Friday, December 26, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita

Shared Belief  (photo by Shigeki Kikkawa)

Boxing Day racing at Santa Anita is a wonderful, lazy day of horse gambling for the Turk from the snowy East Coast. Today is no exception, as I recharge the batteries over the last two weeks of 2014 and get ready to welcome in 2015 and the treadmill of daily living.  An all graded stakes Pick 3 with races 6-7-8 is featured today, with The Malibu the headliner and race 8, the Grade 1 La Brea and the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile rounding it out.

Today also marks the return of Shared Belief who's been on the shelf since the Breeders' Cup Classic and a race that was over almost as soon as it began for son of Candy Ride.  

Let's get after it!

Bob Baffert sends four horses into the starting gate and the race breaks down fairly simply into if you think Baffert can wear down Shared Belief,or interfere with traffic, and allow a stalker or an off the pace runner to cleanup the mess.  Shared Belief needs no introduction, 7 of 8 lifetime, with 5 of 7 wins on fake dirt, but this colt doesn't mind the dirt at all.  

Chitu, a Henry Hughes son, runs back off a 31-60 day layoff, something Baffert hits 24% of the time.  His last time back was off of a break from a lackluster finish in the Kentucky Derby when he was close to California Chrome at the top of the stretch before fading.  3 of 3 in the Money at Santa Anita.  He should be the pacesetter and has a chance to play "catch me if you can."

Indianapolis and Midnight Hawk will bring speed and tenacity to the race.  Pimpernel will be stalking somewhere just behind these two.

In the non Baffert camp,. Tamarando will be waiting to make one run at the top of the stretch but I see him running out of room and finishing anywhere from 5th to Show. Tamarando has 4 wins, all on fake dirt and is winless in 3 starts on Santa Anita dirt.

In a fairly pedestrian Allowance Level group of also ran's, I liked Diamond Bachelor the best but that is saying very little.

I'll be playing winners only for the Pick 3, singling Shared Belief and looking for some value in the first two races.  If forced to assemble an exotic here I could go one of two routes:  Single Shared Belief OR look to see him beat with some value in the bet.  As the latter is more fun we'll assemble a monopoly money bet of the following:

$0.10 Bet:  2-3-6 OVER 2-3-6-8 OVER 2-3-6-8 OVER 3-5-6-7-10 for $6.20

That's sufficiently interesting enough for me to enjoy and have a punchers chance.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 2 Bayakoa at Los A

Bayakoa/5 against Go For Wand/2; 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff
I could write a blog post about what Bayakoa meant to me, and I have  (like this from 2009).  Instead of the Turk rambling I  like this blog post by Sam Ludo to summarize the amazing career of one of the greatest fillies ever,  a mare whose name belongs in the same breath as Zenyatta, Ruffian, and Rachael Alexandra.

For anyone who can stand it, this is Bayakoa in her glory, dueling Go for Wand.  With the heart of a lion these two engaged each other and it was many years before I could ever think to watch this video as I became an emotional wreck just thinking about the pride and passion that fills such animals to race to the very edge of death when challenged.

We use the word great too often in our society to identify champions.  Not all champions are great.  Great should be reserved, along with a few other adjectives, for the absolute best of the best.

Bayakoa was great. It's one of the sadder parts of the demise of horse racing in our culture, that her name isn't known more widely, acclaimed by openly, adored for forever.

As a race fan and a lover of animals, I never want to see a horse get hurt like this.  These animals were bred to race, they love to race.  As long as they are cared for after the track, Grade 1 winners or claimers, I can live with the inevitable deaths that will occur.  This one is haunting to anyone who loved Bayakoa and Go for Wand.

I am still mourning in a different way Hollywood Race Park.  I'm not that familiar with the big oval at Los A yet.  I'm learning to play it the old fashioned, by reading race charts and building my opinion of how to play its big stretch.

Anyway, this edition of the Bayakoa (thanks for leaving name alone!) is a six horse affair and a bit of a snooze fest at that.  Let's see what we can make of it.

I'm backing Yahilwa to win.  In last two races as come from more than 2 off the lead to win as well as wired a win, both at 1 mile.  Came up back of Tiz Midnight and Beholder three races back in the G1 Zenyatta.  One win at the distance in an N1X in April 2014.  Getting faster as the year goes, Trainer Cassidy is 25% won last start on 40 tries and Mike Smith/Cassidy win at 23% on 52 tries.

Hard to say what Tiz Midnight will bring.  I typically don't like the first race back off a Breeders' Cup race which is exactly what Baffert's 4 YO is doing.  Class alone, she;s top of the class.  She'll race as always within two of the lead all the way around.  Easily wins, but for value would like to see Place.

Legacy seems like the best of the rest.  Sadler's horse has run well on this track.  Sadler 18% on turf/dirt switch after a trouncing in the G2 Goldikova at SA in early November.  (I guess I could have added Goldikova and Lady's Secret to my list of greats. I know I'm forgetting others as well!)

I'm leaning towards a very simple bet construction:  A $2 Tri with 1-3 OVER 1-3 OVER 2-5-4-6 is a $16 bet and a $2 Tri with 1 OVER 3 OVER 2-5-4-6 is an $8 bet.

Have fun with it yourself if you are so inclined!

Turk Out.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Cigar Mile at the Big A

Secret Circle:  Photo by Breeders' Cup Ltd
Thanksgiving week is one of my favorite racing weeks of the year.  Obviously not because the weather is ideal, or that there is much left to settle in horse racing prior to year end, but I'm off of work and I force myself to do something other than work for a few days in a row.

My job is very analytic, much like my approach to horse racing.  At work I may spend time thinking about average total costs or marginal costs as they relate to diminishing gains, but it's analytical numbers that help me make the best decisions possible for the physical mechanical equipment I'm charged with running optimally.

In horse racing, and in horse racing blogging, I choose not to bore my readers with the exact analytics I'm employing.  I've read blogs that are very analytical driven and I don't want to be that blogger.  In business at least I can do analysis in hindsight of my decisions and learn something that is typically concrete in nature.  In horse racing, not so much.  You can apply hard fought analytics to these 1,200 pound animals all you like and about the only thing you can be sure of is the overall general horse betting public will still hit 33% winners applying no analytics and if you are honest with yourself, you'll be hard pressed to not incrementally beat that figure.  This blog isn't interested in picking winners primarily, we are building exotic bets, un-boxed, built on a matrix of horse order of finish possibilities.  The goal of my horse racing activity is 0% ROI.  0% Turk, WTF?  Yes, if I were to break even I'd be happy because at this point in my life, I'm not gambling horses for economic profit. Do I want losses?  Absolutely not, Mrs. Turk wouldn't put up with that nonsense.  I'm a positive ROI guy who applies analytic, really statistical and mathematical possibility analysis, to my bet strategy after developing a base handicap of possibilities.

This blog is a reflection of my passion and also my ambivalence to horse racing.  A sport that is teetering on irrelevance, with no real plan forward, while physical capital like Hollywood Race Track is watched to be sold off as scrap, where the beautiful Hialeah can't get thoroughbreds back on the track, where for all but a few days Arlington is irrelevant, I find it hard to care.  It's a defense mechanism not caring because there is almost nothing an individual or a collective group of racing fans can do.  We aren't what drives the sport and we have no voice.  This blog lives because no matter what happens, these animals have been under my skin for almost my entire life and I find true relaxation staring at a past performance.  Why isn't Trackus available at every track?  Why is access to data so expensive and almost off limits to the casual fan? No one person cares enough to move this sport forward.

I digress.  This has never been a popular blog.  It's a labor of love done by The Turk for diminishing numbers of readers.  I can't remember the last time I received a legitimate comment.  Outside of the Triple Crown season, my blogs numbers are putrid.  I leave the deep issues for others and I will continue to do what I do, not because I give a hoot about web traffic, but because this beautiful mathematical game still thrills me and because my ROI stays positive.  Good days, bad days for sure (namely any Thorofan Handicappers Corner post) but relaxing and stimulating nonetheless.

I'm going to add some new features to my blog next year.  I may even add more topics of interest to me: a late 40's gentlemen's fashion choices, hardware selections, watches, everyday carry, electronics, whatever may interest other socially disinterested, work-a-holic bald fellas who like horses and fine craftsmanship.

Anyways, let's get after this!

Lots of options in this one.  I'm going with Vyjack on top, but what I'm really saying is even if Baffert is shipping in Secret Circle, I'm betting against these Breeders' Cup contestants.

Vyjack is 3 of 4 at the Big A, and his Wood Memorial Show was against some solid class.   Won G2 Kelso last time out.

Rodriguez/Ortiz 31% at Aqueduct on 113 tries.

Itsmyluckyday, a  4 YO Lawyer Ron, one of my favorite horses ever (Rest in Peace), has been training regular and steady since a Show in the Kelso which followed a win in the Woodward.  First Big A effort.  2 of 4 at this distance, 8 of 16 on fast dirt, 13 of 16 in the money on fast dirt, 4 of 7 in 2014, 6 of 7 in the money in 2014.  Trainer Plesa 16% off the break.  Plesa/Lopez are 26% together in 333 tries over past year.  Lots to like and will be within 2 lengths the whole way.

Private Zone was 33-1 last year when he almost shocked the race.  He is boom or bust here but I think he'll run well to hit the Show or Exotic spot.  I guess I'm being a hypocrite as I have him higher than some BC runners I'm penalizing.

Bourbon Courage and Secret Circle I guess have a reason to call me a hypocrite.  Secret Circle, 5 YO already, has won two Breeders' Cup Sprints and Placed a third.  Not too shabby.  5 straight efforts at 6f but he seems to want to stretch out.  Interesting that Baffert brings him in for this with options at Del Mar.  Bourbon Courage has 1 win in last 12 races  but is 8 of 12 in the money as well. No wins in 3 starts at the distance, rang off a :46 4/5ths at 4f bullet last time on track.

Regally Ready (Can he really be 7?  I find myself exclaiming that alot this week!) is a really versatile horse. 6 wins in 9 2014 starts.  Only 3 of 37 career starts on dirt.  He may be in a great spot on the track to come hard and free at the end.  Beware!

I'm tossing three: Big Business, the other Eddington son along with Secret Circle, who I respect but you can't cover all in my world, Transparent and Noble Moon.

As the race is two hours to post, I'm going to publish these thoughts and keep thinking about bet strategy.  The track should be good and the weather OK albeit cold.

I'm thinking something along the lines of this:

$1 Super:  2-4 OVER 1-2-4-6-8-9 OVER 1-2-4-6-7-8-9 OVER 1-6-7-8-9 for $168.  It's too rich and I have to make some harder choices but its a starting point

Good Luck

Turk Out!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Post Race Analysis for The Clark Handicap

Hopportunity winning the Rebel- Photo by AP

It doesn't matter sometimes if you are a visionary or just a bit lucky.  Sometimes you can do all the handicapping right and screw up the bet construction,  sometimes you can get it all wrong, or sometimes you can pass on a bet that hits.

My sin today was not betting a Super that I had nailed cold.  I focused on a Tri, didn't like the prospects of getting a return on investment and passed.

 In my pre race handicap, I had some good thoughts, but they hinged around Departing winning and Hopportunity and Constitution giving a very good showing of themselves.  Most of that happened.  I also liked the class of Protonico and the spunk of Pick of the Litter, and that was useful too.

I couldn't settle on a bet.  I ultimately liked this bet the most:

4-1-7 OVER 1-4-7-5-6-9 OVER 1-3-5-6-7-9, a $2 Tri for $134.

It just seemed illogical to me to invest that sort of cash into a race where I had the Tote boards 1-2-3 horses in my top three.  I've mastered the art of turning $100 into $50 at the race track and I try hard to avoid that.

What did I do?  I passed.  I didn't bet.  That's a skill I didn't possess in my 20's and 30's but I developed over time.  I could have bet $134 and made $300, not shabby, but I wasn't feeling it and I passed.  I will say I liked Hopportunity before the race and but I was surprised he took the chalk.  The bettors were right on Departing who will end 2014 on a much lower note than he ended 2013 with.

Moral to the story?  There is no moral, do your homework and assemble my base bet.  I had three horses (in blue) I thought could win and four more I thought had the potential to win the Trifecta. If I boxed them it would have been a losing investment, with a $420 price and a $120 loss.

I'm normally a Superfecta Bettor.  I had the Superfecta nailed.  A boxed bet wouldn't have worked at $1680,returning $1,540 for a $140 loss, but my matrix style Superfecta I normally play would have hit and hit hard:   4-1-7 OVER 1-4-5-6-7-9 OVER 1-3-5-6-7-9 OVER 1-3-5-6-7-9, a $2 bet for $472 would have returned a gain of $1,068.

I never get too emotional about money I leave on the table.  My approach is to treat each win and loss the same, analyze, see if there is anything to glean, and then move on.

Moving on....Turk out!

Thanks DRF 

The Nomination Is In: The Clark Handicap G1 at Churchill Downs

Departing (Photo by Reed Palmer Photography)
The Clark Handicap is a post Thanksgiving tradition for me like many racing fans.  It's a Grade 1, usually including some of the handicap divisions greats, vying for a last big win, possibly in an attempt to leaving a lasting impression with Eclipse Award voters.  This years, edition, not so much.  It might even be subtitled " Former Derby Darlings trying to get back to their winning ways"  as Hopportunity and Constitution were two of the biggest names in racing in February, but oh what a difference 9 months can make.  It may not be the handicap division all star game that I'd prefer, but in the horse racing game these days, you get what you get.

The track should be fast, even if the temperature a bit brisk.

Lets get after this!

I'm looking for the breakout performance that never seemed to happen this year for Departing.  Lost by a neck last time out to Pick of the Litter at KEE.  It was right there for him and he lost.

Distance isn't an issue for Departing; 3 of 3 in the money at CD, 4 of 5 in the money in 2014, 7 of 9 in the money at the distance, and a bullet 11/13 at 4f in :48 flat.

The next two are a coin toss for me, they could both win, they could both finish out of the money, I have no real notion how they will respond. Of the two, I like Hopportunity a bit better. 2nd race off the long layoff, something Baffert hits on 27% of the time.  Loved his Rebel, will see what he's got.  It means nothing today, but let's watch and remember this year's trail runners.

While we are on the nostalgia trail (which means NOTHING in racing for current form), let's look at the dream trip Constitution had in the Florida Derby.

The 3 YO Tapit would have been retired in the past, and the racing game needs more stars to come back and run, so it would be a boon to the sport to see runners like Constitution and Hopportunity find their second acts.

Today, I'm just thinking of their Class.  In a Class review, these two are near the top of the pack.  Current Form, I'm not sure.  As I said, either could win, both could finish far up the track.  I'm going to cover both and see what happens.

The next four runners I have slotted will make or break my betting I reckon, and the rest of the field I've tossed.

Easter Gift, a five year old Hard Spun (is that possible?  Time goes by too quickly!) is 0 of 2 at CD, 1 of 5 at the distance, a bit slow.

Pick of the Litter is capable of Show to Fourth, I don't think the win.  4 wins in 7 runs at the distance, 4 of 5 in the money at CD but only one win in 5 CD dirt starts.  Comes in off G2 Fayette that's posted above.

Knights Nation, 4 YO gelding, has 13 of his 18 starts on Turf and owns 1 dirt win.  Slow, but will be coming late.

Prontonico, 3 YO Giant's Causeway, I don't know what to make of.  First trip to CD. Won G3 Discovery last time out in slop.  I'm not sure I put much on that. 3 of 6 on fast dirt.  Classier than rest.

So what am I going to do with this?  The Trifecta I assembled I'm not thrilled with thinking about what the tote board odds may look like:

$2 Tri:  4-1-7 OVER 4-1-7 OVER 1-7-5-9-3-6= $56

I'll have to watch the tote board but chances are My Win and Place horse will be 1-2 on the tote board.  A $56 investment would most likely provide a negative return.

I may want to play with some combinations like this:

$2 Tri:   4 OVER 9 (value) OVER 1-7-5-9-3-6 =$10  another alternative may be 4 OVER 9 OVER 6 for $2 and not loose any sleep over it.

In this bet I single Departing (eh), single a Place horse (perhaps one of the late hard runners) and then drop in 5 into Show spot.

Again, I'll be watching the tote board to get a feel for what other bettors think before I decide on the investment.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Post Race Analysis for the River City Handicap G3

Villandry: Photo by Reed Palmer

I'm not sure what the take away is on today's River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.  I guess I'll sum it up with a missed opportunity for me.

Silver Max falls to zero in two starts at this distance and it just doesn't seem like a distance that he wants.

Villandry was as I good as I thought he'd be.  I don't look at Morning Line odds and I was surprised by the Post Time odds that placed him second on the tote board, I guess it was more obvious than the Ol' Turk thought.

Hamp!  On a break since early September, Trainer Correas  was only winning 12% off those breaks.  In the 4 year old geldings last twelve races he's been in the money twice.  If you look at his running lines he has closed like a freight train but usually too late and the results weren't there.  We'll tuck his name away to keep our eye on.

Under Control (Brz) looked good on paper, and I respect Motion enough, but as I said pre race race, I'd like to see a bit more out of the 6 YO gelding.  I saw a nice closing turn of foot.

Anyways, keep plugging 'cappers.  Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: The River City Handicap Grade 3 at Churchill Downs

Silver Max: Photo by Reed Palmer

Nothing like a handicappers holiday to refresh my handicappers mind.

The Turk hasn't felt very Turk-like over the past several months, as the demands of work have consumed any free time I may have previously had. I've added some efficiency to my job performance and realized that a little R&R, especially on my traditional handicapping and blogging day of Saturday could be possible.

But what to say?  I found the time, do I have anything left to add to my handicapping? Of course!  Ye' Ol Turk is always improving on his analytic skills and coming back off a layoff has done nothing but reinvigorate my mathematical mind.  Math?  It's horse racing Turk, what's up with Math?  It's all math friends, handicapping to me is the numbers on the paper, the incremental times, the workouts, the breakdown of the runners over a long and short period of time.  It's a crossword with 1,200 lb animals running about.  Betting?  Well that's just economics. I view betting as strictly an investment, an opportunity cost.  I measure success solely in terms of return on investment, and while I'm OK with breaking even over periods of time, I'm also realistic to know that I have to hit on a certain percentage of my exotics or my ROI won't stay positive for long.

I've been blogging for six years and my one consistent message has been to preach consistency:  do the same things, day in, day out, do what you do well more often than not.

For me it's about assembling a base handicap, tossing who I can, establishing potential winners and then developing an investment.  I like to blog exotics, but quite frankly Win and Exacta are my bread and Butter.  Not sexy, but I churn out positive ROI with consistency, allowing me to swing at the fences now and then.  If you can't consistently pick winners or exactas you have no business making an investment on a Tri or Super anyhow.

So what to make of today's River City Handicap? Well, the track should be Firm.  The weather is expected to be dry and cool.  I like these grade 3 turf routes.  The horses are the superstars of the industry, they are just honest animals grinding out a living on the edge of the big time.  A horse like Silver Max is the type of horse I adore: modest background, consistent, long career, successful.  18 of 26 in the money, 2 wins in 3 starts at CD, 10 wins in 20 turf starts.  He takes on the big guys in G1 matches and he holds his own.

Villandry is a bit of a stretch for me, but he's cutting back in distance, and I like his running lines of "gaining, gaining, rallied, all out, willingly" in his last five.  I'm thinking he could upset here but his lifetime stats don't give great hope: 3 wins in 11 turf starts, $191,000 career earnings, 10% of Silver Max's.

Gentleman's' Kitten looks dangerous and has been training over the CD turf course since mid October. Trainer Maker is 24% of the break and 25% over the grass.  Hernandez up and has won 30%of his races in 2014.  Freshened this summer after a few clunkers, last two encouraging.

Canadian Aldous Snow is first back off a break since mid September, something Trainer Pierce wins 24% of the time. A grade 3 winner at 1 1/12 miles over grass, he's been no threat in subsequent step ups in class to Grade 2 and 1.

Set the Sail I have too low in my base handicap.  I bullet this week at 4f shows quickness and fitness.  he's 9 of 17 in the exacta on turf and 5 of 8 in the exacta at CD on the turf.  He was Place in this event a year ago.  Lots to like, I'll be shading him up as high as Place.

Guys Reward is the definition of journeyman at age 7, with 40 turf starts, 21 of 40 in the money and 1 in 5 turf races a winner.  I expect competitive and I expect him to be coming late.  Show or Place not out of question but I'm gambling its no higher than Show or Exotic fourth.

I'm predicting Motion's Under Control (Brz) could be the one that screws up my bet.  A nice horse that I'd like to see more of before I back him.

I'm not sure of the bet yet but I'm thinking some sort of Super with 4-6 OVER 2-3-4-6-9 OVER 2-3-4-5-7-9 OVER 2-3-5-7-9, a $2 bet for $248.  That's too rich and I need to trim, so possibly I'll go 4-6 OVER 2-3-4-6-9 OVER 2-3-5-9 OVER 2-3-5-7-9, a $2 bet for $172.  I'll think about that a bit more.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Post Race Analysis: Breeders' Cup Classic 2014

Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill
Photo credit: Kelvin Kuo
I'm not even sure where to begin with my analysis.  Yes, my handicap proved to be a failure, but were the race results a sham based on Bayern's hard turn left out of the gate?

I don't believe for one second it wasn't a planned tactic to get to the rail and cause most of the inside speed to check hard.  It was an aggressive move by Baffert and Garcia, but what did they have to lose? A DQ?  They gambled with the move and then they were rewarded when they weren't punished for their actions.  They gambled.

Is that racing?  Who knows. Actually, by the fact my social media feed is blowing up, mostly in sharp negative reaction to the ruling, lots of horse racing fans think they know the answer to that question.

I lost my Super High Five Bet.  I gambled.  I gambled and bet against Toast of New York, a horse I had no real feel for.  My loss had more to do with my handicapping and less with the aggressive move of Bayern.  That said, horses did check hard, and the way Santa Anita plays, that race was essentially finished at first call.  California Chrome bounced back from the Pennsylvania Derby and ran hard, and I think he wins the race if it's two hops more, but it wasn't.  I think back to watching mighty Zenyatta fall to the back of the pack as Blame took a big lead.  Zenyatta, unlike Shared Belief, rallied on a very different track to make the most heroic run  imaginable.  There was still  11 panels of  running after the start, on a different track, maybe that matters, at Santa Anita, goodnight Irene.  In my pre race Video Analysis earlier this week I suggested I'd try Bayern in the win spot.  "Think long, think wrong" I can hear the toothless guy saying at the OTB.

You can see the Breeders' Cup Classic DRF Race Chart at this link.

The Turk is feeling refreshed after scaling back my blogging efforts over the past year.  I've been blogging since 2008 and I'm not quitting anytime soon.  Now if I could just improve on my ROI for THOROFAN Handicappers Corner posts I'd be a blessed man.

Beware the Breeders' Cup bounce.  Most runners go thud in their next back race.

Turk Out!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

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

Tonalist: Photo Courtesy of Gene Kershner Buffalo News
Welcome Friends to the Breeders' Cup edition of The Turk and the Little Turk.  The Turk would like to thank the good people of The Thorofan for allowing me to share my opinions on such a prominent race with you.

About this time of the racing season, after you've been looking at these horses battle for months now, what is there to handicap? Well, quite a lot still.   The track, the post position, the pace scenario, relative class, current conditioning.  I don't need to know much about Shared Belief or California Chrome, two of my most favorite three year old's  since possibly 2007's Street Sense and Hard Spun, but I need to know how they answer my questions as it relates to today's race.    Notice I care about today: I discount most of what these animals did before July 1, not to take it away from them, its just not as relevant as what they did one race back.

 I love to read Past Performances.  I think its an amazing art form, how much information can be condensed down onto paper.  People who know me know I went years, pre internet, by picking winners of races I never saw.  My handicapping was purely off of paper.  I'm a better visual handicapper now, and I'm smart enough to follow certain bloggers who tweet from paddocks with physical condition and demeanor prior to races.  That said, I get a hoot from the PP's.  I love the pithy and concise comments that follow the running line.  Comments so short it makes a Tweet look like War and Peace, but over time they tell you so much.  California Chrome last time out ..."had no response."  Bayern was..."clear,strong handling" while Cigar Street "repelled bid, cleared".

Santa Anita faithful will tell you the winner needs to be on the lead or pressing the pace within 2 lengths at first call.  I'm good with that at 10 panels, but 12 tends to equalize things.  The sample size is small too.  With my Past Performances now, checking for horses on the lead at 1st call, or within 2 lengths, is as easy a clicking a box.  So much has changed to help the handicapper.

Are you a dogmatic handicapper, with angles and rules that you absolutely adhere too?  That sort of thinking serves you well in most races but at the Classic distance, I think you need to look strongly at pace, pace intensity, and which horses will be moving forward and which ones giving ground over that merciless final 1/16 of a mile.

Let's review the runners and the key prep races on video

Awesome Again G1:  1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 27 September; SA

Jockey Club Gold Cup G1: 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 27 September; BEL

Homecoming Classic  $135,000; 1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 27 September; CD

Pennsylvania Derby G2; 1 1/8 Fast Dirt;  20 September; Prx

Woodward Stakes G1:  1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 30 August; SAR

Pacific  Classic G1: 1 1/4 Fake Dirt; 24 August; DMR

Travers Stakes G1: 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 24 August: SAR

Suburban Handicap G2; 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 5 July; BEL

I'm not sure I like where I came out with my thoughts, but let me get it down into the chart and then we can talk it through and perhaps even make a few tweaks.

Tonalist breaks all my dogmatic rules:  Only wins at BEL, first SA start, trainer my favorite turf master but I'm not sure I've ever bet one of his dirt runners. I love his late one run burst and that seems to be what I'm fixated on, but that implies he is in a pack close to the pace near the top of the stretch.  I'm thinking he will be sitting two to three wide and in a good spot to close.

California Chrome owned this track at the time of his Santa Anita Derby win.  His five race win streak through the Preakness was as close to goose skin tingling for me as it gets.  I don't put much stock in his Pennsylvania Derby, stuck on the inside, fighting a serious track bias, quite frankly I'm not even sure why he was there instead of a week later in the Awesome Again.   His connections are like lightning rods among horse racing folks I talk to regularly, but remember one thing: the horse doesn't care what you think of  Sherman, Coburn or Martin.    The horse is the same horse that was a monster early in the year.  I like his positioning, I just think he'll be going backwards and getting caught by Tonalist.

Shared Belief would be the easy thing for me to do to seem smart (I'd pick Cigar Street if I wanted to appear savvy). What a series of races he has assembled, but its amazing to me that this is his first showdown with California Chrome.   I am not ready to concede he is the best horse in this group on dirt, an Awesome Again effort not making my case easier.  Unless he has a horrible trip and misses the break, he should be as well positioned as Tonalist to push forward.  I think he was a bit exposed in the Awesome Again, win aside, and against a field of top shelf class I think he has as great a chance to be out of the top 5 as he has of being in the top 2.

Cigar Street is perhaps the most beautiful animal in the race.  On the muscle is an understatement.  He should get a get trip tucked in behind the front running speed, he'll have a price I'm thinking similar to Bayern and Tonalist and Mott is always a dangerous adversary.  This is a serious animal, I'd like to see him come back in the Clark Handicap and have a good late season campaign.

So what am I going to do with this base handicap? With a race like the Classic you can overthink it very easily.  Let's be even more frank:  How many legitimate winners are in the starting gate?  I'm going with six (California Chrome, Shared Belief, Tonalist, Cigar Street, Zivo and V.E. Day) with possibly two more (Bayern and Majestic Harbor) in the conversation.  It's not the sexy thing for a handicapper to throw his hands up in the air and say I dunno, so clearly this bald handicapper won't be doing that.  I'm going to do what you should do: have a handicapping opinion and stick to your guns.  Don't go hedging yourself like mad, just pick the horses and let it ride, you'll always be more wrong than right, but if you bet wisely you'll be OK.

I think the pace scenario is pretty straight forward.  We'll assume Big Cazanova doesn't enter the starting gate, but if he does, we'll lump him in with early speed. Moreno has been 1st at 1st call 16 of his last 21 races.  Expect him there.  Bayern has been 1st at 1st call 6 of his last 8 races.  Expect him there.   I think Cigar Street will be near the front from his 2 post as well.

I think the next group back will include Shared Belief, California Chrome and Tonalist and Majestic Harbor and just behind them will be one run closers V.E. Day, Zivo, Candy Boy and Footbridge.

My handicap reflects the horses moving forward and backward as the struggle to the classic distance. What I have yet to identify is a bet strategy.   I'm typically an all in Super High Five fella on these big day races.  It's a high risk, high reward sort of bet, definitely not for everybody.

On a race where you conceivably win over $50,000 with a 6-1 shot on top, I think it's a good investment.  I only need to hit one in one hundred to break even and I'm hitting one every 20-30, even though I've only broken five figures once, and a low five figures it was. No matter, it gets me juiced up and I work my ass off during the week so a little bit of blown off steam isn't so bad.

Whatever you do friends, have fun with it and bet responsibly.  Exotic betting should never be a dart toss and if you can't pick exactas with regularity, stay away from these sort of wagers.  Remember, its not just cash you are betting, its an opportunity cost:  What are you not spending this money on in order to gamble?  I hope its not food or the mortgage.  If you have a problem, seek help.

Turk Out!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Breeders' Cup Classic Video Handicapping/Preliminary Handicapping

Tonalist; image courtesy of Chelsea Durand
The Turk has been on the blogging sidelines since the Triple Crown season ended.  While still playing the horses, I reckon after six years I didn't have much to offer my readers.  I'm not sure I have much to offer now either, but it's time to start banging the keyboard and talk about the horses again.

I could go to the Breeders' Cup:  I've been to a few, and I'm going to be around Arcadia most of the week, but quite frankly it is hands down my favorite betting/investment opportunity of the year and I'd rather be home at Turk Central with two laptops going, an iPAD and all my information around me with limited distractions.  I love being at the track, and next to my family, my job and my church, I'd rather be no where else, but it's distraction city, and I just can't assemble my exotic bets very well when I'm there.  I'll be happy for all my racing pals who will be there, but The Turk and lil' Turk have business to attend to.

My efforts begin with just a video recap of the major prep races leading up to next weekend.  For the Breeders' Cup, I usually start at the July 4th holiday and go forward, as Belmont Day back isn't that relevant at this time of the year.  Current form, current form on dirt, and carrying speed at distance are what I'm interested in seeing, including the gallop out, so thank you to the video feeds that focus on that.

I couldn't begin to tell you who I like yet; clearly Shared Belief will be heavily bet, for good reason. Santa Anita Wins:  Bayern X2 (ALW/MSW 56K's),  California Chrome X3 (G1 Santa Anita Derby), Candy Boy X1 (1 Mile MSW 49K), Footbridge X3 (OC's 62K), Majestic Harbor X2 (Hollywood, er Gold Cup G1 28 June), Shared Belief X1 (Awesome Again G1), Big Cazanova (Arg) X1 (1 mile MSW 57K)

Ugly Santa Anita records include Imperative (0 wins in 5 starts, 1 place and 1 show), Moreno (0 wins 6 starts, 3 Place, no Show), Prayers for Relief (0 wins 3 starts, 2 show).

First time at Great Race Place: Cigar Street, Toast of New York, Tonalist, V.E. Day, Zivo.

I haven't had a chance to study the work tabs close enough to have a better handle on my handicapping.  My first blush gut call is as follows:

Shared Belief
California Chrome

My hunt for value will have me considering Bill Mott's Cigar Street, and Bayern for top spot.

I'm really not sure yet what I have yet so I'll take advantage of the time and think a bit more on the issue

Have fun with this friends, Turk Out!

Awesome Again G1:  1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 27 September; SA

Jockey Club Gold Cup G1: 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 27 September; BEL

Homecoming Classic  $135,000; 1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 27 September; CD

Pennsylvania Derby G2; 1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 20 September; Prx

Woodward Stakes G1:  1 1/8 Fast Dirt; 30 August; SAR

Pacific  Classic G1: 1 1/4 Fake Dirt; 24 August; DMR

Travers Stakes G1: 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 24 August: SAR

Suburban Handicap G2; 1 1/4 Fast Dirt; 5 July; BEL

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 2 Presque Downs Masters

Presque Isle Downs
Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog.  I'd like to start by thanking The Thorofan. an organization run by, and for, the average horse racing fan.  If you are looking for a way to make social connections at the racetrack, The Thorofan might just be for you so check it out.

Monday, September 8, is the 8th running of the Presque Isle Downs Masters, a Grade 2 race for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up.  This year's edition lacks the pizzazz and star power associated with any brace where the fabulous Groupie Doll appears, but its a solid 12 horse field nonetheless.  Groupie Doll set the track record last year, winning this race for two years consecutive, so this field is really getting a break now that the big mare has retired.

For those of you not familiar with Presque Isle Downs, don't write it off as a non-sexy, racino.  The fake dirt plays very fair, and the surface is safe too, with  a breakdown rate of .83 per 1,000 starts over five years, compared to 1.37 deaths per 1,000 starts from all fake dirt tracks and 1.92 deaths per 1,000 starts on all surfaces over the same period (The Jockey Club).

The Turk's love of horse racing ebbs and flows.  The dearth of good older horses, horses that have multi-year careers, really saps my enthusiasm.  I may be down on the current state of racing, but its fun events like Presque Isle's big weekend of racing that brings me back from the edges of apathy.  After spending most of the summer handicapping and betting instead of blogging (I didn't feel like I had much to say about the sport), I'm using the Masters Weekend as a way to regroup my blogs focus and start my preparations for the Breeders' Cup Saturday, always my favorite betting day of the year.
Anyways, let me get back to the task at hand, the Presque Downs Masters.

Northern Passion, the Ontario bred Mark Casse/Patrick Husbands combination is winless at the distance and most likely would like a few more panels, but I'm picking the 5 YO mare for her class and overall solid and consistent performances.  6 of 8 in the money on fake dirt, 9 of 17 lifetime in the money, 4 of last 9 in the money.

Disco Barbie will challenge for the win;  3 of 3 at PID, including her last time out 6.5 furlong Allowance win by 5.5 lengths as the heavily bet chalk.  4 of 5 in the money in 2014, 4 of 4 in the money on fake dirt and 3 of 3 at the distance, the 4 YO Kentucky bred is a horse for this course.

Master the Blues, the 5 YO Mare from Master Command, is a PID regular, but at shorter distances typically.  Desormeaux is up after riding her to a win at Del Mar in early August where she set her career best Beyer.

Ageless is a 5 YO Mare as well out of Successful Appeal and comes in off a driving 6f turf win.  This is first effort on fake dirt after going 5 for 5 in the money on Turf and 12 of 14 lifetime in the money, including 4 of 4 in the money in 2014.  She's the fastest and my consistent horse of the field.

Madame Cactus is entering her second race off a long layoff of >180 days, something trainer Peter Eurton wins 15% of the time with.  Talamo is up for the CA based 4 YO.

Living the Life (Ire) is Trained by Gary Mandella and has Mike Smith, up.  She's making her second North American start after winning her debut at Del Mar at 6 furlongs.  11 of 14 in the money over fake dirt lifetime 12 of 20 lifetime in the money.

My Option is capable of freakish good efforts like her 99 Beyer in the Grade 3 Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park but with clunkers along the way.

So what to do with this?  I'm leaning towards a fun ten cent superfecta built around my base handicap:  4-5 OVER 4-5-10-11 OVER 1-5-7-8-10-11 OVER 1-7-8-10-11 for a $9.60 bet.

Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy your track experience.

Finally, please remember in your prayers the family of Juan Vazquez, a 39 year old exercise rider killed in a training session on the Belmont track this past week.  Rest in Peace Juan.

Juan Vazquez (image used by courtesy of Barbara Livingston)

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks


The Turk hasn't blogged much over the past two months but has handicapped an awful lot of Saratoga and Del Mar races this summer.  I've been torn about how to devote my time, handicapping or blogging.  After an intensive handicapping/gambling period that began with a very lucrative Triple Crown season,  I feel like I'm ready to take a breather and just enjoy the last few weeks of the summer racing season until I start my Breeders' Cup preparations in mid September.

Alabama Weekend always holds special significance to me, as I've attended many an Alabama and attended with my father and son just a few years ago in a memorable three generation Turk boys day at the races. I am, and have been, an enormous fan and handicapping devotee of Arlington Millions day, but I've not handicapped Arlington much this year and I made the decision that those races are just too difficult for me to jump into cold.  What is in my wheelhouse right now is Saratoga and Del Mar, two tracks I've struggled at traditionally but where I'm doing well in these respective meets.

Anyway, I'm done with serious horseplaying until Breeders' Cup weekend, which means I'll be blogging more often to keep my mind fresh.  Let's get after it!

Let's start with The Alabama, Grade 1 at Saratoga.

Hard not to like Stopchargingmaria; 7 of 9 lifetime with 5 wins, one Grade 1 win, two Grade 2's, 3 of 3 in the money at SAR including the impressive CCA Oaks.  A candidate to single in my exotics.

Catch My Drift and Size both make SAR debuts today;  Catch My Drift, trained by Chad Brown, is a 2 for 2 Pioneerof the Nile daughter with Joe Bravo up.  Brown/Bravo combine for 39% wins on 23 starts.

 Size, trained by Bill Mott, rallied to win the Iowa Oaks in late June and she's been training sharply at SAR for a few weeks now.

Unbridled Forever gave Stopchargingmaria chase in CCA Oaks, and was second best of the bunch, but I'm not expecting much better today.  Miss Besilu posts bullets regularly but is winless since a February Optional Claimer.

Got Lucky and Fortune Pearl would not be enormous surprises to hit the exotic tickets.  I'm tossing Flay's America and Joint Return at my own peril.

The track should be fast and the weather good.

At Del Mar, we get the Grade 1 1 1/8 turf Del Mar Oaks.  Cutting back is Sea Queen for Christophe Clement with Bejarano up.  5 of 6 in the money on Turf with 3 wins, 2 of 2 at this distance, and trying Del Mar for the first time.  How she'll handle the firmness is my only question.  I'm got Sea Queen on equal footing with Tepin and Istanford. Tepin is winless on Turf, winless at the distance, winless at Del Mar but was a willing Place in the 1 mile San Clement Handicap in mid July here, won by Istanford.  Istanford has 5 wins in 8 turf starts but none at the distance and may start to fade after a mile.

Casse's other runner after Tepin is My Conquestadory; A talented 2 YO, I think this girl could be ready to step forward.

Tom Proctor's Famous Alice is coming back after freshening since late June.  His other runner Diversity Harbor is fresh, just not that interesting.  A couple of first North American/first time Lasix runners enter the gate with D'Amato's Odisseia (Ire) and Maibaby (Ire).  Eh, I'm skeptical of both.

What I do with these races I'm still not sure;  I think I'll stick close to these base handicaps and develop some Tri's or Super's and see if a bet is worth making based on tote board values.

I've enjoyed sharing my thoughts today, which is how I always feel after coming back after a break.
Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Queen's Plate $1,000,000 at Woodbine

Attfield looking for 9th Win: Globe and Mail
Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, handicapping today for the Thorofan Handicappers Corner.

The Queen's Plate, a restricted classic distance race run over poly, has been a tough race for me to handicap over the years.  The contenders often  have varied and unimpressive past performances, especially when compared to their three year old contemporaries in the United States.  Once you embrace Woodbine as a track to play you'll learn its poly places pretty fair, that in general turf like pace is the norm, and that it's racing, just a bit different, and with just a bit different paradigm.  The trainers are good, the locals are good, there is a home field advantage and Yanks just don't show up and win easily. Fillies win, maidens win, it's a gosh darn free for all!  So what is a handicapper to do? The same thing he always does:  be consistent in your approach.  What that means for the Turk is a complete analysis of the Past Performances, video analysis where practical, an open mind, and bet construction that comes only after a base handicap, regardless of odds or tote board action specifically, is created.

Anyway, let's jump into this and see what we have to work with!

I print my DRF Formulator PP's (now that they print again- don't get me started on that debacle DRF!) without Morning Line odds.  In my opinion, morning lines are another handicappers bias and bias is something I try to avoid.  I also try to avoid reading articles pre race, mainstream media or other bloggers, about a certain horse, owner, or any sort of human interest tied to the horse. Again, that creates bias.  As a racing fan, I get into all that stuff, just after I've ponied up to the betting window.  I do however like to print the DRF Closer Look and DRF's Jennifer Morrison is one of the best.  Her opinions provide just enough of a balance to my own opinions and after doing this a long while, I like the collaboration, albeit loose collaboration.

We Miss Artie seems like an overwhelming favorite and I would suspect he will be bet down top even money or lower. :26 2/5ths in the last 1/4 mile of the Kentucky Derby, across a surface he didn't much like, winner of the Spiral and handily in the Plate Trial on 15 June.  Trainer Pletcher, with Castellano up, have a three for three poly winner and Pletcher won the Grade 1 Breeders Futurity at KEE.  Pletcher won the Queen's Plate in 1998.  Were not talking unbeatable but very solid.

I like Asserting Bear and the filly Lexie Lou as possible upset candidates.  Asserting Bear should like the extra distance, is very game, and has been training sharply.  Trainer Baker places Sutherland-Kruse up. Only one win in 5 poly tries.  Lexie Lou should also attract betting dollars.  Winner of Woodbine Oaks on 15 June, she sports the best Beyer on fake dirt of all starters and is 8 of 11 in the money at Woodbine lifetime.  Husbands, Up and Trainer Casse are 27% together at WO in 179 tried over past year.

My next group of four could jump into Place, but I'm expecting Show, fourth or fifth: Matador, Casse's second of three starters, with Leparoux up, came off the road and posted a $75K OC win going away at 8.5 panels on 28 June.  A Malibu Moon colt.

Lions Bay, sent to the gate by young Jamie Attard, is really stepping up in class, but he should like the distance.  Tower of Texas is Trainer Roger Attfield's lone entrant as he attempts to win this race for the ninth time.  1 win in 8 Poly starts. 1 win in 7 WO starts. He has a perfect running style and I could easily make a case for a Win spot.  Consider playing him for a good price.  John Velazquez is up today.

Ami's Holiday is my cut off line.  A good effort in G3 Lexington at KEE  and  a G3 winner across this track.  Jock/Trainer combo of Contreras/Carroll won in 2011 with Inglorious and Carroll has won this twice. 

Majestic Sunrise and Coltimus Prime are my only two "non tosses":  Casse's third starter Majestic Sunrise ran well in the Plate Trial; Coltimus Prime ran well in the Blue Grass Stakes but comes in off a slow N2L Allowance win at WO at 1 1/8 Miles on June 8.

I'm tossing at my own peril Niigon Express and Man O' Bear.  Either could have been in my Exotic Group.  I'm tossing without fanfare Athenian Guard, Cap in Hand, Heart to Heart and One Destiny (entered 5 July as well).

There is a mandatory payout Super High Five with 20 cent options.  Better than a lottery ticket and I'll take an educated bet over an idiotic lottery ticket any day.

What shall The Turk do?  After pondering a bit I wasn't able to assemble a Super High Five ticket that created an investment option that felt good in my gut.  I have however built a Superfecta option I'll consider:

$0.20 Superfecta:  4-6-12-14 OVER 4-6-12-14 OVER 4-8-10-12-14-15 OVER 4-8-10-12-14-15 =$60  Will it pay enough to cover the bet?  I have to think on that awhile.  Speculative investments are just that, and past performance is no promise of future outcomes. Bet responsibly or just use monopoly money and enjoy the racing.  It should be a good card.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Stephen Foster Handicap Grade 1 at Churchill Downs

It doesn't get much more American than Stephen Foster:  Born on July 4, 1826, the composer of such American music classics as Camptown Races, Oh Susana!, My Old Kentucky Home are still songs that generations of kids sang in music class and learned to play on instruments.  Another great American institution, The Thorofan, invested in the growth of the American horse racing fan base, has again asked this bald idiot handicapper to opine on the races.  It's not a Pink, Blue, or Yellow sheet but its probably just as accurate.  Ignore as you will!

My success rate, measured as Return on Investment, is not very good with my Handicapper Corner's handicaps.  It doesn't help that I'm typically making Superfecta and Super High Five bet recommendations, but still, the handicapping has been dull and not very good.  In self analysis mode I think for some handicaps I was too conservative, afraid to look dumb.  In others I was wildly aggressive, on the edge of reckless.  I've learned that to be a  successful bettor I need to  approach my handicapping with consistency: I build my base handicap, regardless of value, and if I choose to take some risk on the bet structure for value at least I am doing it with eyes wide open.  

The first thing I noticed when I reviewed the Past Performances is how many of the runners you could make a legitimate win bet on: Revolutionary, Moonshine Mullin, Will Take Charge, Departing, Golden Ticket and Prayer for Relief could all hit the wire first.  With the way Long River, a 15-1 Morning Line sleeper, is training, that's seven of nine that could be in the winners circle. 

The weather should be good. The track should be listed as Fast.

Let's get after this!

I have Departing in the top spot.  It's the four year old geldings  2nd off a 180 day layoff, he's 3 of 5 at the distance, 1 of 1 at CD and 7 wins in 10 starts on fast dirt.  Trainer Stall and Albarado, up, clip along at 31% win  rate.  He's been training very sharply at CD.  I doubt I single him but I like his chances to provide value from my chalk spot.  Look for him to come off the pace.

I have late running Revolutionary in the next group back;  He came late for Show in last year's Kentucky Derby and he comes in off a Pimlico Special Grade 3 win.

Prayer for Relief has no top three finishes in three starts at CD.  Another off the pace style runner, the 6 YO sizzled in morning work across this track a week ago.  4 wins in 13 starts at the distance, 6 wins in 20 starts over fast dirt, he ran terribly in  2013 Clarke Handicap here.

The Alysheba, Grade 2, run at CD in May was an interesting race.

Moonshine Mullin should provide much of today's pace.   Will Take Charge will try and forget his non fire in the Alysheba.  Stevens is up again for Trainer Lukas and most likely is the one to beat and the expected post time chalk.  I'm a biog fan of Will Take Charge but I need to see him fire in his four year old season and I'll bet against the money on him.

Golden Ticket and Long River are collectively no wins in six starts at this distance.  Long River has been working very sharply at Saratoga and ran very well on the inner dirt at Aqueduct this past winter.

So what to do with this?  I think I'll take a position similar to my base handicap, with a horse like Departing on top and a series of Exacta Bets with value underneath like Golden Ticket and Long River.  To be decisive I'll go with 6 OVER 3-7-8. Three $10 Bets may interest me.

Whatever you do, have some fun and develop your own handicap and bet responsively.

Turk Out!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Preakness Stakes Grade 1

Turk/Little Turk: Preakness 138
Welcome friends to the Preakness Stakes;  I hope someone reading my blog today is a new fan of the sport.  Perhaps you were thrilled by California Chrome's win two weeks ago, perhaps you made a fluke bet and made some money, perhaps you are like me, someone who was around horse racing most of his life but disengaged for awhile only to come back and like it even more.  No matter what your story is, I hope you give the sport a chance, enjoy it for more than gambling, and what the heck, spend a few bucks trying to make a larger pile of bucks in the process.  If you are new to the sport, I may talk a bit too fast for you. I get that:  Try out the wonderful Hello Race Fans! for many horse racing articles geared towards the new and intermediate fans.

This blog is about horse racing, handicapping and occasionally is where the exploits of the Turk and the Little Turk are chronicled.  Pictured is a race track getaway last year, the Preakness Stakes 138.  We had great seats and enjoyed Pimlico, even if the track is in a war zone and the drive in is like driving through a third world country.  Old Hilltop is a special place and we enjoyed our trip, bad weather and all.

If horse racing is going to grow again, it will be with people like The Turk bringing the new generation to the track and getting them hooked on the beauty of the horses and the discipline of responsible betting. I hope someone reading today will consider a race track getaway with some young adults this year.  The track is a safe, family environment, and the wiseguy, horseplayer types stay to themselves.

Anyway, today's Grade 1 Preakness Stakes has a bit of a Grade 2 feel to it with the field assembled.

When I sat down to blog and handicap, I had no doubt that California Chrome is the class of the field.  Now sometimes the best horse doesn't win (get use to that concept), but if the race unfolds like it should, he will win.  Today's handicap then is really about identifying from the muck who will set the pace, who will be running faster in the last 1/16 of a mile and who will be going backwards.  Handicapping is pretty much about that, but the devil is in the details.

I like to start by refreshing my visual memory of the contenders last races.  Watch the races with the race chart to get a really good feel of what took place, who was contending, and who wasn't.  I like to identify horses who didn't win but ran well for consideration in their next races.

Let's get to it.

Illinois Derby Grade 3;  1 1/8 Miles Fast Dirt

Dynamic Impact late surge takes the race by a nose by a horse that was good enough to be here, Midnight Hawk.

Kentucky Derby Grade 1;  1 1/4 Miles Fast Dirt

Tampa Bay Derby Grade 2; 1 1/16 Miles on Fast Dirt

2nd effort back for Ring Weekend.  He destroyed a so-so field.  He raced poorly next race out but has been training well and Garcia is up again for Trainer Motion.

Derby Trial Grade 3; 1 Mile Fast Dirt

Bayern wins, and I don't take that away, but I'm not thrilled by the possibilities of more distance.

Kentucky Oaks Grade 1;  1 1/8 Miles Fast Dirt

Ria Antonia:  Why is she here?

Federico Tesio Stakes;  1 1/16 Miles Fast Dirt Pimlico

Kid Cruz against small, soft field, but it is at Pimlico. Nice close.

Wood Memorial Grade 1; 1 1/8 miles Fast Dirt

Social Inclusion: slowed to crawl in last 1/16.

Arkansas Derby Grade 1: 1 1/8 Miles Fast Dirt

Ride on Curlin:  lots to like.

I'm going to let the base handicap speak for itself and I'm going to bet pretty much as my base handicap is laid out.  I'm going to single  California Chrome in most of my bets, but I may box him in a few in case the upset does happen, I can be sad but richer at the same time.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Pimlico Special Grade 3

Welcome friends to The Thorofan's Handicapper's Corner, I am The Turk, and along with my 14 year old son, The Little Turk, we handicap and blog as many stakes races as we can, offering our handicaps at their fair market value, and our betting advice for what it's worth as well.

The Little Turk has been to many a Grade 1 race in his young life, and the picture to the left was taken by him last year when we arrived on Black Eyed Susan day at Pimlico.  It was a cold and fairly miserable day last year and this year doesn't seem much better.  The weather will be atrocious tomorrow, and while it may stop raining by race time, the track should be listed as wet.

This should be a more prestigious race than it is. A distance increase and more purse money this year doesn't hurt, and the field, if not cream of the crop, is at least fairly well level.  The wet track should be a bit of an equalizer and the wild card.

My initial thoughts of the past performances:

  • 5 horses with 400 plus Wet Tomlinson Numbers
  • Zero wins at the distance (with Exception of Korean Major King)
  • Zero Pimlico wins and only one start (Major King again)
  • 9 horse field, one toss (Major King), 5 legitimate winners (2,3,5,6,8)
  • betting options galore: 10 cent super, super hi five, Preakness/Pimlico Special Double and Pimlico Special/Dixie/Preakness Pick 3
Let's start off looking at some last race video with the key players.

Oaklawn Handicap Grade 2 Fast Dirt 1 1/8 Miles (Carve, Revolutionary, Prayers for Relief, Golden Lad)

Charlestown Classic Grade 2 Fast Dirt 1 1/8 Miles (Moreno)

Without a Will Take Charge or a Game On Dude, there are some good efforts on display in those videos.

I'm not sure what type of betting option I'm going to choose for this race. I haven't watched any Pimlico races this week, so I'll want to watch closely and see how the track is playing wet and note any particular lane biases, if any.

I like Revolutionary to have a better than 2-1 chance to win;  Pletcher's trainee ran hard at Will Take Charge after being cut off in traffic in the stretch last time out.  Training consistently and should handle the track and the distance just fine.  The class of the race.

In my base handicap he's much lower, but I'm leaning towards some value in the Place spot and I'm thinking Bourbon Courage from the outside will come late.  Hasn't won since 2012 but 10 Place and Shows in 17 starts for the 5 YO Lion Heart horse.  It's a reach but I like the value.  You could easily insert Prayers for Relief into this slot too if you are value hunting and are OK with risk for reward.

In my mind there is a blanket over Moreno, Cat Burglar and Carve.  I don't see much to differentiate them from each other.  Cat Burglar is the least accomplished here, coming in off of Optional Claimers 62K and 40K affairs.  Baffert is shipping him in for a reason and he places Napravnik up.  Baffert and Rosie win 53% of the time together over a 15 race sample size.  Moreno is almost always in it and has had some very good efforts over the past year. He'll be top 5 without question and I think top three.  Carve is a 4 YO gelded son of First Samurai, trained by Brian Cox who places Castanon up, with the two of them 41% winners together over 29 races.

I'm leaning towards Golden Lad and Valid dropping like stones after setting the pace and I'm shading against Prayers for Relief too but for no particular reason except you can't cover them all.

I'm not sure I feel that strongly about my handicap to bet serious money.  Something simple like a five horse superfecta box with the 6-9-3-2-5, ten cent variety, will cost you $12.  I  may be more daring tomorrow after I see how the track plays and what the scratches and changes are.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Post Race Analysis: The Kentucky Derby

California Chrome: Andy Lyons/Getty Images (Thanks for Use)

I am first and foremost a fan of horse racing.  I am a Preacher in the Church of Horse Racing with a congregation shrinking faster the Donald Sterling Fan Club.  I give sermons on the good word of racing and I hope to turn one person a year into a real fan.  I'm never disappointed when my love of racing and my race track romances intersect with my handicapping and yesterday's California Chrome Kentucky Derby win was an intersection with an exclamation point.  

My Super High Five bet fizzled.  I had zero conviction in that bet and I ended up betting it straight (the stars would have to align) as I felt like straight had about as much a chance as the $200.00 matrix I had assembled.

I also got lucky with my betting.  I plunked down $10 Exacta Bets for California Chrome on top and the 5 biggest long shots 9-2-17-15 and 8 underneath.  $1,700 win on a $50 wild guess.  That's not handicapping, that's bet strategy and an understanding that long shots like Commanding Curve more often than not finish second.  I had conviction to single California Chrome in my bets. It wasn't a wise guy selection and people expect experienced handicappers to take positions on horses other than chalk.  Luckily, ye Ol' Turk doesn't give a flying f**k what anyone thinks of his picks.

By the way, handicappers better than I have been wondering about Commanding Curve all week. Steve and the Wireplayers crew are pretty savvy fellas.  I didn't see it at all. I posted the Louisiana Derby video below.  He made a nice run to Show and you could make the case he'd take Place or win by 1 1/4 Miles.

Kentucky Derby Grade 1

Louisiana Derby Grade 1

I hope you had fun and made some money yesterday!  Turk Out!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Kentucky Derby Super Hi-5

The Gods must be against me;  I've been unable to print from DRF's Formulator for the past few days and of all days, Google changed the way I import spreadsheets into my blog.  I have taken a deep breath and refocused on the fact that this is a confounding group of horses running today.

Welcome friends to the biggest race day of the year for casual and non fans, while as a horse player, Kentucky Derby Day is in my top five along with Breeders' Cup Saturday, Travers Day, Arlington Millons Day and Clarke Handicap Day.

The weather will not be an issue at all.  Expect the track to be fast and stop trying to make a case for a good wet surface Tomlinson Number.

I've got a base handicap that singles California Chrome.  For most wise guys, picking the chalk is anathema, and I'm good with that:  I like to study the form too and find good prices that can win, but I think that California Chrome has a better than 40% chance of winning and that's good enough for me.  I'm on the hunt for a Super High 5 at the lowest possible investment, and singling the California bred makes the investment less lucrative but also less expensive.  I was not bullish on Medal Count until I took a second and third look.  I've liked Intense Holiday and I am still a bit in shock over Hoppertunity's scratch.

The Wireplayers Derby Dozen Gang had pretty mixed views in the final poll.  Pay attention to this list as it was prepared by horseplayers far better than I.  For people new to the sport, there is no finer website for the beginner than Hello Race Fans!  You'll find everything you need there to get started.

I'll most likely be playing with my matrix all day but below is my current thinking.  The group listed as C+/C is where heart break will most likely come.

Anyways, handicapping is about taking a position.  Betting is about having conviction in your handicap.  Have fun and pick away and ignore the experts and idiot bloggers alike.

Turk Out!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Turk's Derby Dozen Final Rankings, Prep Race Video Review and Post Draw

Stupid Blogger!
We've been watching these Three Year Old's here at Turk Central all winter and I think I have a feel for the best of the bunch.  So many good runners didn't make it this far and this group of 20 entrants seems a bit weak after the top 12. None of that really matters when the gate goes open, but this this idiot handicapping blogger will be on the hunt for the Super High Five as a bettor, and if I can win that, I'm always happy if a good story line wins the race.

I've got California Chrome on top of my list and I'm pretty darn sure he'll be post time chalk.  Most likely I'll single him and then build my exotic bets out from there.  
After the video I collected is the Post Positions and Morning Lines.  It looks like Vinceremos at 30-1 (10th on my list) represents a chance to sneak a bit of value into my bets.

I'll be reviewing workouts this week and start to form a handicap by tomorrow night.

Have fun with it friends.  Turk Out!

Santa Anita Derby

Arkansas Derby

Louisiana Derby

Florida Derby

Sunland Derby

Bluegrass Stakes

Wood Memorial