05/14/2010 9:44AM

HandiGambling the Preakness


Saturday's HandiGambling 185 exercise is the twelfth race from Pimlico, the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes for three-year-olds at 1 3/16 miles.

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.  Past performances are available on the home page.  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.

Trying to cram this in before Friday's "Blinkers Off" program on TVG, a radio spot, and a long drive down to Delaware Park for tomorrow's handicapping seminar (with my good friend and colleague, Mike Beer).  If anyone is heading to Delaware for Preakness Day, please say hello.  I'd love to meet any FormBloggers.

Several folks have asked my opinion of this year's 3-year-old crop.  Putting to good use the benefit of a strong Liberal Arts education, I have responded in all instances with this gem:


Still, the Preakness is not only the second jewel of racing's hallowed Triple Crown, but it is an American treasure.  I'm not enamored with the race, but I'd use the following four horses in my multi-race wagers:

#8 SUPER SAVER showed a new dimension when rating off the pace in the Kentucky Derby and it looks like he's peaked at the right time for Todd Pletcher.  I usually hate to play short-priced horses coming off of perfect trips (especially when the candy trip came over wet going), but I don't really like the alternatives, and Super Saver is handy enough to be placed wherever Calvin Borel wants to go.  I wouldn't be surprised if Borel puts Super Saver on the lead ala his Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes score of 2009, but he seems just as comfortable from close range as well.  Expect Super Saver to be prominent when they turn for home.  He's the horse to beat.

While Super Saver didn't have a straw in his path during the Derby run, several other horses had trouble.  #7 LOOKIN AT LUCKY had the sexy trouble that everyone saw, but #12 Dublin didn't exactly have a clean race either.  One must be wary of Dublin at this distance as he may be a miler in disguise, but he's run several races fast enough to win this, and would likely appreciate getting his tootsies back on dry footing.  I'm guessing Garrett Gomez will take him back in the hope of exploiting one burst of speed at the right time.  Dublin should be a price and is worth inclusion.

Admittedly, #5 YAWANNA TWIST is a stab.  A lightly-raced New York-bred by the sprint sire Yonaguska, Yawanna Twist may not want to go this far.  Still, I thought he ran well in the Gotham two back despite his inexperience.  Last time out, in the Illinois Derby, it looked like he was on his way to victory before crumpling in the stretch behind Kentucky Derby also-ran American Lion.  I didn't like the way Yawanna Twist was drifting during the Illinois Derby stretch run but he may have some upside potential, and I like his tactical speed.  Bombs away?

#10 PADDY O'PRADO looked like a very tired horse in the final 100 yards of the Kentucky Derby as he switched back to his wrong lead at that point.  That was a gallant effort from a colt that was still a maiden in early March.  I wonder if he's a bit over the top after three straight grueling races, and I'm not sure if he really wants to go longer than nine furlongs.  Still, he shouldn't be so far back in the Preakness, and isn't out of the picture with another good performance.

As for the others:

#1 AIKENITE made up late ground in the one-turn Derby Trial at Churchill Dwons three weeks ago, but I'm beginning to think that he may be more effective as a stretch-running sprinter or miler.  He'll make the third start of the form cycle for Team Pletcher, but is riding a seven-race losing streak.

#2 SCHOOLYARD DREAMS made premature moves in both the Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby, but failed to drop the hammer on his opponents on both occasions.  He finished ahead of Super Saver in the latter race, and reportedly was sick before his disappointing run in the Wood Memorial.  He shows some fast works leading up to this race and has the tactical speed to work out a good ground-saving, pace-tracking trip.  Note that he hasn't gained ground from the stretch call to the wire in his last three races.

#3 PLEASANT PRINCE was nosed by subsequent Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box in the Florida Derby, but a lack of graded earnings forced his connections to enter in both the Blue Grass and the Derby Trial in search of a spot in the Louisville starting gate.  He didn't run especially well in either race and the late-runner may be past his best form right now.  He'll need a strong pace up front to adequately setup his kick.

#4 NORTHERN GIANT ran admirably in the Risen Star on dirt and the Lane's End on polytrack, but he didn't do much against Super Saver in the Arkansas Derby.  He needs to run the fastest race of his career if he is to prove the spoiler for Mr. Lukas.

#6 JACKSON BEND is a courageous little fellow, but the distance may be a bit out of his scope.  He rarely runs a bad one and can be close to the pace under Mike Smith.  Still, I'm guessing he'll be better at distances up to 1 1/16 miles.

Lookin At Lucky was eliminated during the first quarter-mile of the Kentucky Derby.  That was one of the big stories following the race so expect Lookin At Lucky to be hammered by "wiseguy" trip handicappers.  He's simply a good horse as evidenced by his championship season at two and he obviously has plenty of excuses for his last two races.  I'm just not sure I want to take a trouble-prone colt at a short price.

#9 CARACORTADO is the plucky, rags-to-riches story of the group.  Offered for $40,000 in his career debut in a half-mile dash at Fairplex, he rolled off five in a row to begin his career including the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface.  He did receive a perfect trip that day to beat inferior competition, and he failed to make an impact in his subsequent two races.  He's had some minor physical issues since the Santa Anita Derby so he gives me mostly mixed emotions.

#11 FIRST DUDE had tough trips in both the Florida Derby and Blue Grass, but he's lost ground in the stretch of his three races against winners.  His tactical speed should prove an asset in this spot, but he'll have to improve on his 90 Beyer top to take these down.

Here are my HG plays:

$50 Exacta - Super Saver over Dublin (8-12)
$25 Exacta - Super Saver over Yawanna Twist (8-5)
$25 Exacta - Super Saver over Paddy O'Prado (8-10)

Best of luck to all.

Will double up on the Beyers (last two weeks worth) in Monday's blog entry.

Enjoy the weekend.