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
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
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
Beneficiaries of this committment will also include all those
who have or will yet sign up for only the last leg of the Triple
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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:
Or you can click here.
Until Saturday July 5, 2003, I wish you Fair
Skies and Fast Tracks.
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