Welcome to another edition of Horseracing Info Newsletter.

I've been handicapping and playing the thoroughbreds for over 30 years now, and during that entire time I've been asking myself the same question, "what makes horses win races?"

It's a good question to ask, because by doing so you will automatically seek out reasons why they do win. And hopefully, as I have been fortunate enough to do, you will find a few golden nuggets along the way that will enable you to make consistent profits at this game.

Common focal points in handicapping include speed figures, pace figures, class, breeding, trainers & jockeys, weight, trips, pace shape, internal fractions, and so on; the list is lengthy.

These are some of the conventional aspects of handicapping that the average player regards as important to success with the thoroughbreds.

But as the saying goes, thinking "out of the box" can keep us one step ahead of our competitors, and make no mistake about it, we are playing head to head with John Q. Public.

Emphasizing slightly different approaches is what will allow us to actually make money at this game.

At times a contrarian way of looking at things will still land us on a horse that is well backed by the public, but often it will point out plays that are overlooked, sometimes completely, by the majority of bettors.

Making money at this game is simple. But don't get me wrong, it's not easy. There's a big difference between those 2 words.

It all boils down to match ups.

Each field that is assembled is a new and unique match up of thoroughbred runners. What we need to do to be successful and make money at this game is to search for and locate specific match ups that give us an edge over our opponents, while at the same time provide us with enough value to make intelligent wagers.

I'm going to review a few races today, all of which were run on Saturday December 21st, 2 weeks ago. The payoffs are not all gigantic, but each winner was isolated as a potentially good bet because of a common and specific circumstance - pace shape advantage.

This is one specific isolated match up situation I'll be discussing today. It's a simple approach to handicapping. But it has a good hit rate and can be profitable simply because most players don't even know it exists.

What I'm talking about is a field of horses (specific and unique match up) that indicates a pace shape advantage for a horse who we project to have an uncontested early lead that may enable him to take his field all the way from gate to wire.

Or at least win from near the front, having taken command by the top of the lane.

There are no guarantees that we will be correct in our assessment of the speed of the speed, or even that if we do correctly identify such a horse that it will win or even finish in the money.

But it is an example of a specific match up advantage play that should win enough of the time to enable us to make money on these particular situations.

If there is enough value to justify the risk of investment.

All four of today's example race winners went wire to wire, and each was perceived by me to have an early presence advantage in its respective field.

Each race exemplified one of the match ups I look for when scouring past performances in my edition of the Daily Racing Form.

Obviously I look for other situations also, but on this day I found 4 such match ups that looked worthy of an investment in the perceived speed of the speed.

A couple of these top selections had the best last out Beyer speed figure, while one had the next to worst and the other an in between.

The first 2 races were run at Aqueduct, races 6 and 7, which composed the midday Daily Double, so let's begin with the 6th at the Big A on 12/21/02.

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

And the results chart is here.

This was a field of Maiden Special Weights going 6F reduced to 8 with the late scratches of #5 and #8.

I had posted selections for this race, and my top pick was one of those scratches, #8 Uncle Bruce. I liked him because he was what I call a T/M play in a field loaded with early speed types.

But with his defection, my attention turned to this being a case of trying to determine which, if any, of the remaining 5 speeds could get to the front with a fairly easy lead.

With no proven standout closers present I thought there was a good chance that a horse could go all the way on top in this match up, especially with the way the track had been favoring early speed so much during the entire meet.

In my book, "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level (click here for details) I have a section entitled "The Speed Of The Speed."

This is basically a method I devised that enables me to get a good idea of which from among the early speeds in any sprint race (the same principle can be used in route races also) will emerge with the lead as the field turns for home at the top of the stretch.

One of the areas of focus for me when I am trying to determine the speed of the speed in any match up is the Daily Racing Form track variant.

As I've said, I've been around for many years, and one thing I have found to be a certainty is that the track can play differently from day to day, and even from race to race.

In addition to biases in which an advantage will go to certain running styles, like early or late or inside or outside paths, the track will play faster or slower.

This is where the track variant comes into play, and the Daily Racing Form has been calculating a track variant for eons. Any speed figures, be they Beyers, sheets, or those in any computer program integrate daily track variants into their numbers.

I've heard it said that the DRF track variant is hogwash, the same as their old speed rating is obsolete.

I agree with the latter, although some respected handicappers apparently do not, such as Michael Pizzolla, whose book, "Handicapping Magic" relies heavily on the DRF speed ratings. Not speed figures, but speed ratings, which are not pertinent information in my view, and in my opinion leaves a major credibility gap in his book.

It is my hope that many handicappers feel that the DRF track variant is useless information also, because it gives me and those who use my speed of the speed formula an advantage over our competition, since I believe strongly in its merit.

As you will see in the examples, each wire to wire winner was exiting a race with the highest last out DRF track variant.

Following is the field of 8 that composed race 6 on Saturday December 21, 2002. I'll list the horses in post position order and then indicate the running style I have labeled for each, followed by the last out Beyer speed figure, raw/actual final fraction, and any last out "moves-within-a-race."

1. Old School EP 58 25.2/26.0 Prof.

2. Full Disclosure P -- -- --

3. Mean And Nasty EP 77 25.3/25.3 Prof./W.O.

4. White Mercedes P 62 24.3/25.3 Prof.

6. Wildman Joey EP 74 26.2/26.0 --

7. Sunshine Brian EP 79 25.4/26.1 --

9. Jayar P 59 25.4/26.1 --

10. Nacheezmo EP 76 25.4/26.0 --

As you can see, I had this field as a 5 EP - 8 pace shape. While often such a pace shape may favor a good closer, there were no such animals evident in this match up.

The 2 best final fraction horses, #'s 3 and 4 were like 7 of the 8 entries in here. They lost ground from the pace call to the finish.

The only runner to have gained ground from the 4F point to the wire was #6 Wildman Joey, and he would ultimately finish 2nd.

Without revealing what over 1000 Calibration Handicapping book buyers have paid for, namely my speed of the speed formula, you can see that the speed horse with the highest last out Daily Racing Form track variant was #7 Sunshine Brian.

All the track variants from the rail out were: 18, 11, 19, 18, 15, 27, 18, and 18.

#7 Sunshine Brian was my original 2nd choice behind the late scratch #8 Uncle Bruce and ahead of #3 Mean And Nasty, and as you can see he last raced on a day with a high 27 track variant.

Left with 2 contenders now, I determined that #7 Sunshine Brian was the speed of the speed, and in this particular match up had a good shot at taking this field all the way, or running in the first flight of runners before taking the lead for good at the top of the stretch.

As things turned out, he did assume the lead right out of the gate and never looked back.

Since one of my top plays of the day was in race 7, I made 2 wagers in this race. A win bet on Sunshine Brian and a pretty large D/D into my top pick in race 7.

As I said, the only horse in this field that actually gained ground from the pace call to the finish was #6 Wildman Joey, who certainly could have been considered a contender in this match up, and he did complete the $51.50 exacta.

I was satisfied with my $8.40 win payoff and the 50 unit D/D alive with my best bet of the day in race 7.

Race 7 at Aqueduct on December 21st was a field of 10 3-year-olds and upward going a mile and a sixteenth at the preliminary allowance level.

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

And the results chart is here.

Here's the field:

1. Actuary's Son P 76 26.1/25.2 --

2. Doubly Brite P 70 26.4/27.3 --

3. If He Hollers S 84 25.0/25.2 --

4. Zesty Diablo S 74 27.4/27.0 --

5. Majani P 78 25.1/24.4/25.4 --

6. Golden Contender S 78 26.2/25.2 --

7. Shelby Lane EP 81 24.4/25.2/25.4 W.O.

8. Brightest Ice EP 100 25.3/25.3 SRE

9. Duvalier P 80 25.3/25.1/26.1 --

10. Pleasant Hall P 90 25.3/25.3 --

As you can see, the pace shape of this particular match up was 2 EP - 10, meaning only 2 early speed types in the field of 10.

This is a pace shape that normally will strongly favor the early speed horses over the pressers and closers.

The results chart shows that they finished 1-2, although #7 Shelby Lane did not run as close to the early pace as one may have thought he would.

My posted selections for this race in order were #8 Brightest Ice, #10 Pleasant Hall, and #11 Quatre Dix Neuff, who was a late scratch.

Since we have to adjust to late changes and conditions, the logical replacement horse for my scratched third choice was the only other early speed type, #7 Shelby Lane.

The results chart shows that Brightest Ice did get right to the front and won easily wire to wire paying $7.00 as the 2nd choice.

The 8-7 ex. paid $48.20 and the 8-7-10 trifecta $115.50.

Like I said, since I had a 50 unit D/D going into this race, there was no need for me to play my top pick to win.

So I went solely with exacta and trifecta plays.

Why did I like Brightest Ice so much?

In the right hand column of my Daily Racing Form I make a list of 4 categories: SP for speed horses, Moves for last-out moves made, FF for final fraction, and R-Scan for Red-Scan horses.

When I first handicapped the race I had next to SP: 8-11-7, which with the late scratch became 8-7.

Again, as in all the examples given today, the winner was exiting the race with the highest DRF track variant, a very lofty 35.

Here are all the last-out track variants from the rail out: 22, 25, 20, 24, 14, 16, 16, 35, 20, and 24.

First of all, let me say that there is no magic formula that says the horse that is exiting the race with the highest track variant will win enough of the time to make a profit.

The track variant is simply one of many tools we can use to help in the process of handicapping.

In addition to having the highest last-out track variant, Brightest Ice had also made a last-out move-within-a-race that I call the SRE move.

And there was one final aspect of Brightest Ice's last outing. This can be included among the "out of the box" ways of looking at things.

I tend to look at the last out race results charts of horses I think can be contenders in today's race.

And I did so for the last race in which Brightest Ice competed on November 27th at Aqueduct.

It was in the slop and it was a strong wire to wire win for him. From that race the 3rd place finisher had already come back to win his next race.

And the 2nd and 7th place finishers had run 2nd in their next outings, the latter by a nose. In addition, the 4th place finisher ran 3rd in the same heat won by the 3rd place finisher.

All of this adds up to a formation I keep an eye out for in the charts that can signal a potentially "key" race, meaning one from which a number of horses will run well in their next outing.

The formation of the last-out race won by Brightest Ice had the attributes of a "key" race-maker.

The first 3 finishers basically ran in order all the way around the track for the entire mile.

There was significant daylight between each finisher to the next for all 10 horses up to the last-place runner.

In other words, the field finished spread apart rather than bunched up at the wire. And also important was the fact that the order of runners was nearly exactly the same at the 8th pole and the finish.

There was only a minor switch in positioning between the 5th & 6th place finishers so that it was nearly Indian file for the entire final 220 yards of the race.

You can see from the results chart that Brightest Ice became the 5th horse from his last winning performance to hit the board, in his case with an easy win that completed a decent $25.80 D/D.

Relying on key races and race alignments is not something I advise putting much faith in or focus on, because it is not always reliable.

But when you already have reasons to like a horse, and he is exiting such a formation, you can have even more confidence in him, as I surely did with Brightest Ice.

The 3rd race I want to review from 2 weeks ago is Hollywood Park's 2nd race, a short field of 5 fillies and mares 3-years-old & up going 7 1/2 furlongs with claiming tags of $20K.

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

And the results chart is here.

Here is the field after the late scratches of #2 Girl Talk and #6 Excessive Warrior.

1. Castlebright P 75 24.3/24.3 --

3. Two Four Dancer P 73 26.2/26.2/25.2 --

4. Little Hottie S 60 25.2/25.2 --

5. The Dr. Is A Lady S 81 Stale --

7. Youmakemethorbaby EP 65 26.2/27 W.O.

It's pretty clear what the pace shape of this match up is, 1EP - 5, only one early speed runner from the field of 5 horses.

Can we have faith in such a runner in each and every match up such as this?

While such horses do win at a very good rate regardless of what their current form looks like, we can feel more confident if the horse in question has shown at least something in it's recent races.

Youmakemethorbaby did.

In spite of showing the next to worst Beyer speed figure of 65.

What did she show in addition to being the lone speed?

Here were the DRF last-out track variants: 12, 28, 10, 17, and 28.

The 2 horses that had run in last-out races with a 28 track variant were exiting the same heat from 23 days earlier at Hollywood Park.

Although #3 Two Four Dancer had actually outbroken and outfinished Youmakemethorbaby in their last encounter, the latter figured to be the speed of the speed in this match up.

Again, if I revealed exactly why, I would be giving away material in my book that many have paid for.

But she, unlike Two Four Dancer made a very nice last-out "move-within-a-race" that contributed greatly to her top contender status, and indicated she should turn the tables on her common foe in this match up.

Suffice it to say that regardless of what I have to say in my book, Youmakemethorbaby was an EP runner while Two Four Dancer was not, since the speed she showed in her last was not typical of where she normally prefers to run early in her races.

She is more of a presser, and she reverted back into that mode for this race.

You can see on the results chart that Youmakemethorbaby did wire her field, holding off Two Four Dancer (the 2nd best FF horse) by a neck.

The best final fraction horse #1 Castlebright stayed well for 3rd, completing a $195.80 $2 trifecta.

The winner paid a hefty $18.40 with the $2 exacta returning $72.80.

By the way, I marked on my Form STALE over the p.p.'s for #5 The Dr. Is A Lady. In the great majority of races, I will feel such a horse is in need of a race before being considered a viable contender.

The question always lingers, "why was this horse laid off for so long?" In her case, for 10 1/2 months.

Somehow she was bet down to 3-2 favoritism before finishing off the board, which added to the generous payoffs for the legitimate contenders.

Who says there are not gems to be found in small fields?

Our final race illustrating a pace shape advantage is race 4 run at The Fairgrounds on 12/21/02.

It was a field of 6 three-year-olds & upward going a mile and a sixteenth with claiming tags of $20K.

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

And the results chart is here.

Here's the field:

1. Wild Market P 78 26.0/25.3 --

2. Eye Found It P 64 25.1/26.0 --

3. Mt. Vidmore EP 74 26.0/26.4/27.4 Prof.

4. Straight Street EP 65 25.1/25.4/26.4 --

5. Super Stutz S 76 25.2/24.3 T/M

6. T.B. Track Star P 73 26.0/26.4 --

Here is what I had marked on my DRF for the 4 categories I like to look at:

SP: 3-4

Moves: 3-5

F/F: 5-1-2

R-Scan: 3-5-4

This is a pace shape of 2 EP - 6, which has only 2 early speed types, thereby all things being equal favoring frontrunners.

Both of the EP runners were exiting last out sprint races, thus the higher final fractions.

But when a horse or horses that are the only speed in the race have good sprinter's speed, they are indeed good prospects to go all the way on top.

The last-out DRF track variants were: 20, 14, 23, 18, 18, and 20.

#6 T.B. Track Star is a horse that likes to stay fairly close to the early pace, but because of his overall preference to press the pace I labeled him P for presser.

Since he was in against a couple of sprint speed horses, his chances were diminished right off the bat since he was not known for showing a closing punch.

The slow early horses, including #1 Wild Market, #2 Eye Found It, and the S runner #5 Super Stutz had little chance at the win in this particular pace shape match up.

That left the 2 speeds as the key contenders to win this race.

The difference between the 2 by my way of thinking was not only that #3 Mt. Vidmore was the speed of the speed, but he was also a last-out "move" horse, what I call a Profile play.

This was another case in which the way it's drawn up in the p.p.'s is the way it actually materialized.

#3 Mt. Vidmore went right to the top and did not look back, winning by one length at the end.

The other speed horse #4 Straight Street lagged back off the pace more than I expected he would, but did finish well at 19 to 1 to complete the exacta.

The clearly strongest closer #5 Super Stutz did his thing and came up from last to bring home the trifecta.

Prices were:

#3 Win $9.20

3-4 ex. $94.20

3-4-5 tri. $572.40

As usual the public jumped all over the horse with the highest speed figures, #1 Wild Market, making him the even money favorite in this match up.

But on this occasion the best this odds-on choice could do was a well-beaten 4th, again allowing for excellent payoffs.

It's certainly not every day that I find 4 races like these that happen to click just the way I think they will.

Pace shape advantage match ups are, however, worth taking the time to look for by labeling each horse in the field with it's proper running style.

If the pace shape is tilted toward favoring early speed, that horse or even those horses will run well enough of the time to make this a profitable proposition.

For the free selections I post each racing day for subscribers to this newsletter, you can bookmark this web page:


AOL users: click here.

Or anyone can click here.

If you didn't check the private selections page yesterday, you missed these payoffs in race 9, which included the Pick 3 using the only 2 listed selections in races 6 and 7 with the top pick in the finale.

Race 9 - Post 4:11 EST

3. Lorraine's Secret (3-1) (2-1) $5.50 - D/D $30.80
8. Diablo's Caper (15-1) (3-1) 2nd - Ex. $28.40
1A. Minaville (12-1) (4-1) 3rd - Tri. $382.00 - Pick 3 $63.00

Periphery Play

6. Salty Train (6-1) (7-2)

The finale is a maiden claimer with 12 four year olds & up going 6 furlongs. The pace shape distinctly favors early runners with 9 of the dozen entries being confirmed closers.

D/P (64/24.4) #3 Lorraine's Secret goes in his 29th lifetime outing off a good 2nd place finish, and despite his lifetime slate of 28/0-9-7 looms a top 2 contender in this match up with that strong final fraction advantage and presser running style; now or never for this one.

#8 Diablo's Caper is zero for 20 in his career, but unless one of the 2 first time starters has natural early speed (or the A/E horse gets in), he should find himself alone on the lead here, and with the addition of first-time blinkers has a good shot to last for a top 2 finish this time.

1A Minaville will need a good trip as he is cutting back in distance from a mile and a sixteenth to this 6F trip without having shown much early speed in the past. But he also gets the hood on today, and could surprise with a good finish dropping back to the claiming ranks.

#6 Salty Train found a soft spot for his debut, and begins his career at the age of 6 as an on the board contender with these going with lasix, especially if he breaks well from the gate with unknown rider Gomez aboard.

Until Saturday February 1st, 2003, I wish you Fair Skies and Fast Tracks.

And a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2003!