Friday, February 6, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park

Lea winning the Commonwealth G3- Reed Palmer Photography

Welcome friends to the Turk and the Little Turk.  I'd like to start by thanking the good folks at The Thorofan for allowing this hack internet handicapper to write for the Handicapper's Corner this weekend for the Donn Handicap, a Grade 1, $500,000 purse race that for me, and most handicappers, is the first truly special race of the new race season for colts, fillies, horses and mares  4 years old and up.

In a ten horse field you might be able to make a case for six of the horses here to win the race, some of them at very good odds of 6-1 or greater.  I'm thinking the top spot will be pretty chalky, but that doesn't mean the exotic bets can't have some value.  Let's build a handicap and then figure out a bet structure.

This is always a challenging time of the year as a handicapper as its sometimes hard to gauge which of the runners coming off of breaks or making their second race off a break will be ready.  I lean heavy on the work tab and recent race form to guide me.

Let's watch a couple of recent races at Gulfstream Park, the G3 Hal's Hope and the Sunshine Millions Classic (and lets use that term Classic in this case loosely) to get a feel for some of the key runners, as well as the Clark Handicap, the last good Grade 1 race for the handicap division held the day after Thanksgiving at Churchill Downs.

Hal's Hope G3 GP 1 Mile

Sunshine Millions Classic $250K GP 1 1/8

Clark Handicap G1 CD 1 1/8

Glean from these what you like.  I like to evaluate form, trip, compete level in the stretch, and strength of field.

I like Lea quite a bit and the home bred came off the injured reserve looking very sharp with one burst run to take the Hal's Hope in early January. Trainer Mott's is 34% on the second start off a long break and 30% won last start.  7 wins in 13 starts, 3 for 3 at GP and 3 for 3 on fast dirt.  I think I may single.

I'm leaning towards East Hall for Place which would bring real value to bet.  Trainer Kaplan's runner wasn't exactly driving for Place in Sunshine Millions Classic and barely held off Catholic Cowboy and lost to an inferior horse. The four year old seems to be improving although he is winless in three starts at the distance, 13 of 20 in the money and $772,000 in winnings for the 4 YO gelding. Feast or famine, he could easily finish outside top four.

A more likely horse is one of three Trainer Pletcher entries, Constitution, last year's Florida Derby winner.  Pletcher has been bringing him back easily since his return to running after injury in the Florida Derby took him off the Triple Crown trail.  I'd like to see him do a bit more but I do like the bullet at 5f on January 26th but I still need to see something before I swoon.

Commissioner is a colt who looks the part yet doesn't have great results and hasn't won in 13 months, a 75K Optional Claimer at this distance on this track.  Johnny V is up for Pletcher, a combo that wins 30% of the time at GP.  Not sold yet on him either.

Protonico, Pletcher's third entry, seems like the sleeper to me and may be worth a win bet flyer.  Training regularly since the Clark H., he has flashed lots of potential.

Sloane Avenue is a wildcard colt and the 4 YO Candy Ride (Arg) from Apt (AP Indy) has the bloodlines to be something, even though that something is hard to figure out.  Two low level Kempton wins at one mile in RH direction and he does have a LH win as well.  Would be a shocker for big value.

I'm tossing Elnaawi and Prayers for Relief at my own peril but you can't cover everyone. I'm not accusing anyone of anything, but I would like to see the journeyman Prayers for Relief retired soon. It's been a looooooooonnnnnggggg time since he won and at 36 starts and nearly $2.0 MM of earnings I think he deserves a pension.  I'm not taking Catholic Cowboy or Blue Note very seriously.

So what to do with all this?

I'm leaning towards a simple Trifecta with Lea singled on top and quite a bit of coverage just below:

 $2 Trifecta:  4 OVER 1-2-3 OVER 1-2-3 5-7-9-10 =$36 bet

$2 Super Hi 5:  4 OVER 1-2-3 OVER 1-2-3 OVER 2-3-7-8 OVER 2-3-5-7-8-10= $120 bet

I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet but with the base handicap done, I can use the toteboard as well as observations from the paddock and post parade to finalize my bet.

Have fun with this friends!

Turk Out.

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