Hawthorne recap: Sunday, March 2

Sunday was a day of long shots.  Most of them, unfortunately, were ones that flew under my radar for any number of reasons, although there was fortunately one who filled out a nice exacta in a maiden race.

Race 1: $8,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, 5.5 furlongs on the dirt

In this race, Silver Rock Star (2) was my choice; I thought he was the fastest of the field, and even with the short lay, thought he was still good enough to prevail.  I thought the horses with the best chance of being close were Enemy Fire (1) and Angel Talk (3), so I bet a $1 exacta of 1/2,3.  I also made a (what-turned-out-to-be) lousy attempt at a $1 Pick 3, with 1,2,3/2,4/5.

The exacta was a bust, and the Pick 3 died in the first leg.  Silver Rock Star stumbled at the start, was wide into the stretch, and never made up the ground he lost in his poor start.  He didn’t fade down the stretch, but he didn’t fire either; he finished 3rd beaten 3 1/2.   The winner was Surf Cast, a horse I discounted because, except for one anomalously good race in October, his recent races just made it look like he’d be too slow for the better horses here.  He did come from off the pace as expected, but he ran better.  He had the most down the stretch, made up ground and prevailed by a length.  Second place was Enemy Fire, one of the horses I keyed there.  He and Angel Talk spent most of the race battling for the lead; Enemy Fire just relinquished his position lade to Surf Cast.  Angel Talk faded down the stretch, which I was not expecting given his recent strong works.

Race 2: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N2L, 6.5 furlongs on the dirt

In this race, I liked Link Card (2) and Ms Heavenly Hash (4).  I considered exacta boxing them, but I decided against it, deciding instead to just use them in a $1 Daily Double, 2,4/5, since the projected exacta prices with those two were just not very good.  I decided against doing another Pick 3 since race 4 was a maiden race; I am still extremely uncomfortable with handicapping maidens.  Unlike the Pick 3 I put together starting in the first race, this Double survived the first leg.

The pace was not exactly what I expected.  Early it looked like it may be; Bring Me Love and Ms Heavenly Hash were 1-2 very early.  However, instead of closing later, Link Card came through on the inside coming into the far turn, grabbed the lead, and kept widening her lead.  She liked six and a half furlongs better than anyone else in the field, and it showed.  Ms Heavenly Hash didn’t stay near the lead long; she was able to outfinish the fading Angel Over Me for the show, but never threatened Link Card.  2nd was Givem Hell Harriet (who Peter Galassi rather amusingly kept calling “Givem Harriet” during the race call), who was back early, made up ground, but couldn’t catch Link Card.

Race 3: $22,500 claiming, three-year-olds OR four-year-olds and up who are N3L, 1 mile and 70 yards on the dirt

This race, I still had that Daily Double alive that I started in Race 2; I was alive to Seeking Love (5).  He was dropping down from allowance company, he was working six furlongs consistently, and the hottest jockey at the meet had the mount.  Kingwood (2) looked good in the paddock, plenty fit despite being second off a long lay, so I also did a $1 exacta box with 2 and 5.

I commented in my preview that Super Twenty Three would likely spring to the lead, but would need to run the race of his life to keep it.  He did spring to the lead early, stalk Kingwood for a while, and then retake that lead down the backstretch.  What I didn’t expect is that he kept it: all the way to the wire.  Here we had a horse who’s decent enough in $10,000 claiming company, with speeds slow for the field; by all accounts, he looked outclassed here.  But, he found the race he needed, and sprung the surprise.  As for Seeking Love, he didn’t run terribly, though Thornton had him extremely far back early — probably too far back.  He closed strongly down the stretch, but couldn’t catch Super Twenty Three.  Kingwood was on the lead early, dropped back into the pack, and proved the best of the rest at third place.  It wasn’t a bad race, and leaves some room for improvement past the lay.  The horses I liked didn’t run poorly — Super Twenty Three just ran extremely well.  The only race he had run that was anywhere near this was the race on October 6 of last year, in which he won a $15,000 maiden claimer by 17 3/4 lengths, at this same distance, just 0:00.02 seconds slower.  No one can depend on that, but the fact that he did it again means he’s liable to have a really good race once in a while.

Later in the afternoon, I was chatting with Jim (the track handicapper) in the paddock about what a shock it was that Super Twenty Three had won this race.  He expressed his surprise that a horse that should have gone off at 8-1 or 9-1 went off at 3-1.  I agreed with him, and mentioned that I had no idea why the morning line on Super Twenty Three had only been 4-1.  Jim remarked that he didn’t either — despite the fact that he was the one who wrote that morning line!  I had no idea when I made that comment that I was speaking to the person who wrote the lines — though it made the exchange very entertaining.

Race 4: Maiden Special Weight ($26,000), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

A lot of money was going down on Dustem Carolina (7).  She may have been second her last two times out, but she was very well beaten in her first attempt on the class jump from maiden claiming to MSW.  She was second — beaten 10 1/4 lengths.  I wouldn’t love that at any price — and that sounds like an especially terrible bet as a favourite.  The only glaring information in the paddock was that Katy’s Charm (6) looked extremely uncomfortable and agitated.  It was her first time starting, and she had had some nice works at the track, but she didn’t look quite comfortable with her surroundings.  That didn’t affect my betting, as I didn’t love her enough on paper to bet her.

There were three other horses in this field I was happy to look toward: Fayreen (4), Rushin’ Emerald (1), and Skylarbdancing (5).  Fayreen was a first time starter, but she was four years old (against several three-year-olds) and was working well.  Rushin’ Emerald had been on the lay since two races last July at Prairie Meadows, but her works looked very nice for this field.  Skylarbdancing had been moving around between turf and dirt, between sprint and route; she had never tried a dirt sprint before, and looked worth a try.  I bet a $1 exacta box, 1, 4, 5.

That bet worked out splendidly.  Skylarbdancing found her place in this short dirt sprint.  She stalked just off the pace, took the lead coming into the stretch, and drew away to win by six.  Rushin’ Emerald ran with the pack up the backstretch, came out wide into the stretch, and pulled clear of everyone except for the storming Skylarbdancing.  Skylarbdancing wasn’t a huge surprise; she went off as the 2.7-1 second choice.  However, Rushin’ Emerald went off at 9.1-1; there weren’t a lot of folks who saw what I saw in her.  The exacta paid $39.30 on a $1 bet — my nicest score at the meet so far.

Fayreen, the other horse in my box, was on the lead early, but lost it badly down the stretch.  Hopefully she’ll improve as she gets a bit more experience.  The show in the race went to Dustem Carolina, the favourite against whom I was so keen to bet.  She crossed the wire 8 1/4 lengths behind Skylarbdancing, not quite what you’d want to see in a 1.3-1 favourite.

Race 5: Allowance ($28,000), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $8,800 other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state bred allowance OR N2L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

As for my betting, I kept things simple here: $2 to win and $2 to place on Roses Plus (1a).  I liked her most out of the horses in the race, and I wasn’t sure the pace would necessarily set up for Silky Sami (2) if there ended up being lone speed.  I figured Roses Plus would be the most likely to get that lone speed and run wire to wire.

I was correct that some speedster would get up there and wire the field.  I was incorrect that it would be Roses Plus.  Instead, the winner was the other horse in the field who tended to want the lead: Annie Bellum.  Out of the gate, Annie Bellum got a quick four or five lengths on the field.  Roses Plus got within a length of her coming into the far turn, but couldn’t get her, and faded back to last.  The other four horses in the field were close in chase approaching the finish line; second and fifth place were only separated by a length.  (However, Miss Lucky (1) — the other part of the entry with Roses Plus — finished fourth, and thus did not salvage my place bet on her entry-mate.)  They all made up some ground on her down the stretch.  However, Annie Bellum was the lone speed, and she made it count.

Race 6: $8,000 Starter Optional Claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, started for a claiming price of $5,000 or less since September 30, 2012 OR claiming price of $8,000, 1 mile and 70 yards on the dirt

In this race, I liked Blooming Flower (7) and Suspended Moon (5), and my original plan was to bet an exacta box on those two.  However, Suspended Moon was going off at inexplicably good odds as post time approached, whereas the exacta payoff for either 7/5 or 5/7 was approaching absurdly low.  The low payoff wasn’t worth the risk of coupling them, whereas if Suspended Moon fired on her own, I stood to get a good price.  I bet $2 across the board on Suspended Moon.

As expected, Dani Nikki (3) dashed to the early lead, with Blooming Flower just behind.  (Tribute To Momma, the other horse I anticipated would be up with them, never got into a good stalking position and faded back through the far turn.)  Blooming Flower made her move down the stretch, and pulled 2 1/4 ahead of Dani Nikki by the time the wire approached.  That wasn’t much of a surprise.  However, Dani Nikki was able to hold on better than expected, and held second.  Suspended Moon, on the other hand, didn’t fire as hoped.  She wasn’t nearly as far back as she had been in other of her races, but just didn’t fire.  She held 3rd, but never threatened either Blooming Flower or Dani Nikki.

With that, I got some of my bet back (Suspended Moon paid $3.60 to show), though not as much as I wagered.  I still don’t think it was a terrible move, though — she looked good enough on paper to contend with the field, and she looked good in the paddock.  Over 7-1 to win on her was an overlay, and it would have been profitable even if she placed.

Race 7: Allowance ($31,000), Illinois-bred, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 twice OR two state-bred races other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N3L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt

In this race, I really liked Radiant Day (1) best, given the combination of his class and the likely pace scenario.  Nothing in the paddock really changed that.  Magna Fortuna (6) looked amazing there: healthy, alert, and ready to race.  However, he has done his best work at route distances; this five and a half furlong run was just a tune up race for first off the lay, and I doubted that any amount of readiness to race was going to overrule his preference for distance.  Had this been a route, though, I’d have put a bet right on Magna Fortuna’s nose.  As it stood, I think I mis-bet this race terribly.  I did a $1 exacta wheel, 1/2,3,5,6,7.  I did think 1 was going to win, and I was having trouble completely eliminating any of the horses from contention for second.  This points out a major weakness in my handicapping right now — I’m still not quite sure how best to find value in races with chalky favourites.

Radiant Day ran the sort of race I expected — far back early, and gained through the far turn and into the stretch.  However, he didn’t gain quite enough to catch the pace, and ended up having to settle for third, 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner.  Gita’s Mahal (7), who I expected to bounce from his allowance win only a week before, did not bounce.  He got the lead to start, and never relinquished it.  Lassell (5) came very close, though.  He tracked three or four lengths back, accelerated down the stretch, and missed Gita’s Mahal by just a head.  My projection that Lassell would be good to use in exotics but not to win came to fruition, though I did not expect he would only be a head behind the winner.

Race 8: $8,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt

On paper, Thunderhawk (4) was clearly the best in the field, and Mop (8) was second by default, in that he didn’t have any very obvious reasons why he did not have a chance to win, and was on a step down in class from the last field he faced.  I decided to do a $1 exacta box on those two horses.

Thunderhawk did exactly what I expected him to do.  He got to the lead early, set some slow fractions since no one else was really pushing him to go faster, and opened up on the field down the stretch.  He was not only much the best on paper, but proved much the best of the admittedly weak field on the track.  Mop looked like he was hanging relatively well with Thunderhawk through much of the race; he stalked a length or so behind for much of that.  However, he just slowed up coming into the stretch; it isn’t quite clear what happened, but he just slowed up and got passed by about half the field.  He held on for a very well-beaten fifth, but I’m curious what made him go from stalking the pace to dropping way out in no time flat.

Second and third ended up going to In Red’s Honor and Even Zabeel, who were 6 lengths and 7 1/2 lengths behind Thunderhawk, respectively.  In retrospect, even though I was right to toss these horses out for the win, I might have done well to consider them for the lower position in the exacta.  Though they are both squarely in professional maiden category, each had recently hit the board in a route race at this class level, so it was possible that they’d do so again.

Though I ended up doing okay thanks to the exacta I hit in the fourth race, I ended up running into a lot of my ticket construction weaknesses this past Sunday.  Even aside from the long shots like Super Twenty Three and Annie Bellum, I feel like I could have done a better job either narrowing or slotting horses in exactas, or identifying good places to make multi-race wagers.

Time to hit the books, and go back to the drawing board before I go back to Hawthorne next week.

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