09/02/2011 4:16PM

HandiGambling the El Cajon

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Tonight's HandiGambling 249 exercise is the sixth race from Del Mar, the El Cajon Stakes at 1 mile for 3-year-olds over polytrack.

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 names of the horses.

Past performances are available at the previous blog post.

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.

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Let's scratch #1 MOMENT OF WEAKNESS and #2 AIN'T NO OTHER

#6 SHRUG will race with BLINKERS OFF.

When I originally handicapped this race with Mike Beer for the drf.com "Race of the Day," we expected Ain't No Other to set fast fractions, compromise the other speeds and set things up for the closers.  With Ain't No Other out, the entire dynamic changes...and my selections will change as well.

#5 UNCLE SAM may assume the role of pacesetter and his very best races have come when he's allowed to flaunt his speed on the front.  Last time out, in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes, Uncle Sam attempted to chase the pace and could only finish evenly behind Dreamy Kid and stablemate Coil (who returned to win the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth).  Uncle Sam shows a pair of quick recent workouts in preparation for his first start since early July and can be very dangerous if allowed to relax on the front end.

#3 SAHARA SKY, my original selection, has yet to win around two turns and the scratch of Ain't No Other gives him less pace to run at.  Last time out, in an entry-level optional claimer going six furlongs, Sahara Sky worked out a nice inside-out rallying trip under Joel Rosario to just lose by a neck.  By Pleasant Tap, he should handle a mile and he's tackled solid competiton this season (Smash, Sway Away, etc.).  Sahara Sky should be charging in the stretch and is a dangerous contender.

#6 SHRUG rode a speed-favoring track to victory in an entry-level optional claimer two back at Hollywood, but failed to parlay pacesetting tactics into a win in his return to Del Mar (he won his maiden here in 2010).  Trainer Carla Gaines removes blinkers and adds Garrett Gomez and Shrug may attempt to track Uncle Sam from close range in the early going.  Lightly-raced with some upside potential, Shrug can't be counted out.

#7 NIJINSKY'S SONG ran into some tough juveniles in his career debut here in 2010 (Clubhouse Ride returned to win the Barretts Juvenile at Fairplex and finished third in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity; Riveting Reason has placed in three graded races; Jakesam ran second in the El Camino Real Derby) then was away for almost a year before overcoming an awkward break to defeat maidens on August 13.  It's good to see him back in the entries without another layoff line and this horse may have the most scope for improvement of any in the field.

#9 PRIDE OF SILVER finished behind Uncle Sam in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes on January 15, but he fractured his shin after that race and had to go on the shelf.  He gave a good account of himself in his first start back, rallying off strong fractions to finish second behind the older Achak.  The recent bullet workout at five furlongs allays fears of a bounce and Pride of Silver is yet another contender in a wide open El Cajon.

#10 GREAT WARRIOR wisely scratched out of the Pacific Classic to await this spot, but he is winless in North America and may be a bit more effective on grass.  Draw a line through his most recent effort as his saddle slipped early and he ran away with his rider.  Expect Great Warrior to be taken back in the early stages today under Omar Berrio in the hope of making a powerful late run.

#8 MACHO DORADO has won half of his eight synthetic races, but he couldn't get it done against $50,000 claimers last time out and these should be tougher.  Macho Dorado has tactical speed and shouldn't be too far away from the expected moderate early splits, but he'll need to move forward to upset these.

#4 CELESTIC NIGHT can't be dismissed simply because he's a runner making the first start following a Mike Mitchell claim.  Mitchell took the horse for $80,000 back in March and will return him to a surface that Celestic Night likes (won his maiden here last year).  Distance may be a bit of a question mark for this one, however.

An interesting race, to be sure.

For HG, I'll play it like this:

$60 Exacta:  Uncle Sam - Sahara Sky (5-3)
$40 Exacta:  Uncle Sam - Shrug (5-6)

Best of luck to all.