Friday, August 19, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Alabama Stakes Grade 1 at SAR

2009 Alabama Stakes Winner Careless Jewel; Photo Budmeister 26.2

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk, a horse racing blog that focuses primarily on handicapping.  I'd like to start by thanking The Thorofan and their Handicapper's Corner for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.

The Alabama Stakes is typically a highlight race for me at Saratoga.  I've had conflicts with this weekend over the past few years and the last time I was able to be there for it, my son and his grandfather joined me in 2009 to see the absolutely gorgeous Careless Jewel win in a romp.
It looked like the sort of performance that could catapult the filly to super stardom, but it just wasn't to be and the second best filly of 2009 behind Rachel Alexandra was retired soon after.

Songbird, today's stupid-crazy heavy chalk favorite has skyrocketed to super heights already, winning nine straight and absolutely dominating all comers. Today's focus will be on figuring out if she can be beaten and by who, as well as just embracing the heavy chalk as a single and seeing who can bring value into the Place and Show spots on an exotic ticket.

Three Turk Generations at the Spa: Travers Stakes Day 2007
Today's race is not named after a person or a famous horse, but instead for the home state of William Cottrill, a former Confederate officer.   The race track was trying to remember the efforts of Mr. Cottrill who is credited with helping to revive horse racing in the North following the American Civil War.  Mr. Cottrill owned a farm near Lexington, Kentucky and bred a Kentucky Derby winner, 1884's Buchanan (Hale 2001).

Horse racing remembers.  A few years back I was deeply disturbed when many of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park meet's races were renamed by the Stronach Group.  I still don't like it and one of the most appealing things about horse racing to me besides the horses themselves is the tradition.  When I look at this picture of my father and son, together at the 2007 Travers Stakes, it means something to me, it's my roots, horse racing roots, the thing that ties one generation of fans to the next.  Imagine the hacks at the NYRA one day just deciding to rename The Alabama Stakes. I get heart palps just thinking about that.  I'm sorry, I digress, and I just want to end this thought with this: Horse Racing Remembers.

I've been babbling a bit too much already, lets get after this race with a bit of video handicapping and then a peek at the fractions these horses are capable of. Let's get after it!

24 July2016 CCA Oaks G1 SAR  1 1/8 Miles; Fast Dirt

16 July 2016 Indiana Oaks G2 IND; 1 1/16 Miles; Fast Dirt

20 May 2016 Black Eyed Susan G2; PIM; 1 1/8 Miles; Fast Dirt

9 April 2016 Ashland G1; KEE; 1 1/8 Miles; Fast Dirt

Just some simply dazzling performances highlight in these few videos.  I could post all of Songbirds and what you see is complete consistency.  The Weep No More back to front finish at KEE in the Ashland was one of the memorable races of 2016 already, but nothing really from her since.

The chart below shows a small sample size of races at 1 1/16 and 1 1/8 of a mile.  Surprisingly Flora Dora ran a similar speed in an OC $62K at BEL in early Julyas compared to Songbird's Summer Oaks G2.

At 1 1/8 miles there was a shocking disparity between Songbird, with the next closest horse Flora Dora finishing 8 lengths behind based on 1/5 of a second per length. Songbird is often slowed in the final 1/16 and that skews the data as this girl has tactical speed and Hall of Fame Jock Mike Smith knows how to use it.

Songbird.  I'm not sure I need to say much else.  She won at SAR, she's 9-0 lifetime with $2.4 MM of earnings already, a 5 Time Grade 1 winner, a Breeders' Cup Champ, she's the complete package.  If it means anything, she has the lowest Tomlinson Number at the distance with a 269.  I expect her to soar.

Family Tree, with hot jock F. Geroux up for trainer Wayne Catalano, comes in off two impressive outings in the mid west, in the Iowa Oaks in June and the Indiana Oaks 2 weeks later in July.   While the class in those races isn't terribly high, she was impressive.

Going for Broke is making a big jump in class for trainer Chad Brown who places Ortiz up.  That combo has struck for 30% wins in 90 tries at SAR this meet.

Go Maggie Go is on a layoff since June 11, something trainer Romans only wins 9% of the time.   A :58 4/5ths 5f bullet with 76 others in the workout tab on 12 August shows she's fit.  Black Eyed Susan winner wasn't visually impressive and ran a better, but out of the money, Kentucky Oaks a few weeks earlier.

Flora Dora I think is too low in my base handicap.  Blinkers On, this First Dude daughter has two very fast bullets at SAR this month in morning work, I'm expected a focused and possibly career best effort to get in the money.  I'll be covering her from Place to 4th.

Weep No More had alot of speed to run at in KEE.  She'll be running at alot of speed here too.  I'm not expecting a repeat performance.  No Place or Show finishes in her career yet.  Feast or famine and she's in the deep water today.

I'm tossing Dark Nile at my own peril.

I'm leaning towards two very different bets:

Primary:  Songbird singled with 5-3-4-7-2 covered from Place to 4th in some combination I haven't fully thought through yet.  I don't think I'll cover that many horses in Place but a 6 OVER 5-3-4-7-2 OVER 5-3-4-7-2 $2 Trifecta will cost $40.

Secondary/Hedge Bet:  Exactas with Songbird in Place and the 5-3-4-7 in WIN spot.  $2 bet for $8.

I'd like to end this post by again saying that I think Arlington Race Track is a wonderfully run, fan friendly place that I highly recommend to my horse racing friends.  They make it easy to buy tickets on their website and the track experience in the club seating is fantastic. I wish Illinois racing would get their act together and attract better talent with better purses, but you cannot beat Million Preview and Million Day at that track.  NYRA could learn a few things about race track experience from the team at Arlington.

2016 Arlington Millions

Have fun with it friends.  Turk Out!

Works Cited

Hale, Ron (2001). "William Cottrill Stakes?" Racing. Retrieved 17 August 2016.

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