03/10/2010 4:50PM

HG 176 (SA downhill)

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Today's HandiGambling 176 exercise is the seventh race from Santa Anita, a $50,000 claiming race for older horses going 6 1/2 furlongs over the downhill turf course.

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, there are no program changes.

A tough, tough, tough race, and I'll merely take a stab for HandiGambling.

I got an opportunity to watch some of #3 GIGANTICUS' races from Europe and didn't think he was bad at all in the Buckingham Palace Handicap on June 19 and the Challenge Cup on September 26.  Both of those races were at Ascot so perhaps he's a horse for course, but I can make some excuses for his two nondescript runs in North America.
Off the layoff, he was thrown to the wolves in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap going long on Pro-Ride, and was no match for Dubai World Cup-bound Richard's Kid.  Then, wheeled back off only eight days rest, he was simply outrun when turned back two and one-half furlongs. 
It is very interesting that the seven-year-old gelding was claimed out of that race by Jack Carava, and Garrett Gomez now takes the call. 
Bruno De Julio, in his workout report from Today's Racing Digest (available on drf.com) noted that GIGANTICUS "traveled unhurried for duration of the drill and came home with some interest in 12 1/5" for the March 2 half-mile move. 
A seven-furlong specialist in Europe, Giganticus has now had a taste of the tricky downhill course and can improve a bit in the third start of the form cycle.  Hopefully, he'll get some speed to adequately setup his late kick at a nice price.

Thought that #8 LEEDSWAY handled the downhill wonderfully in his first try over the course on February 14.  He made an easy lead that day, however, and may have to sit with horses like #2 HEWITTS drawn to his inside.  This four-year-old will face older horses after beating peers-only company on Valentine's Day, but can't be counted out considering his sharp form.  Of the three horses to return from the last race, two placed for a $32,000 tag. 

Australian invader #6 HEY ELVIS was listed as a vet scratch on February 15, but the Mike Mitchell-trained import shows some interesting workouts leading up to his North American debut.  On February 22, his workout time matched Mitchell's Jehan, a runner that returned to win a 'n2x' race on Pro-Ride on February 28 with a 90 Beyer Speed Figure.  The March 1 workout matched that of Wicked Mischief, a Mitchell-trained runner that owns an 86 Beyer top. 
The official clocking for the March 1 workout was five furlongs in 1:01 4/5, but Bruno has him down for a "short drill with long gallop out for Mitchell.  Went in 24.4, 36.3 and 49.3.  Galloped out in 1:03." 
Hey Elvis was good enough to finish a nose shy of being a Group 2 winner Down Under and you really have to respect this barn.  According to Formulator Web, Mitchell is 4-11 (36%, $3.96 ROI) over the past five years with first-time imports.  All four of those winners were returning from layoffs between 154 and 296 days.

#7 NOBLETY beat Giganticus last time out and the five-year-old has really blossomed since coming under the tutelage of trainer Eric Kruljac.  Noblety has won three of four starts for Kruljac and has the look of a down-the-hill specialist. 
For the March 5 workout, Bruno noted that Noblety was "eased away from the half and was never asked at any point.  Finished up under a stranglehold to earn the designation of breezing."  Noblety seems in sharp form and his good tactical speed should work well for him once again.  Note that the runner-up of the February 15 race, Swift Winds, came back to finish third, with an 88 Beyer, in the Crystal Water Handicap on February 28.  This one belongs in multi-race wagers.

#5 PERFECT CASTING only ran twice in 2009 and was the beaten favorite behind #9 SHADOW OF ILLINOIS at Hollywood on November 13.  The drop in class should help this gelding but he seems like an in-and-outer that has been plagued by layoff lines.  He can contend on his best day. 

#1 ROB BOB AND DAVE was no match for Shadow of Illinois in his last two starts of 2009 and he also finished behind Noblety in his 2009 debut.  A lightly-raced six-year-old, Ron Bob and Dave switches to Rafael Bejarano and has enough speed to find a good tracking spot entering the turn. 
Bruno liked the February 25 workout as Ron Bob and Dave "went nice and even early from the gate and then exploded late and finished up strong."  This gelding has run well fresh in the past.

#2 HEWITTS earned stakes-placed status in 2008 with a close third-place finish in the Impressive Luck Handicap going down the hill, but he hasn't been very consistent.  After winning three of his first four career starts, Hewitts reportedly got sick and has only won one of his last 12 tries. 
He's capable of some improvement as he drops out of four stakes tries and Bruno liked his most recent workout.  On March 5, Hewitts "moved easily throughout while never being asked.  Finished up in hand under a strong hold in 24 1/5." 
Still, it will be interesting to see how he responds in his first start since June. 

The sentimental favorite is Shadow of Illinois, who will attempt to reach the winner's circle at the ripe old age of ten.  Shadow of Illinois received a great ride from Alex Solis en route to a perfect trip score at Hollywood three back, but his first two races this year were subpar.  He drops in class for his third start back and can work out a nice stalking trip from the outside post.
Bruno noted that he "just galloped for the most part on the grass" on March 3.  "Never asked for anything.  Looked comfortable on the local lawn and should improve with the drop in class."

#4 T. D. VANCE won the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga in 2005 and he successfully returned from an almost two-year layoff to win both of his starts in 2009.  He didn't make up much ground last time out in his first try down the hill and still must prove that he likes this course. 

A race that I won't do much with in real life.  I'll take a shot with Giganticus.

$50 WP Giganticus (#3)

Best of luck to all.

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Dan, I have a question for you oh holder of the keys to the maiden kingdom - how do you approach the "continuation school" maiden races? Take a look at the first race at Santa Anita yesterday (03-04-2010). First time 5 and 6 year old starters, a bunch of high dollar sales types, and some coming off multi-year layoffs. I guessed correctly with Beau Smoke, but felt it was nigh on impossible to work any exotic on that train wreck. It is a spot where I really scrutinize the works and the trainer stats. And how do you project second and third start progression possibilities for 5/6 year olds? Kind of the universal axiom is that 5 and 6 year olds are probably as good as they are going to get (even harder if you have a debut from two years ago when they were 3, and now they show back up at 5). Is there anything else you look for?
Steve T.

These kind of maiden races are very interesting.  Older first-time starters and horses returning from elongated layoffs are usually terrible plays as they have likely had physical issues that have kept them on the sidelines. 
Likewise, auction prices can't be trusted.  It doesn't matter whether a horse sold for $180,000 or $1.8M, his or her proper level, after being exposed several times, is the claiming price for which he or she is entered this afternoon.  We can't predict potential or improvement from auction prices in these scenarios. 
Also, it may be foolish to attempt to predict Beyer improvement from five or six-year-old maidens.  With younger horses, it isn't out of the realm of possibility to see them jump up five to ten points a race.  But older horses?  What more do they have to offer?  Usually, what you see is what you get with these campaigners. 
Funnily enough, these races are often formful.  It's often the case of "every horse has his day."  Beau Smoke finally found a field he could bully and ran to his recent numbers, numbers that gave him a big advantage over the rest of the field.
I like to look for in-form speed horses in these kind of races as most of the older maidens have either proved unwilling, or unable, to pass when the money is on the line.  The Moss Pace Figures for the race in question identified the three horses that battled for the early lead.  On form, Beau Smoke towered over the other two and he capitalized at a short price. 

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Dan,
I love Big Cap day, even if it isn't the best field ever.  Can you post PPs for some of my favorite Big Cap winners: Quicken Tree, Vigors, Affirmed & Best Pal?  Thanks Dan
Dan B.

Unfortunately, the system doesn't have Quicken Tree's past performances, but here are the others you requested:

Download Vigors

Download Affirmed

Download BestPal

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Horatius had one of the most unique running styles ever - his head would go so low that his nose was literally inches off the ground as he ran. He was versatile running long on dirt and turf (finishing ahead of John Henry once)yet sired champion sprinter Safely Kept.  Dan if you could give us his lifetime PP's it would be greatly appreciated.
dk

Here's what I have for Horatius:

Download Horatius

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Hi Dan,
I have read that Japanese champion mare Vodka have been retired after suffered a nose bleed when she was unplaced in a prep race in Meydan before the World Cup where she was expected to take part. Could you please post her pps? thank your in advance!
Jose Iglesias Garcia

Vodka will now be bred to Sea the Stars.  Here are her past performances:

Download Vodka

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Here are the latest Kentucky Derby Future Odds from Lucky's Las Vegas:

Download 2010 Kentucky Derby Futures 0308

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More next time.

Cheers,

Dan