Joe Takach

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Virtually every day on the West Coast handicappers are faced with horses that they know very little about.

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to handicap a race the night before with little or no information of value about a specific grass import.  My weekly publication (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH) devotes one of our specialized categories to specifically address this problem.  While we obviously can’t tell you about an import before he faces the rigors of stateside racing on the major Southern California circuit, we CAN tell you what he looked like physically in the paddock going under tack noting any negatives, how he warmed up, how he ran his race (and in what exact paths) and MOST IMPORTANTLY “how” he pulled up in the post-race!  We even offer our personal opinions of exactly where a new import “fits” in their very next effort.  Subscribers to our publication are very well armed for an import’s 2nd U.S. start, which very often turns out to be their better performance of their first 2 U.S. efforts.   

Imported turf newcomers are a very diversified lot on the major Southern California circuit and in this writing we’re going to look at the trainers who are primarily responsible for all these “question marks” in our daily play, as well as how to approach them when handicapping any given race.

If you are not “profiling” the trainers on your own circuit (if other than Southern California as seen below), it would greatly benefit you to duplicate my work for your own track or those simulcast tracks that you frequently play.

Here are the “players” in Southern California when it comes to new turf imports:

BOBBY FRANKEL (A+) --If you don’t know who Bobby Frankel is and/or the Juddmonte Farms, you’ve haven’t been playing our very lucrative circuit in any depth.  Many Juddmonte Farms’ horses who grace our shores are imported turf newcomers and most likely can run---or will soon be taught “how” by this very gifted Hall of Famer.  Bobby Frankel is dangerous no matter what he does, or when he does it, or where he does it, or even how long ago a specific horse of his last did it!   He’s always tough to bet against on the turf, because he rarely “runs” horses into shape.  If they’re in the race this afternoon, they’re usually quite ready to “fire”!   He uses all the major jockeys and his “favoritism” among them changes frequently.

NEIL DRYSDALE (A+) --Another Hall of Famer who is simply “deadly” with turf imports in their initial stateside outings.  His runners always seem to be “on edge” and if not winning in their initial outings, must be given extra respect in their 2nd starts.  With the exception of Sir Bobby Frankel, he has no peers on the turf in Southern California.  One of his major talents centers around horses returning from extra long vacations.  Seems these “Brits” (like counterparts Jonathan Sheppard and Michael Dickinson on the East Coast) can get them to win fresh off the bench going up to a mile and a half, as if they just ran 3 weeks ago!  Gary Stevens is 1st call rider with “bones” occasionally thrown to Victor Espinoza and others. 

RON McANALLY (A-) --Yet another Hall of Fame trainer on our very talented Southern California circuit who is frequently “deadly” with imports.  He’s perhaps the best at bringing in horses from South America.  We can all remember the unbelievable PASEANA and an unending host of others over the past 10 years!    He’s very tough in turf routes with these newcomers, but equally weak in turf import sprints.  Also among his other notable talents are extended layoffs with turf imports.  Much like the “Brits”, he can have them ready to win off year or longer vacations.  Finally, keep an eye on any maiden turf imports going 1st lasix for their initial stateside outings!  Though very infrequently entered by this talented conditioner, they make excellent wagers when debuting, BUT MUST BE GOING 1ST lasix!  “Deadly”, simply doesn’t do justice to this angle!  Chris McCarron and Alex Solis split the duties of first call rider at the McAnally barn and both are handled by the same jockey agent.

RICHARD MANDELLA (A-) --Will soon be inducted into the Hall of Fame and second only to Ron McAnally with the South American newcomers on both the turf and the dirt!  Also has the ability to bring back extended vacationers as if they never stopped running a year or more before restart!  Is equally adept sprinting or routing, with 1st lasix a necessary ingredient with all newcomers.  Always seems to have his barn “peppered” with these invaders and they are always worth a long hard “look” no matter what the level of competition.  Uses all the major jocks and occasionally throws “bones” to the lesser riders such as Brice Blanc.

DARRELL VIENNA (B+) --He’s the undisputed “King” when it comes to bringing in horses from “down under”.  The majority of his runners at one time competed in New Zealand or Australia and do remarkably well when introduced to stateside racing.  As with most imports, 1st lasix is essential for his new runners to perform to their optimum.  Uses a variety of jockeys to include 2nd tier riders Blanc, Puglisi and Gomez.  Seems to do his best with claimers in the 50 to 100K range after they’ve run out of allowance conditions and you can usually get very generous mutuel returns if you pay attention.  His winners always receive very strong pre-race warm-ups and jockeys are instructed to do so.  Many string more than one winning race together and his horses usually make excellent paddock appearances---win or lose.  Has no trouble winning over all 3 major Southern California turf courses of Del Mar, Santa Anita or Hollywood Park.  Always a threat even when facing the “Big Boys” in “Graded” affairs and a solid friend to the $2 bettor as Vienna is always “trying”!

(Part 2 will be continued next week---stay tuned!)


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