*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
The subject of this week's newsletter will be two different emails I received last Sunday. The first message was one of great excitement. It was from Francis P. (Pat) Smith and it went like this:
Just a note to let you know that at Gulfstream Park on
Sunday in the 10th, #1 was an SRE/Wide Out play. I had $20
to win and $20 to place on her. She returned $185.00 and
$32.80! Thank you.
The other email I received was from Monty and here it is:
Can you send me a print out of a 6 furlong and a route race with the things you use to handicap each. I am a little confused as to what to use to handicap a sprint and what to use to handicap a route. Just using the Racing Form list the things I will use to handicap a sprint; e.g. turn time, best Beyers, etc.
A quick answer to Monty would be to do what Pat is doing, but I know he wants a more complete answer. What I mean by do what Pat is doing is that I believe what he does is scour all the tracks he has available to him and look for horses that in their last outing have made a move-within-a-race. For those interested in a real fast way to handicap a lot of races, that is not a bad way to go because it takes only a few moments to locate such plays. When you find one, you can check out some other key factors like how long since it last raced, running style and pace shape, etc. Obviously to take a much closer look at the entire picture will take more time and I'll do that for the above-mentioned race shortly.
Pat purchased my book, "Calibration Handicapping", and he recouped the cost of the book almost 50 times over when he picked up a profit of $2,138 from his $40 wager on the 10th at Gulfstream on Sunday. The horse that won at over 91-1 was quite interesting and I sure wish I had looked at Gulfstream that day, but obviously I didn't. In my book I describe 4 moves-within-a-race; Profile, Wide-Out, SRE and WIR. This winner fit 3 of the 4 moves and very nearly was a Profile play also.
In essence, anyone who has read my book would know that this super-longshot had a real fighting chance, and believe me I'm still annoyed that I didn't take the time to scan Gulfstream's entries and at least quickly look for the "move" horses; I certainly wish I had.
I've seen some crazy and illogical results so far at that meet and as a result I've been somewhat gun shy. Before Sunday's 10th race payoff, which actually was predictable, there were 7 other winners that strolled in at over $100 during the young Gulfstream meet. If you examine the attached entries and Daily Racing Form past performances, you'll see that the winner didn't look like any 91 to 1 shot and also why she was. Her trainer said that he was shocked at the price and expected her to go off tops at 30-1. He also said that he told the jockey to gun her from the rail and go as far as she could.
What I'll do to answer Monty's request is to handicap this race in question, which was run at the sprint distance of 7 furlongs and then next week I'll do the same for a route race.
Race 10 at Gulfstream on Sunday January 30th was as stated a 7 furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies. It was the Grade 3 Forward Gal and the original field of 10 was reduced to 9 with the scratch of #5 Valleydar. My first step in the handicapping process is to circle the distance and the race, so on my Racing Form I would have 7F and Forward Gal-G3 circled in red. I then quickly go down the list of entries and note just to the left of the Beyer speed figure a dash, an up arrow or a down arrow which will represent when there is no change, a rise in class or a drop in class respectively.
Next I assign a running style to each of the horses; E, EP, P or S and then make a notation of the pace shape and race shape. For this race, above the description of the race, I have EP-EP followed by H for honest race shape. I then look over the pace shape and running styles to see what horses may have an advantage or disadvantage in this particular matchup. In this case, with 4 EP style runners, I'll check to see which are the most likely to take the lead and which if any may be able to top the field all the way.
In this particular match up, #2 Swept Away seems to have the early speed advantage and certainly looks like she could top this group all the way. As we'll see, she not only has the early speed advantage, but she has the final fraction advantage, and that is a potent combination. I then move on and underline in red the best Beyer speed figure showing in the past performances for each horse (for the current race type, sprint or route, on a track other than sloppy or muddy).
I look at the date of each entry's last race. If it was more than 30 days ago, I'll put a half circle around the date to indicate that I should look for a workout since the last race. It's not absolutely necessary, but would certainly help keep the horse sharp. If the last race was 1 to 3 months back, I would definitely want to see a couple of workouts, preferably one or more of them at 4 or 5 furlongs.
If the last race was more than 90 ago, I will put a parenthesis by the date to indicate that I would normally pass on the horse assuming that he is in need of a race. One exception may be if the horse had been running well before the layoff, had strong Beyer speed figures when last racing and had a good workout line.
I also quickly calculate the "invisible" Beyer speed figure for each last race all the entries are exiting. Finally, I put a red check mark above the highest last-race Beyer speed figure. As you can see, although I am not, as I say, "mesmerized" by speed figures, I still use them to my advantage.
If this seems like a lengthy process, I can tell you that it is, but it becomes pretty quick after some practice and the purpose of it all is to have a detailed look at the match up of horses and to get the best possible overview of the race. Like I said above, however, much of this can be eliminated if one wants to simply focus on moves-within-a-race and emphasize only that aspect of the handicapping process.
The final and very important component of my handicapping method is internal fractions comparison. In sprints, I'll sometimes figure the turn times for the entries I think may try for the lead and see if there is a sizeable edge there. Such a comparison confirms that #2 Swept Away is the horse to beat.
Here is the entire field. Next to each horse, I'll list the running style, turn-time (for early speed types), final fraction (raw time of the race over actual time of the horse), last-race Beyer speed figure and finally any moves-within-a-race:
1. Miss Inquistive (EP) 23.1 25.4 / 27.2 61 WIR / Wide Out / SRE
In an EP-EP pace shape, the EP horses have the advantage. Any S horses in such a match up would be at a fairly large disadvantage, and there was one such horse in this group. Also note that I used the second race back for horses 3 (turf), 6 (mud), and 10 (trouble).
Here's the field from top to bottom. Obviously you can see that #1 Miss Inquistive is the horse that won because you can see that she was a triple move-within-a race play. She did have a couple of other things going for her also. She was an EP runner and she was exiting a $75K race, the same purse as this G3 had. Based on the "moves" alone, however, she had to be considered a prime contender.
Interestingly, in 5 previous lifetime races, she had never gone to the post at odds of more than 7-2. In yet another demonstration of how much the public is mesmerized by speed figures, her last-race Beyer of 61 was the worst and so she was perceived to be the least likely to win on Sunday and went off at a ridiculous 91 to 1. This proves also that very very few handicappers are aware of these moves-within-a-race. No matter how many books I sell, the odds of these horses are not diminished.
It's amazing to me that the emphasis in handicapping is still the old trio of 3 C's; class, condition and consistency, and of course the ever-captivating speed figures. I would guess the reason for this is that many players simply do not have the time with their busy schedules to fully handicap each race. They need quick indicators and handicap using these factors, which give a distinct edge to those of us who stress "moves" and internal fraction advantages.
#2 Swept Away looked strong on paper and I have to give a lot of credit to Pat and anyone else who played Miss Inquistive to beat her. You have to have some pretty strong faith in the "moves" of Miss Inquistive to play against Swept Away, who was a last-out move-within a-race horse herself, an SRE play. In 20-20 hindsight, the 1-2 all "moves" exacta of $414.60 was pretty logical and as I say, I'm still steaming over the money that could have been made on this race.
Not only was Swept Away undefeated in her 3 outings, but she had the clear edge early as well as late. If you examine the Beyer speed figures, though, you'll see that Swept Away ran a lifetime best of 98 in her last. Meanwhile, in Miss Inquistive's 2nd race back she ran an 83. By having these numbers underlined in red, one can get a clearer picture of what may happen in today's match up.
Due to Miss Inquistive's strong "moves" in her last, she could very easily top her two-race-back lifetime best and in this race run perhaps an 86 to an 88. Meanwhile, off her lifetime best of 98, Swept Away could react or "bounce" somewhat and run back to a mid to high 80's figure. I believe that's exactly what happened.
I threw out the last race of #3 Coolbythepool as it was at a route on the turf. Using her previous race at a mile and a sixteenth, she might be considered to be a periphery play for the 3rd slot in the exotics. She did run for two straight $100K purses and had won 2 of her last 4 on the dirt.
#4 Sincerely was taking quite a hike up in class as her last race win was against non-winners of 2 lifetime, the $32K purse for which she ran being quite a notch below this G3 purse of $75K. If she had made a move-within-a race or had a strong comparative final fraction I may have considered her a contender, but without those, she would have to be thrown out.
I used the second race back for #6 Regally Appealing. Her last race was in the mud and it was a G2 at Aqueduct back in November. Although Regally Appealing was "stale" since not having raced in over 3 months, a closer look would indicate she still should be considered a contender. Not only did she just miss by a neck in her last dirt race with a purse of $400K, but she had good Beyer speed figures and a real strong workout line. In January alone she had excellent works at distances of 5F, 5F, 5F (best of 31 at 5F that day) and 4F five days before the race.
Although you can see that #7 Sabre Dance had a good final fraction of 24.2, it was achieved while being dead last at the top of the stretch, 11 lengths behind. Being an S horse in this EP-EP match up with 3 of those EP's looking pretty strong, this S horse would have to be eliminated.
#8 Sahara Gold was similar to Regally Appealing in that she had not run in over 3 months. She had good Beyer speed figures when last seen, but her workout schedule was not as good by any means. Her most recent works were at 3F and 4F and the series of works leading up to this race were not as indicative of a strong performance. The best I would have thought of her would be to possibly get the 3rd slot in a trifecta.
#9 Shawnee Country is another with a good final fraction but also achieved that while being way back, 9 lengths behind at the quarter pole and 10 back at the 8th pole. She was bumped at the start in her last, but didn't show much in her previous sprints that would make her a contender with this group.
#10 had run her last three races at routes and there wasn't a whole lot in evidence to indicate that she belonged in the top three.
After reviewing this race in the manner I just did, it's no surprise at all that #2 Swept Away was made the heavy chalk at odds of 3-5. But to those of us who believe in the power of moves-within-a-race, especially a horse that exhibited 3 such moves, 91-1 is unimaginable. I didn't interview Pat, but I would guess he was sitting there looking at the odds on #1 Miss Inquistive over and over wondering how they could be so long.
Many players would second guess themselves and figure that they were the only one who liked the horse and as such were probably dead wrong. But like I say, I give a lot of credit to Pat for not only going with his convictions, but for playing that much on the horse. Under those circumstances, many would back off to a $5 win & place wager or skip the race entirely.
As it turned out, 3 of the EP horses went Indian file around the track, with Miss Inquistive holding a narrow edge over Swept Away the entire trip. Regally Appealing ran third the whole way completing a Guru TBC trifecta box of 1-2-6 in the amount of $2,030.60. Additionally, the rolling pick 3 including races 8 (favorite won $5.80) and 9 (favorite won $3.60) paid $903.00.
I hope this helps Monty and others and illustrates a logical and thorough way of handicapping sprint races. It should also demonstrate the power of moves-within-a race. I'm certainly not saying that all horses who make one of my so-called last-race "moves" will win or be in the money; they of course will not. They do win their share of races, however, and of the 20 races conducted at Aqueduct last weekend, 25% of the winners were such "move" horses.
On Saturday the following races were won by horses having made a last-out move-within-a-race: Race 4 - SRE $6.50 (SRE - Profile/Wide Out ex. $22.40), Race 5 - WIR $6.10, and Race 10 - Wide Out $42.00. On Sunday Race 8 - Profile $6.10 and Race 10 - Profile/Wide Out $10.60.
No single handicapping indicator will work anywhere near half the time. There are just too many variables and reasons why horses lose, no matter what they show. That's why 1-5 shots lose; there are no guarantees. But if we stick to value plays, we have a decent shot to stay ahead of this game and the "move" horses average out to real good payoffs.
Until next week, I wish you clear skies and fast tracks; knock 'em dead!
*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
Welcome to another edition of "Horseracing Handicappers'Free Picks Newsletter." For anyone who has been confronted with the recent situation of not being able to wager on the races at Aqueduct through their telephone wagering account, here are a couple of websites that have good telephone wagering setups that accept out-of-state accounts and wagering at Aqueduct. Both have some limitations as to which states can use their system however, and you can see those restrictions on the sites. As I come across more, I'll pass them on. If anyone knows of any other telephone wagering outlets that accept accounts from all states that permit wagering on Aqueduct races, please let me know and I'll relay it to all subscribers. Here are the two I know of:
I received inquiries from a few of you asking why I didn't list as a Wide Out play that $104 winner of last Sunday's race 5 at Aqueduct. The short answer is that Real Speed technically was not a Wide Out play, but she definitely was close to being one. In my opinion, she was too far back on the turn to be labeled a Wide Out, being 5th and 6th at the two call points in a 7-horse field.
There are many "borderline" "move-within-a-race" plays that are close to the definition but don't quite meet the requirements. I can't very well include all such plays in my selections. I skipped this race intentionally, partly because of this horse, who I questioned also due to having only one race over the track, and mostly because I didn't feel right about the horse with the obvious final fraction advantage.
It does, however, demonstrate once again that the principles behind the Wide Out play are solid in their foundation and that even a near-qualifier of one of my "moves" plays can and will do well on occasion. As it turns out, I was right about the horse who had the strong final fraction advantage, #1 My Friend Nana. She had been away for over 2 months with only one workout since and I didn't feel right about listing such a horse as my top selection. And of course due to her strong advantage I wouldn't want to play against her either so I passed the race.
If My Friend Nana was in top condition, I believe she would have beaten the field fairly handily, but for whatever reason, her trainer did not feel the need to sharpen her with additional workouts to get her in such shape and she barely managed to get 2nd behind the longshot. Do I wish I had listed the near Wide Out 1st and the final fraction advantage horse 2nd? Yes, it sure would have been nice to have listed a cold 5-1 exacta of $325.50, but again if I list ALL the "near move" horses, at times I will be doing so at the expense of other more logical contenders.
As promised last Saturday, today I'll finish my response to Monty's email request from a couple of weeks ago and handicap a route race. As an example I'll use race 1 at Aqueduct last Sunday 2/6/00. As per usual, I'll include the Daily Racing Form past performances for this race as an attachment to this newsletter. If you want the file it's Here.
You'll need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these past performances and if you don't have one, you can get a free copy Here.
Race 1 at Aqueduct on 2/6/00 was a mile and a sixteenth claiming race ($20k-$18k) for 4-year-olds and up. There was a field of 8 with no scratches. Again, the first thing I do is label each horse with a running style and make a notation of each on my Daily Racing Form just to the left of the weight assignments. I then write down above the race conditions the Pace Shape of the race as well as the Race Shape. In this case, I have written down EP-EP and Honest. The way I have labeled the running styles there are 5 EP, 1P and 2S horses.
All entries with the exception of Be Accountable had run within the past 30 days. The lone exception was the only "move" horse in the race, and Be Accountable was a WIR/Wide Out play with a 4F workout 7 days prior to this event and a bullet work at 4F in December after his last race. Not the greatest workout line you'll ever see, but I listed him first off the sharp speed he showed in his last as a "move-within-a-race" play.
To this point I've touched on the 1st two components of my handicapping process, identifying the pace shape of the race and locating any "move" horses. The 3rd step is to compare final fractions and see if there are any advantage horses.
I'll list the field and next to each entry will be the running style, the last-race Beyer speed figure, the final fraction (raw/actual), and "moves."
1. Trucking Baron S 60 25.4 / 26.2
The way I locate and decide upon contenders is by examining the 3 components mentioned. Most races are made up of a number of EP runners and as such are EP-EP or E-EP Pace Shapes and favor the EP running style. So I begin by trying to determine if one of the early speed types has an advantage over the rest and as such would have a chance to go "wire to wire."
It was my opinion that Be Accountable had a better than even chance to take this field all the way and that belief coupled with him being the lone "move" horse is why I made him my top selection. I have found however, that a clear final fraction advantage is usually more powerful than a "move" and as such I will make my selections accordingly in the future. It's a tough call at times though and final odds can sometimes make the difference in final wagering decisions.
The final fraction advantage in this race is pretty obvious. #4 Cajun Bourre and #5 Mzuri have the clear edge in last-out route races. If we throw out the last race of #2 Native Coast and go back to his previous race, his final fraction and Beyer would indicate he had a shot. But even though his last-race problems were caused by a fallen horse and rider, I still didn't believe the overall experience of and performance in that race would set him up for a good try in this match up that included a couple of sharp last out tries plus a "move" horse.
If you noticed the better final fraction of #7 Golden Tent, namely 24.2, note that it was accomplished at the distance of 6 furlongs, not at a route. I will generally add 4 or 5 fifths of a second to a sprint final fraction when comparing it to route fractions. That would make his final fraction 25.1 or 25.2, which would still compare favorably to #'s 4 and 5.
But Golden Tent was also dead-last in a field of 10 at the quarter pole, a position he had held in each of his last 3 races. Being an S runner in a field with 5 EP types with that much ground to make up late would be too much of an obstacle to overcome to make him a logical top 3 selection. As you can see, we have to consider running styles and the match ups of those running styles when evaluating final fractions.
I'll go over the field from top to bottom. #1 Trucking Baron is an S runner who showed nothing in his last few races, most of which were on the grass. With no last-out "move' or strong final fraction, he was an immediate toss out.
I've already reviewed #2 Native Coast. Although a case could be made for him in terms of competitive Beyer speed figures, even with the drop in claiming price he was not a fit with this group, considering what the top 3 showed. While he showed he could run a comparable Beyer speed figure, there was no indication that he could get the money other than at Finger Lakes.
#3 Be Accountable as stated was not only a "move" horse, but he showed good early zip having in his last outing run the fastest splits of any route race that day. It's important to note that a "move" horse does not have to and most often will not have a competitive final fraction figure. The move it makes is sufficient to make it a top contender and the nature of the move will often result in an inferior final fraction as well as Beyer speed figure.
#4 Cajun Bourre not only tied for the best last-race Beyer speed figure, but also tied for the best last-race final fraction, which was significantly better than his competition, other than #5. His running style and last race performance tabbed him as a definite top 3 pick in this group.
#5 Mzuri was pretty much similar to #4, but with one exception, which I noted in my analysis of the race on Sunday. Not only had he beaten Cajun Bourre by a head after a stretch-long battle, but he was now the recipient of a 7-pound weight shift advantage due to obtaining the services of the top apprentice Norberto Arroyo, Jr. On that basis I felt he definitely had to be picked ahead of Cajun Bourre.
#6 Milwaukee John showed good early speed in almost all of his races. I had two problems with him though. First of all, he had not shown that he can run well in New York. There are a number of tracks from which horses ship that in my opinion require such a demonstration. Suffolk Downs is one of them. But another key was his fractions. They didn't compare well at all and this is an example of the stark differences that can be seen by such comparisons.
As stated, #7 Golden Tent was an 11-year old with the wrong running style for this particular match up. In addition, he was for all intents and purposes a sprinter for most of his illustrious career and his good races were well behind him.
#8 Trouncin Tiger, while having an EP running style, did not match up at all using any of my 3 handicapping components.
This handicapping process brought out 3 clear choices. The only decisions remaining for me were the order of preference and the wager. When I find a race with only 3 logical contenders, it gets my attention. Often, there are more than 3 contenders, even if some are only so-called "periphery" plays. But this race sure seemed to be among only 3. The results show that Mzuri won by over 5 lengths while Cajun Bourre wore down Be Accountable for the place by less than a length. The distance back to the 4th-place horse, Golden Tent was over 4 lengths.
The odds for these three contenders were 5-1 on Be Accountable, 6-1 on Cajun Bourre and 3-2 on Mzuri. A parlay of Mzuri and Cajun Bourre equals $35.00 but since both of these horses had the best last-out Beyer speed figure, the payoff was an underlay $22.20. The public also saw the Jockey replacement and jumped all over Mzuri in the top slot. I myself put a win wager on Be Accountable at what I considered good odds. For exacta wagering, I normally insist on a payoff of at least $24 for all combos in a 3-horse box.
With only a minute left, the combos of 5-3 and 5-4 were right at $24 so I boxed the 3 horses and then boxed more on the 3-5 combo and finally, played an additional part-wheel exacta of 5/3-4 since Mzuri was in my mind the best of the two horses with the final fraction advantage. This wager allowed me to make at least somewhat of a profit in spite of my win bet going down.
I hope this exercise has helped Monty and everyone else to the point that in the future you can more easily uncover the clearcut contenders.
Until next week, I wish you clear skies and fast tracks; knock 'em dead!
*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
I want to thank a couple of subscribers for taking the time to send me suggestions for places to open accounts that will accept wagers from Aqueduct. Thanks very much to Ken for suggesting 675bets. This site has a lot of interesting information on it and it offers a telephone wagering account that includes Aqueduct. Also, many thanks to Mike S. for his suggestion, Nasa Sports. He says they are very reputable and their telephone number is 1-888-999-2387.
In this week's newsletter I would like to go over some of the finer points of handicapping or put another way, some of the lesser talked about and less obvious aspects. Being aware of some of these points can help to narrow down a field that at first glance may seem too contentious or not playable because of too many possible contenders. After all, the whole point of handicapping a race is to come up with a short list of contenders and a large group of so-called "pretenders" or non- contenders.
Some of the throw-outs are clear and obvious, but others are not and it's the latter group that can cause problems. From the not-so-obvious category there is a 3rd sub-group and that is the "periphery" plays, horses that we don't think will win but may fill the 3rd spot in a trifecta or possibly even the 2nd leg of the exacta. If you have no intention of making these exotic wagers for a particular race then the periphery plays are not significant. As usual, we have wagering decisions to make and keeping things simple like deciding to play to win or win and place only may be the way to go in a particular situation.
I'm going to illustrate how I handicapped last Sunday's 9th race at Aqueduct. In that full field of 12 I saw a clear top contender, but we'll also see a number of horses that may look like contenders but are actually a cut below and belong in the "periphery" group.
This race brings up another point, somewhat unrelated but important. As you know, due to requests, I have been listing 3 and only 3 picks for the races I select in this newsletter. The only exception I make is the last race at Aqueduct, for which I usually list 4 picks for those who play superfectas, like Alex and TC, who hit one last week for over $1,700.
On last Sunday, I listed only 3 horses for race 9, completely forgetting about the 4th slot for superfecta players. It doesn't do much good at this point to say this, but the horse that won was for sure my 4th choice and I'll show why it was and also why it was not among my initial top 3. I say initial top 3 because my listed 2nd choice was a late scratch, which left me with only 2 picks for this race. I must have had a case of brain-lock when I only put up 3 picks, but that's another story and I don't mean to say I could have or should have done this or that because it's too late now to make selections for this race.
If I were to list 4 or even 5 horses for each race, two things would be accomplished. First of all, I would look a whole lot better and I could lay claim to picking a whole lot more winners, exactas, trifectas, pick 3's, you name it. That's what a number of handicappers do and claim. But that's not realistic and the second thing this would achieve is mayhem concerning how to wager on the race. What I'll try to remember to do in the future is to list 3 horses for all races. In addition, I'll make a separate list of horses I consider "periphery" plays or horses that could be part of the exotic wagers, but are not strong contenders for the win slot and I'll list those in order of preference.
The best situations will be races in which I list only the 3 selections and no periphery plays because these races will be the least contentious. If I really believe that a race is between 2 horses, that's how many I will post. This way, those who wager on my picks will have a better idea of the races I believe have the strongest chance to payoff. Also, I obviously have no way of knowing for sure what the post time odds will be on any of my picks. Late scratches for example can have a significant effect on the odds of remaining horses and the public's 3rd or 4th choices can suddenly be 1st and 2nd.
Last-out Beyer speed figures are the number one influence on which horse or horses will be the favorites, followed by class-droppers. In last Sunday's 1st race at Aqueduct, my top choice was #5 Concorde Light. He had a morning line of 8-1 in a field of 8. When I tried to decide on my own "fair odds line", which are the odds I list to the right of the official morning line odds next to each selection, the first thing I looked at were the odds Concorde Light went off at in his last few races and also how large the fields were in those races.
In his last race, Concorde Light went to the post at odds of better than 49-1 in a field of 9, which was only one more than he faced Sunday. In his previous race, again in a field of 9 he went off at odds of 33-1. So why was he listed at "only" 8-1 on Sunday? Because he was taking a significant drop in company from non-winners of 2 races other than maiden or claiming to a race with a claiming tag of $27,500. As shown in the Daily Racing Form, the alowance purse in his previous race was $45,000 and the purse for this race was $26,000.
Since Concorde Light was a Profile play with consistent early presence in a field with little early speed, he had to be my choice. He was not my choice based on the class drop. But with the late scratch of #1 Carson County, one of only a couple others with any kind of early speed, the public really focused in on Concorde Light. I made my fair odds line at 5-1, but due to the late scratch, he opened up at 8-5, drifted up to as high as 4-1 and then steadily came down again to his post time odds of 2-1 and paid $6.20 after wiring the field.
The horse with the large Beyer speed figure advantage (and suspicious drop in class off 2 straight wins), #6 Alex the Great, was made the actual favorite, but 2-1 on a last-out 49-1 shot is somewhat of a rarity. It goes to show that a significant drop in class (coupled with a pace shape advantage) can have a tremendous influence on the odds of a horse and this is one of the aspects of handicapping I'm going to touch on further today.
Now back to race 9 from last Sunday at Aqueduct. If you want the file for this race you can find the Multicaps file Here.
As I said, our race had a full field of 12. If you follow along with me, you can eliminate as early scratches, Halo Flash and Let's Go to Dodge. And the lone late scratch was #1 Outamyway Sir. I'm going to list the entire field and to the right of the names I'll include the running style I've labeled each, the last-out Beyer speed figure, the last-out 4th-quarter fraction (raw/actual) except for the lone last-race sprinter #8, for whom I'll list the 3rd quarter fraction, and finally any last-out moves-within-a-race.
2. Free Run P 65 26.3 / 26.0 SRE
The pace shape of this field was EP-EP, with 2 EP runners, 7 P's and 3 S's. Again, these were my labels, which may have varied slightly with the way BRIS software programs labeled the running styles. In addition to the the 3 areas of handicapping I stress most, which are pace shape, moves-within-a-race and internal fractions comparison, the additional factors I'll look at in this race are class rise or drop, track last-raced at, distance switch, and conditioning, especially concerning days since last raced.
All these factors should be reviewed and analyzed in each race before we make a decision about who we believe the top contenders are and if there are any peripheral horses to be considered for minor spots in the win-place-show (and 4th for superfectas) slots.
First of all, who are the early speeds in this match up and are any of them likely to top the field all the way? As can be seen, I have only 2 horses labeled EP or early pressers and no E runners who want and need the lead every time out. The 2 likely contenders for the early lead are #8 Hong Kong Henry and #9 Committal. Hong Kong Henry would seem the more likely to get the lead since he has been sprinting, but he does not show a successful wire-to-wire win and does not show any particular fondness for route racing.
Hong Kong Henry had 4 races since a long six-month layoff. He won a NW1X allowance sprint, ran 2nd in a non-winners of 3 lifetime sprint, won a NW2X allowance sprint and then was entered in a high-priced claiming sprint, in which he ran pretty much of a clunker. With the drop to half the claiming price, while I could not put him in my top list of contenders, I could see Hong Kong Henry possibly lasting for a part and as such he would be among my periphery plays.
The other likely speed, Committal, was also pretty sure to be out there early, and therefore likely to be in at least somewhat of a battle with Hong Kong Henry. Did he show the ability to win wire-to-wire? The only such race showing on dirt was against turf horses in a race against 5 others that was switched to the main track back in September at Saratoga. As you can see, on a race I'm seriously considering playing, I spend some extra time on the early speed horses because if such a horse gets an easy lead, no matter what his last couple of races show, he is the most dangerous proposition to win there is in racing.
Since Committal did not figure to be able to get to the front alone I couldn't make him a major player in this match up. Off his being tied for the best last-race Beyer speed figure and being one of only 2 early speed types, however, I would place him along with Hong Kong Henry in the periphery group. What this means is that I would not play either of these horses to win or in a daily double. If I were to construct exacta or trifecta or superfecta wagers, I could see using one or both of them in the 3rd and 4th slots.
Now that I've placed the speeds in what I consider their proper category and I'm of the opinion that neither will wire this group, I can go on with handicapping the rest of the field.
#2 Free Run has one thing going for him and that is that he broke his maiden as an SRE horse, albeit in his 19th try. Not only are his Beyers a cut below the contenders in here, but so are his internal fractions. He has to be a throw out.
#3 Strike It Lucky only shows a fairly competitive final fraction in his last out, but that race and the couple prior efforts were quite nondescript in that he showed very little. It's one thing to earn a good internal fraction number while 7th at the 8th pole at fifty to one and quite another to show that figure while closer to the pace and running evenly, etc. He too was an immediate toss out.
#4 Native Tribe had a bit of an excuse in his last while being bumped at the start. He was moving in from 2 outside post efforts and with the 24.4 fraction and the slight drop in class I put him in my top group of contenders. He showed 5 wins at the distance and had a win 3-back.
#5 Maybe Jack didn't show me that much although he was among the top 4 in the wagering. I guess what the public saw was the two wins he had in New York in his last 7 races, one at Belmont and one at Aqueduct on the main track, both in about the same company. But I stress the last race primarily when I handicap, and I wasn't too impressed with his last, which was on a frozen surface at Suffolk Downs. Now I don't have anything against Suffolk Downs or any other racetrack for that matter.
I just didn't like the 26.3 fraction from that track compared to better on the inner at Aqueduct. The allowance purse he ran for in his last two up there was over $11,000 less than the purse he was going for today. If you throw out his last and go back to his nice win at Suffolk, his 4th quarter fraction in that race was 28 flat, again, no match for the best of this bunch. If you notice, he earned a 92 Beyer speed figure for that win, but when it comes to making a decision and a choice, I stress internal fractions and the best I could do with Maybe Jack was put him on the list of periphery plays because his last was a Wide Out move.
#6 Duncker I.D. had to be my top choice because he fit two of my 3 main handicapping components. He not only had the best internal fraction, but he was an SRE play also. In any wagering he would be my definite key horse. In addition, he was tied for the best last-out Beyer, which of course is why he went off as the luke warm 4-1 favorite, and he was moving in from the 10-hole to the 5-hole while moving up off a big win. What about his 49 days off? I thought his 3F blowout was sufficient for that time off. I obviously would have preferred to see a 4F or 5F work since his last also, but 7 weeks is not that long of a layoff for a horse who ran a pretty high speed figure in his last.
#7 Mactaquac was similar to Strike It Lucky in that he had a decent last-out fraction but he had a couple of other things going against him. If you remember the pace shape of this race was EP-EP with only 2 or possibly 3 horses that would go out early. This did not bode well for an S runner because such a horse needs a real fast pace up front and with a short supply of early speed types, Mactaquac did not figure to get the pace he needed.
When Hong Kong Henry ran the 1st quarter in a slowish 24 flat, this horse's fate was sealed. I had to throw out Mactaquac due to his running style in a pace shape that indicated a potential for a dawdling early pace, even though he closed pretty well in his 2 New York races.
#'s 8 and 9 have already been discussed.
#10 Blue Instrument had virtually no shot off his last and being an S runner from the 9-hole. In his one race since October, he ran 9th most of the way in an 11-horse field.
#1A Iron Cop was the 3rd S runner and he was leaving the gate from the 10-hole, not a place for any horse to have a great shot from on Aqueduct's inner dirt track, but certainly not an S horse who showed nothing in his last race. If you go back to his race prior, he looks like a contender in here, but on what basis do you totally dismiss his last? I didn't and threw him out.
#11 Funny Toy is an example of a horse that looked pretty good except for his 106 days since he last raced. He had a strong 24.3 4th quarter fraction and he finished his last smoothly and evenly. With his last- race Beyer of only 80 and his outside post, his value was pretty well camouflaged. In addition to his negative 11 post position, he only had 2 works during that layoff, the first at 3F and the second at 5F. If he had shown a string of well-spaced works at say 5F, 5F, 4F, 4F and then a blowout work at 3F on Feb. 5th, I would say he had a legitimate shot for part of the money.
I could say right here that this horse deserved to be a periphery play, but I'll be honest about it and say that I didn't put him on my list of those horses. However, I wouldn't argue with anyone who thought otherwise off his strong internal fraction. It depends on how much emphasis you place on workouts between races. It would be nice to say I put him in the periphery group because then I could go on and say how one could have hit the trifecta and superfecta using this type of handicapping overview.
Of course the main problem with that is that this whole exercise right now is being done AFTER the race has been run. What I'm trying to do is not take credit for any payoffs, but demonstrate the soundness of these handicapping techniques so you can capitalize on some actual payoffs in the future. Funny Toy went on to run a pretty big race finishing 3rd at 58-1.
#12 Jubarsky was the horse I had every intention of listing 4th, but for some inexplicable reason, left off when I typed up the actual picks and put up only 3 instead of the usual 4. I guess part of the explanation is that I wasn't even sure he would get in off the also eligible list. His last couple of big Beyers and a significant drop in claiming price put him among the top 4 betting choices in the field, in spite of his post position of 12. There is no way I could have listed Jubarsky ahead of Duncker I.D. but with the scratch of Outamyway Sir, he would have been my listed 3rd choice behind Duncker I.D. and Native Tribe.
Since this meet began, only one other horse has won a route from the 12-hole so Jubarsky had a huge obstacle in his way. Off his last extremely even race, preceeded by a win in his race prior, I put him on my short list of contenders.
So here were my final lists after the late scratch:
6. Duncker I.D.
5. Maybe Jack
The results were:
12. Jubarsky $14.00
Anyone who liked the superfecta play and who also kept in Funny Toy as a periphery play may have been able to hit it using the above-described handicapping process. I don't know if only 1 lucky player hit that payoff or maybe 2, but here would be the way I would have played it if I were prone to such plays, which I'm not. I'll use that exotic wagering calculator I've spoken of in the past to figure the cost.
6-4-12 / 6-4-12 / 5-8-9-11 / 5-8-9-11 would have hit it at a cost for a $2 wager of $144.
The triple would have been a little less costly: 6-4-12 / 6-4-12 / 5-8-9-11 cost $48 for a $2 wager.
I hope this session helps your future bottom line. Until next week, I wish you clear skies and fast tracks; knock 'em dead!
*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
Welcome to this edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." Before I go over a race from last weekend, I would like to address a topic about which many of us, including yours truly can use a reminder.
Have you ever heard the expression, "the horse doesn't know what his odds are?" Obviously this means not to back off from a longshot if he figures to you, as Pat Smith didn't when he put $20 to win and place on that Wide Out play a couple of weeks ago at Gulfstream that paid $185.00.
The phrase I want to stress not to forget today is "the horse doesn't know he's got a lousy win record." This refers to a horse that we may think has a great chance for the win, but after looking at his record, we may want to toss him out of the win slot and at best keep him in for 2nd or 3rd.
I learned a long time ago that if a horse looks the best or even second or third best in a field with a short list of contenders, I shouldn't focus too much on his win record as a reason to throw him out of the top slot because funny as it may sound, he literally does not know his win record or that he's not supposed to win because of it.
Well, as you will see, I fell victim to that wrong line of thinking in the race I'm going to review. One of the contenders looked absolutely primed to run a big race and because of his win record, I stated that he should only be used "underneath" or not in the win slot.
I will say also though, that there were other circumstances that led me to make that statement and after late scratches, there was a different complexion to this race. The bottom line is, however, that I strongly advise anyone to learn a lesson about horseracing and handicapping. And of course to remember it. If a horse looks like he is ready to win, don't go off of him because of his record; the horse is unaware of his record.
While in reality it is true that some horses have a much stronger desire than others to dig in during crunch time and get to the wire first, the facts remain that often enough when a horse with a bad win record looks solid in a particular match up, he can and will win a good portion of the time in spite of that record.
As I've said in the past, the complexion of a race we are looking to wager on can change dramatically after late scratches. Sometimes the pace shape can change radically. For instance a particular race in question may have a pace shape of EP-EP, which is no E runners, at least 2 EP runners, and any number of P and S runners. If there are 4 EP horses in an original field of 9, we may think it is an evenly matched field in terms of early speed and pressers/closers.
After the late defection of 2 of those EP horses, however, the complexion of the pace shape does change. While it's still an EP-EP pace shape, there are now only 2 early speed types in a field of 7 and this scenario can and often does favor one of those early speeds. Much more so than if the field had remained intact with the other 2 EP runners in there ready and willing to mix it up early.
There are a number of other changes to the overall complexion of a race that late scratches can create, including having a situation in which we see too many contenders, such as 5 in a field of 9 that suddenly becomes 3 in a field of 7. We originally had too many horses to box in an exacta and now have few enough to make that play providing the value is there.
An original field may be composed of 16 horses, including 4 on the also-eligible list who cannot run unless enough entries are late scratches. As an example, we may not focus too much on the 16th horse at first, but after 7 late scratches, this horse moves in to the 9-hole and may look a lot better in terms of pace shape and other factors.
Suffice it to say that decisions made about a race that looks like it has potential value can change after the late scratches have been made. In our race that will be reviewed today, the late scratches made a difference and we'll see how.
Our race is the 9th at Aqueduct run last Saturday, 2/19/00. The original field of 13 was reduced to 10 after 3 late scratches. You can get the file Here. You'll need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these past performances and if you don't have one, you can download a free copy Here.
Our race was for NY-Statebred NW1X (non-winners of one race other than maiden, claiming or starter) at the distance of 6 furlongs. Just as a side note for those somewhat new to this game, a furlong is an eighth of a mile or 220 yards. Therefore, a mile is 8 furlongs in distance.
Since the number 6 is three-quarters of the number 8, it follows that a 6-furlong race is three-quarters of a mile, which can be broken down into 3 segments of a quarter-mile each. Since a furlong or eighth of a mile is 220 yards, a sixteenth of a mile is 110 yards. If you see a race carded at the distance of a mile and 70 yards, you know that it is 40 yards less than a mile and a sixteenth race.
A mile and a sixteenth race is 8 1/2 F; a mile and an eighth is 9F; a mile and 3 16ths is 9 1/2 F; a mile and a quarter is 10F; a mile and 3 eighths is 11F; a mile and a half is 12F and a mile and 5 eighths is 13F.
Now back to our race. I'll list the field and next to each entry I'll note the running style as I have labeled it, followed by the last-race Beyer speed figure, the 3rd-quarter fraction (raw/actual) except for #5 who ran last in a route race so I'll use his 4th quarter fraction, the official morning line and any moves-within-a-race.
2. Hedge Hopper S 49 15-1
The first thing I will do is write on the top of my Racing Form the pace shape of any race I'm seriously thinking of wagering on. This race, in spite of having a strong-looking morning line favorite, looked like it had some potential for value and that's why I included it in my picks.
Next, I'll see how the pace shape actually "shapes" up. This race has an EP-EP pace shape. How many EP horses are there? Five. In a 10-horse field with 5 potential early speed types, it would normally be considered a toss up as to which type of running style would have the advantage, unless one of the early speed types had dominant early speed.
What I mean is that this field was evenly balanced between early speed and pressers/closers, 5 of each. So we couldn't give the advantage to either running style as we could if there were say 7 early speeds, in which case we may give the advantage to a closer.
In a case like this, we should emphasize the closing abilities as shown by the 3rd quarter fraction comparison. If the pace shape had indicated it would favor early speed, then we would look at not only the final fractions but the early speed match ups also and it doesn't hurt to check out turn times for the early speeds in any situation.
Here's how the field looked:
2. Hedge Hopper - This is a horse with an S running style whose last race was pretty poor. He was bumped at the start in that last but other than a show finish two back in the mud, he doesn't have the look of a contender and is a throw out.
4. Rejoice by Choice - Another S runner whose last few races make him an immediate throw out, not just for the first flight of contenders but out of the periphery play list also. As can be seen, I didn't even list the fractions for the first two entries.
5. Always Available - This horse is the lone entrant to have last run at a route. The only thing he had going for him recently was that he showed good early foot in his last at a mile and a sixteenth. Although he ran 3rd while registering a good Beyer speed figure in a sprint 4 races back, I eliminated this horse from my contender lists.
6. Cellular Joe - He is a consistent early speed type and I wouldn't argue with anyone who labeled him an E runner. I made him an EP due to not usually breaking right on top and being 4th and 3rd a few times in the early going, but he's real close to having an E running style.
Since he lost so much ground in his last, namely almost 7 lengths in the final furlong, the best I could place him was on my list of periphery plays which consists of horses who I don't believe can win but may be part of an exacta or trifecta. I was pretty surprised when Cellular Joe was 7th after the first quarter-mile of this race had been run.
1A. Wild Appeal - He not only had the best last-race Beyer speed figure, but he was tied for the best last-out 3rd quarter fraction of 25.1. This combination put him on the top of my list of contenders. Additionally, he broke his maiden one race prior against open company, not NY State-breds.
7. Monetary Justice - I put this horse in my top 3, mainly due to his race two-back and also because of the general match up of this group. With 5 EP types in the mix, I figured at least one presser would get into the exotics and he looked to be one of the possibilities.
8. Battle Song - I liked Battle Song because of his final fraction of 25.2 and also because of the way he finished his last race, in which he gained slightly in the final segment.
Speaking of last races, this match up was quite unique in one way. Of the 10 entries, 7 were exiting the same race; the 9th on 2/2/00 at Aqueduct. Often, but not always by any means, when a race is overloaded with horses exiting the same last race, the exacta if not trifecta is composed of horses from that common race. The top 3 finishers in here indeed all exited that same race.
9. Quietly Surprizing - Here was an EP runner who nearly all the time is most comfortable running up on the early pace and due to having predominantly run against inferior stock up at Finger Lakes in upstate New York, did not have the right running style or class to have much of a chance in here.
11. Gritty Devil - I put this one on my list of periphery plays as a possibility due to his early speed and being a Profile play. He was also the only horse in the field who had last run out of conditions in a NW2X race.
Conditioning was a question however. Having last raced 77 days ago, 2 of his 3 works in January were at 3F, which were followed by a slow 4F work, not a good foundation for a top effort off a significant layoff.
For such a layoff, an ideal workout line that would indicate readiness would be within one month prior to his race, at least 2 or 3 5F or 6F works, with the last being a second or so better than the first one or two, followed by a 3F blowout within a week of the race.
12. Gypsy Sparkle - Here was a horse who had the look and numbers of a strong contender. He was tied with the favorite with the best last-race final fraction of 25.1. His prior race was a good second-place finish from the 11-hole. And in his last race, not only did he finish very evenly in that 11-horse common race, but he gained a half-length in the 3rd quarter and one and a quarter lengths in the final furlong.
With a last-out Beyer speed figure of 68, coupled with the other strong points I've just noted, Gypsy Sparkle had the look of a top-2 pick, right behind Wild Appeal. Why did I list him only as a Periphery Play?
Here were my picks in order: #1A Wild Appeal, #8 Battle Song and #7 Monetary Justice. You tell me, did #12 Gypsy Sparkle look better than my 2nd and 3rd choices? You bet he did. My periphery plays in order were the 2 likely speeds, #6 Cellular Joe and #11 Gritty Devil, followed by #12 Gypsy Sparkle.
On Friday, before any late scratches, I saw Gypsy Sparkle as a horse who may not even draw into the race due to being in the 13-hole with only 12 allowed to run. Since there was no guarantee that part of the entry would be scratched, I was not even sure he would get in.
But additionally, if he did get in, he would be on the far outside with a win record of 1 for 38. Gypsy Sparkle completely forgot that he didn't like to win and outran even my highest expectations for him.
When he moved in from not even being a sure entry from the 13-hole to a horse with the best last-out final fraction going from the 10-hole, his chances were upgraded significantly.
Due to the subtle tipoffs he displayed in his last race that indicated he was sitting on a big race, he not only ran big, he ran huge. Not showing a wire-to-wire win in his p.p.'s, let along a win of any kind, he outbroke Cellular Joe and Gritty Devil and led every step of the way, widening his lead to 7 1/2 lengths at the wire.
Obviously I regretted having mentioned that Gypsy Sparkle should be used only as a Periphery Play and not in the win slot because as I've said, the late scratches changed the complexion of this race. Namely, moving in 3 slots to the 10-hole made Gypsy Sparkle look a lot more appealing than some of the others I had listed ahead of him.
Here were the results:
Win: 12 Gypsy Sparkle $22.60
In this particular instance, the top 3 finishers had the best last-out Beyer speed figures and also were the top 3 morning line favorites. Like I've stressed in the past, we don't have to focus entirely on speed figures, but when we locate horses that have those top numbers and figure strongly to us and not the general public, we've got an edge.
There must have been an awfully large number of handicappers who felt that Gypsy Sparkle could not win due to his 1 for 38 record. Thus his payoff of $22.60. This underscores the importance of the lesson about incorrectly stressing this one aspect of handicapping. Remember, (me included) the horse doesn't know what his record is.
Until next week, I wish you clear skies and fast tracks; knock 'em dead!
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**Horseracing Handicappers' Website**