12/07/2012 6:01PM

HandiGambling Fair Grounds (Off Turf)

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This week's HandiGambling exercise is the ninth race at Fair Grounds, a $25,000 claimer for non-winners of two races at 1 1/16 miles.  PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS RACE IS OFF THE TURF.

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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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In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please.
 
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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 main track is FAST. 

Let's scratch #3 ANASHEED CLASS, #6 FATHER'S FUTURE, #7 REASON TO BE PROUD, #10 CHEYENNE PASS, #14 SOUTHERN LEGEND, #15 MARKET CHARGER.

#2 JEFF will be ridden by John Jacinto

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SHERTZER, the lone "Main Track Only" entrant in the field, looks like the horse to beat, but I don't think he's any superstar and figures to go off at a very short price. 

Instead, I'll take a chance with #4 DEW DROP KID, a gelding making his dirt debut for a trainer that is 3-13 (23%, $2.24 ROI) over the past five years with newly-acquired runners.  Dew Drop Kid wasn't disgraced in his most recent start on polytrack, a $50,000 maiden claimer at Keeneland way back on April 27, 2011.  He wouldn't have won that race with a perfect trip, but still was shuffled back along the rail on the turn before splitting horses.  He shows a quick five-eighths work over the Fair Grounds dirt and should be running late under James Graham.  Although the dam won on grass and most of her progeny seem to prefer that surface, she has foaled one main track winner and is a half-sister to Strike It Up, a multiple stakes-winner on dirt. 

#16 SHERTZER made a premature wide move in his most recent start on dirt at Churchill Downs and understandably had nothing left when the real running began.  The runner-up from that race returned to win an entry-level allowance on dirt at Fair Grounds with a career-best 82 Beyer.  Shertzer should improve stretching back out in distance for his second start following a short layoff.  Trainer Larry Jones excels in off-the-turf races (19-59, 32%, $2.35 ROI over the past five years) and he has gotten off to a quick start at the Fair Grounds meeting.  Note that Shertzer didn't change leads during the stretch run of that last race at Churchill.  A logical contender, but perhaps an underlaid one.

#11 KAYOU may show good early speed as he stretches out 3.5 furlongs for his second start since August.  He finished evenly most recently at Delta Downs despite failing to switch leads late and may have needed the effort (the barn is 3-12, 25%, $4.18 ROI over the past five years with horses going second off the bench). Note that the last-place finisher from the November 10 heat returned to win a $20,000 claimer at Delta with a 67 Beyer.

We know that #8 ARTILLERY handles dirt and that's obviously a huge plus in a race like this.  He rallied from way back to win his maiden at Churchill Downs on November 14, but I wonder if his lack of speed will work against him as he tackles tougher competition this afternoon.  The fourth-place finisher from his maiden score came back to graduate with a 56 Beyer in a maiden special weight at Mountaineer. Interestingly enough, trainer Angel Montano is 4-16 (25%, $3.87 ROI) over the past five years in races that were switched off the turf. If the pace is quicker than expected, Artillery can fire his best shot.

#5 LEMONY hasn't won since departing the high-percentage Al Stall stables in 2011.  He had a hint of trouble over muddy going back in September and wasn't disgraced on dirt to kick off his 2012 campaign.  He handles the distance just fine and has a bit of tactical speed, but may be best played on the bottom of exotic wagers. 

#1 SCRIVCO takes a big drop in class after chasing Master Wagon in an entry-level allowance on grass (that foe returned to win a statebred, 'n3L' allowance on dirt at Delta with a 61 Beyer).  Still, aside from an even debut sprinting, Scrivco's dirt races haven't been pretty. The barn is 0-21 over the past five years in races that were switched from the turf.

Wonder if #2 JEFF will attempt to take the early lead of this two-turn heat.  Jeff takes a big drop after failing to threaten in a pair of entry-level optional claimers at Prairie Meadows (the winner of his most recent start returned to finish third in an 'n2x' optional claimer at Hoosier with a 74 Beyer) and handles dirt routes just fine.  The August layoff is a concern and he was jockey Inocencio Diego's second call (Diego hops to HELICOPTER ACE).

#9 SOUL SACRIFICE also takes a class drop.  If he runs back to his turf races, he should be very tough in this spot, but he's never raced on dirt and may take a good amount of money.  The trainer is 15-77 (19%, $2.04 ROI) over the past five years in races washed off the turf and the dam is a half-sister to several very good dirt runners.  This horse wouldn't be a surprise in the least, but I have a feeling he'll be an underlay.

#13 HELICOPTER ACE, Diego's first call, needed 11 starts to break his maiden.  He rallied to win on grass in his most recent effort and may be a bit more comfortable on that surface.  Either way, he'll need a Beyer boost in order to take these down.

Here's how I'll HandiGamble:

$80 WIN - DEW DROP KID (4)
$10 EXACTA BOX - DEW DROP KID - SHERTZER (4-16)

Best of luck to all.

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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:

...The Hollywood Starlet looks like EXECUTIVEPRIVILEGE's for the taking, but I'm interested to see how PURE FUN performs.  Pure Fun was very visually impressive in an allowance race on dirt at Churchill Downs and should offer a hint of value...The three big names in the Bayakoa have questions to answer.  CLASS INCLUDED tries a synthetic surface for the first time, WILLA B AWESOME must reverse declining form and INGLORIOUS returns off an injury-induced layoff.  Perhaps the sharp LADY OF FIFTY can take them down at good odds for Jerry Hollendorfer...

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