11/26/2008 11:39AM

HandiGambling 111


Today's HandiGambling exercise is the sixth race at Churchill Downs, a maiden special weight for two-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.  Past performances for the race can be found in the previous blog entry.  Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on this race. 

Several of these babies are trying the turf for the first time in this contentious heat.  Rocamadour has an intriguing pedigree.  His sire, Black Mambo, was stakes-placed sprinting on dirt, but was certainly bred for grass being by top turf sire Kingmambo out of a half-sister to Weekend Surprise, the dam of A.P. Indy, Summer Squall, etc.  Black Mambo cost $1.1M as a  yearling, and is a half-brother to Shuailaan, a stakes-winner in Europe.  While the dam was winless on grass, and Black Mambo has yet to sire a turf winner, it's interesting to note that he is a half-brother to a sod winner.  Rocamadour was saddled with the inside post in both of his one-turn races on the main track.  He ran evenly over polytrack before faltering badly on dirt at Churchill Downs.  I'll go with the theory that his turf race will be more like his synthetic try than his dirt debacle, and that he'll improve for a barn that does very well with first-time grass performers.  Rocamadour was a $20,000 yearling that sold up to $80,000 earlier this year. 

Coach Gravy comes from the Asmussen assembly line, and his polytrack race was noticeably better than his three starts on dirt.  The dam was a Group 3 winner on turf in her native Ireland, and she has foaled a couple of winners overseas.  There is also some class and distance influences in her female family as the second dam is a half-sister to Open Mind.  Coach Gravy draws a comfortable post near the inside, and should show solid early speed. 

God's Country is probably going to be dismissed at a huge price, but I'm not totally discounting his chances first-out.  His sire is a three-quarter brother to Surfside, and God's Country is from the female family of Irish St. Leger winner Ninisky.  His last workout looks slow, but it matches up on the worktab with stablemate Living, a three-year-old colt that won his debut going long on the grass at Mountaineer earlier in the year.  He's likely to be huge odds, and I'll throw him in with the above two in exotic wagers. 

Bruce N Autumn looms the horse to beat off his big number on dirt, and the half-sister to Black-Eyed Susan winner Chamrousse by Lemon Drop Kid should have no problem with the distance.  He gets a strong rider switch to Robby Albarado, but you probably won't get much value.  Remember that he was almost 50-1 in his career debut.  You'll be getting closer to 2-1 today as he tries two turns and a new surface. 

J T Rocker showed good speed in his debut before faltering late.  Considering he was making his first start going a mile, he had every reason to be a bit short.  He's from the female family of Sunshine Forever so there's enough grass in there for him to thrive on the surface switch.  I'm guessing Kent Desormeaux takes this Aldebaran colt off the pace this afternoon, and wouldn't be surprised by an improved showing. 

Big McCool is by turf star Giant's Causeway out of a three-quarter sister to Grade 3 turf winner Namaqualand.  He goes second off the layoff with a recent five-furlong breeze on display, and is another that could certainly improve for Dallas Stewart. 

I seriously considered El Crespo when the son of A.P. Indy made his debut on polytrack, but he never picked up his feet at 21-1.  He adds blinkers for his second start, and has a strong turf pedigree.  He's a half-brother to turf stakes-winners Rey de Cafe and Tricky Causeway, and his dam is a half-sister to the nice turf runner King Cugat.  He was also working very well prior to his debut.

This is a tough, tough race with several possibilities.  I'm going in without much confidence in these plays:

$40 Win Rocamadour (3)

$10 Exacta Box Coach Gravy, Rocamadour, God's Country (2,3,9)

Be back Friday with questions and weekend analysis:

Happy Thanksgiving!