OK, give me credit for appearing confident about tonight's Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, which is the race of the day in the Del Mar Online Handicapping Challenge and where I spent far too much time trying to talk myself out of my $50 win-place selection of #12, Cogito, at 20-to-1.
Sharing my thoughts on the blog about select races this Del Mar contest season has generally proven the death knell for my hopes, but this particular race really got me thinking about how confidence can turn from mild to strong in an instant.
This particular contest got far more interesting for me last night with a successful $50 win-place wager (notional; no real money exchanges hands in this contest) on 29-to-1 Ann of the Dance in Race 6, which moved me into third-place of 3,750 contest players and, for now, a spot away from qualifying for the coveted National Handicapping Championship.
There are several parallels between Cogito in tonight's mile-and-three-eighths Del Mar Handicap on turf and Ann of the Dance in Friday night's contest race (same distance), as I see it. Each horse:
- boasts commendable distance turf pedigree -- Ann of the Dance an English Channel and Cogito sired by Giant's Causeway
- second off a layoff -- (before this weekend's races) a 6-7 month rest for Ann of the Dance and exactly one year away for Cogito
- ran against much tougher than most other foes last night and tonight -- Ann of the Dance competitive at Gulfstream Park against multiple stakes winner Angelica Zapata and Cogito spotted in the 2012 Breeders Cup Turf (a somewhat troubled seventh-place) and the Eddie Read in 2012 and 2013.
- dismissed by the morning-line maker at 20-to-1 and, hopefully tonight, a big overlay.
As I see it, the scratch of 5-to-1 Quick Casablanca is significant, since I viewed his off-the-pace running style as similar to Cogito's and perhaps my alternate selection, and the top competitor to 7-to-2 favorite and two-time Grade 2 winner Fire With Fire.
The drawback to Fire With Fire, as I see it, is that #5, Bright Thought, looks to me like a one-paced type who needs the lead (and is nowhere near his Grade 2 San Luis Rey win in March 2013) and #10 Unbridled Command (another whose better days seem to have long passed; Grade 1 Hollywood Derby winner in November 2012) is running with blinkers for the first time and may challenge early. I pass on all three.
The rest of the 10-horse field have questions in terms of class and/or form.
Cogito finished last of six in the Eddie Read on July 20, but the effort was not that bad off a year's layoff, with Cogito making what I saw as a strong middle move into the final turn before tiring in the stretch. Losing to Tom's Tribute and Summer Front is no shame, and in fact I reckon Cogito is in a much softer spot here.
It may not work out, as Cogito has not won in two years and I was never a huge fan of jockey Mario Gutierrez in turf races (although he is winning at a respectable 11% in 109 starts), but at least I think, no, I am confident that this mid- to late-pack closer can fend off the likes of deep-closer types #4, Big John B, and #6, Starspangled Heat in the stretch.