03/02/2013 12:05PM

HandiGambling the Gotham

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The HandiGambling exercise for Saturday, March 2 is the tenth race at Aqueduct, the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles over the inner dirt course.

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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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As of this writing, the main track is listed as FAST

Let's scratch #1A NOW AND THEN.

Cornelio Velasquez will ride #6 SIETE DE OROS.

While the two starting highweights look dangerous on paper, there are some question marks hanging over their heads.  We saw a huge longshot upset last week's Risen Star Stakes and I'm going to swing for the fences with a big bomb in the Gotham while using the logical favorites in the late Pick Four.

#10 WEST HILLS GIANT is a New York-bred that needs to improve on the numbers in order to win this race, but is proven at this distance, goes out for a red-hot trainer/jockey combination (Terranova and Espinoza won the Sam F. Davis with Falling Sky) and has some angles in his corner (second off the layoff, blinkers on, sprint to route). I liked both of his efforts on dirt, albeit against weaker company.  In last year's New York Breeders' Futurity at Finger Lakes, West Hills Giant overcame a bad stumble at the start to win in comfortable fashion.  The most recent effort, the Java Gold Stakes at six furlongs on February 10, may serve as a nice prep for the Gotham.  He raced inside every step of the way and was only beaten a length despite not looking that comfortable on the rail.  Perhaps he'll focus better with the blinkers and he figures to be outside after breaking from post eleven.  Admittedly, he's a stab, but I'll be rewarded handsomely if he comes through.

#11 OVERANALYZE is the horse to beat for the Pletcher/Velazquez juggernaut based on his quality efforts against good competition last year.  If he runs anywhere near the 99 Beyer he hung up for the Grade 2 Remsen in November, the others are likely scrambling for second money. Overanalyze will have to go two turns off a 3 1/2 month layoff, however, is giving weight to most of the field and is stuck in the widest post position.  He ran well in the Remsen, to be sure, but the runner-up may have hung just a bit after making a grueling half-mile bid to contention in midstretch.  He's dangerous.  He's also a short price.

#7 VYJACK is undefeated from three starts for Rudy Rodriguez and has earned competitive figures in all of his races.  He passed the two-turn test when winning the Grade 2 Jerome over some of these horses, but he may have been aided by a speed-friendly track that day.  Vyjack has good tactical speed and figures to be prominent when the field swings into the stretch.  Despite the Jerome win, I'm still a bit leery of him at this distance, especially considering that he's giving seven pounds to all but Overanalyze.  Like Overanalyze, he's a very logical contender but won't be a bargain at the betting windows.

On paper, #3 ESCAPEFROMREALITY looked the main speed in the Grade 3 Withers, but he was wrangled back behind horses after he made the lead on the first turn.  He still ran a game race, finishing second behind the talented Revolutionary and he is two necks away from being perfect in his three-start career.  He drew a comfortable inside post position and should be close to the early pace.  That last race may have been a good learning experience for him and he is an intriguing alternative to the favorites at fair odds. 

#9 SKY CAPTAIN makes his third start of the form cycle after chasing gate-to-wire winner Cerro in the faster division of optional claimers at Gulfstream on January 26.  That was his first start around two turns and he was hardly disgraced.  After winning his maiden by a country mile, he missed the remainder of his juvenile campaign due to a wrenched ankle. and looks to be rounding back to his best form for a dangerous trainer. 

#8 ELNAAWI has yet to race on fast ground and is stepping up from a maiden win, but he earned quality pace figures in that score and has the look of a very promising sophomore for Shadwell Stable and Kiaran McLaughlin.  A half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner To Honor and Serve, Elnaawi adds Lasix and owns a good amount of upside potential.  I'm expecting a move forward and it will be interesting to see how much action he'll take although I question the quality of competition he defeated on January 12 (the runner-up returned to finish a well-beaten third at 4/5 at Parx while the third-finisher came back to just miss with an 87 at Aqueduct). 

#6 SIETE DE OROS is a pretty cool horse.  A $2,000 yearling purchase that won his maiden for $40,000 at Parx last year, he has emerged as a multiple graded-placed 3-year-old.  He ended up on the lead in the Withers after Escapefromreality handed it to him and he battled gamely to the wire although no match for the top two rivals.  Perhaps he's more effective from slightly off the pace, but I wonder if we've seen his best already. 

#5 AMERIGO VESPUCCI wasn't disgraced in both starts at the meet and is a very consistent performer for trainer Tim Tullock.  He has good tactical speed and will probably run well once again.  He may be a notch or two below the top contenders ability-wise, however, and may be best utilized on the bottom of exotic wagers.

#4 ORE PASS is an intriguing invader from Maryland for Michael Trombetta.  He received a good pace setup in beating weaker foes on January 19 and will be tested for class and stamina in the Gotham.  By juvenile champion War Pass out of a sprint winner, Ore Pass figures to be close to the lead on the stretchout.  He beat mostly exposed rivals in Maryland, but has some upside.  I'll take a wait-and-see approach for the time being.

#2 CHAMPION BOY finished evenly for fifth in the Withers and is a maiden facing some decent stakes horses.  He should save valuable ground from his rail post, but may need a pace collapse to pull off the upset.

McLaughlin also has #1 TRANSPARENT, who has faced some good competition (Archwarrior, Darwin, Orb, Revolutionary) and overcame trouble to prove a popular maiden winner around two turns on January 26.  Only one of the four horses that have returned from that race were able to crack the trifecta (63 Beyer).

Here's how I'll HandiGamble:

$50 WIN-PLACE - WEST HILLS GIANT (#10)

Best of luck to all.

***

The handicapping videos that Mike Beer and I produced for the weekend's major stakes races should be up on these links.

http://www.drf.com/events/gotham-stakes-aqueduct

http://www.drf.com/events/santa-anita-handicap-santa-anita

http://www.drf.com/events/swale-stakes-gulfstream-park

***

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

You can follow me on Twitter at DRF_DanIllman.

Ron Walker More than 1 year ago
Annie, I fell off the fiscal cliff and have been missing lately. Just checked in and saw that Whiskey Romeo is my MKB horse this year. Whisky is marine radio code for the 'W' and Romeo is code for the 'R'. Sabercat disappointed me last year. Maybe WR will get the job done this year. Capt. Ron
CalvinLCarter More than 1 year ago
For Derby fans that like statistics, here’s a look at current list of Kentucky Derby qualifiers, their sire line and damsire line. Mr. Prospector Sire Line, Damsire Line Elnaawi, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer Will Take Charge, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer Palace Malice, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer Code West, Mr. Prospector/Royal Charger Since 1990, the Mr. Prospector sire line has produced the most Derby winners with a total of 11. Of those 11, the Fappiano branch has produced the most with a total of 4 winners. The Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer nick has been the most successful with 3 winners. The Mr. Prospector/Royal Charger nick produced one Derby winner. Of the current qualifiers, Will Take Charge is the only descendant of Fappiano. Northern Dancer Sire Line, Damsire Line Itsmyluckyday, Northern Dancer/Bold Ruler Shanghai Bobby, Northern Dancer/Nasrullah Speak Logistics, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer Falling Sky, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer Vyjack, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer Den’s Legacy, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer Goldencents, Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector Ive Struck a Nerve, Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector Uncaptured, Northern Dancer/Royal Charger West Hills Giant, Northern Dancer/Royal Charger Oxbow, Northern Dancer/Man O’ War Overanalyze, Northern Dancer/Damascus Since 1990, the Northern Dancer sire line has produced 3 Derby winners with the damsire line of those winners descending from Northern Dancer, Royal Charger and Ribot. Broodmare descendants of Northern Dancer have produced 5 Derby winners. Bold Ruler Sire Line Dynamic Sky, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector Orb, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector Super Ninety Nine, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector Flashback, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector Since 1990, the Bold Ruler sire line has produced no Derby winners. Nasrullah Sire Line Revolutionary, Nasrullah/Bold Ruler Since 1990, the Blushing Groom, Nasrullah sire line has produced one Derby winner and that was Animal Kingdom in 2011.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CAPT. RON, I see your WHISKEY ROMEO will be making his 3-year-old debut on Sat. in the Caposella at Aqu. Good luck! Annie
Keith More than 1 year ago
Bernard: Thanks, but no thanks as to your invitation to post under by whole name. I'm not looking to get publish at large here, as I do look for that honor when posting on other blogs I am active on dealing with national political matters. For the reasons cited below. However, I will give you this: my e-mail address does include my whole name, and it is: keithlongey@yahoo.com. Now, having that in hand, you cand google me up and get a sampling of my political opinions...hows that for a trade off? LOL! As to the problems with the far outside posts...they are problematic when you have a qualifying point and earnings system that is so back end loaded as we have here for the KY Derby preps. Hence, trainers/owners with colts such as Sunbeam and Departing withfdrew and reentered their charges within a week in other races for conditioning purposes. And for the horses morale building too, I would presume. Same with Falling Sky...lonly he waited two weeks to return now to the venue where he won in a points stakes last out, the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay...and he runs again there on Saturday, in their richer purse and points Derby. But now there are trainers like Pletcher...loaded with talented runners, but hard pressed now to keep them seperarated. So we get him sending two runners he has had on the trail to the Risen Star Stakes the on March 16th, but throws in another for good measure, another one of his two race only wonders, Park City, well bred, but hasn't been past 6&1/2f, and that he won by a neck only. All this horse might do here is draw a good post, and make the chances higher that one of Pletchers deserving at a shot runners like Delhomme, or Capo Bastone might catch a far outside post, or somebody elses' colt, making the field to be another cumbersome 14 now. Geeze Louise! Keith L.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was reading with interest the Derby Top 20 thoughts of Jay Privman and Mike Watchmaker, when I came across the comment on Falling Sky that "his connections made the right decision to pass the Fountain of Youth after drawing wide". Do excuse my ignorance of the facts, but does that comment really mean what it suggests? Did they really enter for a race, get an unfortunate post, and decide no thanks, not racing today? Presuming the post was allocated in a fair way, please, please tell me I am wrong. Please tell me that our great game has not reached the point where we only compete when everything is in our favour. Best Regards - Bernard Downes P.S. This is not a criticism made from a position of superiority. We have some sprint races at one particular track where badly drawn horses are sometimes late non runners, but I don't recall anything quite as blatant as implied in this case. P.P.S. Before anyone is tempted to respond that Michael Stoute does the same sort of thing with some of his Breeders Cup horses, I would say that is a matter of safety for the horse. Some are simply not equipped to race on the super hard surfaces you can get over there. On the other hand I have never heard of a horse being injured by racing wide.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keith L, I am sure your gentle, innocent post did not deserve a second sharp response, but you piqued my interest, and once my interest is piqued, it can stay piqued for some time. Therefore, with apologies, can I offer a counter proposal to yours. I use my real name on here. I presume that Dan uses his real name in the DRF, rather than adopting a nom de plume. I would like to suggest that if honesty and openness is good enough for Dan, and good enough for me, it should be good enough for everyone else. Therefore, I hope to see you start a whole new trend by using your real name. You never know, the idea may become popular, and you will then become responsible (and famous) for a new, more enlightened approach to blogging. Best Regards - Bernard Downes P.S. My tongue is only half way in my cheek.
Keith More than 1 year ago
Bernard: I'm not objecting about your being "Anonymous", its just when scanning or scrolling through the blog looking for your delightfulpostings, its hard to spot them without your name or monikor in bright blue at the top left of each post. As to me, I used to have my full name at the top of each post here, but found after relatives and friends tiooed me to the fact that a googling of my name brought up my most recent postings, here, and as many were somewhat ribald in tone and content, I didn;t think I would continur in that fashion! So I swithched to my first name only, and differentiate my postings from three other Keiths that can be found posting here mostly on HG plays only, with the first initial of my last name signing off. As to the easiest method of changing from one of the "Anonymous" ones, I'd recommend registering for a free Yahoo Mail account, by first name or first and last name as you choose, and viola: you will be recognized in a lovely sky blue print (a color you don't see much in your lush, green isle, I know, due to all the misty, cloudy, and rainy weather. What have you got to lose? Keith L.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keith, Re your objection to my "Anonymous" tag, I am puzzled. Since I ALWAYS put my REAL NAME to everything I post, it should be obvious to you and to everyone, that I do not seek anonymity. Indeed, it is you who enjoys any benefits you perceive from being anonymous So I am not sure what the problem is. Surely you are not concerned about achieving conformity purely for some sort of artistic value? But heck Keith, lets not get too serious about this. As I have posted before, I know nothing of IT, and don't want to (I can't even work a mobile phone), but if you can give me a 2 minute routine that enables me to insert a name, I am happy to consider wasting 2 minutes of my life. I will, however, require your written promise that this will not make me susceptible to any of the posting and viewing problems some on here seem to suffer. Problems I have never encountered. Best Regards - Bernard Downes (also known as Anonymous from London, England)
bornstar75 More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the congrats: Keith L, Dick W and PennNatRick and anybody I may have missed. Can’t wait to start handicapping this weekend. Good luck at the track this week to everybody! Bornstar75
Keith More than 1 year ago
Annie, Bernard, and Brutus Having scanned the 4 days and 117 comments on this current thread, I see that the only regular formbloggers that are saddled with being Anonymous are you, Annie, and you Bernard, and the only irregular formblogger saddled the same is Brutua. Can not you three find a way to get through that? Also Annie, who exactly is this "Scott" who is 100% owner of Oxbow now from the 1st round draw of MKBs? And would this Scott be interested in joining a mini syndicate of MKB colts with a couple of nice, prolific formbloggers such as you and I, while remaining as more of a "silent partner",so to speak, as he sure is the quiet type when it comes to posting, it seems! If you are out there Scott, you csn name your terms....we have between Annie and I 100% of the O'Neil runner He's Had Enough (presntly headed for the UAE Derby prep at Mayden, and 100% of both the McLaughlin/darley Transparent, and the Mott colt, Mr. Pulpit, both only Maiden winners to date, but surely headed to run in the Wood Memorial as their final prep race. So...make us an offer! We'd love to hear from you! Right Annie? Keith L.