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This month's topic is the "speed/fade" play.

As everyone knows, not all winners in our game are horses with close up finishes in their last outings.

Some past performance lines can for a number of reasons be ignored or "forgiven", including for trouble encountered, surface switch, and running at an inappropriate class level.

The bulk of handicappers will go back a race or even further when they feel that due to extenuating circumstances the last race or races are not representative of the horse's true ability.

Many handicapping software programs select specific running lines as well.

So as a whole, handicappers do "forgive" a last out out performance if they think there is sufficient reason.

In many cases, handicappers will want to go back to the most representative "speed figure", Beyer speed figure or whichever is included in the past performances they use.

But remarkably, many players do not consider the speed/fade horse as a viable win contender.

And they won't forgive a race in which a horse was up close to the lead to the pace call before fading out of it with an off the board finish.

Many handicappers (most of which use track programs with some semblance of past performances in them) will see a horse that "crapped out" to finish out of the money as one with a poor, non-competitive speed figure.

Speed/fade efforts will most often not have comparable last out speed figures simply because those "magic" numbers measure final time, and the more a horse fades back behind the winner, the slower its final time and the lower his speed figure will be compared to that winner and probably much of the field he will face in his next outing.

But as many of us know, present company included I suspect, there can be nice payoffs looming in those low speed figure fade back horses.

When the stage has been set correctly.

What that means is that the most reliable speed/fade contender is one that has shown in the recent past at least some form, some indication that it can indeed run well today after the last out drop back performance.

Many speed/fade winners have been primed by their trainers.

The trainer may instruct the jockey to ride his horse hard enough to be up on the lead or close to it to the pace call (4F in sprints and 6F in most routes), at which point he is to completely let up on the gas peddle and allow the horse to smoothly fade back out of the money.

The next race, the one the trainer wants to win, will often, but not always involve a drop in class.

This is done with the expectation that the betting public will stress that last out drop back, out of the money effort (along with the inferior speed figure) and overlook his horse even at today's lower level.

Thereby hoping for a better payoff on his horse.

Other trainers will not feel the need to drop their horse in class if they believe strongly enough that the last out fade back race looks bad enough to discourage any other trainer from claiming it (if it is indeed going in a claiming race).

Of course any speed/fade horse will have a better shot at a next out win if it is fortunate enough to be entered in a pace shape that favors early speed.

I'm going to review a couple of successful speed/fade plays from Sunday January 25th, one at a nice price and one that was a huge overlay winner.

For those of you who want to know more about speed/fade plays, you are invited to check out my book, "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level", by clicking here.

Race 2 at Gulfstream Park on Sunday January 25, 2004 included a full field of 12 going 6 furlongs with claiming tags of $10K down to $9K, with only 2 early speeds signed on, thereby giving this match up a pace shape of: Advantage Early runners.

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

And the results chart is here.

Below I'll list the field in post position order (note the late scratches of the also eligible horses number 13, and number 14), followed by last out running style, Beyer speed figure, raw/actual final fraction, and any "moves-within-a-race" as defined in my book.

1. Frankie B S 56 26.0/25.4 ---

2. Alex's Love E 78 (slop) 26.1/26.1 ---

3. Dixie's Band P 74 24.2/25.1 ---

4. Prospect Kid EP 71 24.4/25.1 Profile Play

5. David's Halo P 50 27.1/26.4 T/M play

6. La Canoa Ranchaa P 65 25.3/26.1 ---

7. Eagle Eyrie P 38 26.2/27.0 Profile Play

8. Blue Jean Racer P 50 26.1/26.1 ---

9. Bushwick P 83 26.0/25.0 ---

10. Garret ? ? ? --- (Raced in Chile)

11. Termination Dust P 54 26.0/26.2 ---

12. Cabot Trail P 66 24.2/26.0 ---

In a pace shape like this with only a couple of early speed horses in a large field of 12, it's advisable to take a close look at the entries that project to be up on or close to the early lead.

Here are some comments on this field:

1.) Frankie B - in this match up and pace shape as an S (for sustained) closer going from the rail off a couple of dull outings would be quickly labeled a non-contender.

2.) Alex's Love - was one of the 2 main speeds in here, and was coming off a couple of wins in the off going at Fort Erie, a track with which I am not familiar.

But there was a yellow caution flag concerning this horse since the trainer, who just claimed him for $12K was immediately dropping him in class to $10K off those 2 wins. He figured to be vying for the early lead in this match up, but there were some question marks, and his internal fractions were not as good as some in here.

3.) Dixie's Band - was taking a drop in class, but one not as suspicious as Alex's Love. The race he was exiting was obviously a good one with a raw FF of 24.2, which was the best of this field. And his 25.1 actual FF was a solid fit. Off those stats and the drop in claiming price, he looked like a top 2 contender.

4.) Prospect Kid - also had strong last out raw and actual final fractions of 24.4 and 25.1. Here was our key speed and fade horse. He was right up near the lead within a half length for 4F in his last - at 7F for $18K. Today he was going first time blinkers.

All of this added up to him being a top 2 contender, and off the drop, a good-looking speed and fade play, having been only 2 lengths off the lead at the 6F point of his last out 7 panel race.

5.) David's Halo - was stepping up off a maiden score, and with his raw/actual FF's of 27.1/26.4 and no early speed in evidence, he was a non-contender despite being what I call a T/M play.

6.) La Canoa Ranchaa - didn't show a whole lot in his last at this level and was without any early speed.

7.) Eagle Eyrie - was another speed and fade horse taking a drop, but did not show the same signals that Prospect Kid did. Yes, he was taking a drop from $16K down to $10K, but he had not shown as consistent early zip in his p.p.'s and his raw/actual FF's were inferior to the top 5 in here.

8.) Blue Jean Racer - had not competed since July 25, 2003 at Arlington Park when finishing 12th by 11 1/2 in a field of 13, having only a couple of blow out works in January.

9.) Bushwick - was just claimed for $10K from his last out win at this level, and showed the field's best actual FF of 25.0. Since he was stuck with an outside post, he would not be considered a win candidate in this pace shape, but did look like an on the board contender.

10.) Garret - was stale with only one 3F work and had raced exclusively in Chile.

11.) Termination Dust - was dropping $6K off a dull performance, but his prior for $16K was a good 2nd place finish with a 25.2 FF, and although stuck in the 11-hole could have been thought of as a potential in the money contender.

12.) Cabot Trail - was exiting the same race as Dixie's Band with that strong raw FF of 24.2. He was another speed/fade horse, but without as much early speed capability as Prospect Kid. He would have to overcome a terrible post position, but off his previous outing 3rd place finish for $16K (with a 24.4 FF) and drop in class for this try, was an on the board contender.

So which were the contenders and in what order?

Because of the pace shape advantage coupled with what looked like a trainer arranged speed/fade move in his last at the $18K level, his raw/actual FF's, and addition of blinkers, speed/fade play #4 Prospect Kid deserved top contender status.

I made the order of contenders: 4-3-9-12-11.

My suggested plays would have been a win bet on #4 and to key him and #3 in the win hole for exacta and trifecta plays if either of those exotic plays was chosen.

Ex.: 3-4/3-4-9-11-12, the $2 cost for which was $16

Tri.: 3-4/3-4-9-11-12/3-4-9-11-12, the $1 cost for which was $24

The $2 payoffs were:

4. $9.80
3. 2nd - 4-3 ex. $55.80
12. 3rd - 4-3-12 tri. $842.20

Race 4 at Oaklawn Park on 1/25/04 was a group of 7 going a mile and a 16th at the non-winners of 2 lifetime $10K claiming level. There were 3 early speeds in evidence, and 1A Wolverton Mountain was a late scratch.

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

And the results chart is here.

Here was the field:

1. Mr. Cat EP 43 27.4/29.4 ---

2. Alotta Threshold EP 38 27.0/28.4 ---

3. Simbad EP 61 24.4/25.2 ---

4. Brownstown S 46 27.4/28.3 ---

5. Succeedere P 74 24.3/25.1 ---

6. Link Teegather P 51 27.2/28.1 ---

7. River West P 37 26.1/28.3 ---

Here are some thoughts about this match up.

1.) Mr. Cat - was one of the 3 speeds, all of which were last out speed/fade plays. He hit the brakes pretty hard after 6F, but that's the spot (pace call) to which we want to see a speed/fade play remain close up (preferably on or within 2 lengths of the lead) before beginning its fade.

As discussed earlier, the speed/fade horse will not show up well in the last out categories of final fractions or speed figures. But because Mr. Cat flashed some pretty good early zip for 6F on a difficult sloppy track (with a variant of 31), he had to be considered as a top 3 player.

2.) Alotta Threshold - another speed/fade play who went off at a big price because he was stepping up from that 12 3/4 beaten lengths outing for $7.5K. How could he be expected to compete off that performance moving up to this level?

First of all, he did show a 2nd place finish in his prior at about the trip he was going in this outing. And secondly, the tip off for him was his even finish.

One of the indicators that I include in my C.H. data is an "even" comment, which can often be a significant indicator of next out performance. Usually it is not enough to be a stand alone factor, but when coupled with another performance indicator, it can be enough to include a horse on the short contender list.

His last try was 5th in a field of 12, beating over half the field, and the key was that he lost less than 2 lengths in the final furlong.

For those of you that noticed he was not within 2 lengths of the lead all the way to the pace call, nice catch. But that speed/fade play parameter is not written in stone.

In a pace shape with only 3 speeds, all of which were speed/fade plays, I will certainly allow some latitude for a horse such as this that exhibited a very smooth fade back after chasing closely early.

3.) Simbad - the 3rd speed/fade play in this field, and he was adding blinkers for this try, after finishing 5th in his last 2 races on turf. Note his 3rd race back 2nd place finish on the dirt at about this distance for $12.5K.

These factors coupled with the drop in class made him yet another to qualify for the top 3 contender list.

4.) Brownstown - also was getting the hood for this try, but was nonetheless an S horse that was taking a hike up the claiming ladder from $5K to $10K having the look of a horse that would have too much to do late to have an impact on the outcome of this one.

5.) Succeedere - was dropping from a 6th place finish in a 1 mile $10K allowance race on turf. While you may notice that this horse met the requirements for a speed/fade play in that turf race, it should also be noted that this type of play applies to horses with E and EP running styles. Not to horses that flash some early zip in one isolated race.

6.) Link Teegather - had a big excuse in his last when needing to avoid a fallen jockey. His prior try would give him a chance in this match up, a 3rd place finish at this level going a mile.

With his lack of early presence, however, I would not consider him as a win contender, but could see including him in the place and or show slots in exacta or trifecta wagers due to his last 2 even finishes.

7.) River West - finished well up the track in his last at this level when racing on a sloppy track. His previous try was pretty much of an identical dull race, however, so he had to be placed on the non-contender list.

After handicapping this particular field we had 3 main speed/fade contenders and a horse who looked like he could get a piece, but was not really a candidate for the win.

The situation unfolded with 3 of these contenders being in the 2-1 to 3-1 odds range, which wouldn't make for a real good exacta box, and to pick out of the 3 win contenders a key win horse would be a bit of a stretch.

But including in the mix longshot speed/fade play #2 Alotta Threshold would allow for value-oriented wager construction.

In a case like this where the value clearly was with the longshot, I recommend playing exacta and/or trifecta part wheels.

One could opt to use the 3 win contenders in that slot as such:

Ex.: 1-2-3/1-2-3-6, the $2 cost for which would be $18.00

Tri.: 1-2-3/1-2-3-6/1-2-3-6, the $1 cost for which (to get 1/2 the payoff) would be $18.00

As long as the longshot horse runs first or second, the needed value is present.

And if 2 of the other 3 contenders run 1-2, you will probably get your money back, with perhaps a small profit.

Of course it's a wise idea to check the exacta probable payoffs if you can because if one of the combinations pays much less than $18.00, you may very well want to simply take a shot on the value horse in the win and place spots as such:

Ex.: 2/1-3-6 and 1-3-6/2, the $2 cost for which is $12.00

Tri.: 2/1-3-6/1-3-6, 1-3-6/2/1-3-6, 1-3-6/1-3-6/2, the $1 cost for which is $18.00.

Or you could play that value win contender to win/place/show, or win/show or place and show.

There are obviously many ways to go about wager construction once we have isolated a race that provides us with the necessary ingredients, namely edge and value.

The $2 payoffs were:

2. $68.80
1. 2nd - 2-1 ex. $268.00
3. 3rd - 2-1-3 tri. $953.80

I love these short fields of 6 or 7 horses. They are quicker to handicap, and on a fair number of occasions provide the value we need in addition to the edge required to construct wagers.

Look for these speed/fade plays, especially when they land in pace shapes that favor their early running style and have the look of trainer/jockey set ups for today's race.

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Until Saturday March 6, 2004, I wish you Fair Skies and Fast Tracks.


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