08/06/2011 9:28AM

HandiGambling The Whitney

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Today's HandiGambling 245 exercise is the tenth race from Saratoga, the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap for 3-year-olds and upward at nine furlongs.
 
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 separate the play from the analysis and label the play "HG" with the program numbers instead of the names of the horses.

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.

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The main track is fast.

The Whitney is a fascinating race as just about all of the entrants have a proper chance to win. 

While this year's handicap division has been mostly mediocre, the one upside is that we get competitive races with full fields.  Perhaps the Whitney winner will grab the division by the throat as we slowly make our way to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

The Whitney is part of a big Pick 4 pot at Saratoga.  While it's tempting to hit the "ALL" button, it's simply too costly in a sequence with several other contentious races.  Thus, I'll take a stand with two 'A' runners while saving with one other. 

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MY TOP CONTENDERS:

You all know I'm a sucker for stories of courage and class and #1 FLAT OUT has overcome so many physical obstacles en route to becoming today's morning line favorite.  He's battled bruised feet, quarter cracks and even a fractured shoulder during his nine-race career.  Finally, in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont, he put it all together, putting up a 113 Beyer Speed Figure in a visually-impressive performance.  Flat Out raced 3-4 wide throughout in the Suburban before blowing the doors off the competition in the stretch.  It's easy to knock the Suburban as the Beyer is so out of whack with Flat Out's other races that one must wonder if the performance was an anomaly.  Plus, Flat Out seemed to relish the one-turn layout of Belmont's main track and he'll have to go two turns at Saratoga.  Also, the Suburban wasn't a very strong race from a class perspective (although two of the also-rans returned to win).  Flat Out will need to bring his 'A' game once more against tougher competition.  I wonder if those question marks will leave bettors cold on Flat Out's win chances, perhaps inflating his price to playable odds.  He WAS good last time out. Really good.  There is pace to set up his late kick and he should save valuable ground going into the first turn.  I'm expecting him to charge hard in the stretch.  With a case like Flat Out, it's all about price.  If he goes off at 5-2, you probably should view him with a pessimistic eye.  If he is 4-1 or higher, you can gamble on his good last race. I'm hoping he goes off at 4-1 or higher. 

Like Flat Out, #5 TIZWAY has had terrible problems with his feet.  He boasts a record of 7-3-0-3 since trainer H. James Bond outfitted Tizway with glue-on shoes and Tizway put up a big figure in his most recent race, beating two next-out winners in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at one mile.  I am a bit skeptical of Tizway's 113 Beyer as he raced on the pace over a track that seemed to favor speed.  Also, Tizway might be more comfortable at slightly shorter distances than this nine furlongs.  On his best day, however, he puts up good figures and he was fourth in last year's Whitney before finishing third in the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont (while perhaps battling his feet).  Tizway should be up close to the pace and could get the jump on some of the main contenders.  In a division full of question marks, a handicapper has to gamble on some horses with obvious question marks.  Again, it all comes down to price.  If Tizway takes a ton of betting support, I will take a contrarian view.  If he doesn't take a good amount of money, I will take a contrarian view.  Again, I'm hoping he stays a reasonable price.

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I WON'T LET HIM KNOCK ME OUT OF THE PICK 4 (A busy 'B')

#2 FRIEND OR FOE, a hulking New York-bred, has never won around two turns, but the lightly-raced 4-year-old has put up three straight triple-digit Beyers and might be coming into his own for John Kimmel.  He overcame a five-month layoff to beat RAIL TRIP in a game performance in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont and is tactical enough to work out a good trip from his inside post. 


THEY CAN CERTAINLY BEAT ME, BUT IF THEY BEAT ME, THEY BEAT ME.

Draw a line through #3 MORNING LINE's most recent start.  The fifth-place finish in the Salvator Mile at Monmouth (against two next-out winners) was his first race since missing the Met Mile with a tender left front foot and looked like a prep for the Whitney.  Morning Line is wonderfully versatile.  He won the Pennsylvania Derby at this nine-furlong distance last year at three and turned back to take the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at seven furlongs earlier this season.  He should be forwardly-placed under John Velazquez and is yet another that can't be counted out on his best day.

I am the President of the "GIANT OAK" fan club, but even I am frustrated by his lack of consistency.  After he won the Donn Handicap earlier this year, I wanted to believe that Giant Oak had "grown up" and had left his quirky hanging tendencies behind him.  Since the Donn, Giant Oak has lost three times with Beyers all fewer than 100.  A confirmed late-runner, Giant Oak should get plenty of pace to run at, but he's just not dependable enough for me to use in the win slot.  A horse like Giant Oak needs all the breaks from a pace and trip standpoint.  He'll get pace help.  Will he get the trip?  And does he have the class to overcome even the slightest bit of trouble?  We'll find out later this afternoon.

Todd Pletcher has done a wonderful job with #6 MISSION IMPAZIBLE.  After finishing ninth in last year's Kentucky Derby, Mission Impazible underwent knee surgery and was out for the remainder of the season.  In 2011, Mission Impazible has come back dealing, winning the Grade 2 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds while just missing by less than a length in two other races.  I needed him in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap last time out, and he ran a good race, but was run down late by 36-1 Pool Play.  In the Foster, Mission Impazible finished ahead of four of today's opponents (and two next-out winners).  He has tactical speed, goes out for a red-hot barn, and shouldn't be ignored.

#7 RAIL TRIP, like Flat Out and Tizway, has had horrific issues with his feet throughout his career.  A classy Grade 1 winner over the synthetic surfaces in Southern California, Rail Trip has yet to win on dirt and has raced with aluminum pads in his last two races.  Last time out, in the Easy Goer, it seemed that trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. finally got Rail Trip right as he did all the running in his first start following an eight-month layoff.  He held gamely in the stretch when Friend Or Foe came calling, losing by a dirty head in quick time.  This is an obviously talented racehorse and he doesn't need the lead to win.  If he remains at his morning line odds of 12-1, he is most interesting.

#8 HEADACHE, claimed for $25,000 in 2009 by Michael Maker, may be the outsider of the group.  As an outsider, he doesn't look bad on paper, winning his last two races by a combined 10 lengths.  He took the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap last time out by rallying from well off the pace.  That field didn't look extremely strong, however, and Headache is going to have to get all the breaks against these tougher opponents.

#9 RODMAN showed the value of, well, value in his last two races.  He was second at 36-1 odds in the Met Mile in a good performance before being way overbet to even-money in the Suburban.  He didn't run poorly in the Suburban as he bobbled at the break before rushing up to set the pace, but was no match for Flat Out when the real running began.  Rodman is 2-2 at Saratoga and makes the important third start of the form cycle.  I won't argue with anyone that uses him for this go-around as he'll be closer to 36-1 than even-money.

#10 APART may not be his former stable mate, Blame, but he's put up three straight triple-digit Beyers for trainer Al Stall.  I must admit that I've never been a big fan of Apart, however.  He changed back to his wrong lead late against Mission Impazible in the New Orleans Handicap before winning a slow renewal of the Schaefer Memorial at Pimlico.  He ran well in the Foster, but couldn't get by Mission Impazible yet again.  I wouldn't touch Apart if he goes off at his morning line odds of 6-1, but feel that he'll drift.

#11 DUKE OF MISCHIEF is an in-and-outer that would move way up on a sloppy track (3-4 on the slop, 3-15 on fast).  He may have moved too early when fourth in the Foster and looked good going three turns in the Charles Town Classic two starts back.  He really hasn't run a bad race this year, but will have to work out a trip from a tough outside post position.

It's a wonderful race.  Is Flat Out better around one-turn?  Does Tizway want to go this far?  How are Rail Trip’s feet?  Those are only some of the questions surrounding this year's Whitney.  For HandiGambling, I'm keeping it simple.

$100 Win - Flat Out (1)

Best of luck to all:

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Mike Beer and I were joined by Harvey Pack for the Saratoga Pick 4 preview.  Please take a look at that, and other videos, at the following links:

http://www.drf.com/news/del-mar-switch-aims-stay-close-clement-hirsch-stakes

http://www.drf.com/events/saratoga-whitney-handicap

http://www.drf.com/events/west-virginia-derby-mountaineer-race-track

Enjoy a weekend of top racing!