04/21/2010 12:58PM

Researcher, HG


There are horses for courses and then there is RESEARCHER, king of West Virginia. 

After his second consecutive win in the rich Charles Town Classic last Saturday night, Researcher ran his lifetime record in The Mountain State to 16-11-4-0 (14-10-3-0 at Charles Town).  When asked to race out of town, Researcher isn't shabby (he won the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap over the Aqueduct inner track in 2008), but it's worth noting that he's only 10-2-2-2 outside of his comfort zone. 

Under a heady ride by Luis Perez, Researcher rallied off a fast pace to equal his career-top Beyer Speed Figure of 108 (his other 108 came over the same three-turn, nine-furlong trip at Charles Town).  Researcher broke from post nine in the field of ten, but Perez was skillfully able to navigate his mount to the rail before they hit the far turn for the first time.  It was a fortunate decision as several horses clipped heels going into the bend in their search for tactical position and Researcher avoided the trouble.  Researcher saved ground until they hit the backstretch.  At that point, he split rivals before easing back to the rail heading into the far turn. 

This was the crucial moment of the race as the leaders were coming back to Researcher and Perez had a decision to make.  Does he stay in, save the valuable ground, and risk being blocked behind the tiring pacesetters?  Or, does he angle wide and possibly lose momentum?  Perez opted for the latter.  He swung the nimble Researcher three wide and the veteran did the rest, taking the lead in upper stretch, and holding off the determined AWESOME GEM's late surge. 

"I could see the incident inside of me out of the gate," said Perez.  "It looked like a rider almost went down.  It helped me get to the inside and settle him down.  I was pretty confident turning for home.  It was pretty much a perfect trip, although at about the 3/8th pole I wasn't sure about getting out from between horses.  I had to ask him and go to Plan B, but he got out and he did the rest."

Trainer Jeff Runco has masterfully mapped out Researcher's 26-race campaign.  "There were about three or four speed horses and three or four closers," said Runco.  Our goal was to get between them, get inside and leave it up to Luis to guide him home from there."

It will be interesting to see how much longer Runco trains Researcher.  The Tuesday before the Classic, Researcher was privately purchased from Rutledge Farm by the Kinross Corporation, an outfit that specializes in, wait for it, steeplechase racing. 

Neil Morris, the trainer and farm manager for Kinross, mentioned that a second career over the jumps is likely for Researcher. 

"We bought Sur La Tete from Rutledge before and he turned out to be a champion for us," said Morris.  "Researcher is exactly what a steeplechase outfit like us would be looking for.  I think there will be one or two more races on the flat through the spring with the thought of going over hurdles in the fall.  He will go back to the farm and he was bought with steeplechasing in mind.  There is some talk of the Stephen Foster.  We will see."

[Quotes supplied by the Charles Town press department]


Here are the top 25 winning Beyer Speed Figures from last week's racing action:


Dan - I know you pay close attention to behavior. What (like the tail swishing in the lane) are the signs you look for? Does DRF have any desire to produce a Physical Handicapping DVD ala Trip Handicapping? If we can get everybody on board, we can start identifying specific race video for races in which there was something physically worth noting.
Any idea on what is going on with Point Encounter (I think he is with Carla Gaines, but could be Kathy Walsh)? How about The Pamplemousse?
Steve T.

During the body of a race, I don't like to see a tail-swisher or horses that are rank and are pulling their riders out of the saddle.  Again, as in all cases, there are exceptions to the rule.  If you see a tail-swisher that consistently performs well, you may want to disregard the "rogue" behavior.

In the post parade, I pay attention to coats.  I don't want to see a very dull coat.  Many of our posters talked about dappled and healthy coats and they are good signs but, conversely, I'm looking for horses that seem a bit dull in the coat.  If they are listless as well, I would wonder if they're up to the task this afternoon.  Horses that seem agitated and are constantly kicking the back of their paddock stalls are also no-nos for me.
My racetrack fantasy would be to go to the track every single day with a notebook and chart the physical attributes of each horse in the paddock.  Perhaps I'd rate them on a scale of 1 to 5.  Hopefully, after a few months, I'd get to know most of the horses on the circuit, and could tell if they were "improving" or "going off form" based on looks.  I think one with a keen eye (I doubt my eye is that sharp) could gain an edge on the general public. 

This isn't anything revolutionary, obviously, but I like to see a horse with a strong arched neck and tail.  I've also had good luck with horses that are vigorously mouthing the bit in the walking ring (I have no scientific evidence as to why this works for me.  Maybe I'm deluding myself and other angles have been at work when these horses won). 

If I had to guess, I would assume that DRF's next foray into the DVD world would be a Physical Handicapping work, but there's nothing definite on the books.

I haven't had any updates on POINT ENCOUNTER in a long time.  He's currently on the "Where Are They Now" portion of our Disabled List (row number 2103 to be exact) after suffering a soft-tissue injury as a two-year-old.
The last I heard concerning THE PAMPLEMOUSSE is that Mr. Canani is still trying to get him back into training.  He hasn't been retired yet and is still on our Disabled List (which I'm falling behind on updating, my apologies to all). 


Today's HandiGambling 182 exercise is the seventh race from Hollywood Park, the Harry Henson Stakes for three-year-olds at six furlongs 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.  Please post your plays and analysis to the blog. Past performances are available from the previous blog entry.  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.

As of this writing, there are no program changes.

The Harry Henson looks like a skullbuster with several horses returning from layoffs and/or trying turf for the first time.  There looks to be a good amount of speed in this race and I'll be looking for a stalker or late-runner in my multi-race wagers.  I'll be concentrating on three horses this afternoon and hope I get lucky.

#3 OUR MINESWEEPER is an Idaho-bred grandson of European turf monster Giant's Causeway so he may be able to handle the surface switch to grass.  His dam was a pure sprinter and Our Minesweeper may have been out of his element in longer two-turn races earlier this year.  Our Minesweeper finished ahead of a pair of next-out winners when nosed by Santa Anita Derby fifth-finisher Skipshot on March 14.  One of those winners, Dream Nettie, won the La Puente Stakes on grass at Santa Anita on March 10.  Our Minesweeper is turning back in distance and may find a stalking position under Joel Rosario. 

#9 DIXIE TROUPER did little wrong at two in Canada, and it looks like he was privately-purchased following his entry-level allowance win over the polytrack.  Please note that after being sold for $75,000 as a yearling, Dixie Trouper went to Europe where he was purchased for about $55,000 in May of 2009.  He is out of a winning half-sister to Sweetest Thing, a multiple graded stakes winner on grass. 

Bruno De Julio, the crack workout analyst for Today's Racing Digest (available on drf.com) notes that Dixie Trouper gave an "easy 1/2 mile blowout for first race in almost five months.  Came home well to get the final 1/4 in 24 3/5.  Strong series of drills for return hint his readiness."

Dixie Trouper has rallied from off the pace to win in the past and may get a nice setup here.  Also, the runner that finished third to Dixie Trouper last time out, Sports Select, returned to score on April 17 at Woodbine with an 89 Beyer. 

#5 FACE AND AN ACE looks like the one to beat as he's the only runner in the field with a win on grass (he has two).  Last time out, he sat off a runaway speed horse, attacked from in between horses in upper stretch, and gamely fended off the runner-up's rail surge in the final sixteenth.  Although the fourth-place finisher that day returned to win a $50,000 claimer going down the hill with a 72 Beyer, the horse that Face and an Ace narrowly decisioned, Farmer Giles, came back to bomb at 11-10 odds (fourth in an optional claimer).  One may not get a big price here with Bejarano back to ride, but it's hard to ignore this horse's affinity for the grass. 

Bruno noted that Face and an Ace "worked before the sun came up and finished the final quarter in 23 4/5" for the April 18 workout.

As for the rest:

#2 SMILING TIGER should get his share of money as his only two defeats to date came against Kentucky Derby-bound Lookin At Lucky in graded stakes.  He's been away since September, however, and he may find some company on the front end if Victor Espinoza decides to gun from the opening bell.  His sire connects with about 11% of his first-time turf runners and the dam, a stakes-winning sprinter on dirt, is a half-sister to a stakes-placed turf sprinter.  This one has ability, but I'll try to beat him off the layoff.

#7 LOCKSLEY HALL shook loose when going gate-to-wire against maidens on Pro-Ride and I didn't like the way he finished up despite being unchallenged in the early going.  He'll have to step in class here (only one of the five next-our runners returned to hit the board from the maiden race) and while he may be the main speed, he should face a good amount of pace pressure. 

#1 WILLYCONKER invades from Ireland, where he was well-beaten in all three starts on turf.  He was a different horse when switched to polytrack so it's somewhat interesting that he's back on the grass today.  Bruno wasn't thrill with the April 15 work as Willyconker "was no match for stablemate, 0-1 MDN special competitor, Life Well Lived.  Departed the five two lengths in front and held advantage until upper stretch.  Lost out by a length at the wire while earning three lengths slower time."

#10 BIG MAN HAS A SIGN may have found two turns out of his scope last time out as he faltered to finish second behind next-out Lexington seventh-finisher Distorted Dave.  He'll return to a sprint in this spot and is a half-brother to a pair of turf winners including Very Vegas, a multiple stakes-winner of 482K.  The sire connects with 7% of his first-turf runners, but Bruno has been impressed by Big Man Has a Sign in the morning.  For the April 15 workout, he notes that he "looks good and finished well down the lane.  Nice flesh.  Good horse."  He'll probably have to rate a bit in this spot and must avoid a wide trip from the far outside post.

#3 MAJESTIC AFLEET turns back in distance after chasing next-out Arkansas Derby winner Line of David in a grassy allowance.  He should get a solid pace to attack in this spot, but one must wonder if he's a bit more effective on the main track.  Bruno seemed to like a couple of this one's morning works:

March 28:  "Worked between Scrimshaw and Slew City Gold here and finished in hand outside of well bred maiden and maiden claimer who runs in the finale." 

April 18:  "Finished in 48.4 breezing down the lane for Troeger with Gryder in the saddle.  Stretched out nicely."

#6 EXCESSIVE PASSION tries grass for the first time after fading badly in the Lost in the Fog Juvenile at Turf Paradise on December 26.  All three of the sire's victories came on grass, but this colt has done his best running on the front end, and may face early company here. 

#8 HOLLYWOOD HARBOR won his last three races on dirt at Emerald Downs to close out a successful juvenile campaign.  He's now with Jenine Sahadi and is another that likes to wing on the front end.  There's some pedigree here.  The sire is 1-3 (33%) with a limited sample of first-turf runners while the dam was a multiple stakes-winning sprinter on the main track (125K in earnings).  The long layoff is somewhat of a concern as well as the possibly complicated pace situation up front.

I'll take my top three picks in multi-race wagers and will play HandiGambling looking for a slight price.

$50 WP Our Minesweeper (#3)

Best of luck to all.