I hope everyone had an enjoyable as well as a profitable time this past Breeder's Cup Saturday, during which again this year there were upsets and big payoffs in abundance.

One very lucky player placed an $8 Pick 6 wager in a small cocktail lounge in South Dakota that contained singles in four of the legs with 2 picks in the remaining two, and did the near impossible when (s)he was the only winner, with a gross take of 2.7 million dollars!

Shows how occasionally the little guy or gal can beat the huge syndicates at their own game.

I emailed to all RAFF POWER subscribers my analysis of the eight B.C. races, which showed these positive R.O.I. figures for the following wager options:

Win Wager Top Selection: 90% Return On Investment

Win and Place Wager Top Selection: 56% Return On Investment

Exacta Part–Wheel Top 2 Over All Listed Each Race: 75% Return On Investment

D/D Part-Wheel Top 2 With Top 2 Listed Each Race: 34% Return On Investment

RAFF POWER (click here) and Calibration Handicapping (click here) had the 8th/9th $85 D/D (using my 2nd listed horse in the B.C. Turf) as well as the $30.40 top listed winner and $140 exacta in the featured $4 million dollar B.C. Classic.

What a great way to end the 2003 Breeder's Cup day!

As I said in my most recent Weekly RAFF POWER Review (available each Monday for RAFF POWER subscribers as an ongoing effort to assist them to best utilize the data), I’m really excited about the prospects of the upcoming 6 months or so of racing at Aqueduct (first on the main track and turf course for about 6 weeks and then on the winterized Inner dirt track) as well as of course racing in the ideal climates of Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.

I’m eagerly anticipating some solid match ups at Aqueduct due to an abundance of "clean" races, which is the topic of this month's newsletter.

I expect RAFF POWER to shine brightly under these circumstances.

Again, if you have not yet subscribed to RAFF POWER data and would like to do so for one month to check it out, you may do so by clicking here.

What do I mean when I say "clean race?"

First of all, before I define that phrase, I want to again briefly discuss why people play the thoroughbreds.

There is no question that the majority of players are very much part time participants in this game. They have families and/or jobs that require them to cut back on the time they can allow for going to the track or simulcast outlet to play the horses.

And these players are not really all too interested in skipping a whole lot of races on their rare day at the track.

I would have to say that the majority of wagers made in the sport are of the "recreational" nature rather than the well planned out assaults on specific value situations that must be "waited out."

But I still say part time players or "weekend warriors" as well as serious players who are after the money can make selective bets as well as entertainment or diversion plays.

Not all races offer the same edge or value and the ones that do should be played more seriously than the others.

And the best match ups we can find are the "clean" races.

Clean means a match up in which all or close to all of the entries have run in similar last out races, and on which we can make a thorough inspection of past performances followed by intelligent decisions as to which are the contenders and which are what some refer to as the pretenders or what I call simply the non-contenders.

In which of these two scenarios would it be easier to match up entries and make smart decisions regarding contender status?

Scenario 1:

A 9-horse field going a mile on the turf in an un graded stakes race in which all but one had last run within 42 days on the same surface, meaning grass, at about the same class levels, with all but one having last raced at around the same route distances, with clearly defined running lines in their last half dozen past performances.

Scenario 2:

A 12-horse field going a mile and a quarter on the turf in a Graded stakes race in which 2 had not run in over 90 days, and although they all had last run on grass at similar class levels, 4 of them, or 1/3rd of the field had run at least their last 4 outings in Europe which meant that for these horses there were no past performances to view and from which to make intelligent decisions.

Well the first of these two scenarios was a race I am going to review in this newsletter, having been run as the 8th race at Belmont Park on October 22nd. As you will see, this race contained the 2 initial ingredients we need to select contenders and construct wagers: an edge, and perceived value.

The second scenario was the B.C. Filly & Mare Turf race held at Santa Anita on Saturday October 25th. And in this race, the eventual first three finishers were horses for which we could not examine past performances because there were none to scrutinize.

While the winner, Islington could have been picked as a contender since she had run 3rd in this race last Fall in her 5th race back, one would have had to completely eliminate from contention all the U.S. horses to come up with the $424.80 exacta, and the $3,179 trifecta.

I think it can be pretty much agreed upon by the majority of us that the first scenario offered the edge and conditions from which we could have better selected contenders and constructed wagers.

Who among us could have thrown out from the win, place and show spots all three of Bobby Frankel's uncoupled horses as well as what appeared to be viable contenders like Musical Chimes and Dimitrova who finished 11th and 12th respectively in the B.C. race?

The point is that this race was not "clean" because other than Timeform speed ratings and other people's opinions, we ourselves could not view and evaluate the past performances of the 4 European invaders, and as such could not know that they were superior to all of the U.S. horses.

After the dust settled, the results showed that each of the 3 Breeder's Cup turf races run last Saturday were won by European based horses (one being a dead heat) with no past performance lines to evaluate.

The fewer unknowns we have in a particular match up, the "cleaner" it is. Obstacles that stand in our way include not only horses that are based outside of North America which don't have any p.p.'s to evaluate, but also first time starters, which don't either.

Other factors that can muddle our assessment of a match up are surface switches (unless they are surface switch plays as discussed in the October 2003 issue of this newsletter) like sloppy to fast or turf to dirt & vice versa, and even distance switches from sprint to route or the other way around.

In other words, to have the clearest edge in a particular match up, we need a race as close as we can come to being "clean"; one in which all the participants have last run on the same surface, at either a sprint or a route, at approximately the same level, and on fast tracks or firm courses.

Those are the conditions I believe make for prime plays. Anything else and there is additional risk added to the already (for many reasons) less than easily predictable event.

This does not say that we won't play less than perfect match ups when enough perceived value is present, but when we do find those ideal conditions to match up all the entries we should have an easier time separating the contenders from the non-contenders.

And our major wagers should be placed on contenders selected from "clean" or close to clean match ups that also present perceived and then actual value.

As many of you know by now, one of the factors I stress most in handicapping is final fraction analysis and comparison, which by itself can unearth advantages and value plays not only for closers, but for horses with any and all running styles.

One of the reasons I liked Pleasantly Perfect so much in the B.C. Classic was his last race at Santa Anita, which was run at an 8th of a mile shorter (a mile and an 8th) than he would go on Saturday at a mile and a quarter.

While his 24.3 last out 4th quarter was very competitive, what really stood out was the time in which he covered the final furlong in his prep race. It was a sparkling 11 & 4/5ths seconds.

And like I say, it was on the Santa Anita racetrack.

These factors coupled with him displaying another of the handicapping indicators I focus on, moves-within-a-race, made him my top selection as a solid-looking T/M play.

My other best value play, although it was in a turf race was Touch of the Blues in the B.C. Mile. He was a very strong T/M play and came up short at just shy of 12-1 as the very tough filly from France Six Perfections beat males again and out gamed Touch of the Blues by 3/4 of a length.

Now let's take a look at a couple of races that are not precisely "clean", but are fairly close to being so.

The first example is race 8 run at Belmont Park on October 22, 2003.

After late scratches it was a field of 9 going a mile on the Widener turf course in an un graded $65K race. I labeled 8 of the 9 with P for presser running styles and the other an S for sustained closer.

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

And the results chart is here.

I'll list the entries in post position order followed by their running style, last out Beyer speed figure, last out raw/actual final fraction, and any last out "moves-within-a-race."

1. Love n' Kiss S. P 93 24.0/24.0 ---

2. Affirmed Dancer P 91 24.0/24.1 ---

3. Pieria P 91 24.2/23.3 T/M

6. Vespers P 95 24.2/23.4 T/M

7. Silver Rail P 72 24.4/25.2 ---

8. Miss Gazon S 82 24.2/24.4 ---

9. Coney Kitty P 95 24.2/24.0 ---

10. Cozzy Corner P 90 23.4/24.0 W.O.

11. Lojo P 86 23.1/23.0 ---

My order of contenders was 11-1-3/6, the order based heavily on final fractions. The true key to the race for me was #11 Lojo, and I'll discuss him shortly.

I also felt that the preference for the Belmont turf courses for #1 Love n' Kiss S. was real, and thought that she had the potential to be right there at the end also.

In the very first issue of this newsletter on October 5, 2002 the topic was turf racing. In that edition I spoke of a tip on how to recognize a superior mile and 1/16th turf race.

In short, it was a mile and 1/16th race with a raw final 5/16ths in the neighborhood of 29.0 seconds. If a horse was exiting such a race and had an actual final 5/16ths of close to that, say in the 28.4 to 29.2 range, and showed enough in his past performances to be a contender in his current match up, that horse could be thought of as one to make a strong next out effort.

Well all these months later here is the same tip regarding mile and 1/8th turf races. It's very much the same only in this case the focal point is the final 3/8ths of a mile.

When a horse is exiting a 9F turf race with a final 3/8ths in 35.0 seconds or thereabout, and has an actual final 3/8ths in the range of 34.4 to 35.2, he can also be expected to run well in his next outing.

In this example race, not only did Lojo have a 3/5ths advantage in last out final fraction, but her raw/actual final 3/8ths was a very good 35.0/34.4.

This was indicative of the fact that in her last race she not only was going well in the final fraction, but was flying home in the final furlong.

The payoffs were:

11. $19.00
1. 2nd - 11-1 ex. $84.00
9. 3rd - 11-1-9 tri. $422.00

Example no. 2 was also race 8 at Belmont, this time on 10/26/03. This match up after late scratches was also a field of 9, this one going a mile and an 8th on the Inner turf course in an un graded stakes race. I had this one labeled as a lone early speed pace shape with 1 EP runner and 8 pressers.

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

And the results chart is here.

I'll list the entries in post position order followed by their running style, last out Beyer speed figure, last out raw/actual final fraction, and any last out "moves-within-a-race."

1. Saree P 75 26.3/26.1 ---

2. Art Fan P 68 24.3/24.0 SRE

3. Earthquake Ride P 62 26.1/26.1 ---

4. Lucifer's Stone P 75 24.4/24.1 ---

6. Barn Dance P 57 26.1/26.2 ---

7. Please Take Me Out EP 53 24.3/29.2 ---

8. America America P 74 24.0/23.3 ---

9. Faswiga P 73 25.2/25.0 ---

11. Bobbie Use P 77 25.1/25.0 ---

The subject of this race is the one horse that did not compete on the turf in her last. She had, however, run her previous two races on that surface.

If you look at the p.p.'s of #7 Please Take Me Out, you will see that she broke her maiden in the special weight ranks on the Belmont Widener course at a mile in her previous outing.

Her raw/actual final fractions for that effort, 24.4/24.4 were comparable to the best of this field, with the exception of #8 America America who earned a solid 23.3 FF in her last try.

But it was the last dirt race of Please Take Me Out that pointed to her in this match up. In last month's newsletter I spoke of the Surface Switch Play, which pertained to turf route to dirt (preferably dirt sprint).

As a side note, the winners of the first 3 races at Belmont on Sunday 10/26/03 were won by horses that were switching from turf to dirt.

In race 1 #1 Belladumaani was cutting back from a mile on the Widener course to 6F on the main track. He was not a Surface Switch Play according to its precise definition because he did not fade back out of the money after having the lead for 6F. He faded back only to 2nd.

But he did win race 1 paying $11.00.

In race 2 #5 Bay Dragon was more of an example of the Surface Switch Play, having last shown the necessary speed, positioning and fade that the play involves while also dropping from $35K at a mile and an 8th on the turf to a $20K 7F dirt sprint.

She won paying $28.00 and capped the $274.50 early D/D as well as topping the $121 exacta.

Then in race 3 #5 Thanasi shifted surfaces from a mile on the Widener turf course to a mile and an 8th on the main track, showing all the signs of a good Surface Switch Play.

He beat the heavy chalk paying $14.80 with that odds on horse, #1 Gone To War completing a $35.20 exacta.

But back to that day's 8th race.

Please Take Me Out was making pretty much the opposite Surface Switch Move. She was exiting a mile and a 16th route race on the main track going to this mile and an 8th event on the Inner turf course.

She did show fine early presence in that dirt route, having the lead right up to the key 6F point in the race before fading back completely out of it. Again, the severe fade back is meaningless when applying the theories of this move. The key component is not only the switch in surface, but the speed for 6 furlongs. What happens from that point to the wire is insignificant as long as the horse fades back.

But that was not just any race she had last run in. It happened to be the Grade 1 Frizette. So that emphasized even more the insignificance of her being beaten in 7th by 24 lengths.

She was probably entered over her head in that race just to set her up for her next outing on turf, which she won as the main early speed in this example race paying $28.00!

As an added confidence booster to play this filly, one could have noted that from her last out race, the Frizette, the 2nd and 3rd place finishers came back to run 3rd and 2nd respectively behind Halfbridled the day before in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Filly race.

13 to 1 seemed to be quite an overlay on Please Take Me Out.

Two other points about this race. First of all strong-looking contender America America for some reason did not show up and ran dead last in 9th.

And another key confidence booster to play Please Take Me Out to win was the fact that the final fraction comparison showed that morning line and post time favorite #1 Saree (much like Cuvee in the B.C. Juvenile) had an inferior last out race, and was a definite bet against favorite.

The payoffs were:

7. $28.00
11. 2nd - 7-11 ex. $210.00
4. 3rd - 7-11-4 tri. $1,565.00

Until Saturday December 6, 2003, I wish you Fair Skies and Fast Tracks.


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