08/05/2009 2:22PM

HandiGambling 145

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Today's HandiGambling 145 exercise is the eighth race at Del Mar, 57th Running of The Cougar II Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on the polytrack racing surface.

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 processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Let's scratch #4 - Mr. Big

Since I was going to send it in on Mr. Big, I had to drastically change my outlook on this race.  I focused on four main contenders:

#8 - Gangbuster beat three next-out winners when a facile winner of the Fort Harrod Stakes over Keeneland's polytrack surface, and he chased a loose-on-the-lead Rumor Has It when recently second in the Polar Expedition Stakes at Arlington on June 27.  Rumor Has It flattered the race by winning the Rossi Gold Stakes on turf over the weekend.  Gangbuster is a true stayer, and has had some time to acclimate to the Southern California surroundings.  I'm thinking a new face may spruce up this rather stale division of veterans out at Del Mar, and Gangbuster may fit the bill.

#9  - Unusual Suspect is one of Steve T.'s flying Unusual Heat's, and while he's a question mark at this distance, he looks like an intriguing longshot.  Versatile enough to win the Grade 3 Hollywood Turf Express going six furlongs on the grass, the Bay Meadows Derby at nine furlongs on the lawn, and the Silveyville Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Tapeta, Unusual Suspect was an even fourth behind Ball Four and Rail Trip to kick off his form cycle in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap.  Last time out, he had to weave his way through traffic during the stretch run of the California Dreamin Handicap on grass.  Barry Abrams does well wheeling his runners back on short notice, and Unusual Suspect is usable in the exotics.

#6 - Church Service is one of the gatekeepers of the division.  He can be forgiven his poor performance in the San Juan Capistrano as he reportedly suffered from dehydration, and had to be walked off the course.  Last time out, in the Gallant Man Stakes at 13 furlongs, he ran on despite being a bit late to change leads.  He'll need some pace help, but is extremely consistent, and wouldn't be a surprise.

#10 - Sir Dave hasn't been out since late May, and trainer Jack Carava doesn't have very good stats with similar layoff types, but this gelding finished ahead of two next-out winners when second to the classy Spring House in the Golden Gate Field Turf.  A lightly-raced runner, it's possible we haven't seen his best just yet.  A lack of prior synthetic experience is somewhat concerning.

As for the others:

#1 - Ghetto just went gate-to-wire when in for a $50,000 tag at ten furlongs, and may be the main speed breaking from the rail.  He'll get tested for class here.

#2 - Zappa is the defending champion, but he's 1 for 11 since last year's Cougar II, and probably won't get the easy lead he parlaayed to victory in the 2008 running.

#3 - Big Booster bombed in the Hollywood Gold Cup against much better, but he's eight now, and needs lots of pace help up front.

#5 - Quarter Moon can press the fractions if Martin Garcia is aggressive coming out of the gate, but he was life and death at 22-1 to beat $40,000 optional claimers last time out.

#7 - Richard's Kid was probably placed in over his head in the Grade 1 Eddie Read for his first start with Baffert, and is capable of better in his second start of the form cycle.  I'm concerned that he may blow up my tickets with a good performance.

Here's how I'm going to donate my money:

$25 Win - Gangbuster (#8)
$3 Trifecta Box - Church Service, Gangbuster, Unusual Suspect, Sir Dave (#6, #8, #9, #10)

$3 for a large Diet Pepsi

Best of luck to all.

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Back with questions and comments next time.

Take care,

Dan