12/01/2011 4:25PM

HG 260 - Fair Grounds turf

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Thursday's HandiGambling 260 exercise is the eighth race at Fair Grounds, a $25,000 'n2L' claimer for three-year-olds and upward at About 1 1/16 Miles on 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.

Please separate the play from the analysis and label the play "HG" with the program numbers instead of the names of the horses.

Past performances are available at the previous blog post.

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.

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The turf course is listed as GOOD.

Let's scratch #11 MAJOR PRINCE. 

#3 IDEAL ZARB is one pound overweight.

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I'll probably pass this race.  I think there are five "win" contenders that are somewhat usable in multi-race wagers.

WIN CONTENDERS:

#2 KELLS BLUES, a $100,000 yearling that didn't pan out in New York for Jimmy Jerkens, returns to turf after bombing in an off-the-grass race at Belmont on October 20.  That was his first start following a long layoff, however, and it's possible he was a short horse that afternoon.  Kells Blues won his maiden over the Fair Grounds main track back in March in his second start of the form cycle and can improve with that poor return run under his girth.  His last two turf races weren't bad as he made a premature wide move against better two back at Keeneland (the winner of that race returned to score again, this time with a 95 Beyer, while the runner-up came back to take three in a row on turf) and was a wide second four back (first start following seven-month freshening) over this turf course.  He draws a good inside post and shouldn't be too far off the expected moderate pace.

#1 CHARLIE'S PHANTASY's lone victory came at this distance three starts back and he was making up late ground in his last two efforts, both two-turn sprints at Remington.  A lightly-raced three-year-old with some upside potential, Charlie's Phantasy drops into a claimer for the first time and goes out for an underrated barn.  He shows a quick workout in preparation for this and faced a promising runner in his most recent outing (Smokin Armadillo is 2-2 on grass, including a 73 Beyer tally in a statebred, $25,000 'n3L' claimer at Remington on November 10).  Charlie's Phantasy did enjoy a good trip in that October 21 race, however, saving ground in the pocket before angling three wide turning for home.   Like Kells Blues, he should save ground early and can't be counted out.  He fits this spot beautifully.

#10 NOLANGRANT'SKITTEN, conversely, must deal with a tough outside post position.  In his last start, a similar event at Hawthorne over yielding ground, Nolangrant'skitten was buried down on the rail before being forced very wide turning for home.  He stayed on to finish a non-threatening fifth (two of the five horses to run back from that race returned to finish second, one with a 75 Beyer) and looks well-spotted here.  He'll have to work out a trip from out there, but certainly can win, perhaps at nice odds.

#6 GROVE PARK cost $700,000 as a yearling and that just didn't work out.  A Bob Baffert castaway, Grove Park won over a "good" Fair Grounds turf course (beating Kells Blues) last meeting, but has failed to crack the trifecta in five subsequent starts against winners.  He'll put blinkers on this afternoon (he owns an 8-1-1-1 record in blinkers) and has enough tactical speed to stay close to the moderate pace.  His appeal is based on price.  The last time he raced on grass with blinkers, he was caught up in a pace duel after breaking from an impossible post (the winner of that race returned to take an 'n2x' at Keeneland while the runner-up is now stakes-placed on the grass).  If he drifts up from his 3-1 morning line, he becomes usable.  If he dips, he may not be worth the gamble.

#4 QUIET TITLE has been beaten at 5-2 odds or less in his last five races, all of them against similar at Louisiana Downs.  In his last start, Quiet Title raced three to four wide on the turn, but couldn't get to the pacesetting winner in the stretch and he hopped back to his wrong lead when discouraged in the final furlong (note that only two of the six horses to return from that race were able to crack the trifecta next-out).  From a numbers perspective, he is a contender but it is somewhat disconcerting that he hasn't sealed the deal lately.

EXOTIC FACTORS, perhaps:

#5 PLEASANT WOODMAN doesn't have much early speed and that could work against him in a race lacking pace.  He picked up some pieces late in his most recent start at Kentucky Downs (finished ahead of next-out winner Gitto, who scored in a $15,000 'n2L' claimer at Churchill Downs), but his Beyers pale in comparision to those of the top contenders and he doesn't show a published workout in over two weeks. 

#7 SPIDERMAN RIDGE is only 1-29 in his career and he's only hit the board twice from 10 starts against winners.  Like Pleasant Woodman, he doesn't have speed and would need some pace and race luck in order to threaten the top spot.  He hasn't worked nor raced in over a month. 

#8 EMPTY PAGES may be rounding into his best form going fourth following a short layoff and he takes a good drop in class after tackling 'n2x' optional claimers at Retama on November 5.  He has yet to crack the trifecta from five prior grass starts, however, and it could be argued that he's slightly better on the main track. 

OUTSIDERS:

#3 IDEAL ZARB's lone career victory from 20 starts came over this turf course and the six-year-old had a hint of trouble against Louisiana-breds on September 10.  Still, he doesn't have a great amount of speed and could be left with too much to do when the real running begins. 

#9 HANG ON TIGHT is somewhat interesting in that he could be the controlling speed following five sprint races to start his career.  Shipping in from Charles Town, Hang On Tight wasn't disgraced in his lone turf start (over this course), but he'll have to stretch out a half-mile today.  That may simply be too tall an order.

For HandiGambling, I'll stab with $100 Win - #2 KELLS BLUES, but don't really have a strong opinion.