 14 runners in a prep race, trying to punch their ticket for the Kentucky Derby.  As far as I'm concerned, the Kentucky Derby Points Entry System is a rousing success.  Sure it may need some tweaks, but there isn't a darling from the 2 YO season that isn't feeling pressure to run and get points.  How can that not be a good thing!

As a handicapper, I'll often skip races like this, or more accurately, I may not build too complicated a wager around a group of horses where just about anything can happen.  I like to have a feeling that I understand the variables: pace, track condition, class, trainer motivation, and I can't say I have many of those here, or do I.  Motivation is pretty simple: trainers aren't entered here to prep for The Derby Trials, they are prepping for a spot among the Top 20 in the Derby Starting Gate.  Weather:Fair Grounds isn't a track I pay often, and one reason is this time of the year it can be a swamp and I don't like the variable, but it looks dry and it should be fast.  Pace: Titletown Five will strike the front, Code West will push the pace, but there should be a real tight grouping at the top of the stretch and the extra distance will favor the horses that don't mind dirt in the face and traffic, conditions they are indeed prepping for.  The more I type, the more I like this race.  Let's handicap it and then figure out how to wager it.  That sound you hear is Little Turk mocking me " you feel lucky, punk?" 

Let's get it on!

The weather has been dry and looks like Saturday will be dry, but keep your eye on track maintenance before you finalize your wagers. 

A good place to start is always some video of the most current races of some of the key horses here.

Risen Star Stakes 23 Feb 2013 FG 1 1/16 Fast 

El Camino Real Derby 16 February 2013 GGF 1 1/8 fake dirt (Nina's Dragon)

Withers 2 February 2013 Aqu 1 1/16 Inner Fast Dirt (Revolutionary)

Al Stall has two horses in this race, recently nominated for the Triple Crown, and I'm backing Departing for the win.  a sizzling :47 1/5 4f bullet at FG off a drawing away 1 mile effort at Sam Houston. This War Front son will like the distance and has a great post draw.  If B. Hernandez, up, a 19% winner at FG, can negotiate the traffic I like his chances. 

Code West is the real deal,  perhaps the class of the field, a Lemon Drop Kid son out of Charitabledonation, a VA bred (ohh, my beloved Quality Road, where art tho?), gamely fought in the Risen Star and I have no reason to doubt he won't have that same fight here. 

Revolutionary most likely beat nobody on the inner dirt in the Withers.  That's not the point.  I loved the way he navigated traffic and tight space.  I don't like that Castellano has run at FG this year but he's a darn good rider and there will be traffic again. He's the Morning Line favorite, I'm betting against win but I think he'll be top 4.

Palace Malice, son of mighty Curlin, has Prado up, his third pilot in his last three races.  A steady old hand like Prado may settle him down.  I think he's talented but he has to show it more, so this looks like a great spot to do that.  He ran gamely as well in the Risen Star, no reason he can't win this as well but I have him in the Exotic Mix with a Place or Show possible, top 6 expected. 

Titletown Five is going from 6 and 7 furlong sprints to routes, a move Lukas is only 4% at in 45 tries.  I think he'll be going backwards at the wire and I have him in the exotic mix as possibly holding on for fourth but most likely he'll be well back.  Bet accordingly.

In the "rip the heart out of the Turk" role is Mylute, Sunbean and Golden Soul.  Any of those could move up to Show or Exotic.  Mylute has the blinkers off and the local runner should be a nice price. Sunbean, Stall's other late nominee, has three FG wins all in restricted State races but wow he's been running well.  At Fair Grounds a horse like this can and does win.  I'll be watching the price, currently a 12-1 morning line, and I'll play him in a few wagers.  Golden Soul, with Calvin Borel up, seems like he is dangerous, but we'll find out. 

So what to do? 

I'm going to go with a 10 Cent Superfecta, rare for me, but a reflection of the fact that these prep races are a bit of a crap shoot for the Ol' Turk and my personal ROI on these events isn't where I'd like it to be.  I built a pretty good handicap, it's not too conservative, its not too risky, and I think my bet construction is plausible.  Too bad the horses don't ever seem to get the memo!

Whatever you do, have fun with it;  Do you homework, don't bet the family mortgage money, and if you have a gambling problem, try to get some help, this should be entertainment, not something that strains your relationships.

Turk Out!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and The San Felipe

The Kentucky Derby Point Race should take on some interesting dynamics today, as several presumptive favorites take the dirt in what should be their penultimate prep races before the Kentucky Derby. Fifty points for winning and 20 points for Place makes this must see TV.

There are many ways to the Kentucky Derby: The Tampa Bay Derby is the path that Street Sense took to roses while at Santa Anita, Fusaichi Pegasus used the San Felipe as a springboard to achieve the same result. Winners of the San Felipe read like a Who's Who of The Turk's favorites over the past decade or so: Point Given, Medaglia d'Oro, Pioneerof the Nile, Sidney's Candy, Premier Pegasus and Creative Cause. That's some list!

Let's get it on!

There is plenty of interesting pace factors going on within The Tampa Bay Derby; I'm favoring a closer, Dynamic Sky to charge past Verrazano, who should be coming off the pace himself. Who is leading at the top of the stretch, I dunno. I'd like Falling Sky in that role, but I'm not sure after breaking from the nine slot.

Dynamic Sky doesn't seem like a Kentucky Derby winner in the least; Ontario bred, Mark Casse trained, he seems more like a really solid Woodbine runner than a dirt monster. I can't ignore the Sam Davis at the same distance at this track and I'm looking for more of the same, hopefully better.

Verrazano looks and seems the part; I just prefer to see them do it before I'm ready to anoint them, something Pletcher's runners seem to have happen to them.

Honorable Dillon has four races, four improving Beyers, good work, but needs to really show something as he stretches out 2.5 panels of distance. He seems comfortable stalking at shorter distance, not sure how Lanerie will play it for Trainer Kenneally.

Purple Egg is training exceptionally well, but like Honorable Dillon, is making the jump to route.

I'm looking for value in the Top Four, expecting the two classiest runners to take the top spots. That seems to be my theme here as well as the San Felipe.

The San Felipe's field isn't anywhere near as deep as the Tampa Bay Derby. Goldencents and Flashback should strike the top of the stretch together and take a hard run at each other. I am a huge Goldencents fan already, I think the horse is gutty, but Flashback seems the more talented I think he wins today.

I'm looking for Omega Star and Tiz a Minister to clean up what's left. The gelding son of Candy Ride, Omega Star seems to have some race potential and a step forward here would really keen my future interest. Tiz a Minister should have plenty of speed to target as he makes a deep close. Carving needs to show something today for Baffert's barn.

Have fun with today's races.

Turk Out!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Derby Dozen Poll Results and Current Derby Point Leaders

I love horse racing; I love the mental challenge of handicapping, I love the thrill of the wager. I love the highs, and the lows, while humbling, keep me grounded. I like to believe handicapping skills, acquired over many years of enduring the highs and lows, take the proposition of winning to slightly better than a thrown dart. There are days when I can't lose and then there are weeks where I can't win. Sometimes its best to stand back and listen to others give their views on the runners. Longtime readers of The Turk know I eschew outside bias, but this is different. I find it really instructive to listen to others when it comes to Derby Contenders and the group I find myself a member of, offers great insight with cutting commentary.

The Wire Players Derby Dozen have voted on this year's Derby Contenders for the second time and the list is interesting: Ive Struck a Nerve, while the point leader after the first weekend of the Championship Series, doesn't crack the top 12. While not a surprise off of his incredible long shot victory in the Risen Star, points are points and as each week goes by, it will be harder to back chic, lightly raced runners. For the record, The Turk has Super Ninety Nine on top right now.

The Gotham is up today. Have fun friends, Turk Out!