Thursday, July 23, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Schuylerville S.

By Tom Amello, Trackfacts

Historically, the winning profile has been tilted towards speed horses, those with stalking ability versus deep closers. Thirteen of the last twenty-four editions have been won gate-to-wire and 12 by front half stalkers (the 2013 edition ended with a stalker dead heating the tiring leader). Closers have won but three times.

From a running style perspective, four of today’s entrants won their debut on the lead; one other stalked up close. Two entrants won from off the pace. This suggests the pace should be honestly contested through the opening quarter, perhaps hotly so. Only one entrant has been today’s distance, a non-winning effort.

The Field:

#1 Decked Out 4-1
Off poorly in the debut effort at Santa Anita, Decked out moved up without being rushed, angled to the inside rounding the turn, had clear sailing along the inside and drew clear with authority. Last out in 4-horse Astoria, she was patiently ridden while wide chasing the loose leader, drew even at the eighth pole, headed that rival only to flatten out. Jockey Kent Deormeaux and Decked out looked a winner under a confident ride, but today’s rival Moment Is Right came back along the inside and forged ahead for the win. Look for Desormeaux to allow her to settle after the start, angle off the rail and make a late run.

#2 Little Miss  Miss 30-1
Parx shipper looks overmatched.

#3 Areolite 8-1
This filly won with ease over a rival who turned the tables next out in the Debutante. She is the lone runner with a race at today’s distance. Tough to endorse off that last effort.

#4 Off the Tracks 12-1
Rudy Rodriguez charge crushed a field of 8 rivals on debut at Gulfstream Park. She moved up from between rivals, forged ahead and drew clear. This was a solid debut over what proves to be a weak group producing no next out winners. Looms a possible threat to hi the board from off the pace. 

 #5 One Minute 20-1
Races for trainer Steve Asmussen and is as part of an uncoupled entry with mate Areolite. Filly took three races to break her maiden and finished behind Decked Out and Moment Is Right in the Astoria. Longshot.

#6 Moment Is Right 5-2
Obliterated a short field on debut at Gulfstream Park going 4 ½ furlongs. In the Astoria she ran off to a long lead, weakened, was headed, then came back along the inside while slow to change leads. Looms the main speed to catch but will face pressure today.

#7 Positively Royal 2-1
Positively Royal delivered a professional performance on debut, crushing a short field. She was squeezed and bumped hard at the start, recovered to pull her rider to the lead, cleared while under a hold and racing well of the rail gaining lengths in the run to the wire. She has tactical speed and will sit just off Moment Is Right down the backstretch. Her last tow works were in company, the last over mate Tonasah, who was nominated to this race but not entered.

#8 Banree 5-1
Banree races for Wesley Ward and is the uncoupled mate of Moment Is Right. She lost all chance at the start in the Tremont. She was not asked and the race should be a throw out. With an alert start, Banree has speed to press Moment Is Right but  not the speed to stay with that rival


#7 Positively Royal
#1 Decked Out
#6 Moment is Right

#4 Off the Tracks (exotics only)

Friday, July 17, 2015

G.1 Eddie Read - Will ‘Finnegan’ Leave Eddie Read Field in His “Wake”?

By Rob Fundter, aka. Amateurcapper

The adage goes, Grade 1 thoroughbreds win Grade 1 races.  Donegal Racing’s FINNEGAN’S WAKE is the lone American G.1 winner in the Eddie Read field, capturing the G.1 Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard as a culmination to the turf excellence he displayed at Santa Anita Park and Del Mar since last November.  He is joined by MIDNIGHT STORM who is a ½ length from winning the G.1 Shoemaker Mile despite an eventful start.  Among the others in the septet is 2013 G.2 Del Mar Derby winner GABRIEL CHARLES, making his third start after missing all of 2014 due to injury, G.3 winner BIG CAZANOVA, Brazilian G.2 winner MALTES, gelded since he last ran, and one each from a pair of Hall of Fame trainers, TWENTYTWENTYVISION (Richard Mandella) and POWER PED (Neil Drysdale).

The turf course new for the 2014 Summer season wasmaligned for causing many turf racing related fatalities.  It was closed down to allow the grass to growand take stronger root before being used a few weeks before the stand closed inSeptember.  By the Fall the turf had plenty of time to mature and (7) FINNEGAN’S WAKE used it to capture the G.2 Hollywood Turf Cup beginning a nearly unbeatable five race sequence over the next 5 ½ months.  He should go off favored.

In a “what have you done for me lately” society, handicappers may be soured by the consecutive 4th place finishes.  Two races back FINNEGAN’S WAKE was a closing 4th to SLUMBER and BIG BLUE KITTEN in the G.1 Manhattan over a “good” Belmont Park inner course; the latter returned to capture the G.1 United Nations.  Last out on dirt in the G.1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park, as is the fate for many turf horses on the main track, his kick was used to get in contention and he flattened out the final furlong.  Returning to the grass, on a course he’s won on, with a favorable race shape his stable mate BIG CAZANOVA will guarantee, and reuniting with Espinoza there is reason to believe FINNEGAN’S WAKE will return to his “A” game.

(3) MIDNIGHT STORM figures to be well-backed off a beaten-favorite 2nd in the G.1 Shoemaker Mile.  He “bobbled” at the start under new best friend Tyler Baze, suffering his first defeat on turf in four starts.  Key analyzing his form is that the first two wins came at Del Mar including the G.2 Del Mar Derby in a 17-1 upset.  By PIONEEROF THE NILE, out of the IN EXCESS mare MY TINA, I wonder if two turns on the dirt may produce even better results than Phil D’Amato has trained him to on the turf?  MIDNIGHT STORM will factor strongly in the Eddie Read result with his pace setting/pressing style keeping BIG CAZANOVA honest, but the early energy expenditure may render him vulnerable to closers in deep stretch.

Here’s the rest of the cast in post position order:
(1)    TWENTYTWENTYVISION  - Owner of a 3-2-1-0 turf record, he’s demonstrated a grinding mid-pack style which has allowed Flavien Prat to either extend the lead or gain ground from the stretch call to the finish of all three races.  The son of POLLARD’S VISION will be facing speed he’s never chased which could force him into a middle move and a flatter final furlong than he’s shown in the past.   Unless more than a few of these run subpar races, a show finish is his ceiling and even that would be an upset. 
(2)    GABRIEL CHARLES – Away from the races from November of 2013 to April of 2015, the ’13 Del Mar Derby winner wore front wraps for both return runs this year.  His running lines suggest that the son of STREET HERO is rusty and probably not ready to hit the board against this kind of competition.
(3)    MIDNIGHT STORM – Read above.
(4)    POWER PED – Twice 3rd to FINNEGAN’S WAKE in a pair of G.2’s on grass at Santa Anita Park (San Marcos & San Gabriel), like the favorite, his style is flattered by a potential speed duel.  That said, it took a trip to Turf Paradise to earn a stakes win (ungraded Fitzsimmons) so a G.1 exacta finish today seems unlikely.  
(5)    BIG CAZANOVA – He will guarantee Miller stable mate FINNEGAN’S WAKE gets a race shape to close into, coming off a very fast pace he pressed/set in the G.1 Gold Cup on dirt.  While he adored the synthetic main track at Del Mar, the son of GIANT’S CAUSEWAY is winless in three starts on turf (3-0-2-1) and those efforts no longer show on his page which goes back to May 2014.  Midwest rider James Graham isn’t exactly known as a “send” jockey but this ridgeling’s speed will prevail.  Has the look of a sacrificial lamb.
(6)    MALTES – South American imports have traditionally fared very well in Southern California.  With a 6-4-0-1 turf record, including a pair of graded stakes wins in Brazil, the “ultimate equipment change” (gelded since last ran), and the presence of Martin Garcia for Darrell Vienna suggests this “X” factor is live.  I will add that he was once a well bet 5-1 in a G.1 in Brazil, a mile race where he finished second.
(7)    FINNEGAN’S WAKE – Read above.

I fully expect BIG CAZANOVA to press the very fast MIDNIGHT STORM, who’s proven that he can gallop and finish when winning the G.2 Del Mar Derby.  Expending energy through the early and middle of the race could soften MIDNIGHT STORM enough at this 1 1/8 miles distance for the closers to sweep past.

FINNEGAN’S WAKE is the proven commodity, continuing the tradition that turf horses in the United States achieve the highest successes as they reach physical maturity for a thoroughbred race horse.  What has really opened my eyes with this 6y.o. is that on a World stage on the Derby undercard, he was a prompt choice as the tepid 7-2 favorite at the trip he’s running today.

I will take a swing with the “stranger danger” MALTES under FINNEGAN’S WAKE trying to create some value in the vertical exotics, and will use him lightly over the favorite and take a flyer on him to win.  His form in Brazil was solid and now that he’s been gelded, there could be even better performances beginning on Saturday.  Martin Garcia can be trusted in any situation and Darrell Vienna has been very live with South American imports historically.

MIDNIGHT STORM is a quality individual and must be accorded a chance to put away BIG CAZANOVA and be very difficult to overhaul.  I featured him in the write-up behind FINNEGAN'S WAKE because I believe, in the long run, that he will prove out to be the second-best, if not the best horse in the Eddie Read field when we look back in five years.  However, even runners of this quality get beaten as his last race proved.  Including him in the second slot guarantees a short payoff and the potential for a negative race shape on this day makes him an underlay and a play against to me in the top two slots.  I’ll use him in third but will hope that longer priced POWER PED clunks past him for third as he’s been wont to do against FINNEGAN’S WAKE.

I want to thank ThoroFan for the chance to type about racing at Del Mar with you all in Handicapper's Corner.  Let me know what you think about the race, whether we agree or disagree, and thoroughbred racing in general. You can reach me on Twitter @Amateurcapper.

Please also check out the analysis of the Delaware Handicap by Lady and the Track author, Reinier Macatangay.

Good luck and lots of winners!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Delaware Handicap

By Reinier Macatangay, Lady and The Track

Evenly matched fillies and mares take the field on Saturday for the Delaware Handicap (GI) in Race 10, and they will go 10 furlongs on dirt around two turns. Most of these horses have taken turns defeating each other, which can be a handicapper’s nightmare. Therefore, going with the “outsider” horse from a different circuit may be the best option. Trained by Chad Brown after being sold to Bethlehem Stables, Rosalind gets the slight nod as a horse with class and a record void of these opponents.

It is true that Rosalind is not exactly a win machine. Out of 15 starts, she only holds three wins. One of them came in last year’s Ashland (GI) at Keeneland, where the race fell apart and Rosalind took advantage. Besides breaking her maiden, she also recently won the
Sheepshead Bay (GII) at Belmont Park going 11 furlongs on turf. After that race, she returned to dirt and finished a disappointing fourth in the Ogden Phipps (GI). Untapable, the reigning three-year-old filly champion, ran second in that spot.

Rosalind faced Untapable before in a couple of races, and a quick glance through her past performances reveals other notable names. Four starts ago in the
Suwannee River (GIII) at Gulfstream Park, during their prestigious spring meet, Rosalind only lost by a length to the good turf filly Sandiva. Five starts back, Rosalind threw in a clunker in the Valley View (GIII) at Keeneland, but the first two finishers, Sparkling Review and Lady Lara, both are good horses.

Even though she lost her last three dirt starts by a combined 24 lengths, Rosalind is placed smartly against this field. The daughter of Broken Vow does not face any former Eclipse Award winners or international travelers in this spot. Joel Rosario picks up the mount again and knows the filly well. As a jockey that understands pace more than others, Rosario can place Rosalind closer to the leaders if a healthy tempo fails to develop and make a well-timed run.

Beyond Rosalind, bettors may as well throw darts to pick their next choice. Frivolous won the
Fleur de Lis (GII) at Churchill Downs in a somewhat impressive looking victory. Then again, the track favored speed all night, while horses making wide and sweeping moves hit a wall in almost every race. Also concerning is Frivolous’ record before the Fleur de Lis. Simply put, this mare’s record is erratic. She lost by 20 lengths in the La Troienne (GI). Before that, she lost by only three lengths in an optional claimer at Keeneland, but finished sixth.

Frivolous closed her 2014 campaign with a win in the Fall City (GII), also at Churchill Downs, but lost at least six races before that one. Some of the names that finished ahead of Frivolous in those races are fellow Delaware H. competitors Sheer Drama, Fortune Pearl and Flashy American. At least there is consistency in hitting the board for 13 out of 17 races.

Sheer Drama finished double-digit lengths ahead of Frivolous in the La Troienne, but was defeated by Frivolous in the Fleur de Lis. Furthermore, almost every handicapper will see Sheer Drama’s willingness to hit the board and use her in every ticket.

One clever pick might be America, who closed for fifth place in the Fleur de Lis. Because the track favored speed, handicappers can add a few lengths and assume a closer margin on a fair racetrack. America was outrun by Sheer Drama two starts back, and going deeper into her record, Join Return and Fortune Pearl outran America at various points. Still, America will offer value and boasts good connections behind her, including fan-favorite Bill Mott as the trainer.

The Delaware Handicap looks extremely competitive overall, a desired trait of races from bettors. Not many races these days go 10 furlongs on dirt either, and that is a shame because longer races are fun. Horses that stumble or become blocked can use the extra time to recover and get back into the race. Rosalind is the best horse on paper and America will be ignored by bettors. Concentrate on those two horses, or if confused, just skip the race.


Single Rosalind in horizontal wagers.

Either key Rosalind on top, or just go with a large win bet. If not focused on Rosalind, then backwheel America in the third or fourth spot of exotics. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Modesty H.

by Paul Mazur of ChicagoNow

Modesty (War Dance - Ballet) won the first American Derby (a race also on today’s program for strictly three-year-olds; a race which is a feeder to the G1 Secretariat), in 1884 under the guidance of Hall of Fame rider (and Illinois-bred stakes race namesake) Isaac Murphy, defeating males at the first Washington Park on Chicago's south side. Run since the 1940s, but on turf since the 1960s, past dirt winners have included Bewitch, a Keeneland stakes nameplate (1948) and Indian Maid, who had a Hawthorne stakes named for her (1960-61). Past turf winners have included double winner Gaily Gaily (1989-1990) and G1 Tuscan Evening (2010).  Locally based Romacaca (2012) was that year's heroine.

The Modesty has been run in the past at the second Washington Park (in the south suburbs), once at Hawthorne (in 1985 after Arlington's grandstand fire), but has found a home in July at Arlington International.  Run at 1 3/16 miles on the turf for a pot of $100,000 and situated four weeks out from the Arlington Million Festival, this G3 serves as a local prep race, with the G1 Beverly D. the Million Day goal. Older fillies and mares will take to the Arlington grass course in one of four G3 co-features on the Arlington Million Preview Day program.

Morning line odds were not available at original publish time. Selections are made "turf only" with the rail set to Lane 5, sixty-two feet from zero at publish time. This race, as with all Million Preview Day races, is scheduled for Saturday July 11.

Arlington International -- Race 7 -- G3 Modesty Handicap -- One and three-sixteenth miles on turf -- post time 4:21 pm CT

Maybe MANGO DIVA needed that first start in America to get the hang of how American racing works.  The Michael Matz trainee made her first start in the United States last time out in the G3 Gallorette Handicap on Preakness Day.  The break was a step slow (the chartcaller says "squeezed"), and she swung very wide in the stretch, only to flatten out.  Perhaps with a cleaner trip, MANGO DIVA can flash back to the form she demonstrated in Europe, where she was a few lengths in the rears of Just The Judge (a future G1 winner in Canada) and herself was a Group Two winner in Ireland.  There have been bullets in the workout record - just as there was before the Gallorette, and that leads this space to project that the Gallorette isn't all that representative. 

Woodbine form often holds well at Arlington, and OVERHEARD gets a look in here for Canadian trainer Malcolm Pierce.  Winner of last year's G2 Dance Smartly, she was last seen with a third in the G2 Nassau over a one-turn mile at Woodbine.  With a solid record of five wins and fifteen money finishes in sixteen outings, OVERHEARD deserves inclusion in tickets.  Yet her style is that of a closing clunk-type, and it's possible OVERHEARD could get caught in traffic.  The speed in this year's Modesty lies on the inside in local SEEKING TREASURE and last-out allowance winner HONEY LAKE, but she could find trouble having to pull off the pace and make one run. 

LOTS o' LEX is trained by Gerald Aschinger, the same Aschinger you can learn about in a Picks & Ponderings feature. It's the same Aschinger who is having a good meet with limited stock. He's only made fourteen starts at Arlington, but he's got five wins and four more money finishes.  LOTS o' LEX set the pace in the G3 Bewitch and folded in the stretch.  Last time out she bested listed-stakes level Compelling Case and misplaced state-bred stakes winner Rosie My Rosie in an upper level turf allowance at Arlington.  While the recent form gives mixed reviews, she came to hand at Tampa Bay with some solid races down there, including a podium finish in the G3 Endeavour at 77-1.  In a stronger G3, the G3 Hillsborough she was further back.  As Aschinger stated to Picks & Ponderings, she's found a nice rhythm with rider Rosemary Homeister, Jr. in the irons.  And after her allowance win the connections put the race in the crosshairs.  This kind of race fits her, but she'll have to earn her graded glory.

#6 LOTS o' LEX

Longshot: The Italian word for gold is "oro", and the golden touch is what Michael Stidham has had since Arlington opened its doors on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby.  With nineteen wins and sixteen more top three finishes in fifty-nine starts, Stidham is batting nearly 30 percent wins and over 50 percent in the money; eye-popping stats for an already solid trainer.  Yet Stidham's charge in the G3 Modesty could go off at a square price, #9 NOTTE d'ORO.  The price will be high on her because the last time she won a race was back in January at Fair Grounds in a listed stakes for a pot of sixty grand.  But NOTTE d'ORO probably didn't want twelve furlongs in the G3 Orchid three back or the eleven furlongs two back in a division of the Keertana.  She did like the mile distance last time out, and NOTTE d'ORO gets a distance not too far from her mile category comfort zone. A return to her Fair Grounds form puts her in the mix, with more than able humans at the controls.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Queen's Plate

Danish Dynaformer:  Photo by Michael Burns
Welcome friends to the Turk and the Little Turk, a horse racing blog written by a bald hack handicapper known as the Turk, with editorial comment and most sarcasm from my fifteen year old son, The Little Turk.

We'd like to thank The ThoroFan for allowing us to provide our insights for their readers. Queen's Plate Day.  The Canadian version of the Kentucky Derby is the lazy description usually assigned to this race.

This is a $1 million restricted to Canada born runners, run on a fair running fake dirt surface, with a big field that on paper always appears slow and unaccomplished.

This is not the Kentucky Derby.

There are 20 wins total between the 14 entrants, a maiden, three without lasix, a filly, and a large shadow cast by the death in the Plate Trial of Danzig Moon, Fifth in the Kentucky Derby, sixth in the Preakness, and a wonderful horse who was coming home before a fatal mid race breakdown.  So let's get this straight:
Don't be lazy, this is not the Canadian Kentucky Derby, it is the oldest race in North America, since 1860, it's quirky and uniquely Canadian. Let's get after it!

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
WInShaman Ghost/1A
PlaceDanish Dynaformer/7A
ShowAmi's Flatter/14A-
Also Ran'sConquest Boogaloo/8B
Billy's Star/5B--
Breaking Lucky/9C++
Milwaukee Mist/12C+
Sweet Grass Creek/6C
Easy Indygo/10D
Bear at Last/13D
Woodbine Race 11: Post Time 5:38 ETThe Queen's Plate
1 1/4 Miles on Fake DirtFor 3 YOs

I'll start by saying that this is a terribly difficult race to handicap, even when a big favorite is running. There isn't a prep season like we have for the Triple Crown season, and these horses have spent their winter and springs running all around, so its hard to gage them against each other.  Races like the Marine Grade 3 and the Plate Trial, both at WO, are where I typically like to start my handicapping.  I'm not putting up the Plate Trial video because of the Danzig Moon breakdown that I can live without seeing again, but four of these runners went in the Marine, won by Shaman Ghost, and five went in the Plate Trial, won by Danish Dynaformer.

I have a group of three as possible  in the Win spot: Shaman Ghost/1, Danish Dynaformer/7 and Ami's Flatter/14.  I think all three will be bet heavily so none of these represent a great price.  Shaman Ghost is a nice off the pace runner with decent Beyers.  (Remember to adjust your thinking, a mid to upper 80's Beyer and a 2:03:45 is most likely what wins this race.)  I like him coming off the pace here and I like horses that have some rally in them.  Very light chalk.

Danish Dynaformer, I reckon, will be the post time favorite.  A Roger Attfield, Charles Fipke and Patrick Husbands collaboration (Mount Rushmore-like names in Canadian racing), this horse won the Plate Trial by also coming off the pace and he had a nice rally and ate up alot of ground late in a Show finish in the Marine.  A win on yielding turf at KEE shows class.  Lots to like!

Ami's Flatter, a horse the Turk Clan bets on name alone, as our since deceased cat Ami demanded as much.  Breaking from the far outside post, the 14 spot (this race does allow up to 17), the son of Flatter had a great spring on the Triple Crown trail with a 4th in the SF Davis at TAM, a Place in the Tampa Derby, a Show in the Florida Derby, but very flat and dull in his return to WO in the Marine. Trainer Josie Carroll has Contreras up, who left his mount on Danish Dynaformer for this.   Loyalty or belief in the horse?  I guess we'll find out.

That's three horses, all of which should be chasing and rallying off the pace.  Where will that pace come from?

Academic, the lone filly and Woodbine Oaks winner, will be on or very close to the lead.  I think she hangs on for a minor prize, that's all I'm prepared to pick.  Fillies racing boys get bet hard by punters, don't be surprised by her price at post time.

Rounding out my exotic pool is a grouping of four:  Conquest Boogaloo, Billy's Star, Breaking Lucky and Portree, with Milwaukee Mist just outside looking in but could have been included here.  
Honestly, I could ramble about these runners but when you look at the PPs they all have warts.

Conquest Boogaloo raced to Show in the Plate Trial but was well up the track in the Marine. Trained by Mark Casse with Alan Garcia up.
So, what to do with this Turk?

The betting menu has 20 cent Trifectas/Triactors and 20 cent Supers available.   I think I'll do something like:

$1 Tri:  1-7-14 OVER 1-4-5-7-8-14 OVER 1-4-5-7-8-14 =$73 or $14.60 in the 20 cent variety.
A bit pricey.

Perhaps I look at a simple box:
$1 Tri Box:  1-4-7-8-14=$60

I think I'll be waiting as long as possible to see where the value is and I'll single someone and build a trifecta around, something like this:

$2 Tri:  1 OVER 4-7-8-14 OVER 4-5-7-8-9-11-14 $50.  I like this combo the best.  In this I have Shaman Ghost on top.
Almost any handicapping book will tell you bet consistently with your betting capital and try to block out having a good or bad feeling about a race influence you.  Build the best handicap you can and bet it.  I ignore this advice sometimes and if I'm not feelin' it, I don't bet.

What makes me feel better about a race?  Data.  I like more data on the PP's to guide me.  I like video and data, and that is just something I lack here.

Have fun with it yourself and keep it real.  If you have a betting problem, seek help.  If you have a handicapping problem, seek a better handicapper than this bald hack.

My regular readers should give you an indication of the hard core nature of this blog.  

Turk Out!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: G1 Mother Goose

By Valerie Grash, Foolish Pleasure 

This esteemed 1-1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs) contest was once part of a race series with a complicated history, the 3-year-old filly Triple Tiara.  While such historic and worthy goals like the Triple Tiara are no longer awarded in American racing, the Mother Goose remains a race of great importance, in recent years won by great fillies like Smuggler, Bushfire, Octave, Rachel Alexandra, Devil May Care, Zo Impressive, Close Hatches and Untapable. For some Kentucky Oaks competitors, it marks their return to racing, but there are plenty of late-blooming fillies ready to spring a big upset. Let’s break down the field by post position:

#1 Embellish the Lace
(Super Saver, out of Distant View mare Expanse)  Tony Dutrow/Irad Ortiz, Jr.

A half-sister to Grade 2 Illinois Derby runner-up Reporting for Duty and Grade 1 Travers winner Afleet Express, this lightly-raced gal is tossed in deep here. Earlier this month she began her 3-year-old campaign with a visually-impressive and completely dominating allowance optional claiming victory at Pimlico, winning at this 1-1/16 miles distance over 5 other fillies by nearly 14 lengths in a hand ride. This, however, is a totally different level of competition. Her two greatest advantages: breaking from the rail and her early speed. Someone’s going to have to go with her early, likely Munasara and Pleasant Tales. Otherwise, she may spring an upset going wire-to-wire.

#2 Include Betty
(Include, out of Eltish mare Betty’s Solutions)  Tom Proctor/Drayden Van Dyke

The Grade 3 Fantasy winner is the sole dead-closer in the field. And when I say dead-closer, I mean she will be so far back of the entire field most folks will write her off. Don’t. She recovered from a problematic run in the Kentucky Oaks by rallying for second against Keen Pauline in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, and when you look at her total career thus far you’ll see her BRIS speed figures have steadily improved with nary a significant drop. If the pace is hot early, she’ll be the one flying late for a piece of the action.

#3 Hot City Girl
(City Zip, out of Hook and Ladder mare Noble Fire)  Linda Rice/Jose Ortiz

This New York-bred is a half-sister to 2-time Grade 2 Distaff Handicap victress La Verdad, a still-active racemare who’s excelled at sprinting. Unfortunately, that seems to be this gal’s strong point as well, leaving me puzzled as to why she’s being tossed in against non-state-bred company at this level and at this distance. Previously, she’s proven to be no competition against the likes of Grade 1 Acorn runner-up By the Moon (who beat her by over 8 lengths at Laurel in March) and Freudie Anne (who defeated her by nearly 10 lengths going this distance in the state-bred East View last December). She’s second-up off a break here, but hitting the board would be a shocker.

#4 Munasara
(Bernardini, out of Singspiel mare Lahudood)  Kiaran McLaughlin/John Velazquez

Undefeated in just 2 lifetime starts, this extremely well-bred Shadwell Stables homebred is also making a major jump in class, but has a good bit to recommend her, not the least of which is her early speed. The filly she beat last time out, So You Say, came back to crush a 6-furlong Belmont allowance race by over 9 lengths, so there’s a good form line (albeit minus the graded stakes experience of some of the others in here). It’s somewhat surprising that she hasn’t yet raced on turf given that her Eclipse Champion Turf Female award-winning dam Lahudood captured the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (as well as the Grade 1 Flower Bowl on turf), and has produced a half-sister to Munasara, Aghareed, who won a 10-furlong listed turf race (Prix de Liancourt) at Longchamp in France. However, she appears to have plenty of stamina breeding, so this race may just be a stepping step to the more distance-suitable Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 26 and Grade 1 Alabama on August 22, both at Saratoga. Love that regular jockey John Velazquez is aboard.

#5 Chide
(Blame, out of A.P. Indy mare Yell)  Al Stall, Jr. /Joel Rosario

Gotta love those Claiborne and Adele Dilschneider horses with creative one syllable names! This filly is extremely well-bred, by a Breeder’ Cup Classic winner (Blame) and out of Grade 2 Davona Dale winner Yell, who not only placed third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, but also ran second in the 2003 edition of this very race. However, while she’s produced a series of nice winners, none of Yell’s progeny have won at the graded stakes level. Chide attempts to be the first—and this is quite a jump in class. She did win against older mares last out, and she too should only get better with longer distances.

#6 Pleasant Tales
(Tale of Ekati, out of Awesome Again mare S’Avall)  Dallas Stewart/Junior Alvarado

Off a maiden win over a sloppy Fair Grounds track, this filly was entered in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra—and was CRUSHED, contending early, but fading to finish 25 lengths back of the winner I’m a Chatterbox. Off a 2-month break, trainer Dallas Stewart cut her back to 7 furlongs, and she flattened to finish fourth, well back of Chide who is also entered here. Yes, she won last out against the likes of minor stakes winner Sibling War and a host of maiden winners—nothing spectacular, but building her confidence. A solid 5-furlong workout in advance of this start and her early speed work in her favor. Her second dam is Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home, so she hails from quality, but not sure that’s enough to recommend her here.

#7 Money’soncharlotte 
(Mizzen Mast, out of Chimes Band mare Something Wicked)  Kelly Breen/Eric Cancel

With a maiden win over this Belmont track (albeit a sloppy one), this filly has a bit of an advantage over some others, but, boy, has she had bad racing luck! Checked at the start, she had no chance in the Grade 2 Davona Dale, and despite hitting the rail, she still managed to finish a distant third in the Grade 2 Gazelle. Then she went in deep, contending well enough early, but fading to finish next-to-last (15 lengths back) in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. First-up off the break, she posted a bullet sub-one minute 5-furlong workout prior to this start which is encouraging. I’m just not sure she’s Grade 1 material, especially at a route distance.

#8 Danessa Deluxe
(Summer Bird, out of Came Home mare Belle’s Home)  Jorge Navarro/Manuel Franco

She finished less than a length back of Eskenformoney in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks with John Velazquez aboard, and then went to the sidelines for nearly 2 months before returning to finish fourth behind Keen Pauline and Include Betty in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan. What I don’t like here is the loss of John Velazquez who stays aboard Munasara—New York-based jockey Manuel Franco takes the reins for the first time. She put in a sharp 5-furlong workout at Monmouth in advance of this start, but I’m just not convinced she’s up to this level of competition.

#9 Eskenformoney 
(Eskendereya, out of Not for Love mare But for Money)  Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano

Somewhat surprisingly for a Todd Pletcher-trained horse, this filly is the most seasoned in the field, with 10 races already under her belt, including close-up finishes in the Grade 2 Davona Dale and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks. Toss that poor performance in the Kentucky Oaks—she lost any chance with a bad break. The real question is the distance. She’s done well in 1-mile races, but can’t hang on that extra half furlong. This will be her first start since the Kentucky Oaks, and previously she’s done well off a break. Expect her to be on or near the lead early, and probably there for a piece of the exotics.

#10 Wonder Gal 
(Tiz Wonderful, out of Dixie Union mare Passe)  Leah Gyarmati/Rajiv Maragh

Rather shockingly, she hasn’t won a race since her maiden effort in a New York state-bred stakes race last July. However, she is 3-times Grade 1 stakes-placed, twice over this Belmont surface and once an impressive third-place finish, just a length back of juvenile filly champion Take Charge Brandi, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race at Santa Anita. With veteran Gary Stevens aboard, she finished a game third last out in the Grade 1 Acorn, but today it’s New York-based Rajiv Maragh who takes the reins. She’s never NOT hit the board over “Big Sandy” so I expect nothing less from her this day. Looking for a big race out of her.


Trifecta box (2, 9, 10): Include Betty, Eskenformoney, Wonder Gal

Longshot flyer (4): Munasara

Friday, June 12, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Stephen Foster H.

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog, and this week's race of interest, The Stephen Foster Handicap.

Before I go to far, I'd like to thank the good people of The Thorofan for allowing this hack handicapper and wretched blogger the opportunity to write for its good members. Poor Stephen Foster.  He wrote some of the most memorable songs in Americana, including Camptown Races, Old Susanna and My Old Kentucky home, yet he died penniless at age 37 after smashing his head into a chamber pot  as he passed out from a high fever.

 We remember him each year for this race, and his songs are forever ingrained into people of my generation and before me, you know, when kids use to play outside and frolicked in the summer before electronics. I like the Stephen Foster Handicap quite a bit and its a key handicap division match.  This edition of the race presents some real challenges to a handicapper and bettor.

In a relatively small field of seven, you could make a legitimate case for five to Win and the final two, and their long prices, take away from the betting opportunity a bit.  I think Lea will be the post time chalk and near even money with Commissioner and Hoppertunity hovering near 4 or 5 to 1.

If you are price hunting that leaves from my legitimate five two more runners, Noble Bird and Cat Burglar.  Noble Bird is intriguing to me while Cat Burglar coming off the Pimlico Special show I've relegated to Show or Fourth in this Crowd. I expect it to be wet based on this weather forecast.  Keep your eye on track conditions as well as scratches, as if the field drops to six, especially if one of my tosses scratches, value starts to really get diluted. Let's get after this!

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
PlaceNoble Bird/4A-
Also Ran'sCat Burgler/7B-
Majestic Harbor/6C-
Churchill Downs Race 8: Post Time 9:42 ETThe Stephen Foster Handicap G1
1 1/8 Miles on DirtFor 3 YO's and Up

I typically hate playing horses returning from Dubai, but Lea has been freshened and is training well. Trainer Mott is 15% off the layoff, the horse is 5 for 5 in the money on fast dirt, has a win in the wet stuff and is a versatile turf runner as well.  13 of 15 in the money lifetime for Lea and connections.

Commissioner should challenge for the Win.  Trainer Pletcher's 4 YO son of A.P. Indy has won two straight at a 1/16 longer than today and should be out there on the pace if he comes well from the gate and gets forward positioning.

 I've slipped Noble Bird in fairly high on my handicap and he'll be equally high in my bet construction.  The 4 YO is not in the same class as the other top horses here but current form seems really good:  a close loss by a head in the Grade 2 Alysheba here at CD on Oaks Day, a nice run a KEE before that for a win. He may not like the extra route of dirt as he's more of a miler, but we'll see.  Expect anywhere from 8 to 12 to 1 odds, so I like the value in the Top 3.

  Hoppertunity was my Derby horse last year before he scratched.  I liked his win here in the Clark Handicap last Thanksgiving but he hasn't really built far off of that.  I like Smith up today and his solid work at CD since early April for Trainer Baffert who is 22% of a layoff like this.

 And finally Cat Burglar, Baffert's other runner here, who's a bit slow but steady.  I have him pegged from 2nd to 4th. With five horses I think can finish in the Top 4 I'm thinking Trifecta/Superfecta with the only real question if I take a stand and single Lea for the Win.

Something like this:  a $2 Super of 2 OVER 4-1-5-7 OVER 4-1-5-7 OVER 4-1-5-7 is a $48 dollar bet.  

It's a lot of betting capital for a return that may be kinda eh.

 A 2-1-4-5-7 $2 Tri Box would cost $120.  Eh. A $2 Tri with 2 OVER 1-4-5-7 OVER 1-4-5-7 would cost $24 bucks.

 I like the handicap, I'm not sure I like my bet ideas yet.  Have some fun with it friends, keep the gambling real and enjoy.

 Don't forget to tune into NBC Saturday Night for the races.

Turk Out!