01/11/2013 2:36PM

HandiGambling (Opening Day - Oaklawn)

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This week's HandiGambling exercise is the eighth race at Oaklawn Park, the $75,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older runners at 1 1/16 miles.

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.

IF THE WINNER WOULD LIKE TO SELECT THE NEXT WEEK'S RACE, PLEASE SEND YOUR RACE SELECTION NO LATER THAN TUESDAY EVENING.

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.

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As of this writing, the main track is listed as GOOD.

I'm hoping #5 MASTER RICK will offer good odds returning to his favorite surface following a runner-up performance in the $150,000 Zia Park Derby on December 1.  He was forced to go five wide turning for home that day after splitting rivals from last on the far turn and I'm hoping he can stay a bit closer to the pace this time around.  This race isn't an easy spot by any means as he'll face older horses for the first time in his career and his only previous start over a wet surface resulted in a disastrous effort as the favorite.  Although the 99 Beyer he earned here last year in the Northern Spur Stakes is likely an anomaly, he looked good in that performance and wasn't disgraced in the Grade 2 Super Derby three back.  He's an in-and-outer, to be sure, but perhaps he can work out a decent stalking trip at good odds for Steve Asmussen.

#2 IT HAPPENED AGAIN took the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap here in 2011 and was third in this race last year.  He'll make his third start of the form cycle with improving Beyers on display, goes out for a top-shelf trainer in Tom Amoss (8-28, 29%, $2.59 ROI over the last five years with runners going third off the layoff in non-graded stakes) and could get the right pace/race scenario after breaking from the rail with speeds to his outside.  He's an extremely consistent performer with a series of quick half-mile breezes in preparation for this race and must be considered a very dangerous contender.

#3 ENDORSEMENT has speed and class, but he hasn't raced since early August, was beaten a combined 48 3/4 lengths in his last two races and may be using this spot as a prep for the Oaklawn Handicap later in the meeting.  You could easily draw a line through the last two races against top competition (he was forced to go too fast too soon in the Whitney) and he projects to be among the leaders when the field swings into the stretch.  Endorsement returned from a similar layoff to take the Grade 3 Texas Mile in April and can't be counted out when you consider his total body of work.  He does figure to take a good amount of money, however.

#7 WIN WILLY is a hard-hitting veteran that has overcome some injuries to earn $960,387 in his career.  He won this race in 2011, loves the atmosphere at Oaklawn Park and was compromised by the lack of pace when up against the sharp San Pablo most recently at Penn National.  Quick fractions would probably aid this late-kicker, but his recent Beyer Speed Figures are a bit light.  Still, the gray figures to be charging hard in the final quarter-mile and can't be ignored.

#4 STACHYS finished second to Win Willy in the 2011 edition of the Fifth Season and is a stalker/closer that would benefit from a good pace up front.  His most recent start, a fourth-place finish at Zia Park, wasn't bad at all as he ended up wide after chasing moderate splits against the sharp Forest Mouse (11-time winner returned to take a $50,000 stakes at Sunland with a 90 Beyer).  The multiple stakes-winner can contend on his best day, but may be best utilized on the bottom of exotic wagers.

#6 DONOHARM has compiled a 5-4-0-1 record since being announced as a gelding for the first time in a $50,000 maiden claimer at Churchill Downs in May.  He was extremely game in winning an 'n2x' optional claimer at Delaware on October 1 and came through as the favorite in a two-turn sprint most recently at Delta Downs (the third-place finisher returned to take a state-bred, 'n1x' allowance at Fair Grounds).  Donoharm is sharp, but will get a class test in this spot and needs a Beyer boost to contend for win honors. 

#8 DOUBLE RAH RAH was annouced as a gelding for the first time prior to a runner-up effort in a $30,000 maiden claimer at Keeneland on October 18 and he's run well against weaker competition in his last three raes.  It took him 16 tries to break his maiden and he did so when allowed to set glacial fractions.  This is a huge step up in class and the pace will be dramatically different this time around.  He has the look of an outsider.

Trainer Wayne Lukas runs a coupled entry in #1 SKYRING and #1A EYE OF THE LEOPARD.  While the former won his maiden over this surface in March, he's been competing recently on turf and was beaten a combined 50 1/2 lengths in his last two races on dirt.  Skyring may attempt to use his speed a bit earlier this time around, but then he'd have to deal with a quality performer in ENDORSEMENT.  Eye of the Leopard grabbed the Queen's Plate over polytrack in 2009, but has won only twice over his next 19 races and has never prevailed on dirt.

Here's how I'll HandiGamble:

$50 WIN:  MASTER RICK (#5)
$15 EXACTA BOX:  IT HAPPENED AGAIN/MASTER RICK (#2-#5)
$10 EXACTA BOX:  ENDORSEMENT - MASTER RICK (#3-#5)

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 later this afternoon.  Here's a very quick preview:

...ASSOCIATE missed the Cigar Mile with an infected pastern and only shows one recent workout in preparation for Sunday's Hal's Hope at Gulfstream, but he has excellent tactical speed, does well at a one-turn mile and should be a bettable price against razor-sharp CSABA, a runner that benefited from a ground-saving trip when winning most recently...CHOSEN MIRACLE gets tested for class and distance in Sunday's San Gabriel at Santa Anita, but I wonder if he'll be allowed to coast on an easy early lead at solid odds...LADY BANKS could be the right stalker in what looks to be a speed-laden version of the Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday...

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