Friday, November 26, 2021

The Nomination Is In: The Hollywood Derby G1

Public Sector:  NYRA/Chelsea Durant
Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk Blog.  For those of you who do not know me, I've been writing horse racing handicaps, primarily Turf Racing, since 2008.  I'd like to thank the good people at The Thorofan for allowing me to share my thoughts with you today.

What a challenge:  A14 horse field, few if any dominant contenders. I generally like to handicap four year old and Up Turf runners for the reason that three year old turf seasons can be so erratic.  Seldom are the horses brought onto the turf first, they generally fail on dirt first before the surface is introduced to them.  This race does have some turf bred runners, some potential, and not a lot else.  It creates a real handicapping challenge and the reality is that I have a 4 in 5 chance of my favorite not winning and a 1 in 5 chance of my chalk, Public Sector, winning.  

Part of my dilemma is Public Sector will be the public betting pool chalk as well, almost undoubtedly at the top of the tote board when they break from the gate.   While I always handicap the race without a bias, the bet construction is almost always pure bias.  The fundamental question: Do I ignore my opinion that Public Sector is the most accomplished and favorite here when I develop the bet construction or not?  Leaving him in the win spot, perhaps even singling him, can be a good bet as there will be confusion in the field and value can fill out the exacta spot.  I should have mentioned that also, I'm almost exclusively an exacta player.  Can I find value singling Public Sector and building a case for value in the Place spot?  Possibly, with such a big field I think it's unlikely Public Sector will be bet down below his morning line odds of 5-2, perhaps 2-1 is the ceiling.  If I want to win at my opportunity cost return on investment of 40% I need to not overcover and be decisive.  Let's take a look at the base handicap and some video and then think about the bet construction a bit more.  

Let's get after it!

The Twilight Derby
G2 10/31/21; 1 1/8 Miles Firm Turf SA  

 The Hill Prince Stakes G2 10/23/21; 1 1/8 Miles Firm Turf BEL  

The Del Mar Derby G2 9/4/2021; 1 1/8 Miles Firm Turf DMR

The Hall of Fame G2
8/6/21; 1 Mile Firm Turf SAR  

What to make of all this?  When you are at the track, or even at home streaming the video, you don't have the time it takes to deep dive 14-15 horses between races.  The effort I put into handicapping for a blog entry is more than double the time I would spend studying if I was just playing the card.  The time difference can be described as not following the 80-20 rule.  You have to be able to do 80 of the work in 20 percent of the time.  I do 100% of the work for a Blog because I never know when I'm looking at a really interesting scenario and, people are reading this, they deserve maximum effort.  

With the 80-20 rule I take no more than 10 mins flowing through the field and breaking into four piles: the Toss Pile, and then Win- Win Place- Show-Exotic.  I represent those four colors in my base handicap with BLUE- YELLOW-PURPLE and RED.  I waste no time agonizing over the Toss pile.  there is no time for that.  Can those horses beat you?  Absolutely, but no time for that now.  

As I'm focused on Exacta, I have three general archetypes:  A singled runner and a few horses in Place; a boxed grouping of potential Win-Place candidates; a small group of potential Winners over a group of potential Place.  I've been doing this for a very long time, and I see patterns in these fields and races that fit into the archetypes and I see no reason to reinvent my wheel.  As I said  earlier, I plan on following the rarest of my archetypes, a singled Win candidate.  I say its rare because I want chaos, I want the favorite to lose and typically I bet the favorite to fall right out of the top 2 to create the highest value exacta possible.  With a field this size, with the traffic that will be in place, so much luck goes into the ride that a horse needs everything to fall into place perfectly.  Not to go off tangent, but that was the brilliance of Zenyatta, who was so talented could overcome a bad break or bad trip.  Few horses ever come close to matching Zenyatta in talent.  Very very few.  

Public Sector/6 will be singled.  Chad Brown is so dominant: 23% turf winners with 986 starts, 19% graded stakes in 340 starts, 27% 2nd off 45 -180 day layoff in 195 starts.  Three straight graded stakes turf wins.  A Race high 458 Tomlinson number, 8 of 9 lifetime on Turf in the money.  

So who makes the cut for consideration into the Place Spot?  I have eight potentials: 

  • Subconscious/12
  • Shifting Sands/8
  • Flashiest/7
  • Hudson Ridge/5
  • Zoffarelli (Ire)/10
  • Beyond Brilliant/2
  • Cathkin Peak (Ire)/3
  • Santin/14

I'm not going to do it but to illustrate, a 6 OVER 12-8-7-5-10-2-3-14 $2 exacta bet would cost $16.  I'm not saying you can't win with a bet like that, but you won't win enough to cover the times you'll lose a bet like that.  Let's get to work chopping that bet down to size. Remember, to find value, something about each of these horses you won't like.  It's easy to find reasons not to back a horse, focus on why you should back them.  

Subconscious/12 could easily be in my win column.  Trainer Mandella has a very sharp gelding on his hands with three straight wins, a nice Grade 2 win in the Twilight Derby, and a Del Mar win in August. Will be bet hard and my best case scenario is Tapit's son finishes no better than Show.  

Shifting Sands (GB)/8 is a Chad Brown runner that you have to wonder why he shipped here except to compete.  An equally gaudy 424 Tomlinson number to Public Sector's. Very classy.  A good summer at Saratoga.  First Del Mar outing.  

Flashiest/7 ran well taking place in the Del Mar Derby in September.  Very late and good speed.  The gelding has to navigate traffic and put himself in position for a late break.  The Del Mar outing may cause more public support than we'd like.

Hudson Ridge/5 incredible class, hasn't put it together.  Baffert puts Mike Smith up.  Blinkers off.  Very sharp morning works.  Lots of potential.  

Zoffarelli (Ire)/10 five Places in 9 turf starts.  Talented enough, also has yet to put it all together so far.  

Beyond Brilliant/2 will bring lots of early speed.  4 of 4 in the money over turf with one win here at Del Mar in September.  Stepping up in class from comfort zone of OC N1X, was ok for Show in G2 Twilight Derby.  

Cathkin Peak (Ire)/3 has good late speed, last two races gone off at big prices and was Place and Fourth respectively.  Winless in 4 starts in 2021, 4 Win-Places in 7 turf starts.  Morning Line 6-1, I obviously thought less of the gelded runner.  

Finally, Santin/14 is Morning Line 10-1.  Lightly raced, just 3rd start, with two wins already.  The Godolphin Team shipped for a reason, they are really entering deep end of pool.  Late speed.  

Many of my betting decisions with a group of potential Place finishers this large would be driven by the Tote Board odds.  In the absence of that, I think my initial thoughts are to:

Single Public Sector/6 OVER Shifting Sands (GB)/8, Flashiest/7, Hudson Ridge/5, Zoffarelli (Ire)/10    a $2 Bet for $8.  

Have fun with it friends.  Turk Out!  

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 1 Turf Mile at Keeneland


Pixelate: photo by Coady Photography
Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog, now in our thirteenth year of providing horse race handicapping to people who never asked for it.  A special thank you today to The Thorofan for allowing me to prepare this analysis of the Keeneland Turf Mile G1 for you.  

When asked I give very specific answers to questions.  I often get asked, usually by recent additions to my social media feeds, if I am a horse racing fan.  It sometimes is asked out of politeness, sometimes its because the person had a relative (crazy uncle, introverted father) who loved racing and read the Form, sometimes its because the person's family loves to watch the Kentucky Derby.  I don't mind the question even as its usually wrapped in undertones of bemusement, bewilderment, incredulence, etc. I always answer the same way: I am a fan of older horses running over a route of grass.  If they thought I was weird before, the answer does nothing to make them feel better about me as person.  No mind, I love turf racing, I generally like the older horses, and anything 1 mile and up is my idea of racing.  This race checks the boxes for me: Big field, most likely firm turf, no runaway favorite, lots of handle.  Let's get after it!

I generally do a lot of video analysis for a race like this, but quite frankly I didn't feel I needed it after my first pass through the past performances.  I did look at one race, The Bernard Baruch G2 at Saratoga as I wanted to get a look at the 5 YO gelding Tell Your Daddy and how he ran in a small four horse field.  I am shading the Thomas Morley conditioned/Leparoux up runner down as he seems to like SAR and not many other surfaces.  

I looked strongly at Pixalate and Order of Australia (Ire) and came away placing them in that order.  Pixelate comes in off a win at Kentucky Downs in the Grade 3 Mint Million, and I like winners after KD quite a bit.  Training well, 16 of 20 in the money lifetime, 15 of 19 in the money over grass, 7 of 7 in the money at the distance.  Trainer Stidham 22% Graded Stakes, 19% Turf.  Order of Australia (Ire) wins the class battle pretty handily, and at 4 YO is a $1.5 MM earner.  Won at 1 Mile here at KEE at 72-1 odds in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile. Early speed, talented, in the mix.  

After my top group Somelikeithotbrown and Space Traveler (GB) stood out to me.  Somelikeithotbrown has no wins at the distance and he doesn't really have many excuses looking at the running lines.  Did not run well here at KEE in April, over good turf he tired.  Training sharp.  Space Traveler (GB) has a nicelate turn of foot  and he's had two back to back good efforts in Grade 1 competition over excellent turf courses at WO and AP.   

In the last group of four I'm considering, I like Ivar (Brz) and In Love (Brz) and respectful but not sure what I'll do in my bet combinations with Field Pass and Diamond Oops.  Ivar (Brz) has been on the bench since May 1st.  Trainer Lobo is 9% on 32 tries at 61-180 day layoffs.  Training very sharply at TTC.  Ran well at KEE in Breeders' Cup Mile.  Could surprise with late speed into Exacta.    In Love (Brz), a 5 YO gelding, loses a class battle, is a sub $300,000 winner on 12 starts but current form appears sharp winning at KD in September and did win a N1X $62K ALW a year ago at KEE.  You want value?  Sometimes you have to hunt for it.  Field Pass has good credential and ok speed.  Versatile but not dynamic. Just good enough to hang around, not sure he's good enough to consider in Exacta.  Trainer Patrick Biancone has a sneaky interesting Diamond Oops, training sharp, excellent current condition, and an odd placement in the conditions book.  Sometimes trainer choices can tell you a lot.  I'm not thrilled with his tactical speed on paper, but sneaky late speed appeared last time out at KD. Intrigued.

What to do with all of this?  Have fun.  With this many horses, I can't see a horse getting up past 3-1 on the tote board.  I'm most likely going to go hunting for exacta's, my typical play.  I'm not sure what I'll do yet either quite honestly.  If forced to choose I'd look at something like this:  $2 Exacta Bet: 7 OVER 3-4-6-10-11-13 for $12.  I skipped Field Pass.  I don't generally single the winner and adding Order of Australia (Ire) to the win spot and covering Order of Australia (Ire) and Pixalate in the Show spot takes the bet to $24, too pricey.  You get the idea, less cost, more risk.  Remember its better in long run to take some risk than place safe bets race after race.  

Have fun with this friends.  Turk Out! 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

The Nomination Is In: The Dueling Grounds Derby $750K

     Welcome Friends to The Turk and Little Turk Blog, with a narrow focus on handicapping, primarily older turf runners, since 2008.  In those years we have written over 680 blog posts and given bet suggestions on almost all of them.  Our most recent handicap of the Pacific Classic gave a $2 Exacta Bet for $20 that returned $93.20.  Past results are not an  indication of future, but over a long period of time this blog has offered bet constructions and documented the success.  While its terribly difficult to eek out positive ROI race after race, I have proven that focusing on a small group of races and really analyzing in depth can allow me to make good race track investments. My objectives: Relaxation, small profits and sharing my insights with my small but passionate reader base. 

Kentucky Downs is one of my favorite tracks, and with the unsettled future of Arlington Race Track, is easily my favorite turf course in the United States.  Tomorrow marks the first of six days of live racing of this boutique meet and I hope to play at least one race every day.  Let's get after the Dueling Ground Derby $750K.  

Saratoga Derby  Invitational G1: 7 Aug 21; 1 3/16 Firm Turf:  Yes This Time, Palazzi, Cellist, De Jour

Dueling Grounds Derby 2018-  Posted just for reference.  10 Starters

This is a race of potential, as three year old turf horses are generally an evolution.  For that reason I typically avoid three year old turf races because of the uncertainty, but I say that and uncertainty, big fields and plenty of handle can produce the type of fun that makes me look forward to the Kentucky Downs boutique meet every year.  

The handicap above is what I call my Base Handicap.  You can see in the ML Column the Morning Line represented in decimal form.  26% above 100% is not a mistake, that is what drives the administrative costs associated with racing.  At some tracks this number has drifted above 130%.  This represents a real challenge for the horseplayer to overcome and another reason why betting tote board favorites is a bad idea.  

I actually don't have a lot of respect for the Morning Line.  I respect and know some of the people whose name is associated with these tracks for DRF, and they are just overworked.  They don't have the two hours per race I'll often dedicate to analysis.  That said, I like to show them just to get a feel for how Joe Public Bettor is going to start off looking at this race.  One that pops out to me is how undervalued Red Hornet is by the ML compared to my analysis.  The Fair Line takes the odds back to 100% and places win odds on the field.  My fair line will have many more 50-1, 2% or longer odds on the field than a morning line will because I don't have the 26% to deal with.  As you can see, I've assigned an 84% chance one of the top five horses in my base handicap will win the race.  While I don't typically place Win Bets, Modern Science (Ire) and Last Samurai have a 10% chance of winning, and with unpredictability in the trips these horses might face, would be worth a $2 win bet at odds provided the public doesn't over bet them.  This is a form of Tote Board Handicapping I encourage in these large fields without dominant top contenders, just pick some prices off the board that your Fair Odds Line tell you have value.  

What am I going to do with this?

My indecisive $1 Exacta is 3-5-8-9-12 OVER 3-4-5-8-9-11-12 for $30 could still produce a 20% return, the low end of my investment strategy threshold.  I need to be a bit more adventurous and not be so worried about losing and instead give myself an opportunity for a solid +50% ROI. 

With one removal the bet drops to $20.  I'm going to pull De Jour down.  Why the ML and Turk Line chalk?  He is starting in post 12 and his late speed hasn't been great.  I'm going to assume he gets gobbled up.  I like the value my $20 Bet represents even if its likely to lose.

I don't know what the track conditions will be like as it most likely will start raining as the day goes on.  I wouldn't change anything with my choice either way.  

Have fun friends, Turk Out!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Nomination Is In: The Pacific Classic G1 at Del Mar

Express Train:  Photo by Benoit

Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog, now in our 14 year of providing handicapping and analysis.  I'd like to thank the good people of The Thorofan for giving me an opportunity to handicap the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. 

On a personal level, Del Mar was the last track I visited before the pandemic.  I was there for the Pacific Classic in 2019.  My handicapping, and my love of horse racing, was hit hard last year by the pandemic and the impact it had on the schedule, the field sizes, and life in general.  Don't take my lack of blogging to mean I'm not interested in horse racing anymore, I just was struggling to write about races I wasn't that interested in.  I've rekindled my passion for racing this summer and I've been handicapping quite a bit as I start to prepare for my favorite meet, Kentucky Downs, and getting ready for Breeders' Cup.  I'm not sure if I'll ever get back to writing 50-75 blog posts per year, but no matter how many it is, without a love for racing there can't be any.  

Anyways, lets get after this!


There is quantity, but not real quality in this year's edition of the Pacific Classic.  Let's take a look at some recent Video just to get a feel for the runners.  My main goal of looking at video is to provide context to the past performance running lines.  I look for trips, I gage if rank, game, dueled, outbid, dug in.  Those are the buzzwords you'll see in the race charts and I like to confirm with my own eyes or identify possible bias in the analysis.  You have to remember how many races the "experts" have to review and write notes on, and professional handicappers and racing journalists, how many races they have write about, people get lazy, or better yet, sloppy.  If you are going to find overlays, and just as importantly, underlays, you have to look at the information, and video trip handicapping is the compendium to race charts.  Can we find value?

  The San Diego Handicap G2; 17 July 2021; 1 1/16 Miles Fast Dirt Del Mar
Key Prep: Exiting are Express Train (W), Royal Ship (S), Tripoli (P), Magic on Tap (5), Sherriff Brown (7) 


The Cougar II G3; 18 July 2021; 1 1/2 Miles Fast Dirt Del Mar
Exiting: Tizmagician (1), Cupid's Claws (2) 


  The Monmouth Cup G3; 17 July 2021; 1 1/8 miles Fast Dirt Monmouth
Exiting: Dr. Post (1)


The Santa Anita Handicap
G1; 6 March 2021; 1 1/4 Miles Fast Dirt Santa Anita
Contested: Express Train (2), Tizmagician (5), Independence Hall (4), 


The Gold Cup G1; 31 May 2021; 1 1/4 Miles Fast Dirt Santa Anita
Contesting: Express Train (3), Royal Ship (2 Hd)

I can't help but favor Express Train based on the San Diego Handicap.  The field was bunched and he just showed class when pressed by Royal Ship and Tripoli.  Trainer Shirreff's runner has trained well since then and appears to be in excellent form.  9 of 10 in the money on fast dirt, his last seven outings are all consistent G1/G2 efforts, and 4 of 4 in the money at Del Mar.  Solid.  

Royal Ship (BRZ) is a 5 YO Mandella trainee. No wins and only one try at the distance (The Hollywood Gold Cup) but he looked solid in that outing.  No wins in 2 tries at Del Mar.  Perfectly capable of winning. 

Tripoli  is only making 3rd dirt start after 11 turf races from the Kitten's Joy  4 YO.  He really went at Express Train in the San Diego Handicap but before that was a $60-70K ALW/OC contestant for 10 races or so.  Sadler is showing confidence, I'm not sure I should be based on race charts.  

Tizmagician is cutting back from Marathon distances.  Nice effort in the Cougar II but it's a different  tempo. Mandella/Pratt 28% winners on 29 tries at Del Mar and 36% Winners in rolling year in 90 starts.  11 of 16 in the money on fast dirt.

Dr. Post is a 4 YO Quality Road, and friends of the Turk know that Quality Road is one of my favorite horses of past 15 years.  I try to set that bias aside.  Dr. Post got a great trip in Monmouth Cup and he flashed serious speed.  Pletcher doesn't ship west without a strong belief.  First attempt at Classic Distance, First at Del Mar, if there is an upset candidate I like the speed he's going to have to target.   

Magic on Tap is slow, inconsistent.  Training very sharp at 5F, last win at 7F. If not for Baffert's name I'm not sure I give him much thought.  I  just don't see he deserves a look in my Exacta but he could be early speed. 

I'm tossing Independence Hall (ML 5-1) Cupid's Claw and Sheriff BrownIndependence Hall is just uneven.  Perhaps the Blinkers (29% On/23% First Time) may help.  Trainer McCarthy 16% on 61 starts 61-180 day layoff and J/T Combo looking for first win in 4 tries.  

I'm not thrilled at the betting prospects on this race as much as I am looking forward to seeing who steps up from this group.  There are too few stars currently and a Pacific Classic win will make many of these horses a millionaire, which this race has none of.  

I'm going to assemble an Exacta long on risk and big on reward.  I'm going to put Tripoli/Dr. Post above Express Train, Royal Ship, Tizmagician and Magic on Top:  1-3 OVER 5-4-2-6 (1-3), a $2 bet for $16 or a $20 bet if I box 1-3.  

The reality is Express Train should roll, Royal Ship should roll, but that's handicapping.  In bet construction you have to say what if, you have to be willing to see the possibilities, and above all else, don't try to be too safe.

Have fun friends, Turk Out!  

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita

Welcome friends to the Turk and the Little Turk blog, now in our fourteenth year of writing handicaps. The Turk would like to thank the good people at The Thorfan for the opportunity to bring my thoughts to you. The Turk took a break from racing when the pandemic came, and I'm only coming out of it now to focus on the sumnmer and fall turf racing circuit. When something doesn't make you happy anymore, you need to let it go. I'm not sure that the races make me happy anymore. I love the horses, I love the sport, the humans and the business of horse racing I have a deep dislike of. The situation surrounding Arlington Race Track, my favorite North American turf venue, and the pathetic state of Illinois racing, put me in a very sour mood. If there is a future for me to stay in this sport, I have to get past the heartbreak that the demolition of Hollywood Park, and potentially Arlington, would bring to me. I'm trying.
The Santa Anita Turf Chute is at least one new innovative idea that I can get behind in racing. The Chute gives a beautiful sweeping downhill 6 1/2 furlongs before crossing the dirt and opening up to longer distances. Today's handicap, the marathon 1 3/4 mile Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano gives us the full downhill and the full turf oval. The only downside to me is field size, with only six scheduled to go in Saturday's 11th and final race of the day, a 9:29 ET start. No amount of innovation can cover up the smaller field sizes that takes away upside in turf race investing. Anyways, I've attached a link to an article that lays out how the betting has gone on the chute through asmall sampole size. Lets get after this! Generally I'd post recent race video of the horses competing against each other at relevant distances. This is such an odd ball, and the longer chute is so new, I'm not going to bother. My handicap also didn't identify overlays as compared to the track handicapper or what I suspect the public and the tote board will assign as fair odds. So, what to do with this? Quite frankly, I'd pass on betting this race. I don't believe in action betting which is the equivelant of playing squares on the Big Game or Bingo. If I absolutly wanted to play it, and the purpose of this blog is to play the ponies, then I would clearly define my bet limit and I'd look at some interesting angle. That's the downside of the small field: Where would an interesting angle come from? Acclimate is 35.7% win odds Ward n' Jerry and Red King 28.6% each: 92.9% of the morning line odds of 129% (takeout/breakage/yada yada) 72% of the win potential is in these three. In my fair odds, it's 70 of 100%. The reality is some combination of these three in a boxed exacta is the most likely winning ticket, but a $2 dollar, 3 horse exacta box is $12, and the take would harly justify the risk. I'm instead going to put 3 over Acclimate, a $2 dollar Bet for $6 investment: Astronaut, Pilar Mountain (Ire) or Lure Him In over Acclimate. I'd rather lose $6 in this case than be conservative and have a poor risk-reward proposition. Have fun with it friends! Turk Out

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Post Race Results for Fourstardave and the 52 Bets in 52 Weeks challenge resumes


It's the age old saying, is it better to be lucky or skilled?  In my experience at the track, skill gets you break even and luck brings you an ROI with boasting about.

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog.  We started 2020 with the intention of blogging every week and having a 52 Bets in 52 Weeks series of posts.  We made it to the end of February before, in this order, my father in law died, the quarantine started and life came to halt, and my father died.  When horse racing did return, and when I came out of the fog I was in personally, the world was seen differently by me.  

The lack of fans at the track doesn't bother me, but the rhythm of the racing season is ajar.  Coupled with a sense of my own mortality, I wasn't sure if this blog, started in a different time and different place, September 2008, was worth continuing.  

The reality is that almost no one reads it anymore.  My traffic was never great, and it's abysmal now.  When people did read blogs, mine wasn't good enough, or my writing not crisp enough to garner regular readers. I soldiered on because I never started this blog for any reason other than to share my insights into the game of handicapping and betting with anyone interested.  While the world is different, and my priorities for that matter also, I still like the challenge of betting the ponies and I continue to be good at it.  I may not have much charisma as a turf writer, but I have always done a good job picking winners, be it superfectas in the old days, but over the last few years, the exacta near exclusively.

I handicapped the Fourstardave and was struck by how good the field was.  For the first time in a very long time I almost didn't toss any runners, and only after some hand wringing did I toss the Show horse, Casa Creed, a Mott horse who at 4 YO I thought was too slow to be with this group.  I didn't particularly love recent form, although training nicely at SAR, but last year over this course he put up a 1.33.72 in the Hall of Fame G2.  This one was won in 1:33.32.  I just thought there was too much in front of him, but I did notice he was 5th on the tote board, just a bit better than the returning last year winner, Got Stormy.  

Anyways, in the blog post I was clear that I wasn't interested in betting short paying favorites and I said I'd be inclined to $2 Bet Halladay and Got Stormy OVER Raging Bull, Without Parole and Uni for $12.  

My ultimate bet was Halladay/Got Stormy OVER Halladay, Got Stormy, Raging BullWithout Parole and Uni, a $2 Bet for $16.  You hope for the best, luck helps, and on this day that $16 became $125.  You'll find the race chart from DRF here. 

The lovely Dita (pictured above) honored me with a cigar for my effort.  

The 52 in 52 is up to Race 6. I'm just going to keep this spreadsheet rolling forward until the sample size is over 100.  

Have fun with it friends,  Turk Out!

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Nomination Is In: The Fourstardave Handicap Grade 1 at Saratoga


Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk Blog, sharing handicapping and bet construction advice since 2008.  

I moved to Saratoga, Jumel Place, in April of 1986 and lived there until late November.  I did all the requisite things that a Navy Petty Officer should do,  including dating a Skiddy Kiddy, hanging out at The Metro and becoming a fixture at the race track.  What I did not get the pleasure of doing was see Fourstardave (pictured above with photo credit: Adam Coglianese) run in person, as he burst onto the scene a year later in 1987.  The Sultan of Saratoga is gone but not forgotten, but it's horses like this that catch the eyes and hearts of race fans that are needed if this sport is ever going to grow again.  I'm not talking about handle, which is nice and needed, I'm talking about culturally relevancy.

I grew up when sports like Boxing and Horse Racing were still relevant.  The generation that fought World War 2 was approaching retirement, enjoying the sports that they and their fathers grew up with, but funny things happen along the cultural road.  Gambling on Football now dwarfs everything.  Twitter and Social Media platforms offer quick takes which has replaced reading and deeper analysis.  I'm not trying to be the old guy shouting from the window for a return to the past, but sometimes the old ways are best. 

 If you are reading this blog for the first time, try reading a book like Dick Mitchell's Common Sense Betting or Brad Free's Handicapping 101: A Horse Racing Primer. Join The Thorofan and find community.   Immersing yourself in something that takes time and effort can be a rewarding experience.  If anyone reading this ever wants help learning how to handicap, place a bet, or just feel comfortable at a race track, contact me.  I'll do my best to help you and I promise I'm not a creeper! 

It's such a lost year on many levels. I was so engaged at the beginning of the year with handicapping and this blog but the quarantine and life in general just took its toll.  My only real objective now is to stay fresh, watch September and early October racing carefully, and prepare for Breeders' Cup Weekend.  I'm all about turf racing and I prefer the cagey 5-7 year old's the best, and while I prefer a bit more of a route of grass, the inner turf, 1 mile, Grade 1 Fourstardave gives me the opportunity at a nine horse field and a lot of natural class.  Lets get after this.  

Let's do our best to look at current form:

10 July 2020: Keeneland. 1 Mile, Firm Turf. Maker's Mark Mile G1 Raging Bull (Fr), Emmaus (Ire) and Without Parole (GB)

 4 July 2020: Belmont. 1 Mile Firm Turf. Poker Grade 3.  Got Stormy, Valid Point

27 June 2020: Belmont. 1 Mile Firm Turf.  Just a Game Grade 1.  Uni (GB)

20 June 2020: Churchill Downs. 1 1/16 Miles Firm Turf. Wise Dan Grade 2. Casa Creed, Emmaus (Ire)

26 July 2020: Saratoga. 1 1/16 Miles Firm Inner Turf.  The Bernard Baruch Grade 2. Halladay

8 August 2020: Saratoga. 5 1/2 F Firm Turf.  Troy Grade 3. Chewing Gum


 That is the latest on every horse in the field.  What to make of it or just noise?  We don't have a single last race winner entering the gate.  That is highly unusual, but the ebb and flow of the race season is so out of whack right now it's understandable. So takeaways:
  •  Raging Bull (Fr) was out kicked in a late bid.  Capable of a 1:32 Mile.
  • Casa Creed ran a 1:33.72 in Hall of Fame G2 on this course as a three year old last year.  Onbly 2 starts since for Mott's runner. Mostly slow efforts.
  • Emmaus (Ire) trainer Murphy 0-10 Graded Stakes past calendar year.  Never fast but seems in decline.
  • Of the two Mares, Got Stormy's form has been off in 2020.  Won this last year at 5-1. 
  • Halladay is a beautiful Grey/Roan who didn't have another gear when challenged last out. Hard to believe Pletcher Graded Stakes 9% in 187 attempts over past year.  
  • One of four (three too many) Chad Brown's, Uni (GB) is classy and the best horse in this field as a Mare. Brown is 29% off 31-60 day layoffs and a staggering 25% Graded Stake Winner in 271 attempts. 
  • Valid Point is a Scat Daddy Grade 1 winner in 6th start.  Has had bad trips.  Arlington's turf is not apples and apples with Saratoga, but 1:35.5 as 3 YO in Grade 1 Secretariat
  • Without Parole (GB) is still winless in North America under Brown and winless since Ascot in 2018.  Classy.  Need more. 
  • Chewing Gum is Mott's second in the gate, off a quick turnaround 2 weeks ago, stretching out from 5 1/2 furlongs.  Crap Shoot.  
When a field is like this, evolving current form, overall good quality, I tend to trust my base handicap and let the tote board give me insight into the opportunity cost of the bet.  I'm not sure I see value in betting this race until I see where the tote board ranks Raging Bull (Fr) the morning line favorite, how Without Parole and Uni (GB) match up on tote, and where a dark horse may emerge on a value line, such as Hallady or Got Stormy OVER Uni (GB), Without Parole (GB) and Raging Bull (Fr).  That would be the sort of $2 Exacta ($12 total) that I could get behind.  

Whatever you do, make your betting capital count and have fun with it!

Turk Out.