09/14/2010 2:04PM

Convention Recap, HandiGambling PP's


If tracks are measured by the people that work there, then Arlington Park is first-class all the way. 

I'm pleased to say that FormBlog Convention was a rousing success thanks to the effort and diligence of several of our bloggers as well as the accommodating and talented staff at Arlington. 

We were treated wonderfully with complimentary admission and box seating, a race named in our honor (complete with paddock and winner's circle access, trophy, and jockey goggles for the kids), and constant shout-outs from track announcer John G. Dooley and racing analyst Jessica Pacheco. 

M. Scott McMannis and his lovely wife, Wendy, were, as always, gracious and welcoming.  I shared the Saturday morning handicapping seminar with Professor McMannis and am honored to call him my friend. 

But, as most of you know, my travels are usually filled with some sort of drama.  Let's get to it.

Surprisingly, the flight out of LaGuardia was trouble-free. 
Shockingly, my bag was the first out of the carousel. 
Amazingly, I caught the shuttle bus to the rental car outlet as it was pulling away from the curb.

Nothing could stop me now.

"Honey, you got the wrong car," exclaimed a sweet woman at the rental car exit. 

"Lady," I replied.  "Only an idiot could pick up the wrong car."

She looked my driver's license up and down, and then peered at me over the rim of her glasses.  She then checked the agreement license and turned to her friend.  She gave her one of those looks, a look that she knew that I was bluffing.  The friend looked at me before turning back to the lady and the friend knew that the lady knew that I knew that the lady knew that I was bluffing. 

"Sir, what number was your assigned car?"

"F7...I think," I answered meekly.

Sir, this car is F17.  You're going to have to go back and get the right car."

I had tons of clever things to say, but instead I went with "Oh."

I went in reverse, to the dismay of the five drivers waiting patiently behind me, and returned to F17, where another employee was parked. 

"Hey buddy," I yelled.  "I got the wrong car and you're in the spot.  I'm just going to leave it here, okay?"

"That's fine," the guy responded. 

And I was on my way to F7.

"Hey buddy," he yelled.  "You may need this!"

I had left my wallet in F17. 

Strike One.

Embarrassed, I drove away from the rental car agency, the woman's laughter ringing in my ears.  I made it to the hotel, checked in (got the right room, I'm proud to say), and proceeded to handicap the Saturday Arlington card on my dilapidated laptop.  After hours of agonizing internet delays, my growling stomach indicated that I hadn't eaten all day. 

Off to the steakhouse next door. 

An ex-girlfriend once told me that there's nothing sadder than a man that eats alone in a restaurant.  While I could think of lots of worse things, I have eaten alone many times in a restaurant and it doesn't feel good.  So, I decided to change things up a bit.

I ate alone at the bar.

Trust me, it's sadder this way.  The restaurant bar is a place for camaraderie, where regulars gather to have a drink, watch the game, and share a conversation.  The bar is not a place to have a full dinner of soup, bread, salad, and steak while taking up half of the wood.  It's safe to say I was an annoyance. 

Across the bar smiled an old man with watery eyes.  He looked like a kind soul so I nodded in his direction. 

The next thing I knew, he was on the floor.

My God, I've killed him. 

At first, it looked like the elderly gentleman just had a few too many adult beverages.  Then, the sirens sounded, the paramedics came, and the man was helped out of the establishment. 

Strike Two.

Saturday morning was looking good as I pulled out of the hotel parking lot.  That lasted a total of ninety seconds before the sky opened up and a torrential downpour began.  I pulled into the Trackside OTB lot, locked up, and got out of the vehicle sans umbrella.

A real gentleman.

That's how I hoped to make my first impression on some of my FormBlog faithful.

Soaking-wet dork running for cover wasn't on the list.

Strike Thr...but no.  It was a foul tip and I was still alive thanks to the great group of FormBloggers.  Not only are they sharp handicappers, but they are wonderful people as well.  FormBlog was created so a fraternity of horseplayers could get together, share insights and ideas, and hopefully, become friends.  My proudest accomplishment in this, often, crazy business, is that I've succeeded in that regard.

Comparing the Trackside OTB to some of the other Off Track Betting establishments I've frequented in my day is like comparing ice cream to horse manure.  The place is spotless, fan-friendly, has great food (from what I've been told), and is often packed to the rafters.  It was the perfect spot to meet and prepare for the day. 

With Steve Taylor and Dylbert driving with me, the FormBlog group headed to the track where I gave my seminar with Professor McMannis.  Thanks to the morning deluge, we were off the turf and I'd like to make that my excuse for my poor handicapping.  It's no excuse, however.  I simply stunk.

Race 1 was an $18,000 claimer for fillies and mares, and I really liked #1 JODY'S INCLUDED, a Canterbury invader going turf to polytrack.  I believed that she was the lone speed and admired her most recent race in Minnesota.  In that spot, she chased a lone pacesetter early, made the lead briefly in the stretch, and ran on well to the wire while being run down by a solid closer.  Jody's Included did all the dirty work that day and figured to relax on the front end under leading rider Junior Alvarado. 
Unfortunately, trainer Larry Rivelli had other plans.  With an uncoupled entry in the race, he sent TRIGGER FISH LANE, the weaker half, after Jody's Included.  They dueled through the first six furlongs before fading to the back of the pack.  That set things up for Lakeaway, who roared past them all to win impressively in hand.  Lakeaway has now won three of five starts on synthetic surfaces.  With a 3-7 record on dirt, she can be expected to make noise at Hawthorne if she remains in this good form.

After the first race, Professor McMannis took me down to the paddock for a quick in-house interview with Jessica and we talked about the importance of the FormBlog community. 

The second half of the double was a $25,000 maiden claimer at five furlongs.  This race was washed off the turf and was a perfect example of early money tipping off a live debut runner.  PETERS ROCK, a Dayjur colt trained by Doug Matthews, opened up at odds-on despite being 8-1 on the morning line.  As is the case with many of these runners, Peters Rock drifted to a reasonable 5-2 and romped by six.  Radical Swing was a bad favorite off the March layoff. 
Turnbackthealarm had the exacta with 15-1 Beaujack getting the place, partially thanks to Uncle Steve T's list of poly-pedigree sires. 

After the chalks ran 1-2-3 in the third race, the FormBlog group was delighted when chicago gerry joined the party.  And he was on fire throughout the day, cashing many tickets including the late-running Six Pack Abs in the fourth.  I liked Garburetor, anticipating a hot pace up front.  I got the pace, but Garburetor didn't have any pop in the lane.  The veteran speedster, Foxie's Boy, may need a break. 

The fifth race was generously titled "The DRF FormBlog convention," and our group was ushered to the paddock for an up-close and personal view of the horses.  There, Jessica graciously posed for pictures and signed some autographs for some of the bloggers. 
chicago gerry handed over a Sheriff’s badge for me to wear and I proudly pinned it to my shirt for the winner's circle photo. 
Candyonmymind paddles badly with her left fore, but she found a field she could handle, rallying from off the pace to score for Eddie Razo.  The track graciously gave us the winner's trophy as well as two pairs of jockey goggles for Midwest Ed's kids. 

If you hear a squealing group of children after each race at Arlington, take comfort that Justin Bieber isn't performing in the vicinity.  The kids are looking for goggles and, more often than not, the winning rider will oblige.  It's a sweet gesture, one that the kids will remember for a long time.  Hopefully, it will spur them back to the track when they're older. 

Prior to the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity, Steve Taylor introduced me to Mike Campbell, the President of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horseman's Association, and trainer of Steve's horses.  Mike seems like a good guy and he has some interesting ideas on how to get new people interested in horse ownership.  I look forward to talking to him in the future.
Major Gain won his maiden in the Futurity for Alvarado and trainer Wayne Catalano despite failing to switch leads in the stretch.  Caleb's Posse couldn't stay the one-turn mile.

When handicapping claimers at a marathon distance, it's often wise to play the runner(s) that have previously proven effective at a strong route of ground.  In the seventh race, a 12-furlong event on the polytrack, the only two runners in the race with a win at 10 furlongs or greater were Big Al and Rumor Has It.  Both were dropping out of the Grade 3 Stars N Stripes on August 21, a race in which Big Al finished 17 lengths ahead of Rumor Has It.  Big Al won by five in track record time, and paid $14.60 to win.  I didn't practice what I preached and my runner faltered after 10 furlongs. 

I went down to the paddock with Dennis of Moline prior to the Arlington-Washington Lassie and we got a good look at the juvenile fillies.  Wonderlandbynight made a nice impression for trainer Michael Reavis and she rallied from off the pace to win the Grade 3 event.  Honey Chile was cold on the tote early and only mustered an even rally. 

After the finale, we headed over to the Anthem Grill for a nice dinner.  I had some laughs with Bear, Jim Tully, Dennis and Rose of Moline, PGM, chicago gerry (who gave me a black cowboy hat to complete the Sheriff’s ensemble), the McMannis', Steve Taylor, and the rest of the group. 

We all got together prior to the Sunday card and the FormBloggers were on target.  During the roundtable, SR Vegas gave out fifth-race winner Ship's Cabin at $47.40. 
PGM liked Call to Glory, the winner of the sixth at $21.60, among his several good-priced winners and Steve Taylor knocked down the late Pick Four at $586.20 for each dollar invested.  Turnbackthealarm showed her paddock prowess by noticing a bad case of skin rash on Happiness Is, who faltered to third at 7-2 in the feature.   More importantly, the sun was shining, the group was smiling, and everyone seemed to have a good time, both at the track and at the post-race dinner.

I can safely say that if blogs are measured by the people that frequent them, then FormBlog is first-class all the way.

Thanks to PGM, Steve Taylor and chicago gerry for organizing the convention.  Its success is due to their hard work.  I'd also like to thank all of the attendees.  It was great to meet and get to know each and every one of you and I think most folks went home with at least one raffle prize.
Now, let's do it again!


I'm sorry that there won't be a ton of time to get ready for tomorrow's HandiGambling exercise, but congrats to Jim Peregoy for winning last week's race.  He selects the eighth race at Belmont. 

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan." Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified. Please post your plays and analysis to the blog. In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please. I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Best of luck to all.

Back tomorrow with the HG analysis.  Thursday, I'll get to questions, comments, and top Beyers of the week.

Take care,


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