Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beach = Clear MInd

On the heels of a great but financially unproductive weekend in Saratoga, I am extremely thankful to spend the rest of my vacation on the Jersey Shore.

All that's cooking on the handicapping front for me is the Del Mar Online Handicapping Challenge, where miraculously I am 25th of 3,700 players with a bankroll around $3,700 and about $2,000 behind the leader. 

For me, the outcome could prove significant, as the top two finishers get to the National Handicapping Championship next January. Otherwise, it's NHC Tour points (generally meaningless for a part-time Tour player like me) to the Top 30, and moral victories for anyone on the outside. 

I guess the worst place to finish is 31st.

Nonetheless, between soaking in the rays all day and enjoying the warm surf boogie boarding with my kids, I made some time to over-analyze today's Del Mar contest race, landing on Philip D'Amato trainee Oeighter in Race 7.  My play (with mythical money) is $100 to win. 

After committing way too much time handicapping Saratoga this past weekend, I vowed to myself (with my wife's endorsement) never to spend too much time poring over past performances. 

The preparation was fruitless and the butt-whooping at the betting window proved exhausting. 

Granted, Saratoga's one of the most difficult tracks to handicap, but still, outside of a chalky $20 win score, the closest I came to cashing a ticket was a first-third finish on an exacta where my horses were 13-to-1 and 33-to-1; and realistically, it was not really that close for second.

Oeighter, on paper, looks like a capable long-shot at an 8-to-1 morning line facing winners for the first time in a 9-horse allowance field (n1x) at 1 mile on turf (3-year-old fillies).  

Past performances understate the talent that, in my view, this horse has shown through three lifetime starts, and I am guessing there's a chance that Oeighter will be an overlay.  

I sense that 4-5 horses may gun for the lead into the first turn (Disregarded, Gratification, Tacit Approval and 5-to-2 favorite Alexis Tangier).  I have typically leaned toward what I perceive to be a front-end speed bias as Del Mar, but am not enamored with that group.  I considered Disregarded (8-to-1) on the game Grade 3 Senorita Stakes try in late-June, but would not expect to get above 9-to-2.  No value for me.

Oeighter, on the other hand, may get dismissed coming off a maiden score on dirt on July 5 at Los Alamitos, where horses on or near the lead almost always won.  Such was the case in Oeighter's victory that day.

Whether or not Oeighter caught a softer field or just liked the dirt on July 5, her two races prior (both on turf, including one at a mile) offer hope this evening.

In Oeighter's debut on the Santa Anita downhill turf on May 11, she got out slow in a $75,000 maiden claimer but drew the dreaded inside post before closing like gangbusters (to finish 5th) and blowing by the winner on the gallop-out. 

Next out, stretching out to a mile, Oeighter got forced about 6-7 paths wide into the first turn by a horse who blew the turn, then cut off in the home stretch by a tiring horse, before finishing a game fourth of 10. 

It is worth watching the replays for those with the time, but I am relatively confident that Oeighter has a good shot off her first win and off a short rest, and will be able to close on the field to score at a decent price in Race 7.  Second-time blinkers and Joe Talamo's familarity are other bullish themes. 

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