07/27/2011 3:32PM

HandiGambling 244 (Wickerr Stakes)

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Tonight's HandiGambling 244 exercise is the seventh race from Del Mar, the $85,000 Wickerr Stakes for 3-year-olds and up 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.

Please separate the play from the analysis and label the play "HG" with the program numbers instead of the names of the horses. 

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.

The turf condition is FIRM.

Let's scratch:  #11 TRES BORRACHOS, #12 FERNELEY, #13 MONTEREY JAZZ

Not only was #5 VICTORY PETE overmatched against the likes of Twirling Candy in the Grade 2 Californian two back, but he attempted to go gate-to-wire over a surface that may have favored closers on the day.  He'll now return to his preferred surface, turf, after a game pacesetting third-place performance in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap on dirt at Prairie Meadows.  Victory Pete hasn't won since 2009, but this seems like a good spot for him to get back on the beam.  He doesn't need the lead to do his best running and I'm expecting Rafael Bejarano to find a good spot stalking the expected solid pace. 

#2 ACE OF ACES stole an 'n2x' optional claimer on the front end at this distance two back, but he failed to stay 1 1/16 miles in his most recent outing.  He should appreciate turning back in distance this afternoon, but he seems like a one-dimensional front-runner and may face some early pressure from #3 JOHN JOHNY JAK, #9 AMERICAN LION and #7 UNBRIDLED'S HEART.  Ace of Aces is sharp right now, but he'll need a breather at some point. 

#4 GALLANT SON, a Grade 3 winner on the grass, is also in good form.  He returned from a short layoff to win a listed race sprinting on the grass at Hollywood Park and would benefit from a lively pace up front.  He finished third in this race last year, but he ran in the 2010 Wickerr in his first try following a layoff line.  This time, he has a race under his belt.  I have a good amount of respect for this 5-year-old and he is expected to give another good performance.

I picked #9 AMERICAN LION to win the 2010 Kentucky Derby, but he spun his wheels in the slop and finished eleventh behind Super Saver.  The Illinois Derby winner was originally slated for stud duty, but he returned from a lengthy layoff to finish a solid fourth in his return, an entry-level allowance race over cushion track on July 10.  Expect American Lion to be sharper in his second start back and he could be a strong pace factor stretching out around two turns. 

#1 BLUE CHAGALL, the defending Wickerr champion, earned a 101 Beyer four back in the Grade 2 Arcadia, but he had a picture-perfect trip that afternoon only to fall short to the sharp Liberian Freighter.  I think Blue Chagall is more like his recent efforts (Beyers between 87-91) than the triple-digit race and he seems to run to the level of his competition (whether it be Courageous Cat and Liberian Freighter or Smokey Lonesome and Carry Gulch).  He fits beautifully in this spot and may work out a cozy pocket trip from the inside, but he figures to be fairly short on the toteboard.  I'll take a stand against him although I realize he certainly can win.

#8 BUENOS DIAS takes a drop in class after running up against the likes of Acclamation, Champ Pegasus and Bourbon Bay, but he seems more like a longer-distance turf performer than a miler.  I liked his race in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup four starts back, but he just hasn't come close to that effort in 2011 and didn't change leads in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo on February 19.  He'll get pace to run at, but may need more ground to play with.

#3 JOHN JOHNY JAK was no match for Mambo Meister in the Mecke Stakes on June 25, but that one is in raging form, returning from the Mecke to win the Primal Stakes last week with a whopping 110 Beyer.  John Johny Jak makes first start for new ownership group and returns to his best surface (4-8, won last two on grass).  He has some early speed, but doesn't need the lead so his tactics may be dependant on what Ace of Aces (drawn directly to his inside) does from the gate.  Yet another sharp runner in an excellent renewal of the Wickerr, John Johny Jak wouldn't be a surprise, but he needs to step his game up just a bit more.

#10 QUINDICI MAN is a stakes-winner on grass over a mile at Turf Paradise and he wasn't disgraced going longer in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap on closing day at Santa Anita.  Quindici Man likes to rally from off the pace and he could get the fractions he needs to properly set up his late kick.  He must avoid a wide trip from his outside post, however.

#7 UNBRIDLED'S HEART went gate to wire against weaker at Lone Star last time out.  It doesn't look like he's quick enough to make the front today, but he's shown that he can rate and finish in a pinch (note turf debut three starts back).  The runner-up from the most recent start returned to finish eighth in a 12-furlong starter allowance.  Unbridled's Heart will get a severe class test here.

#5 CALIMONCO missed the break in his first start for John Sadler so you may want to draw a line through that 4 Beyer.  A solid runner with more seconds and thirds than victories, Calimonco will be closer to the pace, given an alert break.  He's not his sisters, Life Is Sweet and Sweet Catomine, but his form is dirtied up enough that he'll be playable odds for a high-percentage barn.

It's a really good race for HandiGambling, but I'm going to keep it simple.

$100 Win - Victory Pete (#5)

Best of luck to all.

***

I'd like to mention that I'll be down at Penn National this Friday and Saturday for Governor's Cup weekend.  There are several juicy stakes races on the card and I'm pleased to be doing some handicapping work for the track in conjunction with DRF.  Three of the first four races on Friday evening are $100,000 stakes events and there will be a special Breast Cancer Awareness promotion that night as well. 

On Saturday night is the Governor's Cup, a turf sprint won last year by Chamberlain Bridge on his way to a victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

I'd love to meet any blogger that happens to be at the track this weekend.