|Blofeld: NYRA Photo|
That good looking four year old is Blofeld, the son of my favorite thoroughbred of the past ten years, Quality Road. Why was Quality Road my favorite? Who can say why, he just was! I don't think he's the best horse in the race, but this gambler is looking for value and I like his chances at 4-1 or so.
The Turk comes out of his horse racing slumber each year around this time. The handicap division races leading up to this point were a mixed bag of ho hum and exciting. The Kentucky Derby prep races don't do much for me. I'll get hot and heavy into the racing cards after this weekend's Oaklawn Handicap, as well as the Arkansas Derby, my favorite and one of the most indicative Derby prep races.
My first impression at looking at the Oaklawn Handicap card was eh. It takes something special to get my horse racing fan's blood flowing, and it takes something subtle to get my horse racing handicappers mind intrigued. I'm not sure I see either in this collection of runners, perhaps a lack of real stars outside of California Chrome in the handicap division. When you think of possible stars, Effinex is a minor star by now, I think Blofeld could freak out some fast 1 mile races, but Upstart is very intriguing, with a nice start in 2016 with a win in the Razorback G3 here in mid March. "Absolutely smoked" in the Kentucky Derby is on many a resume of great and exciting Handicap Division stars. Here's hoping we find some stars.
Let's get after it!
I'll be honest, I think I'm a pretty good handicapper but I don't have much of an opinion on this race after studying the card. I don't pay much attention to Morning Line odds but I'm guessing my handicap follows the ML's pretty closely. Effinex would be considered chalk, but not indelible ink. If he goes into the gate at 2-1 or closer to even money would it surprise anyone? As a handicapper if you feel strongly about the chalk then don't let that scare you off, just single him in the win spot and look for value in Place and Show. Alternatively, cover him in a small group in Win and Place and cast a slightly wider net hoping that the longer tote board odds can come up and take it at the line.
My top four could have a blanket over them, maybe a 1.5-2.5 panel blanket, but they are very close. I am tepidly picking Blofeld to win his first race at the distance: Trainer Pletcher brings him in on a 31-60 day layoff, something Pletcher wins 24% of the time and off a win, something Pletcher wins 28% of the time. I think he'll stalk what should be plenty of front end speed and fire off of that.
The most likely winner is Effienx, rebounding after a fast start/slow finish in Santa Anita Handicap.
2 wins at the distance, 33% win rate on fast dirt after 18 starts, 33% win rate lifetime after 21 starts, the 5 YO will carry the heaviest weight at 121 pounds but don't get too emotional about that. Trainer Jerkens had him running two fast works at BEL leading up to this. He's the best in this field, more than capable. I'm covering W-P-and maybe S.
Upstart comes in off a win in the Razorback. 36% win rate on fast dirt on 11 tries, no wins at the distance. The Razorback was a really nice win and he may press into the top two on the toteboard by post time. In my handicap he's slowing as the closers are passing. Place or Show seems very reasonable.
I like Financial Modeling. I'll really like him in G3 and G2 races. He's had some time to rest and train off the Donn. He'll be pressing the pace and I think he'll be fading at the end. 2 of 4 at the distance, 3 wins in 7 fast dirt starts and 5 of 6 in the money in 2015. $220,000 of winnings in 9 starts gives you the feeling he's in the deep end of the pool here. Trainer Cox takes him into his barn from Trainer Brown and Cox is a 20% winner on 101 starts first time out. Cox is a real rising star with a dazzling 27% win rate in Graded Stakes and 30% of routes.
I like Oaklawn journeyman, the 8 YO Domain's Rap, to possibly bring value to a winning ticket. I think he's got a shot at Show or 4th. You know he'll run a low to mid 90's Beyer and he'll run the whole race. You never know when horses start to get eased who will slip in. I don't think much of Carve until he shows some better form. His name and his rep will be bet harder than it should be which should ease the tote board a bit.
If I was playing the race it would most likely just be a simple 10 cent trifecta: 1-8-6 OVER 1-8-6-4 OVER 1-6-4-7 OVER 6-4-7-2-5 for $7.70. I don't really like those bets from a value perspective so If forced to be aggressive I'd go: 8 OVER 1-6-4-7 OVER 1-6-4-7 a $1 bet for $12.
Have fun friends, Turk Out!