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This month's newsletter topic is "Searching for Nuggets."

I think it's pretty universally known and agreed upon that the favorite wins somewhere in the vicinity of 32% to 34% of all thoroughbred races.

Another way to look at this stat is that a horse other than the favorite wins about 67 out of every 100 races.

Statistics can be overemphasized.

It's my guess that people often find themselves playing a horse because of the jockey or trainer or both.

A top jock or trainer may have a win percentage in the neighborhood of 25%.

And you guessed it.

That means that every time they get in the irons or saddle up a horse, they have a 75% chance of losing; they lose 75 out of every 100 races.

And of course the average jockey and trainer lose at a far greater clip than that.

I believe we can often use these facts to our benefit.

If there are 2 horses that have the same positive handicapping indicators, the one with the jockey and/or trainer with the better win percentage will in most cases be favored over the other.

But unless we're looking at a trainer success rate of 5% or less, why not go with the longer priced horse?

In essence, this is a nugget in and of itself.

Going against the grain.

Judging a horse by its own merits rather than by its human connections, which so many are prone to do.

I've even heard numerous statements like this at the track, "Baffert looks good in this race."

Is Bob Baffert one of the entries?

No, his horse is, but some people are so influenced by human connections they forget about the horse.

And I think one of the nuggets we can look for is the realization that the equine athlete is the one that matters the most in this equation we call a horse race.


What exactly do I mean by a nugget?

I'm talking about some kind of indicator that will point us to not only a potentially strong next out performance, but also one with some value attached to it.

One of the races I'll be reviewing today is a prime example of a match up in which there were 2 entries that pretty much stood above the rest of the field in terms of key indicators.

One went off at 6-1 and the other at 4-5 (90 cents on the dollar).

If they had very similar stats, which would be the win bet?

The answer is the longer-odds horse.

Every time.

When we have value staring us in the face, we should go for it every time.

All of us have our own ways of handicapping.

And because of that we will have personal choices as to how to go about locating the nuggets that are there for the finding most days.

One could say that a sensible approach is to simply throw out the favorite since it will lose 67 out of 100 races.

But that is not really a great idea in my opinion.

What I prefer to do is look for and find real honest to goodness nuggets.

As you know by now, I believe in the importance of final fractions, both raw and actual.

For every race review I do in this forum I list the last out raw/actual FF for each entry.

Of course there is nothing that says we shouldn't go back further than the last race in our quest to locate nuggets.

Sometimes the 2nd or 3rd race back will contain the key, and it could be even further back in the past performances.

Reasons to go back past the last outing include: surface switch, distance switch, raced at an inappropriate class level, experienced some form of trouble, and so on.

Although I do heavily factor into my handicapping approach internal fraction comparison, I also strongly believe we should identify running styles and pace shape and then do a pace analysis.

But as I've implied in a past issue of this newsletter, there are indeed nuggets to be found in the final fractions.

In a match up other than a strong pace shape advantage for a speed horse, the raw and actual final fractions can often be the nuggets we look for.

While I think of it, I want to answer a question I received from Ernie L., who wanted to know how best to label running styles, which enables us to label the pace shape of a race.

Here's a quick recap. There is somewhat more to it, but this is the crux of the process.

E - Early: front runner; usually first or second at the first 2 call points

EP - Early Presser: usually in the first third of the field at the first 2 call points

P - Presser: usually in the second third of the field at the first 2 call points

S - Sustained: usually in the last third of the field at the first 2 call points.

A raw final fraction can be a nugget in that it can point out a strong 3rd or 4th quarter internal fraction compared to the others in the field.

Here is an example of a calculation of the raw final fraction in a 6F sprint with respect to fractions posted on the tote board (and printed in the past performances) at the appropriate points of the 3rd quarter, 45.3 and 110.1.

Those 2 fractions that represent the half mile and the finish were recorded by the horse or horses in front at those call points.

The RFF for this race is 24.3.

Obviously, to calculate a horse's actual final fraction we would have to adjust for lengths gained or lost.

So the fractions you see at the left of the p.p.'s next to an entry's name are not those recorded by that horse, but rather by the horse in that race with the lead at those points of call.

If we calculate (or have calculated for us) the RFF for every entry, we can immediately spot an advantage if there is one.

For instance, the horse exiting the above example race with a RFF of 24.3 may have run against faster competition than the majority he will face today.

Let's say that the remainder of the 7-horse field has last out RFF's of 25.3, 25.4, 26.2, 26.3, 26.4, and 27.1.

It would be a real good idea to check out the horse exiting that RFF of 24.3.

And here is an interesting point for those who are wondering about the relative quickness of early splits.

In many cases the RFF will indeed point out a superior race even if the early splits are slower.

For instance in the example I've given of a 24.3 RFF, let's say the 4F split was not 45.3, but 47.0 and the final time was 111.3, whereas the next best RFF of 25.3 was recorded with fractions of 45.2 and 111.0.

The leader at the 4F point of the latter example got the half 8/5ths faster than the former.

And the final time was 3/5ths faster!

I'll still take the 24.3 RFF as more significant.

I've been following it long enough to justify that statement.

The horse exiting the example race with the best RFF could have run a clunker himself, or he could have run a good race with a good actual final fraction, say in the range of 24.3 to 25.0, which would probably stack up real well against his next-out competition.

Only a thorough examination of the p.p.'s will say for sure if the top RFF entry is an actual contender in his current match up.

Since not a whole lot of players look at the RFF as a nugget, the qualified top RFF horse could go off at nice odds, and if he is an EP or P runner in a pace shape that doesn't strongly favor front runners, he could score at a value payoff.

This scenario plays out many times a week at every track.

You won't find a favorable discrepancy of raw final fractions in every race, and on a number of occasions when you do the horse or horses exiting that race may not qualify as having contender status according to your handicapping process.

But it is one of the nuggets we can look for.

And there are other internal fraction nuggets also.

Such as what I refer to as the G8 and I38, which are simply the 8th of a mile from the quarter pole to the 8th pole and the "invisible" 3/8ths of a mile from the beginning of the turn to the 8th pole.


Now I would like to review a couple of races from Sunday February 22, 2004, the first of which being Race 9 at Aqueduct.

You can view and/or print the p.p.'s for this race by clicking here.

And the results chart is here.

To look at the C.H. Quick Viewer File from my C.H. Subscription Service data, click here.

As usual, I recommend reviewing the race first and then looking at the results chart.

This was a field of 11 (with the late scratch of #3 Dixie Baghdad) going 6F at the N.Y.S.B. maiden special weight level.

Below I'll list the field in post position order followed by last out running style, Beyer speed figure, raw/actual final fraction, and any "moves-within-a-race" as defined in my book, which if interested you can read about by clicking here.

1. Melodeeman S 65 25.1/24.4 ---

2. Dreaming the Blues P 51 25.2/26.0 ---

4. Trading Hours EP -0- 26.1/33.0 ---

5. T C's Revenge EP 60 26.0/25.4 ---

6. Big Buckle Winner - first-time starter

7. Ticket to Drive P 24 25.1/28.0 ---

8. True Crimson P 62 26.0/26.2 ---

9. Tony Boy EP 34 25.2/28.4 ---

10. Sayitlikeumeanit S -0- ---

11. Notatfirst P 52 26.1/26.2 ---

12. Doctor Who S 4 25.2/29.1 ---

The first place I begin my search for nuggets is the RFF (Raw Final Fraction) category. At first glance it may look like there is no great discrepancy in that grouping, but in essence there was a RFF worth looking into.

It's the 25.2 RFF recorded in the race #2 Dreaming the Blues was exiting.

That figure is only 1/5th shy of the best RFF of 25.1 recorded in the race #1 Melodeeman was exiting.

But the big difference is that the race Dreaming the Blues had last run in was at a 2-turn route distance of a mile and an 8th.

As a matter of fact, Dreaming the Blues had run in 3 consecutive 2-turn route races with identical RFF's of 25.2.

Raw and actual final fractions for sprint races are usually faster than for routes, and this route as I say was at 9F.

This then was the potential RFF nugget in this match up.

#9 Tony Boy had run in 2 consecutive 2-turn route races with RFF's of 25.2, but a look at his past performances would make one conclude that he was a non-contender in this field, having been beaten in his 3 lifetime outings by 22 1/2, 31 1/2, and 17 lengths.

What I normally want to see in the route to sprint cutback is early speed in the last route race.

As I say, #2 Dreaming the Blues was exiting 3 straight route races with RFF’s of 25.2, which was only 1 tick off the best of the sprint contenders RFF of 25.1.

His last race could be excused due to breaking from the far outside 11-hole, but he did manage to finish up evenly despite a wide trip.

The tip off to potential for a strong effort in this match up was his prior outing in which he did indeed exhibit early speed when pressing the pace for the entire mile and 70 yards before finishing 2nd by 1 3/4 lengths with the same meet-leading jockey Pablo Fragoso aboard.

Which were the other contenders in this field now that the "nugget" had been located?

The best RFF figure of 25.1 was showing for #1 Melodeeman and #7 Ticket to Drive, the latter having run 3 times, finishing 10th on each occasion with a combined beaten length total of nearly 59.

#1 Melodeeman had not only the 25.1 RFF, but also an AFF of 24.4. His p.p.’s showed that he had only 1 race and that he finished up evenly in that debut outing. With blinkers added for his second try, he had to be considered as one of the top players.

In his prior race, #5 T.C’s Revenge was involved in a RFF of 24.3, and had finished 2nd in his last 2 tries, his 8th and 9th lifetime outings.

Another important indicator in this maiden race was that the only 2 Red-Scan Qualifiers were #1 Melodeeman and #5 T C's Revenge.

If you turn to the results chart you'll see that on this occasion the finish was very much as hoped for.

The $2 payoffs were:

2. $14.40
1. 2nd - 2-1 ex. $57.50
5. 3rd - 2-1-5 tri. $128.00


This month's second review race is the 5th run at Gulfstream Park on Sunday February 22, 2004. It was a field of 8 going 1 and 1/2 miles on the turf course.

You can view and/or print the p.p.'s for this race by clicking here.

And the results chart is here.

To look at the C.H. Quick Viewer File from my C.H. Subscription Service data, click here.

Here's the field:

1. Joey Blueeyes EP 88 23.4/23.4 ---

2. Gloriosa S 86 25.0/24.3 ---

3. Grossman S 82 24.2/24.1 ---

4. El Graduado P 50 26.2/28.0 ---

5. The Man P 79 25.2/26.2 ---

6. Crack the Veneer E 83 25.1/25.4 ---

7. Devil's Bandit P 78 26.0/25.4 ---

8. National Pride EP 88 24.1/23.2 ---

In grass racing the first place to look for nuggets is the final fraction for sure.

And the win contenders in this match up are pretty clearly indicated by the raw and actual FF's, #1 Joey Blueeyes having last out figures of 23.4/23.4 and #8 National Pride 24.1/23.2.

Although he did not project to be as close to the early pace as the other two, #3 Grossman showed RFF/AFF figures of 24.2/24.1, and as such (and due to his running style) would be most properly considered a periphery play or a contender more likely to earn a minor award.

But the nuggets showing in this particular match up were again the final fractions.

Of the 1 and 8 horses.

If you look at the past performances of Joey Blueeyes you can see that he ran a lifetime top Beyer speed figure in his last, an 88.

He had achieved that figure once before, in his 4th race back.

His 2 Beyers earned in the races between the 88 career bests were 86 and 87.

So there was a pretty good cycling pattern evident: 88, 86, 87, 88, showing that he had very smoothly "cycled" right back to the career top, which would indicate that an even better race may very well be on the horizon (and he did earn an 89 in this race).

The other key win contender National Pride had run a very good race in his last despite being shuffled back at the start.

His actual FF was tops by 2/5ths over Joey Blueeyes, and in his last 2 outings, each at this NW2X allowance level he had finished 2nd by a nose and 4th by 1.

As far as nuggets go, in this case in the form of clear RFF/AFF advantages, it was difficult to separate Joey Blueeyes and National Pride.

But the former went to the post at 6-1 and the latter 4-5.

Why?

Not only because Joey Blueeyes had been running in 4 $25K optional claiming races (winning none) prior to his 2nd in a $50K claiming event, but also because of his human connections.

The jockey/trainer win percentages for 2003 were .14/.13 vs. .23/.25.

But if you focus more on the nugget or nuggets rather than records and stats you see an overlay situation involving 2 evenly matched entries.

A second-place finish at the $50K claiming level is a performance nearly on par with the same finish at the NW2X allowance condition.

Therefore the win bet here had to be #1 Joey Blueeyes at 6-1.

Win or lose.

He was the value nugget play.

He didn't beat the favorite by much, but he was able to run to his figures and cycling pattern and get up to catch that one by a head after looking hopelessly beaten inside the furlong marker.

Grossman also ran pretty well to get 4th.

3rd place finisher #7 Devil's Bandit would not have been a real easy horse to include in the trifecta, but he did have a couple of indicators showing that may have lead one to think a good performance may be coming.

He not only was a duel Red-Scan Qualifier, but he was the lone entry to have won at the 12 furlong distance.

The $2 payoffs were:

1. $14.00
8. 2nd - 1-8 ex. $35.40
7. 3rd - 1-8-7 tri. $281.80

Search for and locate those nuggets not found by everyone else. They can really help your bottom line.


For the free selections I post most racing days on my private web page for subscribers to this newsletter, you can bookmark this page:

http://www.free-horseracing-info.com/hinpsp.html

Or you can click here.

Until Saturday April 3, 2004, I wish you Fair Skies and Fast Tracks.

Jim

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