This 12th issue of Horseracing Info Newsletter (wow, a year has gone by already) begins with very exciting news for owners of my book, "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level", and any other handicapper who is interested in improving his or her bottom line.

Which is why I'm sending out this edition of Horseracing Info Newsletter a few days early.

One of the most common questions I get from buyers of my book is, "do you ever plan on having a software program that will calculate the final fractions?"

Well, as of today, September 3, 2003, such a program does exist, and while I am unable to sell the actual software at present, I'm doing the next best thing.

The exciting news is that the new service I am offering does the majority of the handicapping work for you by giving access to and providing raw/actual final fractions, calculated just as I demonstrate in the book.

That and a whole lot more. RAFF POWER is truly a breakthrough approach to handicapping the thoroughbreds.

This approach is not used by anyone anywhere other than those of you who subscribe to it, and in my opinion, after using it for a couple of weeks, I think you will be astounded at the results should you decide to give it a try for one month.

For more details about what I consider to be the best new handicapping service to launch in a long, long time, including 5 recent samples of races run at Saratoga and Del Mar, please check out RAFF POWER by clicking here.

For details about "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level" to help you to decide if my newly launched RAFF POWER service is something that you will be able to use in conjunction with the handicapping process presented in the book, please click here.


The topic for this month's newsletter, "When to Play and When to Pass" was submitted to me by subscriber Brian B.

It's a subject that I have discussed somewhat in previous newsletters, but one that deserves further attention.

If you have something you would like addressed in this forum, tell me about it as Brian did in an email, and I'll see if I can oblige. You can email me at either of these 2 addresses:

pickwick@msn.com

or

jim@free-horseracing-info.com

First of all I have to mention once again that there are a number of different reasons why people play the thoroughbreds, ranging from entertainment or recreational wagering, to seriously striving to make money on an ongoing basis.

It's very understandable that players who only get to the track or a simulcasting outlet once every so often are not going to want to pass many races.

So this discussion is aimed at those like myself, Brian, and all others whose main purpose for playing the thoroughbreds is to make money.

To make money at this game requires locating betting situations in which we have the fewest question marks involved.

Or put another way, races we should play are those in which we have a clearly perceived edge.

Conditions that can interfere with us having the best betting scenarios include:

• Races with first time starters

• Surface or distance switches (an abundance of entries switching from turf to dirt or vice versa or sprint to route or vice versa)

• Track condition switches (muddy/sloppy to fast; yielding/soft to firm, etc.)

• Weather (such as very windy conditions)

• Known biases

• Late scratches reducing field size

• Entries having last raced outside of the U.S. and therefore not showing any past performance lines to analyze

• Races with odds-on horses that look too strong to bet against

• Too many “stale” horses (have not run in 90 days or longer)

Obviously, the best case scenario is a race in which all entries have last competed within 6 weeks or so, at the same distance as today's race, on the same fast or firm surface, and at the same class level.

The perfect situation, however, is not often found, so we have to play races that have as few "problems" or unknowns as possible.

One match up that to me stands out as a much more risky proposition is the maiden race in which there are 3 or more first time starters. How can we tell if one or more of those is going to fire in today's match up?

I've seen first time starters with purchase prices of over a million dollars run up the track. And I've seen those with great breeding, trainer stats, workouts, you name it, do the same thing.

On the other hand, surprise first time starter winners are in abundance also. For my money it's best to pass these kinds of situations.

My friend Ron C. down in Houston Texas will disagree with me on this one, because he loves trying to figure out first time starter races.

It's just another case of to each his own.

Then you have the intangible called value. For an example of this, let's look at the 7th race run at Saratoga on August 16th.

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

And the results chart is here.

In this particular scenario, value, pace shape, final fraction comparison and even a little "reading between the lines" led me to a score.

Here is the field from #1 through #8, including running styles, last out Beyer speed figures, last out raw/actual final final fractions and any what I call "moves within a race."

1. Nothing Flat S 90 24.2/25.4 ---

2. Puzzlement S 110 24.2/23.4 T/M

3. Volponi EP 112 24.2/24.1 ---

4. No Comprende S 99 24.4/24.2 T/M

5. Harlan's Holiday P 112 24.4/25.0 ---

6. State Shinto EP 100 24.3/25.0 ---

7. Iron Deputy EP 94 25.1/25.4 ---

8. Blue Boat EP 100 25.0/25.0 ---

This was the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeder's Cup Handicap with a field of 8 three year olds & upward going a mile and a quarter. There were 4 early speed running styles, all of which I have identified as EP, 1 presser and 3 closers.

All but one had last run in a two turn route on dirt, the exception being #6 State Shinto who had run in a two turn route on turf in his last. They had all last competed in a graded stakes race on a fast track (good turf for State Shinto) except #8 Blue Boat, who had last run at the NW2X allowance level in the slop.

So here was a case in which there was quite a bit of uniformity rather than many question marks.

#2 Puzzlement was immediately brought to my attention by RAFF POWER as it showed him with the best last out FF of 23.4. And he was a T/M play.

Both he and #3 Volponi had last run in the Grade 1 Whitney 2 weeks earlier at Saratoga.

The past performances show that Volponi had gotten the better of Puzzlement not only on that occasion by a length and a half, but also on July 5th at Belmont Park by 6 1/4 lengths.

But after looking at all the entries, my mind was made up to play Puzzlement to win and an exacta box with him and Volponi.

First of all by looking at the fractions of the common race they were exiting, one could see that it was a good race, and one could also see that these two had run well in it as Red Scan Qualifiers finishing 4th and 2nd.

Compare their efforts to that of #1 Nothing Flat who was also exiting a good looking Grade 1 event.

To me these two stood out above the rest with their respective FF's of 23.4 and 24.1.

But how could I expect Puzzlement to beat Volponi this time? After all, Volponi was the reigning champion of the previous Fall's B.C. Classic.

First of all, in my mind Volponi had not stamped himself as a great Grade 1 horse. I think he won that B.C. race almost by default, but that's another story.

If you look at his p.p.'s you'll see what I did. Namely, other than his B.C. Classic win, he had run 2nd in 6 straight races and 7 of 8. That's 7 second place finishes in his last 9 outings, with the one big win and a 3rd place finish.

With plenty of early speed signed on along with Volponi's recent propensity for minor awards and Puzzlement's last good effort, it became very clear what my bets were going to be.

Especially after I looked at the odds board and saw 6-1 on Puzzlement and 4-5 on Volponi, who had been crowned pretty much of a mortal lock in this match up since he was the B.C. champ.

Since this was a group that could be matched up pretty easily in terms of last out races, as well as a value situation, I went ahead with the win on #2 as well as an exacta box of 2-3.

As the results chart shows, after this race Volponi had eight 2nd place finishes on his ledger from his last ten outings.

The payoffs were:

2. $15.80
3. 2nd - 2-3 ex. $34.40
7. 3rd - 2-3-7 tri. $208.50

Before we move on I want to mention a couple of other quick points.

In races like the one we just discussed, when we have 2 horses that we think stand out pretty much from the rest, as long as they both show a good last out race, often (not always) the horse that did not expend the more energy of the two will win today's encounter.

Even as in this case in which Volponi had already beaten Puzzlement in their last 2 meetings.

Also, this race reminds me of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic run at Del Mar on Sunday August 24th.

On paper it looked to me that it was a two horse race (in the field of only 4) between the undefeated Candy Ride and the proven great horse Medaglia d'Oro.

Candy Ride had the better last out FF, 23.2 vs. 24.2. And his odds were 2-1 vs. 3-5 for Medaglia d'Oro.

I thought 5-1 on my money was a play rather than pass scenario for this race, and fortunately I was correct on this occasion when the Candy Ride/Medaglia d'Oro exacta came back at $12.40.

It was a similar situation to the Puzzlement/Volponi match up.


The next race I would like to review was run as the 2nd race at Saratoga on August 21, 2003.

It was a field of 7 going 6F with claiming tags of $25K down to $22.5K with 3 early speed types signed on.

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 race for which I posted selections on the private web page reserved for subscribers to this free newsletter. Both Calibration Handicapping and RAFF POWER uncovered the following contenders, and below was my analysis.

Race 2 - Post 1:35 EDT

2. Handsome Gent (8-1) (3-1)
3. Fact Not Fiction (5-2) (5-2)
1. Volcanic Hill (8-1) (7-2)

#2 Handsome Gent drops back down to the claiming ranks from a last out solid 2nd place finish at the N.Y.S.B. preliminary allowance level as the 3-2 favorite. His field best 24.1 FF coupled with his early presence capability makes him my top contender for the win in this match up.

#3 Fact Not Fiction, like the top pick, should benefit from the cut back of 220 yards to today's 6 panel trip. He's been in front at the 6F point in both of his last 2 tries at 7F, and looks like a top 2 contender from on or near the lead.

#1 Volcanic Hill will have to work out a good trip as a closer breaking from the rail, but he looks like he has a shot at an in the money finish off the drop in class from his last out 4th place finish and 24.3 FF at the NW2X allowance level at Delaware Park.

Let's go over the field and see why I came up with the horses I did.

1. Volcanic Hill S 85 24.3/24.3 ---

2. Handsome Gent EP 74 24.2/24.1 ---

3. Fact Not Fiction EP 72 25.0/25.0 ---

4. Deputy Connor S 76 26.2/26.1 ---

5. Destello del Cielo P 78 24.0/24.1 ---

6. Hanky EP 98 25.1/25.1 (STALE) ---

7. Sejm Boogie P 87 26.2/26.2 ---

The first thing my RAFF POWER data told me, which was confirmed by my regular Calibration Handicapping techniques, was that there was a potentially false favorite in this match up.

What ever handicapping approach you use, when you determine that a horse that projects to be pretty heavily bet is a vulnerable favorite, that spells value, and is an immediate indication that the race is a probable play rather than pass situation.

If you take a look at #7 Sejm Boogie, you can see pretty readily that he is a horse that would be liked by the general betting public against his opposition in this field.

He had won 4 of his last 5 outings, all since the addition of blinkers, including his last by a going away 4 1/4 lengths. And he had the best last out Beyer speed figure of 87, which equaled his best showing in the p.p.'s.

As you can see by my analysis, this horse was an immediate bet against for me and toss out from the exotics as well.

Why?

Compare his last out final fraction with the others. Case closed as far as I was concerned. Exiting the same race as Sejm Boogie, having run 2nd to him by 4 1/4 lengths was #4 Deputy Conner, and with his FF of 26.1, he was quickly perceived as a non contender in here also.

#6 Hanky had not run since October of 2002, and despite having some early speed, did not have a particularly promising workout line after that long layoff and had to be tossed.

#5 Destello del Cielo had last run 6th at a mile and a 16th on the turf at Delaware Park, and didn't have the look of a top 3 contender.

That left only 3 other horses, #'s 1, 2, and 3, and they were my contenders for the reasons listed above.

I considered #2 Handsome Gent to be a strong win candidate in this match up with his best last out FF of 24.1, and he is an example of a horse that comes up strong in terms of final fraction comparison, but one also that would be projected to be close to the early pace.

He confirms my conviction that final fraction comparison can and will on many occasions point to solid contenders, some of which run on the lead, with others pressing the pace, and then those that come from a number of lengths off of it.

Final fraction comparison is not simply a means by which we can identify good closers. RAFF POWER pretty much dispels such a notion.

I made my order of preference 2-3-1 and not 2-1-3 based mostly on the pace shape of the race, and the fact that #1 Volcanic Hill was a late closer breaking from the rail.

The results show that #2 Handsome Gent won handily, with a 3-way battle for 2nd and 3rd among #3 Fact Not Fiction, #1 Volcanic Hill, and #5 Destello del Cielo, and the nods went my way on this occasion.

At 6-5, #7 Sejum Boogie was 5th, followed by #4 Deputy Connor and #6 Hanky who had set the early pace before tiring badly.

The payoffs were:

2. $9.90
3. 2nd - 2-3 ex. $60.00
1. 3rd - 2-3-1 tri. $189.00

With the 6-5 chalk off the board and an 11-1 shot finishing 3rd behind an exacta of $60.00, the payoff on the trifecta seemed awfully short.


The very next race on the Saratoga card on August 21st was a good example of a pass situation.

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

And the results chart is here.

You can see by the p.p.'s that this is a field of 4, which generally will not offer much in the way of value payoffs.

I like short fields of 6 or 7 horses, but generally when you get down below 5, the pass option often turns out to be the preferred course of action.

In this match up of 4 going a mile and an 8th at the $56K allowance level, there were 3 exiting the Grade 1 Go For Wand Handicap, which was against quite a bit better company in terms of class and purse.

From those 3 the horse that finished 2nd, #2 She's Got the Beat, figured as the best of this bunch, and the public jumped all over her making her the 4-5 favorite.

The horse that finished 2nd, although not exiting that common race the other 3 were, was clearly the speed of the speed, and as such would be the logical 2nd pick.

But in order to have a play situation vs. a pass situation, we should want to not only have an edge in terms of contenders, but also enough value in order to make the potential payoff for our investment worth the money we are risking.

As per the results chart, although the top 2 contenders ran 1-2, the $3.70 win payoff and $8.30 exacta payoff was not to my way of thinking a value situation.


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 October 4, 2003, I wish you Fair Skies and Fast Tracks.

Jim

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