04/13/2010 6:20PM

HG 181 (KEE turf sprint)

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Wednesday's HandiGambling 181 exercise is the eighth race from Keeneland, a 'n2x' allowance for older horses going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. 

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.  Please post your plays and analysis to the blog. In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference.  One entry per person please.  I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.

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.

Since I'm posting this the night before due to "double secret work detail," there are no program changes at this time.

I was going to pick AFFIRMATIF (#4) in last Saturday's Shakertown at Keeneland, but trainer Todd Pletcher opted for this much-weaker spot, and Affirmatif very much looks like the horse to beat.  After earning a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in his career debut going a mile on turf at Gulfstream last year, Affirmatif had to be considered an underachieving disappintment for much of his 2009 campaign.  Sure, he earned Beyer Speed Figures of 90 or over in five of his seven starts, but he wasn't visually impressive in many of his races, and bombed at odds of 7-2 or less on four occasions. 
Affirmatif was a hulking horse at three, prone to bouts of inexperienced behavior on the racetrack.  He's been away for seven months and it's possible that he needed the time for his mind to catch up with his body.  The very helpful "Keeneland Clocker Report" on the Keeneland website noted that Affirmatif "was going well on own in splits of 23.3 - 47.3" for the April 8 drill. 
Andy Serling mentioned in the drfplus video for the Shakertown that Pletcher is only 1-19 over the past five years with turf sprinters returning from similar layoffs.

Affirmatif should be tough despite the layoff, but he figures around 6-5 or shorter at post time.  In an attempt to improve his price potential, I'll go fishing for a couple of others to complete the exacta. 
It's possible that this CONNECTICUT YANKEE (#6) was in King Arthur's Court as he hasn't visited the starter in over a year.  Although only 1-9 on dirt, Connecticut Yankee did win his maiden on polytrack at Keeneland in 2008, and wasn't disgraced (career-best speed figure) in his lone turf start to date.  That day, October 24, 2008, he chased three-time stakes-winner English Colony in that one's gate-to-wire gambit.  Both of his lifetime wins have come following layoff lines (albeit none of this length), and Connecticut Yankee may show fresh speed in a turf sprint that, surprisingly, doesn't boast a ton of early lick.   Boy, I'm hoping that WHITLEY (#2) isn't using this turf sprint off the layoff as merely a prep for something longer.  It seemed like that was the plan last June at Churchill Downs when he finished seventh of nine in a five-furlong, entry-level allowance only to return a month later to finish a decent third going long at Saratoga.  Whitley may be compromised by the expected moderate fractions, but he's run some good races on the grass in his career.  If Robby Albarado can get him moving at the right time, Whitley can get a piece of this.  For the March 28 workout, the Keeneland Clocker Report noted that he "came home nicely for a last quarter in 24."  The April 3 workout, while quicker on the clock, may not be as promising. It was reported that Whitley finished two length's behind Cauy's Humor, a four-year-old filly that won her debut here last spring and hasn't raced since.  Another possible negative - trainer Rusty Arnold is only 1 for his last 37 with turf sprinters.   If Affirmatif isn't ready to fire, then EVACUATION ROUTE (#1) may be the best one to capitalize.  A lightly-raced gelding, he raced in excellent form at the Fair Grounds this winter, and will now make the third start of the form cycle with improving speed figures on display.  Only two horses have returned from the March 22 race that Evacuation Route won at Fair Grounds.  One finished second in an entry-level allowance over Woodbine's polytrack with an 84 Beyer while the other won an entry-level optional claimer on dirt at Oaklawn with an 85.  Both are trained by Steve Asmussen.  Evacuation Route figures to run well here.
KNOCK OUT CAT (#3) figures to be on or near the lead and his career-best "fig" came in his lone start on turf (of the eight horses to return from that race, seven hit the board next-out).  That race was over a year, and three trainers, ago and Knock Out Cat hasn't beaten the count of ten in his last three races.  

SPANISH BARON (#5) hasn't been out since winning an entry-level optional claimer over Arlington's polytrack in August.  The second-, third, and fourth-place finishers that afternoon (including Stephen Taylor's recent claim, Galloping Gulch) all returned to run second next-out.  Note that trainer Andrew McKeever is 0 for his last 23 with horses returning from similar layoffs. 

CUBAN MISSILE (#7) has speed, but one has to wonder if he's better on synthetic surfaces than he is on the grass.  He hasn't been out since October and he tired badly (at longer distances) in both previous grass outings.  Expect him to be close to the pace in this spot despite turning back in distance, and in his most recent start, he finished ahead of Successful Mission (88 Beyer next-out in a turf sprint).  Trainer Doug Matthews is 0-16 over the past five years going synthetic to turf. 

CLAPHAM (#8) won a similar turf sprint over yielding Keeneland sod during the fall meet, but was beaten double-digits in his subsequent three outings, and has been away since early January.  He has a hint of early speed and has been facing some tough optional claimers over Turfway's polytrack in recent starts. 

FRANKS PROSPECTER (#9) looks up against it for his turf debut.  He exits an Ohio-bred 'n2L' win at Beulah, but is still looking for his first Beyer of 55 or higher in his 16th lifetime start.  Two of the four horses he beat on March 23 returned to finish seventh...with a best Beyer of 35.    Here's how I'll play it:   $50 Exacta - Affirmatif - Connecticut Yankee (4-6)
$50 Exacta - Affirmatif - Whitley (4-2)   Best of luck to all!
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Blackstone, My post about old Fred reminded me of something he told me that goes back to your place betting ? of a couple weeks ago. He said "learn to handicap then bet 3% of your bankroll to win 6% to place and 9% to show but never more than $500 and watch your bankroll grow" I never tried it. I was young then and my bankroll was 100% of pocket! I'm sure you could test that thought on paper and see what the results might be. If you do let me know what kind of results you get. Good luck in your qualifier.
vicstu More than 1 year ago
Rachel Alexandra worked a bullet 6f in 1:11.40 at CD, in impressive fashion, galloping out to 7f in 1:24.10. That, even for RA, is an outstanding 6f work. Looks to me like her third work at CD is the charmer, and she seems tightened and conditioned and training like she used to last year... It's time for RA to race, and for Jackson to put up or shut up because this mare is ready to go... http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/56533/rachel-alexandra-in-fast-six-furlong-workout
vicstu More than 1 year ago
blackstone, The synthetic to turf bounce I erroneously assumed was looming over every post I did about any of the Cal contingent, especially SC. Suffice it to say that wire to wires do not happen as often on synthetics as dirt, and Sid seems to be taking to the dirt just fine (his pedigree is strong in that area as well). ProRide is not your typical synthetic, however, but as Steve T has stressed, the top class Cal runners have (as a group) all benefitted from this phenomena (synthetic to dirt). In addition to the Cal contingent, there are a few runners training on it until this week (Endorsement is an obvious example). However, the Cal contingent has lived on the stuff for months and months now, and seem to enjoy a conditioning edge (in addition to your synthetic to dirt jump). There are some who also note that BSFs seem to be about 4-6 points too low for synthetics, which highlights the jump when made to dirt. PMM is deeper than the surface at either GP or CD, and some trainers believe it provides conditioning and lower stress as well. Of course, not every horse will jump. But many of the top Cal runners are making it obvious that it is the rule, and not the exception, this year concerning this "jump".
vicstu More than 1 year ago
Steve T, Excellent post on the nuances and paradoxes of horse breeding. I agree with you about the questionable practice of repeat breeding to sires with multiple examples of soundness issues. It comes down to 2 things, usually: speed and money. The quickest way to turn a buck and break a maiden is to have a young horse with breakneck speed. Rack up a few graded stakes at 1 turn and retire young; injured, of course. It's always about speed and money, it seems.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
C, 50% nothing that you said, just a comment on how percentages & probabilities work
Van Savant More than 1 year ago
c; Thanks for your reply. I knew that you would disagree with me completely on the Baffert/blinkers escapade. My belief is strong, but I also need to see it challenged. My friends simply nod their heads at me, and that doesn't do me any good. I doubt I come down from that ledge, but understanding your counterpoint is good for my thinking. When I change the way I look at things, sometimes things change, so thanks as always.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Laura, one of my hobbies is checking out the pedigrees of powerful people. GWB has multiple occurrances of the Rassmussen factor in his tree.(not joking)
Midwest Ed More than 1 year ago
KEE 4/17 I am interested in three races tomorrow R#5 (7F, 3 yo, F, MDN $50K) It is no secret that Unbridle’s have done well at KEE. There are several to choose from in here. The one I think rises above the rest is #10 Persuading, a FTS for Romans. He shows 5 five furlong works. I think he will excel at the distance. I am also interested in #2 The Child Empress. I know nothing about the trainer (Santos – have heard he has not had much success), but he not only has a 5 F work in :45 (it was seven days ago so I think he will be sufficiently recovered), he also sports a 6 F work (also a bullet). I will definitely be watching him in before the race. He has also attracted Kent D. Worth a look – maybe the horse wins in spite of the trainer. The Play – straight wagers on #2 (6-1 or better) and/or #10 (6/1 or better) R#8 (5.5 F, 3 & up, F/M, Stakes - $100K) I like supers in 8-horse fields. If you have a strong opinion for the win spot, you can create an economical ticket (under $15 for $0.10 combinations) and only have to eliminate two runners in the end. I am willing to let #2 Valentine Fever and #5 Life Lessons kill my tickets. The problem is, the two I like for the win spot will only win if all the speeds fail. #7 West Ocean is a legit favorite in my view, and the #4 Kiddari could blow up the tote if the race falls apart. I just cannot figure this race out so I think the best strategy is to play the race as a double with a strong opinion I have in R#9. The Play – (just for kicks as I doubt I will play this wager) $0.10 super: #4, #6, #7, w/ same plus #1, #8 w/ same plus #3 w/ same (total cost - $14.40) R#9 (Lexington) I am going to play against #1 (really scares me), #2 (sentimental favorite; still, I think it is a bad bet), #3 (dangerous to go against Salder but I will), #6 (play against closers that have not displayed quality class yet), #8 (they will not let him dominate on the front end again, will they?), #9 (in deep here), #11 (sorry 10cent, I am willing to let him beat me again), and #12 (I do not trust him at the distance). That leaves four others. While I like the J/T combo on #5 Call Shot and think the horse is good, I think he is better suited around one turn. I feel #10 Connemara is the one to beat (a closer with proven quality/class), but would he be here if he was really a top true KD/TC contender? My strong opinion for the win is actually two horses at 12/1 on the M/L – #4 Bushwacked (only a maiden winner, but like his progression; think he keeps improving) and #7 Lonesome Street (three races already at the distance; seems poised to win). The Play – R#8 DD #1, #3, #4, #6, #7, #8 w/ #4, #7 Good luck tomorrow. Midwest Ed
Alan More than 1 year ago
Dan, Fantastic job with Mikey on this weekend's stakes videos, especially your "lengthy analysis" of the Lexington! Don't tell Andy (I think he's got a jealous streak), but you and Mike have developed a great chemistry! Besides, I also like some of your (actually mostly Mike's) picks, especially Bushwacked tomorrow. Tinky and CM, There is an article in this week's Bloodhorse about Wilburn, that $625k son of Bernardini just sold at the Keeneland April auction. FWIW, the 2yo was described very positively by vet Gary Lavin. Annie, I'm starting to get a feeling that I was premature in my post-race assessment of the Blue Grass...and that I may actually own (via your sale) this year's Derby winner...
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Mike A, yeah another pescador. this blog keeps getting better and better. I don't know anywhere else that I can talk/write about my two favorite things in the same place. Curt V. glad we could agree on something LOL