Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Preakness Stakes Grade 1

Turk/Little Turk: Preakness 138
Welcome friends to the Preakness Stakes;  I hope someone reading my blog today is a new fan of the sport.  Perhaps you were thrilled by California Chrome's win two weeks ago, perhaps you made a fluke bet and made some money, perhaps you are like me, someone who was around horse racing most of his life but disengaged for awhile only to come back and like it even more.  No matter what your story is, I hope you give the sport a chance, enjoy it for more than gambling, and what the heck, spend a few bucks trying to make a larger pile of bucks in the process.  If you are new to the sport, I may talk a bit too fast for you. I get that:  Try out the wonderful Hello Race Fans! for many horse racing articles geared towards the new and intermediate fans.

This blog is about horse racing, handicapping and occasionally is where the exploits of the Turk and the Little Turk are chronicled.  Pictured is a race track getaway last year, the Preakness Stakes 138.  We had great seats and enjoyed Pimlico, even if the track is in a war zone and the drive in is like driving through a third world country.  Old Hilltop is a special place and we enjoyed our trip, bad weather and all.

If horse racing is going to grow again, it will be with people like The Turk bringing the new generation to the track and getting them hooked on the beauty of the horses and the discipline of responsible betting. I hope someone reading today will consider a race track getaway with some young adults this year.  The track is a safe, family environment, and the wiseguy, horseplayer types stay to themselves.

Anyway, today's Grade 1 Preakness Stakes has a bit of a Grade 2 feel to it with the field assembled.

When I sat down to blog and handicap, I had no doubt that California Chrome is the class of the field.  Now sometimes the best horse doesn't win (get use to that concept), but if the race unfolds like it should, he will win.  Today's handicap then is really about identifying from the muck who will set the pace, who will be running faster in the last 1/16 of a mile and who will be going backwards.  Handicapping is pretty much about that, but the devil is in the details.

I like to start by refreshing my visual memory of the contenders last races.  Watch the races with the race chart to get a really good feel of what took place, who was contending, and who wasn't.  I like to identify horses who didn't win but ran well for consideration in their next races.

Let's get to it.

Illinois Derby Grade 3;  1 1/8 Miles Fast Dirt

Dynamic Impact late surge takes the race by a nose by a horse that was good enough to be here, Midnight Hawk.

Kentucky Derby Grade 1;  1 1/4 Miles Fast Dirt

Tampa Bay Derby Grade 2; 1 1/16 Miles on Fast Dirt

2nd effort back for Ring Weekend.  He destroyed a so-so field.  He raced poorly next race out but has been training well and Garcia is up again for Trainer Motion.

Derby Trial Grade 3; 1 Mile Fast Dirt

Bayern wins, and I don't take that away, but I'm not thrilled by the possibilities of more distance.

Kentucky Oaks Grade 1;  1 1/8 Miles Fast Dirt

Ria Antonia:  Why is she here?

Federico Tesio Stakes;  1 1/16 Miles Fast Dirt Pimlico

Kid Cruz against small, soft field, but it is at Pimlico. Nice close.

Wood Memorial Grade 1; 1 1/8 miles Fast Dirt

Social Inclusion: slowed to crawl in last 1/16.

Arkansas Derby Grade 1: 1 1/8 Miles Fast Dirt

Ride on Curlin:  lots to like.

I'm going to let the base handicap speak for itself and I'm going to bet pretty much as my base handicap is laid out.  I'm going to single  California Chrome in most of my bets, but I may box him in a few in case the upset does happen, I can be sad but richer at the same time.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Pimlico Special Grade 3

Welcome friends to The Thorofan's Handicapper's Corner, I am The Turk, and along with my 14 year old son, The Little Turk, we handicap and blog as many stakes races as we can, offering our handicaps at their fair market value, and our betting advice for what it's worth as well.

The Little Turk has been to many a Grade 1 race in his young life, and the picture to the left was taken by him last year when we arrived on Black Eyed Susan day at Pimlico.  It was a cold and fairly miserable day last year and this year doesn't seem much better.  The weather will be atrocious tomorrow, and while it may stop raining by race time, the track should be listed as wet.

This should be a more prestigious race than it is. A distance increase and more purse money this year doesn't hurt, and the field, if not cream of the crop, is at least fairly well level.  The wet track should be a bit of an equalizer and the wild card.

My initial thoughts of the past performances:

  • 5 horses with 400 plus Wet Tomlinson Numbers
  • Zero wins at the distance (with Exception of Korean Major King)
  • Zero Pimlico wins and only one start (Major King again)
  • 9 horse field, one toss (Major King), 5 legitimate winners (2,3,5,6,8)
  • betting options galore: 10 cent super, super hi five, Preakness/Pimlico Special Double and Pimlico Special/Dixie/Preakness Pick 3
Let's start off looking at some last race video with the key players.

Oaklawn Handicap Grade 2 Fast Dirt 1 1/8 Miles (Carve, Revolutionary, Prayers for Relief, Golden Lad)

Charlestown Classic Grade 2 Fast Dirt 1 1/8 Miles (Moreno)

Without a Will Take Charge or a Game On Dude, there are some good efforts on display in those videos.

I'm not sure what type of betting option I'm going to choose for this race. I haven't watched any Pimlico races this week, so I'll want to watch closely and see how the track is playing wet and note any particular lane biases, if any.

I like Revolutionary to have a better than 2-1 chance to win;  Pletcher's trainee ran hard at Will Take Charge after being cut off in traffic in the stretch last time out.  Training consistently and should handle the track and the distance just fine.  The class of the race.

In my base handicap he's much lower, but I'm leaning towards some value in the Place spot and I'm thinking Bourbon Courage from the outside will come late.  Hasn't won since 2012 but 10 Place and Shows in 17 starts for the 5 YO Lion Heart horse.  It's a reach but I like the value.  You could easily insert Prayers for Relief into this slot too if you are value hunting and are OK with risk for reward.

In my mind there is a blanket over Moreno, Cat Burglar and Carve.  I don't see much to differentiate them from each other.  Cat Burglar is the least accomplished here, coming in off of Optional Claimers 62K and 40K affairs.  Baffert is shipping him in for a reason and he places Napravnik up.  Baffert and Rosie win 53% of the time together over a 15 race sample size.  Moreno is almost always in it and has had some very good efforts over the past year. He'll be top 5 without question and I think top three.  Carve is a 4 YO gelded son of First Samurai, trained by Brian Cox who places Castanon up, with the two of them 41% winners together over 29 races.

I'm leaning towards Golden Lad and Valid dropping like stones after setting the pace and I'm shading against Prayers for Relief too but for no particular reason except you can't cover them all.

I'm not sure I feel that strongly about my handicap to bet serious money.  Something simple like a five horse superfecta box with the 6-9-3-2-5, ten cent variety, will cost you $12.  I  may be more daring tomorrow after I see how the track plays and what the scratches and changes are.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Post Race Analysis: The Kentucky Derby

California Chrome: Andy Lyons/Getty Images (Thanks for Use)

I am first and foremost a fan of horse racing.  I am a Preacher in the Church of Horse Racing with a congregation shrinking faster the Donald Sterling Fan Club.  I give sermons on the good word of racing and I hope to turn one person a year into a real fan.  I'm never disappointed when my love of racing and my race track romances intersect with my handicapping and yesterday's California Chrome Kentucky Derby win was an intersection with an exclamation point.  

My Super High Five bet fizzled.  I had zero conviction in that bet and I ended up betting it straight (the stars would have to align) as I felt like straight had about as much a chance as the $200.00 matrix I had assembled.

I also got lucky with my betting.  I plunked down $10 Exacta Bets for California Chrome on top and the 5 biggest long shots 9-2-17-15 and 8 underneath.  $1,700 win on a $50 wild guess.  That's not handicapping, that's bet strategy and an understanding that long shots like Commanding Curve more often than not finish second.  I had conviction to single California Chrome in my bets. It wasn't a wise guy selection and people expect experienced handicappers to take positions on horses other than chalk.  Luckily, ye Ol' Turk doesn't give a flying f**k what anyone thinks of his picks.

By the way, handicappers better than I have been wondering about Commanding Curve all week. Steve and the Wireplayers crew are pretty savvy fellas.  I didn't see it at all. I posted the Louisiana Derby video below.  He made a nice run to Show and you could make the case he'd take Place or win by 1 1/4 Miles.

Kentucky Derby Grade 1

Louisiana Derby Grade 1

I hope you had fun and made some money yesterday!  Turk Out!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Nomination Is In: The Kentucky Derby Super Hi-5

The Gods must be against me;  I've been unable to print from DRF's Formulator for the past few days and of all days, Google changed the way I import spreadsheets into my blog.  I have taken a deep breath and refocused on the fact that this is a confounding group of horses running today.

Welcome friends to the biggest race day of the year for casual and non fans, while as a horse player, Kentucky Derby Day is in my top five along with Breeders' Cup Saturday, Travers Day, Arlington Millons Day and Clarke Handicap Day.

The weather will not be an issue at all.  Expect the track to be fast and stop trying to make a case for a good wet surface Tomlinson Number.

I've got a base handicap that singles California Chrome.  For most wise guys, picking the chalk is anathema, and I'm good with that:  I like to study the form too and find good prices that can win, but I think that California Chrome has a better than 40% chance of winning and that's good enough for me.  I'm on the hunt for a Super High 5 at the lowest possible investment, and singling the California bred makes the investment less lucrative but also less expensive.  I was not bullish on Medal Count until I took a second and third look.  I've liked Intense Holiday and I am still a bit in shock over Hoppertunity's scratch.

The Wireplayers Derby Dozen Gang had pretty mixed views in the final poll.  Pay attention to this list as it was prepared by horseplayers far better than I.  For people new to the sport, there is no finer website for the beginner than Hello Race Fans!  You'll find everything you need there to get started.

I'll most likely be playing with my matrix all day but below is my current thinking.  The group listed as C+/C is where heart break will most likely come.

Anyways, handicapping is about taking a position.  Betting is about having conviction in your handicap.  Have fun and pick away and ignore the experts and idiot bloggers alike.

Turk Out!