08/15/2014 10:52AM

Fornatale: Breaking down Arlington's big card


It’s been a good time to be an editor at PublicHandicapper.com. Just last week, PH editor Christopher Larmey was second in the Battle of Saratoga handicapping contest, and his “boss,” PH founder Scott Carson, was fifth in the same event.

But the most impressive achievement this season by a PH editor might just be what Rodrick Dobson has done: He is dominating the competition within the competition between editors during the Public Handicapper Challenge. He holds an $82.20 lead and has a shot to win one of the National Handicapping Challenge seats offered in the overall competition as well – if he can make up $38.30 between now and the Breeders’ Cup.

Dobson grew up in Jamaica, listening to race calls and racing commentary on the radio. “That’s how I got into racing,” he said. “I was taken with the race callers because they were pretty colorful. And I started looking at the form to see if I could predict the winners. And since Jamaica was a British colony, the racing primarily came from England. That’s what I followed primarily.”

He moved to the United States in 1995 but maintained his interest in European flat racing. “I’ve always been a fan of European-style racing,” he said. “Even when I came here and started following American racing, I always keep up with the major flat meets like Royal Ascot, Goodwood, Champions’ Day.”

Dobson lives in Chicago and understands the peculiarities of the Arlington turf course. “The Arlington stretch is pretty long and has a little bit of an uphill finish,” Dobson said. “And riders who aren’t familiar with it can get caught out. It takes a lot of stamina to get home – you can’t move too early.”

There’s also a certain type of horse who wins on the Arlington course. “Look at the Beverly D. last year,” Dobson said. “A lot of people liked the two European fillies, Dank and Duntle. Duntle had beaten Dank previously, but if you watched how they both ran, Dank was handier, more suited to running around a turn at Arlington. Duntle was more of a straight miler, better suited for Ascot.”

Between his PublicHandicapper success and his knowledge of Arlington and European form, Dobson is the perfect person to offer a contest player’s perspective on the four big turf races on Arlington Million Day.

ARLINGTON 7: The American St. Leger, 1 11/16 miles

Dobson: “There doesn’t appear to be much pace here other than #3 Big Kick, but I’m not sure he’s got the class to outstay these. I think the race will turn into a three-furlong sprint home. A lot of people are talking about last year’s winner, #2 Dandino, but I’m not sure what kind of form he’s in this time around. He’s been getting beat up by the top stayers in Europe. I think the local guys have a big shot, and I’m latching onto #11 SUNTRACER (4-1). His record in the win department at Arlington is spotty, but the horse definitely loves the course; he’s just a difficult ride. He nearly won this race last year, and I think the connections’ faith in him will be rewarded.”

ARLINGTON 8: The Grade 1 Secretariat, 1 1/4 miles

Dobson: “This is a fascinating race; #9 Tourist, an improving 3-year-old in the Bill Mott barn, will more than likely make the pace, but Aidan O’Brien entered two, and #3 Belisarius is here to help set up the race for #6 Adelaide, who will be a heavy favorite. He’s got excellent form, but he’s been known to find one going better, and I think this time around, Adelaide will get caught out by one of the local horses. I’m really liking #8 CAN’THELPBELIEVING (12-1) in this spot, out of the Graham Motion camp. He’s a good finisher, and I’m expecting Mr. Motion to have him ready.”

ARLINGTON 9: The Grade 1 Beverly D., 1 3/16 miles

Dobson: “I think the Euros will get this one. It’s the best race on the program. It’s a well-matched, talented group. There’s lots of pace in here, and I’m expecting a barn burner. My selection is #1 JUST THE JUDGE (6-1), with Jamie Spencer riding. This horse is just rounding into form after a poor start to the season in Europe. I loved her last run. I watched the replay, and while she was third, she was the only one besides the winner who was really making up ground coming home. I think Spencer will have her loping along out the back and will set her on fire coming home, and I think her class will get her to the wire first. A lot of good handicappers are talking about #2 Euro Charlene, and she’s a good sort, but there’s just so much speed in here, I think she’ll be compromised. I think Just The Judge will take this one.”

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ARLINGTON 10: The Grade 1 Arlington Million, 1 1/4 miles

Dobson: “This is another race that’s challenged from a pace perspective, and I think it’s really going to be a riders’ race, a tactical race. The majority of horses here really want to come from out of it. I think this is the spot that #1 Hardest Core will choose, and he should be the leader. I don’t think he’s classy enough to take this field a mile and a quarter. I think Jamie Spencer will win this one as well with #7 SIDE GLANCE (8-1). Looking at the replay of the Singapore Cup, where #2 Smoking Sun beat him, Side Glance had a lot of trouble. He was anchored out the back, where Smoking Sun got a dream run through while Side Glance had to switch widest of all and was still coming home gamely. I think he’s capable of much better speed than the rest of these. I think he’ll get first run and hold on down the lane.”

You can see Dobson’s picks and read his analysis every weekend at PublicHandicapper.com. And it’s never too late to join the Public Handicapper Challenge, as there are monthly and weekly prizes to compete for as well as the main prize of the two NHC seats. As always, PublicHandicapper is free to play. You can join by visiting https://www.publichandicapper.com/signup.cfm.