03/10/2011 4:12PM

HandiGambling 224 (Santa Anita Turf)

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Today's HandiGambling 224 exercise is the fifth race at Santa Anita, a 'n2x' allowance with a $62,500 optional claiming tag at nine furlongs 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 FIRM.

Let's scratch #2 MAKE MUSIC FOR ME and #3 HYADES.

The portable rail is scheduled to be out 24 FEET.

It's an interesting six-pack at Santa Anita for today's HandiGambling exercise.

Although #1 UNIVERSAL PEACE prefers minor awards to actually winning races (14 starts, seven seconds, two wins), I'm going to give him another chance this afternoon.  A gelded son of War Chant, Universal Peace has been racing in good form, cracking the exacta in his last four starts, including a win at this distance three back at Oak Tree. 
In his most recent start, Universal Peace didn't break well, and was forced to gear up four wide from the back of the pack turning for home.  He made up some late ground, but was no match for Big Shot Syd, a decent allowance sort on the grass. 
While Universal Peace's lack of early speed is disconcerting in a race without a ton of pace, he is capable at this distance, something that few in the heat can point to with confidence.  I'm expecting a solid late charge under Rafael Bejarano.

#6 ACE OF ACES looks like the one to catch after going gate-to-wire in a downhill turf sprint here on January 29, defeating next-out winner Sterling Outlook (93 Beyer in off-the-turf 'n1x' allowance).  Trained by Jeff Mullins, Ace of Aces figures to relax on the front end, but his ability at this distance is questionable.  Although a winner at a mile, he lost ground in the stretch in both of his starts at nine furlongs (including a third in the La Puente Stakes last April after setting moderate fractions).  Pace makes the race and Ace of Aces should be prominent when they swing into the stretch.  Let's see how he handles that final furlong.

#8 DUBAI YOU X Y Z may have the most upside of any runner in the field as he has only four starts under his girth.  A winner of three of those races (the only loss coming by a scant head two back), it should be noted that Dubai You X Y Z received an excellent ground-saving trip en route to his most recent victory over next-out winner Dahoud (90 Beyer in 'n1x turf allowance), and I usually don't like playing short-priced horses coming off good trips.
That being said, he has good tactical speed, and looks like one of the major contenders.

#7 BOGIE shouldn't be discounted.  He was the beaten favorite in the Grade 3 Will Rogers Handicap last year after breaking poorly, angling widest at the quarter-pole, and being late to change leads.  Although he didn't get up against the ill-fated Lieve in his most recent appearance, it has to be pointed out that the third-place finish was Bogie's first start in almost eight months, and could be treated as a prep for this longer event.  Bogie may be closer to the early pace this afternoon under Garrett Gomez, and he finished just behind Times Gone By on February 10 (that one returned to run fourth with a 96 Beyer in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile).  He's dangerous.

As for the others:

#4 AVEROO was treated as a sprinter in Europe, but he was a rallying second in the Riot N Paris Stakes at one mile three starts back.  He hasn't shown much in his most recent appearances, however, and placed behind Bogie in that one's comeback.  Averoo may lay back and hope to make one run under Joel Rosario, but this distance is a question mark.

#5 WALTZING WITH BLUE was claimed by Mike Mitchell out of his most recent start, and that has long been a potent angle in Southern California.  He exits a race that produced next-out winner Celtic Newe Year (90 Beyer in $62,500 claimer), but his most recent win came for a $20,000 tag, and one must wonder if he is good enough to compete at this level. 

Here's how I'll play it:

$100 Win - UNIVERSAL PEACE - #1

Best of luck to all.