Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Sunland Derby Grade 3

Today's Sunland Derby offers us a choice between Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert runners, each with two quality starters in the gate to go along with five Also Rans, at least on paper. Isn't that the beauty of handicapping, finding the on paper Also Ran and making a case for him to win or be somewhere on your exotic ticket. Often these lesser thought can sneak onto the ticket from Place to Fifth (yes there is a Super Hi Five Option today) while the more thought of animals take their place in the winners circle. To me, I'm OK with putting on my ticket heavy chalk if I can make a case for longer odds hitting my ticket in the runner up spots. I'm not sure I can do that today but let's take a look.

At first blush I think there will be a sizzling opening quarter time, perhaps :23 even.  Lots of these horses will go fast early, like Garen from the two spot and Tanzanite Cat from the five.  Pletcher's  two, Commissioner and Global Strike, aren't bashful about going fast early but if Commissioner wants to win he'll need to have John V slow him down and come off the pace.  Blinkers on for Commissioner, he has a chance to be a complete bust here as well.  Baffert's two, Midnight Hawk and Chitu leave California for the first time.  Midnight Hawk, with Mike Smith up, is a good but not yet great colt who will contest the pace and will be somewhere in the top four I reckon.  Chitu breaks from the far outside and is making his first start since early February, a rest Baffert wins off of 24% of the time.

Looking for value, I'm considering Global Strike in the win spot.  I think he'll attract the least betting action of the Pletcher/Baffert big four.  His effort on turf tells me he can fire off the pace late while he hasn't shown it on dirt yet.  Castellano is up and Pletcher and he win 32% of the time, a better percentage than what you might think with Pletcher and John Velazquez at 28%.

I'm not sure I'm an investor in this race.  I'm unsure of the pace and how it will be contested, and I don't have a strong enough opinion either way.  I'm afraid I'll just be an observer.

If I were to bet I think I'd follow my base handicap and go with a $1 Trifecta 4-9 OVER 4-7-3-9 OVER 4-7-3-9-6 for $40. I'm not sure I like that but something along those lines.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wireplayers Derby Dozen Poll, the Spiral Stakes dartboard and Remembering Ami

Friends, the Derby Preps have revealed almost everything and nearly nothing over the past few months. I feel like white is black and black is white when I try to analyze who will be in the top five 49 days from now in the Kentucky Derby. As always, the Superfecta and Super High Five will be my betting drugs de jour and right now I just don't seem to have much insight. I will say I close my eyes and I see four horses jostling and competing their way up the stretch in The Rebel and I think to myself, "....this is what a prep is supposed to be like: similar surface, contested not by front running speed but by gutty off the pace guys."

The Wire Players Derby Dozen Poll number 3 is out and Cairo Prince remains on top.

Hopportunity jumped into our Poll at #6. I have the feeling the Derby road runs through Arkansas this year.

Running through Kentucky today is the Turfway Park Spiral Stakes. Tomorrow is the Sunland Derby: two preps that launched Derby winners in recent years.

White is black and black is white.

I don't have time or energy to ramble too much about the Spiral so I'll let the handicap speak for itself.

Finally, I said goodbye to longtime Turk cat, Ami today. Ami was feral when she moved into my yard a decade ago. It took time and patience to earn her trust, but we did earn it and she led a good healthy life until a few months ago when she suddenly developed lung cancer. She was a tough cat, most likely from having to survive everyday outdoors. She fought the last few months bravely. She waits by the Rainbow Bridge for my family now.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Santa Anita Handicap Grade 1

I love the fun days in racing; early in the season its usually all about the three year olds, but this upcoming weekend is one of the premier handicap division races of the year, The Santa Anita Handicap, or just The Big Cap.

I'd be remiss to not thank the good people of The Thorofan who indulge my love of the handicap division and allow me to handicap for their Handicappers Corner some of my favorite races of the year.  The Thorofan is an organization run by race fans, for race fans.  While The 'Ol Turk is not the most socially active person in the world, I know many Thorofan members and I know personally what a wonderful experience it is to meet and spend time with like minded folks, and us horse fans all know how rare it is to meet horse racing folks in everyday life.
I was happy to see at least 8 horses in this field, and I would have liked to have seen a few more, as the quality at the top is really good and a few more horses may have helped make the value a bit more appealing.  I'll be honest, with a 2-1,9-5, and a 5-2 morning line on three horses, I'd typically walk away from this race.  Why Turk?  I just don't see the value.  If you are going to play it, keep it real.

Let's get after it and figure out what to do with this.

Right off the bat, remember to check the weather and the track conditions before you consider your bet.  I think it will be dry and fast.

When I look at the Past Performances the unmistakable first blush take away is that Will Take Charge, Mucho Macho Man and Game on Dude have an impressive collection of Grade 1 wins amongst themselves: Clark,  Travers, Breeders Cup Classic, Pacific Cup Classic and Hollywood Gold Cup, and $14.3 MM in earnings.  One of the things I love about the Handicap Division is the track record of these animals, with the big three having a collective 70 starts with 40 wins between them, I know what to expect and there is enough of a sample size to guide an information handicapper like myself. I'm worthless with 2 YO's because I have no numbers to work with.  As in life, and handicapping, Know Thyself, and I know and bet my strengths and I try to pass on the things I don't do well.

I say all that because I think one of the big three will win.  Where to slot them is where things get interesting.  I worked backward from the pace:  I expect to see Game on Dude set the pace.  I'd expect :46 and change in the first 4 panels with perhaps Imperative going with him.  I haven't liked the Game on Dude on dirt for a bit now:  two poor SA starts in a row, a solid Clark on a gutty ship in by Baffert, before that two fake dirt wins, and his San Antonio-Santa Anita Handicap-Charles Town Classic back to back to back dirt excellence. 7 Wins on 10 SA starts and his 2nd off the layoff after the Clark, something Baffert wins 18% of the time. Baffert and Smith are 31% together at SA. I have him setting the pace but failing short, the continuation of  a trend that's formed.  I have him fourth.

That's a hell of a way to start a handicap, but I unfolded it from the pace scenario I envision, and while not winning, I pencil Game on Dude as the key runner.  He'll provide the groovy brush work on the tom tom for others to jazz off of.  Others, hmmm.

I have Mucho Macho Man on top.  Breaking from the 2 post, a post that wins 23% of the time in races beyond 1 mile, the top winning percentage of all the posts.  A romp last time out, the Breeders Cup Classic at SA and the Goodwood, errr, the Awesome Again, also at SA.  Training well, he's my pick.

I like Will Take Charge and I have him in Place. I enjoy the way D.Wayne campaigns him and sends him out anyplace, anytime.  One of my favorite story lines in 2013 was the renaissance of Trainer Lucas.  In a sport devoid of real charismatic (pun intended) figures, having the swagger of this man back is exciting. Training very well, wouldn't be surprised if he won.  I'll be covering him in the win spot.

I like American Blend, coming late, to sneak into the top thee.  His long odds will add some value to the bet if things unfold like I hope.  His late running style encourages me even though the six year old gelded Quiet American runner has never gone the classic distance.

I think Blingo could rock the boat and break the top four.  If I'm hedging I flip flop and cover Blingo in the American Blend spot.  Blingo, in the Moss colors, is no Tiago, but he's a Grade 2 winner last time out at SA.

As I said, I'd most likely not bet this race because there is risk without alot of reward, unless of course the big three puke on themselves and someone like American Blend freaks.  I don't see it.  I built a 5 horse superfecta matrix that will cost $24 on a $1 bet.  It's a risk I'd be willing to make even though I'm not sure if the reward justifies it.  I think I'll watch the tote and hope Game on Dude gets bet heavy.

Have fun friends:  Bet responsibility, drink mostly responsibly, and enjoy the day.

Turk Out!