05/19/2012 10:40AM

HandiGambling the Preakness!

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This week's HandiGambling 282 exercise is Saturday's twelfth race at Pimlico, the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles for 3-year-olds.

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PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PREVIOUS BLOG POST.

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.

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.

Best of luck to all.

***

The main track is FAST.

Ramon Dominguez rides #1 TIGER WALK.

Hopefully, some of these questions will be answered definitively in today's Preakness.

1.  Will BODEMEISTER regress after several hard races in a row?

2.  Will a slower pace propel BODEMEISTER to victory, or will it also help stalkers like I'LL HAVE ANOTHER and CREATIVE CAUSE?

3.  Will two cross-country flights in the span of a fortnight sap CREATIVE CAUSE of his best stuff?

4.  Was WENT THE DAY WELL's Derby rally an illusion considering the slow final fraction?

5.  Will I'LL HAVE ANOTHER head into New York as a possible Triple Crown candidate?

It is days like this that really make our sport intoxicating.  Hopefully, the 3-year-olds will put on another good show, as expected, later today.

As for handicapping the race itself, I am willing to give CREATIVE CAUSE another chance.  The Giant's Causeway colt has been such a consistent performer throughout his career.  He's already beaten both I'LL HAVE ANOTHER and BODEMEISTER (in the Best Pal and San Felipe Stakes, respectively) so we know that he can hang with the best of his generation.  Also, it seemed like nothing went right for him from the moment he walked on the plane to take him to Churchill Downs for the Derby.  There were reports that the flight didn't go very well and that Creative Cause's feet were bothering him upon arrival.  He lost a shoe before one of his first gallops and didn't have an ideal week of training under the Twin Spires.  It wouldn't have been surprising if he threw in a clunker, ala some of the other major prep winners, but he ran pretty well despite a fairly difficult journey.  Creative Cause took a bump at the start and raced in between horses while taking dirt in his face as the field passed the stands for the first time.  Jockey Joel Rosario took Creative Cause very wide on the backstretch and they commenced a 4-5 wide bid on the far turn just as Bodemeister attempted to break the race open.  Creative Cause was in contention turning for home, but understandably tired from that move on the final turn.  He was only beaten three lengths, however, and the shorter distance coupled with the expected slower pace up front could work to his advantage.  He shouldn't be too far away down the backstretch at Pimlico and if I'LL HAVE ANOTHER attempts to soften up BODEMEISTER with an early bid, Creative Cause could be the one to directly benefit. Plus, with WENT THE DAY WELL attracting so much pre-race attention from his late rally in the Derby, Creative Cause's odds might drift.  The fact that he traveled back to California post-Derby makes one wonder if the Preakness wasn't originally in the cards.  That's concerning, but I've liked Creative Cause since Day 1 (have compared him to Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky), and will trust the steady colt to run another good race today.

I'LL HAVE ANOTHER was a deserving Derby winner, to be sure.  Not too many horses were interested in running at Churchill Downs, but I'll Have Another, after a wonderful ride from Mario Gutierrez, doggedly wore down BODEMEISTER in the final sixteenth.  He's been a revelation since stretching out around two turns and has only run one poor race in his career (and that race was over a very wet track).  I'll Have Another's good tactical speed should have him in closest attendance to BODEMEISTER after a half-mile is completed.  The concern is whether Gutierrez will be forced to go after Bodemeister a bit early, lest the Baffert speedster steal away to an insurmountable lead.  Still fresh this season with only a handful of starts under his belt, I'll Have Another should avoid a regression in the Preakness.  He is an obvious and dangerous contender and shouldn't be ignored in exotics or multiple-race bets.

BODEMEISTER's Derby run has been dissected ad nauseum.  He ran a gutsy race, setting wicked fractions and spurting to a lonely lead turning into the stretch.  It's understandable that he was on fumes in midstretch and an easier time on the lead is projected for the Preakness.  He is an incredibly talented racehorse, the fastest of this crop of classic hopefuls by virtue of his dominating win in the Arkansas Derby.  Considering the pace scenario, Bodemeister looms the most likely winner of this Preakness.  But, he's run very hard over the last six weeks or so.  Remember that Bob Baffert had to crank Bodemeister up fully for the Arkansas Derby as the colt desperately needed the requisite graded earnings to make it into the Derby field.  Then, he gave that trying race in the Derby.  Does have have one more in him?  It's a fair question to ask.  At a short price, I won't answer affirmatively.  Again, he's the most logical winner if he can relax on the lead.  To me, he doesn't offer a ton of value.

If you absolutely need a new shooter, perhaps TIGER WALK is the horse for you.  He'll add blinkers for the underrated horseman, "Nacho" Correas, and he figures to save valuable ground from his inside post under the great Ramon Dominguez.  Tiger Walk, from watching his prior races, seems to lose focus on the turns.  Perhaps the blinkers will allow him to run a complete one from start to finish.

WENT THE DAY WELL made up a ton of ground into a very slow final quarter mile in the Derby and galloped out with relish.  From the Animal Kingdom connections, he doesn't have to be so far behind and projects as a stalker in the Preakness.  His Derby has generated a ton of buzz and I wonder if he's going to be the "wise guy" horse in the Preakness.  A talented performer, Went the Day Well certainly is in with a chance.

TEETH OF THE DOG defeated Went the Day Well in his maidenbreaker at Gulfstream before finishing ahead of Tiger Walk in the Wood Memorial, Teeth of the Dog's first start against winners.  Trained by Michael Matz, Teeth of the Dog has some tactical speed, but needs to take a good step forward if he is to take down the experienced Derby contenders.

COZZETTI has been somewhat of a disappointment as he received some buzz after his maiden win at Churchill Downs last year.  All reports I've received are that he's training exceptionally well at Churchill for this race and he'll make the third start of the form cycle with improving Beyers on display.  Fourth to Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby, Cozzetti has a turf pedigree and he drew a tough outside post.

PRETENSION, the winner of the Canonero II Stakes at Pimlico on May 5, represents the annual "local hope."  He was found wanting in a pair of Derby preps earlier in the year and his best Beyer of 83 just won't get it done.

OPTIMIZER didn't do too much running in the Derby for Wayne Lukas.  His lone win came on turf and I think he's a better horse on grass and synthetics.  He was given the short comment "full of run" for his runner-up effort in the Rebel, but I don't think that was the case.  The winner, Secret Circle, was stopping, and Optimizer, racing on his left lead, took advantage. 

ZETTERHOLM has won three straight for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., but those races were restriced to New York-breds and he'll take a massive class hike in the Preakness.  His fastest Beyer to date is an 85.  Even with expected improvement, he's way behind the top contenders.

DADDY NOSE BEST ran a triple-digit Beyer in the Sunland Derby and got some "wise guy" votes at Churchill.  He didn't do much on the first Saturday in May, but I believe that many of the Derby also-rans simply didn't handle the track.  He'll be reunited with Julien Leparoux and handles the distance just fine, but I wonder if the pace will be fast enough for his liking.

For HandiGambling wagering purposes, let's go this way:

$50 Win/Place - Creative Cause (6)

Best of luck to all.

***

Here are some quick-and-dirty selections for the weekend's graded stakes:

Gallorette - LAUGHING, SMART STING, ZAGORA
Railbird - DIJARVO, SISTER MOON, LADY FAIRBANKS
Maryland Sprint:  HAMAZING DESTINY, BANDBOX, DISKI DANCE
Allaire duPont - AWESOMEMUNDO, CANADIAN MISTRESS, LOVE AND PRIDE
Hendrie - ROXY GAP, ATLANTIC HURRICANE, DR. DIAMONDS PRIZE
Dixie - CASINO HOST, AIR SUPPORT, TREND
Hanshin - ACHAEMENES, TAPTOWNE, FAST ALEX
Marjorie Everett - INCLUDE ME OUT, ZAZU, KAYCE ACE

***

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