11/16/2012 2:36PM

HandiGambling (Churchill Turf)

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This week's HandiGambling exercise is the ninth race at Churchill Downs, a $100,000 optional claimer for 3-year-olds and upward at one mile on the turf.

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

REMEMBER, IF YOU ARE DECLARED THE WINNER OF THE HANDIGAMBLING EXERCISE; PLEASE CONTACT FORMBLOG@DRF.COM WITH YOUR DRF LOGIN AND PASSWORD IN ORDER TO ACCESS YOUR PRIZE PACKAGE.

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 DIRECTLY 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 turf course is currently listed as "FIRM."

Let's scratch #9 EYE OF THE LEOPARD, #11 TIDAL VOLUME, #12 INFRATTINI, #13 ZIMMER

I'll take a tepid stab with #6 DIMENSION, a 4-year-old making his second start in the United States.  An underachiever in Britain for trainer James Fanshawe, Dimension showed slight improvement after being gelded prior to his seasonal debut in May. In his final start overseas, Dimension set a new course record for seven furlongs at York.  While that race hasn't produced strong form, Dimension proved that he is effective on firmer going and he may move forward with the addition of Lasix this afternoon.  In his first race for trainer Conor Murphy, Dimension broke slowly and was sent up uncovered to track moderate fractions.  He tired a bit in the stretch when finishing behind stakes-winner Seal Cove and it's quite possible that nine furlongs isn't his best game. Cutting back in distance should be what the doctor ordered and there is plenty of pace for him to attack late.  He must improve off that recent run at Keeneland, but offers value at double-digit odds. 

As an aside, Murphy's story is a fascinating one.  In England, he worked for one of the country's top steeplechase trainers, Nicky Henderson.  A few months before the prestigious Cheltenham meeting, Murphy placed a 50-pound future wager on a five-horse accumulator.  Murphy bagged over a million pounds with his winning score and has now ventured out on his own here in the United States.  Check out the link below for the full story:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2115564/Cheltenham-Festival-2012-Stable-lad-Conor-Murphy-wins-1m.html

If Dimension bombs in this spot, you may want to wait until he runs on a synthetic surface.  Some of his better races overseas came over the all-weather.

#10 BERGERAC makes his third start of the form cycle for a new barn and returns to grass following several efforts on polytrack. An inconsistent sort that hasn't won a race in over a year, Bergerac is capable of solid performances (thought he ran pretty well in the Grade 3 Bold Venture Stakes and Grade 2 Commonwealth Stakes over polytrack) as well as some stinkers.  He drew a tough outside post position and could be forced wide into the first turn, but he has some back races that suggest he can be competitive with these at good odds.  I'm expecting jockey Malcolm Franklin to track the speed directly to his inside and perhaps he can save just a bit of ground on the clubhouse bend.

#1 KEEP UP is a beautifully-bred, lightly-raced 5-year-old that appears to be coming into his own for trainer Alex Clarkson.  He draws an excellent inside post position this afternoon and may work out a pocket journey behind the speed.  Keep Up won the faster division of 'N2X' allowance heats at Keeneland on October 26 when defeating multiple Grade 3-placed Trend, but he seemed a bit green in the stretch, flipping leads a couple of times when in front.  Keep Up may have the most scope for improvement and shouldn't be discounted.

#3 STRIKE IMPACT is a salty veteran with 17 victories on his record and he absolutely adores the Churchill Downs turf course.  His last race, an eighth-place performance at Mountaineer Park, can be forgiven as he was wide in the early part.  He hasn't started in over three months, however, and his best performances have come when he's on or near the lead.  There is plenty of other speed in this spot and Strike Impact may have to work hard if he is to assume his usual place near the front. 

#7 SAN ANTONE makes the third start of the form cycle for a solid barn and he improved when returned to polytrack at Keeneland on October 6.  Although no match for graded winners Middie and Smart Bid, San Antone wasn't disgraced and looks to be rounding back into form.  San Antone's best races have come on synthetic, however, and he may be slightly better on that surface.  Plus, he has some speed and could be compromised if the pace is hot.  I think Corey Lanerie is going to take him back and make one run from midpack.  I'd like him more if this race was on polytrack.

#2 NOBLE'S PROMISE is winding down a good career and the Grade 1 winner has performed in some of the world's most prestigious races (Kentucky Derby at Churchill, St. James's Palace Stakes at Ascot, "Dan Illman Formbloggers" convention race at Gulfstream).  He got back on the beam in his most recent start at Keeneland and has prior winning experience over turf.  He draws a comfortable inside post and should work out a nice trip behind the pacesetters.  He certainly can win this, but he may get bet based more on his reputation than what he's done lately.  A strong contender, but I wonder if he will be an underlay.

#5 NIGHT PARTY had everything his own way on the lead in his most recent start on turf and still failed to complete the exacta.  This time, he will likely face stronger pace competition and he's lost ground from the stretch call to the wire in his last six races. He has an annoying tendency to switch back to his left lead at crucial times during the late stretch and I'm not sure he really wants to rate and finish.

#4 GRAND BERRY looms the x-factor for trainer Bill Mott.  A Group 1 winner on dirt in Argentina, Grand Berry found success at the Group 2 level on turf.  His lone start in this country can easily be dismissed as he raced on the main track against a razor-sharp Neck 'n Neck.  Mott wheels him back on two weeks rest and Grand Berry should be sharper for this assignment.  He's worth a look at 15-1 on the morning line.

Although there is a good amount of speed in this race, #8 STORMY GOING might be the absolute fastest from the starting stalls.  He should be fresh off a June layoff, stretches out off three sprints and chased some quick fractions in shorter races earlier in the year.  Like San Antone, he may be better on a synthetic surface and a hot pace could doom him to a minor award at best.

Here's how my HandiGambling tickets shape up:

$40 WIN - DIMENSION (6)
$10 EXACTA BOX - KEEP UP, DIMENSION, BERGERAC (1-6-10)

***

The handicapping videos for this weekend's major stakes races should be up on the site late this afternoon.  Here's a very quick preview:

...WILLY BEAMIN looks like the horse to beat in the Discovery, but CALLED TO SERVE was in very tight for the first five furlongs of his most recent start at Belmont and could improve with a cleaner run.  He has a tendency to hang, however...MADAME CACTUS looked good winning her prep at Delta Downs and looms a strong contender in the Delta Princess.  ROSE TO GOLD looked good on dirt at Calder to start her career, but ran poorly on synthetic last time out.  Draw a line through that Keeneland race.  SALAMERA may have some distance issues...I don't have a strong opinion in the Delta Jackpot and won't play the race, but I'm rooting for Lukas and HIGHTAIL...
...

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