On this soggy Memorial Day Saturday afternoon in the NJ Horseplayer camp spent chilling (literally...it's 53 degrees) with family and a few friends, the four Public Handicapper races are the extent of my handicapping contest action today.
No time for other great contests on the docket (i.e., HorseTourneys.com NHC qualifier).
It was not until after the fact that I noticed landing on two entries from this Oaklawn-Arlington trainer, perhaps best known for saddling third-place 2006 Kentucky Derby finisher Steppenwolfer.
But part of my process of becoming a more-competent contest horseplayer will be getting to know some new trainers, so Peitz merely by coincidence fits the bill.
|Banking on trainer Dan Peitz
Ausus: Grade 3 Arlington Matron
In the first of four Public Handicapper contest races, I would echo Marcus Hersh's sentiment about 4-year-old Ausus in Thursday's Daily Racing Form.
Scratched down to an 8-horse field (Absolutely Crackers scratched this morning), Ausus makes a lot of sense to me off a mid-pack finish in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland.
The top two finishers in the Jenny Wiley were Centre Court and Daisy Devine, two absolute monsters, and Ausus has finished right behind Daisy Devine on separate occasions, signaling a bit of a class edge to Ausus dropping down two notches of the ranks of graded stakes. Ausus' running line otherwise tells me a return to Arlington's synthetic surface (2 wins, 2 seconds in 5 tries) will be a plus.
Ausus has trained well three times over the Arlington oval, telling me that the 6-to-1 Public Handicapper odds as of noon ET are still acceptable off an 8-to-1 morning line.
Najjaar: Grade 3 Louisville Handicap
My second Peitz horse may appear a huge long-shot at a 20-to-1 morning line, but 10-to-1 on Public Handicapper is probably a better representation.
Admittedly, I cannot stand marathon races and find them way out of place in the U.S.
I get that horseplayers outside the U.S. might love watching their horses run races around a half hour, but in my opinion these 12-furlong turf snoozers are akin to bottom-rung dirt claimers, where any the morning line favorites should be taken with a grain of salt and all are vulnerable.
I mean...how often do you ever find a Breeders Cup Marathon winner (Eldaafer) running next out in allowance races at dog-patch Atlantic City Race Course?!
My science is inexact, but for these races I typically side with someone who can get the lead and dictate the tempo, lulling the others to sleep by the homestretch. As I see it, the Louisville Handicap shapes up, however, as half a field that needs the lead and the others who will come from the clouds.
Peitz's Najjaar is among the latter, and I see a horse who has at least been competitive on turf (2 seconds and 1 third in 4 tries) and showed good form in his last race ($62,000 allowance) at Keeneland. I'm rolling the dice that Leandro Goncalves, despite his low turf percentage, will settle far back and make a late run, letting front-runners Heathcote, Ioya Bigtime, Mack's Blackhawk and Harrods Creek tire themselves.
With my chips on Peitz this afternoon, hitting one of the two his runners would go a long way in helping me move up the Public Handicapper standings (currently around 300th-350th among the thousands signed on and competing for two coveted seats to the 2014 National Handicapping Championship.)
Bomber of the Day -- Bobo: Grade 3 Arlington Classic
Mr. Hersh did not even mention in his DRF race preview my longest play of the day, 3-year-old Bobo, installed at 20-to-1 on the morning line but up to 34-to-1 on Public Handicapper.
Reading between the lines, however, I would argue that Bobo, has a shot at a major upset.
Post 11 in a 12-horse field is not all that great, but as I see it, Bobo is flanked to either side by two horses (Whiskey Bravo in post 10 and Bambazonki in post 12) that may gun for the front and chase inside-speed long-shots Gefest and Bells Big Bernie into the first turn, setting up a fractious pace.
If you look at Bobo's two turf tries, you'll find a horse that had a lot of late energy in his debut in a deep mid-January 5-furlong sprint on the Gulfstream turf.
In his third lifetime start and second try on turf, low-percentage California jockey Jose Valdivia steered Bobo to an impressive state-bred maiden win from the rail on the daunting downhill turf at Santa Anita.
Taken together, and tossing aside Bobo's fruitless front-running tries on synthetic and dirt surfaces, this bomber has a legitimate shot at a big price with a jockey (Florent Geroux) who knows the track and may be a late force if he can get his horse to settle early.
Otherwise, assuming Garrett Gomez is off all mounts today (listed as jockey for 4-to-1 second choice Procurement) after a nasty spill in the opener Friday at Hollywood Park, and not enamored with morning line favorite Admiral's Kitten, Bobo is my bomber of the day.
4th PH Selection Now An Afterthought
Scatman would have been my pick of the day, but he was scratched from the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup at Arlington (Race 9).
By default, I landed on my backup selection Patrioticandproud, but am not enamored. I had liked the rider switch to Garrett Gomez, but am now resigned to crossing my fingers that my backup selection will like the return to synthetic surfaces, where he has won 3 of his 4 races lifetime, albeit against weaker company.
In keeping with the trainer theme, however, Mark Casse is one of the tops in Canada and always a threat, in my opinion, with horses that like the synthetics.
We'll see what happens.