05/06/2009 12:52PM

HandiGambling 132

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Today's HandiGambling 132 exercise is the ninth race at Churchill Downs, a $5,000 claimer for three-year-olds and upward at 1 1/16 miles. 

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."   Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference.  Past performances are available on the previous blog entry.

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.

The track is currently listed as muddy, and we can scratch #7 PAINTED FOREST.  The ninth race boasts a Super Hi-5 carryover of $251,856.  Win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta wagering are also available. 

These races aren't my cup of tea, and the wet racetrack makes it even more inscrutable.  I landed on four main contenders.

The last three times #4 JOLLY OL' NICK stepped foot on this racetrack, he's been beaten two heads and a dirty nose.  The veteran eight-year-old has run well on wet surfaces in the past, owns good tactical speed, and may work out a nice trip from close to the pace.  He hasn't won since Nvember 16, 2007, and has more placings than wins, but may be worth a play at 7-2 odds or greater. 

#6 MR. CHAMP makes the important third start of the form cycle with improving Beyer Speed Figures on display.  He's never raced over a wet track, but has previously run well at Churchill Downs, and now halves in claiming price.  I'm willing to toss the last race at Keeneland as he broke from post 11 in a two-turn event. His previous races are solid, and the gelding has some back class.  It's hard to believe, but Mr. Champ placed in the Grade 3 Bill Hartack Memorial at Hawthorne last year.

$5 SHOT GUN CLIFF hasn't raced since conquering this distance in a conditioned claimer at Tampa Bay Downs, but he worked two weeks after that heat, and then nine days after that.  He's tactical enough to be placed wherever jockey Corey Lanerie wants, and it can't hurt to play a sharp horse in a spot like this.

After Mine That Bird's shocking score on Saturday, it's hard to dismiss any horse that is ridden by Calvin Borel.  #8 Wayfarer beat Jolly Ol' Nick last year at Churchill Downs, and returns from a January layoff with a solid worktab on display.  He needs to step it up on the numbers, but shouldn't be dismissed thanks to his good efforts here in 2008.

As for the rest:

#1 SAVIANO may be the main speed as he stretches out in distance, and breaks from the rail.  He's run very well over wet surfaces in the past, but really bombed last time out at Indiana Downs, and hasn't reached the winner's enclosure since October 19, 2007.  Despite his stamina pedigree, he's a bit of a question mark at this trip.

#2 STEDS PIRATE won the slower division of $5,000 beaten claimers at Turfway Park two back, then was overmatched against $16,000 claimers last time out at Keeneland.  He's at his best when on or near the lead, and may not make the front if Saviano breaks well to his inside.

#3 NAFASS can be forgiven his last start as 10 furlongs over polytrack may not be his game.  He earned placings in his prior five races, and beat both Jolly Ol' Nick and Wayfarer over a sloppy Churchill trip last year.  He switches to the hot-riding Jon Court, and isn't out of this.

#9 CRAIG'S TYLER is 0-26 over fast dirt so his connections must be extremely pleased to see the precipitation.  He has a solid late kick, but has been away for a bit, and the it's questionable if he'll get the pace he needs.

#10 MONK was beaten 31 lengths in the mud at River Downs in his first start of this form cycle.  He is capable of pushing the pace from the outside under his ten-pound bug rider, but needs a boost in form.

I'll take a shot in this race, but am hardly confident.  Here are the plays:

$28 Win - Jolly Ol' Nick (#4) - $28

$3 Trifecta Box - Jolly Ol' Nick, Shot Gun Cliff, Mr. Champ, Wayfarer (#4, #5, #6, #8) - $72

Best of luck to all!

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Back to horses, I can not figure out the classes of horse racing. I know Maiden is lowest, Stakes Grade 1 is the highest. What is the order in the middle?
Jeanne

Most handicappers would generally classify races this way (weakest listed first):

Maiden claimers
Maiden special weight
Conditioned claiming (non-winners of such-and-such races, either lifetime or within a certain time period)
Open claiming
Allowance (from 'n1x' upward to 'n4x')
Listed stakes
Grade 3 stakes
Grade 2 stakes
Grade 1 stakes

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Nice article on Canonero. Can we get his past performances?
Rick

Unfortunately, the past performance database that I utilize doesn't go back that far.  Sorry.  Adding to the Canonero story, it is interesting to note that he won his debut at two in Venezuela, then shipped to California for two races there.  He finished third in an allowance race on September 5, 1970, then ran fifth in the Del Mar Futurity one week later.  He returned to Venezuela for the beginning of his three-year-old campaign, winning five of nine starts. 

He returned to training at four, and finished second in the Carter Handicap at seven furlongs in his first start of 1972.  He only won once that year, but that was a big win as he defeated Riva Ridge by five lengths in the Stymie Handicap at Belmont on September 20.

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Talk to you soon,

Dan