01/20/2012 3:39PM

HandiGambling 267 (Santa Anita Maiden Claimers)

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Friday's HandiGambling 267 exercise is the eighth race at Santa Anita, a $32,000 maiden claimer for 3-year-olds at one mile.

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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Let's scratch #9 I FEEL FREE, #11 FLYING MARINE, #12 TEANCUM, #13 CHEEZY BREEZY and #14 MR. PADRE.

The main track is FAST.

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I'll take my chances by going two deep in multiple-race wagers, but I do realize there are several logical contenders in this heat.

#6 MIDNIGHT CON, a $65,000 buyback as a juvenile, has never raced on dirt and has never raced this cheaply.  He may have hung just a bit after chasing an odds-on pacesetting winner in a three-horse race contested over a speed-favoring cushion track surface on December 4.  That runner, stakes-placed Call Me Kelly, returned to finish third in an open $40,000 claimer with a 65 Beyer Speed Figure while last-place finisher Tale Be Told came back to place third at this level with a 55 Beyer.  This will be Midnight Con's third start as a gelding and he could work out a solid trip tracking from close range. I don't think the additional distance will post a problem as the dam scored four route victories in her career and trainer Jeff Mullins has been hot at this meet.

Trainer Doug O'Neill saw enough in #8 WAR POLITICS ($15,000 yearling, $37,000 juvenile) to claim the son of War Front for $30,000 two starts back at Hollywood.  In his first start for these connections, War Politics was confidently hiked up out of the selling ranks and he finished evenly in the slower division of maiden special weights going a mile on December 30.  The fourth-place finisher in that race returned to graduate on grass with an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.  War Politics drops back down, switches to top jockey Rafael Bejarano and adds blinkers for this start.  He hasn't shown much early speed in his career, but projects to be rallying in the late stages.  The distance should be fine as both of the dam's wins came routing and she is a half-sister to multiple stakes-winner Awesome Lady (310K). 

As for the others:

#4 JUAN'S TWIN is an intriguing longshot.  The Cal-bred made a premature midrace bid two starts back against fellow statebreds and did not have the easiest of trips when returned to the races on December 17.  He'll stretch out around two turns for the first time with a pair of stamina-building workouts on display and could be forwardly-placed going into the first turn.  Only two of the seven runners to come back from that December 17 heat returned to crack the trifecta, however (best Beyer of 59).  The dam is a half-sister to stakes-winner Super Avie, who placed in the Grade 1 Hollywood Oaks in 1988. 

#3 TAKE NO PRISONERS is an obvious contender dropping in class for Bob Baffert.  An $85,000 weanling that resold for $75,000 as a yearling, Take No Prisoners is dangled for $30,000 after showing brief speed against the promising Empire Way (only beaten 2 3/4 lengths in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity) in his career debut over the Hollywood cushion track.  By Giant's Causeway, he should appreciate today's added distance and he looms a threat to wire this field under Corey Nakatani.  The turf-winning dam is a full sister to stakes-winner Lucky Pulpit (209K) and is a three-quarter sister to multiple stakes-placed router Drewman.

#2 AT LAST A WILDCAT's best effort came as a first-time gelding on November 12, but one has to wonder if he is simply a better performer on synthetic surfaces.  In two dirt races (both as an intact colt), he didn't finish ahead of another horse.  He blew out a bullet three furlongs in preparation for his route debut and exits a key sprint at Hollywood (the winner returned to take a $40,000 claimer on grass with a 65 Beyer while the eighth-finisher graduated for $30,000 on dirt with a 66 Beyer).  The dam is a half-sister to multiple graded-winning router Truly a Judge.  I'm expecting slight improvement here, but he might be best played on the bottom of exotic wagers.

#10 STORMY BOB didn't do much in his career debut going long on December 30.  Over the past five years, however, trainer Mike Mitchell is 23-57 (40%, $2.58 ROI) with second-time maiden claimers.  The second dam was a stakes-winner, but Stormy Bob must avoid a wide trip from the far outside post position.

#7 ALREADY THERE is a Cal-bred making his third start as a gelding, his first start for a tag and his first race on dirt.  Over the past five years, trainer Peter Miller is 15-46 (33%, $2.04 ROI) with runners dropping from maiden special weight competition and Already There chased a runaway most recently over the Hollywood cushion track (Spirit Rules returned to finish third in an entry-level allowance race with a 64 Beyer).  A $7,500 short yearling that resold for $45,000 last April, Already There is by long-winded Quiet American out of stakes-placed sprinter Charming Gal.  He fits at this level.

#5 VICTORIASUGRDADDY, out of stakes-placed Shanade, finished a well-beaten third in his only previous run on dirt and he disappointed in his most recent outing at this level over the cushion track (none of the five performers to return from that race managed to crack the board next-out).  The rider switch to Rosario is interesting, but Victoriasugrdaddy doesn't seem to have much early speed and could need a pace meltdown in order to reel these in late.

#1 SKIP TONY removes blinkers after being pulled up over the cushion track on December 10.  This will be his second start as a gelding and the seven-pound bug rider may send and hope for the best from the inside post.  He must improve greatly off his first two appearances.

Here's how I'll play HG:

$50 Exacta - 8-6 (Midnight Con - War Politics)
$20 Exacta - 8-4 (Midnight Con - Juan's Twin)
$10 Exacta - 8-3 (Midnight Con - Take No Prisoners)
$10 Exacta - 8-2 (Midnight Con - At Last a Wildcat)
$10 Exacta - 8-10 (Midnight Con - Stormy Bob)

Best of luck to all