Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park

River Seven
Welcome friends to The Turk and The Little Turk's handicap of the Donn Handicap from Gulfstream Park.  Friends of The Turk know that he pretty much ignores two year old racing, enjoys three year old's and the excitement of the Triple Crown Series, but that his real passion is the Handicap Division, our older runners.  Why?  I love to look at my printed out past performances and scribble on horses with 15 starts or more,  with a history, a record that I can sink my analytical teeth into. I like to study the past performances and video and nothing jazzes me up more than seeing a horse blossom as a four or five year old who was labeled as a bust by March of his three year old season.

The Donn Handicap is named after the Donn family that owned and managed the track for sixty years, starting with James Donn, and then James Jr and finally Douglas. While they might not recognize the place anymore, the track is still magic this time of the year when most of the Eastern United States is suffering through polar vortex's and such.

I'd be remiss in not thanking first the good folks at The Thorofan for allowing me to share my thoughts today with you in their Handicapper's Corner.  You can find out about Thorofan's Goals from this link and there is South Florida chapter waiting to make you part of the group.

You can take a  few different views on horses:  They start the next season in the same form as they ended the last OR some of them go back to the farm and don't come back the same, at least not right away.  There is always a bit of mystery how they will perform early in the season, but by the Donn most of the runners have either been working regularly or on their second starts off the break.  When I think of The Donn, I think of The Hal's Hope, a Grade 3 event at Gulfstream in early January that is often the first race off the break for the trainers in residence.  Let's take a peek at some of today's runners: Lea, Uncaptured and Neck 'n Neck.

In December Neck 'n Neck, River Seven and Bourbon Courage got together at Gulfstream in the $100,000 Harlan's Holiday.

and I'll only go as far back as The Clark Handicap the day after Thanksgiving at Churchill Downs.

This is a deep and deceptively very good field. I could make a case for six horses winning but hey, this is gambling and we have to take a position and stick with it.  If you handicap the same way, and you approach the races with method and consistency, you'll find that races like this won't be any easier.  That's the reality, no method can make a good race decode into a winning ticket.  What I think I've done is identify the layers, the groupings that these horses are within and from these groupings an exotic ticket can be assembled.  Out of each group someone my drop in group or rise in group and when I do post race analysis (i.e. hindsight handicapping) it always seems so clear where I went wrong.

Let's get after it!

The top layer of potential winners (In Blue) and the next layer of horses (in Yellow) have very little separating them.  For better or worse I'm going to back River Seven to win. For a fan of horse racing in Ontario, its a hoot for me to see River Seven and Uncaptured here together. Winner of the late December Harlan's Holiday, I think he could stay near the lead and wire it.  Trainer Gonzalez 9% off the break and him and Rocco, up, do well together.

River Seven is about as tepid a chalk as I make, and I'm hedging with Romansh and Revolutionary.  Both come in off impressive wins.  Romansh , a pricey Bernadini for Godolphin, made the Aqueduct Discovery Handicap a easy looking romp. Trainer Albertrani is 9% off the break as well.  Johnny V is up.

Revolutionary was shutdown after the Belmont and clipped along nicely in a $100K OC at Gulfstream a few weeks back:

I guess I should stop and say I'm not sure where the pace is coming from in this race.  That clouds the betting analysis as I don't see where a horse like Revolutionary will slot in. Someone will shoot out and an off the pace runner like this will have someone to slingshot off of I reckon. Pletcher's WinStar runner seems primed for a good run and I'm excited to see such quality in the handicap division.  23% off the break, Castellano and Pletcher are 33% together on 125 GP starts this past year!

Lea, wearing colors I still see Blame in as he beat mighty Zenyatta, won the Hal's Hope in his first fast dirt effort.  Mott took over for Stall and we'll see what he can do with a 5 YO that didn't really fire last year.  Rosario up.  I can close my eyes and see Lea at the front, and while I'm sure that wouldn't be the strategy, he could steal it from the front end.  Very strong liking today.

Uncaptured should like the extra distance.  Posts 1-2-3 have won 20 of 32 races this meet.  He could drop in layers but I don't see much reason to think he'd freak up to Win.

Will Take Charge is my favorite of last year's 3 YOs and I'm super excited he's still in training.  That said, Lukas is 3% off long break and this is first race since the Clark.  Training OK, He's going to get heavy betting action and i'm betting him out of Win and Place.  $3.0 MM winner.  Two Grade 1's, two Grade 2's.  Serious.  Doesn't help he gets 123 pounds today, 7 more than River Seven.

Neck n' Neck and Bourbon's Courage round out a solid field of possible contenders.  Neck n' Neck has been horrible at GP, no wins in 5 starts.  Bourbon Courage is training sharp with three straight bullets and is always moving forward.  Could crash the exotic party.

I'm tossing 7-10-11 at my own peril.

So what do I do with this?  The Super High Five is on the menu.  I feel compelled to bet it, but low dollar straight bets, the kinda win that a handicapper's legend is made from if he hits it.  A realistic bet from me might be something along the lines of:

I have no idea how this will finish;  I do know its a big field, with 6 out of 11 I think could win, and it should be a fun race.  Welcome back Handicap Division, I've missed you.

Turk Out!

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