Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Nomination Is In: A Kentucy Derby Prep Race, The Sham, Grade 3 at Santa Anita

This isn't a blog posting today about a horse race as much as it is about a slumbering, hibernating handicapper coming out of his hole.  As I move closer to 50 years old, a handicapper for the past 30 years, I've taken some breaks from the game in the past.  Sometimes it was because I was 'capped out, too many cards in too many weeks.  This is different: I was bored with the game.  I was frustrated with the closing of Hollywood, the blandness of the handicap division, the Breeders' Cup recurring Santa Anita dates, my local track, Fort Erie, getting screwed by politicians and hacks, deaths of some of my favorite runners, you name it. 

What's changed?  Absolutely nothing, except the great rejuvenating power of a long break, as this is my first handicap since Breeders' Cup weekend.  I love the game, I love the horses, and I enjoy deeply the connections I've made through horse racing that make any dissatisfaction I have with the sport go away.  The thrill of chasing Super High Fives on the biggest days in our sport's calendar is the only drug I indulge in.

Dissatisfaction?  A Kentucky Derby prep race with a six horse field.  Until the sport gets healthier, if it gets healthier, I guess that will have to be sometime the horse fan in me will have to live with.  The gambler in me will remain jaded, not betting for action play, and I'm not sure the value of betting The Sham is, but we'll get to that.  Anyhow, this isn't a blog about much of anything other than the Turk sharing his thoughts on various races and expressing his opinion and prospective as a modern day horse player, armed with great electronics and an old school red pen.  To my readers and friends who I've been writing at since 2008, hello.  To anyone new, I'm the Turk and my boy is the Little Turk.  I'm an Internet handicapping hack who offers bravado free opinions to use or ignore as you will.

Let's get after it.

One thing that is a constant with The Turk is his disdain of 2 YO racing.  I don't care about it and seldom watch it.  The other thing you need to know about The Turk is my disdain for hype.  As much as I enjoy the writing of some very fine turf writers, I do my darnest to not get sucked into who the "next great horse" is stuff.  I'm a paper past performance handicapper whose thesis is everything you need to win at this race is printed on the paper (especially the DRF Formulator's which I'm not paid to pitch).  You'll also notice an absence of advertising in my blog.  I've been offered all sorts of things in the past, from banner ads to live links that lead to products, and while I don't begrudge anyone making money for their efforts, The Turk doesn't blog for any reason other than a release for my thoughts. 

Midnight Hawk, the latest Baffert/Midnight Lute collaboration, looks like the cut and dry chalk for this affair with bullets galore over the surface and a commanding maiden win at Hollywood last month. Blinkers off today. 

If I were to bet this race, which again I'm not sure I will, I have two approaches in mind:  Single Midnight Hawk and bet a value player under him -OR- bet against him, taking him right out of the exacta.  At 8-5 he'll draw serious money to him, so how do you want to play it?  Your call readers. 

The Turk starts with a Base Handicap;  The Base Handicap assigns a letter grade to each entrant and slots the horses into an expected order of finish.  The Turk is an exotic player primarily, so I focus on who is tossed and how many horses I need to consider that can finish in the top four.  The Base Handicap isn't necessarily my betting strategy.  Two different sides of a coin, handicapping and betting.  While Midnight Hawk seems like a legitimate monster to me in this spot as a handicapper, the better in me wants to knock him off.  Have an opinion, an original opinion, and stick to it. 

I can't say I'm thrilled with any other runner but Kristo interests me, maybe not a 2-1.  Sadler's Distorted Humor colt has been off since Halloween.  Work is solid at SA but not eye popping, just steady. Sadler is only 8% off this break. 

I'll Wrap It Up and Ontology, both colts from Tapit, seem very similar;  no dirt wins between either, upper 70's best Beyer, last race wins on fake dirt and turf respectively.  I'm edging Ontology higher as I type and should flip flop them in the chart, but they are both B- so I guess its obvious. 

Top Fortitude is the type of horse I get wrong annually so lets see if I'm consistent. Life is a Joy will need to show me something to get more than a mention.

Have fun friends, I enjoyed my first handicap back.

Turk Out!

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