03/17/2010 4:14PM

HG 177 (SA turf)

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Today's HandiGambling 177 exercise is the sixth race from Santa Anita, an entry-level allowance race for older runners at one mile on the 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 scratches.  Please note that #5 LUCKY PRIMO and #11 SHEDIAK have been gelded since their last races.

This looks like a wild-and-wooly edition of HandiGambling with a little something for everyone in this competitive allowance. 

#9 CONCERTO'S THUNDER looks like a pack horse.  He's only 1-23 lifetime with seven second-place finishes, runs to the level of competition (note close-up efforts at this level and against weaker conditioned claimers), and lacks a powerful stretch kick.  He loses Rafael Bejarano after a no-excuse fourth against $32,000 claimers that had previously not won a race since February 1, 2009, and his only win came on synthetic on November 29, 2008. Note that none of the six horses to run back from the February 13 race were able to hit the board.

I like him.

That should put the final nail in the coffin for his chances but there may be a good pace for him to attack.  Both #2 HEAVENLY WIND and #4 HIDDEN BLESSING have speed and it's quite possible that Martin Garcia will place Concerto's Thunder in a nice tracking position just behind the early leaders. 
Also, Concerto's Thunder seems to run well in his second start following a layoff line.  Note the second-place finish on May 26, 2008 (88 Beyer), the nine-point Beyer improvement on February 20, 2009 and the 16-point Beyer improvement on November 14, 2009 - all coming in the second start back.

Bruno De Julio, the crack workout analyst for Today's Racing Digest (available on drf.com - Shameless Plug #1), liked Concerto's Thunder's workout at Hollywood on March 8.  Bruno noted that he "finished in full stride late and looked OK for O'Neill.  Went in hand and finished without being asked much." 

On the other hoof, with past performances like the ones Concerto's Thunder is sporting, it's probably best not to judge him on morning workouts.  He could be the ultimate "morning glory."

He's a high-risk play but could get the right setup.

Heavenly Wind, the runner-up in the cleverly-named Last Chance Derby for three-year-olds at Turf Paradise on December 29, was thrown to the wolves in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on February 13.  This is obviously a much-easier spot in the second start of the form cycle, but a pace-battle may be forthcoming. 
The sire's dam, Heart of Joy, was a good turf runner and the second dam on the female side won first-out on the grass so there is some pedigree here.  Turning back to a mile should help and the removal of blinkers may allow him to settle better in the early going.  If the pace is moderate, he has a decent chance.

#6 NORVSKY is the one I fear most.  He defeated a pair of next-out winners in his most recent appearance (runner-up Top Feeling earned a 90 Beyer for his chalky four-length score), is lightly-raced with perhaps some upside, and should get the right pace scenario.  He seems like a very nice fit in this spot.

#7 WORTH REPEATING was no match for the talented Red Sun going down the hill on January 30 (that one came back to win his fourth straight in an open 'two-other than' optional claimer on Pro-Ride), but he's certainly bred to handle this added distance.  Garrett Gomez may have Worth Repeating in a good stalking spot down the backstretch, and the Giant's Causeway colt is not without a chance. 

#1 BRING IT HOME goes second off the bench for a "live" barn and could work out a nice ground-saving trip from the inside post.  For the March 10 workout, Bruno notes that Bring It Home "moved well throughout while never being asked.  Found best stride in the lane to finish in 24 3/5."  I'm not sure if he comes out of the strongest race in the world but Bring It Home is pretty consistent.  He's not out of this tough heat by a longshot.

Hidden Blessing figures to show improved speed after a pair of sprint tries going down the hill and he was right up on the lead in his three previous route races.  For the March 11 workout, Bruno mentions that Hidden Blessing "matched strides with 0-8 MDN Special competitor, Molly Peaches.  Finished up all square in well matched team drill.  Still appeared capable of more if asked."  This one's lone victory came when shaking loose through slow fractions.  With Heavenly Wind in the field, the pace situation may be very different.

#10 TAMARACK SMARTY outkicked Norvsky to won on January 30 and he shows some nice class lines, finishing close to the likes of Compari, The Usual Q. T., and Red Sun.  Like Norvsky, it's possible that we haven't seen his best race yet and he looms a logical late-running contender.

#3 CAT BRULAY wheels back on only 11 days rest, a pretty notable sign for a six-year-old with only 11 starts on his resume.  Perhaps he's finally feeling good for his second start of the form cycle, but the $750,000 yearling purchase has to be considered a monumental bust.  Neko Bay's younger brother loses Go-Go to Worth Repeating.

#8 EGYPT responded first-off the Hector Palma claim with a victory, but he steps way up in class following that 'n2L' race, and there are some gaps in this work tab.  None of the six horses to come out of the last race returned to win in selling races. 

#11 SHEDIAK was Group 1-placed as a two-year-old in Europe, but he's more famous in North America for appearing as "Rank Horse" in the TRIP HANDICAPPING DVD (available on drf.com - Shameless Plug #2).  After that poor effort in the 2008 San Felipe, Shediak reportedly underwent surgery to insert two screws into an ankle.  He hasn't done much since returning to the races, but did make a premature move into a slow pace last time out, and now sports the "Ultimate" equipment change.  This is a tough post for him and he needs to do more if he is to beat this solid group.

What to do with #5 LUCKY PRIMO?  The multiple stakes-winner hasn't raced since 2008 and returns as a gelding for his turf debut.  The sire, Atticus, was a good grass horse, but the dam went 0-4 on the weeds.  One would think that he'll need a race following the long absence, but Bruno thinks he's been working well for this engagement.  For the March 8 workout, he noted that Lucky Primo "worked late in the morning and went very well from the outset coming home the final furlong in 12.0 flat.  Not raced since Oct 08 when won Cal Cup Juvenile locally going longer.  Drills for return have been excellent."  Lucky Primo is the perfect example of price being a key variable.  If he's short on the board, you may want to let him beat you.  If he drifts in the wagering, he becomes more attractive.

Not much confidence, but I'll take a shot with $50 WP - Concerto's Thunder - #9

Best of luck to all.