I've delivered this month's issue 5 days early because before I get into my topic for this month's newsletter, contrarian handicapping, I want to make a last mention of the Triple Crown Subscriber Service I have had going for this year's 3 Spring Classic races, the last of which of course is the Belmont Stakes being run at 6:38 p.m. EDT Saturday.

As many of you know (actually over 250 of you subscribed to it) my suggested plays for the 2003 Kentucky Derby included Funny Cide to win! At $27.60!

And my top 2 selections ran 1-2 for the $97 exacta!

Two weeks later over 300 of you received my analysis and selections for the Preakness. This time I had Funny Cide listed as the top choice, and he as we all know won by nearly 10 lengths paying $5.80.

I did not consider Midway Road as a prime contender in that race, and as a result did not have any of the exotic wagers pegged correctly.

People who know me are very aware that this bothered me a great deal, because I strive hard to give people their money's worth when they purchase something from me.

While the subscribers to all 3 races or just the Derby did get their $8.33 or $10 worth respectively, I feel a need to redeem myself for those who subscribed only for the Preakness, but have stuck with me and renewed for the Belmont.

As well as, of course for all those who signed up for the 3 race package.

Beneficiaries of this committment will also include all those who have or will yet sign up for only the last leg of the Triple Crown.

As a result, I have spent many hours pouring over not only the past performances of all the entries in this year's Belmont Stakes field, but also have focused carefully on what I know are the key criteria necessary for winning this mile and a half marathon.

If you are interested in obtaining my analysis and selections for this final leg of the Triple Crown, which should have a crowd at Belmont of over 100,000 to see if a N.Y.S.B. gelding can pull it off and become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed 25 years ago, please click here.


What do I mean when I use the phrase contrarian handicapping? I mean simply that in addition to looking for the usual clues when we handicap a race, it is wise to also place some focus the not so obvious.

You know, zig when the public zags, or take the road less traveled. Make decisions that contradict prevailing wisdom.

When it comes to handicapping thoroughbred horse races, most of the betting public emphasizes the same set of factors.

Which is why the last out top speed figure horse is the favorite in the large majority of races.

Most players are mesmerized by speed figures, and I even spent quite a few pages in last month's newsletter talking about them, hopefully in a somewhat different light.

I think the reason why speed figures are emphasized so heavily is because most people that play the thoroughbreds, especially those that go to the track or a simulcasting outlet, are primarily recreational players.

By that I mean they enjoy the whole atmosphere of racing, which includes chatting with friends, eating, drinking, and many other things and activities.

Before I became a full time player at home, I fell into that category of recreational player myself. I always wanted to make money, as I'm sure everyone who wagers does, but I would get into other things on occasion and suddenly find that there was precious little time to handicap the next race.

It's this phenomenon along with the huge number of races at our disposal these days that makes speed figures the primary handicapping tool for many players.

Those figures are right there in front of us in the track program, as well as other publications as a quick guide to identifying contenders.

But as I pointed out in last month's newsletter, less than 30% of top Beyer speed figure horses in last out dirt races win their next start.

As well over 1000 buyers of my handicapping book, "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level", (details of which you can check out by clicking here) know, the focus of my handicapping is on 3 areas.

Pace shape.

What I call "moves within a race."

And final fractions.

Contained in these 3 focal areas are some examples of contrarian handicapping, including a couple of "moves within a race" that I call the Profile play, and the WIR play.

These moves are contrarian in nature because the horses that make the defining moves of these plays are in effect doing pretty much the opposite of what the public looks for.

They fade back rather than gain ground, which in turn lowers their speed figure. Handicappers that have very little time before a particular race pass right over such horses that also can be described as having put in a "speed and fade" effort.

From the 2 examples of this type of last out performance that I am going to review below, one scored as the 6-5 public choice, while the other was a $17.20 winner.

They were both last out speed and fade horses, and both showed the best Beyer speed figure from the last 2 outings of every entry in the field.

The reason is obvious why the horse in the first case was such a short price. But it's the 2nd example that demonstrates the power and value of such a fade back horse, when it's clear that the public has overlooked it.

The reasons for the $17.20 payoff were two-fold. First of all, the winner was indeed a last out fade back horse with an inferior looking last out speed figure. And secondly there was a 7-5 favorite that was taking most of the action.

I liked this race as a potential value situation because I thought that the public choice horse was clearly beatable and one that should have been played against.


Today's 2 example races are the first 2 on the Belmont Park card of May 11, 2003.

I had given analysis and selections for the 2nd race that day to subscribers to my Triple Crown Selections Service.

Looking at the D/D probables of race 1 into race 2 showed the potential for a few good payoffs, even using the 6-5 favorite in the first.

Anytime I like a race that is the second half of a daily double, which at the N.Y. tracks are races 2, 7, and 9 (unless there are more races on the card, in which case the late D/D will be composed of the last 2 races), I will always see if there is a horse or two that look solid enough in the preceding race that can be used to connect on that D/D at a value payoff.

You can view and/or print the p.p.'s for race 1 by clicking here.

And the results chart is here.

I recommend waiting until after we review the race before you check on the results.

Race 1 at Belmont Park on May 11th consisted of a field of 9 going 7 furlongs at the maiden $50K claiming level.

As I implied above, I was using this race strictly to try to successfully kick of a D/D into the race that I liked.

Therefore, I wasn't real concerned that there were 4 first time starters in this field. In trying to assess the chances of such horses, we can use factors like breeding and statistics that sires have for success with first out runners, as well as stats showing for trainers with debut horses.

I will also look at the recent workout pattern of first timers, and none of the 4 in this race showed me anything of significance to lead me to believe they could challenge the 2 main contenders that were considered such off their past performances.

As things turned out, the 4 first time starters all filled out the last 4 finish positions.

From the information in front of us in the p.p.'s of those that had run some races, the pace shape seemed to favor horses that would get to or close to the front early.

I landed on #1 Just My Bill and #3 Hall Lass as the 2 horses I considered prospective winners, the payouts on which would be parlayed (in the form of the Daily Double) onto race 2, which I felt was a prime betting opportunity.

My selections in order for race 2 were 2,3,4, and the near post time probable D/D payoffs with those three using #'s 1 and 3 in the first were: $41, $90, $54, and $24, $57, and $29.

Most of those combos weren't earth shaking, but they were good enough for me to make a D/D part/wheel of 1-3/2-3-4, another D/D p/w of 1-3/2-3, and a final D/D p/w of 3/2-3.

I liked #1 Just My Bill in this match up primarily because of his last out final fraction advantage. In his last outing, which was at 6F 52 days earlier at the Fair Grounds, he earned a 3rd quarter fraction of 24.1.

I thought #3 Hall Lass would be the one to catch in this match up. He was cutting back from a couple of mile routes to today's 7 furlongs, and in those last 2 outings he was right on half miles of 45.1 and 45.2. Since he was also taking a drop from 5 lifetime tries at the maiden special weight level, as one of my "move within a race" plays he had to be the top pick to kick off the early D/D.

The public jumped on him, not only because of the well known special weight to claimer drop in class, but also because of his prior Beyer speed figure of 72, which was the best showing for the 5 horses that had previous racing experience.

#3 Hall Lass and #1 Just My Bill went at it pretty good with a half length separating them for 6 furlongs before Hall Lass prevailed in the final furlong to win by 2 with Just My Bill 4 lengths in front of #7 Mighty G, who had run his lifetime best race in his prior.

As per the results chart, the payoffs were not large, but the objective of starting off the D/D was met, although not with the longer priced of the 2 horses I used.

3. $4.30
1. 2nd - 3-1 ex. $14.40
7. 3rd - 3-1-7 tri. $55.50

While I played only D/D's, if this were not a case in which my focus was on the following race, I may have tried to squeeze out the best value from this race in the following manner.

In a situation where I come up with the 2 post time favorites as the only 2 contenders I think can win the race, I have a few options open to me regarding wagering.

I can play a 2 horse exacta box followed by a straight exacta, which in this case would have netted me the $14.40 payoff for both plays.

I can play a part-wheel exacta with my 2 picks over my other contenders, but not with each other, trying to connect on a better payoff.

If I choose the latter, I can play an insurance trifecta to cover the possibility that my top 2 picks do actually run 1-2.

I can play only the trifecta part-wheel with my top 2 in the first 2 slots, and then more with the top choice only in the win slot.

Or I can pass the race.

The respective wagers for these 4 options would be:

ex.bx. 1-3; ex. 3-1

ex.p/w 1-3/6-7; tri.p/w 1-3/1-3/6-7

tri.p/w 1-3/1-3/6-7; 3/1/6-7

Pass.

It all depends upon how much value there is showing in the exacta probables, and how many "secondary" contenders I have in the race.

If the 3-1 exacta probable in this example race was showing as $8 instead of $14, I would very likely have chosen the option of passing the race. This is because a trifecta score with the 3-1 and another contender would probably pay small enough to make the wager not worth the risk.

But in reality had I been contemplating playing this race alone, I most likely would have opted for the trifecta part-wheel.

And my plays would have been:

tri.p/w 1-3/1-3/6-7

tri.p/w 3/1/6-7

At a $2 wager cost of $8 and $4, I would have covered my top 2 selections (and the public's top 2 choices) in the win and place slots (replacing an exacta box), and used my remaining contenders (in this case 2 "secondary" contenders) in the show slot.

Since the 3-1-7 trifecta paid $55.50, for my $12 investment I would have received a return of $111 and a $99 profit.

Had I opted to spend that $12 in exactas I may have gone with these wagers: $4 ex.bx. 1-3, $4 ex. 3-1. The return for these bets would have been $57.60 for a profit of $45.60, $53.40 less than I would have netted on the trifecta plays.

The reason I mention these options is because we have decisions like these to make for each and every race we are thinking of playing.

And some time and thought should be given to the way we should play each specific situation.

Contrarian handicapping applies to wagering also. We don't have only win, place, show, and exotic wager boxing at our disposal. Some creative wagering will make a difference in one's bottom line.

By the way, the straight win bet ($12) on my top choice in this race would have returned $25.80 and netted $13.80, the least profitable option of those demonstrated.


Race 2 on Sunday May 11, 2003 was the prime objective of the bets made in race 1.

You can view and/or print the p.p.'s for race 2 by clicking here.

And the results chart is here.

Again, I recommend waiting until we review this race before you check the results chart.

I'll go over this race in more detail since it was one with much more potential for value payoffs.

Here is the field of 7 that were slated to go 6 furlongs with claiming tags of $35K down to $30K. I had 3 of the 7 labeled as early speed types.

I'll list the horses in order of post position, and next to each indicate the running style, Beyer speed figure, final fractions (raw/actual), and any "moves within a race."

1.) Cove Hill Missle S 46 24.3/25.4 ---

2.) Fit Performer P 73 24.1/24.3 ---

3.) Our Breadwinner P 54 24.1/26.1 Prof./W.O.

4.) Mild Maggie EP 65 25.0/25.2 W.O.

5.) Halfway To Heaven EP 62 24.1/25.0 ---

6.) Bonus Bid P 75 24.2/24.4 ---

7.) Lifebythedrop EP 74 25.3/25.3 ---

As I've stated in the past, when I label running styles, I lump all the speeds into one group I refer to as EP for early presser. This includes horses like Lifebythedrop that are clearly E (early) runners that want the lead every time they run.

After I see the pace shape of a particular race, I will then take a closer look at all those I have labeled as early types.

Here are the selections I posted for this race on the private Triple Crown Subscriber's web page:

2. Fit Performer (3-1) (5-2)
3. Our Breadwinner (12-1) (4-1)
4. Mild Maggie (5-2) (2-1)

If you look at the p.p.'s for all the entries in this race, you will see that I not only omitted from my contender list the horse with the best last out Beyer, #6 Bonus Bid, but also the horse with the 2nd best last out Beyer and winner of two straight wire to wire scores, #7 Lifebythedrop.

Let's go over each entry to see why I came up with the contenders I did.

1. Cove Hill Missle - this one didn't show anything in her last few races, and seemed out gunned from every conceivable handicapping angle.

2. Fit Performer - I mentioned in my Triple Crown subscriber picks analysis that this one and #3 Our Breadwinner were exiting the same heat won by a strong wire to wire winner 16 days earlier. The fractions of that race were 22.3 45.1 109.2 and 122.4.

Those fractions plus the internal raw fractions of 22.3 for the 2nd quarter and 24.1 for the 3rd quarter (important to this match up because of it being run at 6F) compared very favorably to any of the other entries' recent 6F races run on either of Aqueduct's two dirt tracks.

Actually #5 Halfway To Heaven had last competed in the same race, but was not as good of a fit to my way of thinking as the other two.

I made #2 Fit Performer my top selection primarily because of her field best last out FF of 24.3. And as per last month's newsletter on Beyer speed figure patterns, she had displayed the cycling pattern I spoke of in that discussion.

Her 3rd back Beyer was 75, which was followed by a regression to 69, and a recovery to a 73. Since her best showing Beyer was an 86 way back in his 12th prior outing, as the top final fraction horse this one looked real solid to me.

But as we all know, nothing is sure in horseracing. A horse that looks like she's ready to pop can run a dud race for more reasons than we can think of, and Fit Performer did just that as she chased the front runner before fading back to beat only 2 horses finishing in 5th.

That's why I make more than one selection for each race. And since I had reasons to like both of my top 2 selections for the win, Fit Performer's failure turned out to be a bonus to me and all those who went with me on this one.

3. Our Breadwinner - I'm sure her last past performance line looked pretty discouraging to many handicappers. Not only was that likely the case, but one could easily see that she was beaten by 3 of her rivals this time around, Fit Performer by 9 lengths in her last, Halfway To Heaven by 1/2 in her prior, and Lifebythedrop by 5 1/4 in her 4th race back.

So how in the world could I expect such a horse to have a shot at beating these 3 as well as the other 3 entries this time around?

By being a contrarian.

First of all, as I mentioned, she was exiting what looked like a strong last out race with the winner getting 6F in 109.2 en route to her 7F final time of 122.4.

Secondly, she had made a solid "move within a race" in her last, with a part of that move indicating that she had left plenty in the tank for her next outing.

And thirdly, her prior 2 efforts were solid 2nd place finishes. Here was a horse that was knocking on the door before putting in a speed/fade try in her last that in essence was a good effort that was hidden from the public as one that looked like a speed horse that stopped to finish 2nd to last.

In her 3rd back outing when 2nd to Halfway To Heaven she earned a strong 24.0 final fraction, and a 76 Beyer.

In her prior she showed early speed and held it all the way for a mile against $50K company while earning an 82 Beyer speed figure. That Beyer speed figure, which was underlined in red by me as her best showing in the p.p.'s, stood out in this match up as the best recent number.

With regard to speed figures, players that focus strictly on last out numbers will very quickly go past a horse that ran like Our Breadwinner did in her last.

And finally, her speed/fade try back at this level was at 7F, and it's always helpful to a such a runner to cut back a furlong or so in her next start. A runner that shows good early speed at a longer trip often improves when going shorter in her next start.

When it came time to decide which of my contenders to place the win bet on, if any, she was the one. That is, of course if this was a case in which the D/D was not a prior race play.

As I've said, part of my pre wagering process includes asking myself 3 quick questions.

1.) Which entries are my contenders?

2.) Which of those contenders are my candidates for the win slot?

3.) What are all of my wagering options for this race?

My answers to those questions were 2-3-4, 2-3, and exacta, trifecta, and Pick 3. The win wager was not an option in this case since I was alive in the Daily Double wagers. I had the option of playing the Pick 3 because as it turned out the 3 races I chose that day for which to make analysis and selections for my subscribers were the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th on the card.

Fortune shined on many of us when not only were my picks successful in this race we are reviewing now, but also in the following 2, which resulted in a nice Pick 3 payoff of $427.

Let's assume for a moment that when I was in the process of constructing wagers this was a stand alone race, and not the 2nd half of a D/D.

The first decision I would have to have made was whether or not I would make a win wager on one of the two I thought were win candidates, #2 Fit Performer and #3 Our Breadwinner.

Here is where the value lines come into play, and the very reason for their inclusion alongside the morning lines. The morning line for Fit Performer was 3-1 with my value line at 5-2. Her near post time odds were 5-2, right on my line.

But the morning line for Our Breadwinner was a fat 12-1 with my value line at 4-1. When her near post odds were hovering around 7 or 8 to 1, on which of the 2 contenders would the most sensible win wager be? On overlay Our Breadwinner of course. Win, lose, or draw, this is the type of value situation I look for and will go ahead with wagers on every time.

4.) Mild Maggie - I had this one as my 3rd selection due to her last speed and fade effort in a $20K optional claiming race at Laurel. She was a last out "move within a race" play, and had run well at Aqueduct on previous occasions.

Her prior outing at Aqueduct was also a good speed and fade try when in with NW2X allowance company, in which she earned a FF of 25.2. As an EP runner that figured to press the main speed horse, which I was relying on to not fire in this match up, I thought she had a good in the money chance with these.

5.) Halfway To Heaven was exiting the common race from which Fit Performer and Our Breadwinner had last competed in running 2nd and 5th to her 4th. She did earn the 3rd best FF of 25.0 in that outing, and as such could have been expected to be closing well in this field.

Although we can't get totally hung up on trainer stats, one's confidence can't be real high when a trainer's current year statistics for winning are 2 for 47 or 4%. After some deliberation I tossed Halfway To Heaven as a prime contender, but because of her recent good form I did consider her a horse that could be used if "spreading" in trifecta plays. I didn't use her in exactas, but did use her in the show slot of trifectas.

6.) Bonus Bid had done most of her recent running at the Fair Grounds before shipping in to finish 2nd for $20.5K in her first New York try. While she did show some things that could make her considered as a top 3 contender, I considered her in much the same way I did Halfway To Heaven, only to a lesser degree.

She did have the 2nd best last out final fraction of 24.4, and she did look like she was cycling to a good Beyer speed figure. But because she was stepping up off the claim from Lake for $20.5K by an outfit I'm not very familiar with here in N.Y. (that succeeds in next out wins off the claim at a rate of only 9%) and was stepping up to face $30K claimers in this match up, my preference for #'s 2, 3, and 4 made me put this one on the back shelf as another to be considered if spreading with trifectas.

7.) My entire approach to wagering on this race and believing that it could be one that could present value was based on my conviction that likely favorite and speed of the speed Lifebythedrop was a play against.

When you can can omit the 7-5 shot favorite from all your wagers, you by definition have a value situation in front of you.

What made me try to beat Lifebythedrop was the same exact reason why she was made the strong favorite by the public. Her last 2 wire to wire wins.

Only I was taking a contrarian viewpoint and going against the prevailing wisdom of other "investors."

It you take a look at those last couple of races you'll see that she was losing ground in the last furlong of each. When last seen in N.Y. she nearly blew a 5 1/2 length lead at the 8th pole when she hung on to win by 1/2.

In my book I talk about track purse values. The average purse value for Aqueduct is $40K. The average purse value for Philadelphia Park is $15K.

Why would a successful N.Y. trainer like Patrick Reynolds, who was batting a very high .280 for the year ship this horse over to Philly after a wire to wire score in N.Y.?

Instead of simply looking at her last couple of wire to wire wins, I was digging a little deeper, and the more I thought about it, I knew that this was a value situation that would be made so by tossing Lifebythedrop.

If I was right I would probably make a decent hit. If I was wrong, as I am most of the time (like everyone else) I would utter a few choice words under my breath before moving on to the next playable race.

Lifebythedrop did win in Philly in a $22K NW2X allowance race. Since the race she was entered in on May 11th had a purse of $34K, she was taking a pretty good hike up while facing better claimers than she had previously beaten in N.Y.

All this plus the fact that her Beyers (omitting the stoppage on a muddy track 3 races back) had gone up steadily with 70, 70, 72, and 74 efforts, I made a calculated decision that this horse was due for a regression at this level, and that because she would be way over bet, this would be a good wagering opportunity.

Since I had Daily Double wagers going with my top 3 selections (mostly however on my win candidates, which were the one's I gave as the answer to the question "which of my contenders do I feel can win this race"), I did not need to consider the win wager in this event.

Because of the near post odds of my 3 contenders, 5-2, 7-1 and 6-1, I constructed the following exotic wagers, which don't include the successful Pick 3 play.

ex.p/w 2-3/2-3-4 and smaller 4/2-3; then a 2-3 box

tri.bx. 2-3-4; tri.p/w 2-3/2-3-4/2-3-4-5-6

$2 wagers for these plays (which would not reflect the higher amount placed on the first and third exacta plays) would cost respectively: $8, $4, $4, $12, $24 or a total of $52.

This particular wager construction (as well as the D/D bets made in race 1) yielded me payoffs on the D/D, the exacta, and the trifecta (and also the Pick 3 ending in race 4).

Do I make hits like this every day? No, and like I have said, I've been wrong when throwing out public choices in the past and will be in the future.

But contrarian thinking coupled with my own approach to handicapping paid big dividends on this occasion.

As per the results chart, here were the payoffs:

3. $17.20
4. 2nd - 3-4 Ex. $99.00
5. 3rd - 3-4-5 Tri. $680.00

3-3 D/D $55.00


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

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

Or you can click here.

Until Saturday July 5, 2003, I wish you Fair Skies and Fast Tracks.

Jim

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