11/05/2009 10:05PM

HandiGambling the Classic


This week's HandiGambling exercise is the Breeders' Cup Classic, the ninth race at Santa Anita on Saturday for three-year-olds and up going 1 1/4 miles on the Pro-Ride racing surface.

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.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference.  Past performances are available on the previous blog entry.

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.

The Ladies' Classic - Classic daily double looks like an interesting bet so I'll go that route with this week's challenge:

Music Notehas been handled wonderfully by Godolphin in 2009.  After a disappointing first run in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap, Music Note was found to be stiff in behind, and the folks in blue backed off until Saratoga.  I had to admit that I wasn't sure what we were going to get from Music Note in the Grade 1 Ballerina in the slop against sprint stalwarts Indian Blessing and Informed Decision, but I never would have guessed that the 2008 Coaching Club American Oaks (10 furlongs) winner would outsprint the big two going into the turn en route to a runaway victory. 
After that win, Godolphin could have even considered a tilt in the Filly and Mare Sprint this coming weekend, but they are more comfortable with their daughter of A.P. Indy going a route o

f ground, and she rewarded their confidence with a facile final prep over next-out graded winner Unbridled Belle in the Beldame at Belmont Park on October 3.
The major question is whether she'll handle a synthetic track as well as she races on dirt, but it wasn't like she was disgraced when third to Zenyatta in last year's Ladies' Classic, and one could argue that she's fresher and more mature right now.
She's tactical enough to race in the second flight, and should be gearing up to challenge likely pacesetter Careless Jewel on the turn.  Barring that bad performance in the Phipps, she's been remarkably consistent.

I have more confidence in Music Note's chances on Friday than I do with anybody in Saturday's battle royale.  So, I'll spread a little bit in the Classic and hope for the best.

I gave a very tepid nod to Rip Van Winklebased on his solid campaign in Europe, but I have to admit that I'm very concerned about his foot issues.  He's had problems all year, and is still a tiny bit of a question mark at ten furlongs.  I think he's just as talented as Raven's Pass, last year's European Classic winner, but he's hard to totally trust at what could be underlaid odds.  

I mentioned Twice Over's credentials in a previous blog, and don't want to go overboard hyping him once again, but he looks like a solid chance at a good price.  He needs to run the race of his life to win this race, but he's always had ability, and it looks like Henry Cecil has his confidence back at 100%.  He's a true ten-furlong runner.

Summer Bird has had an excellent campaign, grabbing the Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and he's shown much-improved early interest since Tim Ice added blinkers in the "Test of the Champion."  The Pro-Ride question rears its ugly head once again as Summer Bird was taken away from Southern California last year after injuring himself while training over synthetics.  Was the injury caused by a dislike for the synthetics, or was it simply a matter of a young horse going through growing pains?  We'll find out Saturday afternoon, but I can't throw him out based on his recent form.

Quality Road couldn't stay with Summer Bird in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and it's possible that ten furlongs is a bit beyond his scope.  He still has shown a lot of potential during an injury-marred campaign, and his good early speed could allow him to get the jump on his main competition.  The synthetic question is here as well, but if he stays near his 12-1 morning line odds, he's worth the gamble. 

I have a lot of respect for the other Classic contenders, but I won't be spinning the wheel.

Mine That Bird makes his second start off throat surgery, and always has a puncher's chance, but he's had a lot of hard races this year, and may be past his peak form.

Colonel Johncan certainly win this. He's shown a lot of grit in 2009, returning from a pulled muscle in his hind end and a bout with pleural pneumonia to win the Wickerr, and just miss in the Goodwood  It seems like he's rounding into his best game, and he could certainly spoil my HandiGambling party.

Zenyatta is a wonderful mare, and my heart will be rooting for her to keep her unbeaten streak intact, but she's going to have to improve off her recent Beyers, has never raced at 10 furlongs, and will probably be overbet.  My heart says 'yes,' but my wallet will stay closed.

I think that Richard's Kidmay be even better over longer distances, and he's been a revelation since adding blinkers, switching to synthetics, and coming under the tutelage of Bob Baffert.  You know he'll be with Mine That Bird and Zenyatta early.  Let's see if he can outkick them.  It wouldn't be a huge surprise if he does.

Gio Pontipreviously won four Grade 1 races on turf, and was beaten by a combination of the 12-furlong distance and boggy ground in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on October 3.  He has a nice burst of speed, is proven over the Pro-Ride, and would be a very deserving winner.  I wonder if he is a bit over the top after a tough stretch of races.

Einsteinis one of my all-time favorite horses, and he showed his affinity for the Pro-Ride when winning the Big Cap.  His Pacific Classic was good, and his tactical speed should have him in a comfortable spot heading into the final turn.  He would be another feel-good story as a hard-hitting oldtimer getting his just desserts.

Girolamohas potential, and may turn out to be a big time 4-year-old, but I wonder if this is a case of too much too soon.  He changed back to his wrong lead once he made the front from Kensei in the Jerome, has never raced around two turns, and has never run on synthetics.

Regal Ransom will likely be among the early leaders, but he walked on the lead in the Super Derby, and I'm not sure if he got enough out of that race, his first since the Kentucky Derby, to have the proper foundation to beat this kind of field.

Awesome Gem is a joy to own, but doesn't win very often.  He may be at his best on wet dirt at this point in his career, and is another that might appreciate more distance.

Here's how I'll play it:

$25 Daily Double - Music Note with Rip Van Winkle (7-10)
$25 Daily Double - Music Note with Twice Over (7-5)
$25 Daily Double - Music Note with Summer Bird (7-3)
$25 Daily Double - Music Note with Quality Road (7-12)

Best of luck to all.

I don't really have many clever opinions during the weekend.  I like Forever Together to repeat in the Filly and Mare Turf, and she'll be bet hard.  

One possible longshot is Vale of Yorkin the Juvenile, a speedy colt adding Lasix for Godolphin that may try to take them on a merry chase on the front end. 

After initially discarding her earlier in the week, I'm going to include She Be Wild in the Juvenile Fillies.  She was in and among horses heading into the far turn of the Alcibiades, and may have gotten a lot out of that race.

Mark In Omaha More than 1 year ago
For MEANJOE regarding earnings: First of all, if he (assuming it is a he) has won two million, you better have him in the breeding shed making some money before 5. But let's say he is a gelding. First of all, there is the purchase price- whatever that was. Then, 10% of winnings to the jockey and trainer, so subtract $400,000. Then, you can figure about $50,000 for training, vet bills, and all that - conservative estimate. Subtract another $250,000. my buddy just entered one in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile, and with tickets, fees, shipping, and all that, it was about a $60,000 deal. Keep in mind these costs are the same for horses who DO NOT win two million too which is most of them. :-) Mark In Omaha
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
virgin queen Thanks...I totally enjoyed the last couple BC days. ..believe it or not, I can sort of relate..In a social way. We have the bi-monthly friendly poker game with 3 couples. Host dinner & poker. Texas Hold 'em. I would always play till the end (down the river?) and I would pull out a ..full house, flush, straight...whatever, on the last card.. Use to drive another "Poker" player crazy...because he would fold early depending on the odds with what he had. I'm a newbie (= ignorant, I still ask for a cheat sheet to see what beats what.) So after many months fiqured out..ok, these cards are bad...toss. Need I say if I stuck to my "normal" methode would have won a few more.HA! But when SOMEONE else has hot hands, nothing you can do...but munch on the Peanut M&M's or refresh everyone's cocktails. Oh, the luck of the innocent, and newcomers to games....Kinda like in horseplaying..."Let's see, I'll just bet that PGH", or "I like that name", it was so simple back then..he-he-he. It is alot harder for me now, since I've learned how to Handicap, and analyze races. Thanks Uncle Steve! LOL! Hang in there, between the two, Horseracing & Poker, you must have fun and interesting experiences. ..oopps! Back to our regular programming... SR Vegas
vicstu More than 1 year ago
Slew, I kind of share your assesment of the synthetic Breeder's Cup. All, Perhaps Quality Road did not want to get in that gate and be forced to run on a surface he was not comfortable on? After all, he could not talk to Pletcher and all Pletcher is doing is accomodating the owner. QR would have made the race have a different dynamic. One thing is for sure. When a horse that size, and he is slightly bigger than even Zenyatta, does not want to get into the gate, he is NOT going in, and if you try and trick him in, he will kick the gate open and almost bring the entire gate unit down if he has to. After he kicked the gate open and leaned on the structure, the entire unit listed to the left slightly. Then, once they got the blindfold off, he began chasing the gate crew around. They had eight guys-two in front, six on his rear, and they hardly budged QR. They are really lucky the horse or the gate crew were not injured and they did the right thing to scratch the horse--even though the rules clearly state that vet scratches after wagering has closed require 100 percent refund on all WPS tickets, all exactas, tris and super tickets--straight, keyed or wheeled, and a consolation be paid apportioned to the horse's involvment in any pick 3 or 4, or the winner substitued if that is the track's policy. Believe me, it would be much cheaper and simpler to have let him run... And poor Johnny V with these gate incidents. Remember Big Drama at the Preakness? IF they could have got the horse in the gate without the horse destroying the unit a less ethical track vet might have let QR run. I am glad they did the right thing. As for Zenyatta, she beat the talented graded stakes horses, a much deeper field than RA ever did. However, beating a dirt horse on synthetics proves nothing except you beat them on a surface other than dirt. Had they kept Hard Spun on synthetics his entire career (except for 1 race), like Zenyatta, HS would have retired undefeated because he was as good, if not better, on synthetics, with final closing times of a closer. My point is, let's keep everything in perspective. Zenyatta deserves credit for what she did, but ProRide and synthetics are not dirt. My only regret now is the RA did not face Z at Belmont when she had a chance to, so much of this never ending RA and Zenyatta banter would end. Sadly, with the scratching of QR, Zenyatta closed 2009 without ever facing a true quality speed horse with stamina. Also, with QR in the race, SB would have been closer up. SB does not have either QR or Z's turn of foot. He is one pace. We have no idea whether Zenyatta could beat either QR or Summer Bird on a dry, fast dirt track. But, she had run well once on dirt last year. The fact is, while I accept the inevitable fact that synthetics are here, I am now officially on C's side of this argument. While I may not call them plastic or garbage, it is clear than even ProRide plays nowhere near true American dirt. SA did a nice job with the BC, but THANK GOD THE BC WILL BE AT CHURCHILL DOWNS IN 2010 on good old fashioned American dirt. Watching some really good dirt horses struggle over that surface was almost enough to make me cry. Our best dirt horses deserve to showcase their talent on DIRT. Some truly exceptional horses in the past few years were very good, if not competitive, on both dirt and synthetics: Zenyatta, Hard Spun, and even Midnite Lute could run on both surfaces. I suspect Big Brown, a true turf horse, would have NOT been run down last year by either Raven's Pass or HTN, had he made it to the gate last year at SA. And he would have destroyed Curlin on ProRide. Yet, those run on anything types seem to be the exception, not the rule. Z was the only proven dirt and synthetics runner in the field (except for the now over the top and over his head Awesome Gem, who was at his best in 2006 and 2007). But, would that have settled the Curlin-Big Brown debate? Of course not. Just as Z beating who she beat on ProRide does not settle the RA Zenyatta debate. For crying out loud, TIAGO beat Curlin on ProRide (sorry slew, I love the horse, but...) does anyone think Tiago could beat Curlin on dirt? Where was Tiago to Curlin in the Derby, or in the 2007 BC Classic? Z beat a good field, but she beat them on HER home hybrid surface. And scientifically, it is a hybrid surface. There is no debating that fact. Z beating Gio Ponte in deep stretch on ProRide is the same as Gio Ponte holding off Z on firm turf at 10f. Period. Unfortunately for Gio Ponte, there was no 10f BC turf race (yet we have the uber ridiculous BC Juv turf sprint). Again, let's keep it in perspective. Does anyone think RVW could have been over the top, or possibly hurt and his trainer lied (imagibe that). Or perhaps he did not like ProRide? Same with Mastercraftsman. And remember, HTN and Raven's Pass had tons of American turf AND dirt influence up close in their pedigrees. Perhaps they, like a Z or a Hard Spun, simply excelled on any firm surface. One thing is for sure, racing is the ultimate what have you done for me lately sport. Last week RA is queen and now Z is the greatest filly in history. I am not knocking someone like Steve T, because unlike the bandwagon jumpers, he has always been 100 percent a Zenyatta supporter. And oddly enough, unlike many a Z's new fan club members, Steve T can remain objetive enough to put RA's accomplishments in perspective. Some of these fools cursing out Jackson on certain other blogs are windbags. I am convinced now, after BC 2009 at OSA, that Jackson did the right thing keeping RA off of that SA surface. She would have been truly up against it given her form and that track playing to the closers on Saturday. Ditto for the connections of Jackson Bend, deservedly the number 1 rated 2 year old by Watchmaker in the country. And ditto for Musket Man and any other dirt horse (like F. Strike). The BC was what it was this year. Synthetics are a third surface. If they are here to stay, let's at least treat them like the alternative that they are, and not a newer, better dirt surface? Z is going to retire
garyw More than 1 year ago
ANNIE Right on all counts
C More than 1 year ago
Actually, it's not 16-0-1-3... it's more like 40-0-1-3. I don't know the exact number of starters.
Annie More than 1 year ago
SR Vegas, I guess Rachel is just a California Girl at heart. :) Annie
C More than 1 year ago
Steve, Good points. In Plonk's defense, there are too many variables to make it a cut-and-dry study. My earlier suggestion, I think, would improve the stats somewhat, but this is a very hard question to answer statistically. For example, if we look at Summer Bird, Curlin, Music Note, and Careless Jewel, etc... did they run their best on the surface? If not, why? Nobody can answer those questions exactly. In racing, we usually don't have the luxury of large sample sizes, so we have to do our best to interpret whatever data we have. I don't see how anyone can say dirt preppers were not disadvantaged over the last 2 Cup events, when their record stands at 16-0-1-3. It's the most logical conclusion that can be made. Also, with so many different tracks out there, a good percentage of horses have run on multiple surfaces. Look at Colonel John, for example. What do we define him as?
Annie More than 1 year ago
garyw, Well, your wife sounds like she knows what she's talking about. No wonder you have no luck arguing with her. :) Annie
C More than 1 year ago
vicstu, We don't agree 100% very often, but I must say, to me, your 12:40 post was right on the money. Alan, SoCal has never really gotten a whole lot of east coasters, but they have always attracted their share of Europeans. I wouldn't be surprised to see that trend continue, as they may use SA's big races to prep for the wide array of BC turf events. Mickey, Perhaps "inconsistent" is a better word for Einstein. I do think he's a little overrated, but you are right that I was a too harsh on him. I certainly wouldn't mind owning a horse like that. However, many have taken jabs at Macho Again and Asiatic Boy... but how did Einstein do against them in the Stephen Foster? That was coming off 2 G1 victories. If he wasn't overrated, he should've been able to beat those. He's a versatile classy type, but he's always been an in-and-out inconsistent sort at the top level, and I think he's nearing the end of his rope now.
Mickey More than 1 year ago
Victsu: Nice posting...... Mike A: Not crazy about D"funnybone either.