11/17/2011 5:01PM

HandiGambling 258 - Delta Downs

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Thursday's HandiGambling 258 exercise is the eighth race at Delta Downs, an entry-level allowance for Louisiana-breds at seven furlongs.

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.

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As of this writing, the track is FAST.

Let's scratch #11 COACH MARK and #12 TRIPLE HIT

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A tough race for this week's HandiGambling and I probably won't play.  This race kicks off a 50-cent Pick 4 and I would have to go four deep on my tickets.

#10 LAYNE'S PAL steps up in class and distance after winning his maiden going five furlongs on October 19.  At first glance, the 76 Beyer he earned for that race really sticks out as it's the fastest dirt number that anyone in this field has ever produced.  It's so out of whack with anything that Layne's Pal had previously done, however, that one has to wonder if it is an anomaly and that he'll come crashing back to Earth tonight against this tougher competition.  Plus, he'll have to win this race from the far outside post going two turns.  Layne's Pal must avoid being hung out wide on the first turn and he could be close to a pretty fast pace.  I'd give him a chance to duplicate his last race if he starts at close to his 8-1 morning line.  If he drops precipitously from those odds, I'd probably look elsewhere for value.

#2 DAVY'S RUNNER goes second off the layoff after running his fastest Beyer to date.  That was a weird race, though, as Davy's Runner was outpaced badly on the final turn only to get in gear late despite racing on his left lead through the stretch.  He was 44-1 that time and will probably be a mere fraction of that price tonight.  He should work out a good ground-saving pace-tracking trip, but has never won on dirt.

#8 I'MABADBOY is usually right there, but his 1-20 lifetime record tempers the enthusiasm somewhat.  This will be his first race without blinkers and he moved way too prematurely when finishing behind Davy's Runner on October 27.  In that race, he uncorked a five-wide move on the backstretch, poked a nose in front turning for home and understandably tired when the top two finishers came at him late.  He's run some nice races since being claimed by this barn five starts back and should receive a good pace to attack tonight.  He can factor with a more patient ride.

#3 ROCKET KING may have needed the last race, his first following a short layoff, when only beaten two lengths on October 27.  He was on the lead that day and could be more comfortable racing from just off the fractions.  I liked his runner-up performance four back.  Although he was racing for a conditioned tag at Evangeline, he made a good four-wide move on the turn after breaking a half-length slow.  Lightly-raced, he has some upside and may offer some value here.

I wouldn't be surprised if any of the other entrants prevail.  That's what makes this race so tough!

I'm willing to draw a line through the most recent race from #1 PIRATE ISLAND.  That was his first start off a short break and he had the misfortune to face a 10 3/4-length runaway winner.  He could be sharper this time around and was able to put up some competitive Beyers earlier this year at Evangeline. 

#4 KEEP ON SMOKIN has only finished ahead of one other horse in his last four races dating back to October 30, 2010.  He finished about 10 lengths behind Pirate Island 22 days ago and must do better.

If you think that I'mabadboy moved too soon on October 27, that was nothing compared to the brush #5 VIKING WARRIOR made in that race.  He stormed to the front with a four-wide sweep early on the final turn before succumbing to the more patiently-handled runners.  Viking Warrior's previous dirt effort resulted in a 6 1/2-length maiden score and he worked a bullet five furlongs leading up to this race.  Discard at your own risk considering he may work out a nice trip from off the pace.

#6 SUN SHADOW projects as one of the speeds after going gate-to-wire at Retama on October 7.  He improved drastically with the addition of Lasix and blinkers and was striding away at the end of that six-furlong affair.  The third-finisher that day returned to graduate, in his eleventh lifetime start, on turf with a 65 Beyer.  This will be Sun Shadow's first race around two turns and he could face some pressure heading into the backstretch.

#7 TOUGH AS NAILS put things together with a pair of front-running wins at Evangeline Downs, but he has never run particularly well at Delta and was eased in his most recent start (the winner from the last race came back to take two more in a row with an average Beyer of 77).  He'll return from a three-month layoff tonight and may need a start before strutting his best stuff.  He could be the one to battle with Sun Shadow early.

With four tallies on his record, #9 MY BELL BOY is the most prolific winner in the field.  In his first start off the claim, he came with a strong late run to finish third in a $5,000 starter allowance on October 21. The fourth-place finisher of that heat, Brendyn Jo, returned to win for the eighth time in a $7,500 claimer (78 Beyer).  My Bell Boy fits well from a class and pace standpoint and can't be counted out.

I'm going to sit this one out.

Best of luck to all.