05/24/2013 1:35PM

HandiGambling BHP Turf Marathon

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The HandiGambling exercise for Friday, May 24 is the fifth race from Betfair Hollywood Park, an entry-level optional claimer for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/2 miles on grass.

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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."
 
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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 turf course is FIRM.

Let's scratch #8 AIN.

This race is fascinating from a pace perspective as there doesn't appear to be much early speed and many horses seem questionable at this elongated distance.

Perhaps #3 SHADOW RUNNER can be closer to the pace than usual and the 4-year-old may have been compromised by slow splits in his most recent outing (favored Diamondsdiplomat, a next-out winner at this level with an 85 Beyer, went gate-to-wire on an easy lead).  While the sire had some stamina, this female family seems more middle-distance oriented than stout and that's the main concern with Shadow Runner.  Although it looks like he's in declining form, it's possible that adverse circumstances are more to blame with his recent record.  He ran pretty well three back and faced a tiger in Bright Thought on February 3 before the most recent outing. Perhaps he'll be in with a chance turning for home under Garrett Gomez, but I'll freely admit that he's nothing more than a stab, hopefully at a decent price.

I'm fascinated by #1 WARRANT and I'll kick myself if he beats me at square odds.  In his most recent start, a 10-furlong turf effort over this course, Warrant was quarter-horsed from the gate under Martin Garcia and was involved in a fierce pace battle with 12-1 Unusual Beam (finished sixth).  Warrant won the battle, but ultimately lost the war against good-trip rallier Saint Loup, the odds-on favorite.  Warrant may get away with easier fractions this time around and his dam won at 1 1/4 miles.  That may bode well for this long trip and he could get very brave if allowed an early advantage.

#7 NIAGARA FALLS looks like the horse to beat for Pat Biancone.  A maiden winner two starts back, Niagara Falls was tested greatly in the $73,000 Round Table Stakes at this distance on May 12.  He tried to get into the race from the outside entering the turn, but was no match for odds-on winner Dhaamer and veteran classmaster Lime Rickey.  Niagara Falls owns some tactical speed and plenty of upside potential. He acts as though the distance will suit, but I have a feeling he'll be bet down from his 5-2 morning line.

#4 VIBRATO JAZZ isn't out of this as he makes his second start of the form cycle with some back class on display.  He did get some pace to attack when finishing ahead of Warrant on April 26, however, and the scenario may be completely different this time around.  He lost ground while 3-5 wide in that last race and was grinding away at the finish, and that may indicate that he'll appreciate this extra ground.  Still, the Sadler-Bejarano combination almost ensures that he'll be bet, perhaps into underlay status. 

#6 FATHER OF SCIENCE shouldn't have a problem with this distance as he won his maiden over a testing 10 1/2 furlongs at Chester and has a stout European pedigree.  Although he failed to parlay a good pocket trip into a superfecta finish in his North American debut, the pace of that race held up throughout (they ran 1-2-3 around the track) and Father of Science may have needed the start, his first in almost nine months.  He stretches out to a more comfortable distance and may be closer to the pace with the addition of blinkers.  I can't really knock him, but he figures to take his share of money as well and I'd rather have some kind of a price in this puzzling affair.

#5 TRUCIAL STATE leaps up the class and distance ladder, but at least he's in sharp form.  He received a confidence boost in his most recent start on dirt and has run well on the grass in the past.  He has shown improved early interest since blinkers were added two back and it's possible that he will be close to the expected moderate pace. 

#2 COPPER BAY needed a drop into the maiden claiming ranks in order to notch his lone career victory and he'll now stretch out a half-mile against tougher opponents.  It isn't out of the question that he'll be up close, but he must improve a bit.


A very tough race. Here's how I'll HandiGamble:

$100 WIN SHADOW RUNNER - #3

Best of luck to all.


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The graded stakes video analyses for the upcoming three-day weekend should be up on the website by this evening.

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More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.

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You can follow me on Twitter at DRF_DanIllman.