02/23/2013 11:48AM

HandiGambling the Risen Star


The HandiGambling exercise for Saturday, February 23 is the tenth race at Fair Grounds, the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 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 DIRECTLY TO THE BLOG.

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.


As of this writing, the main track is listed as FAST

Let's scratch #12 HE'S HAD ENOUGH, #14 DEPARTING and #15 SUNBEAN

I wish I could get clever in this race, but #9 NORMANDY INVASION may simply be the best horse.  A runaway maiden winner over a one-turn mile at Aqueduct on November 2, Normandy Invasion ran a corker in his first start against winners, and around two turns, in the Grade 2 Remsen.  It was only his third lifetime start and he broke a half-step slow from the outside post, but Normandy Invasion made a long out-in-out bid before looming boldly in midstretch.  It took the sharp Todd Pletcher-trained Overanalyze to deny Normandy Invasion by a nose and the Beyer Speed Figure earned (99) was exciting.  He has seven workouts since early January for high-percentage trainer Chad Brown and should get enough pace to adequately setup his late kick.  Brown doesn't run many horses at the Fair Grounds, but the one he did start over the past five years, Casino Host, won a Grade 2 on grass last year at 10-1 odds.

#2 CODE WEST has received a good amount of attention leading up to this race based on his runner-up performance, his first start in three months, behind stablemate Super Ninety Nine (returned to obliterate the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes with a 101 Beyer).  Code West is still a bit green so Baffert will remove the blinkers (30-90, 33%, $2.18 ROI over the past five years with blinkers off, won Arkansas Derby with Bodemeister and Haskell with Coil by removing the hood).  The Lemon Drop Kid ridgeling has good tactical speed and drew a solid inside post.

#5 MYLUTE has been in excellent form for high-percentage trainer Tom Amoss. He was only beaten three lengths by the very good Goldencents in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot after making a premature wide run, and then absolutely whistled in an entry-level optional claimer over this track and trip on December 26 (the third-place finisher of that race, stakes-placed Lattin Devil, returned to best Louisiana-bred optional claimers by six lengths with a career-best 83 Beyer).  Mylute has really improved since being allowed the chance to race around two turns and can't be discounted.

Oxbow has won his last two dirt races by a combined 16 1/4 lengths and has firmly placed Wayne Lukas back on the Derby trail.  Oxbow beat three of today's opponents with ease in the LeComte and two horses from that race have returned to place in stakes events with Beyers in the low 80's.  Oxbow projects to be on or near the lead once again and he'll get the jump on his main opposition when the field turns for home.

Thought #6 PALACE MALICE received an excellent prep for this when chasing the talented Majestic Hussar over sloppy going at Gulfstream on January 19.  That sprint was Palace Malice's first start since suffering from bucked shins and he gave it his all the whole way round.  He'll try two turns for the first time here, but is bred to run all day and shouldn't be too far off the early leaders under Rosie Napravnik.  Over the past five years, trainer Todd Pletcher is 9-27 (33%, $2.60 ROI) at Fair Grounds (won the Risen Star with El Padrino in 2012 and Discreetly Mine in 2010).

#1 PROUD STRIKE is a promising colt that graduated in quick time on January 12, besting three next-out winners (the runner-up earned an 89 Beyer in his maiden score).  Although lightly-raced, he's kept some good company and should save valuable ground going into the first turn under Gary Stevens.  No matter how he fares in the Risen Star, I'll be keeping an eye on him down the road.

#13 CIRCLE UNBROKEN was a precocious juvenile, winning the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes in June with an 80 Beyer.  After finishing second at odds-on in the Mountaineer Juvenile, he went to the sidelines after undergoing ankle surgery.  Before his return run in the LeComte, trainer Garry Simms noted that Circle Unbroken was likely a short horse, and he only passed a couple of tired rivals while well-beaten.  Expect him to be tighter for this assignment, but it's possible he's better at shorter distances.

#4 GOLDEN SOUL has some upside potential, but it will be interesting to see if he's improved the 11 1/2 lengths that he was beaten by Oxbow in the LeComte.  His lone win came when allowed to track slow fractions and he may be dawdling near the rear of the field in the Risen Star.

#7 HARDROCK ELEVEN's lone win came going 7 1/2 furlongs at Delta Downs and he was beaten a combined 31 1/2 lengths in his last two starts around two turns.  He finished ahead of a next-out winner in his most recent start at Sam Houston, but that foe only earned a 71 Beyer when taking down 'n2L' allowance runners at seven panels. 

#8 IVE STRUCK A NERVE has lost ground from the stretch call to the wire in all three route appearances.  By the quick Yankee Gentleman, it's possible that he wants shorter distances and his Beyers pale in comparison to those of the main contenders.

#11 BETHEL's lone victory came in a $30,000 maiden claimer and he could only muster a fourth-place finish in his first start against winners.  He gets a big class quiz here and is stuck in a tough outside post position.

#3 AGENT, an Oklahoma-bred that won his first start around two turns at Sam Houston, may show some early speed in this spot.  While he's done nothing wrong in his career, he will be facing his toughest test to date.

Here's how I'll HandiGamble:

$50 EXACTA - Normandy Invasion - Code West (9-2)
$30 EXACTA - Normandy Invasion - Mylute (9-5)
$20 EXACTA - Code West - Normandy Invasion (2-9)

Best of luck to all.


The handicapping videos that Mike Beer and I produced for the weekend's major stakes races should be up on these links.




Here are some very brief thoughts:

...DANCINGINTHECIRCLE should be very salty in the Rachel Alexandra, but BLUE VIOLET gets a chance based on her impressive maiden win earlier in the meet for Larry Jones.  A very well-bred filly, Blue Violet toyed with her opposition and should offer good odds in her first start against winners...WILLCOX INN didn't have much of a chance when forced to rally from the back of the pack against razor-sharp Swift Warrior in the Connally (three horses have returned from that race to score) and could improve in his second start of the form cycle in the Fair Grounds Handicap...MARK VALESKI and GOLDEN TICKET are dangerous rivals, but INFRATTINI has won four of six since being announced as a gelding for the first time and he overcame a moderate pace to outfinish Mark Valeski in the Louisiana Handicap on January 19.  He's put up two big numbers and his tactical speed makes him tough in the Mineshaft...DATA LINK is WAAAY the horse to beat in the Canadian Turf at Gulfstream, but I'll give a long look to JOES BLAZING AARON, who has improved for Eddie Kenneally and may work out a pocket trip from his rail post..

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


You can follow me on Twitter at DRF_DanIllman.

Leonard Indelicato More than 1 year ago
Does anyone know when or if INDY'S ILLUSION will be returning from the witness protection program?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keith L, Are you sure you actually have a horse? Have you seen him? With a name like TRANSPARENT, it's a little fishy. :) Gotham, huh? Well then, perhaps I should take you up on your offer to trade part of Transparent and Mr. Palmer for part of HE'S HAD ENOUGH. HHE lost his place on the Derby Futures, but then neither of your two are on there either. :) Annie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Curtis, Speaking of DEWEY, I hear he is going to run in the Palm Beach too. Thinking about the Bluegrass after. Good luck! Annie
Jay Van Horn More than 1 year ago
If I owned Shanghai Bobby, Itsmyluckyday, Vyjack, Goldencents and a couple others with Derby dreams, I would immediately abandon that unfounded plan and rejoin the rest of humanity on planet Earth. These horses were meant to run on grass at distances ranging from 6f to 1 1/16. The owners know this, the trainers know this, yet they continue on this path bc their horse are able to remain competitive against other 3yo's on the dirt. You could in all actuality add Verrazano and Code West to this list as well. Disagree? Only time will tell..
Thomas V.S More than 1 year ago
SpartanTom, My mistake, it is Dick who updates the PH and deserves the thanks, but my thoughts remain concerning your comments and banter on formblog. JVH, I am unfamiliar with several of your top 5 rock bands, but of course, that does not mean they are undeserving of being listed..st
Curtis V Slewster More than 1 year ago
PNR, When I posted about the HG decisions, I wasn't referring to UR scorekeeping. You do an outstanding job of going thru the posts. Butts: when you have ambiguity, you should just send it up to Dan & let him decide. That person in last weeks HG doesn't deserve squat. The race track doesn't ask for analysis, but we do. The analysis is for a reason. Match the 2 up & bingo. It is a travesty. Had after his analysis, he played w/different combinations, then it's one thing. Butts:His was obvious to a blind man on horseback, he was playing Norman-dy Invasion. He gets DQ'ed immediately. It's his fault & nobody else to blame but himself. The week before, same thing...Ditto...Send it up to Dan. & about all these posters who can't get the correct post positions ? What is the problem ? They have to have a DRF login. They have to have a posting separate login. They didn't just get beamed here by Scotty. They know how to navigate the DRF & use a computer. You can't possibly convince me they don't know how to find the Entry page on the DRF. This is a nice priZe offered by Dan Illman, & if some refuse to read the instructions, or follow the rules, then they deserve what they get. This is not a harsh assessment. It is just plain LaZiness. You could post rules all day long, until you are blue in the face. Some people are just concerned w/getting free stuff. They could care less about the procedures. The last 2 weeks supposed winners are an absolute Dis-qualification. It is blatantly obvious. Those so called winners should not be allowed to get a winner for 3 months. That's their punishment. I'm putting down the evil eye....Malocchio{maloiks} to them.......LoL...... Curt V.
Thomas V.S More than 1 year ago
SpartanTom Keith, I have been remiss in not thanking you for your work in tabulating PG work and also for your insightful comments. ST
. Anderson More than 1 year ago
Two400 Agreed, the Beyers for Mark Valeski and Ive Struck A Nerve are ADJUSTED numbers. Something Mr. A. Beyer advised against in his books. I would suggest the appreciably slower pace of the MK race was the only EXCUSE / LOGIC behind upgrading the figure by about 5 pts. Pace is what makes turf and all weather surfaces problematic for the speed figuring. Problem was both Ive Struck A Nerve and Unlimited Budget upped their figures on the day. Anyway we'll see how the times compare in future.
Keith More than 1 year ago
Sorry Whatckey: I nomandized that last post to you! Your Noble Tune was the Brown turfer who worked on on the 25th, a 4 of 40 good 1:02+ for 5f on Palm Meadows Turf. Whereas Balanced the Books last worked on 2/18 at 4f on dirt, both at Palm Meadows. Watch for the draw today though for the running of the Palms Turf race at Gulstream this weekend, the same race that Dullahan prepped in for his Bluegrass Stakes victory. Keith L.
Keith More than 1 year ago
DavicM999: Appaarently a change in heart (and direction) now for your boy, Honorable Dillon. Instead stretch his legst this weekend up in NY, he's now headed to do battle with the likes of 1/2 finishers Falling Sky and Dynamic Sky, along with Pletcher Fluke or Freak Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby now. This according to Dick Downey! CurtisV. It's yuu that are confused, sir. You have posted seveal times that you have the Double Dosed one, Normandy Invasion as one of two that you are hot and bothered with on the Derby Road, and, of course, your pickup Itsmyluckyday slao. Both mentioned in several if your posts, here, Not too much on your fair and square MKB Slewster draw, Dewey Square of late though, I noticed. Whackey, my man: Thanks for the shout out! As to your Noble Tune, Brown had both of his turfers in line for the Palms rhis weekend, but Noble Tune did not work for this, whereas Balance the Books did and at Turf at that! So...read between the lines, perhaps? Keith L.