Friday, May 26, 2017

The Nomination Is In: The Arlington Classic G3

Millions Day 2016
The Turk loves Arlington.  My first time at the track was a bit unconventional;  July 31, 1985,  the day the old track burned to the ground.

I was in the US Navy at the time, stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, as an E-3 in Machinist Mate A School.   One normal school night, I was told to grab my gear and get on a truck to go help with a large fire.  I spent about 8 hours doing odds and ends in support of the firefighters and the first responders.

The Turk hadn't quite become The Turk at that point, that didn't happen until the following summer of 1986 that I spent at Saratoga Springs, but I was a race fan and was saddened by what I saw that day.  If it wasn't for the fire it's doubtful we would have the beautiful facility we have now, so if there was a silver lining, it's that.  Now if the State of Illinois can get out of their own way and allow horse racing to grow again.

The Turk thinks the Arlington turf course is the best in the United States and doesn't even mind the fake dirt.  He only wishes they could attract better fields with bigger purses.  I was at the Millions last year, and given the choice between an outrageously priced Travers Stakes Day at Saratoga and The Millions, I'll take Chicago any day.

Turf handicapping is my first love.  It doesn't mean I have my best ROI with it, but I love the tactics of the turf racing and a late turn of foot over a route of grass excites me more than the dirt.  Today's handicap is the Arlington Classic, a Grade 3 run at 1 1/16 miles.  Expect the track to be listed as something better than Yielding, but that's just a guess and take a look as race time approaches.  The weather in Arlington Heights appears to be rather crappy tonight but a bit dryer tomorrow.

Anyways. let's get after this!

Trainer Brian Cox has Cowboy Culture, a 3 YO Quality Road baby out of English Willow.  A 90 Beyer over turf is the race high, set a a 1 Mile distance two races back. Cox is 32% off 31-60 day layoff and 33% in 317 starts over turf, while he and Bridgmohan, up, are 27% together.  Training sharply over CD turf.

Fast and Accurate was eased at the Kentucky Derby three weeks back.  The G3 Spiral Stakes winner looks primed for turf sucess but I don't think I like him to win quite yet until he's done it a bit more.  He's close and I'm covering him in Win Spot.

Giant Payday is 3 of 4 in the money over Turf but 0 of 4 in 2017 and 1 win lifetime in 8 starts.  maybe on the lead and setting early pace but I expect a gradual fade to Place thru Exotic.

Parlor is also 3 of 4 in turf starts and returns to the turf 3 weeks after last effort over grass at CD.  Might really surprise for Eddie Kenneally.

Gorgeous Kitten and Sakonnet offer wild card value for me in Place thru Exotic, with expected finishes no higher than Show. Michael Maker trains Gorgeous Kitten for owner/breeders The Ramsey's and this colt could easily crack the Top 3.  Sakonnet is not as high end as Gorgeous Kitten but the maiden will be game.

I'm looking for a bit of low priced fun:  $0.10 Super of 6-8 OVER 6-7-8-9 OVER 3-4-7-8-9 OVER 3-4-7-8-9 for $6 bucks.

Have fun with it friends, Turk Out!

The Nomination Is In: The Santa Anita Gold Cup

Midnight Storm: Photo by Benoit

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog. I'd like to thank The Thorofan and the Handicappers Corner for allowing me an opportunity to share my thoughts with you.  To those of you unaware, Thorofan is a national organization created specifically to serve the horse racing fan.  If you are looking for other like minded racing fans, look no further than The Thorofan.

The Turk cashed zippo tickets on the past two Triple Crown races.  I could tell you how close I was to winning and winning big, but that's loser talk.  My handicapping of some of the longer shots was a bit off but my bet construction was dead on.  I built bets with favorites and long shots interspersed in the Superfecta.  You won't hit all your bets, but that doesn't mean your process was wrong.  Have a plan and follow a plan.  Consistency in betting is the key to breaking even and scratching out positive ROI.  Everything is against you as a horseplayer:  Be honest with yourself, study your ROI, understand the impact of takeout, and treat your betting capital like the precious commodity it is.

The Turk likes the handicap division* because he loves to see the large amount of data in the Past Performances.  The asterisk is that the handicap division is a watered down shell of what it was a decade ago.  The best are off to the breeder's shed and there are just fewer horses overall.  The purpose of this blog isn't to give cutting edge commentary on the state of the sport, its to handicap and build bets on who is racing, so while I may miss the days of past, it doesn't change what I do overall.

Let's get after this!

The Turk has been a big Santa Anita player, especially since the return to dirt, but even I have been a bit soured by field sizes and consistency over this Winters Meet.  I was happy to see the news that Mr. Stronach was sending his fixer, Tim Ritvo to Santa Anita to fix this horse racing gem.

Today's race, the Santa Anita Gold Cup, is a Grade 1 with 9 runners over the dirt at the classic distance of 1 1/4 Miles.  There are 12 starts in this field at that distance and one win.   Let's take a look at a few of the competitors.

The Californian Grade 2 (April 22) ;  A five horse field at  1 1/8 Miles

The Tokyo City Grade 3 (2 April);  a six horse field at 1 1/2 Miles

Not a prep but San Pasquale Grade 2 at 1 1/16 (January 1 2017)

Santa Anita Handicap G1 (March 11) 1 1/4 Miles

Alysheba Stakes Grade 2 at CD 5 May 2017  at 1 1/16 Miles

Oaklawn Handicap Grade 2 at Oaklawn (15 April 2017)

not a prep but Cupid's last good start West Virginia Derby Grade 2 (6 August 2016)

Takeaways:  Small fields and a lot of off tracks this Winter!  The only horse making a start off a win is Hard Aces, who won the marathon distance Tokyo City over Big John B by a neck.  Hard Aces and Big John B collectively have 82 starts.  Journeymen, not stars, fill the cards in the handicap division. I digress.

By all measures, Midnight Storm at six years old is the class of the group.  He'll be on the lead with Cupid and perhaps American Freedom.  I think those two will both crack and fade.  It may set up one of the many one run horses who will be coming hard at the pace.

Accelerate has been training well at Santa Anita although he doesn't win much lately.   No wins in 3 2017 starts, no wins in six starts at Santa Anita.  I like him in the top three, perhaps Place.

A Quality Road 5 year old, Follow Me Crev, is in the same group as Accelerate.  He'll make one run and it just depends on early pace and if Midnight Storm can finish or not. He's also training well at Santa Anita but his barn hasn't won a graded stakes in sometime.  Place or Show.

Cupid is the class of the race, a $900,000  2014 Keeneland purchase, who had a nice run in 2016 with minor Derby's before cracking in the PA Derby in September, and he's been on the shelf since.  A bit slow but he has won at Santa Anita and his trainer Baffert placed him here, with a track record over the past year of 28% winners on 180+ layoffs.  I'm not sold on the Top Four for without more work to show me.  Cover/not Cover: It's the biggest decision you will make at the windows.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this yet.  If forced for early thoughts I'll single Midnight Storm and have a group of horses including Follow Me Crev, Accelerate and Cupid in Place and Show with American Freedom and Big John B in the Exotic spot.  I'm not sure about the value of the bet until I see the tote board and ultimately may just pass on betting depending on scratches.

Have fun with it friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Nomination Is In: The 142nd Preakness Stakes

Welcome friends to the Turk and the Little Turk Blog. While most of my hardcore, degenerate readers know my story, I'll quickly tell you about me and this blog for the 3 times per year readers on the Triple Crown Days.  I'm a 50 something numbers geek, with limited social skills, no friends and I live with three cats, a big dog, a Korean (AKA Little Turk) and my wife of 25 years. I fixate on two very distinct things:  Who can win (the Base Handicap) and Value Betting.  I like exotics and Multi Race Pick 3-4-5's.  That's all you really need to know!

This edition of The Preakness is the sort of race that makes me work both sides of the coin very hard.  I have a base handicap that tells me Always Dreaming and Classic Empire are clearly better than the other horses by most measures: Class, top speed, off track speed, fast dirt track win percentage.  That said, ehh, I'm not that excited to bet a 4-5 Boxed Exacta.  It just doesn't do it for me and my desire to find value.  Let's take a look instead at the base handicap and see if we can construct a bet strategy that is reasonably priced and offers real value if the ticket scores.  Let's get after it!

I've tossed from consideration three horses.  It's important to understand that I'm not saying these horses will finish last.  I'm saying you can't cover every runner, or I should say you can, but the tickets would be very pricey.  For example, a 7 horse tri-box will cost $420 for a 42 bet.  That's just  a very bad bet.  Alternatively, a $2 Tri with a single horse on top and 3 horses covered in Place and Show  will set you back $12.  I'm not your mother, but betting irresponsibly isn't going to increase your chances of winning.  There is nothing cool about the magic trick of turning a $350 bet into $190 of winnings.  

I'm generally of the opinion that Always Dreaming will win this race.   I think the fun thing is who finishes 2-5.  I've been handicapping the better part of 30 years and I'll tell you honestly and with no shame: I dunno!  This is a pretty even field of even quality and quite a few one run horses that if they get loose could either nip the wire or just be going forward while others are dropping. Looking at Lee, Gunnevera, Hence, Senior Investment, Cloud Computing and Multiplier will most likely make one big run at the top of the stretch.  Conquest Mo Money, Always Dreaming and Classic Empire should be on the pace.

So, I tossed three horses like I started to say before I rambled off into a tangent.  Multiplier is the one I'm concerned about, but again, you can't cover everyone.  I intend to build a series of exotic bets, mostly centered (but not all) around Always Dreaming singled with the rest of this six horses in some combination of finish.  Sorry to disappoint, but I have no "wiseguy" insights to offer with this group.  My strong suggestion is to watch the track today and see how the speed is carrying.  More likely than not Always Dreaming will have no problem carrying speed if his trip is fairly clean.  I sorta like an Always Dreaming OVER 6 OVER 6 for $60 but that isn't very value so I have to get to a 1 X 3 X 3 and it's just going to be some combination, and if forced to choose:  Always Dreaming 4 OVER 3-9-6 OVER 3-9-6 (Hence, Looking at Lee, Gunnevera).  

I'm most likely not settling on my bets until the post parade.  Whatever you do, have fun and don't bet the mortgage or the kid's school tuition.

Turk Out!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Nomination Is In: The Kentucky Derby G1 plus Video Review of Prep Races

Classic Empire: Photo by Rick Samuels with appreciation for its use

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog.

Kentucky Derby is such a big, fun, and inclusive day on the race calendar.  Friends and family that never talk horse racing suddenly stop their lives each first Saturday in May for a chance at picking the winner in the fastest two minutes in sports.  Little do they realize how many other great racing days their are in the calendar year, but I don't blame them: The sport is not really run by anyone.  In my own home stake, political appointed hacks make most of the decisions.  The sport is at the mercy of track owners who only care about their small slice of life, the mostly 1% 'ers who own the horses for their own reasons, and that leaves the fans a sport that is poorly promoted, contracted and not grown, and feel good moments squandered. If your looking for answers, you are reading the wrong blog!  This horse racing fan has no magic dust or great ideas other than to repeat over and over again that a single central body should be in charge and make decisions for the best of the sport.

For my readers, you know how little I pay attention to three year old prep races.  To me, it creates an opportunity that comes with some downside.  The opportunity is I am free of the hype.  I didn't even watch the Breeders' Cup Juvenile race that closely, as I dislike 2 YO racing more than I like 3 YO racing.  The names mean almost nothing to me.  When I sat down with the DRF Formulator Past Performances (which I set up to grey out horses not within 1 length of the lead at first call and times given in fractions at the different calls) I had a true beginners min in Zen terms.

Twenty horses: sensory overload.  I miss the days when these Triple Crown babies had 10+ starts by this time.  The more ink the better.  The downside of my stance is you can miss stuff when you pay no attention to media reports.  Little things, important things, like Girvin's quarter crack issues.  So, one qualifier on my position is I will try to read clocker reports (I won't pay for the service even though the best ones are at a premium and deserve to be paid), I'll pay attention to some serious horse player twitter feeds, and I'll avoid Bloodhorse, DRF and ESPN fluff pieces about the connections, a sick kid, etc. etc. etc.  I love sick kids, would give anything to help them, but I'm a sucker for sentimental things like that and sentimentality and handicapping should never mix.

Anyway's, I don't plan on rambling too much today.  I'll get 1000X my normal hits today and all anyone wants to see is if this idiot has the same picks as they do.  Let's start with watching all the major prep races just to get a feel.  The track is expected to be sloppy and the weather not very good. My base handicap downplays the track conditions a bit but its a wildcard.

Arkansas Derby

Florida Derby

UAE Derby

Spiral Stakes

Wood Memorial

Louisiana Derby

Sunland Derby

Bluegrass Stakes

Another thing this handicapper does his best to avoid until he makes his own decisions are Morning Lines.  It's just another handicappers bias.  When you handicap as much as I do, you start to gain an appreciation for the people you think are really good, and the people you wonder what game are they watching.  Out of respect, I don't talk about the good or the bad ones.  The overriding point is make your own morning line based on your own handicapping.  Use the toteboard as a way to see what the betting public thinks.  On a day like today, a lot of dumb money plays the track.  Be smart, place your bets near post time, watch the moves on the tote after the post parade, and be smart:  Why chase favorites on a Win bet, or worse, a Show bet (that was for you Mother Turk).

I cam away picking a group of horses that I will be playing in the Super High Five, my favorite handicapper challenge.  I have 10 horses who have a shot at the Top 5 spots.  If you boxed 10 horses for the Super Hi-Five it would cost for a $2 bet more money than most luxury SUVs.  You have to build a matrix and hope for the best.  Someone outside of this top 10 will screw up the works, but again, that's why its called gambling.

In layers I like Classic Empire, Hence and Irap   followed by Always Dreaming and McCraken, followed by Sonneteer, Irish War Cry, Gormley, Thundersnow and Girvin.

In my expected to screw me up group are the C+ horses led by Gunnevera, Practical Joke and Patch.

I won't bore you too much with the why's and why not's, just a few thoughts:

  • Pioneerof the Nile's son, Classic Empire, was a beast in my favorite prep, the Arkansas Derby.  Trainer Mark Casse has been building towards the pinnacle of racing for sometime. Not sure I like Leparoux up but I'll defer to smarter minds. 
  • I love how the O'Neill/Reddam team were flat at Sunland Derby and came right back in the Blue Grass, so much more relevant again on dirt.  Irap, a Tiznow son, could surprise.  
  • Calumet Farms is finally relevant again.  I wish they still had the devil red silks, but you can't have everything.  I loved Hence at the Sunland Derby and I like him here.
  • Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming is a serious contender.  Don't take my positioning the wrong way.  He could easily win, but I'm contrarian by nature. 
  • Sonneteer is a long shot I like to be moving forward at the 1/8 pole instead of backwards.  He may bring some real value in 5th or 4th spot.  
  • Gunnevera will eat a lot of dirt in his face today with his running style.  My making a gamble that he doesn't have the will to finish strong by the end but the downside risk he makes the top 5.  
There's 20 horses; You can't pick everyone in your exotics, you can't cover and box the field, well you can, it just wouldn't be reasonably financially.  Have fun picking horses.  Just like we say at our Catholic Church, we hope you enjoy it enough to come more than Christmas and Easter, and I hope to see you reading the Turk more often than Derby Day.  

So what is the Turk going to do?  

Have fun
Bet responsibly

I'm going to bet the Pick 3 (Race 10-11-12).  If your new to the sport, these multi-race bets are a fun way to enjoy the track experience and quite frankly you can be pretty successful even as a novice if you cover the favorites and throw a value horse in as well.  Don't waste too much money chasing the big exotics like a Super Hi-5.  The Trifecta and Exacta bets will pay well, especially if a value horse sneaks in .  

If I was betting, here is two versions of a Super High 5 and  Exacta bet.  I'm partial to the $48 exacta and the $134 Super High Five (a power ball ticket with a much smaller pot). 

Turk Out!