Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga

Signing Line

Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, I am the Big Turk and my son, The Korean,  is the Little Turk.  At 16 years old The Little Turk has been to plenty of Grade 1 races and hit plenty of cold exactas.  The kid has the stuff.  Me?  I'm a internet hack handicapper, old school, with a style that is a derivative of the techniques taught by my favorite handicappers, men like Brad Free and Tom Ainsile, Steve Davidowitz and Alan Shuback.  My blog, The Turk and the Little Turk, has been producing handicaps for people who never asked for them since 2008.  No self promotion, no pink sheets, no subscriptions, no high brow prose, just plain talk, handicapping based on form factors I consider key drivers and bet construction that is often too conservative, yet has produced  positive ROI over a long period of time.

Thanks to the good people at The Thorofan who allow me an opportunity to talk horses with you.  I'm a bit of a loner.  I like to go to the track, but when I go, I'm seldom working as a handicapper.  When I go, I'm a fan, there for the horses, the people, the relaxed nature and the rhythm of race day.    I do my best handicapping away from the track, in solitude, at my kitchen table, late in the evening.  Meets like Saratoga appeal to the fan in me.  I love Saratoga and it's really the track that became ground zero in my horse racing romance when I used to live on Jumel Place and walk to the track, summer of 1986.  It's been 30 years since I was a resident of Saratoga, a young man with a Skiddy Kiddy girlfriend, a fast car, plenty of cash, a mean grove dancing at The Metro and time to kill.  The city has a special place in my heart even if the track seems designed to stab me in the heart.  You see, I'm not that good at Saratoga.  My ROI at Saratoga is just so-so, negative over time.  I love the track but for whatever reason I've never played it well.  You've been warned!

So what are we doing today?  The Jim Dandy is a 3 YO handicap prep for The Travers Stakes.  A six horse Grade 2, with five of six entrants being Triple Crown nominated, a Grade 1 winner in Creator, two Grade 2 winners with Mohaymen and Destin and a fairly even group of runners.  My first reaction is that as a betting opportunity I'm not sure what we have here: four of the six runners will have short prices and the other two might be a bit long, and I don't see upset possibilities with the bigger prices, but possibly Place or Show.  Let's not jump ahead yet to the bet construction, lets just break this down first into a base handicap.

Let's start with Mohaymen's Fountain of Youth at GP.

Shutdown after an exotic finish in the Kentucky Derby, Trainer McLaughlin is 22% off the 60-180 day break.  Five Wins in six Fast Dirt starts and five wins in seven career starts. Smoked by Nyquist in the Florida Derby on an off track and the Kentucky Derby.

I'm not going to give Mohaymen too much of a pass for the trip: at the top of the stretch he had no response even though he went wide most of the way.  He was just beaten and Nyquist's acceleration was phenomenal. It would have been great to have Nyquist here but I always respect Haskell runners.

I thought Mohaymen looked pretty game at the top of the stretch where again he was wide most of the race.  Exaggerator just blew past him as he chased down Nyquist.  I'm thinking in this company, Grade 2 company, he looks good.  He's my chalk.

I typically toss Belmont performance. Sometimes I'm right to do that, sometimes I'm wrong. I think Destin deserves consideration as a high class runner.  Watch this gutty fight in the last 1/16th to win the Tampa Bay Derby.

This might be blasphemy, but the Belmont Stakes is typically a yawn for me.  I loved Rags to Riches, and of course American Pharoah's, but this year's edition was pretty, pretty good.

Owner of the top Beyer on fast dirt, Destin is five of seven in the money lifetime and Trainer Pletcher has maybe the best pilot in the race, Castellano, up. Tactical speed may win this race.

I've been a big Arkansas Derby race respect giver and Creator gets that praise this year.

Does wow cover it?  Last at first call, a dazzling move through traffic by previous pilot Santana (Ortiz up today as he was on Belmont win) and a driving win.  He's not going to be within three at the top of the stretch unless the pace really plods, which I'm not expecting, and I'm not sure I like his running style here.  Steve Asmussen knows a thing or two about horse racing, and he likes him here so maybe i'm right, maybe I'm wrong, but handicapping is about being decisive and I have him shaded down a bit.

I may have Governor Malibu too high in my base handicap, and in my bet construction I may flip flop him with Creator on some tickets and Race Me Home on others.  This New York bred may not win the Class competition but I'm a big fan of Clement's barn and I like the tactical speed here too.  Five of six in the money on fast dirt and seven of eight lifetime in the money.  I like tough, game, speedy Malibu Moon's.

I liked this effort in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at BEL in May.  Game, smart, gutty in final 1/16th.

Race Me Home (Ire) represents a horse that will run at a good price and may spice up some pretty blah tickets if he can sneak into the top three or two.  He'll be coming off the pace, like Creator.  They should have plenty of speed to set their sights on.  This Easy Goer Stakes , an ungraded 1 1/16 race at BEL had some pretty good horses in it and Race Me Home doesn't embarrass himself with this effort.

I'm tossing Laoban, owner of a :46 2/5ths bullet (1/86) this week at my own peril.  He's been slow in races and I'd like to see a bit more before I sign up for that. This Uncle Mo is a maiden still, seven races into his career, not sure he was worth the $260,000 fee yet.

I don't know what I'll do with this yet.  I'm thinking my base handicap will look similar to the tote board with maybe the exception of Creator being too low and Race Me Home and Governor Malibu being too high.   I'm most likely going to single Mohaymen and then build a matrix of possibilities for Place and Show.  I'm not planning on spending too much as the risk-reward for my bet construction methods, is seldom there in a six horse, top heavy card.  I'll tweet out my bet from my handle @turkandlilturk after checking the tote board, the scratches and changes and the track condition.

Have fun with it friends, Turk Out!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Nomination is In: The Suburban Handicap, Grade 2 at Belmont

Fit to Fight, 1984 and last NY Handicap Triple Champ
Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, a horse racing blog focused exclusively on handicapping and bet construction.  I'd like to thank The Thorofan through their Handicapper's Corner for allowing me to share my thoughts, derivatives of handicapping methods I've learned over the years from the writings of Tom Ainsile (Richard Carter) and Brad Free primarily.

That handsome fella is Fit to Fight, the fourth and last winner of the New York Handicap Triple, a three race sequence that included the Metropolitan Handicap, the Brooklyn Handicap and the Suburban Handicap.  Obviously it would be hard to win now that the super geniuses moved the Met Mile onto the same card as the Brooklyn Handicap.

Would it be so hard to create a NY Series with a race on Wood Memorial Day, the Suburban and then the Woodward?  Racing in my opinion does little to excite the fans.  I've had a hard time watching  some of the major televised events over past six months because every telecast eventually leads to an American Pharoah exposition.  Even a Triple Crown was squandered by the people that market this sport.  This isn't the type of blog that gets into these sort of issues, but it doesn't mean The Turk isn't wildly frustrated by the lack of progress in making this sport less of a cultural backwater.

Let's get it on!

The weather might be wet.  Make sure you keep your eye on the  Scratches/Changes and Track Condition. I'm Ok saying I think my handicap is good regardless if the dirt is fast or wet, but my bet construction may change a bit.

I always like to get a visual look at the track and the  runners recent efforts.  Here we have Shaman Ghost looking very strong at 1 1/2 miles over Turco Bravo and Samraat (yawn).

Stephen Foster with Eagle just missing for Place and Effinex in a forgettable trip.

Noble Bird in the Met Mile.  I'm posting just to drool over Frosted again.

Sometimes the video/visual handicapping helps, other times it just provides a fun distraction from the task at hand: handicapping a classic distance handicap.  I'm going with Eagle as a very tepid chalk. I could make a case for Shaman Ghost or Effinex but I'm going with Eagle on a driving finish from more than three lengths off the lead. Negatives: First BEL start, no starts at the distance.  Positives include 13 of 15 in the money on fast dirt, a smokin' 436 Tomlin on off tracks and some consistent game efforts of late.  I fully expect him to be in the money but his drive could come up short.

Throw out the Effinex effort at the Stephen Foster.  Defending champion here, has tussled and won against some true Grade 1 horses, with 2 wins in 8 starts at BEL, 5 of 6 in the money at the distance, capable in the slop.  Trainer Jenkens, uncoupled with his Shaman Ghost entry, has Mike Smith up here.  Will he go on the lead or try to give him one big run is a wildcard for me.

Shaman Ghost ran a hell of a Brooklyn.  Cutting back a full 1/4 mile,  this Ontario bred represents a good price and a chance to make a nice win bet return.  5 of 6 in the money on fast dirt, a big wet track Tomlinson, 2 of 2 in the money at the distance, 2 of 2 in the money at BEL, 7 of 10 in the money lifetime and a :59 3/5ths bullet 6 days ago.  Light the fuse!

Noble Bird I don't think is a win candidate. Very inconsistent, with alternating good and bad efforts. His putrid Met Mile came off a career best 110 Beyer Pimlico Special.

I'm not that high on Mubtaahij: He made $2.0 MM in earnings for finishing well back of California Chrome in Dubai World Cup.

First time lasix, a 20% win angle for Trainer McLaughlin.  I'm not a big fan of the the first effort off the heavy travel to Dubai.

Seven year old Turco Bravo (Chi) is the wily old veteran of the group. 51 career starts, 4 straight 90+ Beyers, 7 of 8 in the money at the distance but slow.   Possible he hits the exotics.

I'm tossing Samraat just because you can't cover everyone (unless you're a hack).  Slow and his career Beyer was two years ago as Place to Wicked Strong in the Wood Memorial.  I'm not sure he's run a good race since early 2014.  I'm tossing Tapin Mojo who enters off a $12,500 claimer.  A sign o' the times.

I have no idea what I'm doing from a bet perspective yet but all things equal my bet will match my handicap.

Have fun with it friends, Turk Out!

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Mother Goose Grade 1 at Belmont Park

Rachel's Valentina: photo credit NYRA/Susie Raisher
Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, a horse racing blog started in 2008 before the micro blog, the Twitter 140 character blast that made long winded air bags, errr, bloggers like me less relevant.

 I'm not a fan of the short blast; I like to ramble, I like to share race videos, race charts and past performances with my readers in an attempt to talk about handicapping in a Tom Ainsile/Brad Free style that my methods are based on.

I've studied analytics and algorithms but at the end of the day, class, conditions and pace usually dominates my selections. My readers don't read The Turk for the human angle, fascinating stories or interviews, or the latest racing news.  I cater to a degenerate crowd that would prefer I just posted by winner in the first sentence so they could read it and move on to the next blogger in an attempt to ignore the handicapping and jump right to the bet selection.  What you do with this blog is your business, I do this for the love of racing and the puzzle solving euphoria that comes from assembling winning tickets.

The Turk has really focused his handicapping this year on 4 year old's running routes on dirt.  It's my sweet spot, and quite frankly, those horses are my favorites.  I love the older horses, not yet wanted in the breeding shed, gelded, with lots of past performance to guide me and a sporting quality I really am pulled towards.  I completely ignored the Triple Crown folly this year, and only now in July do I even want to start looking at 3 YOs as I prep for Breeders' Cup weekend, my highlight weekend of racing every year.  Today's Mother Goose will give me a good feel for the serious Eastern US filly group. My quick review of the past performances is wow: A Curlin, two Bernadini's, one by Rachel Alexandra running in Stonestreet Stables silks, and just a pretty classy high end group.  The race fan in me is excited by a Rachel's Valentina, above.  I still get goosbumps thinking about Rachel when she ran by me at the 1/16th pole on the way to winning the Woodward.

One of my things is I don't really read racing news stories, especially puffy piece stuff about the horse, the connections, etc.  I don't like the bias of these articles seeping into my process.  I'm OK if I sound weird, to me these horses are fresh runners, I've never read about them, never watched them run, never bet on them.  As bizarre as it reads, my best ROI is on these sort of races.

The weather should be beautiful  at post time and I would expect the dirt to be fast.  As always, make sure you check the scratches and changes before plopping your money down at the windows.  Let's get it on!

Let's get a feel for who are the players here.

The Acorn Stakes at BEL at 1 Mile.  Off the Tracks a game place after a tough inside trip.

The Kentucky Oaks 1 1/8 Miles at CD.  Rachel's Valentina gets smoked in the stretch by Lewis Bay as well as the winner of this and the Acorn, Cathryn Sophia

Such good racing, explosive stretch drives.  My initial thoughts are:

I'm leaning towards Off the Tracks as my tepid chalk.  A game place in the Acorn after a lousy trip.  Jockey Johnny V jumps off of her and J. Ortiz is up for Trainer Pletcher.  4 of 4 in the money on fast dirt with a career high 96 Beyer, no wins at the distance or BEL.  3 weeks after Acorn she's back, I'm guessing Pletcher knows what he's doing.  We'll find out.

Lewis Bay is back since last running on Kentucky Oaks day and Trainer Brown is 28% off the layoff. 4 of 4 in the money on fast dirt with a 91 career high Beyer, cutting back a 1/16th off last few races, and 2 of 2 in the money at BEL.

Rachel's Valentina wins the sexy award but sexy doesn't win races.  I'm having a hard time getting the image of her fading badly down the stretch of the Oaks out of my mind.  If you want to see a bit more competitive fire, look at her effort in the Ashland, a bizarre finish as well.

The quality is a bit sketchy after these three.  Lightstream is on the outside for Trainer Brian Lynch, 2 of 2 on fast dirt with a race best Career best 103 Beyer and 3 of 3 lifetime.  She's stretching out from a 7F comfort zone and is a G3 winner.  She's in the deeper end of the pool today.

I'm not sure what I'm doing from a bet construction perspective.  If I bet, and I'm not sure right now, I'll guard against over covering and I'll follow my base handicap fairly closely.  I'm thinking 2-5 OVER 2-5-6-7-3 OVER 5-6-7-3.  Something along those lines but even that feels a bit too safe.  I'll think about it after looking at tote board and scratches and make a decision then.

Have fun with the racing and the handicapping.

My last note:  There is a wonderful effort underway to bring help to 43 horses found to have been abandoned by their owner in Kentucky.  Just an amazing effort and if you are interested in helping, please follow this link

Turk Out!