04/21/2011 2:57PM

HandiGambling 230 (Appalachian Stakes)


Today's HandiGambling 230 exercise is the eighth race at Keeneland, the 23rd running of the Grade 3 Appalachian for 3-year-old fillies 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 listed as FIRM.

Let's scratch #3 DIVA ASH, #5 ARTISANAL, #9 MY PHI TEMPER, and #10 SMART STING.

There is a jockey change for #14 SANTINA DOND.  Make the rider Pablo Tolentino. 

The portable rail is scheduled to be out 15 feet.

Better late than never.  At least I beat post time.

I must admit that I wasn't blown away by #4 WINTER MEMORIES last year and I'm going to let her beat me on the win end off the layoff at a short price.  While she certainly showed some ability in her three starts as a juvenile filly, she seemed green, inexperienced and unfocused at times, often finishing on her wrong lead or being over-eager in the early stages of her races.  It's quite possible that the time off has allowed her to mature and she should get a solid pace to attack in this spot, but I'm not sure I'm ready to anoint her the next All Along just yet.  Ask me again at 4:54pm ET and I might tell you a different story.  She's "officially" my third choice in the race and I'll use her in multiples, but will try to beat her in a single-race wager.

In looking for a price, I landed on #11 PARTING WORDS, an Artie Schiller filly that was a visually-impressive entry-allowance winner at Gulfstream in her first start of the year on February 2.  Taken back to last off moderate splits, Parting Words rolled down the center of the course in the stretch, finishing her last half-mile in 46.74, to win going away.  To be honest, that wasn't a strong field of fillies she beat as only one of the seven vanquished rivals returned to crack the trifecta next-out.  In her most recent start, the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream, Parting Words clipped heels badly going into the first turn and never got involved thereafter.  According to the "Keeneland Clocker Report" for April 16, Parting Words gave a "good strong effort, out in 1:12."  I'm expecting an improved late run this afternoon from Parting Words as she switches to Julien Leparoux.

I have a great deal of respect for #6 NEW NORMAL, a sharp winner of the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes going a one-turn mile at Woodbine.  Not only did she beat subsequent Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine More Than Real that afternoon, but she did it in fast time (faster than Pluck and the boys in the Grade 3 Summer on the same card) after setting a contentious pace throughout.  New Normal may have to deal with another speed or two in here, but should be prominent when they swing into the stretch.  According to the "Keeneland Clocker Report" for April 14, New Normal "went very well, lightly ridden."  I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for her eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup as it was her first start around two turns and she couldn't get near the lead after breaking from post ten. 

#8 FAST TIP is a perfect 2-2 since moving to the shed row of trainer Bret Calhoun and she looms a pace factor stretching out in trip.  There are some distance concerns that she'll have to address, but she may have a bit of quality as she beat Snow Fall (next-out 91 graduate on dirt) on the green two starts back.  Perhaps this one is best used on the bottom of exotic wagers at long odds.

#7 HARLAN'S RUBY looked good winning the Valdale Stakes over the Turfway polytrack on February 26 despite racing 3-4 wide throughout and she ran into a very good filly in Summer Soiree when second-best in the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks the following month.  She's capable on grass, winning her maiden over the turf at Saratoga, and trainer Ken McPeek has been on an absolute tear at this meet.  Harlan's Ruby has some tactical speed and could get the jump on the closers turning into the stretch. 

I tried to make a stronger case for #1 MY REDBYRD, who has won her last two starts on the lawn at Tampa Bay Downs and figures to save valuable ground going into the first turn under Garrett Gomez.  She made a four-wide bid to contention last time out, but had to work really hard in the stretch to fend off #13 BLUSHANDBASHFUL, and changed back to her wrong lead in the waning strides.  The $220,000 yearling is coming into her own, but many of today's rivals are tougher than the ones she faced at Tampa.  According to the "Keeneland Clocker Report" for April 15, My Redbyrd "went well, was not asked to run."

Blushandbashful might be the one I would take out of that March 26 race at Tampa Bay as she had some trouble during the running, galloped out nicely after the fact, and seems to have some upside potential.  She's a neck shy of being 3-3 in her career for underrated trainer Joan Scott.

#12 RUTHENIA is certainly bred for success and she didn't do anything wrong at two, winning both of her starts including the $80,000 Good Mood Stakes at Belmont on Halloween.  She has some ability, but must avoid a wide trip from an outside post and the layoff is a bit of a concern in this quality field.  There are a couple of gaps on her work tab to be mindful of, but Ruthenia may be one to watch down the road, if not today.

#2 DOS LUNAS sheds blinkers, but still may show her usual early speed stretching out 2 1/2 furlongs.  She made a run at New Normal in midstretch of the Natalma, but was turned away, and she finished behind Harlan's Ruby and Winter Memories in her next two races.  The "Keeneland Clocker Report" for April 3 opined that Dos Lunas is "returning to form."  I expect her to be forwardly-placed, but there are some stamina issues to address.

#14 SANTINA DOND, a perfect 2-2 as a juvenile filly in Poland, won her stateside debut on dirt at Mountaineer, but is facing a tough group from a very difficult outside post.

Here's how I'll play HG:

$100 Win - Parting Words - #11

Best of luck to all.