As you all know, on Saturday June 5th Smarty Jones will attempt to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in history, and the first since Affirmed out gamed his arch rival Alydar by a head in the Belmont Stakes 26 years ago.

I'm very happy to report that for the hundreds who subscribed to my 2004 Triple Crown Selection Service I was successful once again in the Kentucky Derby.

I was one of the few handicappers around who had Smarty Jones as his top selection, and he certainly did not disappoint with his 2 3/4 length score.

My comments were full of praise for 2nd place finisher Lion Heart, but I also said that he would not be in the win slot on any of my tickets.

Thus, the very logical overlay $65.20 exacta payoff of 15-3 (especially considering the sloppy conditions) among my wagering recommendations given to all who subscribed.

I broke down the field into 2 separate lists, contenders and non-contenders, and Imperialism, who completed the $987.60 trifecta was on the list of contenders.

On the list of non-contenders, by the way was 3rd choice in the wagering Tapit, who I screamed far and loud could not be in the picture in this the most unique and demanding race of the year in America.

I stated in this newsletter emailed to 2700+ people 4 days before the race that Tapit would not be included on any of my tickets.

That's how much confidence I have in my knowledge of what it takes for success in "the greatest 2 minutes in sports."


Not on your life.

I've been around long enough to know that this can be a very humbling game, and I am simply happy that I was right again this year for all those who placed their faith in me.

In the Preakness I once again had Smarty Jones as my top choice, and included in my exacta wagers was the $24.60 7-10 combination.

The question that remains now is will we have the first Triple Crown winner in 26 years?

My answer? No!

For a very specific reason I think Smarty Jones is vulnerable, and at projected odds of 2-5 for him, I think the horse that is my choice to beat him will present overlay value in a short field.

If you are interested in subscribing to my analysis, selections and wagering strategies for the final leg of the 2004 Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes to be run Saturday June 5th, please click here.

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This month's newsletter topic is "Stressing Early Speed Or Final Fractions?"

It's certainly no secret that I believe in final fractions as a primary indicator of potential for strong next out performance.

But as with any single handicapping factor, they do not tell the whole story in every scenario.

There are many different match ups that can be defined and identified through running style labeling.

And some of the resultant pace shapes will necessitate stressing early fractions more than come home times.

In my book on how to make money in thoroughbred racing, Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level I discuss the importance of labeling running styles for each horse in any race thought to present enough value to risk wager construction.

Once we have running styles recapped we can assign a pace shape label to the race in question, and recognize which horses, if any, have pace shape advantages.

I'm going to use a couple of races run Sunday May 23, 2004 at Belmont Park to demonstrate how the pace shape of a race can guide us toward the correct handicapping approach, namely focusing on early speed or closing punch.

And by the way, the best possible scenario we can come across is the horse that is among the top 2 runners in a particular match up in both of those categories, speed and final fraction.

For a textbook example of how running styles can strongly influence the outcome of a race, let's look at race 2 at Belmont on the 23rd.

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 of 6 in post position order including running style, last Beyer speed figure, raw/actual final fractions (always adjusted for distance switches that include 1-turn routes) and any moves-within-a-race made.

1. Paugus Bay P 38 26.4/29.4 speed/fade/drop play

2. Cry of the Cat E 55 26.0/26.1 ---

3. Ellie's Quest S 72 25.2/24.4 ---

4. Cannon in G S 67 26.4/25.1 SRE

5. Silver Magic P 49 26.4/26.4 SRE

6. Lisa's Deelites P 55 25.2/26.2 speed/fade/drop play

Now obviously the last race of a horse does not always give us a clear picture of its true capability against its current competition.

That's why the handicapping process cannot be easily reduced to a "magic number."

There are a variety of factors that must be integrated to enable us to make intelligent contender selection and wagering decisions.

For instance in this match up there are 2 horses that show the best last out final fractions as well as Beyer speed figures.

#3 Ellie's Quest with a FF of 24.4 and a Beyer of 72 leads the pack with #4 Cannon in G 2nd with 25.1 and 67.

But neither the final fractions nor the speed figures tell the story in this match up.

The running styles and resultant pace shape do.

At the top of my Racing Form for this race I have the following recap of running styles:

1E 3P 2S (6)

And I also have this pace shape label written: Strong Ad Early

I'll be discussing at a future date the upcoming new features and benefits of my C.H. Subscription Service, but I'll say now that included will be what I refer to as early speed points.

And for this field the ESP's are in post position: 4, 5, 0, 2, 5, 5.

With these added to the pace analysis, it's clear that the 2 horses that have the top 2 final fractions and speed figures, both with closer running styles (S for sustained closer) in a pace shape that strongly favors early speed runners, may very well not have the advantage in this particular match up.

Using running styles as our indicators of pace shape labeling, only #2 Cry of the Cat is indicated as an early speed horse, in her case with an E label.

I do my own running style labeling, and despite her not being an E or EP runner in the majority of her races showing in the past performances, because she ran as such in her last 2 outings I labeled her an E runner.

Since this is a pace shape that strongly favors early speed, stressing that capability over closing punch is called for, and we should examine all entries that have the potential to be in the first flight of runners in this match up.

Since we have 4 horses in this field that have earned 4 or more early speed points, which separates them from the remaining 2 closers, it would be prudent to take a look at them as potential candidates for contender status.

#2 Cry of the Cat as the lone entry with an early speed running style label has to be a top 2 contender in this field, having flashed that improved quickness that resulted in a win and a 2nd place finish in her last 2 starts.

How about the 1-horse Paugus Bay?

As noted and as you can see in the p.p.'s she is a speed/fade/drop play that shows a win in her prior outing, which has to put her on the short contender list for this pace shape.

And obviously as a horse that lost ground in the final segment of her last race, her last out final fraction and speed figure will both be inferior to some of her competition.

Does she have the same early speed capability that Cry of the Cat has shown in her last couple?

No. She's labeled a P (for presser) runner and has 4 early speed points.

But because of the drop in class and the prior good outing, she should be made a top 3 contender.

#3 Ellie's Quest had shown early zip in only 1 out of her last 12 races, and overall has the S running style, which in essence neutralizes her perceived final fraction advantage.

Now as we all know, handicapping the horses is not a pure science.

Sometimes things will not go as we expect them to.

And a horse with a fine final fraction advantage like Ellie's Quest will at times overcome a pace shape disadvantage that she was facing in this match up and close powerfully enough to win or be in the money.

That scenario could play out if the race turned out to have a very quick and contentious early pace that would allow a closer to do her thing in spite of how things look pace wise on paper.

But since this is a numbers game, I recommend we keep the blinkers on to the extent that we stress what is in front of us in terms of handicapping indicators.

A Strong Advantage Early pace shape (which will include a small number of early speed runners) that has a number of closers signed on (like this match up that has 33% of the field as S runners) will normally favor the early speed horses, providing they show at least some sign of readiness.

#4 Cannon in G earned a good final fraction of 25.1 in her last outing, which was a win at about the same claiming level.

But notice how far back she was at the pace call.

15 lengths!

And her prior races showed that she was generally pretty far back at that point, which is not the place to be in the majority of race tracks and match ups.

Especially in this one with the lack of early speed runners, which produced a pace shape that projects to be less suitable for closers to perform to their best.

#5 Silver Magic showed 5 early speed points, but her last was what I describe as a dull race (despite being what I call an SRE play), having been 9th or 10th at every call point of her race.

Her connections were trying to inspire her to run a little better by removing blinkers for this try, but in this match up she didn't have the look of a top 3 contender, having not finished in the exacta in any of her last 12 outings, including at the same level or lower in her last 6.

#6 Lisa's Deelites showed similar attributes for this match up to Paugus Bay, including having run her last as a speed/fade/drop play.

And she not only was cutting back in distance by 110 yards, but was also making a surface switch from grass to the main track, on which she won her only 2 races lifetime.

Having flashed that good early speed in her last that included a nice little middle move, coupled with her 5 early speed points, I made her a top 2 contender in this short field.

And in this instance things turned out as the data said they should.

There were no fast early splits, and there was not a contentious battle up front.

Somehow a jockey I consider to be one of the most under rated on the N.Y. scene, however, Mike Luzzi, aboard Cry of the Cat allowed Lisa's Deelites to get away to a loose on the lead position, which was too much to overcome.

But the 2 main speeds did go 1-2 for the entire 8 1/2 furlongs out of the Belmont chute around 1 turn (the 1 turn route also being a factor for stressing the early speed advantage in this match up).

And Paugus Bay closed well to be a close 3rd from her 4th place positioning for most of the race, finishing 12 3/4 lengths in front of 4th place finisher Ellie's Quest.

The $2 payoffs were:

6. $15.80
2. 2nd - 6-2 ex. $58.50
1. 3rd - 6-2-1 tri. $158.00

In all fairness and to illustrate the fact that these Strong Ad Early match ups don't always pan out as they expectedly should, and are indeed dependent upon how fast and contentious of an early pace the jockeys create, race 7 on the same day had the same pace shape label that produced much less pleasing results.

Both races had Strong Ad Early pace shapes, 6 horse fields, and were held at the distance of a mile and 1/16th.

The difference was in the fractional splits of the races:

Race 2: 24.0 48.1 113.4 139.2 146.0

Race 7: 23.0 45.3 110.3 136.3 143.1

There was a class level differential between claiming and allowance, but the first 2 fractions in race 7 were by far the fastest route splits recorded on the day.

As a result, the 2 speeds cooked themselves into defeat while the horse with the best dirt final fraction picked up the pieces and closed from 6th and last to score at $11.80.

In spite of occasional inconsistent sound thinking on the part of jockeys, I still recommend pace shape labeling and going with any advantages they may point out.

2 races after our first example at Belmont on May 23rd, there was a slightly different pace shape favoring early speed horses that called for careful inspection of final fractions.

Let's take a quicker look at this one now.

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

And the results chart is here.

With the late scratch of 2B Love of Money, Race 7 at Belmont on May 23rd was a field of 10, including 2 first time starters, going a mile at the maiden special weight level.

1. In Rare Form S 36 25.2/26.4 ---

2. Big in the Game EP 66 25.1/25.1 ---

3. Bandit Nailhead EP 65 25.4/26.1 ---

4. Guy Getaway EP 76 25.2/25.0 ---

1A. Gottabe Awesome FTS

5. Flange FTS

6. B K's On the Park E 56 25.4/26.2 Wide Out play

7. Drivingthelane S 58 26.4/27.1 ---

8. Coded Warning S 74 24.4/23.1 ---

9. Secret Messenger EP 61 25.1/25.4 ---

The running style recap and pace shape label of this match up were:

1E 4EP 3S 2? - Ad Early

And the early speed points in post position order were: 0, 6, 6, 7, 1, 1, 6, 4, 0, 6

You can see a clear difference between this pace shape of Ad Early compared to the Strong Ad Early label of Race 2 on the same race card.

Not only were there 5 entries with E or EP running style designations, but the early speed points were higher with 4 at 6 and 1 at 7, 8 being the highest possible rating.

Because of the relative abundance of early speed types, which would increase the potential for a quick and contentious early pace, it would be prudent to check the last out final fractions earned by not only those horses but by any in the field of 10.

It wouldn't take long to see a standout in that department, the 23.1 earned by race favorite #8 Coded Warning.

Even though in both of his career starts he was far back at the pace call before coming on well to miss in 2nd by a nose in his debut and finish 4th in his follow up after being shipped cross country from Santa Anita to Aqueduct, a closer look at this one would certify him as a strong contender for the win in this match up.

If this was a Strong Ad Early pace shape, he may not have stood as good a chance to get up for the win.

In his case, however, there were 2 other strong indicators of an upcoming top performance.

He was adding blinkers for this try.

And in his narrow debut miss he earned a Beyer speed figure of 90.

That is a superior speed figure for a first time starter, which immediately shows quality.

These factors coupled with the potential for a quick and contentious early pace made Coded Warning the top win contender.

But what about the pace shape favoring early speed?

Because of that pace shape and the fact that all 5 early runners had strong first segment early speed, it followed that if the powerful closer did win, one or more of the speed horses would fill out the exotic wagers.

Since Coded Warning was bet down to 3-5 due to his speed figures and connections, the only wager options would be the exacta and/or the trifecta.

A near post time review revealed that the odds of the speed horses were in post position order 10-1, 18-1, 5-1, 13-1, and 35-1.

The exotic plays as dictated by the pace shape and strong final fraction horse were:

Exacta: 8/2-3-4-6-9, but since the odds on #4 Guy Getaway were only 5-1 as the strong 2nd choice in the wagering, he would have to be left out of that wager because of the low payoff on the 8-4 combo.

So the play was a part-wheel exacta of 8/2-3-6-9, the $2 cost for which was $8, with an 8-9 payoff of $61.00 as the longest priced speed horse got the place.

The appropriate trifecta part-wheel play was:

8/2-3-4-6-9/2-3-4-6-9, the $2 cost for which was $40 with an 8-9-3 combination $515 payoff, or a $1 wager costing $20 for one-half of that return, $257.50.

Hopefully these exercises will help you to be more aware of when to stress early speed and when to place the handicapping emphasis on final fractions.

As well as understanding that all the different match ups we will encounter require looking at the whole picture, which includes an analysis of running styles and pace as well as final fractions.

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

Or you can click here.

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


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