12/03/2010 3:24PM

HandiGambling 213 (FG Turf)

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Today's HandiGambling 213 exercise is the eighth race from Fair Grounds, a $25,000 'n2L' claimer for three-year-olds and upward at one mile on the turf. 

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. Please post your plays and analysis to the blog.  Past performances are available at the previous blog post.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please. I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.

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.

As of this writing, the turf course is labeled as GOOD.

Let's scratch #7 GUILTY PLEA.

#3 LEAD THE WAY will be ridden by Jesse Campbell. 
#10 NIBBLES AND BITS will be ridden by Marlon St. Julien.

It looks as if #8 MONARCHOS BOY has figured out the racing game for trainer Morris Nicks and he will take a drastic drop in class this afternoon.  A 17 3/4 length winner of an off-the-turf maiden claimer two starts back, Monarchos Boy last ran in a salty entry-level optional claimer on Super Derby afternoon at Louisiana Downs. 

That race produced three next-out winners.  Let's take a look at those horses.

Third-place finisher Gowden Mile won an open $15,000 claimer going a mile on dirt at Delta Downs on November 3 with a 78 Beyer Speed Figure.  He is now an eight-time winner.

Fifth-place finisher Waystogeaux won a state-bred, entry-level allowance race yesterday afternoon over this course and distance at Fair Grounds.  That was his eighth lifetime victory. 

Eighth-place finisher Kelly'spremonition took a $15,000 claimer over this course and distance on November 25 with an 83 Beyer.  It was his fourth career win.

Monarchos Boy now faces horses that have never won two races and seems to have enough tactical speed to work out a good stalking trip.  This trainer/jockey combination already has a dropdown winner at this meeting.

#9 WONKA has likely had his share of physical problems as the three-year-old colt only has three prior starts on his card.  He was listed as a vet scratch on July 23, but won his maiden the following month, and wasn't disgraced in his first start against winners at this level at Arlington on September 5 (note that only two of the seven horses to return from that race were able to crack the exacta next-out).  There should be enough speed to properly setup his late kick. 

#6 CATCH TWENTY TWO should appreciate dropping back in with conditioned claimers and moving to his preferred surface after a pair of dull performances on the main track.  Three starts back, on turf, he finished second to Motion Play, a gelding that came back to win a $7,500 claimer on polytrack at Keeneland with a 73 Beyer. 

I'm not really a big fan of #5 BRAVO PRADO, who had everything his own way when winning a maiden claimer on turf at Hawthorne on April 17.  That day, he sat a perfect pace-tracking, ground-saving trip, eased to the two path at the quarter-pole, and was all out to prevail while switching leads several times in the stretch.  He has tactical speed and may attend the pace from the outside, but hasn't shown a strong late surge in both tries against winners.

#3 LEAD THE WAY is a late-runner at the mercy of race and pace luck, but the lightly-raced gelding has some upside potential, and has been gaining ground during the tail end of his two starts against winners.  Note that only one of the six runners to return from that November 10 race at Hawthorne was able to hit the board next-out. 

#1 MOUNTAIN OF JOY scored at 12 furlongs over yielding ground two starts back and is another that should appreciate getting back on the grass.  He draws a good inside post position, goes out for excellent connections, and may work out a trip under Shane Sellers.  There's upside here, and Mountain of Joy can't be counted out.

#2 SOUTHERN SAINT may be the pacesetter for Miguel Mena.  He seemed a little green when a tiring fourth at Saratoga, and has never gained ground from the stretch call to the wire in his career.  We'll know him early, but the $240,000 yearling purchase has been a disappointment thus far. 

#11 QUAZAR hasn't reached the winner's circle since July 13, 2007, and has been stymied by a pair of long layoffs.  The five-year-old adds blinkers this afternoon, but draws poorly, and must avoid a wide trip.

#4 BIG TONY won his maiden in slow time at Retama Park and needs to improve while #10 NIBBLES AND BITS may be better on dirt.

Here's how I'll play HG this week:

$50 Exacta - Monarchos Bay - Wonka (8-9)
$50 Exacta - Monarchos Bay - Catch Twenty Two (8-6)

Best of luck to all.