03/25/2011 2:13PM

HandiGambling 226 (Tampa Bay Turf), Some Weekend Picks

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Today's HandiGambling 226 exercise is the eighth race at Tampa Bay Downs, a $32,000 'N2L' claimer for fillies and mares at one mile on 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 MONSLEWN.

The portable rail will be set at 22 feet.

Trainer Tom Proctor has excellent numbers with first-time tag starters (17-69, 25%, $2.10 ROI over the past five years, 4-12, 33%, $2.15 ROI over the last season), and #4 LILIES SO FAIR seems well-spotted making the third start of the form cycle.  A $310,000 yearling by Giant's Causeway that just hasn't panned out, Lilies So Fair won her maiden going this distance at Arlington before going on the shelf.  She hasn't done much running since returning to the races and had a weird trip last time out.  She split horses from stalking range down the backstretch while having some trouble with her lead changes, then dropped back badly entering the final turn.  Far behind in the stretch, she finished evenly and galloped out with some interest.  The fifth-place finisher that day returned to win an entry-level allowance on grass at Tampa with a 78 Beyer. 
Lilies So Fair shows a bullet three-furlong blowout in preparation for this start and may be more forwardly-placed in the early stages switching from a five-pound apprentice rider to Leandro Goncalves (19% at meet).

#3 CAT BE NIMBLE makes her first start for new ownership after finishing fifth in a conditioned claiming race to close out her season at Aqueduct on November 11.  She seems like a one-run closer that will be at the mercy of race and pace luck, and there may not be a ton of speed to set things up for her.  She also was listed as a vet scratch on March 9 so there is some concern about fitness off the layoff.  Still, her maiden win two back was fast enough to win this and she won't face a stellar group this afternoon.

#6 GIMMEARIDE failed to parlay an excellent pace-tracking, ground-saving trip into victory two back against allowance horses, and now drops in for a tag after being listed as a vet scratch on February 23.  She finished ahead of next-out winner No Acronyms (74 Beyer in $16,000 claimer on turf) in her most recent start, and her good tactical speed should have her in the hunt down the backstretch.  Winless on turf, and racing off a layoff, she poses some questions at what could be a short price.

#5 STARK'S A SMARTY won her maiden over course and trip here last year, but has been the beaten favorite in two of her last three races, and has lost ground from the stretch call to the wire in each of her last three starts.  She's tactical enough to work out a good trip from close to the pace, however, and figures to be prominent when the field swings into the stretch.  One must wonder, however, if we have already seen the best from this 16-time starter.

#11 DOWER gets in from the also-eligible list and she has some angles going for her, dropping from the allowance ranks and wheeling back in 13 days for her second start of the year.  Like Lilies So Fair, she won her maiden at Arlington, but she needed maiden claiming competition to achieve that feat.  Dower doesn't have much early speed so she's going to have to get a trip, and some pace, in order to mow these down in the lane.

#7 WINSOMEFORME cracked the exacta at this level two back before being overmatched against allowance foes on March 12 (finishing directly behind Dower).  Her lone win came in a dirt sprint, however, and she has already had several chances to break out of this level.

One must question the fitness level of #1 DIXIE KID.  She was a vet scratch on at least two occasions last year, added front wraps for her most recent race, and was listed as a vet scratch on March 3.  She's won over the course and distance and is capable of saving valuable ground going into the first turn this afternoon, but she needs to improve.

#10 SNOW FAIR won her maiden in gate-to-wire fashion on dirt two back before being overeager in the early portion of her initial start against winners.  She hasn't shown a ton of staying power on grass, but could loom the main speed in this spot.  It is imperative for her rider to get her to relax as she has a tendency to run off.

#9 SPARKLES GOLD BAND's lone win came going seven furlongs on the slop, and she blew a clear lead in a weak $15,000 maiden claimer on turf at River Downs last year.  She goes out for solid connections, but must move forward off her prior two turf efforts.

#8 CALLALOO is 0-12 on turf, and just hasn't done much running since moving into this barn.  She doesn't have much early speed, and it looks like this 5-year-old mare has seen better days.

Here's how I'm going to play the HG:

$100 Win - Lilies So Fair - #4

Best of luck to all.

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Here are some quick-and-dirty selections for some of this weekend's races:

New Orleans Handicap:  Giant Oak, Mission Impazible, El Caballo
Fair Grounds Oaks:  Daisy Devine, Grandacious, Inglorious
Mervin Muniz Handicap:  Moryba, Battle of Hastings, Sleepless Knight
Louisiana Derby:  Wilkinson, Mucho Macho Man, Machen
Tokyo City Cup:  Honour the Deputy, Spurrier, Arcodoro
Pan American Stakes:  Prince Will I Am, Rahy's Attorney, Eldaafer
Dubai World Cup:  Victoire Pisa, Twice Over, Poet's Voice
Bourbonette Oaks:  Harlan's Ruby, Summer Soiree, Touch Screen
Vinery Racing Spiral:  Positive Response, Decisive Moment, Rescind the Trade
Sunland Derby:  Sinai, Supreme Ruler, Fusa Code

For more in-depth analysis, please click on the link below for video analysis with myself and drf.com Handicapper Mike Beer (videos should be available Friday evening):

http://www.drf.com/news/weekend-stakes-preview-videos

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More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.