05/20/2011 10:44PM

HandiGambling The Preakness

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Saturday's HandiGambling 234 exercise is the twelfth race at Pimlico, the 136th Running of the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes for 3-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 at the previous blog post.  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.

I'm posting this pre-scratches and changes. 

I've broken down this Preakness to three tiers of runners:

First Tier (Silver Charm Group):

The Silver Charm group lists viable win contenders.  I had a great amount of difficulty narrowing the Preakness down to a handful of contenders so this will be the biggest of the three tiers.

#11 ANIMAL KINGDOM may have taken slight advantage of a closer-friendly surface at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May and I didn't like how he drifted out through the stretch, but he simply was better than his 18 opponents under the Twin Spires that afternoon.  He had to answer the "dirt" question at Churchill, did so positively, and now must work out another late-running trip under John Velazquez.  The pace will be faster than it was in the Derby and Animal Kingdom, given a trouble-free journey, should be tough as nails once again for trainer Graham Motion.  Considering the post position setup, Velazquez may have his sights on Mucho Macho Man.  When that one fires for home, expect Animal Kingdom to be right on his tail.

#9 MUCHO MACHO MAN seems to bang out one solid race after another and may benefit from the slight turnback in distance.  He didn't have a bad trip at Churchill, but failed to finish with the winner and was also drifting throughout the final furlong.  He matched his career-best Beyer Speed Figure in the Derby, his first start since suffering a minor hoof injury in the Louisiana Derby, and can conceivably move forward off that race.  I expect jockey Rajiv Maragh to try and get the jump on Animal Kingdom this time around.  It's hard to knock this horse as he's never been worse than fourth in his life.

#5 SHACKLEFORD got away with easy fractions in the Derby, but may have been compromised slightly by the closer-friendly nature of the track.  He continued his Beyer progression with his solid fourth-place finish and may have a target this time around (Flashpoint looms the pacesetter).  With Flashpoint not expected to stay the entire journey, Shackleford may inherit the lead at some point and he has enough pedigree to last this distance.  Perhaps he'll improve by sitting just off the early leader.

#7 MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE is perhaps a stretch as his Kentucky Derby non-effort was extremely disappointing, but I'm not going to write him off completely off one bad race.  I liked his Santa Anita Derby from a visual standpoint as he was wide every step of the way and was non-plussed when Comma to the Top drifted in front of him in late stretch.  Considering that was his first start against winners, and the first time he successfully rated and won, it was a good performance from Midnight Interlude.  If you can somehow draw a line through the Derby, and it won't be easy, he looms a longshot chance for Bob Baffert.

#8 DANCE CITY is an intriguing new shooter for Todd Pletcher.  Antsy behind the gate before the running of the Arkansas Derby, Dance City ran a corker once he settled down, pressing hot fractions before understandably giving way to a pair of closers in the stretch.  The distance is a question as his sire, City Zip, usually gets sprinter and middle-distance runners, but Dance City may work out a good outside stalking trip while just off Flashpoint and Shackleford.  I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a three wide bid entering the final turn. 

#1 ASTROLOGY has been a bit of an underachiever throughout his career as the beautifully-bred son of A.P. Indy failed to cash in at Sunland Park and Aqueduct in his last two races.  He may work out a ground-saving, pace-tracking trip from his inside post position, and he does seem to be slowly improving.  I must admit that I've never been his biggest fan, but he could offer a hint of value in his third start of the form cycle with improving Beyers on display.

Second Tier (Magic Weisner group):

The Magic Weisner group features horses that may not be strong win contenders, but could possibly crack the board. 

#14 MR COMMONS raced evenly in the Santa Anita Derby and reportedly displaced his palate during the running.  A lightly-raced son of Artie Schiller, Mr Commons proved that he could handle dirt with a workman-like performance two back at Santa Anita.  I think this one has some ability, but he drew poorly on the far outside, and his future may ultimately lie on the grass. 

#3 KING CONGIE reportedly missed some time leading up to the Blue Grass with a hind muscle strain.  All things considering, he ran pretty well for third despite racing in traffic and he may be slowly figuring things out (mentally immature when drifting out on grass earlier this year).  The main question here is dirt.  While he ran poorly in both dirt tries at two, those races were sprinting against good competition (Uncle Mo, Fort Hughes).  The multiple stakes-winner should get some pace to run at here, but he may be slightly better on alternative surfaces.

#6 SWAY AWAY isn't the prettiest horse in the race.  With his sway back, knee issues (resolved prior to the San Vicente), and lost tooth (gate problem in the Rebel), he looks like he just went ten rounds with Vitali Klitschko.  He has some talent and may have moved prematurely when pulling hard in the Arkansas Derby.  The colt figures to be racing in midpack under new rider Garrett
Gomez and should be legged up for this with three six-furlong workouts at Churchill Downs.  Sway Away has lost ground from the stretch call to the wire in both of his routes.  While it may be too early to label him as a late-running sprinter, it will be interesting to see how he finishes up on Saturday. 

You knew what you were going to get with #10 DIALED IN at Churchill Downs.  You knew that the one-run closer needed race and pace luck and he got neither.  While he should get faster fractions to attack at Pimlico, I'm still looking for his fast two-turn race, and he will need things to fall his way from a trip perspective.  He's going to get bet again, and I don't want him as the first or second choice.

Third Tier (Northern Giant group):

The Northern Giant features horses that need to run their absolutely best race to get a piece of the pie.

#2 NORMAN ASBJORNSON ran a surprising second in the Grade 3 Gotham two back, but wasn't flattered by the subsequent efforts of Stay Thirsty.  His fourth in the Wood Memorial was good, but not great, and his 87 Beyer top pales in comparison to those of the main contenders.  He is at his best when he is close to the pace and he could be outrun going into the first turn.

The local hope is always a nice story and the one-eyed former claimer, CONCEALED IDENTITY, certainly has an affinity for the surface.  His sire won the Preakness, but Concealed Identity must improve his 86 Beyer top.

#4 FLASHPOINT is a very fast runner, but he may have been aided by a speed-favoring track when winning the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream on February 26.  He failed to make the lead, as expected, in the Florida Derby, and faltered badly in his first try around two turns.  He figures to be on the lead, but Shackleford and Dance City probably won't let him get too far away.  By Pomeroy out of a Two Punch mare, he may find this distance too far for him.

#12 ISN'T HE PERFECT finished behind Norman Asbjornson in both the Gotham and the Wood Memorial and behind Astrology in the Jerome.  He's hard to recommend off his previous stakes efforts.

Here's how I'll play HandiGambling:

$25 Exacta:  Animal Kingdom - Mucho Macho Man (11-9)
$25 Exacta:  Animal Kingdom - Shackleford (11-5)
$25 Exacta:  Animal Kingdom - Midnight Interlude (11-7)
$13 Exacta:  Animal Kingdom - Dance City (11-8)
$12 Exacta:  Animal Kingdom - Astrology (11-1)

Best of luck to all.

***

Some quick-and-dirty stakes picks:

Dupont:  Life At Ten, Decelerator, Check Point
Maryland Sprint:  China, Immortal Eyes, Nathan's H. Q.
Gallorette:  Desert Sage, Shared Account, No Explaining

***

For a more-detailed video analysis of the Pimlico graded stakes, click on the below link and scroll down:

http://www.drf.com/news/weekend-stakes-preview-videos

***

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

C More than 1 year ago
vicstu, Ok, he was about a neck behind... he was also going wider on that turn, lol. It makes no difference to me. If Nehro was in the race, I'm not sure that he would've won, but I guarantee he would've galloped out several lengths past everyone afterwards. PS: I said Animal Kingdom was spent.
C More than 1 year ago
BSB, Yogi, Sorry, I have to question these numbers and, more importantly, the ultimate interpretation. 1- BSB, fyi, both Last Tycoon and Six Perfections were French. 2- Yogi, I found some errors in your spreadsheet... Silic and Val Royal were both French horses. Just eyeballing the winners, I come up with a tally of 14-13 for the Euros in the Mile and have them winning 7 of the last 12 runnings. 3- In the Turf, I have it 10-3 in favor of Europe since 1999 (1 extra for the dead-heat, which was a split). Yogi, how do you count Conduit as an American? 4- Yogi, there are some more questionable designations in your Filly/Mare Turf column. It's a little dicey to really label Starine, Lahudood, and Intercontinental as Americans. They all have European roots, having first raced in Europe and were sent to American barns at various times. The same could be said for many of the "Americans" on the various lists, including Kotashaan in the Turf. 5- Interpretation: this is the main thing. Do the Europeans make up the majority of runners in any of these races in any given year? That's an important consideration. You can say that the Americans are about "even" with the Euros, but the Euros are only sending a handful of horses here each year. Also, if you look at the last 10-12 years, the Europeans have been sending their "C" team... maybe even their "D" team... and still winning our important grass races. This extends beyond the Breeders Cup too. Look at last year's Arlington Million... Debussy? He's nobody. D-team at best. Imagine if they still actually sent their best runners? Sea The Stars could've won that year's Turf running backwards. Sorry, I'm with Shuback on this one.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Yogi, I hear ya. If he was mine he'd be running every 3 weeks. Shamrock Bend , sorry I misunderstood what you were looking at. For your next step Lemon Drop Kid & Birdstone come to mind. Editors Note ? I think he may belong in the unsuccessful in the 1st 2 legs category but maybe he skipped the preakness ?
CM More than 1 year ago
Vicstu/TBTA: Sorry, but I'm still puzzled. The point of my earlier post was the Shack got a break because he ran a very slow 3/4s, after a quick first quarter. IMO he did that because Castanon was satisfied with his position, and he wanted to go as slowly as possible to save as much as he could for the finish. It was the jockey's doing. He conserved the horse's speed and energy, and this time it worked. I believed that was contrary to Vicstu's theory of letting the speed horses run. Yet TBTA wrote: "He came out of the gate motoring and at no time did the jock slap a rating hold on the horse. That is what is meant when a person says a horse was "throttled down". "Just because the horses ran the next quarters slower than the first does not mean they were throttled down. If you look at Shack, he's on a nice rein, not fighting the jock and cruising along at his natural speed. The jock is not only not rating him, he's also not encouraging to go any quicker. He was letting the horse put himself exactly where he wanted to be at exactly his chosen speed." Are you saying the the horse himself decided (a) what speed to go and (b) where he wanted to be? Of course Castanon "rated" Shack after Castanon achieved the position he wanted. I agree the key was he was able to do it without fighting him, so Shack had energy left and he was able to win. That won the race for him. But it seems to me you are giving all the credit for slowing the pace down to the horse, and I can't agree with that.
Yogi More than 1 year ago
C, Sorry for the Conduit mistakes. Believe it or not, I did actually know that he was a Euro. Rectumitis I guess. Actually, I did too much of a rush job as I tried to get the post made last night. As for Silic, she came to the states 12 months before the BC Mile that she won. That should have been plenty of time for her to be corrupted by NA methods. I guess you would call Canani's methods NA. Val Royal came to the states in 1999. She won her BC race in 2001. That's 25 months. She was also trained by Canani. Starine was here for 17 months and 11 races before her win. Frankel was the trainer. Lahudood only 4 months and 5 races before the BC. McLaughlin was the trainer. Intercontinental was here 19 months and 12 races before her BC. Frankel was the trainer. I guess this too is a matter of interpretation. My own is that with that much time and that many races with a NA trainer makes them NA horses. None of these went back to race across the pond. If it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.
Tim More than 1 year ago
Hey Dan, Could you post the lifetime PPs for Morine's Victory? I read on a blog how he was rescued from a kill pen. That was one helluva hard-knocker. Thanks. http://www.brooklynbackstretch.com/2011/05/12/victory-indeed-morines-victorys-narrow-escape/#comments
vicstu More than 1 year ago
Interesting rundown on Shackleford's pedigree: Cut and paste this link into you browser and hit enter- http://www.paulickreport.com/features/the-lane-s-end-weekender-pedigree/the-lane-s-end-weekender-pedigree-shackleford/
Annie More than 1 year ago
Aha! It's finally recognizing my computer and filling in my name and e-mail for me. :) However, anyone having any trouble getting things to go to "printable version"? Annie
meathead01 More than 1 year ago
Belmont 5-25-11 looking for prices R5 #2 Itsagoodtendollars cuts back for this and goes to the grass think this is what he needs to get back on the right path trainer is 11% D/T and 17% overall #5 Brown Indian another going first time turf and last one very impressive and castellano stays put improving beyer angle in play won for fun last race at Keenland look for this one to make a strong finish #3 Dont Fooli Houli served notice in last after 7 months on shelf he loves belmont turf 5 for 6 itm look for prado to try the front today and if this ones tight its all over R7 #7 Glacier Bay got back in the grove after long layoff and moves up a notch for this picks up velasquez today look for another good effort on this lightly races 5yo #9 Go Richie Go stretches out a notch today after very popular win last gets yet another new jocky in castro very strong move at the top of the stretch if he can repeat that he is huge threat to take the $$$$$ #4 I Aint No Saint last five have been very good ones and beyers have increased in each race this one is tight as a fiddle another good one expected today must use in all holes R8 #5 Roddickton hat trick very well in the cards after two big wins and he drops back a notch and goes back to grass where he has not run a bad one Lezcano will have this one in the hunt at the wire #6 Arnell busted out of the maiden ranks with big one after three bad ones with the switch to the grass a big reason for win look for further improvement for this colt going forward #2 Capital Market back to belmont where hes one for one on the weeds ran big last to get headed at the wire in speed duel he will rebound and be huge factor today with castellano up for the ride R9 #7 Its Not for Love gets the nod here cutting back to a mile after ten races longer should control the pace here and take the money australis princess will be with her early on but will drop back late #1 Much Fanfare back to turf after romp in the mud last picks up hot jock today look for this one to show late speed down the lane and be a facter in the final outcome does look to want a little longer race use on bottom of ticket #9 Bobs Pinup Girl loves belmont grass being five for seven itm cuts back a bit today should be closing in late for best chance odds should creep up some from ml good luck all MH01
Laura Lawduck More than 1 year ago
P Ensign, others, and all Yes, I paid for dinner. I always feel bad about betting horses someone else has picked. I don’t know. I feel like I don’t deserve to win money if it’s not the result of my own reasoning or judgment. I could make a lot of money off the horses Mike A tells me about but I rarely bet them. I guess it would kind of feel like cheating on a test to me. I didn’t even buy the Form on Saturday (Sorry, Dan!). I didn’t intend to bet much if at all on Saturday, and I didn’t need the Form to bet the Preakness. I knew I wouldn’t be in an environment in which I could concentrate, and at this point in my handicapping studies, I need to concentration plenty when looking at the Form. However, I played Chinglish; first, because Mike liked him; second because I occasionally play hunches based on silly names. (I lived in China for ten weeks one summer teaching U.S. law to Chinese law students and the term/ concept of “Chinglish” provided much entertainment during that time.); third, I remember watching Chinglish run at Gulfstream this winter (Again, because of the name I distinctly remember paying attention to him during that race.) while watching turf races with Mike. I played Chinglish to win and in some exactas. I won on the win bet. However, I hardly feel as if it was the result of any ability on my part so I figured out to dinner on Chinglish we would go. No worries. Mike has provided me with plenty of nice breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. (He’s an exceptional cook, too.) I hope everyone enjoyed Mike’s story. I know Mike and therefore I know some of his sarcasm didn’t come through on the blog as would have if you listened to him telling it. I would add my own version but he pretty much covered it. I have much more affinity for Pimlico, however, than he does so my version is a bit different in that regard. Yes, it might be run down but it’s kind of like part of home to me so I like it nonetheless and I am thankful it exists at that location in Baltimore rather than another commercial center, industrial complex, etc.. I just wished that the majority of the folks at Pimlico on Preakness day would think about Maryland racing for even just one more day during the year. That’s wishful thinking. I am an optimist though. Ask Mike A. That’s probably one of the reasons I’m “easy.” LOL.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Yogi, Big Drama has made me money about 9 out of 10 times I bet him. Only failing to cash me in the Preakness. I'll pin my hopes on Big Drama. When is he running !!??!! He's been something of a Sandy Koufax for me. Regarding Euro superiority. Its pretty much a wives tale or urban legend. I showed Shuback that the BC GRASS races were fairly well evenly divided overall with American trained horses having an edge in wins. He didn't like that because it didn't fit the wives tale he was spreading so he round filed it. They are really quite comparable on American grass. We don't really have much gauge on Euro grass because our trainers don't usually bother to go there. The few that do have had a little success with horses that were not exactly household names over here. That is not saying that there aren't good euro grass runners . They just don't have an intrinsic edge like many believe . At least at the highest level in the BC . The quality of American bred racehorses is fine. Its kind of a red herring to deflect attention from the real problem . To much take out to cover the to much purses to cover the to much money that babies cost at auction and the to much money for dayrates for public trainers. 50% reduction in all of the above would save the game, solve the horse shortage and cure the common cold. If anything has declined its the quality of the trainers . Back in the day when the good horses pulled their owners buggies all week and on saturday raced a sulky or on the flat or both the average trainer was probably a better horsemen. Your horse was your car back then . Everybody knew something about horses.
matt More than 1 year ago
Dan, Can you post the career PP's of Brass Hat? I'll put them right next to perfect drift and lava man in my gelding hall of fame. Thanks, Matt