10/01/2008 4:53PM

HandiGambling 104

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Today's HandiGambling 104 exercise is the seventh race from Oak Tree, a 'n2x' optional claimer on the turf, and it is a tough, tough race to handicap.  I landed on three "key" horses.  Nownownow will always go down in history as the winner of the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, but he suffered from the horrible combination of mismanagement and injury since that race.  His connections shipped him overseas to contest the Irish 2,000 Guineas for his 3-year-debut, and he was terribly mismatched against horses like Henrythenavigator and New Approach.  After that race, he had a foot abscess, and may have been a bit short when fifth in the Grade 2 La Jolla at Del Mar.  His most recent race, the Del Mar Derby, resulted in a career-high Beyer Speed Figure, and Nownownow may be rounding back into his best form as he makes the third start of the form cycle.  He draws inside, and should save some ground going into the first turn. 
Gabriel's Hill looks like an interesting longshot.  He hasn't been out in over one year, but the son of A.P. Indy and Irish Oaks winner Lailani pulled off a 42-1 shocker over a pair of next-out winners in his most recent appearance, and has done some good work on turf in the past.  Gabriel's Hill has won off shorter layoffs in the past, and has the tactical speed to find a good spot tracking likely pacesetters Kris Silver and Global Heat.  At 20-1 on the morning line, he's worth inclusion.
Prince Rexy impressed me in his North American debut.  A son of top sire Redoute's Choice, Prince Rexy made a four wide move on the far turn at Del Mar, then powered away from the field while drifting out slightly in the stretch.  He's been freshened since that race by master horseman Neil Drysdale, and should be rallying stoutly when the real running begins. 
I debated what do do with Moral Compass.  He was blocked turning for home in the faster division of the Oceanside two back at Del Mar, but he's a bit of a nibbler, and may be overbet in the win pool.  He may work out an advantageous pace-tracking, ground-saving trip under Garrett Gomez, but I can't play 'em all, can I?
As for the others, Bright Prediction has been away for over a year, and his last win came against $35,000 claimers going two furlongs longer.  Joe Bravo broke poorly over yielding going at Belmont, and can improve in his second start for Bobby Frankel.  Global Heat enjoyed easy fractions when going gate-to-wire in his route debut, and may feel more pressure from Kris Silver here.  I didn't like the way T'aint War Sir galloped out after he won his 'n1x' optional claimer last year, and he's only started twice since.  Kris Silver is perfect over this course, but his stamina is somewhat suspect.

I'm kinda sorta taking a leap of faith in predicting that Nownownow will return to his best form.  I know he's a good horse when he's right.  His runner-up finish in the Bourbon at Keeneland despite being 3-4 wide throughout showed his grit. 

$50 Win Nownownow (#1)
$20 Exacta Nownownow-Prince Rexy (#1-#8)
$10 Exacta Nownownow - Gabriel's Hill (#1-#10)
$10 Exacta Prince Rexy - Nownownow (#8-#1)
$5 Exacta Gabriel's Hill - Nownownow (#10-#1)
$2 Exacta Box Gabriel's Hill - Prince Rexy (#10-#8)

$1 for the till.

Back tomorrow with answers to questions and comments, and a Past Champion Retrospective.

Good luck today.

Dan