06/01/2012 2:23PM

HandiGambling 284 (Off-The-Turf)

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This week's HandiGambling 284 exercise is Friday's eighth race at Arlington Park, an 'n2x' allowance for Illinois-bred 3-year-olds and older.  THIS RACE HAS BEEN WASHED OFF THE TURF AND WILL BE CONTESTED AROUND A ONE-TURN MILE ON THE POLYTRACK SURFACE.

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PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PREVIOUS BLOG POST.

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 GIVE YOUR NAME OR BLOG MONIKER AT THE END OF THE HG PLAY AND/OR ANALYSIS.
 
Please separate the play from the analysis and label the play "HG" with the program numbers (instead of the horse's name) for easier scoring.

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.

Best of luck to all.

***

THE POLYTRACK IS STANDARD.

#2 WILD JAZ will be ridden by Florent Geroux.

Let's scratch #5 STRIKING HIGHT, #9 FIRE CLOUD and #10 ROI LE ROY.

I like #6 LETHAL although I am a bit concerned about the late surface switch to synthetic.  Lethal has kicked off his 4-year-old campaign by running his three fastest speed figures and he didn't have an easy trip in his most recent race on May 11.  That day, the winner, Peso, got away with soft fractions while Lethal was buried down inside.  Lethal squeezed through a narrow opening in between horses at the eighth pole and finished nicely along the rail to just miss second.  He galloped out well and seems to be in good form for trainer John Haran.  He shows a much-improved half-mile breeze over the polytrack in preparation for this start and should offer a decent price.

#11 COPUS looked good winning a two-turn route at Hawthorne on April 14 and then may have wheeled back too quickly when cutting back sharply in distance for the Land of Lincoln Stakes two weeks later.  A repeat of that 87 Beyer from two back makes this 3-year-old gelding a threat, but he's never raced on synthetic and the horses he beat in that April 14 race haven't panned out (only one of the nine runners in that heat, including Copus, returned to crack the board next-out and that horse finished second in a $7,500, 'n4L' claimer). Copus could attempt to shake loose in the early portion of that race and should be prominent when the real running begins.  I won't leave him out of my multi-race wagers, but he has to prove his worth on this surface.

#2 WILD JAZ put up an 87 Beyer when racing on turf at Hawthorne last out and will now make the important third start of the form cycle this afternoon.  He's yet to win on synthetics, but finished only a neck shy when going turf-to-polytrack here last year.  Wild Jaz has solid tactical speed and figures to be in stalking mode down the backstretch under Florent Geroux.  Trainer Sharon Wilson is 33-0-1-1 with horses returning from 31-60 day layoffs, and Wild Jaz was well-beaten in three prior cracks at this class level (all on dirt, however).  He's an exotics factor at the very least.

I won't blame any handicapper that uses the "when in doubt, play Midwest Thoroughbreds" mantra, but STAR OF PARADISE is currently on a 14-race losing streak, has yet to crack the board from five polytrack efforts and hasn't shown noticeable improvement since being claimed by Midwest three starts back.  His big numbers have come when given perfect setups (84 Beyer last year at Hawthorne was achieved after tracking a three-ply pace battle while 77 Beyer two back came after saving all the ground on grass).  He's bound to get bet given the connections and, while I won't be surprised if he wins by 10, I'd only use him defensively in multi-race bets.

#8 SHEDROW HERO was claimed for $18,000 by trainer David Reid out of a turf race here on May 13.  Reid is only 1-12 over the past five years with newly-acquired runners, but that winner scored at 62-1.  Shedrow Hero's most recent victory came on June 25, 2011.  He was listed as a vet scratch 19 days later and hasn't reached the winner's circle since.  He does have good polytrack form, but the one-mile distance is the main question mark.  He is 0-6 in route races and hasn't gained ground from the stretch call to the wire in any of those starts.

#4 REAL POWER goes out for the Giant Oak connections of the Virginia H Tarra Trust and trainer Chris Block.  This lightly-raced 3-year-old has some upside potential and he enters this race in good form after knocking off entry-level Illinois-breds over the Hawthorne green.  Only one of the nine horses he defeated that day returned to crack the trifecta next-out, however, and Real Power has never raced on a synthetic surface.  He also doesn't have much speed and could wind up at the mercy of race and pace luck.  I really respect these connections, but think this horse is going to take his share of money.

#1 TAPILU failed to switch leads when passing tired horses in the $117,000 Milwaukee Avenue Handicap over the Hawthorne dirt on April 28, but he was simply overmatched in that spot.  He has a win at the distance and has performed well enough over polytrack, but his best attribute may be his tracking ability as he can stay close to the pace if necessary.  Tapilu has already had five chances to break through this level, however, and may be better on dirt.

#3 MY EX should appreciate getting away from dirt.  He is 1-13 on that surface, but has run well on synthetics and he paired up Beyer tops on grass two and three back, albeit against claiming competition.  He has some speed and should be forwardly-placed, but is another that has had his share of chances at this level. 

As for HandiGambling, I'll play it like this:

$100 WIN - LETHAL (#6)

Best of luck to all.