01/26/2012 5:26PM

HandiGambling 268 (Santa Anita Maiden Claimers)

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Thursday's HandiGambling 268 exercise is the sixth race at Santa Anita, a $50,000 maiden claimer at seven furlongs for 3-year-olds.

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 is FAST.

#6 RON BURGANDY is ridden by Corey Nakatani and is 1 lb. overweight.

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In multi-race wagers, I'll go three deep and pray.

#7 CHARLIE COMPANY improved with Lasix and the switch to Golden Gate's Tapeta surface, but he was well-bet for his career debut on dirt and a poor start may have led to his disappointing seventh-place finish.  He was a bit late to change leads in his most recent outing, a maiden special weight at Golden Gate on January 2, but that race has proven quite productive thus far (the favored winner returned to finish third in an entry-level optional claimer at Santa Anita with a 74 Beyer Speed Figure while the second- and fourth-place finishers came back to graduate next-out with 83 and 68 Beyers at Oaklawn and Golden Gate, respectively).  Charlie Company may have to rally from midpack here, but looks to have found a good spot for his return to Southern California.

#8 VISIBLE MARQ, trained by Bob Baffert, is a half-brother to stakes-placed router Masala (27-6-3-9, $258,098) out of stakes-placed router Countess Marq (12-3-4-0, $102,735).  A $5,000 yearling that was purchased for ten times that amount last June, Visible Marq should appreciate today's slightly longer distance.  He improved drastically when switched to dirt and dropped in for a tag, and may have raced against the grain of a speed-favoring track last time out.  He shows the typical Baffert quick workout leading up to this race and must be respected late.

#1 MIDNIGHT CON, claimed for $30,000 by Doug O'Neill out of last week's HandiGambling exercise (a $65,000 RNA as a March juvenile), will make his fourth start as a gelding.  He hung like a chandelier in his last two races and really didn't have an excuse on January 20 when relinquishing a late lead to 38-1 shot Skip Tony.  Perhaps O'Neill will have the remedy, but Midnight Con doesn't look like he wants to pass a parked car.  Perhaps a more aggressive ride from the rail will have him prominently-placed early.  I'll throw him in grudgingly as a 'B' or 'C' in my multiple-race wagers. 

As for the others,

#5 TUMMEL, a $47,000 RNA as a yearling that sold for $25,000 last year, goes out for the red-hot Art Sherman barn and may have been overmatched most recently against special weights (the winner of that December 10 affair, Out of Bounds, returned to win the Grade 3 Sham Stakes with a 99 Beyer Speed Figure).  In his prior outing, TUmmel rallied for second in his lone start to date on dirt.  He has solid speed figures, but I just don't like the way he's finished off his races thus far.  He is certainly capable of improvement and shouldn't be ignored.

#6 RON BURGUNDY has several angles in his corner.  A new gelding, he goes turf-to-dirt, route-to-sprint and drops in for a tag for the first time in his career.  A $62,000 yearling, Ron Burgundy, the first starter out of synthetic stakes-placed router Early Vintage, hasn't raced since August and could be outsprinted in the early going.

#2 CRUXUS raced evenly in his career debut at Hollywood on November 19.  He was a vet scratch on January 5 when reportedly sick and now returns as a first-time gelding for Vladimir Cerin.  Cruxus sold for both $5,000 as a weanling and as a yearling.  He is capable of improvement at good odds in a wide-open affair.

#9 CONGRATS SKI drops with speed and that is often a very potent angle in maiden races.  There isn't a ton of pace signed on in this maiden seller and Congrats Ski may attempt to take these gate-to-wire under the crafty Rafael Bejarano.  He is out of Grade 2 route winner Ms Brookski and faced a runaway winner in his most recent outing.  Congrats Ski fits very well at this level and should be prominent when the field swings into the stretch. 

#11 OUTPERFORM showed speed against California-bred maiden claimers in his career debut over cushion track, but dropped well behind in the opening stages of his most recent outing on dirt.  With an alert break, the Dan Hendricks-trained gelding could work out a nice outside stalking trip while clear of traffic.  The $17,000 yearling faces open foes for the first time in his career.

#3 TOWERING caught a promising field of maiden special weights in his career debut at Gulfstream (the runner-up returned to graduate for Todd Pletcher with an 84 Beyer) and now goes out for the high-percentage Mike Mitchell barn.  Don't be surprised if this one shows a bit more early speed this afternoon and it's always hard to simply dismiss a Mitchell-trained performer.

#4 CLOUD TOP finished evenly for third in his career debut at Hollywood and was flattered when three horses emerged from that race to graduate next-out (including Skip Tony, the longshot that outgamed Midnight Con last week).  He catches a tough group for this level, however.

#10 AWESOME MIKE, dismissed at 27-1 for his career debut against special weights, didn't have a very good trip.  He has worked quickly over this surface in the interim and has some pedigree appeal as his dam was a multiple stakes-winning sprinter.  Needless to say, he must improve off his debut.

Here's my HG play:

$50 WIN/PLACE - #7 Charlie Company

Best of luck to all.

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