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!