Friday, November 11, 2016
The Nomination Is In: The Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs
My nickname, The Turk, was a common nickname given to the best handicapper in a military man's unit. Those nicknames stuck with the person, and I have read several obituaries over time of former "Turk's" who served our country proudly and just enjoyed the peace and quiet of the track the rest of their days. This has been a tumultuous week in our Country, and this Blog is not being political, just expressing the sincere hope that average American's can embrace the differences of opinion and come together to grow jobs and be respectful of the personal choices we all make.
Today's blog is written for The Thorofan's Handicapper's Corner. Today's target is a very nice 11 horse, 3 YO turf Grade 3, the Commonwealth Turf, at Churchill Downs. I avoid 3 YO Turf racing like the plague until late in the year as it allows some historical perspective to develop on the past performances. You typically get a funny mixture of direct to turf runners, modestly bred animals, triple crown trail rejects coming off the dirt, and future turf stars. Today is no different and the field is both challenging and lacks and heavy duty chalk which should make for an exciting race with money to be made.
Let's get after it!
Check the track conditions always when preparing your handicaps. You can find Churchill Down's conditions here. The weather does not appear to be an issue, with only a 10% chance of rain today and tomorrow. Expect the turf to be firm.
Let's start with the base handicap and then develop some bet strategies off of that. My two readers can tell you that sometimes my base handicap is pretty straightforward and I can bet directly from it, or I'll deviate. With 11 horses, I have them in stratified layers of class and ability, and the bet construction has to take some educated risks and place a few high prices more forward or we might as well bet the tote board order. 33% of chalks win, a metric that has been very consistent for decades. With big fields, you can get carried away with covering multiple horses Win, Place Show and the bets can get very expensive. Avoid that trap and only bet what you are willing to lose. This is not batting average: Don't worry so much about picking winners that you are afraid to take a chance on putting a 15-1 in the Place Spot. Public handicapping like this was very hard for me for a long time because, lets face it, no one likes to look stupid. With that fear I found the handicaps I blogged lagged severely in ROI that the ones I didn't blog. It was a horrifying prospect. I had to get past the idea I was going to get a part of the prize, even a minor part, on every bet, and instead focus my handicap on identifying who should finish, and in what order, if the race was raced on paper, and the bet construction takes that base handicap and makes the best educated guesses possible to maximize the risk-reward relationship. I'm OK with winning 3 out of 10 if those three cover the seven losses and makes me 15% on my money. That is not always what unfolds but it's what I am always aiming for. Have something you aim for, your betting capital should be treated with deep respect.
Ok Turk, stop rambling and get on with it. Ok ok...
I have Canadian bred (A shout out to my neighbors to the North courtesy of the Hip) Sir Dudley Digges in my win spot, light-ish chalk I may add. 5 pf 6 in the money on turf, he should handle the firm turf OK and he should like the distance. He's with a serious group of connections, with The Ramsey's as owners, Trainer Michael Maker and J. Leparoux, up. He's got class, he's got experience, he's been training over Churchill turf since late September. I'm covering him in Win and Place on most of my tickets.
Tizarunner is a big stretch for me, both in the base handicap and the bet. The A--- means he's really a B, but I see a horse who last time out set a 90 Beyer over a firm 1 1/8 miles at KEE winning with a nice late turn of foot. 4 of 5 in the money, a high price at the March 2015 OBS sale of $325,000, classy Tizway son may just be a late bloomer. Trainer Casse is 17% winner over the turf and I think I'm going to like his price at >6-1 for the Place and Show spots.
Bondurant is a War Front making just his sixth start, all over grass. He's never gone past 1 mile and he's taking a big step up in conditions. I may have him too high and will cover Show/Exotic only.
One Mean Man carries the race high weight of 123 pounds and I may have this modestly bred Mizzen Mast son too low. He had an OK, somewhat slow summer over grass, with some success at Arlington and CD. Making Dirt/Turf swap, something Trainer Flint wins 12% of the time. 5 wins in 12 turf starts, 9 of 123 in the money over turf, no wins at the distance and 1 in in two CD starts. Win isn't unreasonable, Place and Show very possible.
Surgical Strike had moderate success this summer after coming off some nice Spring runs at Turfway and Arlington. Similar Beyer as many of the runners here, 80-84 with one 90+. Place/Show/Exotic possible.
Scholar Athlete is a son of a Turk favorite, Einstein (Brz). This video, the Arlington Million from 2009, has no relevance other than to watch Sir Dudley Digges sire, Gio Ponti sweep to victory over, among others, Einstein. Scholar Athlete is another Ontario bred, trained by Graham Motion who takes the blinkers off, an angle he's won 22% on 9 tries. This horse gives way late fairly regulatory. No better than Place or Exotic, but he has talent.
Finally from the group of horses that will make up my bet selection, Black Out (Fr). A third Casse entry. 4 wins in 9 turf starts and a field best 92 Beyer. Ran an exceptional N1X $77K ALW at Belmont over good turf at 1 mile in mid October, his second North America start. Something makes me wonder that I should have flip flopped Tizarunner and Black Out (Fr) as i get the feeling he's live and Casse is looking for an under the radar score. I'll be covering in Win down.
I tossed the 1,9,11 and 4 at my own peril.
So what do we have? We have a pretty level playing field without much separating these runners. Class is my tie breaker: Sir Dudley Digges, Bondurant, Tizarunner, and Scholar Athlete bring the class and I'll hang my hat on them.
a $1 Trifecta Bet costing $46 might look like this:
2-3 OVER 2-3-5-7-8-10 OVER 3-5-6-7-8-10
That may be too pricey and you may not like the risk-reward. I don't blame you and you can try something with a bit more risk but more reward.
A $2 Exacta for $36 may look like this:
2-10-3 OVER 2-10-3-8-7-5-6
and for $18
2-3-10 over 2-3-10-7-8
These are fun races to bet and I would expect the payouts will be handsome. Enjoy!