09/30/2009 2:10PM

HandiGambling 153 (Belmont)

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Today's HandiGambling 153 exercise is the seventh race from Belmont Park, an entry-level allowance race for fillies and mares going nine furlongs on the inner 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 processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

The course is yielding, and there is a threat of rain in the air.  Hopefully, we'll stay on the grass.  Let's scratch #1A Starship Angel, #2 Lisa B, and #10 Ain't Love Grand.

I don't really have a strong opinion on this race, and it's not one that I would usually bet.  I've found four win contenders, and am going to have to narrow it down a bit.

#5 - Shine Softly didn't show any track rust in her turf debut off a one-year layoff as she held on to beat maiden foes at Saratoga.  Her affinity for grass shouldn't be a major surprise as her dam, Soaring Softly, won seven of eight turf appearances including the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. 
It's never easy for maiden graduates to immediately find success against winners, however, and one must wonder if Shine Softly is eligible for a regression in her second start off the long layoff.  Her good tactical speed should have her in a decent spot behind the early pace runners.

#4 - Gran Appeal may offer some wagering value.  I thought she received a questionable ride three back over this course and trip.  After breaking on top, Jose Lezcano wrangled Gran Appeal back, and she ended up in behind horses on the far turn.  Once clear, she rallied nicely to finish second.  In her most recent appearance, she took on a solid bunch of allowance horses.  Of the six horses to exit that August 19 race at Saratoga, five won next time, and the other finished second.  The winner, Miss World, returned to upset the Grade 1 Garden City with a 98 Bey while the runner-up won the Twin Lights Stakes at Monmouth. 
Gran Appeal also has good tactical speed, but her only lifetime win came in a dirt sprint in Chile.

#3 - Changing Skies has kept the best company as she was Group 3-placed last year in France, and the runner-up from her most recent start in England, Dar Re Mi, has come back to finish first in her next three starts...all at the Group 1 level.  She gets Lasix for the first time, but she doesn't seem like the usual European import as early speed is her game.  Her lone win came in gate-to-wire fashion at Leicester last year, and it's doubtful that she'll make the lead here with Classical Fashion and Life At Ten both expected to show early zip.  In an ideal world, Bill Mott would love Kent Desormeaux to obtain the pocket spot in behind the leader, and that could certainly happen as Changing Skies draws the inside post position.  She's a logical contender, but I'm not sure I want a short price on her.

#1 - Minishaft, like Shine Softly, is a well-bred filly exiting a maiden win at Saratoga.  Minishaft was flattered somewhat when the runner-up from that race, Gold d'Oro, returned to graduate with an 84 Beyer.  She was close to some legimate fractions that day, and still kept on to her task to prevail by a diminishing neck.  Minishaft has hit the board in her last three starts, but the jump up in class coupled with the soft ground gives some cause for pause. 

As for the others...

#6 - Life At Ten makes her turf debut, and the dam, a daughter of noted grass sire Rahy, earned her only career win going 7 1/2 furlongs on the weeds.  She has good polytrack form, and we've seen that successfully translate to the turf so I'm guessing she'll handle the surface just fine.  She stretches out off two sprints for the third start of the form cycle, and can be close to the pace in this spot.  She's not out of this, but the plethora of runner-up finishes on the record makes her seem like a better play on the undeneath slots of exotics than to win.

#7 - Proud Lisa rallied late going a mile at Monmouth last time out, and should get a good pace to attack this afternoon.  You have to think that the New Jersey race was against weaker foes as the $40,000 beaten claimer was for three-year-old fillies OR older mares with a 'n2L' condition.  She needs to run faster than the mid-70 Beyers she's put up in her four races against winners.

#8- Classical Fashion showed a lot of heart in winning a $50,000 starter allowance at Saratoga, and may be the main speed once again.  She's really turned a corner since being switched to the grass by Gary Contessa, but this race features a lot of pressing types, and Classical Fashion may face wave after wave of pressure if she doesn't shake loose early.  The 16-day gap between her last two published workouts is a bit disconcerting.

#9 - One in a Romp finished third in a New York-bred stakes race four back over yielding going, and she showed a good late kick to beat statebreds two weeks ago on the Widener course.  I'm guessing she'll have some pace to run at in the stretch, but she may need another 'A' race to affect the win outcome.

So, how to bet?  In a multi-race sequence, I would probably use Shine Softly and Gran Appeal as "A's" while relegating Changing Skies and Minishaft to "B" status.  For HandiGambling, that point becomes moot.  I'm not really comfortable boxing four horses in a trifecta, and hoping for the best, and I'm not confident enough in any of them to simply place $100 to Win. 

Instead, I'll concentrate on an 'A-B' exacta box, and savers with the others.  Something like this:

$30 Exacta Box - Gran Appeal, Shine Softly (4,5)
$10 Exacta - Gran Appeal - Changing Skies (4-3)
$10 Exacta - Gran Appeal - Minishaft (4-1)
$10 Exacta - Shine Softly - Changing Skies (5-3)
$10 Exacta - Shine Softly - Minishaft (5-1)

You do realize that I'm just begging for some combination of the 1 and 3 to finish 1-2 simply to stick it to me. 

Of course, the Gambling part of HandiGambling won't pay off if the Handi-part stinks and vice versa. 

What a game!

I'm falling way behind on the Disabled List and other stuff so will have to wait until tomorrow to get to questions, comments, and pp requests.

Good luck,

Dan