|Magic Wand (Ire)|
Who doesn't like a good "whodunit", the classic murder mystery. Handicapping is a lot like that. You have all the usual suspects, you have backstories, competing motivations, strangers in a strange land, and drama. The Pegasus Turf offers all these things. There is no real strong suspect, the race is held without race day medications being given (is it really so hard?), and you have a motley crew of veterans and up and comers. To me, turf racing epitomizes horse racing, a sentiment I know my fellow American's don't really embrace, but as the years go by for me, it's the sort of racing that offers good sized fields and lots and lots of intrigue, the proverbial "whodunit", or maybe more appropriately, who will do it.
I've found recent video on every horse in the field. I think its important to look closely at the Race Charts in concert with videos. It's very easy to brush through the PPs and see a horse hasn't won in three starts, but how many beaten lengths was he, what was the trip like, how impressive was the late turn of foot? The paper tells quite a bit of the story but the video brings it color and sound.
Breeders' Cup Turf G1: 2 November 2019; 1 1/2 Miles Firm SA
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic G1: 5 Oct 2019; 1 1/2 Miles Firm BEL
The Fort Lauderdale G2: 14 Dec 2019; 1 1/8 Miles Firm GP
The Sea Biscuit Handicap G2: 30 Nov 2019; 1 1/16 Miles Good Turf DMR
The Hollywood Derby G1: 30 Nov 2019; 1 1/8 Miles Good Turf DMR
Hong Kong Cup G1; 8 Dec 2019; 1 1/4 Miles Good Turf' Sha Tin (HK)
Breeders' Cup Mile G1; 2 Nov 2019; 1 Mile Firm Turf SA
Arlington Million G1; 10 Aug 2019; 1 1/4 Miles Firm Turf AP
It appears the weather will be dry. You can find the scratches and changes along with track conditions here. I'm handicapping expecting firm turf.
The mare, Magic Wand (Ire) just jumps off the paper in terms of pure class and ability. Look at the Hong Kong Cup video above and just watch her explosion in the last 1/8 of a mile as she comes out of traffic and surges. $4.1 MM in earnings. Only 3 wins in 22 turf starts. Only 1 win in 10 starts at this distance. Trainer Aiden O'Brien ouch: 0 of 24 starters last rolling year in Graded Stakes NA, 0 of 28 Turf Starters. With the bloodstock he has access to, that is staggering. I know its a challenging trip but wow.
I have a group of three after the Mare. Arklow is first back after Breeders' Cup, a 61-180 day layoff that trainer Cox does well with, 24% winners on 87 tries. 5 of 7 in the money in 2019 as a 5 YO but only one 1 win, a game Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at 1 1/2 mile. First GP start. 12 of 24 life time starts ended in Win-Place. Without Parole (GB) is first back off the Breeders' Cup Mile. The distance seems to be the biggest question for him although his breeding implies he should handle it, he is one of only two here with a Tomlinson Number >400. Chad Brown Trainee put up bullet 5f last week. No Wins in 3 starts in 2019. Mo Forza is a wildcard. 4 YO son of Uncle Mo should be faster than he's shown. Peter Miller's trainee has won four straight. 7 of 9 in the money over turf and the only other +400 Tomlinson Distance Rated Number in the field.
My exotic/show horse group is four deep and of that two I suspect are better than the other two. Sacred Life (Fr) is 11 of 13 Win-Place finishes lifetime. Chad Brown trainee. Game and gritty. Loses class battle and he's never seen a field like he will today. Late speed and effort could propel and long tote board odds make me consider him in back half of exacta. 7 YO Zulu Alpha first back from Breeders' Cup Turf. 5 straight 100+ Beyers. 10 of 18 in the money over past two years. 16 of 26 in the money over grass. Won at this distance here in March 2019. What you see is what you get. The same can be said for 7 YO Sadler's Joy. Trainer Albertrani skipped the Breeders' Cup and found a win in the G3 Red Smith at AQA in late November and now first time back. 18 of 26 in the money lifetime. Channel Cat is Todd Pletcher's lone entry. Trainer Pletcher was in a downturn last year around this time winning "only" about 22% of the time. That has slipped to 10% Graded Stakes wins in 129 starts over the rolling year. This 5 YO loses class but has enough intangibles to be considered in tickets.
For better or worse I'm tossing everyone else because you can't cover them all. I could have made a case for Next Shares in the exotic group, and Henley's Joy will get better but the water is deep here.
So what to do with it? While it's not sexy, a $1 six horse boxed exacta of 12-2-3-10-11-1 for $30 should make money provided the top two horses on the tote board don't finish 1-2. Even then, it should still pay about 2/3's the cost of the bet, sop gambling that the order and the value pops favorable may be the uncomplicated play.
Alternatively, I'm inclined to $1 exacta 12-2-3-10 OVER 12-2-3-10-11-1-4-5 for $28.
Final Alternative, I'll be watching Arklow closely. If he's 4-5 to 1 I may single and bet a few horses under him in exacta. Lots of options. Arklow may represent the safest Win bet. Cox is on top of his game and Brown's runners here aren't world beaters.
I'll be thinking about this right up to post when I get a look at the odds. A win bet on Mo Forza at the right price isn't out of the question.
The Turk began his 2020 handicapping challenge, entitled 52 bets in 52 Weeks. Through the first three weeks of 2020 the ROI sits at 40.6% with winnings of $227 on $162 dollars wagered. It's a small sample size, plenty of time for the Ol' Turk to screw the pooch. Last Week I took a shot on a race I knew I should have passed on, the Sunshine Millions Turf. As you can see, my base handicap was dead on but this was the result the betting public overwhelming picked. The straight trifecta I handicapped cold paid $3.65 on a $1 bet. Ugh. I bet an exacta hoping that someone other than Beautiful Lover would finish in Place. Close, but ultimately class prevailed. I turned $10 into $4.60. The stuff of legends.
Have fun with this friends, Turk Out!