02/03/2010 2:17PM

HG 171 (Off The Turf)

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This week's HandiGambling 171 exercise is the eighth race from Gulfstream Park, a $62,500 optional claimer with 'n2x' conditions for older runners at ten furlongs on the main track.

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.  This race has been taken off the turf.  Let's scratch Royal Challenger (#1), Ordination (#2), Silver Mountain (#4), Andhaar (#6), Mr. Universo (#7), and Memorial Maniac (#8).

That leaves us with an unappetizing group of four. 

Headache (#10) has four wins on fast dirt.  The rest of the field combined boasts one win on a quick main track.  I think it's safe to draw a line through Headache's poor recent running line.  In that one-turn mile, Headacke was checked hard leaving the chute, and raced down inside where he was checked again entering the turn.  Understandably, Julien Leparoux didn't beat up on his gray mount as he was hopelessly beaten over the speed-favoring surface turning for home.  An interesting reclaim (Headacke was originally purchased at public auction for $85,000 by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsay, lost him for $20,000 at Saratoga, and immediately took him back for $25,000 at Belmont), Headache figures to be tracking expected pacesetter Gabriel's Hill (#3).  The distance is the main concern.  Headache has won at 1 1/16 miles, and his sire won the Wood Memorial at nine furlongs, but the unraced dam's most accomplished runner to date was multiple stakes-placed sprinting.  The second dam, Del Mar Debutante winner La Spia, was best up to a mile.  Headache looks good on paper, but the distance does provide some worries.

Gabriel's Hill should handle the distance without a problem.  A son of Breeders' Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy out of Flower Bowl winner Lailani, Gabriel's Hill already boasts two victories at nine furlongs.  A Darley castoff privately purchased by Haras Cotacachi of Ecuador after a third-place finish at Golden Gate, Gabriel's Hill shipped to South America where he promptly broke a nine-furlong track record in his sole South American race.

To view Gabriel's Hill's run in Ecuador, follow the link below, and click on the upper left hand box:

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.revistalafija.com/ediciones%2520anteriores/reuni%25C3%25B3n28_agos2...html&ei=Gq5pS_6NG4_BlAechuGICA&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CA0Q7gEwAA&prev=/search%3Fq%3D%2522gabriel%2527s%2BHill%2522%2B%252B%2Bclasico%2Bfundacion%2Bde%2Bguay%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:*:IE-SearchBox%26rlz%3D1I7RNWN%26sa%3DN

Expect Gabriel's Hill to try and control this race from the get-go ala his race in Ecuador.  He looks like the horse to beat.

Cat 'n Fiddle (#9) shouldn't be counted out following a runner-up effort in an off-the-turf race at this distance on January 17.  It should be noted, however, that he is racing above his conditions here as he is still eligible for a 'n2L' race.  Cat' n Fiddle doesn't have much speed and may have to get into the race earlier lest he be left with too much to do when the real running begins.

New Fandan (#5) won the John Henry Stakes over 11 furlongs in October, but that race was contested over yielding turf.  He was beaten over forty lengths by the mare, Borrowing Base, in the Power Lunch Stakes on dirt at Aqueduct two back, and was beaten 18 lengths in his only other race on the main track (allowance over 12 furlongs in the mud in Brazil in 2007).  He'll take a drop in class, but is another that likes to do his running from off the pace.

A race that I won't play with real money, but for HG purposes, I'll take a leap of faith on Headache handling the distance.

$50 Exacta - Headache - Gabriel's Hill (10-3)
$50 Exacta - Headache - Cat 'n Fiddle (10-9)

Watch New Fandan beat me.

Best of luck to all.