02/25/2010 2:15PM

HG 174, Derby Futures

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Today's HandiGambling 174 exercise is the seventh race from Gulfstream, a $100,000 optional claimer for older runners at nine furlongs on the grass. 

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.

The turf course is currently rated GOOD. 
Let's SCRATCH #5 HUNTING and #8 STAYING ON
The track feed shows both #2 NOWNOWNOW and #3 WESLEY as racing with BLINKERS OFF

Quite a competitive and puzzling affair. 

I thought WESLEY would have a good year in 2009 after capturing the Grade 3 Miami Mile Handicap in his first start with blinkers, but he floundered in his last three races of the season, and was finally put away in early summer.  He faced some of the better horses in the division (Justenuffhumor, Presious Passion, Gio Ponti) while running in such races as the Grade 1 United Nations and Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap.  He simply isn't as good as those runners but this drop in class should hit him between the eyes. 
As a late runner, he'll need some pace to help his kick, and #4 MARQUET CAT and #7 WHEELS UP AT NOON both like to hear their feet rattle up front.  I am concerned about the layoff as well as the wet going, but Wesley has shown some flashes in his career, and he ran well off the bench to kick off his 2009 campaign over this course.  I'll give him a tepid nod.

MARQUET CAT won two of his last three races in front-running style and he looms the main speed once again this afternoon.  This is a pretty big step up in class as the runner-up at Tampa last time, Stepaside, is a New York-bred riding an 8-race losing streak, and couldn't win a $16,000 claimer last fall at Aqueduct.  Still, "pace makes the race," and the in-form speed should offer a healthy mutuel. 

#1 GRAND CASH will face older horses for the first time as the newly-turned 4-year-old makes his return from a four-month respite.  Unlike WESLEY and MARQUET CAT, he shows established form on turf with a little "give" to it, and the pace should be suitable for his late-running needs.  He enjoyed very good trips when winning the American Dreamer three back, and finishing second in the Grade 3 Calder Derby last time out, and one has to wonder if trainer David Vivian will have him completely fit for this optional claimer.  With a little improvement, he can get into the number.

I've always been a NOWNOWNOW fan and it's interesting that he'll run with Blinkers Off.  He'll make the third start of the layoff, but while the last two races were tough, I couldn't find too many excuses for Nownownow.  The San Pasqual looks like a slow race and he didn't do anything in the San Antonio.  Perhaps switching back to grass will help, but he's going to take his share of money off reputation (initial Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner with seven straight graded races on display), and may not be worth the short price.  We know he likes a wet turf course so that certainly works to his favor.  He's hard to leave out. 

WHEELS UP AT NOON may have been a bit too close to some hot fractions last time out, but he may be caught between a rock and a hard place today.  He probably will be sitting behind MARQUET CAT heading down the backstretch, and that's where the quandry begins.  If he goes with that one, a speed duel could harm his chances.  If he allows Marquet Cat to set an easy lead, will he be able to rally from off it?  Occasionally, he runs a big race, but he's never run back to that 102 Beyer at Delaware, a race in which he drifted out noticeably in the stretch. 

#6 DANAK, a Group 3 winner over firm going in Ireland, reportedly suffered a muscle injury when fourth in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup.  He raced only three times after that race before being vanned off the track when favored in the Fourstardave Handicap on August 3, 2008.  He reportedly suffered only cuts to his legs in that race, but was off for more than a year, and hasn't done much in his two most recent races.  He has to show more before I get very enthused.

Tough race.  I'm not expecting much, but I'll play it like this for HG:

$40 Exacta - Wesley over Grand Cash (3/1)

$40 Exacta - Wesley over Marquet Cat (3/4)

$20 Exacta - Wesley over Nownownow (3/2)

Best of luck to all.

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