11/19/2008 11:09AM

HandiGambling 110

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Today's HandiGambling 110 exercise is the Late Daily Double at Churchill Downs.  Late entrants can find the past performances in the previous blog.  Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to play the bet.

The key to the sequence may be in the first leg.  Do we believe the 90 Beyer Speed Figure earned by Duke of Pearl in his recent rout of extremely weak conditioned claimers?  He certainly hadn't shown that sort of ability in the past.  If we believe the number, and think that he can duplicate that race in this spot, he looms a strong contender.  After watching the replay of that race, I'm still confused.  All of the jockeys (except Calvin Bo-Rail aboard Duke of Pearl) acted as if the rail was made of kryptonite.  They kept their mounts well off the inside while Borel scooted Duke of Pearl into contention on the backstretch.  From the head-on replay, it looked as if Duke of Pearl was in a tiny bit of a tight spot entering the turn, but he soon drew away from his foes with ease.  We can take heart that he stayed on his correct lead during the entire stretch run, and remained straight as a string in the lane.  The obvious worry is that he didn't have a straw in his path while saving all the ground, and that scenario will probably not present itself again today as Duke of Pearl breaks from the far outside.  Is it possible that the well-bred (half-brother to Grade 2 winner Vision and Verse), lightly-raced (only nine starts) gelding is a course and distance lover (both wins over this same one-turn mile at Churchill) that is finally figuring the game out?  Borel apparently doesn't think so as he lands on Cultured today.  How much weight should be put in jockey musical chairs?  What to do?  What a tough game!  What a great game!  I'm going to take a positive stance on Duke of Pearl.  There seems to be enough speed drawn to his inside to set up Duke of Pearl's stalking style, and he may offer good value at 4-1 or so on the tote board.  If he went off as the chalk, I wouldn't want him, but I don't want that 90 Beyer to burn me at a price.   I'll use him as my prime play in this leg of the Daily Double.
Lord and T. is another well-bred (half to stakes-winner Over the Edge by top sire A.P. Indy) ex-claimer that has seemingly found himself in the last two races.  Of course, both of those races were over Keeneland's polytrack surface, and Lord and T.'s dirt form is very ugly.  Is he purely a synthetic horse or is he getting good? 
Isabull's only victory came over Arlington's polytrack last year, but he's kept good company in 2008, placing in a pair of stakes races including the Grade 2 Rebel over Oaklawn's dirt course.  Isabull will make the second start following a spring layoff this afternoon, and his stalking style should work well in this race.  It's reassuring to see the recent pair of five-furlong workouts, and Isabull looks very logical. 
I'm a bit more bearish on Hapitano's chances.  This will be his seventh start in this condition, and he hasn't gained ground from the stretch call to the finish line in any of those races.  If he goes off anywhere near the 5-1 morning line, he may be an underlay.
This is a fascinating race, and I can't wait to see what happens.  I'll play Duke of Pearl with the majority of my HandiGambling money, but will save with Lord and T. and Isabull.

***

Indygo Mountain looks like a strong play in the finale.  A $600,000 yearling purchase by A.P. Indy out of stakes-winner Mountain Girl, Indygo Mountain ran in a live maiden heat over Keeneland's polytrack on October 15.  Two horses returned from that race to win next-out (winner Kopitar won an entry-level allowance on turf at Churchill while the sixth-finisher came back to win his maiden at Fair Grounds), and I think the chartcaller missed a key component in Indygo Mountain's trip.  According to the chart, Indygo Mountain raced "within striking distance three wide, lodged a mild bid to be second best."  From watching both angles of the race replay, it's pretty clear that jockey E. T. Baird dropped his stick at the eighth pole, and was forced to hand-ride Indygo Mountain the rest of the way.  Would he have won if Baird didn't fumble the ball?  Probably not, but we'll never know.  Indygo Mountain has to prove himself over dirt, but he looks solid here as the likely favorite. 
Flying Warrior has a lovely pedigree as her dam was an excellent, excellent racehorse.  He's run second in both starts over polytrack, and should be running strongly in the lane once again for the Mott barn. 
Futuristic steps up from the maiden claiming ranks, but Michael Maker isn't winning 40% at the meet by putting his horses in the wrong spot.  He has an outside chance from the outside post. 
Sun Button finished just behind Futuristic in that maiden claimer, and will be a better price. 
Firster Big Bad Blue looks interesting.  He shared the worktab on several occasions with Ken McPeek's Free Country, a juvenile that won first-out at this meet with an 81 Beyer. 
Baton Rouge was working very well prior to his career debut at Keeneland in April, but has yet to run to his morning trials.  He has good speed, and may try to take these gate-to-wire. 
Masrawy made a nice late flurry in his first start over dirt, but he seems to have trouble getting out of the gate, and draws the rail for the third straight time.

Here are my HandiGambling plays:

$60 DD - Duke of Pearl - Indygo Mountain (11-10)
$20 DD - Lord and T. - Indygo Mountain (6-10)
$20 DD - Isabull - Indygo Mountain (5-10)

This looks like a fun sequence.  Good Luck!

Be back Friday with some questions, comments, and Saturday stakes selections.

Take care,

Dan