Saturday, July 16, 2011

Signed up for Saturday's contest

It's not that I did not enjoy discussing the politics of the racing industry the last few posts, but rather time to embark upon another journey toward an illustrious seat to the $2 million NHC Tour Championship and my diary about this season's effort.

Saturday's docket features the last of three July qualifying rounds for, whereby the Top 30 finishers of the 300 contestants each week make it to a 90-player final next Saturday for a shot at two NHC seats, as well as a berth the Breeders Cup Betting Challenge this November at Churchill Downs, which itself is a great opportunity and very lucrative two-day handicapping contest.

NJ Horseplayer banking on 20-1
long-shot in Virginia Derby
The 10-race card affords players the opportunity to make $2 notional win/place wagers on three races from Arlington, five from Colonial Downs and two from Hollywood Park.  I handicapped in advanced, figuring that I will be on the beach tomorrow wearing SPF 1,500 and then off to the Lobster Festival in Bradley Beach for the afternoon and it was best to enter my selections tonight.  There is little deviation from my typical strategy of playable long-shots, so take the following with a grain of salt, race by race (morning-line in parenthesis).

  • Arlington 6: #2 Catonic (8-1) - A play against 2-1 favorite Perfect Casting, who appears best by far, but like Catonic's form in winning last two gate-to-wire on the Arlington turf. The Michael Maker-J.Z. Santana connection otherwise is 38% since the start of 2010 (48-race sample). Worth a shot.
  • Arlington 7: #7 Charter Class (10-1) - Horrible field of $5k beaten claimers. May switch to #3 Galloping Gulch (10-1) at some point, but a race with a 4-1 morning-line favorite does not smack of conviction, so I'm landing on the horse that has been in-the-money 7 of 9 starts at Arlington. 
  • Arlington 8: #4 Capitol Appeal (8-1) - Intrigued that Ronnie Allen, Jr. gets the mount here instead of on the #7 Jr's Exchange (8-1), who he has steered to victory in 7 of the last 9 starts.  Gerald Bennett trains both, but I like how Appeal was aggressively placed (and finished third, beaten by three-quarters) in a Grade 3 off two decent allowance efforts at Presque Isle.  This one looks prime second off the bench, and I anticipate will stalk a fierce early pace set by the four outside runners. 
  • Colonial 4: #1 Ancil (8-1) - In the first of five straight turf races (a big reason I entered the contest), the $50k Chenery, I like the rail for this 2-year-old colt's third start.  The Beyer progression (29, 59) is favorable versus this field and I'm hoping Alan Garcia puts him in a good spot to pounce late. 
  • Colonial 5: #1 Jazil's Song (10-1) - Another 2-year-old 5-and-a-half furlong spring that is "absolutely wide open," as Tampa Bay Downs announcer Richard Grunder would say.  This one finished fifth, but only a length behind the winner in her debut in late April at Keeneland after falling 11 lengths behind early in the race.  Experience should do this gal good. 
  • Colonial 6: #9 Rules of Honor at (gulp) 20-1 - This is a stand against morning-line favorite (2-1) Cherokee Artist, who appears to be the class of this 11-horse field for the $50k Kittens Joy. Sure, the Graham Motion-Julien Leparoux combo is daunting, but I am not entirely sold. I like the Canadian shipper here and the horse's progression up the ladder from the claiming ranks to an allowance victory on May 29 at Woodbine. Rules has been freshened since and sports a nice work on July 8 and I am speculating is sitting on a big one and showed late speed three races back, finishing the final eighth of a 9-furlong turf race in under 12 seconds. 
  • Hollywood 7: #10 Ambassy (12-1) - Bottom of the barrel-type stuff from Hollywood on the final weekend of the meeting. A $10k claiming event with Los Alamitos shippers (horses and jockeys) that Chad Ochocinco would even have a shot at winning. Ambassy, at the least, is 2-for-3 at the 6-furlong distance and showed speed in a July 9 workout (5 furlongs in 59 seconds, tops out of 29).
  • Colonial 7: #2 Summer Savory (8-1) - A versatile sort who could stalk or close from way off the pace (made up 14 lengths to win a $30.5k allowance last out at Arlington) and I like the confidence shown here by trainer Michael Stidham to put this horse in against a Grade 3 Virginia Oaks field headed by 8-5 Excited and 2-1 Dynamic Holiday
  • Colonial 8: #5 Casino Host (20-1; Best Bet) - Maybe going to the well too often on a big longshot in a race that's also part of this week's Public Handicapper card, but I am willing to toss the disinterested June 18 effort on yielding turf in a Grade 3 at Belmont.  The Chad Brown trainee showed a nice Beyer progression (73, 82, 84, 88) before crapping out on the wet Belmont strip, but was odds-on favorite in his first four races (with one first and three close seconds) and only finished a length-and-a-quarter behind in King Congie's (8-1) maiden breaker in November 2010.  I think Casino Host will be overlooked by the betting public (presently 22-1 on Public Handicapper) and could surprise (and am willing to take any ridicule after this one finishes way up the track).
  • Hollywood 9: #8 Tanda (4-1) - I am hopeful to have locked up a Top 30 spot on the heels of a Casino Host shocker, but just in case I am at zero and need to merely hit the board to save face, I'm going with the second choice in the Grade 2 Gleam.  The cutback from a mile to 7 furlongs for this front-runner should help, and the horse's last three mediocre efforts could turn bettors off and provide some value here.  
As always, these selections are subject to change (and do not account for scratches), but I figure to be too sunburned and stuffed with lobster rolls to be able to move swiftly enough to make last-minute changes in my contest selections. Best of luck on all of your horseplay this weekend!


  1. Say thanks to Rules of Honor for me, for winning the GP finale at 9-2 back in March

  2. If you drive the Virginia, you can catch Rules still running...

    Casino Host almost pulled it off