Friday, February 5, 2016

Handicapper's Corner - The Donn Handicap

The Nomination is In! The Donn Handicap 

By: The Turk

Welcome friends to The Turk and The Little Turk, now in our 8th season of providing not much service to very few readers.  I'd like to thank The Thorofan Handicapper's Corner for allowing me to share my thoughts with you today.  

The Donn!  The Grade 1 Older Horse Division race that for me is the kickoff to any new racing season. The Turk tries not to get too wrapped up in the Derby Trail as I like the older horses and they fit my handicapping style better.  Why? Data.  I look at the past performances of a race like The Donn and I see data, I see 10 plus races of history, stats, pace, information.

What did I see on the Past Performances for this race?  Not much I liked, or better said, a very deep field that the degenerate gambler in me would normally pass on.  You can find easy marks on any card at any field, so why bet a stacked field like this?  Why does any track investor bet? For a return on investment.  It comes down to do I like a horse or two at a price that the betting public laid off a bit?  I don't need crazy long shots, that's for frat boys and movies, I need 4-6 to 1 odds and an exotic view on the race.

Do I have it here?  I dunno.  I'm doing this handicap and bet preparation on a Wednesday night before I know if there are scratches/changes or track conditions less that fast dirt.  I intentionally handicap without the knowledge of morning lines because that's bias I don't need.  Let me hit you with my thoughts and give you my opinion with the caveat that if I did bet this race it would be 10 mins to post after I watched the tote board a bit. Let's go!

These two videos give you a pretty good feel for Gulfstream Park combatants Madefromlucky (who skipped the Hal's Hope), Mshawish (who skipped Harlan's Holiday for the Cigar Mile) Valid, and Mexikoma (who skipped the Hal's Hope for the Sunshine Millions Classic).

I think money will flow to Keen Ice and why not?  Well, Trainer Roman's is 6% off a 61-180 day break, with 93 chances, and the horse, for is $1.8 Million in earnings, has 2 wins in 13 starts, 1 win in 9 starts in 2015 and only 4 of 9 in the money.  Lightning may drop on me from the heavens, but I put no stock in what a horse does at Saratoga so quite frankly I don't care that he won the Traver's. Bet him, go ahead, I may be wrong but I'm laying off the win for Keen Ice.  I'm not even covering him in the money right now.

It's a great time to get on my soap box about making decisions.  I don't know if I'm right about Keen Ice, but I have to make an informed decision otherwise when I make my bet selection up I'll cover everyone because I've tossed no one.  Have some conviction, take a stand.

My tepid chalk is Valid.  The 6 YO is 10 of 12 at GP, 4 of 4 in the money at the distance, 9 wins in 28 tries on fast dirt.  The jock colony shunned him with Saez jumping off for Pletcher's Itsaknockout,  Might be too much for him, he did get caught at 1 mile in the Hal's Hope, but he's game and he'll be driving, Win, Place or Show.

I feel pretty similar with Mshawish.  I have no reason to not expect him to be driving at the end, but this is a new distance for the 1 time winner on dirt.

Thinking of the pace, I can see Mott's Closing Bell closing hard in the last 1/16th.  The numbers say no, but he's been training well and my only concern is speed.  Guess we will find out.

Madefromlucky/Financial Modeling and even Closing Bell I'm tossing a blanket over. I think all will be moving forward except Financial Modeling who may drop sooner but will turn some fast panels early.

 Itsaknockout is more than capable.  I most likely have underestimated him and he should most likely be in my Place or Show spot.

It's rare for me to truly toss anyone from the exotic ticket but this is a solid field and I have no strong feelings in any one way.

For the sake of the readers I'll make a theoretical bet based on this base handicap.

I'm going to place a $1 Trifecta which will cost $29 on:
 4-3 OVER 4-3-5-7-2 OVER 4-5-7-2-8.  I brought Itsaknockout up but left Keen Ice on the outside.  I have two of my Also Ran's in my Bet Selection, Keen Ice and Mexikoma, just a reflection of how I'm feeling about the pace.

 I think this is a dog with fleas so I'm leaving my remaining $71 dollars in my pocket which is sometimes a gambler's best bet.

Turk Out!

Handicapper's Corner - R.B. Lewis Stakes

Baffert Primed for Exacta in R.B. Lewis Stakes

By: Laurie Ross, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds

The Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) has been through a few name changes over the years since its origin in 1935 as the Santa Catalina Handicap.  Renamed in honor of one of California’s greatest horse owners, the race has showcased aspiring colts and fillies looking to take their next step on the Triple Crown Journey. The Robert B. Lewis Stakes honor roll includes the names of Sham, Ferdinand, Artax, and General Challenge. Not all of them made their presence felt in the Triple Crown races, but they became good horses in their own right.  More recently, 2009 Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Pioneerof the Nile fought his way to a runner-up position in the Kentucky Derby while 2012 and I’ll Have Another captured the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Last year’s R.B. Lewis contenders took a close second and third in the Kentucky Derby behind Pioneerof the Nile’s son, American Pharoah. 

This year, a competitive field of seven colts will go to the post in the 1 1/16 mile contest. The winner will earn ten points towards their trip to the Kentucky Derby. 

Bob Baffert has a solid chance to score the exacta in the R.B. Lewis. The top classic horse in his stable right now has to be MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya - Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union), easy winner of the Los Al Futurity by 1 ¼ lengths over stablemate Toews on Ice. Read his pedigree profile.

Baffert’s other entry LET'S MEET IN RIO (Flatter - Rio Carnival, by Storm Cat) won his maiden two starts ago, besting Lewis contestant Laoban by 1 ½ lengths. The son of Flatter made a huge run from eighth place in the Sham Stakes to place second, beaten by only 1 ¼ lengths by another Baffert horse, Collected.  The extra distance should suit Let’s Meet in Rio and Baffert could collect another exacta finish.

Jerry Hollendorfer gives the inexperienced, yet undefeated I WILL SCORE (Roman Ruler - Grassy Nellie, by Belong to Me) a class check. The colt has no blacktype in the first two generations of his distaff line. However, his dam was in the money in 9 of 17 starts as an allowance class runner. Her game was 1 1/16 miles over the lawn.  I Will Score has a sprinter/miler pedigree and 1 1/6 miles may be his limit. Besides stepping up in class, he’ll be asked to carry his speed around two turns for the first time. Hollendorfer gave the colt three sharp stamina breezes to equip the son of Roman Ruler for the task.

DRESSED IN HERMES (Hat Trick (JPN) - Elusive Fashion, by Elusive Quality) scratched out of the Sham and will make his first start of the season in the R.B. Lewis.  Trained by Janet Armstrong, the colt spent the last three months recording a string of moderate/slow breezes.  Dressed in Hermes’ has carved out a nice little career over the lawn as a stakes miler.  His initial start was in a dirt sprint where he finished a distant fourth to Exaggerator.  Although two of his half siblings won once each over the dirt, Dressed in Hermes’ distaff line is solid turf. The colt should enjoy the extra distance and if he’s kept on the outside away from dirt kickback, he could have a shot at hitting the board.  

UNCLE LINO (Uncle Mo - Haysee, by Orientate) has one of the best pedigrees in the field. By a 2YO Champ and leading freshman sire, Uncle Lino is out of an unraced full sister to multiple graded stakes heroine Lady Joanne. Her greatest accomplishment was a victory in the Alabama (G1) at 1 ¼ miles. Haysee is a half-sister to Preakness Stakes winner and new sire Shackleford, plus multiple graded stakes winners Afleeting Lady and Baghdaria.  After winning his maiden, Uncle Lino placed third by a short neck to I Will Score in an optional claiming race. The Gary Sherlock trainee posted three stamina breezes, including a sharp pre-race 5F move.  Uncle Lino should enjoy the extra distance and should be considered for the exotics.  

With six starts under his girth, PATH OF DAVID (Istan - Rimini Road, by Dynaformer) is the most experienced, and only gelding in the field.  Slow to mature, Path of David showed little in his first two races, both dirt sprints.  He found his home on the turf and has finished in the money in all four starts, including a last out victory in the Eddie Logan. Path of David is a full brother to the multiple graded stakes placed Antigun, who was third in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. Antigun won over dirt and turf and improved as a three and four-year-old.  If Path of David is anything like his big brother, he may handle dirt now that he’s a little older and maturing.

LAOBAN (Uncle Mo - Chattertown, by Speightstown) is still a maiden after three starts at a straight mile. Let’s Meet in Rio got the best of him in both meetings.  After finishing second to his rival and in the process, blowing a five length lead in a maiden race, Laoban switched running styles in the Sham Stakes. The Eric Guillot trainee was in tight in the early stages and made a four-wide move, but didn’t make up much ground in the stretch. Laoban finished third in the Sham Stakes, 2 ¾ lengths behind Collected.  Laoban has plenty of sprint attributes in his pedigree and may be more competitive at shorter distances.  Laoban’s dam is a stakes placed sprinter. She’s a half to That’s How I Roll, a stakes winning sprinter and to Santa Ysabel Stakes runner-up Bluegrass Chatter.  The second dam Chatter is a multiple stakes winning sprinter and she’s a half to the dam of Grade 1 winning veteran I’m a Chatterbox. 


Track bias: Pace pressers earn the lion’s share of awards over the Santa Anita dirt.

Eight of the last eleven R.B. Lewis heroes prepped in a graded stakes and only one of them didn’t hit the board in their previous start.  I dislike being one of those handicappers who always goes with the obvious favorite, but Mor Spirit is again the one to beat here.  I picked him over his stablemate in the Los Al.  Watching videos of Mor Spirit’s morning works, I observed that the colt has a good mind.  He can gallop along on a long rein despite having fractious horses to his inside. That kind of attitude wins races.  I Will Score has a ton of early speed and looks like the early pacesetter, or he may duel with Uncle Lino. Unless he can conserve his natural speed, I Will Score might fade, but have to include. Uncle Lino has the best pedigree in the field, but needs to prove that he can sit off of horses successfully.  Let’s Meet in Rio will most likely sit at the back of the pack and will take aim around the second turn. He has a good late kick and can create another Baffert exacta. Path of David and Dressed in Hermes need to prove they will handle the dirt.  Laoban could find the distance too far.





The Play:  $100

$20 Win #5

$20 Win #1

$20 Exacta ($40)

Ex: 5-1

Ex: 1-5

$0.10 Super Box ($12)


$8 for a snack.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Handicapper's Corner - Withers Stakes

The 2016 Withers Stakes

By Robert Marks, They're in the Gate (and on Twitter @theyreinthegate)

On Saturday, January 30, 2016 the 136th running of the Withers Stakes will be held at the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York.  Post Time is 1:50 (Eastern Time).  Last weeks Blizzard led to several cancelled cards but the forecast looks ok for Saturday with temperatures in the upper 30's with partly cloudy skies.
The race has a $250,000 purse and is for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the dirt track. The Grade III Withers Stakes will award the first place finisher with ten points towards the chance at a position in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. Here are the participants listed by Horse, Odds, Jockey and Trainer.

Withers Stakes 2016 Post Positions & Odds
1 Donegal Moon 15-1           A.T. Gryder              T. Pletcher
2 Flexibility 7-5                    I. Ortiz                    C.C. Brown
3 Cards of Stone  20-1         E. Cancel                 H.J. Bond
4 King Kranz 8-1                 C.H. Velasquez          J. Terranova
5 Vorticity 8-1                     J.L. Ortiz                  L. Lawrence II
6 Adventist 5-1                   K. Carmouche           L. Gyarmati
7 Sunny Ridge 5-2              M. Franco                 J. Servis

Here's who we like as far as horses to bet:

Flexibility -The 7-5 favorite is coming off a 4.5 length victory in the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct back on 01/02/16. His sire Bluegrass Cat was second in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes. He is 2-2-0 out of his 4 starts. There is no value in picking him but this New York bred looks like the clear winner.

Adventist is sitting at 5-1 and definitely more value than Flexibility will give you. Kendrick Carmouche has been riding very well this year at Aqueduct and would love the change to get the upset win here. Only has 1 start with an 11 length win back in December.  

Vorticity -This horse is 8-1. He finished a game 2nd to Flexibility in the Jerome States. He has placed in all 4 stars (2-1-1) so you know he likes to compete.  This competitiveness will be needed as I expect him to up near the front in what I expect to be a fast pace race.  

Sunny Ridge-5-2 I expect a fast pace and sometimes a midpack type horse like Sunny Ridge sticks around in a fast pace race to pick up the pieces. Definitely a horse to play in your Trifecta and Superfecta combinations.

Wagering/Betting Handigambling Bankroll:

$25 Win/Place: Flexibility (2) ($50 total)
EXACTA: $2 Key Exacta (10 Bets for total cost of $20)
2, 6 / 2,5,,6,7
Trifecta ($1 Box for $24 Total)
$6 Show : Flexibility

We expect a fast pace with Flexibility prevailing. We place a nice win/place bet on him and we will also key the favorite with Flexibility over the 3mentioned above. If Vorticity or Adventist hits on top it could be a nice payout.

As always, watch the Board and if at the track watch how the horses look in the Paddock and adjust your bets accordingly. Good Luck!