Friday, March 31, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: New Orleans Handicap (G3)

Backwheel Breaking Lucky in New Orleans Handicap

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

Closely matched fields can either work to a bettor’s advantage, or drive him or her crazy. In the $400,000 New Orleans H. (GII) on Saturday at Fair Grounds, the race is so evenly balanced that no horse is shorter-priced than Noble Bird at 7-2. Hawaakom is next at 4-1, while four horses show 6-1 odds on the morning line. 

While Noble Bird sticks out on his best day, he is also liable to throw in clunkers. To start off, forgive the Pegasus World Cup (GI) effort. He had to set the pace with the legendary Arrogate and Neolithic chasing him.

Two starts ago in the Clark Handicap (GI), Noble Bird experienced trouble at the start. Afterwards, he expended energy moving up to the front and faded. The task was difficult because Gun Runner controlled the race.

In contrast, Noble Bird held uncontested leads three and four starts ago. The 6-year-old son of Birdstone converted those easy leads to decisive wins in both starts. It is a concern he needs a clean break and uncontested lead.

If not Noble Bird, perhaps Hawaakom can come from off the pace and grind out the victory. The 7-year-old gelding is a consistent one on paper. Out of his last 10 starts, he only missed the top three twice.

As for the most recent miss, Hawaakom did need to steady in the backstretch of the Clark. Otherwise, the horse is a picture of consistency. But, he seems to fall short in winning graded stakes races. 

The four horses at 6-1 appear consistent too, but none of them stick out. 

Iron Fist won an ungraded stakes race at Sam Houston last time. Who did he face though? Two starts back, he could only manage an average fourth by three lengths against Hawaakom.

Meanwhile, International Star just missed against Honorable Duty in the Mineshaft H. (GIII). Despite owning a couple of graded stakes victories from his solid 3-year-old campaign, he consistently falls short as an older horse. 

Based on the last two starts, the 5-year-old gelding Honorable Duty might be considered more reliable than Iron Fist and International Star. His Mineshaft win came after a bump at the break and going wide on both turns. 

Eagle is the last one out of the 6-1 odds group, and he has never finished worse than fourth in his last 10 starts. His Bel Ali (GIII) win at Keeneland is a nice one, as it came against Noble Bird and Breaking Lucky. 

Still, Eagle was outkicked without a visible excuse in the Mineshaft by Honorable Duty and International Star. 

None of them get the blood pumping as a handicapper. 

In fact, the only horse offering a unique angle in this field is Breaking Lucky at 8-1. Since his form is “dirtied up” because he lost the Pegasus World Cup by 26 lengths, bettors may ignore him. 

Horses with a wide post position in two-turn Gulfstream dirt routes tend to struggle badly. It is not uncommon for a wide post to cost 10 lengths or more in the situation. Breaking Lucky began from Post 10, just inside of the star California Chrome. Both horses ran wide next to each on the first turn, and finished eighth and ninth respectively. 

Watch Breaking Lucky’s Clark effort to see how he responds to an early inside position. He ran well and deserves another chance to redeem himself in this spot, but more likely as a backwheel candidate rather than to win. 

Handigambling ($100)

Trifecta Wheel $2.50 – 3,4,6,9,10 over 2,3,4,6,7,9,10 over 1 ($30 each) ($75 in all)

Exacta Wheel $5 – 3,4,6,9,10 over 1 ($25 in all)

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