Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Nomination Is In: The Santa Anita Handicap Grade 1

Welcome Friends to this edition of The Turk and the Little Turk, today featuring the Santa Anita Handicap, or more fondly and widely known as "The Big 'Cap."  Today's handicap is written for The Thorofan and the Handicappers Corner, and we thank the fine folks there for allowing us to share our thoughts on today's race.

As a handicapper, you dont get to pick the horses that are running.  Like in cards, you read the hand you are dealt, and when you've analyzed your options, you either fold or keep going. I usually reach the fold point right after building a base handicap, my reordering  of the horses in a fashion similar to how the morning line odds are produced, except instead of odds I use color and I try to build the layers of horses that will come across the finish line, slotting them into a range of possible finishes.  From there I construct a bet.  I try not to have a preconceived notion about the bet until the handicap.  You cant cover everyone.  That's one of the axioms I try to stick with.  I build exotic handicaps, sometimes singling the top horse, and then I cover Place Show and one or two Exotic Slots.  I make a determination on the expense of the bet and what it could possibly return, and then I make an investment decision.

That's the Turk's methodology.  I'd like to tell you some cool cat story of me and my fedora and cigar, looking at copy of the Form, and quickly spitting out winners, but that ain't me, at least anymore.  I spend hours each weekend focused on one 3 or 4 race sequence, sometimes blogging my thoughts on one or all races, sometimes just engrossed in building the Pick 3 or 4.  My kitchen table is my hip spot and coffee instead of bourbon fuels my analytical approach that I spare my readers of.

Bottom line:  What works for me, won't work for you, and there are a lot of different ways to pick the horses.  Its my opinion that methodical players with a system do best in this game.  The system doesn't have to have a bunch of funky acronyms and sound like NASA developed it, but it should be a time honed system.  Anyhow, I'll stop rambling about Process and get on with it.

This is an interesting field.  If you pulled Shared Belief it might not be considered a good Grade 3.  After building the base handicap I came away with one of two bet construction ideas:  Single Shared Belief and try to find value in an exacta or Tri, OR find an alternative to Shared Belief and hit a nice take.  The later is more fun and edgy and I wouldn't want to bore my readers with a 3-5 chalk. Let's get after it!

Shared Belief is a beast, no doubt about that.  The gelded son of Candy Ride has won two straight at SA since the mess that was the Breeders' Cup Classic.  9 of 10 lifetime,  4 of 5 on fast dirt, 1 win at the classic distance on this track, a Trainer/Jock combo that has won 31% of starts at SA in 29 starts. You know what you are getting.  That said, the classic distance should be within his grasp, but not his bred preference.  A 24:73 final 1/4 in the Pacific Classic and a final 25:26 in the BC Classic are OK, the final 1/8 in 11:83 in the San Antonio was pretty nice.

I'm going to skip over the obvious upset candidate in Moreno and focus on Dick Mandella's runner, Catch a Flight (Arg); a lightly raced 5 YO son of Giant Causeway.  7 wins in 12 career starts, jumping up in class from a N1X win in mid February at 1 1/8 at SA.  In contrast his final 1/8th was 12:85 and he won by a game neck.  Mandella and Stevens are 30% together in 33 races at the Great Race Place.  I'm covering him in the Win spot as long as he's at least 10-1 or higher near Post Time.

If I don't cover Catch a Flight in WIN, I'm covering him in PLACE/SHOW with Imperative and Moreno.    Imperative, a $1.3 MM lifetime earner with 3 wins to his resume in 22 starts, 1 of 9 on fast dirt, 0 for 4 at the distance, 0 of 7 at Santa Anita, and 1 win in last 12 starts.  That's pretty sad and yet I have him pretty high in the base handicap in this field.  Trainer Papaprodromou is 17% in the 2nd off a 45 day layoff.  While not a successful winner, he's run over 10 straight G1 or G2 races and he's 6 of 11 in the money.

Moreno, a $1.8 MM earner with 3 wins in 23 career starts, 2 of 18 on fast dirt, 0 of 7 at SA, 0 of 6 at the distance, 3 wins in last 20 starts.  Getting the idea?  Off since the Breeders' Cup Classic.  He is speed and he will be at the front.  Does he carry it all the way?  His record doesn't say he will:  he went 26:18 in final 1/4 in Jockey Club Gold Cup, 13:40 in last 1/8 of Woodward, 25:38 in last 1/4 of Suburban.  Get the idea?

In the next layer back, I have Bronzo (CHI), Hard Aces and Sr. Quisqueyano in the Show/Exotic slot.  The 6 YO Bronzo has 11 career wins in 22 starts, ran a 12:17 final 1/8 in the San Antonio and a 24:65 final 1/4 in the Breeders' Cup Mile.  He;s a good candidate to flip flop in my handicap with Catch a Flight and whichever has the worst odds at Post Time most likely will get covered in Place.

Hard Aces, a 5 YO Hard Spun (how is that even possible?) is 3 of 12 on fast dirt, 5 of 19 lifetime, no runs at the distance and this is first trip to SA.

Sr. Quisqueyano has 8 wins in 29 career starts, no wins at distance, and no starts at SA.  Get the idea? Comes in off 20-1 game win in Sunshine Millions Classic.  Huge class jump for this claimer.

So what do we do with this?

I started by making the best base handicap I could and I'll have faith in it.  With that, I'm tossing Cool Samurai, Diamond Bachelor, Dynamic Sky, Patrioticandproud, You Know I Know and Crimson Giant.  There are some horses that are just as good as the ones I am including, so don't think I have any special sauce:  make your decisions and stick to them.

I'm think I'm going Exacta only and I'm going to want to keep my investment reasonable as I had a hard time feeling optimistic about the field's chances.

$2:  5-12-11 OVER 5-12-10-6-11-13-3=$36

I'll slip in or out of the top spot at post time based on tote board odds and I'll keep my options open.

I think you could reasonably drop the 3 horse that drops the bet to $30.  Depending on who wins the bet should at least cover the investment if Shared Belief and Moreno finish 1-2 and it could pay very nicely if value hits the board.

Have fun friends!  Turk Out.

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