04/13/2011 2:39PM

HandiGambling 229 (Keeneland SOFT Turf)

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Today's HandiGambling 229 exercise is the eighth race at Keeneland, an 'n2x' allowance for older runners at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

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 listed as SOFT.

Let's scratch #9 ZEB, #13 KINDERGARDEN KID, and #14 BOISTEROUS.

Annie picked a fun race this week.  All I know is that I don't like the morning line favorite and will try to get somebody else into the winner's circle.  I'll have to go four deep in multi-wagers.

There isn't a great amount of speed in this race, and the pace situation coupled with the soft ground could make all the difference.

#2 HAILSTONE made his turf debut a winning one at Gulfstream on February 20 as he ran his final quarter-mile in 22.88 to dead-heat for the score.  He was helped when the co-winner, favored Upgrade, got a case of the staggers in late stretch, but that race came back pretty hot.  The third-place finisher returned to win an entry-level allowance on grass at Keeneland with a 91 Beyer while eighth-place finisher Blazen returned to score at that level on grass at Tampa.  Blazen then placed second in the Turf Classic for Florida-breds at Tampa.  Also, the last-place runner came back to prevail in a conditioned claimer on turf at Gulfstream. 
Hailstone may not be too far off the leaders down the backstretch, and shows a quick workout at the Ocala Training Center in preparation for this start. 

#1 SHRIMP DANCER is a New York-bred making the third start of the form cycle for trainer Michael Matz.  We can forgive his race two back as he attempted a mile on dirt off the long layoff.  Last time out, he bid three wide on the final turn and finished evenly despite being late to make his final lead change. 
It looks like he's racing himself back into shape and he could work out a good ground-saving, pace-tracking trip under the red-hot Alan Garcia.  Note that he finished third in the Vision Stakes over "soft" going at Belmont in 2009.

#10 MR. RYDER may have the most upside of any in the field.  A lightly-raced 4-year-old that cost $800,000 as a yearling, the Christophe Clement-trained son of Giant's Causeway has won his last two on the grass.  In his first start against winners, at Gulfstream on March 4, Mr. Ryder was forced to check in upper stretch before professionally storming between horses to win going away.  Mr. Ryder roared his final eighth in 10.90 to outfinish Slews Answer, the next-out winner of the aforementioned Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs with an 82 Beyer. 
Mr. Ryder will be piloted by Garrett Gomez this afternoon and shows a recent bullet workout over the deep surface at Payson Park. 

#12 B'WANAGOLDMINE looms an intriguing runner at a huge, huge price.  His trainer, Michael Natale, went 16-91 (18%, $1.99 ROI) over the past year and B'wanagoldmine just missed at this level during the Keeneland Fall meeting.  Making his first start off the $18,000 Natale claim, and first race following a listed vet scratch on September 25, B'wanagoldmine had to wait for running room turning for home before altering course sharply in upper stretch.  He just missed by a dirty nose and his last race, a dirt sprint at Oaklawn, could serve as an excellent prep for this grassy route.  He won over "good" ground last year, and finished second in the El Joven Stakes over "soft" going at Retama in 2009.
Note that only one of the seven runners to come out of that October 29 race at Keeneland returned to crack the trifecta next-out (sixth-finisher Lonesome Street won an optional claimer on turf at Fair Grounds with an 88 Beyer).

As for the others:

I've never been a big fan of #11 CAT PARK, and the Tale of the Cat gelding only shows one race since Preakness Day 2010.  He was making up late ground in that event, an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs, but none of the six horses to come back from that race returned to make the trifecta next-out. 
Cat Park likes this course, and has run well with some give in the ground.  On his best day, he's dangerous, but I'm not sure I completely trust him.

#8 EL CRESPO just missed at this level last time over the quirky course layout at Kentucky Downs, but he hasn't raced since September, and may need a start or two to get back to his best form.  He shows some quick workouts over the turf course at Palm Meadows, but hasn't won a race since the Palm Beach Stakes in 2009.  He's capable of a late run and has done well over "good" going in the past.  
According to the "Keeneland Clocker's Report" for April 6, El Crespo worked "in company with Mint Chip and was a little better at the wire.  Mint Chip is stakes-placed on synthetic with a 90 Beyer top.

#5 DAY OF DESTINY won his maiden impressively going seven furlongs on dirt at Gulfstream last February, but Kentucky Derby dreams were dashed when he underwent knee surgery that knocked him out until the Fall.  He finally got back on the winning track last time out, but was listed as a vet scratch on March 11. 
You have to always respect trainer Chad Brown and Day of Destiny has hinted at major ability, but his condition is questionable.  The sire is 31-252 (12%) with first-time turfers and the dam won her turf debut (1-2 on grass).  The stakes-winning dam is a half-sister to Discovery Handicap winner Saint Marden (nine-furlongs dirt) and Arkansas Derby hopeful Nehro. 

#3 LEJADAMI reeled off a pair of victories to close out his 4-year-old campaign culminating with an entry-level allowance score over "yielding" ground at Churchill Downs.  The beautifully-bred five-year-old has had several starts and stops to his career and he tired badly after chasing solid fractions most recently at Gulfstream. 
Perhaps he can get to the front for Miguel Mena in the hope of stealing this on the lead, but I just hate to play horses coming off poor races and Lejadami was beaten 26 1/2 lengths last time.  Only two of the 11 runners to return from that heat came back to crack the trifecta next-out.

#7 JOSHUA REYNOLDS seeks his third straight, but the late-running son of Royal Academy may be at the mercy of race and pace luck.  He was flattered when the runner-up from his February 19 score, Bauers Got Hours, came back to take an entry-level allowance at Fair Grounds with an 81 Beyer.  A former maiden claimer in New York, Joshua Reynolds' confidence should be sky-high, but he must take another forward move against this tougher competition.

#6 AWESOME ACT is the "name" horse in the field and figures to take a good amount of money, but things haven't gone right for this ridgeling since he won the Grade 3 Gotham over the Aqueduct inner track in 2010.  He reportedly had an infected pastern in his left hind leg prior to a third-place finish in the Wood,and he reportedly came back lame after finishing next-to-last in the Kentucky Derby.  Awesome Act suffered from a staph infection that put him in the hospital for a couple of months and has had his share of issues getting back to the races.  Now, he'll have to go two turns over a testing turf course in his first start in almost a year.  I'll tip my cap to him if he beats me.

#4 COLONIALISM has won his last two, although he was promoted by the stewards at Gulfstream on February 19.  The runner that was taken down from that 12-furlong heat, Sierra Alpha, redeemed himself with an 85 Beyer win on March 20.  Colonialism boasts a strong late kick, but there may not be much pace for him to attack.  He's interesting, but could take money as the second choice on the morning line. 

It's a fun, fun race.

For HandiGambling purposes, I'll play:

$50 Win-Place - HAILSTONE (#2)

Best of luck to all.