03/03/2011 4:08PM

HandiGambling 223 (Santa Anita turf)

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Today's HandiGambling 223 exercise is the fifth race at Santa Anita, a $25,000 claiming race for older fillies and mares 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 is GOOD.  Let's scratch #9 BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN and #12 APT TO BE AMAZING.  The rail is scheduled to be out at 15 feet.

I found four contenders for my possible Pick-6 Ticket.  Then again, I've been in a three-week funk, and am not confident about my handicapping.  Let's see what transpires.

The scratch of Beautiful American leaves #7 RULE THE STORM as the controlling speed, and she drops beneath the level of the Robertino Diodoro claim.  Making the third start of the form cycle, Rule the Storm really appreciates this flat mile distance (eight of her ten wins have come at a mile).  Last time out, she had to work hard to make the lead while pressured by a 42-1 shot and understandably came up short in the stretch. 
She may not have to run as fast to make the top against this lesser competition (last-out, she faced Startjumpin Marnie, who is in the midst of a three-race win streak, and Talktoomuch, who returned to score going down the hill in a 'n2x' optional claimer with a 90 Beyer).  I'm expecting Victor Espinoza to have Rule the Storm in front turning for home, and the earner of over 250K may have enough back class to hold off the ralliers.

#10 HAMEILDAEME hasn't won since June 18, 2009, but it will be interesting to see if someone claims this Grade 2-placed mare for the $25,000 price.  Like Rule the Storm, she makes the third start of the form cycle while taking a big drop in class, and I don't think she has to be too far off the early leaders (the addition of the aggressive P. Val may ensure Hameildaeme is closer to the fractions).  Note that only one of the five runners to return from the January 30 race came back to crack the trifecta next-out, but Hameildaeme should be running late as she has never been in this cheap.

#1 ENTABENI goes out for strong connections, and she drops slightly in class after failing to hit the board as the chalk on February 5.  She'll go two sprints to a route in the third start of the form cycle, and may work out a good pace-tracking, ground-saving trip under Joel Rosario.  The distance is the main concern for Entabeni, who is 0-3 in route races and has lost ground from the stretch call to the wire in all of those attempts.  Plus, I didn't love the way she galloped out after the February 5 race.  Perhaps this Gilded Time mare doesn't want to go two turns.  Plus, both of her career wins came on synthetics and she is 0-9 on turf.  Still, she has run races fast enough to win this, and all three of the horses to come back from that February 5 race returned to hit the board next-out (including last-finisher Lauren C, who won on dirt for $10,000 with a 62 Beyer)

#5 PATSY'S LIL BUDDY finished ahead of Rule the Storm on February 6, and she came back to work a quick half-mile over the dirt on February 23.  A winner in 30% of her grass starts, Patsy's Lil Buddy doesn't have much early speed, and could be at the mercy of race and pace luck.  If the fractions are quicker than anticipated, she can make her presence felt with a good late kick.

As for the others:

#2 ELLE PICKLE hasn't won a race since October 10, 2008, and she finished behind Rule the Storm and Patsy's Lil Buddy in the Super Bowl Party Handicap on February 6.  Another going third off the layoff, Elle Pickle must improve off her recent performances.

#3 UNKNOWN HEAT needed 27 tries to break her maiden, so what makes ya think she can win two in a row?  She took advantage of an extremely fast pace to beat Cal-breds on February 12, and may face an entirely different scenario in her first start against winners. 

#4 NASIRIYAH'S SONG's only turf win came at Fort Erie last summer, and she was eased in her most recent start (against 4yo-only claimers).  She faces elders in this spot, and is hard to love off that poor effort on February 4 (only one of the six runners to return from that race came back to crack the trifecta next-out).

#6 NO KA OI is 8-years-old and hasn't won a race since May 9, 2008.  She finished behind Entabeni going down the hill on February 5, and one has to wonder if this mare is getting a bit long in the tooth.

#8 ROLLERSKATES is an intriguing alternative as she wheels back quickly off the Jeff Mullins claim, and attracts the services of Rafael Bejarano.  Over the past five years, Mullins is 3-11 (27%, $1.43 ROI) with horses returning in a week or less).  Still, she hasn't won a race since March 2, 2008, hasn't won against open company (both wins vs. Cal-breds), and is 1-23 lifetime on grass. 

#11 ELLIE L. is 0-11 against winners and draws a tough outside post position.  The last place she wants to be is wide off a slow pace so it will be interesting to see how Kayla Stra plays this from the gate. 

Here's how I'll play HandiGambling:

$40 Exacta:  Rule the Storm - Hameildaeme (7-10)
$40 Exacta:  Rule the Storm - Entabeni (7-1)
$20 Exacta:  Rule the Storm - Patsy's Lil Buddy (7-5)

Best of luck to all.