Thursday, March 6, 2014
The Nomination Is In: The Santa Anita Handicap Grade 1
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.