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*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
*****Saturday May 6, 2000*****

Welcome to another edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." Here we are at Derby Day, 2000. A few of you will not be home to receive this issue because you are by now in Louisville and will be in attendence at racing's biggest event. Many of us envy you, but we'll be watching on the tube.

Here is a Kentucky Derby trivia question. In the history of this race, only 2 horses have run sub 2-minute times. You can probably come up with one of them, but give yourself a real pat on the back if you get the other (hint: both achieved this great feat since 1970). I'll give the answer a little later.

I received a few responses to my invitation for any of you who so desired to make public your opinions on the big race. I'll tell you how I see things unfolding shortly. Here are some of your opinions:

Evenin', Jim:

I have been mulling over the Derby entries for over a week now, and of course, until the posts are drawn and the entries solidified, I will not make my selection. I am very apprehensive of Fusaichi Pegasus. No question he seems to stand above the rest in racing ability and has proven himself a winner, but I wonder if he has really been tested.

What concerns me even more are his antics. He seems somewhat immature, and I don't select my Derby choice by his ability to amuse and entertain. I can't help but wonder how he will react to 150,000+, and I don't think he's going to be allowed to rear up in the post parade, look around while the others are in the gate, and decide to enter as he chooses.

I think he may be a favorite against whom I may stand. I think DW Lucas has been working hard with Commendable, and Impeachment, The Deputy, Deputy Warlock, and Aptitude definitely can close on a track with less speed-favoring bias, such as the Preps offered.

I will look at the work tabs, and study over the next few days. I gather information like a drift net, and I do love this sport. I also love to win with a horse over 5-1.

Best, Shar

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Hi Jim,

Just wanted to check in with my Derby picks. Unfortunately, my wife and I must attend a wedding Saturday. Some people have a lot of nerve, getting married on the first Saturday in May. I can't remember the last Derby day I wasn't at the track.

Anyway, I like The Deputy very much. He'll probably be 2nd choice, but with a big field, could still be a fair price. I also like More Than Ready, since he's been showing the ability to rate in his last couple of races.

Have a good week,


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I'm a part-time player and I really have never read books or purchased services, but I do like trying to handicap the best horse! I was fortunate to have Anees on Breeder's Cup Day as my brothers watched in amazement as he breezed by the field in the stretch!

However, that was last year. I do think this race is going to be set up for a closer and I believe based on his last race that Anees again might be firing on the turn!! The pace was very slow and all the horses seemed to be waiting for the right moment. Anees made his move as the pace quickened. At the top of the stretch he was within striking distance only to have to go wide and was pushed further out by the horse to his inside.

Now even if he could have gone inside, he probably would not have won the race because he absolutely needed the race and maybe one more, but I'm hoping not. Be sure of this. If the pace is somewhat furious and he is feeling his oats that day, you will hear his name in the stretch!! I also believe Captain Steve could be there. Don't we all think we know who is going to win the race? That's my take, Anees by a head over High Yield...where did that come from?

Gary Vahcic

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Recently, I've received a number of emails expressing a desire for a more detailed discussion of pace shape and running styles. As you know, I have written a book called "Calibration Handicapping" and obviously, I will not talk in full about the content of that book.

I will, however, try to help clarify things somewhat by printing here an email I received from Mike B. and the response I gave to him. It was in regard to the race I analyzed in last Saturday's newsletter, the one won by Wallimar in Aqueduct's 9th race on 4/12/00:


How important is the running position in figuring the running style???? In the example race my take on Wallimar an S; Formal Player an EP (less than 3 lengths behind at the first two calls); Brant Lake an EP (off last 2 races); New York Jazz an EP (certainly off the last race (behind hd. & 1/2); Fourteen Ten an EP. So I am a little confused with your coming up with 2 EP and the rest P or S. To take nothing away from the winner you selected. In fact if my call on running styles was correct the winner made even more sense.

I like the idea of running style, pace shape and race shape, just would like to understand it a bit more. Any help greatly appreciated.

Thanks again,

Here is my response to Mike:

Regarding Wallimar, you could certainly make a case for him being an S runner. I do look at positioning as well as beaten lengths when labeling running styles and I probably was influenced by his last race in which he was 4th by 4 1/2 at the 2nd call. If you go by his 5 races prior to that though, he looks like an S horse. If you add in the 4 before that, he's a possibly a P.

Formal Player was 7th in a field of 8 at the 1st 2 call points and that positioning influenced my labeling more than the beaten lengths. Same with Brant Lake. He was 5th & 5th in a field of 7 at the 1st 2 call points and before that 5th & 6th in a field of 8. In addition, in his first 2 races, at the 8th pole he was still 11 back and 14 back, not exactly the stuff of an EP runner.

So obviously, I do stress positioning when labeling, as much or more than beaten lengths. You're right, New York Jazz was indeed an EP in his last race, but that was on a different surface, turf, and his other 2 races were S on the dirt and P in his other on the grass. Fourteen Ten was also in my mind clearly a P horse.

Actually, if your call on running styles was correct, that would make it the following from 1 through 12:

S,   P,  P,  EP,  EP,   EP,   S,  EP,  EP,  EP,  EP and a 1st-time starter.

This would change the pace shape from 3 early and 8 late (plus the 1st-time starter) to 7 early and 4 late and would completely change the scenario. You're right. With that pace shape, the winner, Wallimar, would have looked to be a much stronger pick than he already was.

As I may have said, but if not will say here, to make things simpler, I now put on the top of my Racing Form for each race the number of E and EP horses followed by the number of entries in the race. For this race, I had: 3 EP (12). In essence, I could see immediately that the early speed horses should have any advantage.

Because the group with the fewest, Early or Late, should have the advantage, all things being equal. But as we know, there are other factors involved, not the least of which is any bias that may be in effect.

Also, for the winner to emerge from the group with the fewest number, there must be a horse that shows that he's capable of running a big race; i.e. must be in form to some degree.

Hope that helps.



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I wrote this newsletter this past Monday evening. Tuesday morning when I looked at my email, I found the following message from Dave Stewart that is quite appropriate to the subject of pace shapes:


I would like to send an example of how pace shape alone can lead to a big payoff. At Lone Star Park on April 19th in the 5th race, a route race on turf, I was able to use pace shape and no other factor to catch a $698.00 exacta!

I usually play closers on turf anyway, and when I noticed that 9 of the 12 horses in the race had either an E or EP running style, I boxed the 3 closers to hit the exacta. The key horse in the race that finished second at 60 to 1 odds was Feeling Sassy who had broken her maiden at Lone Star last year and had not won since.

On her first win at better than 50 to 1, the jockey was Jeremy Collier. Guess who was riding tonight? It was Jeremy Collier, who had not ridden the horse since last year and this added a bit more confidence to the bet.

This is just one example of how powerful pace shapes can be.

David Stewart
Denton, TX

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Here's the answer to the Kentucky Derby trivia question. The first and only Derby winner to break the 2-minute barrier was none other than arguably the greatest of all time, Big Red - Secretariat. What many forget is that the only other horse to achieve that feat was the runnerup in that 1973 renewal, Sham, a pretty decent racehorse in his own right.

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Since this is a fairly lengthy newsletter already, I'm going to forego the usual example race and move right into my analysis of the the big race.

Here is the way I see the 126th running of the Kentucky Derby. To emerge victorious in this race is what I believe to be the most difficult feat any racehorse will have to achieve in his lifetime.

While it is not as long as some races, to successfully negotiate this mile and a quarter on the first Saturday in May as a 3-year-old is an exceptionally grueling proposition and very few can get 10 furlongs this early in their sophmore year.

Many horses who have turned out to be great could not get this distance so soon in their careers. Others who could not get a mile and a quarter in May could get a mile and a half in the Belmont stakes in June.

3-year-olds mature at a rapid pace and many not until after the Derby. So I'm not bucking the trends. Although Fusaichi Pegasus looks fantastic, and was considered the best prospect to come along in some time by many who wanted to buy him at the July '98 Keeneland yearling sales, and did go for 4 million dollars, he does have one major flaw.

He did not begin his career until 12/11/99 and therefore does not fit the profile of a Kentucky Derby winner. Such a horse will have run in the summer as a 2-year-old and preferably will have won a stakes race that year.

No horse since 1970 has won the roses who has not begun his or her career by November 1 as a 2-year-old. I've based my selections on irrefutable standards as well as my ususal handicapping techniques. After reviewing the past performances, the horse that fits the profile the best is #4 Anees.

Although Anees has not won since his big win in the Breeder's Cup, and has raced only twice since, his big G8 move in the Santa Anita Derby was similar to the same move he made before winning the Breeder's Cup. His last-out 4th quarter fraction of 24.1 sets him up for perhaps his best lifetime race in this run for the roses.

He didn't get the best draw for his deep closer running style, but he should certainly be able to save ground early and an experienced jockey like Cory Nakatani should be able to negotiate his way through traffic as they approach the far turn.

Anees is one of only a handful of horses in this large field who should have the ability to negotiate this distance and I expect to see him charging hard in the stretch.

It's impossible to knock #10 The Deputy, whose only loss from 4 outings this year was a 3/4 length loss to Fusaichi Pegasus. He came up a little short on conditioning for that race according to Jenine Sahadi and has done nothing wrong since. He beat Anees by 6 lengths in the Santa Anita Derby and looms as a very solid contender off his 24.3 last-out 4th quarter.

#12 Fusaichi Pegasus as stated was purchased for 4 million dollars and Neil Drysdale has done a remarkable job with him as he's won 4 straight after a neck loss in his first race. The question is, why did he wait so long to run him?

Apparently, the reason was that he is such a big horse that they wanted to wait as long as possible for him to grow and mature. The problem with having done so, however, is that he must buck a strong Derby trend.

Zero horses out of 73 since 1970 who have begun their careers after November 1st as a 2-year-old have gone on to win this race. Only 3 have even hit the board. I think he's good enough to get part of this purse and if he's great, he can win, but I'll use him mostly underneath in the exotics.

#9 More Than Ready began his career with 5 straight victories, albeit sprints, including one right here at Churchill Downs. Although he has not won at two turns yet, his last 2 races were indications that he is not just a one-dimensional horse. He missed by a head in the Blue Grass at 9 panels and fits the profile of a Kentucky Derby winner.

As periphery plays with longshot chances to get into the exacta, trifecta or superfecta, I like 2 parts of the field entry, both #13, Wheelaway and Deputy Warlock.

It's a bit of a mystery why Mike Battaglia put Wheelaway in the field, but he ran a big race in the Blue Grass as he registered a 24.3 4th quarter fraction and made a big G8 move in the process. His only knock is that no horse has won in over a hundred years who was unraced at 2.

Deputy Warlock has about as deep a closing style as any horse in the field, but if he gets going late, he could be a factor off his huge G8 move and his 24.0 4th quarter fraction, also in the Blue Grass. These two finished 3rd and 4th respectively in that last race.

My picks in order are:

  4. Anees (20-1) (5-1)
10. The Deputy (4-1) (5-2)
12. Fusaichi Pegasus (9-5) (8-5)

Periphery Plays

  9. More Than Ready (10-1) (9-2)
14. Wheelaway (E) (30-1)(12-1)

Good luck to all,


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*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
*****Saturday May 13, 2000*****

Welcome to another edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." The first thing I want to address is the ongoing problem that Netscape users have had when trying to access the archived copies of this newsletter.

This problem has now been resolved, in large part due to the diligent persistence by newsletter subscriber and book buyer Len Duncan, who is a Netscape user and has not been able to view and/or print the archived newsletters. Now that the fix has been implemented, he and hopefully anyone else who so desires can access them Here.

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As I do every once in a while for the benefit of new subscribers, I'll mention again the URL at which anyone who wants it can download a FREE copy of a very handy and useful exotics wagering calculator: Click Here

This is a harness racing website. Scroll down and click on Tools & Utilities; click on Download the Wager Calculator. I downloaded to my desktop and it's right there in front of me any time I want to calculate the cost of any exotic wager.

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I thought it was a good idea, but it went over like a pregnant pole vaulter. I'm speaking of the idea of people sending in to me plays from various tracks that I would post on my site or in this newsletter. Seems like an idea whose time has not yet come. If I spot any plays myself during the week, however, I will post them on my site on the Free Selections page.

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Fusaichi Pegasus is one of only a few likely Derby starters that will go in the Preakness one week from today. But there is another strong contender on the horizon. Since the 1-3 finishers from the Wood Memorial finished 1-2 in the Kentucky Derby, that may bode well for the chances of Wood 2nd place finisher Red Bullet, who is a fresh horse and primed for the Preakness. Time will tell.

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Today I'm going to review a race from Churchill Downs that was run last Saturday, 5/6/00. It was race 5. At the time I handicapped the race there were 10 entries and rather than list 3 selections as I usually do, I listed only 1 pick to emphasize that I thought it would be a value win bet.

That pick did win and paid $11.20. But with the late scratching of 3 horses, the field was narrowed down to 7 entries and the exotics plays keying on my lone pick turned out to be quite attractive. I hope exotics players were able to catch either or both of the exacta or trifecta plays that were quite predictable as we'll see in the following review.

If you have a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer, you can read and/or print the Daily Racing Form past performances for this race by logging onto my website Here.

This was the 66th running of the Winnercomm Handicap, a Grade II race at the distance of 7 furlongs for 4-year-olds and up. As stated, the original field of 10 was reduced to 7 by late scratches. I'll list the horses by saddlecloth number followed by the running styles I've labeled them, followed by last-out Beyer speed figure, 3rd quarter fraction (raw/actual), except for #7 who last ran at 9F on the turf, so for him I'll list his last-out 4th quarter fraction, and finally any last-out moves-within- a-race.

  1. Yes It's True        E    50  23.2 / 26.3
  5. Straight Man        E  103  23.4 / 23.4
  7. Mula Gula            P    93  23.3 / 23.3  W/O
  8. Run Johnny          P    99  24.4 / 24.1
  9. Patience Game     P    99  23.4 / 24.0
10. Kimberlite Pipe  EP  105  24.2 / 24.2

The pace shape of this match up gave a slight advantage to the late runners or P horses. There are 4 "early" and 3 "late." The first thing I do is to see if there are dominant horses from among each group.

Let's look at the "early" runners first. Yes It's True and Straight Man are E horses and Son of a Pistol and Kimberlite Pipe are EP's. Which of these can we expect to get the lead, and will it be an easy enough lead to allow him to give the slip to the other speeds and be able to wire the field?

Straight Man and Kimberlite Pipe were real close in figures. They had the same last-out turn times of 22.4 on almost identical track variants. There were 2 differences between the two that made me select #5 Straight Man as my lone pick. Straight Man made a strong G8 move during his wire-to-wire win and he also did not run his lifetime best Beyer speed figure, as had Kimberly Pipe.

Those things considered, Straight Man would be the "early" horse with the best chance and since the pace shape favored "late", he may very well be the only speed to be around at the end.

I'll go over each horse and cover the closing capabilities of the "late" runners during that discussion.

1. Yes It's True - used to be a real speed ball with plenty of talent. But his last 2 were real clunkers, one in August of '99 and the other in October. I think we would be hard pressed to conclude that he could come back against a pretty decent field and run the number that would likely be needed. In addition, he was facing a strong-looking in-form speedball in #5 Straight Man, which would diminish his chances even more since he was an E runner himself. I had to throw him out on that basis.

2. Son of a Pistol - seemed to have the wrong running style. He prefers to be up near or on the lead and does his best running from there, thus his EP running style label. He also might have trouble keeping up with the 2 real speeds of the race. In addition, his last race, which was 2 months prior, was a real tough win by a nose for which he earned the best speed figure of his 12 races showing. The question was could he move forward off that effort? I tabbed him as a contender for the exotics.

5. Straight Man - I've pretty much covered the virtues of this speedball. If he could put away Kimberlite Pipe, he had a real good chance to be first at the wire.

7. Mula Gula - had not run since November at 9F on the turf. But he did have the right running style for this match up. In what looked on paper to be a pretty swiftly run race, his stalking style could serve him well. If he showed that he could come back strongly after such a layoff.

He did show a good 2nd-place finish after a September to April layoff, and he did win his last sprint race. How about his conditioning? Were his works any good? Did they show a good foundation for this race? I would say so. A 5f work of 102.2 followed by 112.3 and 111.3. Followed by an absolutely sparkling work of 124.1 a couple of weeks before the race. His trainer was batting .230 for the year also. A definite contender.

8. Run Johnny - made a sharp G8 move in his last after breaking slowly, but still managed to beat only one horse, which is of some concern since he was stepping up in company. His 24.1 final fraction would likely not be good enough in this match up.

9. Patience Game - ran a 24 flat final quarter when chasing Straight Man last outing. He finished 3rd in that race, but made a nice move in the final 8th when he gained 3/4 of a length and registered 12.1 for that final 220 yards. A contender to be closing.

10. Kimberlite Pipe - the other speed. It was pretty much a simple scenario with him. If he went out with Straight Man and succombed to him, he would be out of the money. If on the other hand he put away Straight Man, he could be around for a part. For the reasons I mentioned earlier, which basically add up to believing that he would get cooked early, I threw him out.

Here were the results:
1st:  #5 Straight Man $11.20
2nd: #7 Mula Gula ex. 5-7 $164.00
3rd:  #9 Patience Game tri. 5-7-9 $843.20

Those were pretty logical yet very generous payoffs considering that all 3 finishers fit the pace shape of the race with the "speed of the speed" just lasting over the 2 best closers. #7 Mula Gula was the key to the big payoffs, and somehow he went off at 14-1. He had a lot going for him that would indicate a good shot off the layoff, including having run a 23.3 4th quarter as a Wide Out play in his last, a Grade I race.

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


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*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
*****Saturday May 20, 2000*****

Welcome to another edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." Today is Preakness Day 2000. Later I'll have my full analysis of this year's renewal of the 2nd jewel of racing's triple crown.

First up I have to address last week's selections made in this forum. I could have put up more winners had I used the dart method rather than pouring over the Daily Racing Form for hours. The dart method is simply throwing darts at the Form and using the horses that are hit.

As you will see by an email I received and this week's analysis race, the handicapping process I use definitely works, but for some inexplicable reason, I was off base last weekend. We're all going to have our share of losers; that is inevitable, but an oh-fer weekend is very pain- ful indeed.

I'm always pleased to hear from subscribers or book buyers who share success they have had using my principles. These emails confirm what I already know, that the 3-step process I use can and will show a long-term profit if we seek out and play value plays uncovered by it, regardless of occasional short-term setbacks.

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Bright and early last Monday morning I received the following email:


Thursday I received your book. I used it Sunday at Philadelphia Park and as you might imagine it already paid for itself 5 times over! If I followed your betting pattern in the book it could have been much more. But I was skeptical combined with being conservative. You can be sure both are gone now. At the track it was so simple to throw out horses. I narrowed it down to three horses, boxed them and hit on 4 of 6 exactas for nice payouts over your 24 dollar minimum.

In one race, the top horse listed by the program handicapper was the first I THREW OUT. I hit that exacta for $35.00. As I was handicapping that race I was thinking, why would he pick that horse!!! As you can see, I'm rambling, but I am extremely excited so I will just thank you and go to work already.


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I'm going to get right into this week's analysis race and then give a close look at the Preakness. The race I'm going to review is the 10th race run at Churchill Downs on Thursday, May 11th. It's an illustration of how the 3-step process I use can point out value plays.

You can follow along by viewing and/or printing the Daily Racing Form past performances of this race, which I have made available on my website Here.

Our race was a 6-furlong claimer for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward which had not won two races. It was a full field of 12. The also eligible horses #'s 13 and 14 did not get in and were scratched.

I'll list the field from 1 through 12 and then note: the running style I have labeled each, the last-out Beyer speed figure, the last-out final fraction (raw/actual), which will be the 3rd quarter for all but the 3 last-out routers, #'s 1, 6, and 10, for whom I will list the last-out 4th quarter, and finally any moves-within-a-race.

For the benefit of new subscribers, the 3-step process I use is identifying and focusing on 1. Pace Shape, 2. Moves-Within-A-Race, and 3. Internal Fractions Comparison. It will become clear how the value payoffs of this race were identified by this process.

  1. Favorite Again              P  44  27.3 / 28.4
  2. Gold Queen               EP  60  26.1 / 26.4
  3. Fly Fire                        P  39  26.0 / 26.3
  4. Serving Ma Man          P  43  26.1 / 25.2
  5. Wolf's Dominion        EP  55  25.0 / 25.2
  6. Reckless Abandon       P    5  24.2
  7. Betty's Time Bomb       P  45  29.0 / 27.0  SRE
  8. Repast                         P  59  26.1 / 26.1
  9. Majestic Pumpkin      EP  35  28.0 / 28.3
10. Shellout                     EP  50  26.4 / 29.0
11. Diz L Fiter                 EP  64  25.4 / 27.1  Profile
12. Ucanstartthemusic      EP  37  27.1 / 27.2  Profile

As we'll see, there were 2 key horses in this match up that were responsible for the value payoffs. Neither of these horses were anywhere near the top last-out Beyer speed figure, or even the overall Beyer speed figures. That's why they went off as longshots, and yet they were identified by this 3-step handicapping process as contenders.

The pace shape of this match up was EP-EP, with 6 early types and 6 late types. Therefore, there was no apparant running style advantage. Here's how I saw this field:

1. Favorite Again - moving up in class off an attempt at a mile in the slop was a bit much to ask of this 55-1 shot.

2. Gold Queen - was part of the speed brigade and was making a lateral move since the purse in her last allowance race was just about the same as in this claiming event. Since the name of her game is speed, there was nothing showing that would indicate that she could take this field wire-to-wire, which was the way she won her only race.

3. Fly Fire - was taking a slight drop in company. She didn't show much in her last in the slop, but earned a competitive Beyer speed figure in her prior on a fast strip at 6 1/2 F. This longshot did not appear to be a contender as she showed little beyond a maiden win at 5 1/2 F 3-back.

4. Serving Ma Man - right away had to be considered a prime contender in this field as she possessed the best last-out final fraction. In addition to her drop in claiming price, she was one of only 3 horses to have a last-out gain in the final furlong, all 3 of which hit the board.

5. Wolf's Dominion - although she tied for the best last-out final fraction, it should be dismissed due to being so far back during her entire trip. That was due to her ducking out and being bumped at the start of that race. In most of her prior races, she ran much closer up to the pace and thus was an EP horse but showed no recent clues to a pending strong effort despite the plunge to this level.

6. Reckless Abandon - was cutting back from a couple of route races at higher levels. but showed absolutely nothing in her last 3.

7. Betty's Time Bomb - broke her maiden in her last and was now an SRE play. Although the internal fractions were very slow in that race, she showed that she had a strong closing punch and being a "move-within-a-race" play in a race with few logical contenders, she had to be considered a threat.

8. Repast - her last was a strong-looking maiden-breaker in which she not only recorded a competitive Beyer speed figure, but also ran the 2nd best last-out final fraction. She was the 3rd horse to make the short list of contenders.

9. Majestic Pumpkin - a one-dimensional speedball, she did not show the ability to take this group all the way with 5 more speed types and a couple of good closers signed on.

10. Shellout - was dropping down in claiming price and cutting back from a mile and a sixteenth. She didn't show much in her last 4.

11. Diz L Fiter - possessed the best last-out Beyer speed figure of the group and ran okay, returning in this match up as a Profile play, another "move-within-a-race". She looked like the best of the EP runners and as such belonged as the 4th member on the contender list.

12. Ucanstartthemusic - this Profile play was taking a slight drop in claiming price. She looked to be outgunned in this match up as she had not hit the board since her maiden win in November. Having an uninspiring workout line off a February 24 layoff, I had to dismiss her as having a chance to be a factor in here.

The results of this race should dispel the notion that winners of a maiden race should be thrown out until they prove they can beat winners. The first 2 finishers were the only horses in the field to have last-out maiden-breaker races.

Here were the results:

1st:   #7 Betty's Time Bomb $50.00 - SRE play
2nd:  #8 Repast - 2nd-best final fraction
3rd:  #4 Serving Ma Man - best final fraction
4th: #11 Diz L Filter - Profile play

The 7-8 exacta paid $188.20
The 7-8-4 trifecta paid $1,532.00 (another Guru TBC)
The 7-8-4-11 superfecta paid $4,683.90

Here was a race with an abundance of value all around, in spite of having the 2 favorites at 2-1 and 5-2 running 2nd and 4th.

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


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Here is the way I see the 125th running of the Preakness Stakes. I would like to begin by saying how I believe the 3-5 favorite #7 Fusaichi Pegasus can be beaten, but after reviewing all indicators of next-out performance, I can't locate a more likely win candidate.

He reversed a couple of long-time trends when he cruised home in the Kentucky Derby, including becoming the first favorite to win that race since 1979. He also overcame a total lack of seasoning as a 2-year-old as he did not go to the post until December 11th of last year, when he lost by a neck and tasted defeat for the first and only time in his life.

Including that maiden race, Fusaichi Pegasus has had the lead at the 8th pole in each of his 6 lifetime races. In the last 5, from that point in the race to the finish, the issue has never been in doubt, including his Derby win in which he was hand-ridden in the final furlong.

He doesn't have the look of a tired racehorse who could possibly regress somewhat off a couple of top efforts as might be said of others in this field. Conversely, his Derby past performance line indicates a forward move is more likely as he is the only horse with a strong last-out G8 move. I think we all can remember the ease with which he maneuvered his way through the Derby field from far back enroute to a seemingly effortless trip and victory.

#4 Red Bullet is an enigma. On the one hand he looks like the most likely candidate to make Fusaichi Pegasus earn the 2nd leg of the triple crown. On the other hand, he raises questions. This horse has had only 4 races lifetime. They have been in straight alignment. One each in January, February, March and April at 6F, 7F, 8F and 9F.

With each furlong stretched out, Red Bullet has had a diminishing win margin, until when he tried 2 turns for the first time in the Wood Memorial at a mile and an eighth, his win margin diminished to the point where he lost his first race lifetime while losing 4 lengths in the stretch.

The big question. Can he stretch out even longer today to a mile and 3/16ths? His speed figures say yes, as they have improved with each additional furlong run. But his finishes say no. I'm taking a stand against Red Bullet and picking him 4th.

#2 Snuck In has also never been off the board in his 9 races. His connections passed the Derby and pointed to this race, supposedly due to a too quick work of 59 flat 4 days before the race. He ran a solid 2nd in the Arkansas Derby in a field of 14 from the 9-hole, a head in front of #3 Impeachment, who came back to run 3rd behind Fusaichi Pegasus in Kentucky.

He should have first run at the leaders as I expect him to resume his early presser style and sit 3rd or 4th during the first 6 or 7 furlongs. He may attain the lead by the 8th pole and from there it will be a matter of holding off the inevitable charge of Fusaichi Pegasus, which could be a difficult task to say the least, but I think he's got a good shot at being an exotics factor.

We all saw how Fusaichi Pegasus was hand-ridden to the wire, but #3 Impeachment made up 10 postions in the stretch, also mostly without feeling the sting of the whip and I was visually impressed with his run. He'll most likely again be coming from the absolute back of the pack, but with this short field and a projected fast pace, Impeachment could be there at the end again, in spite of still being eligble for NW1X races.


The Preakness Stakes

7. Fusaichi Pegasus (3-5) (3-5)
2. Snuck In (12-1) (6-1)
3. Impeachment (8-1) (8-1)
4. Red Bullet (9-2) (7-2)

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*****Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter*****
*****Saturday May 27, 2000*****

Welcome to another edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." As promised, this edition is devoted to the subject of wagering. Constructing the right wagers is just as important as coming up with the right horses . And just as difficult.

There may actually be more good handicappers in this world than there are good bettors. Why? Because there are so many different scenarios we are confronted with and so many possible wagers to choose from. Thirty or so years ago the options were fewer in number. Win, place, show and daily double were about it. Now, as we all know, there's a wide array of different wagers available to us for almost every race. And it can be confusing to say the least.

We have all heard it and probably experienced it. Someone complaining that they loved the horse that just rolled in at $26.00 but used it in exactas only, maybe with the heavy favorite who ran a clunker. Or another who played to win on a 2-1 shot and didn't play the straight exacta they liked that clicked at $75.00. It sure is easy to say what the correct wagers were after the race is over, but the trick is to make the right wagers before the race has been run, and that is not so easy.

The plan I use focuses on what I consider to be the highest percentage plays. The win bet and the exacta. Obviously, the win bet has a much higher hit rate than the exacta, but I believe that to stay in the black we must catch some scores, at least once in a while. And that can be most easily accomplished via the exacta and also the trifecta wager. In order to play either, however, I will need the proper odds and the proper return to justify the extra risk. If I don't get that value, I will focus only on the win end.

I have minimum requirements for each of my main wagers: 2-1 for the win bet, a $24 minimum payoff on all 6 combinations in a 3-horse box exacta and a $12 minimum payoff in a 2-horse box exacta. To have enough value for a trifecta play, I will want at least one of my key horses, who will be used in the first 2 slots, to be around 5-1 or higher. Another rule of thumb is that the odds of my top 3 contenders must add up to 15 or more. However, I don't follow this rule to a tee if I see an overlay in the exacta payoffs. With such an overlay, it follows that the trifecta will pay higher than expected also, and as long as I am not using an odds-on horse in the trifecta, the payoff can still be quite worthwhile. Using an odds-on horse in any wager can obviously greatly diminish the payoff to the point where it may not be worth constructing any wagers at all.

In the race that I'm going to review in this newsletter, one could see by the posted probable exacta payoffs that there was an overlay situation and we could then expect that the same would hold true for the trifecta plays. The final odds of my top 3 contenders were in order, 9-2, 7-2 and 2-1. The combined odds of these picks total only about 10-11, which is short of the rule of thumb figure of 15 needed to play trifectas. But the exacta using my top 2 picks in order, at odds of 9-2 and 7-2 showed a probable payoff of $57.00. A parlay using those odds would pay around $49.00 so I could see that there was an overlay situation.

Those are the parameters for my standard wagers. Now how do we make clear- cut decisions for each and every race that will maximize profits while not missing out on any payoffs? Especially during crunch time, a few minutes before the race? First of all, ideally we should have previously handicapped a race we have seen has enough potential value to make a play. We should have a real good idea of which are our main contenders and which if any are our periphery plays, those horses that we think could possibly get into the exotics but not in the win slot. Then we must make a firm decision about which of the contenders we think has the best chance to win. If the odds are right, we may decide to dutch 2 of them in the win slot. Or we may like the 2 or 3 contenders pretty much equally and decide to go with the one with the highest odds on the win end. One way or another, we make a decision.

Then we must construct the exotic plays, either exactas or exactas and trifectas. For these plays, I use what I call the "slot method." In each of these plays there are slots. In the exacta there are the win and place slots. In the trifecta, there are the win, place and show slots. To construct the proper wagers and not miss out on any combination, we must put the right horses in each slot. The same holds true for daily doubles and pick 3's also, when the right occasions arise for those wagers.

For an exacta wager we first have to decide how many horses we think can be in the 2 slots. We may have, for example 3 contenders and 2 periphery plays. From this group of 5, we have to fill the 2 slots. Obviously the periphery plays would not go in the first or win slot. Maybe they would not even be used in the exacta, but would only be used in the 3rd slot in trifecta plays. As you will see, this is the precise situation that I confronted in today's example race and I'll get into that race now to illustrate the wagering plan in action.

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The DRF p.p.'s for race 6 at Belmont on Saturday 5/20/00 can be accessed on my website if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your hard drive. If you want the PP's for today's example Click Here

This was a short field of 7 that provided value. The pace shape was EP-EP that favored early as there were only 2 EP runners. As it turned out, the 2 EP horses went wire-to-wire and finished over 5 lengths in front of the rest of the field. Here's the field from top to bottom:

1. Unpeteable - was taking a significant hike up in class after breaking his maiden at the 30K claiming level. But he still had a few things going for him. Not only was he an SRE play but he also had the best last-out final fraction of 25.1. In addition, he made a whopping 11-length G8 move enroute to that smashing win. He had to be considered a top contender.

2. Comet Surprise - was moving up in claiming price after a win at $41.20 as a Profile/Wide Out play. But that win was in the mud and his final fraction did not match up.

3. Upper Hand - his last on the turf was quite dull. As a matter of fact, as you can see, his last 3 attempts on the turf were pretty bad. But his prior on the dirt at a mile was pretty good during which he had a smart G8 move. His final fraction for that race was 27.1 and when we compare last-out routes with last-out sprints, we deduct 1 full second from the route final fractions. Thus when we match up final fractions in this race, if we use his prior race on the dirt, his will be 26.1.

4. Blue Devil - unraced in over 6 months and never raced in this country; need to see a race or 2.

5. Home Silver - had the best last-out Beyer speed figure and was only a tick off the best last-out final fraction with a 25.2. Since he was also a Wide Out play, and his odds were 9-2, this was a very attractive win proposition. Even though he had the best last-out Beyer, his fade back last outing discouraged most players.

6. Tony And Shaye - was a Wide Out play who finished a good third in his last at a mile and as such had to be on the contender list.

7. Herbrokeby - had a very competitive last-out final fraction and also Beyer speed figure. The negative is that those were achieved at Delaware Park and not on a New York track. He could be considered as a periphery play at best until he has proven he can hit the board in New York.

Here is a chart of our field. First I'll list the horses, followed by running styles, last-out Beyer speed figures, final fractions (raw/actual) and finally any moves-within-a-race.

1. Unpeteable               EP   73   25.1 / 25.1   SRE
2. Comet Surprise           P   67   26.4 / 26.0
3. Upper Hand                P   68   27.1 / 26.1
4. Blue Devil - - -
5. Home Silver              EP   79   24.3 / 25.2   WO
6. Tony And Shaye          P   74   26.0 / 26.0   WO
7. Herbrokeby                 P   76   25.0 / 25.2

Viewing this chart we can clearly see the pace shape advantage horses, the final fraction advantage horses and the "move-within-a-race" plays. It's always a good idea to jot down on a piece of paper a chart like this for a race we are seriously thinking of betting on as it emphasizes such advantages.

In last Saturday's newsletter, I listed the following picks with the official morning lines followed to the right by my "fair odds lines."

5. Home Silver (4-1) (2-1)
1. Unpeteable (7-2) (5-2)
6. Tony And Shaye (3-1) (3-1)

It didn't take long after seeing the odds to realize that this was a value situation. And since the probable exacta payoff for the 5-1 combo was an overlay, I thought trifectas were a good play in addition to the exactas. For trifectas, I would include a couple of periphery plays in #'s 3 & 7, which I would use only in the 3rd slot.

I constructed a wager for this race with about 10 minutes remaining before post time. Of course I had my handy exotic calculator on my desktop to make things easier. Since we keep getting new subscribers each week, I'll continue to tell those newcomers how they can obtain this free calculator. Anyone who wants a copy of this handy tool can Click Here, then click on Download the Wager Calculator. I downloaded to my desktop and it's right there in front of me any time I want to calculate the cost of any exotic wager.

Here is the way I laid out my $60 wager:

Since #5 Home Silver was my original top pick, it was a no-brainer as to the win wager I would make. He was 4-1 on the morning line and I had him at 2-1 as a value play. At odds of 9-2 I put a $20 win wager on him and then constructed the following exotic wagers.

For exactas, I thought #5 Home Silver (pace shape advantage, 2nd-best final fraction and Wide Out play) and #1 Unpeteable (pace shape advantage, best final fraction and SRE play) had the best shot at the win so here is how I filled the 2 slots:

Slot 1     Slot 2

  1-5        1-5

I made a $6 ex. play 1-5 and 5-1 which totals $12

Then I made additional plays like this:
$4 ex. 5 - 1 = $4
$2 ex. 5 / 3-6-7 = $6

For trifectas, I decided to key my top 2 choices 1 & 5 in the first 2 slots. I would then use #'s 3-6-7 for the show slot:

         Slot 1   Slot2   Slot 3

$2 tri. 1-5   /   1-5   /   3-6-7 = $12

$2 tri. 5    /   1   /   3-6-7 = $6

Here are the prices and profits.

Win    #5 $11.40
Place  #1 ex. 5-1 $57.50
Show #3 tri. 5-1-3 $250.00

Total wagered:  $60
Total returned:  $901.50
Total profit:       $841.50

Many players cannot afford to have a standard wager unit of $60.00. My wagers will range from $60, $80, to $100. As you can see from the example, I wagered 33% to win and 67% on the exotics. If I had chosen to risk $80, the plays would have been 50-50 as I would have put an additional $20 to win on #5. One can begin this wagering plan, however, with as little as $10 as a standard wager unit and slowly build it up.

With that as the wager amount, the play would have been: $4 to win on #5, $2 ex. 1-5/1-5 and $2 ex. 5-1. For these wagers the return would have been 2 x $11.40 = $22.80, and 2 x $57.50 = $115.00 for a return of $137.80 and a profit of $127.80 Or you may have opted to cover all 3 prime contenders in the exacta, in which your wager would have been: $4 to win on $5, and $1 ex. 1-5-6/1-5-6. The return for this $10 investment would have been $22.80 + $28.75 = $51.55 with a profit of $41.55.

To further illustrate the potential in trifecta plays, consider this. If you can locate a race in which you have good reason to heavily favor one or two horses, you can use up to 6 entries in the race for a relatively low outlay. Again, the exotic calculator can be of great help in the calculations.

Here's an example of keying or isolating 2 horses for the first 2 slots of the trifecta. It's a field of 8 and your standout choices are 1 & 2. Let's say you believe that out of the remaining 6 horses, 4 of them have a shot at the 3rd slot. You would then be using 75% of the field at the following cost:

1-2 / 1-2 / 3-4-5-6

This $2 tri. wager costs $16.00 and a $1 tri. wager costs $8.00.

If you have a strong preference for only one horse in the win slot, you could structure this trifecta wager omitting only one horse in the entire field:

1 / 2-3-4 / 2-3-4-5-6-7

This $2 tri. wager costs $30 and a $1 tri. wager costs $15.00.

If you use this Slot Wagering Plan and stick to value plays only, you can stay in the black. And of course, over a period of time your profits will increase as your basic wager unit increases.

One final word. The only way any wagering plan will produce results is if we "target" our plays. Meaning, focus on value plays. There is nothing wrong with so-called "action bets" or "entertainment bets" on which we put small wagers. But the actual Wager Unit should be reserved for races that we can see have potential value payoffs.

On most cards we will be fortunate to find one or two such value plays, or plays worth our maximum wager. I may list more that that number of plays from one card, but circumstances may not allow for some of them to qualify as top wagers. Things like late scratches, final odds, and bad weather can change the complexion of a race to the point where it no longer presents value and should be looked at only as a potential entertainment bet.

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


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