07/06/2012 12:17PM

HandiGambling 288 (Leematt Stakes)


This week's HandiGambling 288 exercise is Friday's sixth race at Presque Isle Downs, the $75,000 Leematt Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds and upward.



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 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 approximate post time for this races is 7:30 ET. 

As of this writing, let's scratch #3 ROADHOG and #4 CATALACTIC.


#6 MOTION TO APPEAL makes the second start following a layoff in the Leematt.  A three-time route winner, Motion to Appeal was only beaten a length in his return, a race that featured a merry-go-round pace (the 1-2-3-4 runners at the pace call ran that way at the finish).  Motion to Appeal tried to get involved with a three-wide bid on the final turn and tried all the way to the wire, eventually losing by only a length.  He earned a career-best Beyer in that heat and can improve with the effort under his belt (note that he won second off the layoff at Presque Isle Downs on June 30, 2011).  Motion to Appeal has good stalking ability and can sit just off the expected solid pace.

#1 GONDWANAN has won four of his last five races for high-percentage trainer Tony Dutrow and may work out a good ground-saving, pace-tracking trip under Mario Pino.  Despite a layoff of almost eight months, Gondwanan showed courage by outgaming next-out 83-Beyer winner Lubango in an 'n2x' optional claimer at Parx on May 5.  Gondwanan has only finished off the board once in his career - his debut in 2010 - but this will be his first start on a synthetic track and it will be interesting to see if he can transfer his good dirt form to the Tapeta.  Note that Dutrow won the 2008 Lil E. Tee Stakes at Presque Isle with first-time synthetic runner Double Down Vinman.

#12 RYAN'S GIFT won the 2010 Lil E. Tee Stakes going two turns at Presque Isle and he finished just ahead of Motion to Appeal in that June 14 allowance race.  Like his uncoupled stablemate, Motion to Appeal, Ryan's Gift was making his first start of the year in that event and he pressed the eventual winner all the way around the track before dropping a close decision. Ryan's Gift drew a tough post position on the far outside, however, and may be used leaving the gate in order to avoid a very wide trip.  Ryan's Gift just missed in this race last year as the even-money favorite and looms a threatening presence once again.

#2 JETHRO JR. has good early speed, but has yet to race on synthetic and has been away from the races since September 24.  Let's forgive the 23 1/4-length defeat that day at Parx as he chased a pace-pressing winner over a speed-favoring muddy track.  Two back, Jethro Jr. earned a competitive number on dirt and his solid turf race from last year gives some hope that he'll run well on this Tapeta track.  Jethro Jr.  has obstacles to overcome, but should be forwardly-placed when the real running begins. 

As I mentioned in the DRF Race of the Day Video, I've never been a big fan of #5 CAT PARK, but he does go out for the always-dangerous team of Midwest Thoroughbreds and Jamie Ness.  Cat Park won his maiden over this course and trip way back in 2009 but, while graded-placed on grass in his career, hasn't showed a true killer instinct.  He lost his last three races at 5-2 odds or less for Ness and he blew a clear late lead three back at Tampa Bay Downs after drifting out considerably and hopping back to his left lead nearing the wire.  His connections merit respect, but I have a feeling that Cat Park will be bet down from his morning line of 5 to 1 and could be a slight underlay.

#9 SHELLBACK beat two next-out winners over this course and distance on June 6 and is in excellent form for the underrated Gerald Bennett.  He will be taking a step up in class in this spot, however (the two next-out winners scored at River Downs and Thistledown, respectively, before coming back to lose at Presque Isle). Shellback is certainly capable of putting back-to-back wins together and he figures to get a proper pace setup in the Leematt.  He's an interesting contender and should be a solid price.

#10 STORMY SPIRIT absolutely walked the dog on a moderate pace in his most recent start and I'll view his 76 Beyer Speed Figure with some skepticism considering the easy trip he received.  This time around, he projects to face some pressure in the early portion of the race.  Perhaps Dale Beckner will opt to sit off Jethro Jr. in the hope of inheriting the lead turning for home, but I just don't like to take horses coming off candy trips when they face tougher.

#11 POLLARD'S BOY is talented, but the sophomore gelding stretches out a quarter-mile in his first start against older runners while trying a new surface.  He looked green winning the Pennsylvania Nursery on December 11, but gave a good account of himself in the slop off a six-month freshening at Penn National most recently.  He graduated at this distance in a solid maiden heat last year and has the back races to contend, but he does have lots of questions to answer.

#7 LAST EMPIRE has been on the board in his last dozen starts and he wheels back in two weeks following an entry-level allowance victory over this course and distance.  Trained by Dale Capuano, Last Empire is a hard-hitter that arguably, finds Tapeta to be his preferred surface.  Still, his usual race (Beyers in the mid-70's) may not be enough to get it done tonight.

#8 SILVER DIB was no match for Last Empire at long odds in his first start against winners and needs to step up considerably in order to upset this contentious group.

Here's how I'll HandiGamble:

$50 Exacta:  Motion to Appeal - Gondwanan (6-1)
$50 Exacta:  Motion to Appeal - Ryan's Gift (6-12)

Best of luck to all.


Video stakes analyses for many of the weekend's graded races will be up on the site later today/early tomorrow.

I'll be taking vacation next week so I'll see you in a bit.

Have a great weekend.