06/29/2010 4:03PM

Arlington Autopsy, HG pp's


As I took in the beautiful Arlington Park scenery before Saturday's ninth race, a blonde woman approached me. 

I didn't know her and I assumed she didn't know me. 

"Who do you like here?" she asked.

I had just endured a tough beat (we'll get into that a bit later).

"Lady, you're asking the wrong guy."

"I know," she responded.  "I watch you on TV."

Everyone's got jokes.

Not surprisingly, I had a wonderful time in Chicago this past weekend. After touching down at O'Hare, I rented my car and immediately began following the MapQuest directions.

Or, at least I thought I did. 

In rental cars, I often have a bad habit of not paying attention to directions.  Mostly, I'm lost in my own world, imagining the riches that surely await me at the track the next day. 

The next thing I knew, I passed a sign that read "Arlington RaceCourse."  That's odd, I thought.  My hotel is virtually across the street from the racetrack and I hadn't made any of the necessary turns off the initial road. 

I shrugged.  Surely the map was more correct than the sign.  I eschewed the impending off ramp and continued down the road.   To Wisconsin. 

Some trip handicapper.

Eventually, I got it together, made it into the hotel, and hunkered down for a good night's sleep.  I've been fortunate enough to travel all over the country for this job.  I've been everywhere and nowhere all at once.  Whenever I arrive in a city, I get the rental car, drive to the hotel, handicap, sleep, go to the track, do a seminar, spend a day with my fellow racing fans, go back to the hotel, sleep, and fly home the next day.  I've "been" to Chicago, but I haven't really been to Chicago.  Know what I mean? 

At around AM, I heard a tremendous BOOM.  And then another.  And another.  Five minutes later, when I mustered enough courage to peek out from under the bed, I noticed the sky was illuminated by ominous lightning.

I didn't wonder if the world was ending (the one-hour storm was that biblical in proportion), nor did I think about flooding or other safety concerns.  Only one thought crossed my mind. 

Damn!  They're going to be off the turf!

I liked some horses on the grass that day and I didn't have enough time to go back and rework things if the races were switched to the Poly.  For the next 60 minutes, I looked out the window and watched the raindrops beat against the pavement.  If a driver on the nearby road looked out their car window at just the right moment, when the lightning struck at just the right angle, they would have seen a lone handicapper...pouting in his pajamas.

Thankfully, the sun was shining on Saturday morning and I drove to the Trackside OTB to meet up with PGM.  He's a great guy and we chatted for a half-hour about the September FormBlog Convention at Arlington.  It's going to be the weekend of the 11th and 12th and we'll release more details about it shortly. 

I headed on over to the track at around 11:15 to meet with Professor M. Scott McMannis, the noted handicapper and host of the Arlington Park Starting Gate Seminars.  The gates hadn't opened yet so I waited outside as some racing fans began milling about the entrance. 

Shyly, I stood off by myself when a very nice woman walked up to me.

"Are you Dan Illman?"

In these situations, I'm always tempted to respond with a "Why," but not here.

"Yes.  Yes, I am."

"Oh, you're going to be here for Scott's seminar.  I'll show you the way." 

The woman, Laura Skamser, is a regular participant at the Seminars and Handicapping Contests sponsored by Arlington Park, and couldn't have been any nicer.  She gave me a mini chocolate bar in case I got hungry during the day. 

As we ascended the escalator to the Starting Gate, Laura introduced me to Alyssa Ali, Arlington's Entertainment Reporter.  Laura wondered aloud to Alyssa if I've ever taken chocolate from strange women before. 

"Frequently," I replied to both, a wolfish grin spreading across my lips.

Having sufficiently creeped Alyssa out, I got settled into the Starting Gate area, got reacquainted with PGM, and met up with Midwest Ed, Stephen Taylor, Turnbackthealarm, and Professor McMannis.

The Professor is an excellent handicapper and has the best interests of the racing fan at heart.  He is a true student of the game.  More importantly, he and his lovely wife are two of the nicest people I've met at the racetrack.  They treated me very, very well, and I am indebted to them for their kindness.

Plus, he took me up to the Press Box, where they have a weekend buffet.  As you know by now, no public handicapper turns down free food.

I liked the chalk in each of the first three races.  Thankfully, the prices were too low to warrant a play so I saved money when all three lost.  Thankfully, the FormBloggers in attendance didn't follow my opinions as they made some money on the races.

LOST FORTY ran better than par in her second lifetime start and looked like a solid favorite in an unappetizing statebred maiden special weight for juvenile fillies to open up the card.  At 3-5, she finished a dull fourth.  PGM's firster, HONOUR THY COLE, a daughter of Honour and Glory from the female family of Perfect Drift, took them gate-to-wire at 16-1.  Shockingly, there was a mini-bridgejumper on the beaten favorite.  Honour Thy Cole paid $12.80 to place and $21.60 to show. 

The old racing axiom, "Watch the Board," is perhaps misunderstood by some handicappers.  If a firster trained by Todd Pletcher or Wayne Catalano is bet hard, you don't need the board to tell you the horse is live.  People are betting the connections.  If HONOUR THY COLE, trained by James Gulick (0-16 according to DRF trainer stats with firsters), opens up at 9-2, as he did in this spot, then the tote is telling you something. 

DANCING DEMONETTE looked like a more solid chalk in the second half of the early double, a statebred maiden special weight for older fillies and mares.  I just couldn't pull the trigger on her at 6-5, however, and she blew a big late lead to the late-rallying BASILIO'S THUNDER, who was in behind horses turning for home.  Basilio's Thunder looked like she had too much to do in the final sixteenth, but she roared past the favorite late.  Turnbackthealarm liked Basilio's Thunder so, thankfully, a FormBlogger cashed a ticket.

FIGHTING FRIAR looked logical in the third race, a $10,000 maiden claimer for statebreds, but he seemed to suffer from seconditis after eight chances to graduate.  He wasn't worth 6-5 and I sat on my wallet again.  He never really got involved en route to a third-place finish behind LITTLEBITEVEN (Midwest Ed) and CAPTAIN PIEVO (Stephen Taylor). 

I really liked FLYING FELIX in the fourth race, a $5,000 starter allowance at one mile on the turf.  Her most recent grass race was a fast, visually-impressive win against statebred 'n1x' allowance runners.  The worry was that said race occurred back on July 23, 2008, and she was subsequently away from the races for almost two years.  After a pair of nondescript dirt sprints at Fairmount Park, she was entered back in this spot by high-percentage trainer Scott Becker.  She took some money at 4-1 and I played a solid WP bet.  She was terrible, never picking up her feet, and finishing next-to-last behind gate-to-wire winner PINK BELLE GIRL, one of two horses trained by Roger Brueggemann to win on the afternoon. 

Slightly embarrassed about the terrible result, I told the group that I liked UNBRIDLED ELTEMPO in the next race, a $10,000 "Beaten" claimer at six furlongs on the polytrack. 
Fans, please read the race conditions whenever there is a "Beaten" claimer.  They may help you unearth a potential overlay.  Here were the conditions for this race:

For Three Year Olds and Upward Which Have Never Won Three Races


Three Year Olds

(Races where entered for $5,000 or less not considered in eligiblity or allowances)

So, there were three conditions here.  The race was open to older horses that had never won three races, to three-year-olds with any amount of wins (think Super Saver), and to older horses with more than three wins IF those wins came for $5,000 or less. 

UNBRIDLED ELTEMPO was a five-year-old with five lifetime wins.  He was eligible for the race because a couple of his victories came in $4,000 claimers at Delta Downs.  Unbridled Eltempo had hit the board in his last two races over this track and showed some heart when refusing to yield the place in his most recent effort. 

Many handicappers assumed that he was stepping up in class from his last two races at open $5,000 and $5,000 'N2Y,' respectively.  They were wrong.  Unbridled Eltempo was facing ten-time winners in those races. Here he was facing six horses that had never won three. You could make the argument that he was dropping in class. 

Unbridled Eltempo opened up at 16-1 and halved in price to 8-1 at post time.  I played a WP bet and watched him run a non-threatening second behind the second-choice winner.  He paid $8.40 to place while again showing a good deal of courage in getting second money. 

The $125,000 Arlington Sprint, a "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, was carded as the sixth race.  CHAMBERLAIN BRIDGE looked like the horse to beat, but I wasn't buying what he was selling at 11-10 odds.  I watched him win like the good horse he is for Jamie Theriot (riding in his first race at Arlington since the tragic Rene Douglas spill last year). 

My last bullet came in the seventh race, an entry-level optional claimer for three and up at 6 1/2 furlongs.  SOUL COAXING was making his second start of the year after rallying for the place behind the promising Mam Bird on May 28.  He figured to get a solid pace to attack in this spot and I played him solidly to win at 5-2 odds.  Near the rear of the field early, Soul Coaxing was checked hard when attempting to split rivals entering the turn.  He regained his momentum and rallied stoutly, but finished a half-length shy of the win in third.  I honestly thought he was best and was a just a tad peeved that he didn't get up in time.

I played a small Win bet on KRISTA'S QUIK CHIC in the eighth race and watched her race wide off a slow pace.  It didn't matter as she never made a run and finished off the board at 3-1 odds.

That's when I met the blonde woman, another lady named Laura, the jokester.

Even though she scoffed at my handicapping, I gave her my top three picks (6-2-3) and went back to the Starting Gate area. 

Calabrese and Canani are kings in Chicago and during the two-minute stroll to the parade ring, three people informed me that both of their horses in the late double were "locks."  Both, on paper, looked to be underlaid favorites.  Touts.  Ya gotta love 'em.

I sat out the race and watched the 11-10 "tout" horse switched leads multiple times in the stretch before finishing second behind pacesetting winner, I JUANA WIN. 

One thing I learned from reviewing the races at Arlington this spring was that the main track on May 27 played intensely to closers.  On that day, I Juana Win set the pace in her first start since March, opened up four lengths at the stretch call and almost held off the closers in a runner-up effort.  This time, on a fairer surface, she held them all off.  The 2-6-3 Trifecta paid $65.30.  I didn't bet. 

The blonde woman did, however.  How did I know this?  She told me.  Prior to the finale, she ran up, proclaimed me her new favorite handicapper, and asked me to sign her voucher receipt.

Everyone loves a winner.

I played an action bet at 2-1 on PALO DURO CANYON in the finale and watched him finish fourth.  The Canani-Calabrese horse was no factor at 6-5.  Happily, Midwest Ed hit the Superfecta.

All in all, I lost money.  I didn't have any concrete multi-race wager plays so I played conservatively, with Win and Win-Place bets sprinkled throughout the card.  It wasn't a betting massacre, but it could have been better.

More importantly, I met FormBloggers that share the same passion for this great sport.  Turnbackthealarm is very knowledgeable about physicality handicapping.  Midwest Ed and Stephen Taylor made some profitable wagers.  PGM had that nice firster in the opener.  It was cool to see the FormBloggers profit. 

From a gambling standpoint, Arlington beat me.  I'll get them back in September.  Will you be on hand to join me in my quest?


Correction HandyG 192
#11 Coffee Bar just might be the class of this crowd since he ran well enough in the 153K Toronto Cup last July.
#13 Casual Dude should be a price and besides it being a good year for "Dude" horses (Game On & First) he is lightly raced with a plus Tomlinson Fig so he has potential.
I key these two in a Trifecta with logical contenders and ML favorites #8 and #9
$25 Trifecta
11,13 /11,13 /8,9

Congrats to Alfredo for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling exercise.  Here are the past performances for this week's race:

Download HG


Best of luck to all.

Be back Thursday with last week's best Beyers and the HG analysis.  Questions and pp requests on Friday.