01/06/2012 3:46PM

HandiGambling 265 (Santa Anita Sprint)

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Friday's HandiGambling 265 exercise is the seventh race at Santa Anita, an entry-level allowance for four-year-olds and upward at six 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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The track condition is FAST.

Let's scratch #1 OBSESS, #7 THE DIRECTOR and #12 ROCK THIS WAY. 

#3 THUNDER OF ZION is 1 lb. overweight.

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There are a ton of question marks in today's feature at Santa Anita, and one of them is #11 RUNFLATOUT, who returns to the races as a ridgling after faltering to third at odds-on in a similar spot here on September 30.  Runflatout dazzled the Santa Anita crowd on January 29, 2011 with a 98-Beyer victory in his career debut, but he is on a six-race losing streak for trainer John Sadler.  Still, he probably found the route distance beyond his scope in the San Felipe, Affirmed and Swaps and was embroiled in a suicidal speed duel in the King's Bishop at Saratoga.  He draws a comfortable outside post position in a race loaded with speed and could work out a pace-tracking trip while clear of traffic.  Runflatout still must prove that he can pass horses and win, but he deserves one more chance despite the possibility of unappealing win odds.  Four of the five runners to come back from that September 30 allowance hit the board next-out including Centralinteligence (102 Beyer when second in an 'n2x' allowance) and Master Chef (89 Beyer winner of an 'n1x' optional claimer).  Runflatout is one of three horses that I'll use in multi-race wagers.

#4 THINKING OF GIRLS is an intriguing longshot for trainer Denise Breuer and jockey Kayla Stra, low-profile connections that will ensure long odds.  Headed at 49-1 odds over this surface in the first start off the claim on November 4 (the winner of that $40,000 claimer returned to win the Zia Park Derby with an 85 Beyer while the third-finisher came back to score for $32,000 with an 80), Thinking of Girls' most recent form is dirtied up by a poor turf performance.  Let's forgive that race as he doesn't seem to run as well on the grass and will add blinkers this afternoon (both of her career wins came with blinks).  Perhaps more importantly, Thinking of Girls is comfortable from stalking range and could get a very hot pace to attack when the real running begins.  I won't throw him out at a big number.

#2 RED ACE, one of two entrants trained by Bob Baffert, finished a game third in his most recent start on dirt, a two-turn route at Santa Anita on October 28.  In that race, he was involved in a hot pace battle through solid fractions.  After dispatching of his early rival, he was sufficiently weakened and was passed in the stretch.  Although he disappointed a bit in his most recent performance, that race was on the cushion track and Red Ace may simply prefer dirt.  He draws a tough inside post, but is comfortable rallying from off the pace and should be charging in the stretch. 

As for the others:

#9 HOPE AND BELIEVE is not without a good chance.  After facing The Factor in his career debut at two, Hope and Believe returned from a ten-month layoff as a gelding and promptly won his maiden over this surface despite being late to change leads in the stretch (the third-finisher from that race returned to graduate with an 84 Beyer).  Hope and Believe was caught up in pace warfare most recently over cushion track, but will likely be taken off the lead here by new rider Joel Rosario.  A return to dirt should help his cause and Hope and Believe is one to fear.

#5 D'PENDABLE, also trained by Baffert, makes his initial start on dirt following a March layoff.  He's been working steadily since early October and is a half to two main track winners.  This is the female family of the good turf runners Forbidden Apple, Wild Event and Paradise Creek, and D'pendable has shown nothing but one-way speed throughout his short career.  There are pace, distance and fitness concerns he must address this afternoon.

#3 THUNDER OF ZION finished ahead of Thinking of Girls on grass at Hollywood, but he prefers the main track as evidenced by his two wins over this surface in October (the runner-up from October 30 returned to win for $20,000 with a 74 Beyer).  Unlike Thinking of Girls, however, he looks like a one-dimensional speed ball and could get caught up in a difficult early duel.  Thunder of Zion is quick from the gate, but he's stepping up and the race flow may not fit his running style.

#6 EL POCHO is the "could be any kind" horse as he's only raced twice in Chile and was entered in some high-profile spots before landing in this logical allowance spot.  He adds Lasix for his first stateside appearance and wouldn't be a surprise in a very contentious affair.

#10 BLAKE, listed as a vet scratch on December 17 (listed on the state vet's list as "sick-other"), hasn't raced since April and is another speedball that could be compromised by other quick gate horses.  A $13,000 weanling purchase ($19,500 RNA as yearling, $8,000 RNA as juvenile), Blake goes out for an excellent layoff barn, but there are several questions here.

#8 SIR HAMILTON is another speed horse.  Trained by the red-hot Jeff Mullins, Sir Hamilton will make his dirt debut.  The dam was stakes-placed routing on dirt and has produced a winner on the main track.  A four-year-old with only two starts to his name, Sir Hamilton must avoid a protracted speed duel.

What a fun race!

Let's play it this way for HandiGambling:

$30 Exacta - RUNFLATOUT - THINKING OF GIRLS (11-4)
$30 Exacta - RUNFLATOUT - RED ACE (11-2)
$20 Exacta - RUNFLATOUT - HOPE AND BELIEVE (11-9)
$20 Exacta - RUNFLATOUT - D'PENDABLE (11-5)

Best of luck to all.