01/28/2009 1:18PM

HandiGambling 118

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Today's HandiGambling 118 exercise is the seventh race at Gulfstream, a 'n1x' allowance at nine-furlongs on the turf.  Past performances are available from the previous blog entry.  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."

Let's scratch all of the also-eligibles, and there is an equipment change for #5 Sir Mott.  He'll add blinkers in his first start for Richard Dutrow Jr. 

I don't have a very strong feeling for this race, and it took me a bit of time to whittle down to four contenders.  Solitaire (#2) is the morning line favorite based on his best-last Beyer win, and multiple stakes-placings as a maiden at Woodbine last year.  But the combination of layoff and the whole "facing winners for the first time" makes me leery of him at a short price.  Can he win the whole kit and kaboodle?  Sure.  Do I want to play him to win at underlaid odds?  Nope.  I'll use him in my trifecta wagers.

Plenty Coups (#4) won his turf and route debut in gate-to-wire fashion at the Meadowlands, and may have been compromised by the far outside post in his most recent race.  His figures are competitive, and he shows a series of long workouts in preparation for his first start since the end of October.  His maiden win was basically a theft, however, as Chris Decarlo made an uncontested early lead, and Plenty Coups was a bit late to change leads in the stretch.  Will he make a similar lead with first-time turfer Jack's Eleven (#9) also possible gunning for the front?  At 9-2 or so, he's somewhat attractive to win, but I don't completely trust him.

Nor do I completely trust On Fire (#7).  A nicely-bred son of Pulpit, On Fire has been mired in this condition since the fall of 2007, and his complete lack of early speed usually puts him at a tactical disadvantage.  He finished ahead of three next-out winners in a solid performance three back at Keeneland, and was rallying nicely in the lane in his first start of the meet 25 days ago.  He's in form, has the recency advantage over his main rivals, and should get enough pace to attack.  He may have the best win chance of my four contenders, but he's had his share of chances at this level already.

New Believer (#12) looms an interesting play.  He won his career debut at two in the slower division of six-furlong maiden special weights over the Keeneland polytrack before bombing in two starts on the dirt.  Throw those losses out.  New Believer is not a dirt horse.  He's a synthetic/turf runner that has run a couple of good races on the grass in recent starts.  The lightly-raced gelding has some upside potential, goes out for a red-hot trainer in Wesley Ward, makes the second start following a long, long layoff, and should be charging hard in the stretch along with On Fire.  The outside post is a concern as there's a short run to the first turn, and the rails are all the way out at 84 feet.

I don't really have a strong enough opinion to hammer out a confident win play so I'll play the old trifecta box with my four contenders.

$4 Trifecta Box - Solitaire, Plenty Coups, On Fire, New Believer ($96)

$4 for refreshments

Best of luck to all.

Dan