05/01/2009 1:29PM

HandiGambling 131

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This week's HandiGambling 131 exercise is the Kentucky Derby.  Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race (including Kentucky Oaks - Kentucky Derby Daily Doubles), and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."   Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. 

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.  The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are.  I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought process about wagering, it would be appreciated.

I landed on several win candidates.  In order of preference:

DESERT PARTY (#19) is professional and tactical, and had to rally over a speed-favoring track in the UAE Derby while under an overly-confident ride by Frankie Dettori.  He has enough speed to secure a stalking trip while in the second or third flight.  There may not be a ton of pace in this Derby, and Desert Party can get the jump on the stone closers from 5-7 lengths off the early leaders. 

REGAL RANSOM (#10) was flattered by the bias in the UAE Derby, and 1 1/4 miles may be just outside his range, but he could be aided by the possible moderate splits.  I'm projecting Regal Ransom to sit just off overmatched pacesetter JOIN IN THE DANCE only to take over with three furlongs to run.  I'm hoping he'll be in front when they hit the "wall of sound."  After that, we'll see how good he is. 

DUNKIRK (#15) may have the most upside potential of any horse in the field.  Yes, he's inexperienced, but he's also very talented.  He ran against the bias in the Florida Derby when rallying five wide on the far turn only to be turned away by an excellent three-year-old in the now-injured Quality Road.  Dunkirk will likely need some pace to properly setup his late kick, but expect to see the gray streak makes his presence felt at some point of the running.

I WANT REVENGE (#13) is a favorite without many holes.  He ran fast in the Gotham when pressuring a quick and quality three-year-old in Mr. Fantasy, then asserted his class by overcoming a horror trip to win the Wood Memorial under only hands and heels urging.  He has enough speed to find a good spot going into the first turn...if he breaks well from the gate.  Hopefully, his abysmal start in the Wood Memorial was an aberration instead of the beginning of a bad habit.

FRIESAN FIRE (#6) has Funny Cide-eque tactical speed, and may work out a similar trip as the plucky New York-bred gelding.  He can track the pace while saving ground, is proven over a wet surface and, according to the Beyers, has run some races fast enough to compete with these. 

#1 WEST SIDE BERNIE isn't impossible in the gimmicks although he was no match for I Want Revenge in the Wood, and that one had a much more difficult journey.  West Side Bernie also suffered from a minor bout of colic since the Wood, and must avoid being shuffled all the way back after breaking from the rail.

#2 MUSKET MAN looked a tired horse when switching back to his wrong lead in the waning strides of the Illinois Derby.  That should have been expected as he's bred to excel at shorter distances, but Musket Man has already outrun his pedigree.  He's a likeable colt, but probably a cut below the top contenders.

#3 MR. HOT STUFF has some long-term potential, but this horse is as green as the Grinch when compared to his older brother, Colonel John, at this point last year.  A one-run closer, Mr. Hot Stuff needs pace and race luck.

#4 ADVICE was aided by a wonderful ride from Garrett Gomez when winning the Lexington at Keeneland.  He's another late-kicker that needs racing luck, and is probably better at shorter distances over synthetic surfaces.

I think #5 HOLD ME BACK is coming into this race wonderfully for Bill Mott.  He showed a lot of class in winning the Lane's End in his first start off a four-month break, and I don't think he was fully cranked when second to GENERAL QUARTERS in the Blue Grass.  He's probably sitting on 'go' for the Derby, but has yet to win on dirt, and needs a trip from the rear of the field.

#7 PAPA CLEM showed a new dimension when stalking-and-pouncing to victory in the Arkansas Derby, and he was game to hold the place in the Louisiana Derby.  He can be close to the expected moderate pace under the aggressive Rafael Bejarano, and looms an exotics chance at the very least.

#8 MINE THAT BIRD is simply too slow with a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 81.  He has never won on dirt, and is overmatched in this spot.

#9 JOIN IN THE DANCE is the probable pacesetter, but he stopped in the Blue Grass, and couldn't hold back Musket Man's determined late surge in the Sam F. Davis.  Know him early, but he probably starts backing out of this race at the three-eighths pole.

#11 CHOCOLATE CANDY has never raced on dirt so that's the major x-factor with him.  He's bred to handle this distance, and also acts like the additional furlong won't be a problem.  Another late-runner that will need luck.

#12 GENERAL QUARTERS has won graded stakes races on both dirt and polytrack, and he kept on trucking to win the Blue Grass last time out.  He's a professional sort with some tactical speed, and is the only horse in the race with a previous victory at Churchill Downs.  I'm just not sure if he's as good as the top ones, however.

#14 ATOMIC RAIN's best race came when no match for I WANT REVENGE in the Wood.  He's eligible for a 'n2L' race somewhere, and looks in over his head in the Derby.

#16 PIONEEROF THE NILE is consistent and hearty, and if he duplicates his synthetic form, he's going to be very, very tough in the Derby.  Of course, not one person in this world knows if he's going to be as effective on dirt until he actually races on it.  If he goes off at a decent price, and you like Pioneerof the Nile, you owe it to yourself to load up. But, if he goes off as an underlay, you have to try and beat him as you're not supposed to play horses trying something new at short prices.

#17 SUMMER BIRD may have been helped by the hot pace when a rallying third in the Arkansas Derby.  He's an interesting colt by Belmont and Travers winner Birdstone, but his lack of speed will put him behind the eight ball on the backstretch.

#18 NOWHERE TO HIDE has been exposed at the graded level, and he didn't do much behind Musket Man in the weak Illinois Derby.  He has an outside chance to hit the board with an even performance if some of the others falter.

#20 FLYING PRIVATE is also eligible for an entry-level allowance race, and his best speed figure came over a synthetic track.  He'd be a surprise.

Here's my HandiGambling play:

$25 WIN-PLACE Desert Party (#19) - $50
$8 EXACTA BOX Regal Ransom, Dunkirk, Desert Party (#10, #13, #19) - $48

$2 for half of a mint julep


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For what they're worth, here are some other opinions for the weekend:

Crown Royal American Turf (Race 10 - Friday)

STORMALORY and BATTLE OF HASTINGS look set to put on a good East-West matchup in this three-year-old heat on the grass, but both will take a solid amount of money.  Instead, I'll focus on a price horse.  BRUCE N AUTUMN won his maiden over wet turf at Churchill last year, then was taken out of his element on dirt in his subsequent two outings.  Last time out, in the Lane's End on polytrack, Bruce N Autumn made a premature wide move down the backstretch before steadying a bit entering the turn.  He returns to his preferred surface, and is worth a shot at a big mutuel.

Churchill Downs Stakes (Race 6 - Saturday)

Don't think there's a lot of pace in this race, and that may work against likely favorite KODIAK KOWBOY.  The Jones-trained sprinter gave a gut-busting effort to win the Carter Handicap last month, and may regress off that hard race.  SOK SOK looks logical from closer to the pace, but I'll go with a better price in SPOTSGONE.  The six-year-old battled every step of the way in the Fifth Season at Oaklawn last time out only to come up a neck shy.  He sandwiched himself between a pair of next-out winners that day, and is making his fourth start since returning from a stress fracture suffered last year.  It looks like he's rounding into form, and can be a pace presence despite turning back in distance.

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I was browsing them and starting thinking: "damn, Flying Private looks better than I thought..."
James Mc

Here's a classic Lukas quote from a Churchill Downs press release:

"He's as good as some of them I brought here, including some of them who've won," the Hall of Fame trainer said.  "Charismatic went on to be Horse of the Year, but at this stage, I think he's every bit as good as Charismatic, and I think he's better than Grindstone."

This next Lukas quote will put a burr in Steve T.'s saddle:

"I'm not a synthetic person.  I think it's caused a nightmare for the bettors.  The very lifeblood of our industry is the gambling public, and I think they've been put at such a disadvantage trying to sort this thing out," Lukas said. 
"I think it'll run its course, and maybe in a couple years, they'll dig them all up and get back to natural dirt.  They have that Gamblers Anonymous for people who have that bad gambling habit.  Polytrack will take care of that.  They won't need to worry about that anymore.  People will quit gambling."


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What does everyone think Dominguez will do (especially those who liked him prior to the draw) knowing that horses 6-10 will all bust loose and GQ at 12, IWR at 13 and AR at 14 will all go too, and POTN has to get out at 16? Does he go for broke hoping a few have bad starts and run the risk of going about 8-wide down the stretch and into the turn ?
Or does he sit tight and try to scoot over before the turn and have to close from about 10-12 lengths off the pace, something the horse has never done?
Jeff

The one mini-advantage (if there is such a thing as a mini-advantage from post 19) that Desert Party may have is the lack of gate speed from his rivals directly to his inside.
Nowhere to Hide (post 18) has been within a length of the pacesetter in only one of his three races with blinkers, and that was off a 24.80 first quarter at Calder.  Summer Bird (post 17) has no speed.  Pioneerof the Nile (post 16) prefers to race from midpack as does Dunkirk (post 15).  Atomic Rain (post 14) has some speed, but isn't wickedly fast.  I think Dominguez will attempt to leave quickly, and try to look for Talamo aboard I Want Revenge (post 13).  If he can tuck in behind that one and follow I Want Revenge, then that would work out.  If he can sit off of IWR's hip, that would be okay as well.  When IWR goes, Ramon should make his move.
Just my two cents.

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Dan-As resident "baby" horse guru, would you downgrade firsters on Derby Day? With 150k people that's gotta have an effect on most horses, but firsters are "nervous"enough with 2k people at Arlington, let alone the zoo that is Derby Day. (Trying to figure out what to do with the 1st race, but since it's a once a year trip sitting out the race isn't an option!)
Stephen L. Taylor
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I'd have to take it on a horse-by-horse basis, but I certainly see your point.  Make sure your eyes are glued to the computer and simulcast monitor for signs of nervousness in the debut runners.  You'll be able to tell if they're freaking out.  If they are misbehaving, they probably aren't good bets.

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Everyone is focusing so much on the main 4 contenders but Derby's are often not that straightforward. Can you post the PP's for the 1995 Derby field. That was a good race supposedly to be dominated by a select few but it ended up going to a longshot who was elite but forgotten
Kennedy


Here they are in order of finish:

Download Derby 1995


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Have a great weekend.