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*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
*****Saturday August 5, 2000*****

Welcome to another edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." Have you ever thought about what makes horses win races? How about why some win more than others? Why is it so difficult to stay ahead of this game? The old saying is true that there are far more ways to lose a race than there are to win. But today I'd like to focus on the winning aspect; what makes horses win races.

Last week I looked at speed figures and the benefits and limitations of same. And I touched on other things like "key" races. Being someone who has constantly strived to solve as many "mysteries" about horseracing as I can, I have always asked the question, "what makes horses win races?" Although in my book "Calibration Handicapping" I theorize that the term Class is nebulous or not really clear, there is no question that it can and does come into play periodically.

We've all seen horses drop in class and have a form reversal that results in an easy win. That's why trainers are always trying to find the right level for their horses. If a horse wins in certain company, many trainers will move him up to a higher level and a higher purse, hoping that he can compete well with better.

Speed figures have made things easier in that regard. If the average winning speed figure for a $25K claiming sprint in New York is 88 and a particular horse in question has never run higher than a 68, the trainer of that horse is not likely to enter him in such a race. He will put that horse in with $14,000 claimers until such time the horse improves sharply enough to compete with better.

So speed figures do not cause horses to win; they just measure how fast they have run. What does causes horses to win? Class is one "intangible." In any competitive situation there are simply some constestants that are better than others. Some are born with better muscular configuration that enables them to run faster. Therefore, we could say that one of the reasons why horses win races is breeding. But that too is a very imprecise intangible.

Take for example 2 Maiden Special Weight races at Saratoga held last Friday, July 27th. In the 4th race, there was a 1st-time starter named La Salle Street, trained by D. Wayne Lucas and ridden by Pat Day. This colt was going for the first time and his purchase price was $2 million. He finished 9th in a field of 12. Two races later a firster trained by Bill Mott who was purchased for $1.5 million, Sluice, ran 7th in a field of 11. Two high-priced total duds for top trainers. At least for now; they may turn out to be great buys, but it doesn't look that way off their initial outings.

I've seen horses go on the grass for the first time as near "sure things" because of their fantastic breeding. They go off as the prohibitive favorite and fail to run a lick. The same for "off" track breeding. Not that they all fail miserably, some run right to their breeding, but you can't keep in the black as a player by trying to figure which horse has the best breeding for a particular circumstance.

Some people think trainers are a huge reason why horses win races. In my opinion the majority of trainers, as well as jockeys for that matter are, to put it kindly, average at best. What percentage of winners do the top trainers and jockeys attain on a yearly basis? I would say 30% is a real good figure for a per annum rate. The way I look at this is that the very best jockeys and trainers LOSE 70 out of every 100 races they are involved with. And if they are at the top of the rankings, all the players who go by that stuff will play them down to favorite status most of the time anyway, which in itself makes it impossible to win by playing jockeys or trainers. I don't think that over a period of a year too many jockeys or trainers show a flat bet profit and if they do, it's pretty miniscule.

As you know, I believe that there are quite a number of reasons why horses win races, but I focus on the 3 things I stress in my book; pace shape, "moves-within-a-race" and internal fraction analysis. Rather than being an "intangible" reason, I believe pace shape and running style match up is a "visible" reason why horses win races. If a strong, in-form horse with an outstanding Beyer speed figure advantage happens to be a middle of the pack runner who sits back 4 or 5 lengths off the pace and draws post position 12 in a field of 12, he is immediately at a disadvantage. Throw into the mix a pace shape of EP-EP with only 2 early speeds, one of which looks dominant over the other, and you have a very likely scenario of the 8-5 favorite from the 12-hole being lucky to hit the board, let alone win the race.

So along with class and breeding, other reasons why horses win races are running style and pace shape advantage, "moves" that horses make within a last-out race, and internal fraction advantages. As I've said often, when horses make certain "moves" during a race, it can and occasionally does set them up for a strong next-out performance. The same can be said of internal fraction advantage. As an example of the latter, in last Saturday's newsletter I pointed out such an advantage.

The 7th race on June 30th at Belmont featured a final 3/8ths run in 34.3, which is unusually fast. I also pointed out that the winner of this NW3X race, Hap had come back to win a Grade II race on Friday 7/28/00 paying $9.20. Two horses I listed on top came back from that race and won, Forbidden Apple on Saturday paying $6.70 and Altibr on Sunday paying $3.90. Granted these two were chalk, but often such plays pointed out by internal fraction advantages pay double digits.

So those are the tangible or measurable factors I focus on concerning what makes horses win races. But there are additional strong reasons and I've touched on a couple of these also. The first is biases and "trips" and the other is derived energy. There is no question in my mind that horses win races sometimes because of inherent track biases. And identifying certain eventful "trips" horses may have had in their last outing can sometimes produce great results and be the cause of strong next-out performances.

As a clear example of the latter, take last Monday's feature race at Saratoga. It was a rainy day with all the turf races switched onto a sloppy main track with the exception of the featured 8th race, the Grade III Lake George on a soft turf course. I fell in love with a horse in that race called Millie's Quest. Two of the reasons I have been discussing about why horses win races came into play. First of all, in her race prior to her last, she ran a sparkling final fraction of 22.1, although that was in April, nearly 2 months before her last race on June 18th. And in her last race, she ran an 11.3 last furlong.

But a final fraction of 22.1 is hard to ignore and I thought she had a good chance at the exacta. Unfortunately, she has an S running style, which always puts her at a disadvantage and since she was facing the likes of Gaviola in that June race, it would be asking a lot of her to win. But she seemed likely to complete the exacta.

It turned out that Millie's Quest had a nightmare trip. Just as she was gaining momentum and beginning to hit her best stride, she was bumped and checked on the far turn and then for an entire 8th of a mile. During this portion of the race, she lost nearly 5 lengths. After finally getting running room and resuming her stride, it was too late to threaten Gaviola who had a picture-perfect trip for an easy win, but she managed to go from 7th at the 8th pole to gain 2 lengths in that final furlong and finish 3rd, missing the exacta that she seemed so likely to complete.

Having witnessed the reason why my "cold" exacta went up in smoke, I made a note to remember the trip Millie's Quest had and to follow up with her in her next outing. I had seen that she would have at least gotten 2nd in that last race and with a clear run may even have threatened Gaviola for the win. Millie's Quest returned last Monday in a field that originally included Gaviola, but the latter was scratched due to the course condition. She was void of any trouble in this encounter and was so full of run that she surged to the lead sooner than was her usual style, winning with ease paying $13.00. This is a perfect example of trip handicapping and why that is also a very real reason why horses win races.

The last of the so-called "reasons" why horses win races that I'll talk about is as I said, one that I touched on last week, derived power or energy. And this is the one theory that would have most traditionalists look me in the eye and say I've gone too far, that I'm nuts. It's one thing to talk about speed figures, pace handicapping, trip handicapping, internal fraction comparison, class, breeding and so on. But it's quite another to claim a phenomenon tabbed "derived energy" as being a reason why horses win races.

But I'm of the belief that those who traverse the "less-traveled" road sometimes get to their destination faster. And I'm 100% convinced that "derived energy" is a very real phenomenon. I've seen results and also cashed in on it. This is not something that I will be discussing in this forum, but suffice it to say that you have not heard the last of this new theory of mine and future newsletters may very well include some prime plays from this source. They will of course be selected in conjunction with the standard 3-step handicapping process I utilize. A prime example of such a "derived energy" play is the one just shown concerning Millie's Quest.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My review race this week is race 7 run last Sunday, July 30th at Saratoga. If you would like to follow along, you can view and/or print the Daily Racing Form past performances for this race by logging onto my website Here.

This was a 7 furlong NW3X allowance race for 3-year-olds & Up. As usual, I'll list the entries, followed by the running style I have labeled each, the last-out Beyer speed figure, the last-out final fraction (raw/actual) and any "moves-within-a-race." It was a field of 9 after the late scratching of #'s 5 and 6.

  1. American Dot Com      P    93    25.0 / 24.4
  2. Capsized                      P    95
  3. Tim's Crossing             E    87    23.2 / 24.2
  4. Nostalgic                   EP    86
                                              101    24.4/24.3
  7. Sun Cat                     EP    88    24.4 / 25.1    WIR
  8. Mint                            S    95    25.4 / 25.1
  9. Entepreneur               EP    81    25.0 / 25.0
10. Istintaj                       EP  101    24.2 / 24.2
11. Exciting Story            EP    86    24.0 / 24.1

The pace shape of this match up was significant. In a field of 9 there were 6 early speed types. Normally the advantage goes to the group with the fewest in number, either early or late. In a case like this, however, with such a tilt toward early speed, in order for one of the 3 closers to have an advantage, they would have to show a significant final fraction advantage, and none did.

The next step is to calculate which is the strength of the early speeds. According to the way I calculate the "speed of the speed" in my book, "Calibration Handicapping", that title in this group went to #10 Istintaj. Since he was also the horse with the best last-out Beyer speed figure and also best last-out final fraction, Istintaj was a pretty legitimate choice in here.

Here were my thoughts on this field, from the rail out.

1. American Dot Com - in from Churchill Downs off a lifetime best effort. Since he had not shown that he could win on the NY circuit, I was a little leery of backing him, especially since he bounced 10 points off his last high Beyer race of 4-back. Again, as per "Calibration Handicapping", I look for a certain move during a race that indicates to me the likelihood of avoiding a bounce. This horse did not show that indicator while #10 Istinjaj did during his last-out lifetime best race.

2. Capsized - when last seen over 7 months ago, was route racing and I would have to see a race or two from him before considering him a contender.

3. Tim's Crossing - was exiting a very fast sprint, but again, it was on the Maryland circuit at Laurel. I gave him a shot at the 2nd or 3rd slot in the exotics as a periphery play.

4. Nostalgic - last ran as a Wide Out play on the turf at Belmont in June. I listed his Beyer speed figure and final fractions from his race prior at 7F and based on his dirt race performances made him my second choice behind Istintaj. Was 2 for 2 at the 7F distance.

7. Sun Cat - a textbook WIR play in his last-out race at a mile and a sixteenth. I had to include him and put him on my original periphery play list.

8. Mint - last raced in a minor stakes at Monmouth; as an S runner in a field loaded with speed, he could have a shot at closing for a piece. I did not include him in my periphery plays because before my original top choice, #6 was a late scratch, I already had 5 plays listed and don't often want to list more than that number. With the late scratch of #6, however, Mint was another that could have been added to the list of horses who didn't figure to win, but had potential to be there to complete the exacta or trifecta.

9. Entepreneur - one of the speedier early horses, the question was would he survive a speed duel with Istintaj. I didn't think so and left him out.

10. Istintaj - the logical choice as the "speed of the speed" with the best last-out Beyer and final fraction.

11. Exciting Story - more early speed that did not figure to hold up with the stronger Istintaj likely having his sights on the lead also.

Here is the way I had my selections in last Sunday's selections issue of this newsletter. Included is the official morning line, followed by my value line and finally, the post-time odds.

  6. Western Expression - LATE SCRATCH
10. Istintaj    (5-1)  (2-1)  (5-2)
  4. Nostalgic    (3-1)  (9-5)  (5-2)

Periphery Plays

3. Tim's Crossing    (20-1)  (6-1)  (27-1)
7. Sun Cat    (8-1)  (9-2)  (8-1)

The order of finish was:
1st: #10 Istintaj - $7.90
2nd:  #7 Sun Cat - 10-7 ex. $70.50
3rd:  #8 Mint - tri.10-7-8 $456.50

Until next week, I wish you clear skies and fast tracks. Knock 'em dead!

Jim

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*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
*****Saturday August 12, 2000*****

Welcome to another edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." One third of the Saratoga meet has quickly transpired and the conditions were not the best I've ever seen. Hopefully the remaining 24 days of racing will be more conducive to cashing tickets. Here's a recap of the first 2 weeks of 2000 at the Spa, excluding Steeplechase racing.

Day one began with great weather and fast and firm conditions. As a result, form held and there were six winning favorites. By the end of the week, on Monday, there was a dead rail, the main track was sloppy, and 2 of the 3 turf races were moved to the dirt. Here's a breakdown of the week:

Wednesday 7/26
7 sprints
1 route
1 turf
6 winning favorites - 67%
fast/firm
no bias

Thursday 7/27
5 sprints
2 routes
2 turf
2 winning favorites - 22% (44% overall)
fast/firm
main track favored early speed

Friday 7/27
5 sprints
2 routes
2 turf
2 winning favorites - 22% (37% overall)
fast/firm
main track favored early speed

Saturday 7/28
6 sprints
1 route
2 turf
1 winning favorite - 11% (31% overall)
fast/firm
bad rail on main track

Sunday 7/29
4 sprints
1 route
4 turf
2 winning favorites - 22% (29% overall)
sloppy/soft
bad rail on main track

Monday 7/30
3 sprints
5 routes
1 turf - 2 taken off
3 winning favorites - 33% (30% overall)
sloppy/soft
bad rail on main track

The weather deteriorated toward the end of week one and didn't get much better for the duration of week two. Excluding opening day, the winning percentage of favorites for the remaining 5 days was 10 for 45 or 22%.

Week Two:

Wednesday 8/2
6 sprints
3 routes
no turf - 2 taken off
4 winning favorites - 44% (32% overall)
muddy/no turf/last 2 sloppy
bad rail on main track

Thursday 8/3
8 sprints
1 route
no turf - 1 taken off
3 winning favorites - 33% (32% overall)
muddy/no turf/last 2 sloppy
bad rail on main track

Friday 8/4
6 sprints
3 routes
no turf - 1 taken off
4 winning favorites - 44% (33% overall)
fast/no turf

Saturday 8/5
5 sprints
2 routes
2 turf
4 winning favorites - 44% (34% overall)
fast - drying out/good
strong closer's bias on main track

Sunday 8/6
5 sprints
2 routes
3 turf
4 winning favorites - 40% (35% overall)
fast - good 8&9 - muddy 10th/ turf good
closer's bais on main track/bad rail

Monday 8/7
3 sprints
6 routes
no turf - 3 taken off
1 winning favorite - 11% (33% overall)
sloppy/no turf
no apparent bias

As can be seen, there were less than ideal conditions for the first couple of weeks of action at Saratoga. The main track has been off for at least part of the card for 6 of the first 12 days of racing. And 9 turf races have been carded on the off-going main track. The law of averages says that we'll see more clear skies and fast tracks ahead, but unfortuantely more rain is forecast for the weekend.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I received the following email from Allan G.

Hi Jim,

First let me say that your book is very informative and a fair price to boot. And, I really enjoy reading your newsletters every weekend. If it's not too much to ask, I (and others, I'm sure) would really appreciate it if your "Review Race" for this coming week would be the Jim Dandy run at Saratoga on Sat. 5 Aug. It was a most interesting race for many reasons.

One of those reasons is that Steven Crist in his Saratoga Diary for 6 Aug. "Missing Out On A Dandy Opportunity" notes that as part of his Pick-6 play, he played four of the seven Jim Dandy entrants and admits that "If you're going to be wrong, it's best to be thoroughly wrong." None of the three that hit the board...Graeme Hall, Curule and Unshaded were part of his play. But this is not to denigrate Steven Crist (DRF's #1 guy) because we all make mistakes like that.

So, I feel pretty confident that many of your loyal following would like to see your review of the race and how you might have handicapped it. This is especially true because the Exacta and the Tri were such big numbers. Also, I can see a good case being made for Graeme Hall but Curule is not so easy to see.

By the way, it was a "Dandy Opportunity" I missed also.

Regards,

Allan

I thank Allan for the recommendation because my picks were so bad last weekend that for the first time in quite a while, I couldn't pick a review race from one of the successful plays. While it's no consolation, if a guy like Steve Christ, who was alive in the pick 6 Alan mentioned, couldn't get one of his 4 horses in the Jim Dandy to hit the winner's circle to cash in on a nice hit, it demonstrates the overall difficulty of handicapping thus far at the Spa. He is by no means a bad handicapper.

Here is a sample of some negative mail I received concerning my picks for last weekend. This was from an unsigned disgruntled subscriber who must be a throwback to the Hippy days of the 60's:

Yo Dude,

Your picks suck. Saturday was a bust and on Sunday Monmouth's 1st 2 went in the toilet; shall I say more?

It was signed Whatsopppppp.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Among many other non-hostile emails I received this week was one from Eugene K. It concerned playing races that have a mixture of sprinters and routers. Eugene's home track is Monmouth and he likes to play pick 3's. He has a little trouble at times, however, when a sprint race contains a few routers, and vice versa. He wanted to know if I would advise him how I would handle such a match up, and here was my response.

Hi Eugene,

Obviously, the best scenario is a race with most if not all entries coming back off sprints or routes and running at the same today. If I come across a sprint race with more than one or two last-out routers going, I'll often pass the race, and the same goes for the reverse situation.

I also like the pick 3 wager and Saratoga has rolling pick 3's so if I really like a horse, I may take a shot at a pick 3 singling it even if it means I have to play a race with mixed routers and sprinters. The way I match up final fractions is to deduct a full second from the final fraction of a last-out router going in a sprint and add a full second to a last-out sprinter going in a route today. I'll also look for "moves."

If a last-out router ran as a WIR or a Wide Out or both, I'll consider him in spite of his final fraction, which probably won't be competitive anyway due to that move. Probably the only way I'll really like a router going at a sprint today is if he showed speed in his last race.

For instance, if you have today's DRF (Thursday August 10th), look at the 10-horse in race 10 at Saratoga. Even though his last race was a dead-last effort at a route and today's race was 7F, he did show good early speed before fading out of it. He wasn't a WIR or a Wide Out, but he did show that early lick before falling back.

It doesn't matter that the fractions were slow. Somehow that isn't all that important many times, and it sure wasn't in this case. What helped this horse's chances was the drop back down to the claiming ranks. He had run in a claimer only once before, 2 races back, and he ran 3rd at a higher price. Today he waltzed in at $30.00 and won out of the same higher-classed race as did the strong winner of the 9th race.

I won't really like a sprinter stretching out unless he's shown some signs that he can go the distance. In other words, if he has won at 7F sometime in the past, and today's race is a one-turn mile and a sixteenth, like at Belmont, then I don't think it would be a stretch that he could go the extra one and a half furlongs successfully. But if he had never won or done well past 6F and today's race is a 2-turn mile and an eighth race, it may be a whole lot riskier proposition to back him.

Many people think that a horse that has closed strongly in a last-out sprint is a great proposition to stretch out at a distance. That is absolutely not necessarily so. I would rather see an early speed sprinter stretching out to a route for the first time. Especially if he is the clear speed. A horse on a clear lead can and does "relax" while on that lead and keep a lot in reserve. Many players are dumbfounded when they see a last-out sprinter who faded at 6F (maybe a Profile Play) come back and jog at a route, probably because he had a nice pace shape advantage.

So in addition to these things, for races that are a mixture of last-out sprinters and routers, I would take a very careful look at the pace shape and all the running styles and try to envision how the race will unfold. How many and which are the first flight runners, the mid-pack, and the closers? See if there is a pace advantage. And of course be aware of the post positions. If a last-out sprinter who ran pretty well is an S horse stuck in the 10 slot in a field of 11, he still is at a large disadvantage.

And remember, in pick 3's, it's the win and only the win that counts. So to eliminate as many horses as possible, including bad post position/running style horses, can be very beneficial.

Hope that helps some.

Regards, Jim

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On with the way I saw the Jim Dandy Stakes last Saturday. I did not list this race among my selections because of the presence of #7 Albert The Great. Here was a horse who had completely turned things around with a simple change of equipment. Since the addition of blinkers, he went from a maiden to a winner of 4 straight, including in his last, the Grade 2 Dwyer. All were wire-to-wire wins and at no point in any of those races was he seriously challenged for the lead.

I didn't want to guess whether or not he would bounce off his last race lifetime best and felt it would be better to leave this race out. But once I knew there was a tremendous closer's bias in effect on the main track at Saratoga last Saturday, it was a completely different story.

If you would like to follow along, you can view and/or print the Daily Racing Form past performances for this race by logging onto my website Here.

This was the Grade II Jim Dandy with a purse of $400K for 3-year-olds at a mile and an eighth. I'll list the entries, followed by the running style I have labeled each, the last-out Beyer speed figure, the last-out final fraction (raw/actual) and any "moves-within-a-race." It was a short field of 7.

1. Brave Quest              EP  104    26.3 / 26.1
2. Postponed                   S    76    26.0
                                             99    25.3 / 24.3
3. Graeme Hall              EP  102    24.4 / 25.1
4. Curule                         P    92    25.0 / 25.0
5. Millencolin                 EP    98    24.4 / 25.1
6. Unshaded                    S    98    26.0 / 25.4
7. Albert The Great         E  108    25.1 / 25.1

This was a fairly decent field of 3-year-olds. Some were hitting their best stride and making names for themselves as potential new forces in the division. And others were returning to action off layoffs. With the $1 Million Travers looming 3 weeks later, some players, like Shar and Xim, are always thinking about trainer intent in a race like this and they both were successful in coming up with the nice- priced winner. So there certainly is something to be said about trying to figure out trainer intent.

Were the trainers of Postponed and Unshaded simply using this as a nice workout in preparation for the rich Travers stakes? Were the new kids on the block Brave Quest, Curule (a dud in the Derby and Belmont) and Albert The Great able to take the next step forward? There were questions to be answered. One thing looked to be fairly certain. If you could figure Albert The Great out of the top 2 slots, there was money to be made. That's the name of the game. Beat the favorite, but you have to have a good enough reason to beat a legitimate favorite and once I knew of the bias, I had good reason.

The pace shape favored closers slightly as there were 4 early and 3 late runners. There was no question of which was the "speed of the speed." Albert The Great was going to the front come Hell or highwater. Anyone who sent his horse with Albert The Great was committing suicide. And yet, two of the top jockeys on the east coast, Migliore and Chavez proceeded directly into a suicidal speed duel on a day-long closer's biased racetrack.

It makes you wonder. I can see Nick Zito standing firm that he was not going to change his horse's successful style of running, but what could have possessed Jorge Chavez or his trainer to go head to head in 23.0 and 46.0 on such a racetrack? Just another question the answer to which we'll never know.

Here is the way I saw this race about 25 minutes to post time.

1. Brave Quest - ran a lifetime best when he missed by a head in the Grade II Ohio Derby on July 15th. That was his first blemish on a previous 4 for 4 record and he seemed to have a decent shot to sit back off the pace of Albert The Great and make his run in the stretch. Chavez had other plans, however, and ran him into the ground. Many thought highly of this colt, including the Daily Racing Form's Dave Litfin, who wrote a column about why he would win this race.

2. Postponed - came from dead last to win the Grade 2 Peter Pan before bobbling at the break and running a complete dud in the Belmont Stakes. He had run against some of the top 3-year-olds in the country but you had to decide which was the real Postponed and was he going to be running full out in this race, his first in 2 months.

3. Graeme Hall - a race like this is sometimes the right spot to figure class as per the 60-20-10 method in my book. Doing the quick calculations for each, I came up with the following average purses run for in 2000 in post position order: 1. $59.5K, 2. $122K, 3. $226.3K, 4. 61K, 5. $78.3K, 6. $195.8, 7. $67.4K. A quick perusal shows that the top 2 "class" horses are #3 Graeme Hall and #6 Unshaded. But these figures do not always tell the whole story. Sometimes a horse will be coming into his own and be able to compete with more established competition.

But it sure helped to see Graeme Hall's class advantage and one couldn't help but notice that he may have had a whole lot better chance to win his last had Robbie Albarado not lost his whip during crunch time. J.D. Bailey on his back today wouldn't hurt. If you put a line through his non-effort in the Kentucky Derby, what do you see? And remember, many horses don't do well at that first attempt at 10F so early in their careers.

As a matter of fact, let's draw a line through last Fall's Breeder's Cup attempt and we see a horse who has a record of 3 wins, 4 seconds and 1 third in 8 attempts. And since he has been running for an average purse of $226K, he must have been in with some pretty good horses along the way.

4. Curule - in his last race just broke through the NW1X level at this distance in a one-turn event at Belmont Park. He had tried and failed in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Naturally, when I saw his last race, the huge G8 move caught my eye. His last-out final fraction was solid also. He had yet to prove that he could run with Grade 2 horses, however and would be a tough pick for the top spot.

5. Millencolin - part of the early speed brigade, his running style was not at an advantage on this day. Seemed to be a cut below some of these and as a pretty much one-dimensional early speed type, didn't seem to have a great shot at the first 2 slots.

6. Unshaded - had some credentials as evidenced by his show finish in this year's Belmont Stakes. As a confirmed closer on a speed-dead track, he seemed destined to be in the money and had a good shot at the top prize.

7. Albert The Great - the now horse, having reeled off 4 straight wire-to-wire jaunts with the addition of magical blinkers. He was never headed in those wins and beat the Preakness and Belmont champions in his last while averaging a 104.5 Beyer figure in those races with the hood added. Like I said, he was the reason why I didn't make selections for this race in last Saturday's newsletter.

Once I saw that speed horses were having a real tough time of it all day on the main track, I had to take a closer look at the Jim Dandy and at Albert The Great in particular. Although he broke his maiden at the 2-turn distance of a mile and an eighth at Keeneland, his next 3 were in the sweeping one-turn route races of Belmont. If we could envision any early pressure at all on Albert The Great on this particular day, we could have a very vulnerable likely favorite in our midst.

I'd like to tell you that I had the exacta and trifecta in the Jim Dandy, but I can't. I will tell you, though, that I did like the strong closer in race 9, #5 Ransom Cove and successfully hit the D/D wager using 2-3-6/5.

The Jim Dandy unfolded with the deadly speed duel between Albert The Great and Brave Quest effectively eliminating both from any chance at the money. Graeme Hall got the perfect trip by Bailey and won quite easily as the class. Curule was a strong 2nd, easily holding off the late charge of Unshaded, while Postponed made a menacing move on the turn before flattening out. We can only wonder how much the latter 2 were really trying. Maybe we'll find out in the Travers. I have to be impressed with the race Graeme Hall ran. He sat pretty close to the lead on a day when early speed was in trouble and came on to take this race well in hand. Off that bias-beating effort, I would have to make him my early choice to win the Spa's big race 2 weeks hence.

Until next week, I wish you clear skies and fast tracks. Knock 'em dead!

Jim

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*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
*****Saturday August 19, 2000*****

Welcome to another edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." I'm going to begin with an email from Daniel H. and it reads as follows:

Hi Jim,

I understand, given the volume of mail you must get, if you don't have time to respond, but I'm curious about a factor you frequently discuss in your weekly reports (which are excellent, by the way! :)

Certain tracks have a bias, I know, an elementary example being Keeneland, where early speed on the "Golden Rail" is often advantageous. I always assumed that a bias was the result of a track's constitution, i.e., how deep it goes, the consistency of the dirt, etc. How is it then that tracks develop biases on particular days? For example, on Jim Dandy day at Saratoga, was there a closer's bias? Can't the preponderance of late-running winners on any given day simply be a statistical quirk? Maybe the winners from off the pace that day were just better? I'm just wondering how a bias can change from day to day.

Thanks,

DH

And here was my response to Daniel.

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your kind comments about the newsletter; they are appreciated. The subject of track bias is one with widely differing views. While it is a very real phenomenon, we have to be careful that it really exists on any particular day before we play accordingly.

Some players are always looking for a bias, while others scoff at the idea. But at some point in between lies the reality that they do exist on occasion. As for what causes them, the primary reasons are track condition and wind. The track condition can cause a range of biases. I've seen examples of strong closer's biases, such as a couple of Saturdays ago at Saratoga, after a sloppy track had dried out to become fast. And I've seen many freshly turned sloppy tracks be superhighways of speed that gave no chance at all to closers.

A strong wind can cause a severe bias also. If the prevailing strong wind happens to be parallel to the racetrack configuration, then a bias can and often does happen. It's always a good idea to know the direction of the backstretch and stretch at your track. If for example as at New York's Aqueduct Race Track the track runs North and South, an astute player may learn of a strong wind on a particular day and immediately find out which way it is blowing.

If a 25-30 MPH wind is coming from the North, then it will be blowing in the faces of the horses as they proceed up the backstretch and conversely will be at their backs down the stretch. This situation can easily hinder the early speed and help the closers down the stretch. A strong southerly wind will often cause an early speed bias at Aqueduct. Of course at that racetrack, the sharp turns also will give an advantage to inside speed. If a strong wind is coming out of the West, then there is a less likely chance for a bias.

Then you have the "golden rail" you spoke of and this situation can be caused by track maintenance or recent rain that eroded part of the racetrack. But like I say, many biases can be perceived rather than real. The rule of thumb to tell if there is a true bias in existence is to be observant during the running of the first few races. There is a statistic using data from all the tracks in North America that confirms that the race that produces the most wire-to-wire wins is the very first race on the card.

During the first few races on the card, check the speed horses. Is there a duel between a couple or among a few horses with 2 of them holding up despite a prolonged head to head battle? Are they longshots? If the answer is yes, you could be suspicious of an early speed bias. But if the first 3 races are won by speedballs on the inside who are also the favorites, then form is holding and there is no bias.

When watching the races and also the replays, see if the horses that make their moves on the turn look like they are running on sand in slow motion or gliding along as if on a hard tight surface. Are they able to sustain a wide move into the stretch or do they seem to hang? Does the winner duck inside to better footing from his wide position at the top of the stretch? Ask the same of the horses using the rail path. Look at the paths and trips of the winners and in-the- money horses. But remember that it's best not to adjust to a bias unless we're real sure that it exists.

Let's take Saturday August 5th at Saratoga as an example. In race 1 the winner came from 5th at the pace call. The pace call is the 4F mark in a sprint and the 6F mark in a route. He paid $4.70 to win so he was a logical horse. The race 2 winner came from 6th at the pace call at 4-1. In race 4 (the 3rd was on the grass), the winner was 3rd at the pace call at 5-2. In race 6 the winner was 6th at 4-1 and in race 7, the lone wire-to-wire winner was 7-5. Then came the Jim Dandy in which the top 3 finishers were 2nd, 6th and 7th at the pace call with the latter 2 being far back early.

This to me was the defining race that indicated that there was indeed a closer's bias in existence. And I've read that others disagree and say there was no bias that day, including the folks from Logic Dictates, from whom I get my trip notes. Even with Brave Quest hounding Albert The Great for the early part of the race forcing quickish fractions, I don't think both of those horses would normally collapse off 23.0, 46.0, and 110.3 fractions. Albert The Great sure didn't in the past, but then again he wasn't pressed so closely in his previous successes.

As I said in last week's newsletter, after seeing what I was convinced to be a closer's bias in existence, I keyed the closer with the best final fraction in the last race in Daily Doubles. Ransom Cove in the 9th didn't disappoint as he came from 10th in a field of 10 at the pace call to win going away at 3-1 and completed the D/D of $63 with Graeme Hall in the Jim Dandy. The 2nd and 3rd place finishers in race 9 came from 6th and 8th at the pace call at odds of 17-1 and 7-1 respectively.

And keep in mind that the pace call for a mile and an 8th race, which is 9 furlongs, is after precisely 2 thirds of the race has been completed. It's not as though these horses had made their moves at any time that can be construed as early in the race after lagging behind. After 6 of the 9 furlongs had been run, the winner was dead last and went by every horse in the field during the final third of the race.

Hopefully this has shed some light on the mostly perceived, very tricky, but sometimes very real phenomenon of racetrack biases.

Regards,

Jim

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Some subscribers have complained that I get a little long-winded in these newletters, but I want to cover another subject quickly and this will tie in with my review race. It's paceline selection. Many times you have heard me talk about last-out final fractions and that is the paceline I stress the most, the last race. But there are times when it is necessary to go back deeper into the past performances to choose the proper paceline from which we gather information.

The question is when? When is it appropriate to skip past the last outing and go back to a previous paceline? I'll go over a few of these situations in today's review race, which illustrates the need for this. The main reasons why we should go back further than the last race are trouble and surface or distance switch.

Today I'll be reviewing the 2nd race at Saratoga this past Monday. There was no turf racing (as usual) and the main track was fast at this point, before the standard heavy rainfall came a few races later rendering it a sea of slop, also a regular situation at this meet. Again, I hope that we've seen the last of the unbelieveably lousy weather of this summer and the last few weeks of the meet will feature clear skies and fast tracks.

If you would like to follow along, you can view and/or print the Daily Racing Form past performances for this race by logging onto my website Here.

The 2nd race on Monday August 14th was a mile and an eighth claiming event for 3-year-old fillies with tags of $60K down to $50K. I'll list the entries in this short field of 6 (after the late scratch of #5 Can't Bluff Me) followed by the running style I've labeled each, the last-out Beyer speed figure, the last-out final fraction (raw/actual) and any last-out "moves-within-a-race", of which there were none in this field. For this "paceline selection" review race, I'll also list additional final fraction calculations that will be more pertinent to predicting the likely outcome of this race.

1. Win By Decision              P
                                                  25.2 / 26.4
2. The Prosequtor                S    26.3 / 26.3
3. Our Patty                         P    27.0 / 26.2
                                                  24.2 / 25.3
                                                  25.2 / 25.2
4. Sassabrass                       P    26.3 / 26.3
                                                  23.4 / 25.3
6. Presumed Innocent           E    26.4 / 29.0
7. Hugmelikeyouloveme      EP    25.0 / 27.0
                                                   25.1 / 25.2
                                                   25.3 / 25.2

As you can see, I've listed more than one final fraction for most of these entries. And now I'll go over each of them and my reasons for choosing the appropriate pacelines. The first thing that jumps out is the pace shape advantage for the early speeds of this match up, which are #6 Presumed Innocent and #7 Hugmelikeyouloveme. What I'm stressing in this race is final fractions and pace shape since there were no "moves-within-a-race."

1. Win By Decision - here is an example of rather than calculating her last-out final fraction run on the turf, I went back to her previous mile race on the dirt. Looking at any of her last 3 pacelines, however I could not find any evidence that she would be able to compete at the projected early pace of this race and she was considered a non-contender.

2. The Prosequtor - had last run on a sloppy track, but her preceeding 4 races were run on the grass so I had no choice but to use her last-out final fraction for comparison, making a mental note that it was in the slop. In spite of her 2nd-place finish in that off-track race, she did not show much overall recent talent to make her a contender. Two down, four to go.

3. Our Patty - a prime example of when to dig back deeper than the last race. She last ran at this distance, but it's not really fair to use that race as a barometer for this one. This is a $60K claimer and her last was at least a notch above this in terms of class; a state-bred NW2X. If we go back to her prior, it was against even better company, an open NW2X race.

So I decided on her 3rd race back when she was in against approximately the same class of horse she would be facing in this match up, state-bred NW1X vs. open $60K claimers. So her final frac- tion I would compare with the others was 25.2, which was calculated by subtracting 111.4 from 137.1 and she was immediately stamped as a prime player in this group.

4. Sassabrass - she also, like #2 whom she beat, was exiting a last-out race on a muddy off-track. But in her case, I would go back to her prior, even though it was in a sprint. Sassabrass had shown some good early presence in a number of her races and she was stepping up off a good wire-to-wire jaunt against lesser claimers albeit in the mud.

Rather than use her last-out 26.3 final fraction, I used her 2-back sprint final fraction of 24.3, adjusted to 25.3 since she was routing today. Since that was close to the best final fraction so far of 25.2 from Our Patty, Sassabrass would certainly be in the top 2 on the contender list to this point. Since she hadn't proven she can handle this class yet as had Our Patty however, she would have to be rated behind that competitor.

6. Presumed Innocent - an E runner who is committed to the lead nearly every time she leaves the starting gate. Since there were only 2 early speeds in this field, although I wouldn't argue too strongly with anyone who would say #4 Sassabrass is an EP rather than a P, the question was could she take this field all the way on top? If you look at the fractions of her one route race and compare it to the horse to her outside, the answer should be obvious.

Her lone route race was in the slop. I could have gone back to the prior race since that last race was in higher company, but her prior was a real clunker and I sure didn't want to go back to February off her last 2 outings. In that last race she collapsed after a pace call fraction of 113.3. A quick look at #7 Hugmelikeyouloveme shows she has held up after pace call fractions of 113.1, 111.1 and even won at 109.4. Presumed Inocent had to be tossed from consideration.

7. Hugmelikeyouloveme - as we just saw, she is the speed of the speed of this match up and again, I'll show why I dug back into the p.p. pacelines to get her final fraction to be compared to the rest. In her last race she ran against one level higher of competition in the NW2X category. In that race she showed her usual good early speed, but could not sustain it against that company. Going to the previous paceline, she was also in against the same tougher company and did quite well registering a 25.2 final fraction.

But I went back one more race to the $60K claiming level and checked to see if she had a better final fraction in that race, which if she did, I would use for comparison. As it happens, she had the identical time of 25.2, which is what I used.

This race now was pretty straightforward. Hugmelikeyouloveme would be the public choice off her last-3 set of Beyer speed figures and she had the definite pace shape or running style advantage. The other contenders were clearly Our Patty followed by Sassabrass, who still had a little something to prove as far as winning at this level was concerned.

You could say that it boiled down to #'s 3 and 7 for the win and maybe even for the exacta. Since they both had identical final fractions, and one was 4-1 while the other 4-5, you may say it was a no-brainer as to which to focus on for the top spot.

While there may have been a surprise as to the order of horses at the pace call, the finish was as predicted. Presumed Innocent was the surprise pacesetter and Sassabrass was in the process of taking over the lead from her at the pace call. The major surprise was that Our Patty was still dead last in 6th, as she had shown a good bit of early presence in her p.p.'s.

The problem was that she had stumbled out of the gate and spotted the field 6 or 7 lengths right off the bat. As Hugmelikeyouloveme made the chalk players stand up and root by taking over at the furlong marker, Our Patty was getting into gear in a big way. The two 25.2 final fractions were becoming accurate indicators that these two would battle down to the wire and in a gutsy effort, Our Patty prevailed by a neck at 4-1 over the 4-5 chalk. Horses have been accused of not being the most intelligent creatures on the planet, but I sure do marvel at their hearts and will to win.

While this race does not illustrate a big payoff, it's match ups like this one that can provide the success we need to stay ahead of this game. When we have only 2 horses that figure to win and one other solid contender for the money, that's a value situation, provided the prices are there. The exacta and trifecta clicked as predicted in this race, but since it was the 2nd half of the early D/D, and this race featured only two real contenders for the win, it would have been prudent to play a few top contenders from race one in the D/D, if there was some value apparent.

Using the top 4 final fraction horses in race 1 last Monday with the 2 top fillies in race 2 would have produced a nice payoff in addition to the exacta and/or trifecta. Here were the mutuels:

3. Our Patty   -   $10.40
7. Hugmelikeyouloveme   -   3-7   ex.   $23.40
4. Sassabrass   -   3-7-4   tri.   $79.50
8-3   D/D:   $198.50

Until next week, I wish you clear skies and fast tracks. Knock 'em dead!

Jim

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*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
*****Saturday August 26, 2000*****

Welcome to another edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." The first year has flown by since I first began this project and the original small group of about 25 subscribers has grown to nearly 1900. Hopefully, those that have stuck with me for a while have become better handicappers.

I received an email from a full-time professional handicapper from Las Vegas, Bernard D. He asked me to mention a website for those who are interested in breeding info. Dan Serra is regarded as the most knowledgeable expert on ratings/breeding in America and he has a site on which his FREE turf and wet numbers are given.

He advises that trainers should have a 10% or higher win record. 10,000 sires are listed and Dan upgrades them daily. Click here to visit his site.

What's the best way to stay ahead of this game? It's pretty simple. Unearth and play winning horses that the general public to a large degree ignores. Not necessarily easy, but simple. As we all know, John Q. Public is mesmerized and captivated by speed figures.

There are speed figures everywhere. In the online Daily Racing Form and Handicapper's Daily, in track programs, in computer software handi- capping programs, you name it. If it has to do with handicapping the thoroughbreds, speed figures are the name of the game. But the name of the game of making money on the thoroughbreds is finding horses that will beat the horses with the top speed figures.

I'm not saying that speed figures are useless; quite the contrary. One of my favorite plays is a last-out best Beyer speed figure/final fraction horse, providing it has betting value, as did the winner of today's review race. And often when such a horse is moving up in company or meeting winners for the first time, there is an abundance of value.

It helps to understand the competition's mindset. The masses of handicappers have long held the belief that horses will not win under certain circumstances, such as a maiden taking on winners. I know if I spot a horse with a pace shape advantage that has made a last-out "move-within-a-race" and also has the best or near-best final fraction, I'll consider him a strong play regardless of what level of company he's running against. And the competition as I say has accepted speed figures as the easy way to handicap.

Let's take a look at last Saturday's card at Saratoga and compare the winner's and 2nd place finisher's last-out Beyer speed figures with the best such last-out figure in the field. If there is a surface switch, I'll use the last same surface figure on a dry track or turf course.

Race 1 - Best: 71
Winner: 60 ($7.20)
2nd: 59 (ex. $65.00)

Race 2 - 1st-time starter race

Race 3 - Best: 78
Winner: 68 ($9.60)
2nd: 71 (ex. $34.60)

Race 4 - Best: 87
Winner: 59 ($79.00)
2nd: 80 (ex. $707.00) - ouch!
I had the 2nd and 3rd finishers in an ex. bx. and got crushed by this longshot.

Race 5 - Best: 95
Winner: 71 ($3.80)
2nd: 74 (ex. $16.00)

Race 6 - Best: 64
Winner: 47 ($12.80)
3rd: 41 (ex. $127.00)

Race 7 - Best: 93
Winner: 89 ($13.20)
2nd: 85 (ex. $140.50)

Race 8 - Best: 102
Winner: 96 ($9.50)
2nd: 91 (ex. $19.00)

Race 9 - Best: 105
Winner: 97 ($16.40)
2nd: 98 (ex. $53.50)

Race 10 - Best: 81
Winner: 81 ($8.10)
2nd: 72 (ex. $76.50)

We have to go all the way to the 10th and final race to find a winner with the best last-out Beyer speed figure. This should tell us something about using speed figures as the be all and end all of handicapping. It also should be obvious that to uncover some of these plays we have to dig a little deeper or utlize techniques other than what the typical player focuses on.

In race 1 All Net Joe was a Wide Out/WIR play in addition to being a dropdown. The public made him the choice off the drop in claiming price. In race 3 Diplomatical was an SRE play and the runnerup was a Profile play. In race 4 Dad's Gun won for reasons that would have to be explained to me as in 3 races this year he showed only a short burst of early speed in his last before collapsing to lose by 18 lengths as he had in his race prior.

In race 5 Deed I Do was dropping out of a couple of Grade I races and had strong speed figures before that so he went off as the 4-5 chalk. In race 6 Mongoose made a 2-length move on the turn in a better-than-looks effort. He was steadied twice in the stretch and brushed against the rail before tiring in the final furlong and with a cleaner trip projected, could have been considered to have a decent shot.

In race 7 A Little Luck dropped back to the level at which he ran a competitive race in his 2nd back and had to be placed among 3 or 4 contenders. In race 8 Jostle had just won the Grade I Coaching Club Oaks. In race 9 Gritty Sandie has just gained 12 lengths from the pace call to the finish in his last outing. And in the finale, the top speed figure horse Newspeak was a best last-out speed figure/final fraction play, but somehow managed to pay $8.10 as the public also played to near co-favoritism the 1-horse, who had a speed figure of only 2 less but finished off the board.

As I touched on last week, one of the ways we can come up with plays that our competition will not consider is by going back as deeply as possible into the past performance lines to find the appropriate paceline from which to compare data.

A prime example can be found in last Saturday's race 7 at Saratoga. I made no selections in this race as I thought it may be too contentious with too many horses with a shot at the win. But #9 Come On Now Sean is a good example of going back past the last outing in the p.p.'s. Although his last was a good 4th-place finish in slightly lower claiming company, I also looked at his only other effort this year, which was run on June 9th, 20 days earlier than his last on June 29th.

This horse also serves as an example of a layoff play that for many would very much dis- courage them from making him a contender. As I said, he had run only twice in 2000, the first a win at the $40K claiming level. He came back after 20 days with a good effort, which includ- ed a nice last-furlong move to finish 4th. Then he had a 51 day layoff before this race.

This kind of a layoff with only 2 works on 7/12 and 8/11 would make many players avoid Come On Now Sean. Knowing that the bad weather at Saratoga has forced many races off the turf, and seeing the good form this horse was in, I saw no problem whatsoever with that kind of layoff and worktab. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I like to stress actual competitve performances more than trying to read between the lines as to a horse's conditioning.

Come On Now Sean was in my mind a solid bet at odds of nearly 14-1. I say this in spite of him coming up a little short to A Little Luck to complete the exacta of $140.50 while paying $12 to place. I'm sure some pretty savvy handicappers were turned off by his trainer's zero for 19 record at the meet and 10% win record for the year. But like I say, to come up with what we consider to be logical horses, we sometimes have to ignore what others focus strongly on. I saw the horse had run well in his only two outs this year with final fractions of 23.3 and 23.1 and saw a value play; period. Nevermind the other stuff that I can get dizzy from analyzing. Maybe the best way to look at handicapping is to keep it simple. That's what I try to do in my 3-step approach in "Calibration Handicapping."

Another value play was there for the taking at Saratoga in this past Monday's 9th race. It was a 7F claiming race with tags of $25K down to $22.5K. #1 First Rodeo was taking a drop after being claimed for $35K and kept in jail. What I mean by kept in jail is this. In New York, when a horse is claimed he must be moved up in company or else be kept out of competition ("in jail") for 30 days.

The first thing I noticed about this horse was that he ran his last race at that higher level at 6 furlongs as a Profile Play. He had finished 5th in a field of 9 in that race. In his prior, he had run a good 2nd while 3-wide at the $20K level at a mile and a sixteenth. While many handicappers questioned why a trainer would claim a horse for $35K and then run him back at $25K, I went back to his previous race as the paceline to compare.

In that prior effort at 81/2 F, he ran a 4th quarter fraction of 24.1, which when adjusted to this sprint race was 23.1. After comparing that 23.1 to the remaining 8 horses, I saw that this was a standout final fraction edge. Had I looked only at the last race, his final fraction would not compare, but since he ran as a Profile play, that effort was strengthened anyway.

The point is that while others may have focused on the last race or the questionable drop in company, I saw a standout value play at 13-1 due to the final fraction advantage in his race 2-back. He paid $28.80 to win and topped an exacta with a double drop-down horse of $134.00 and completed a D/D with the 4-5 chalk in race 8 of $66.50. Another example of the value that is there for us each and every week if we will look in places others don't visit.

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This week's review race is the 10th from last Saturday, August 19th. If you would like to follow along, you can view and/or print the Daily Racing Form past performances for this race by logging onto my website Here

This was a turf race at a mile and three sixteenths for a full field of 12 Maiden Special Weights 3-years-old and upward. As per usual, I'll list the entries and then list the running styles I've labeled each, followed by the last-out Beyer speed figures, the last-out final fractions (raw/actual) and any last-out "moves-within-a-race", of which this group had none.

 1. Swamp Wolf              P  79  25.0 / 24.2
 2. Devilishly                    P  52
                                           58  27.1 / 27.2 (Dirt)
 3. Miner's Son                P  27
                                           68  24.0 / 25.0
 4. Inveterate                   S  33
                                           66  24.0 / 24.0
 5. Leady                        S  66  24.0 / 24.3
                                           55  23.4 / 24.0
 6. Golden Honors          P  74  27.0 / 27.1 - (Dirt)
                                           72  24.0 / 24.0
 7. Newspeak                 P  81  23.3 / 23.1
 8. Victory Parker           S  46
                                           68  23.3 / 24.2
 9. Kadhaaf                     P  70  24.0 / 24.4
10. Papa's Boy                P  60
                                           72  23.4 / 24.2
11. Man From Wicklow  P  55
12. Turkish Corner          P

Here were my thoughts while handicapping this race.

1. Swamp Wolf - an obvious contender in this mostly lackluster field of non-winners off his last couple of turf starts, in which he got the place money on each occasion. His last-out 24.2 final fraction came during a 3-length gain from the pace call to the finish. The only knock on him was that he had not shown he could run in New York and as such could not possibly compare with my top choice for the top slot.

2. Devilishly - had not run on the grass in either of his 2 lifetime outings and didn't show much to get excited about in either effort.

3. Miner's Son - showed brief speed in his last in the mud before completely collapsing and in his prior on the turf was bumped on the first turn and showed nothing. His try before that on the grass was also a non-performance.

4. Inveterate - a non-contender.

5. Leady - in 2 lifetime starts, both of which were on the turf, he showed nothing. Added lasix for this encounter. In hitting the board, he illustrated a couple of things. First, the trifecta wager can be tough to hit at times due to a clunker like this suddenly coming alive enough to be in the money. Secondly, that non-performance-enhancing drug lasix can and often does enhance performance.

6. Golden Honors - showed good early zip and held well in his last in the mud and finished evenly in his prior on the weeds. Deserved to be on the contender list.

7. Newspeak - not only was he a triple Beyer advantage horse, which would normally make him a prohibitive favorite, but he had a big final fraction advantage with a sterling 23.1, which included a gain of 2 lengths from the pace call and a final 3/16ths in 29.1; unbelieveable for a maiden. He was off a month and a half, but showed a couple of good works and had #1 contender stamped all over him. The problem was the potential value or lack thereof.

8. Victory Parker - another going with lasix for the first time, he had a fairly decent try on the turf in his 2nd race back and I put him on my periphery play list.

9. Kadhaaf - dull was the descriptive word for his career thus far. He could have possibly been considered to have a chance at the 3rd slot in the trifecta, but I eliminated him.

10. Papa's Boy - the key to him was his only race on the grass, which was 2-back. In that race he gained nearly 2 lengths in the final furlong, which only the 1-horse and the 7-horse had done in their last turf tries. He belonged on the list of contenders and I put him in as a periphery play, which is one that I think has a decent shot at the exotics, but not necessarily for the win.

11. Man From Wicklow - dull and out.

12. Turkish Corner - been steeplechasing lately and as such I couldn't guess that he had a shot in here.

Every once in a while, just when you think you've seen just about everything in this game, you come across a race like this. Everything I can think of that players may use to handicap pointed directly to #7 Newspeak as the most likely candidate to win this affair. Yet the public let him go off at overlay odds of 3-1. While he didn't win by a furlong, he did cross the finishline first and paid a shocking $8.10.

That's not an overwhelming longshot by any means, but it is a big price for such an advantage horse and a week later I still can't understand how the 1-horse could have been played almost equally, also at 3-1. But we should always be thankful for overlay payoffs because we'll get our share of tough beats along the way also. Here are the order of finish and mutuel payoffs.

  7. Newspeak - Won; $8.10
10. Papa's Boy - 2nd; 7-10 ex. $76.50
  5. Leady - 3rd; 7-10-5 tri. $1,437.00
  1. Swamp Wolf - 4th; 7-10-5-1 $3,899.00

Until next week, I wish you clear skies and fast tracks. Knock 'em dead!

Jim

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