06/11/2009 1:23PM

HandiGambling 137

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Tonight's HandiGambling 137 exercise is the eighth race from Belmont, an entry-level allowance race for three-year-olds and upward going seven furlongs on the Widener Turf Course.

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.

As of noon, the turf is soft, and the rails are set at 18 feet.  Let's scratch GREAT EMPEROR (#1A). 

This looks like a fun little race, and I'm going to concentrate on two main contenders for my HandiGambling plays. 

GOLDEN WEEKEND (#6) is a bit of an enigma.  He's one of the few horses in this day and age to go off Lasix after a number of starts, and still be successful on the track.  After going an underachieving 1-12 with Lasix, he's 1-2 with a second in his two starts without the anti-bleeding medication.  Now, I know he beat much weaker opponents last time out, but he beat them like a drum, going right to the top, setting a solid pace, and drawing off in hand.  He'll face stiffer competition here, and the step up in distance is a bit of a concern.  Plus, both of his wins have come over Belmont Park's Inner Turf course, and he'll have to familiarize himself with the Widener in a hurry.  Even with all of these questionable circumstances circling Golden Weekend like buzzards looking for the kill, I still respect his early speed, and think he'll control this race from the start.  Trainer Carlos Martin's barn has been hitting on all cylinders at the meet, and Golden Weekend is a very dangerous pace presence. 

Despite selling for over 26 times the stud fee of his sire, Repent, SYDNEY ROAD (#4) was dismissed at 29-1 odds for his career debut in the last race of the Gulfstream Park meet.  He made the public pay with a thoroughly professional performance.  Syndey Road pressed the pace throughout from the inside, and refused to be passed in the final quarter-mile.  The 89 Beyer Speed Figure earned that day makes him an intriguing player.  Although beaten in his first start against winners, he ran into a solid group that included Lime Rickey (Grade 3-placed on turf at Gulfstream), and Sette E Mezzo (allowance winner on Belmont Stakes Day).  Sydney Road has been right up on the pace in both of his starts, and will probably have to sit as he turns back in distance with quality speed breaking to his outside.  The lightly-raced colt has plenty of potential, and should give a good account of himself.

Although sporting a 6-1-2-1 record over Belmont turf in the past performances, MARQ OF LOVE (#1) is 2-0-1-1 over the Widener.  He goes second of the layoff for solid connections, and would benefit greatly if the speeds have to go too fast in the early stages.  He's been toiling in the claiming ranks, but seems to be coming up to this race the right way, and isn't the worst longshot in the world.

Talk about a horse for course!  BIG JEROME (#2) is 3-3-0-0 over the Widener, and the turnback to seven furlongs should hit him right between the eyes.  He has good tactical speed, and is capable of working out a solid trip from the second flight or so.  He faced some decent allowance fields at Gulfstream, but the recent layoff lines are a cause for concern for me.  He wouldn't be a surprise. 

DR. SMARTY JACK (#3) won last time over this course, but that was a neck victory over maidens, and he'll face a tougher group in this spot.  He's a nicely-bred colt with the potential for a strong future on grass, and his barn is first-rate.  Still, I think he may be in a bit steep this afternoon.

RIGHT OF WAY (#5) has won two of his last three races including a course and trip score over starter allowance rivals in late April.  The early fractions he faced last time were merely average, however, and he'll probably have to chase faster splits here.  The 25-day gap between the last two works is a bit worrisome as well.

GALAN FETE (#7) is by a sire that is 28-273 (10%) with all first-turf performers, and the dam has already tossed Beau Fete, a Group 1-placed perfomer at seven furlongs on grass in South America.  The dam is a half-sister to Freedom Cry, a multiple Group 2 winner on grass in Europe that placed in the 1995 Breeders' Cup Turf.  It looks like Galan Fete has been working in company with Taum Sauk, a three-year-old trained by Dan Peitz that made his career debut on grass.  That race didn't go very well (46 Beyer), but Taum Sauk returned to win his maiden on dirt.  Galan Fete faced a crack sprinter last time out in Everyday Heroes, but others look more appealing in this spot.

STRIKE AGAIN (#8) faced a strong field of three-year-old allowance runners at Keeneland when a tiring fifth on April 5, but must tackle older today, and needs to prove that he can rate and finish.  He's fast out of the gate, but I don't think he's Golden Weekend fast.  You always have to respect these connections on the lawn, but make sure you get your value on this colt as he sprints for the first time.

TALKHOUSE (#9) sports a 2-1-0-0 record over the Widener, but hasn't factored against weaker runners in his four starts since winning his maiden, and was no match for Golden Weekend when chasing that one on April 29.  He needs to improve by leaps and bounds to win this.

INDYMINE (#10) turns back in distance, but he won his maiden going seven furlongs on dirt at Tampa Bay Downs in 2007.  His last win came in the mud for a $15,000 tag, and he still has to prove to me that he classes up with this field.  He may be a bit better on the main track.

Here's how I'm going to attack the race. 

$50 Win - Golden Weekend (#6)
$25 Exacta Box - Sydney Road (#4), Golden Weekend (#6)

Best of luck to all.

Back tomorrow with weekend stakes opinions, questions, and comments.

Cheers,

Dan