05/15/2009 12:27PM

HandiGambling the Preakness


Saturday's HandiGambling 133 exercise will be the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico. 

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.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. 

The same rules for the Kentucky Derby HandiGambling exercise will apply for the Preakness.  There is a $2 minimum Black-Eyed Susan/Preakness Daily Double wager.  You can spend the $100 in any fashion.

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 process about wagering, it would be appreciated.

After what happened in Louisville two weeks ago, I have absolutely no idea how the Preakness will shake out.  Mine That Bird's shocking victory would shake the confidence of any handicapper that's every consulted a Daily Racing Form.  Thankfully, the Black-Eyed Susan/Derby double is part of the HandiGambling equation because I love a horse in the filly race on Friday.  Her name is...


A daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, one of the better nine-furlong horses in recent memory, Payton d'Oro made her first four starts in sprint distances, and couldn't grab the brass ring.  She was stakes-placed in a little restricted race at Philadelphia Park, but that certainly didn't distinguish her from the pack as a filly with potential. Since Larry Jones stretched Payton d'Oro around two turns, however, the story has been a lot different.  Payton d'Oro won three in a row going a mile at Oaklawn Park, and never was shown the stick in any of those races.  Last time out, in the Instant Racing Stakes, she was bumped going into the first turn, and raced wide throughout before making a silky smooth move to the front on the final bend.  She won without any urging from her rider, and has the tactical speed to be on or near slow fractions in the Black-Eyed Susan. 
While both CASANOVA MOVE (#7) and DON'T FORGET GIL (#8) have run some solid races, and must be considered prime contenders, I'm not exactly frightened of them.  The former's lone win came in gate-to-wire fashion going six furlongs at Saratoga last year, and she hasn't shown much of a stretch punch in her recent races.  Don't Forget Gil is a bit of a rogue.  Make sure you check out her behavior in the paddock and post parade.  If she looks nervous, you may want to downgrade her chances slightly. 

In the Preakness, I whittled my play down to five main contenders, and I'm still not very confident. 

BIG DRAMA (#1) showed dogged determination when returning from an injury-induced layoff in the Swale, and has now finished first in his last six races.  I'm worried about the extra distance, but his good speed should have him in front heading into the clubhouse turn, and it's possible that the other jocks will attempt to float Rachel Alexandra (Big Drama's main pace rival) wide at that juncture.  I must admit that I'm concerned about the equipment change.  I guess trainer David Fawkes doesn't adhere to the adage that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  If Big Drama doesn't relax without his usual eyewear, Fawkes' decision to change gears before the biggest race of his life could be Buckner-esque. 
If the other riders decide to worry about Rachel and The Bird, Big Drama may make them pay on the front end.

The exploits of RACHEL ALEXANDRA (#13) have been well-documented on this blog.  She seems like a special filly, but is wheeling back on short rest against much-tougher competition, and will have to hustle hard from the gate to avoid being forced wide on the first turn.  I wouldn't be surprised in the least if she wins this race.  She is certainly capable of sitting just off the pace, and may inherit the front if Big Drama's pedigree gives out at the quarter-pole.  She must be used.

So, too, must MINE THAT BIRD (#2).  I'm not really a believer just yet, and do think that he was aided by the slick racing strip at Churchill on the first Saturday in May, but he absolutely dominated those horses.  There is a possibility of a Big Drama - Rachel Alexandra showdown on the backstretch, and the resulting quick fractions would certainly aid late-running Mine That Bird.  Is he the real deal?  I don't know.  Will I get burned by him again by not including him in my wagers?  Nope.

Jim Tully made some interesting points about TAKE THE POINTS (#11), and I agree that the gray colt may be worth inclusion in the exotics at a huge price.  I'm not convinced that he'll stay this trip, but he tried very hard out in Southern California, and may not have been at his best over the Pro-Ride racing surface at Santa Anita.  I liked his win at Gulfstream three back, and the addition of blinkers will have him into the bit (and the race) early.

PAPA CLEM (#7) may be better on fast dirt than the slop, and it didn't help that he faced freakish performances from Friesan Fire (Louisiana Derby), and Mine That Bird (Kentucky Derby) in those wet-track races.  I like his tactical speed, and his Arkansas Derby was certainly solid.  He'll be a good price so I'll toss him into the mix.

As for the rest:

MUSKET MAN (#3) is a courageous little fellow, and he tried his heart out in the Kentucky Derby.  He hasn't won a bad one, and should work out a good stalking trip, but I have a nagging suspicion that nine furlongs is his limit.  I won't be surprised if he wins, but I'll try to beat him.

LUV GOV (#4), named after disgraced politician Elliot Spitzer, is certainly bred to get the distance, but he's hard to like stepping up off a maiden win in the slop. 

FRIESAN FIRE (#5), the beaten favorite in the Derby, had an excuse when he grabbed a quarter, but I hate playing horses in these big races off of even minor injuries or ailments.  Things usually have to fall just right healthwise for these horses, and I wonder if Friesan Fire is still feeling any residual effects from the Derby debacle. 

TERRAIN (#6) has a puncher's chance is the track is fast, but he failed to pass a tiring Papa Clem when given every opportunity to do so in the Louisiana Derby.  I'm not sure the distance suits him either, and he'll need to improve in order to win this race. 

GENERAL QUARTERS (#8), like Musket Man, is a courageous sort, and his good-bad pattern is pointing to an improved performance on Saturday.  I've never been a huge fan of this gray colt, however, and he'll have to move forward just a little bit to get the big piece of the pie.  Still, nothing would surprise me after what we saw in the Derby.

Certainly, a victory by PIONEEROF THE NILE (#9) wouldn't be a surprise.  The consistent colt looked like a winner on the far turn of the Derby, but ran out of steam when The Bird blew on by.  A very consistent son of Empire Maker, Pioneerof the Nile is another that could work out a nice trip from the second flight, but I'm not sure he's a great play as the second choice.

FLYING PRIVATE (#10) didn't pick up his feet in the Derby.  The obvious excuse would be the mud, but Flying Private's only lifetime win came at six furlongs last year at Saratoga.  He looks to be in too steep.

TONE IT DOWN (#12) is the local hope, and his connections insist that he'll be taken off the pace after faltering in the Tesio.  If he wins, it would be Mine That Bird-like in the shock appeal.

Here are my plays:

$10 Oaks-Derby Doubles - Payton D'Oro with Big Drama, Mine That Bird, Papa Clem, Take the Points, and Rachel Alexandra (1 with 1,2,7,11,13) = $50

$25 Win/Place - Big Drama (1) = $50


Some other quick and dirty selections for the stakes races at Pimlico:




GALLORETTE - Social Queen


DIXIE - Parading


Reflecting on a past Preakness winner, can you post PP's for Aloma's Ruler? Believe he ran for maiden claimer at the Meadowlands and later went on to get his glory down at Pimlico..

Aloma's Ruler never raced for a tag, but he won the  Withers a week before the Preakness.  Here are his past performances:

Download Aloma's Ruler


Read that Julian Leparoux won his 1,000 race.  Could you please post the info on his first winner?  Wasn't it at Saratoga?  In fact, thought he won on a horse by the name of Ball Four.  That one just one a Grade 2 stakes race at HOL last weekend.

Leparoux's first win did come at Saratoga.  Here's the chart:

Download Leparoux#1


I just watched the documentary on Lost in the Fog.  It was a great film and really displayed the heart and class of the champion Lost in the Fog.  Anyway you could post his PPs for us?

Here they are:

Download Lost in the Fog


Best of luck this weekend to all.


Ben More than 1 year ago
handigambling 134 its amazing how bad turf racing has become once horses break their maiden they somehow get stuck in conditions forever nameastes wish will be odds on but i will try to beat her i will use 3 talkin indian she ran in some good races over the winter at fg how about a $50 exacta 3/29
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
Annie ...love the horse talk! LOL! We'll have to see what Rachel Alexandra says after her party! SR Vegas
vicstu More than 1 year ago
tinky, I am aware that when you keep a horse closer to the pace, it takes a bit of starch from their closing kick. However, in the case of MM, his high cruising speed is just as strong of an asset as his closing kick is. Also, MM usually breaks very well and is close up early on. It would not tax that horse too much being a length or two closer in the backstretch. After all, two lengths closer at the top of the stretch does not require the same late kick as being two lengths further back, does it? Besides, MM has shown at 7 furlongs that he can run at fractions of 22 and 44 and still get in a stretch duel with General Quarters and pull away running his final furlong in 11.8 seconds. Many notable trainers have pointed out that 7 furlongs is a quirky distance that tests the stamina of every horse that runs in it. I have seen horse that win going away at 8 and 9 furlongs stalking the lead get totally fried near the lead at 7 furlongs and die in the stretch. IMO it cuts both ways. And if MM has shown he can excel under those conditions, he deserves a shot, just like MTB did, to try a new style for 1 race. If it does not fit, then go back. Musket Man has a turn of foot as good as any horse in the TC races. Its a shame he never gets to show it. I am a strong believer in letting the horse show you where he wants to be. MM has earned his way into showing the jockey where he wants to be. Jockeys still do that with horses, don't they? It used to be, let a horse show you where he wants to be until it does not work out. Then, show the horse where he ought to be, then needs to be. If you watch MM's last 2 races, he is near the lead early and has to be pulled back to the middle of the pack. The truth is, most horses DO NOT change their running styles when switching from sprints to routes. MM was unusual in that respect. Why not try for a happy medium and see what happens? Anything less is conjecture on our part anyhow.
Blue Horseshoe More than 1 year ago
Vicstu, It seems that we do in fact agree. My point was implying that POTN didn't handle the surface and thus the outcome should be tossed as it should for Dunkirk and others in the KY Derby who also didn't handle the surface well. I've watched POTN very closely since last summer and am a big fan of his. I've previously opined about my questions about whether he would handle a fast dirt surface as well as he handles ProRide and the observation from this race is consistent with a horse that labors over a surface that he doesn't completely handle well so my point was that this race is a throw out and not some suggestion that the horse is in declining form... I do not share your opinion questioning POTN's ability to go beyond 9 furlongs as I would bet that he's got plenty of stamina to handle even longer races, provided that it's on a surface that he can handle and within a pace scenario that suits him... He's a big long striding type that can run 12 second furlongs all day long on ProRide... I think he projects as a major contender in this fall's Breeder's Cup Championship and I'll be happy to jump back on his bandwagon where I know that he can bring his "A" game and it will be a more fair fight for him... Also, I don't see how you can say that POTN didn't handle the surface and then also say that this result validates that MM would have gone by POTN if not for the bump... I can certainly understand the case that maybe POTN could have been taken down due to the contact but let's face it, POTN has shown time and again that he is a very tough and game horse that doesn't want to be passed in the stretch... You've argued this for Big Drama against TOFP and now you are taking the other side of this here... As you know and have often opined, some horses battle especially hard to not be passed and POTN certainly looks like this kind to me...
Hillbilly More than 1 year ago
Tinky: Common! Ground lost or saved is everything in horse racing!... Steve T: Yes! Zenyatta is the best horse in the country, Male or Female, but R.A. is a nightmare for her on any surface, and when you talk about Zenyatta beating the best, she beat those girls on a false surface with the exception of Ginger Punch where the race set up perfect for her. I don't doubt how good Z is but I do doubt the quality she has beat. The distaff division has been weak for awhile now, but no longer. Z and R.A. are the race everyone wants to see and if Rachel beats her boy are the excuses going to be fun to hear.
andybeyerforpresident More than 1 year ago
Attention racing community: Everything is not spin. People have watched the replay of the Preakness on their late night news and ESPN and it is OBVIOUS that there were 3 horses there at the wire, not 2! My next door neighbor asked me if his eyes were deceiving him. He saw two horses running strongly at the end of the Preakness, side by side, unable to nail RA--who was fabulous BTW. 3 horses. Don't believe your lyin' eyes, I sez. It was only RA and The Bird at the end... It did not work. He wanted to know who the other horse was that no one is talking about. Rodney Dangerfield, of course. The hardly ever publicly discussed Musket Man (although Vic and a few others have backed him for some time). If MTB ran a great race and proved something, then duh, so did MM. Say the obvious. Guess he ran up into their "script". BTW, who here has been bashing RA? I don't see it. tinky, You are 100 percent correct about the field RA beat. She is a great filly, but lets face it, she runs against 2007's Preakness field, she is lucky to get 4th. Curlin and SS would have smoked her, and a certain unnamed solid speed horse set much stronger fractions and STILL came home in a faster final 3/16s! Two males (at the most) this year have shown the ability to challenge above 9 furlongs. I think only 1 is a solid threat at 10f. I think the filly is great, but we need to keep this in context. I did not want to mention HS, lest I be declared "vicstuian".
Steve T. More than 1 year ago
RA is a very nice filly - but Zenyatta class? Not on your life. Maybe it is because Zenyatta has been off so long that everybody thinks she is vulnerable. I guess we will find out Saturday when she runs against one of the top mares in the country, Life Is Sweet. The thought that Z-Girl is vulnerable on dirt is absolutely laughable - ask Ginger Punch and company how that worked out for them at Oaklawn. In 45 years I have never seen a horse as physically intimidating as Zenyatta. At 5 she is at her absolute peak. Is she vulnerable to speed? Well they have thrown Hystericalady, Bai and Bai, Tough Tiz's Sis, Brownie Points, Ginger Punch, Cocoa Beach, Music Note, Santa Teresits and Model at her and the result was always the same. Zenyatta is still unbeaten. In a nutshell, Zenyatta is bigger, stronger and faster than Rachel Alexandra,and has beaten the best of the best every time - it would not be a contest. Nor do I think RA would fare well against Cocoa Beach, Life Is Sweet or Music Note. Give her some time to mature and put on some weight. I don't ever remember the older female contingent being as strong as it is today. These older females are total beasts!
C More than 1 year ago
vicstu, You have a tendency to become very attached to certain 3YOs (Hard Spun, Wise Answer, Big Brown, Musket Man, Big Drama) and when they lose a race, you tend to make excuses only for them, usually centered around the jockey's ride. When they lose multiple races to the same group, you have trouble admitting they might not be the very cream of the crop. Could it be that other horses were simply faster out of the gate than Musket Man was? Maybe, just maybe? Before hitting the first turn, he was behind horses on the rail, but he ended up in an identical position in the Derby, so why was it only a problem this time? I could be wrong, but I really do believe that this group of males, save Mine That Bird, is distance-challenged to varying degrees. I don't doubt that PotN and Papa Clem were tired horses, but neither has shown me that they have an edge over a route of ground in their races. I do give PotN the slight edge, based on the heart he showed in the SA Derby and Kentucky Derby (I disagree that the bump cost MM 2nd). Friesan Fire has his own problems, the biggest of which is his trainer. Therefore, it is not surprising that they would finish behind Big Drama, who I think ran a pretty nice race. That being said, I'm not exactly salivating at the chance to bet Big Drama in the Belmont, or any other classic-distance race for that matter. Among the boys, I agree that Musket Man is in the top 3 of those still in training, although that's not saying much this year. As for closers in the Belmont, I provided a list of winning closers (some 'deep', some not) last week. Not sure if any were dead-last, but why does this matter anyway? Haven't we learned that historical patterns and previous results are meaningless in these races? I like what Byron King (I think) said in his Derby chat... "in what other races do we even keep track of such things?" If Mine That Bird ends up being the only true router in the Belmont, then he should win IF he fires, even if he's a closer. Just my opinion, I could be wrong.
tinky More than 1 year ago
Dale – At least you were respectful. ;>)` RA wasn't required to anything (pacewise) that she hadn't done before. The first quarter – which you argue was taxing – was virtually the same as the first quarters she ran when winning the Martha Washington, Fair Ground Oaks, and Fantasy. After that, she galloped along at a solid, though hardly enervating pace, while BD kept her company under restraint. Look, she's a very good horse with a high cruising speed, she was the best horse in the race, and wasn't pressed into uncomfortably fast fractions. Under the circumstances, it's hard to imagine her having had things go any better. With regards to ground loss, that's a wildly overrated variable (thanks to Len Ragozin). If a horse races 5-6 wide on turns it is clearly a disadvantage, but at the end of the day, rarely does an inferior horse win because the superior horse in the race lost too much ground.
Jeff More than 1 year ago
C - I was all set to write the same thing to Jon. I haven't seen any bashing of her. Some, like me, did not feel she was worth it at the odds, but I don't think anyone is downgrading her abilities. She ran a super race with faster fractions on the front end than she has run this entire 2009 season. She was definitely up to the task and more power to her. And Lane, I also don't think anyone is over-rating her. She has been brilliant ever since the Golden Rod. Belmont - If Rachel doesn't go, which I don't think she will, that leaves Charitable Man against eight so-called closers. Don't be shocked if someone realizes this and throws a speed-ball type into the mix. Otherwise, it's CM's race to lose.