01/13/2010 2:22PM

HG 168 (Gulfstream)

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This week's HandiGambling 168 exercise is the eighth race from Gulfstream Park, a $62,500 optional claimer with 'n2x' conditions at six furlongs for older horses. 

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. 

Past performances are available on the previous blog entry.

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 fast.  Let's scratch Post Time (#1) and Desert Key (#3):

This was a fine choice for our HandiGambling race as it looks evenly-matched and contentious.  I'd have to go five deep in multi-race wagers with these contenders:

Starship Valor (#9) looks in steep from a class perspective as he exits five starter allowance races at Calder, but he's done some good work recently, and may offer some value in a wide-open race.  
Two starts back, he earned a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure in a good-looking performance.  Although he pressed slow early fractions, the pace quickened up noticeably during the middle half of that 6 1/2 furlong event, and he stuck right to the leader.  Starship Valor professionally ran to the wire that afternoon, and although none of his four opponents came back to win next-out, two of them returned to finish second including in-form older horse Unbridled Heat (returned with 94 Beyer, then finished second in $40,000 claimer at Gulfstream on January 3).  The third-place finisher, and beaten favorite, Caixa Electronica, won this condition at Calder two tries after the October 31 heat. 

Last time out, Starship Valor received a questionable ride from Eibar Coa.  After sitting a great trip tracking dueling leaders, Starship Valor gradually began to wear down the pacesetters in midstretch.  Coa, thinking he had the race won, peeked over his right shoulder to see if anyone was charging to his outside.  Meanwhile, Possetothemax rallied up the rail, and Coa never saw him coming.  If Coa was more aggressive late, it's possible that Starship Valor wins that race, and brings a three-race streak to this dance.  In any event, Starship Valor finished ahead of a pair of next-out winners that day.

There is a good amount of speed for Starship Valor to track this afternoon and Coa may work out a sweet trip while clear of traffic.  The only two times Starship Valor finished off the board were on November 23, 2008 (on grass) and on May 31, 2009 (lost rider as the 11-10 favorite).

Formidable (#7)is simply a Gulfstream horse-for-course and, as such, he should be respected.  He won twice during last year's meeting, but is 0-9 everywhere else, and isn't the most reliable sort in the world.  He wasn't disgraced when two lengths behind Fatal Bullet over polytrack in the Grade 3 Phoenix on October 9 and he exits an ultra-key race at Aqueduct (The Fall Highweight produced four next-out winners, three in stakes races, and three with triple-digit Beyers). 

Allen Jerkens and Edgar Prado, two giants of the sport, are 0-14 as a team over the last five years, but Formidable's affinity for this track should come into play.  He fits nicely against these.

He's So Chic (#11)was favored in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector over this track last season and may prove to be a nice claim for Terri Pompay.  He's won his last three races but rode a slow early pace to victory last time out at the Meadowlands (the horse he "battled" with early, Beacon Hill Road, finished second).  He's versatile, however, and seems just as effective from a bit off the pace.  He's too sharp to ignore.

Prince Omar (#13) has won his last two starts in sharp fashion since returning from an extended layoff.  He'll likely face greater pace pressure breaking from the far outside but may simply be this good.  The $400,000 juvenile purchase may finally be living up to his potential and it's possible we haven't seen his best race yet. 

Vicarian (#8)is attempting to repeat an intriguing pattern for the very sharp Ian Wilkes.  Let's go back to January 14, 2008 in an identical $62.5K/'N2X' optional claimer over this track and trip.  Vicarian's previous race was a win at Churchill Downs in November under Calvin Borel.  Off the layoff and rider switch, Vicarian rolled to victory as the 19-10 favorite. 

Today, Vicarian is returning from a November layoff after a winning effort at Churchill Downs under Calvin Borel.  He switches to Julien Leparoux and projects for a good stalking trip behind the expected hot pace.  He did benefit from a perfect trip last time out but his best race puts him right there.

As for the others:

Bidham (#6) won here in 2009, but he added front wraps in his most recent start at Calder, and blew a big late lead.  Turning back to six furlongs may be just what the doctor ordered, but he may end up too close to very fast splits.  Note that he's 4-6 over wet tracks and 0-10 over fast going.

Don't be concerned about the "trainer change" on San Valentino(#2).  Tom Albertrani is on suspension and his horses will run in the name of his assistant, Daniel Blacker.  San Valentino has the right running style for this race and he chased some salty foes when third in the slop last out at Belmont (Pashito the Che returned to win the Gallant Bob at Philly with a 108 Beyer and the Jack Dudley Sprint at Calder with a 101 while Ju Jitsu Jax returned to win an allowance at Charles Town with a 98 Beyer). 

The main concern with San Valentino is the plethora of layoffs on his page.  He didn't race at two and only managed five starts last year with three layoff lines.  He also doesn't show a published workout in the last 16 days.  He'll have to overcome the inside post as well.

Knights Cross (#10)may be the speed of the speed and he loves the turf-to-dirt move (2-2 with that angle in his career).  I thought his fourth behind Gayego at Saratoga was better than it looks on paper as it appeared he was on the deeper part of the racetrack that day.  He has winning experience on this track but needs to avoid a protracted speed duel in order to get his picture taken.

Haps Alphabet Soup (#12)finished six lengths behind Bidham over that one's preferred sloppy going three back at Calder.  He seems to really prefer fast dirt but may be in a bit tough here from a pace and race standpoint.

Keechi Bullet (#5)won here last season, but he's looked dull in his last three starts, and was rather disappointing most recently at Philly Park.  Very forgiving handicappers will note that in those three races, he ran on wet going twice and polytrack the other time.  Perhaps getting back to fast dirt will motivate him to a better finish.

Top Echelon (#4)figures to benefit from a quick early pace, but he hasn't won since September 27, 2008 (13 in a row), and those defeats at Indiana Downs, Hoosier, and Hawthorne fail to excite.

I'll play it this way for the HandiGambling:

$55 Win - Starship Valor (9)
$20 Exacta - Formidable - Starship Valor (7-9)
$10 Exacta - He's So Chic - Starship Valor (11-9)
$10 Exacta - Prince Omar - Starship Valor (13-9)
$5 Exacta - Vicarian - Starship Valor (8-9)

Best of luck to all.

Back next time with questions, comments, pp requests, and updates on some favorite horses.

Cheers,

Dan