TAMPA BAY DOWNS NOTEBOOK

DECEMBER 27, 2012

by Bob Bauer

Now that a little more than a month is in the books, it might be possible for handicappers to gain insight by taking a step back and asking themselves, what is happening on the track? There are many ways to ask and answer that question, and the objective is to cash more tickets.

The first fact that confronts us at this point is the chalky nature of the betting environment. Favorites have been scoring at better than 40 percent and have been in the money more than 70 percent. Prudent bankroll management is most important.

Both racing surfaces have been consistent as far as the running styles of those that have been successful. The dirt track has been kind to early speed and early/presser types in both sprints and routes. In routes, also pay attention to these types who show strong Brisnet last-race Late Pace figures.

Turf routes have been almost the exclusive property of closers. Although it was possible for EL UNO (Macho Uno) to wire a field non-winners-of two lifetimers through splits of 22.88, 47.10, 1:11.94, 1:37.02, completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.12, we should remember that most early pace types on the Tampa lawn will be caught by close-up pressers and stalkers. The rail has been at set at 22 feet this week. Horseplayer can do well to favor runners with good Late Pace figures.

Turf sprints have been taken by front-running speedballs so far. In all three events this season, a pair of dueling leaders were able to draw off from the field and fight it out to the finish, with favorites winning every time. That's not to say that bettors can't make money here. In Saturday's 6th race, a five-furlong affair on the lawn, the 6-5 choice, HOLD ON SMOKEY (Concorde's Tune) , was a veteran with seven scores sprinting on the lawn. Smokey went gate to wire, besting 21-1 longshot Thegames a Bustout (Congressionalhonor), who anchored a $69.80 exacta and was in the middle of a $416 trifecta. The runner-up was overlooked by most in his turf debut, but he ranked second in Brisnet Prime Power. It can pay to watch the little things.

HORSES TO WATCH

Wednesday (12/19)

3D-- CLASSY PRAYER (Meadow Prayer), a well prepared and well bet two-year-old, had a rough debut and may not be far from graduation. The chestnut from the Gerald Bennett barn was fractious in the gate, and was bumped by a rival at the start. He then hustled up and fought for the lead to the stretch before tiring. He should move forward from this first attempt.

6TH -- TANTALIZA (Seeking the Best) broke slowly and rushed up inside to get the lead before giving way after five panels in a seven furlong affair for two-year-old fillies. She might benefit from a turn-back in distance. This was her first start against claimers, give her another chance.

9TH -- SOME LEGS (Bernstein) made a very impressive move in mid-stretch when trapped down inside and darted to the rail and finished up strong to score by a length over maiden special weight fillies. She has talent and appears to relish the Tampa turf.

Friday (12/21)

6TH -- MISS SCOUT (Pleasant Tap) has endured a pair of tough starts over the Tampa lawn. In her latest effort, she was in and among fillies into the stretch and "crying out for racing room" according to the track announcer. She was able to get the place. From the Chad Stewart barn, she needs a good trip to show her stuff.

9TH -- WHY NOT MORE (Indian Charlie) ran well to get second money in a one-mile maiden special weight, wearing blinkers for the first time. The four year old filly from the Jonathan Sheppard barn ran the best race of her life to date and it would be no surprise to see her leave the maiden ranks soon. She was flying at the end, longer appears to be better for this one.

Saturday (12/22)

6TH -- THEGAMES A BUSTOUT was a game second to a favored grass specialist in his first try on the turf. The four-year-old gelding gave Hold on Smokey all he could handle, closing late to only miss by less than a length. He has a swift turn of foot and merits respect in sprints no matter what the running surface.

8TH -- RAKEHELLISH (Unbridled Time) came back running against non-winners-of-two lifetime on the sod. After being last at the half, she made a middle move, advancing six wide for racing room and closed fast to just miss at 14-1. May beat this kind soon. The five-year-old-mare appears to be in top form now.

Sunday (12/23)

9TH -- LANDING MY WAY (Southern Image) has had a pair of rough trips over the Tampa strip. This Lynne Scace trainee was claimed two races back for $4,000 at Suffolk and has been with $6,250 local claimers. She is always dangerous at six furlongs and could benefit from a slight drop in class.

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