Friday, June 16, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Wise Dan Stakes (G2)

Wise Dan Stakes a Pleuven Repeat?

Defending Champ Pleuven: Photo by Wendy Wooley/Equisport Photos
Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk Blog and this week's challenge, The Wise Dan, a Grade 2 affair over a route of grass at Churchill Downs.

Churchill Downs racing under the lights, especially when I can watch live, is something I find very enjoyable as a fan.  It's late enough where the sun is setting, I can unwind with an adult beverage, perhaps a cigar, and bet the ponies without giving up a beautiful afternoon day.  When you live in the Northern snow belt, each weekend when the temperature is above 70 degrees is treated like a perishable commodity and I don't have too many I can just give away this sport, with it's small fields, high takeout and lack of star talent.  I'm a fan but this sport doesn't make it easy at all.

This race, at 1 1/16 miles on Stephen Foster Handicap day, has eight horses in it, average age 5.6 years old, with the top money earning, Blofeld, going over grass for the first time in his 5 years.  We do have last year's edition Champion, Pleuven (FR) as well as Place and the Show horse from last year, Thatcher Street and Kasaqui (Arg), yes Kasaqui that gave the great Mondaliste everything he could handle in the Arlington Million.

Let's get after this!


I could make this blog post really short and just say the same finish from the 2016 edition but I don't think I'd be that wrong either.

Pleuven (Fr) is a six year old gelding, trained by Phillip Sims with Lanerie up.  4 of 4 in the money over CD turf, 5 of 6 in the money at the distance and 14 of 18 lifetime in the money over grass.  He'll run just off the pace most likely and close late.  

Thatcher Street is another local who will go late with one run.  The six year old gelded son of Kentucky Derby Winner Street Sense, has Leparoux up for Trainer Ian Wilkes.  7 of 8 in the money at the distance, 15 of 18 lifetime in the money over grass and 8 of 8 lifetime in the money over CD grass.  

Kasaqui (Arg) also has a late turn of foot.  The 7 YO comes in off a nice effort in the Turf Classic with a very nice late move that fell short.  He's a threat to win the race and at 6-1 or better he offers great value.


Chocolate Ride is a 7 Yo gelded son of the great sire Candy Ride (Arg). 4 wins in 7 starts at the distance and 9 wins in 18 starts over grass.  Trainer Brad Cox wins 31% of the time on Won Last Start and he's 33% over Turf.  He should be the pace with Security Risk.  

Security Risk,  a 5 YO War Front, trained by Shug McGaughey and with John Velazquez up, is a steady, front of the pack style horse.  He will have a lot of closers after him and Chocolate Ride as they try to steal the race from the front.  It happens, but i'm thinking not this race.

I'm tossing Bondurant, Conquest Panthera and Blofeld at my own peril.  Bondurant isn't a bad play, but he's winless in 2017, winless at the distance, and I'm not sure how sharp he is.  Blofeld tries dirt for the first time.  Trainer George Arnold is 7% on First Time Turf.  I love a Quality Road son but I'm passing.  Conquest Panthera should be better than the 5 YO gelding is.  Trained by Mark Casse for The Ramsey's.

I'm not going to overthink this too much.  I'll be playing a card with 7-3 OVER 7-3-4-5-1 OVER 7-3-4-5-1.  A $2 Tri would cost $48.    A variation would be 7 OVER 3-4-5-1 OVER 3-4-5-, a $24 investment.

Whatever you do, bet responsibly and have fun.

Turk Out!

Handicapper's Corner: Stephen Foster Handicap (G1)

Gunning for Victory in Stephen Foster 'Cap

By: John Caro, S. FL ThoroFan Member

Stephen Foster Handicap – Grade I - $500K – One and one eighth miles
The Weather Channel forecast for Saturday night is 50% chance of rain and 40% during the day. Could be a sloppy track like Derby Day in the dark. I expect it to be as forecast and have written this article with wet conditions in mind.

First of the ‘Win and You’re In’ for the BC Classic is going to be a tough race for those looking for second under the lights at Churchill Downs if it’s a fast track. I really must give it to #3 Gun Runner as the favorite and his last outing against Arrogate in Dubai. I don’t see another in this field that can match his class, speed and his record at Churchill though #1 Bird Song has a good history here as well. The troubling thing is his off-track record of 0 for 2. I still like him as a winner if it’s fast but can he overcome the track conditions if it’s wet/sloppy sealed? I think others fair better if it’s wet.

Moving to the remaining field, #1 Bird Song and #4 Honorable Duty show good form, have speed to track the expected pace and both raced last during Derby Day on the sloppy sealed track coming in first and second going a mile and a sixteenth. I expect they will be the main competition for #3 Gun Runner. If he can’t handle the slop, look for these two to be in front of him. I will place Bird Song ahead of Honorable Duty as a front runner with Leparoux aboard and Javier close behind.

#2 Breaking Lucky does not do well in the wet conditions. Toss him. #5 Mo Tom does well in the wet but doesn’t appear to have enough speed to keep the pace. Toss him. #8 Stanford has a great record but his last out in the slop compromised his finish. Good form, great connections but I don’t see him higher than third.

The two remaining longshots; #6 Hawaakom and #7 Texas Chrome, are very interesting characters. Both get low weights.  

#7 Texas Chrome seems to be coming back into form with two seconds with good closing speed in the mud and has never been out of the money on an off track. C.J. gets back on here for new trainer, Allen Milligan, and won three of four last year before the giving way in the BC Dirt Mile.     

#6 Hawaakom may be getting older but, he’s been on an off track six times with four in the money finishes and in his last mud-fest he posted a 117-late pace figure for the win at the Fairgrounds. Westley Hawley has been pointing to this judging by his work tab with two bullets at 5 furlongs. Mena has a lot of time aboard this guy and has a good record at CD. I expect both will go off at much higher odds than the ML. Like them to finish second or third in a Trifecta.

Betting if it’s Wet/Sloppy Sealed…..
$2 Trifecta: 1,4 / 1,3,4,6,7 / 1,3,4,6,7   Total:  $48
$3 Exacta: 1,4 / 1,3,4,6,7,8  Total:  $30
$8 to Win: 1 & 4  Total: $16    $6 to Win: 6

Betting if it’s Fast….
$5 Trifecta: 3 / 1,4,6 / 1,4,6,7,8   Total:  $60
$10 Exacta: 3 / 1,4,6   Total:  $30

Friday, June 9, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Who Will Win the 2017 Belmont Stakes?

Who Will Capture the Belmont Stakes?

Cloud Computing was the surprise winner of the Preakness Stakes. While none of the ThoroFan Handicappers had him on top, two, Chairman Michael Amo and Reinier Macatangay picked Cloud Computing as their long shot Preakness bomb. Dylan Jarmulowicz liked Cloud Computing for second place, while Nick Costa and Michael Mills had Cloud Computing in the show spot. 

Rounding the final turn of the Triple Crown Series, ThoroFan Handicappers resolutely faced the Test of Champions while making their selections for the 2017 Belmont Stakes.

Picks are for first through third place and our best longshot bomb. 

Good Luck to everyone!

Michael Amo
Irish War Cry
J Boys Echo
John Caro
Lookin at Lee
Senior Investment
Twisted Tom
Irish War Cry
J Boys Echo
Irish War Cry
Lookin at Lee
Hollywood Handsome
Michael Mills
Lookin at Lee
Twisted Tom
Irish War Cry
Twisted Tom
Irish War Cry
Lookin at Lee
Twisted Tom

Michael Amo comments, “The Belmont Stakes requires a tactical ride and stalking running style. With Classic Empire out of the race, Gormley ridden by Victor Espinoza inherits these winning characteristics. Gormley is rounding back into form and has the right stalking style. Victor Espinoza has the right experience.”

Reinier Macatangay observes, “The Belmont pace will be moderate because of Classic Empire's defection. Meantime should take advantage and be in a good, upfront position.

As for Tapwrit, the sire Tapit is hot in the Belmont S. winning 2 out of the last 3 editions.

Gormley faced a wide trip in the Kentucky Derby.”

Friday, June 2, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Beholder Mile (G1)

Beholder Mile Filled With Quality

Michael Mills, ThoroFan Handicapper

Disappointed in the short filed with just four mares and a filly lining up.  However, they represent a total of over $4.3 million in lifetime earns and seven Grade I titles, impressive.

#1 Vale Dori  One of two in here for Baffert and a winner of six straight.  Projecting this mare to hit the gas right from the start and lead as far as she can.

#2 Stellar Wind  This girl shows up every time.  Second start of the year following a victory in the G1 Apple Blossom mid-April.  Should be sitting the cat bird seat turning for home but the question is catching the wire first at this mile distance with the short field.

#3 Show Stealer  Threw in a clunker in last.  She is a good one but as past attempts show appears to be a step behind the first two in the lineup.

#4 Finest City  Improved mightily as a four year old last year.  Money Mike Smith will have options when the gates open depending on how the #1 breaks.  Concern here is the two turn mile.

#5 Faithfully  The second stringer for Baffert.  This filly has always had promise, however this is a big step up and would have to run a much improved race then in the past.

The Play

Sometimes in the game of handicapping and wagering in a race like this one you might have to go against your handicapping skills when it comes to the wagering part. 
I view Stellar Wind as clearly the most talented of this group and sitting on a big race second time back.  However, the shape of this race leads me to have to go against Stellar Wind at what projects to be a super short price with my concern that she will be short to the wire at the mile. 
As such, I am going with #1 Vale Dori believing she will get to the front easily and receive only mild pressure from Finest City, and due to the distance of one mile hold off Stellar Wind at the wire.

If you must bet, $80 win on #1 Vale Dori.

Have a Day.

Handicapper's Corner: Shoemaker Miler (G1)

Farhaan Can Scare Heart to Heart in Shoemaker Mile

By: Reinier Macatangay, Thoughts on Racing, Life and More

At first glance, Heart to Heart looks like a clear winner of the $400,000 Shoemaker Mile (GI) at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. The speedy 6-year-old runner just ran second in the Makers 46 Mile (GI) at Keeneland by chasing a fast early pace and fighting until the end.

Furthermore, Heart to Heart has proven a consistent horse. He also won the Canadian Turf S. (GIII) earlier this year and finished fourth by one length in the Fort Lauderdale S. (GII). The latter race shows Heart to Heart is not immune to missing the Top 3 though.

In fact, this horse finished fourth in last year's Shoemaker Mile after running a strong second in the 2016 Makers Mile, which should give some pause for concern. To be fair, the classy Midnight Storm showed up and no horse appears as good as him in this field.

Still, Heart to Heart needs to deal with the other main speed What a View right next to him. The task is not a simple one.

What a View likely cannot win, but possesses a ton of speed if jockey Tyler Baze lets him roll. In the Breeders' Cup Mile (GI), this runner set fractions of 21.81 and 44.61 before inevitably fading. Even if he goes a little slower, his presence can mess up the pace. Either Heart to Heart will need to let What a View clear early, or have him breath down his neck the entire backside.

The tricky scenario for Heart to Heart gives bettors reason to search elsewhere.

For instance, Farhaan is an interesting closer for the Phil D'Amato barn. This 8-year-old son of Jazil has been around a while.

Most recently, Farhaan won the
Thunder Road S. (GIII) on April 29. The effort is nothing too special on paper, although it is notable fellow Shoemaker contender Bolo finished third. Otherwise, Farhaan received a clear trip from the back and mowed them down.

Farhaan also finished a good second two starts ago in an allowance race to Prospect Park, who set dawdling fractions (25.16, 50.76) for a 1 1/8-mile race. When a closer faces slow fractions, rallying becomes more difficult. Heart to Heart and What a View will not go slow. 

So, Farhaan gets some consideration for his running style, good current form and the fact D'Amato trains. Expert turf jockey Flavien Prat picks up the mount. The trainer/jockey combination of D'Amato and Prat wins at a healthy 23-percent clip out of 66 tries.

If not convinced, Bolo can possibly pull off the win if he runs back to his Frank E. Kilroe S. (GI) effort on March 11. TimeformUS gave him a 120 speed figure for his third-place finish.

As for Bolo's Thunder Road third-place finish, he earned only a 114 TimeformUS figure. He had better position than Farhaan off a reasonable pace and failed. Once in a while, Bolo throws in the odd clunker, although it normally happens when shipping out of state.

Former Brazilian champion Bal a Bali can also win with a good stalking trip. He did win the Kilroe off an inside trip, before disappointing in the Turf Classic S. (GI) at Churchill Downs. The problem is, Bal a Bali is not the most reliable horse in the win spot.

For a longshot at 12-1, Free Rose would not be the worst pick either. This 4-year-old gelding makes his 2017 debut, and enjoys sparring for the lead as his Twilight Derby (GII) effort at nine furlongs shows. At one mile, Free Rose may stalk the speed instead. 

In any case, these horses need luck. If What a View fails to zip along and create a hot pace, Heart to Heart should take advantage. If the two speedsters hook up somehow, then it becomes a little more open.

Handigambling ($100):

Farhaan might get a nice trip, but this is not a confident selection. Heart to Heart is a tough, consistent horse with little value. The race does not look appealing enough, even if it works as a fun handicapping exercise. Unfortunately, going to pass.