02/11/2009 1:51PM

HandiGambling 120

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Today's HandiGambling exercise is the eighth race at Gulfstream Park, an entry-level allowance race for older runners at nine furlongs.  Past performances can be accessed 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 Edge of a Shadow (#2).

I've never liked Stevil (#3), and when I saw him listed as the 8-5 morning line favorite, I was very interested in finding someone to beat him.  Then, after considering the options, I threw my hands up in the air.  If you can't beat him, join him.  Stevil is no star.  He's more Sam P. than Curlin, and really doesn't have a ton of ability.  That being said, there's not much in this race from a pace or speed perspective, and Stevil's recent races are simply faster than his rivals.  He should work out a good trip near the lead under Jose Lezcano, and looms the horse to beat at an unappetizing short price.

East End Tap(#7) is an intriguing alternative.  His only win came on Woodbine's polytrack surface, but he earned his best Beyer Speed Figure on dirt in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie.  In that race, he finished less than two lengths behind the quality stakes horse Harlem Rocker, and a repeat of that performance would put him squarely in today's hunt.  He finished behind Stevil last time out, but that race looks like a one-turn prep off the layoff, and East End Tap may be sharper with the addition of blinkers this afternoon.  I don't think you'll get the 15-1 listed on the morning line, but the price still should be right.

Pegasian (#8) also adds blinkers for this race, and can be close to the expected pokey splits.  His only win came on turf, but he's run well enough on the main track, and his most recent defeat can be attributed to the layoff and the daunting 12 furlong distance.  He shows some sharp workouts (presumably with blinkers) leading up to this race, will appreciate turning back in distance, and has an upset chance under Edgar Prado. 

Southern Terminus (#5) is also eligible to show improved speed as he stretches out a half-mile for his second race after a long layoff.  That five-furlong turf race was nothing more than a workout so don't put too much stock in the dull running line.  Southern Terminus ran well at this distance last year at Gulfstream, and Helen Pitts is one of the more underrated trainers around.  This one is interesting with Julien Leparoux aboard. 

Forty Zip (#6) won a conditioned claiming race in gate-to-wire fashion three back in the mud in New Jersey, and could assume the role of pacesetter by default.  That gives him an advantage considering the strong likelihood of a slow pace.  Forty Zip has failed nine times at the entry-level condition, however, and may be in a bit steep.  Note that he hasn't shown a published workout in almost a month. 

Sr. Henry (#4) kept good company in 2008, finishing second in the Grade 2 American Derby over soft sod at Arlington.  He raced evenly for the hot Ken McPeek barn when finishing behind Stevil last time out, and fits on his best.  Still, it's hard to trust a runner that's 1-20 lifetime. 

He's the Commander (#1) makes the third start of the form cycle after passing tiring horses last time out.  He'll probably need to be closer to the pace to have an impact here, and his speed figures pale in comparison to the top contenders.

Here's how I'll play it:

$40 Exacta - Stevil/East End Tap (3-7)
$30 Exacta - Stevil/Pegasian (3-8)
$20 Exacta - Stevil/Southern Terminus (3-5)
$10 Exacta - Stevil/Forty Zip (3-4)

Best of luck to all.

drf.com handicapper Mike Beer has a completely different take on this race.  To view our "Race of the Day" video for the HandiGambling race, go to the link below:

http://www.drf.com/video/rod.html