February '00 Archived Newsletters

Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter
Saturday, February 12, 2000

As promised last Saturday, today I'll finish my response to Monty's email request from a couple of weeks ago and handicap a route race. As an example I'll use race 1 at Aqueduct last Sunday 2/6/00. As per usual, I'll include the Daily Racing Form past performances for this race as an attachment to this newsletter.If you want the file it's Here.

You'll need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these past performances and if you don't have one, you can get a free copy Here.

Race 1 at Aqueduct on 2/6/00 was a mile and a sixteenth claiming race ($20k-$18k) for 4-year-olds and up. There was a field of 8 with no scratches. Again, the first thing I do is label each horse with a running style and make a notation of each on my Daily Racing Form just to the left of the weight assignments. I then write down above the race conditions the Pace Shape of the race as well as the Race Shape. In this case, I have written down EP-EP and Honest. The way I have labeled the running styles there are 5 EP, 1P and 2S horses.

All entries with the exception of Be Accountable had run within the past 30 days. The lone exception was the only "move" horse in the race, and Be Accountable was a WIR/Wide Out play with a 4F workout 7 days prior to this event and a bullet work at 4F in December after his last race. Not the greatest workout line you'll ever see, but I listed him first off the sharp speed he showed in his last as a "move-within-a-race" play.

To this point I've touched on the 1st two components of my handicapping process, identifying the pace shape of the race and locating any "move" horses. The 3rd step is to compare final fractions and see if there are any advantage horses.

I'll list the field and next to each entry will be the running style, the last-race Beyer speed figure, the final fraction (raw/actual), and "moves."

1. Trucking Baron S 60 25.4 / 26.2
2. Native Coast P 77 25.1 / 26.0
3. Be Accountable EP 66 25.3 / 27.1 WIR/Wide Out
4. Cajun Bourre EP 77 25.4 / 25.3
5. Mzuri EP 77 25.4 / 25.3
6. Milwaukee John EP 72 26.4 / 28.3
7. Golden Tent S 72 24.3 / 24.2
8. Trouncin Tiger EP 67 25.2 / 27.4

The way I locate and decide upon contenders is by examining the 3 components mentioned. Most races are made up of a number of EP runners and as such are EP-EP or E-EP Pace Shapes and favor the EP running style. So I begin by trying to determine if one of the early speed types has an advantage over the rest and as such would have a chance to go "wire to wire."

It was my opinion that Be Accountable had a better than even chance to take this field all the way and that belief coupled with him being the lone "move" horse is why I made him my top selection. A strong final fraction, however, can in essence also be considered a "move".

The final fraction advantage in this race is pretty obvious. #4 Cajun Bourre and #5 Mzuri have the clear edge in last-out route races. If we throw out the last race of #2 Native Coast and go back to his previous race, his final fraction and Beyer would indicate he had a shot. But even though his last-race problems were caused by a fallen horse and rider, I still didn't believe the overall experience of and performance in that race would set him up for a good try in this match up that included a couple of sharp last out tries plus a "move" horse.

If you noticed the better final fraction of #7 Golden Tent, namely 24.2, note that it was accomplished at the distance of 6 furlongs, not at a route. I will generally add 4 or 5 fifths of a second to a sprint final fraction when comparing it to route fractions. That would make his final fraction 25.1 or 25.2, which would still compare favorably to #'s 4 and 5.

But Golden Tent was also dead-last in a field of 10 at the quarter pole, a position he had held in each of his last 3 races. Being an S runner in a field with 5 EP types with that much ground to make up late would be too much of an obstacle to overcome to make him a logical top 3 selection. As you can see, we have to consider running styles and the match ups of those running styles when evaluating final fractions.

I'll go over the field from top to bottom. #1 Trucking Baron is an S runner who showed nothing in his last few races, most of which were on the grass. With no last-out "move' or strong final fraction, he was an immediate toss out.

I've already reviewed #2 Native Coast. Although a case could be made for him in terms of competitive Beyer speed figures, even with the drop in claiming price he was not a fit with this group, considering what the top 3 showed. While he showed he could run a comparable Beyer speed figure, there was no indication that he could get the money other than at Finger Lakes.

#3 Be Accountable as stated was not only a "move" horse, but he showed good early zip having in his last outing run the fastest splits of any route race that day. It's important to note that a "move" horse does not have to and most often will not have a competitive final fraction figure. The move it makes is sufficient to make it a top contender and the nature of the move will often result in an inferior final fraction as well as Beyer speed figure.

#4 Cajun Bourre not only tied for the best last-race Beyer speed figure, but also tied for the best last-race final fraction, which was significantly better than his competition, other than #5. His running style and last race performance tabbed him as a definite top 3 pick in this group.

#5 Mzuri was pretty much similar to #4, but with one exception, which I noted in my analysis of the race on Sunday. Not only had he beaten Cajun Bourre by a head after a stretch-long battle, but he was now the recipient of a 7-pound weight shift advantage due to obtaining the services of the top apprentice Norberto Arroyo, Jr. On that basis I felt he definitely had to be picked ahead of Cajun Bourre.

#6 Milwaukee John showed good early speed in almost all of his races. I had two problems with him though. First of all, he had not shown that he can run well in New York. There are a number of tracks from which horses ship that in my opinion require such a demonstration. Suffolk Downs is one of them. But another key was his fractions. They didn't compare well at all and this is an example of the stark differences that can be seen by such comparisons.

As stated, #7 Golden Tent was an 11-year old with the wrong running style for this particular match up. In addition, he was for all intents and purposes a sprinter for most of his illustrious career and his good races were well behind him.

#8 Trouncin Tiger, while having an EP running style, did not match up at all using any of my 3 handicapping components.

This handicapping process brought out 3 clear choices. The only decisions remaining for me were the order of preference and the wager. When I find a race with only 3 logical contenders, it gets my attention. Often, there are more than 3 contenders, even if some are only so-called "periphery" plays. But this race sure seemed to be among only 3. The results show that Mzuri won by over 5 lengths while Cajun Bourre wore down Be Accountable for the place by less than a length. The distance back to the 4th-place horse, Golden Tent was over 4 lengths.

The odds for these three contenders were 5-1 on Be Accountable, 6-1 on Cajun Bourre and 3-2 on Mzuri. A parlay of Mzuri and Cajun Bourre equals $35.00 but since both of these horses had the best last-out Beyer speed figure, the payoff was an underlay $22.20. The public also saw the Jockey replacement and jumped all over Mzuri in the top slot. I myself put a win wager on Be Accountable at what I considered good odds. For exacta wagering, I normally insist on a payoff of at least $24 for all combos in a 3-horse box.

With only a minute left, the combos of 5-3 and 5-4 were right at $24 so I boxed the 3 horses and then boxed more on the 3-5 combo and finally, played an additional part-wheel exacta of 5/3-4 since Mzuri was in my mind the best of the two horses with the final fraction advantage. This wager allowed me to make at least somewhat of a profit in spite of my win bet going down.

I hope this exercise has helped Monty and everyone else to the point that in the future you can more easily uncover the clearcut contenders.

Clear skies and fast tracks.

Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter
Saturday, February 26, 2000

Welcome to this edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter." Before I go over a race from last weekend, I would like to address a topic about which many of us, including yours truly can use a reminder.

Have you ever heard the expression, "the horse doesn't know what his odds are?" Obviously this means not to back off from a longshot if he figures to you, as Pat Smith didn't when he put $20 to win and place on that Wide Out play a couple of weeks ago at Gulfstream that paid $185.00.

The phrase I want to stress not to forget today is "the horse doesn't know he's got a lousy win record." This refers to a horse that we may think has a great chance for the win, but after looking at his record, we may want to toss him out of the win slot and at best keep him in for 2nd or 3rd.

I learned a long time ago that if a horse looks the best or even second or third best in a field with a short list of contenders, I shouldn't focus too much on his win record as a reason to throw him out of the top slot because funny as it may sound, he literally does not know his win record or that he's not supposed to win because of it.

Well, as you will see, I fell victim to that wrong line of thinking in the race I'm going to review. One of the contenders looked absolutely primed to run a big race and because of his win record, I stated that he should only be used "underneath" or not in the win slot.

I will say also though, that there were other circumstances that led me to make that statement and after late scratches, there was a different complexion to this race. The bottom line is, however, that I strongly advise anyone to learn a lesson about horseracing and handicapping. And of course to remember it. If a horse looks like he is ready to win, don't go off of him because of his record; the horse is unaware of his record.

While in reality it is true that some horses have a much stronger desire than others to dig in during crunch time and get to the wire first, the facts remain that often enough when a horse with a bad win record looks solid in a particular match up, he can and will win a good portion of the time in spite of that record.

As I've said in the past, the complexion of a race we are looking to wager on can change dramatically after late scratches. Sometimes the pace shape can change radically. For instance a particular race in question may have a pace shape of EP-EP, which is no E runners, at least 2 EP runners, and any number of P and S runners. If there are 4 EP horses in an original field of 9, we may think it is an evenly matched field in terms of early speed and pressers/closers.

After the late defection of 2 of those EP horses, however, the complexion of the pace shape does change. While it's still an EP-EP pace shape, there are now only 2 early speed types in a field of 7 and this scenario can and often does favor one of those early speeds. Much more so than if the field had remained intact with the other 2 EP runners in there ready and willing to mix it up early.

There are a number of other changes to the overall complexion of a race that late scratches can create, including having a situation in which we see too many contenders, such as 5 in a field of 9 that suddenly becomes 3 in a field of 7. We originally had too many horses to box in an exacta and now have few enough to make that play providing the value is there.

An original field may be composed of 16 horses, including 4 on the also-eligible list who cannot run unless enough entries are late scratches. As an example, we may not focus too much on the 16th horse at first, but after 7 late scratches, this horse moves in to the 9-hole and may look a lot better in terms of pace shape and other factors.

Suffice it to say that decisions made about a race that looks like it has potential value can change after the late scratches have been made. In our race that will be reviewed today, the late scratches made a difference and we'll see how.

Our race is the 9th at Aqueduct run last Saturday, 2/19/00. The original field of 13 was reduced to 10 after 3 late scratches. You can get the file Here.

Our race was for NY-Statebred NW1X (non-winners of one race other than maiden, claiming or starter) at the distance of 6 furlongs. Just as a side note for those somewhat new to this game, a furlong is an eighth of a mile or 220 yards. Therefore, a mile is 8 furlongs in distance.

Since the number 6 is three-quarters of the number 8, it follows that a 6-furlong race is three-quarters of a mile, which can be broken down into 3 segments of a quarter-mile each. Since a furlong or eighth of a mile is 220 yards, a sixteenth of a mile is 110 yards. If you see a race carded at the distance of a mile and 70 yards, you know that it is 40 yards less than a mile and a sixteenth race.

A mile and a sixteenth race is 8 1/2 F; a mile and an eighth is 9F; a mile and 3 16ths is 9 1/2 F; a mile and a quarter is 10F; a mile and 3 eighths is 11F; a mile and a half is 12F and a mile and 5 eighths is 13F.

Now back to our race. I'll list the field and next to each entry I'll note the running style as I have labeled it, followed by the last-race Beyer speed figure, the 3rd-quarter fraction (raw/actual) except for #5 who ran last in a route race so I'll use his 4th quarter fraction, the official morning line and any moves-within-a-race.

2. Hedge Hopper S 49 15-1
4. Rejoice by Choice S 42 20-1
5. Always Available P 57 25.4 / 28.1 12-1
1. Clearly Sunny LATE SCRATCH
6. Cellular Joe EP 70 25.1 / 26.3 5-1
1A. Wild Appeal EP 71 25.1 / 25.1 5-2
7. Monetary Justice P 56 25.1 / 26.1 10-1
8. Battle Song P 61 25.1 / 25.2 6-1
9. Quietly Surprizing EP 52 25.1 / 26.3 10-1
10. Wecanbeheroes LATE SCRATCH
11. Gritty Devil EP 48 24.2 / 27.0 8-1 Profile
12. Gypsy Sparkle EP 68 25.1 / 25.1 5-1

The first thing I will do is write on the top of my Racing Form the pace shape of any race I'm seriously thinking of wagering on. This race, in spite of having a strong-looking morning line favorite, looked like it had some potential for value and that's why I included it in my picks.

Next, I'll see how the pace shape actually "shapes" up. This race has an EP-EP pace shape. How many EP horses are there? Five. In a 10-horse field with 5 potential early speed types, it would normally be considered a toss up as to which type of running style would have the advantage, unless one of the early speed types had dominant early speed.

What I mean is that this field was evenly balanced between early speed and pressers/closers, 5 of each. So we couldn't give the advantage to either running style as we could if there were say 7 early speeds, in which case we may give the advantage to a closer.

In a case like this, we should emphasize the closing abilities as shown by the 3rd quarter fraction comparison. If the pace shape had indicated it would favor early speed, then we would look at not only the final fractions but the early speed match ups also and it doesn't hurt to check out turn times for the early speeds in any situation.

Here's how the field looked:

2. Hedge Hopper - This is a horse with an S running style whose last race was pretty poor. He was bumped at the start in that last but other than a show finish two back in the mud, he doesn't have the look of a contender and is a throw out.

4. Rejoice by Choice - Another S runner whose last few races make him an immediate throw out, not just for the first flight of contenders but out of the periphery play list also. As can be seen, I didn't even list the fractions for the first two entries.

5. Always Available - This horse is the lone entrant to have last run at a route. The only thing he had going for him recently was that he showed good early foot in his last at a mile and a sixteenth. Although he ran 3rd while registering a good Beyer speed figure in a sprint 4 races back, I eliminated this horse from my contender lists.

6. Cellular Joe - He is a consistent early speed type and I wouldn't argue with anyone who labeled him an E runner. I made him an EP due to not usually breaking right on top and being 4th and 3rd a few times in the early going, but he's real close to having an E running style.

Since he lost so much ground in his last, namely almost 7 lengths in the final furlong, the best I could place him was on my list of periphery plays which consists of horses who I don't believe can win but may be part of an exacta or trifecta. I was pretty surprised when Cellular Joe was 7th after the first quarter-mile of this race had been run.

1A. Wild Appeal - He not only had the best last-race Beyer speed figure, but he was tied for the best last-out 3rd quarter fraction of 25.1. This combination put him on the top of my list of contenders. Additionally, he broke his maiden one race prior against open company, not NY State-breds.

7. Monetary Justice - I put this horse in my top 3, mainly due to his race two-back and also because of the general match up of this group. With 5 EP types in the mix, I figured at least one presser would get into the exotics and he looked to be one of the possibilities.

8. Battle Song - I liked Battle Song because of his final fraction of 25.2 and also because of the way he finished his last race, in which he gained slightly in the final segment.

Speaking of last races, this match up was quite unique in one way. Of the 10 entries, 7 were exiting the same race; the 9th on 2/2/00 at Aqueduct. Often, but not always by any means, when a race is overloaded with horses exiting the same last race, the exacta if not trifecta is composed of horses from that common race. The top 3 finishers in here indeed all exited that same race.

9. Quietly Surprizing - Here was an EP runner who nearly all the time is most comfortable running up on the early pace and due to having predominantly run against inferior stock up at Finger Lakes in upstate New York, did not have the right running style or class to have much of a chance in here.

11. Gritty Devil - I put this one on my list of periphery plays as a possibility due to his early speed and being a Profile play. He was also the only horse in the field who had last run out of conditions in a NW2X race.

Conditioning was a question however. Having last raced 77 days ago, 2 of his 3 works in January were at 3F, which were followed by a slow 4F work, not a good foundation for a top effort off a significant layoff.

For such a layoff, an ideal workout line that would indicate readiness would be within one month prior to his race, at least 2 or 3 5F or 6F works, with the last being a second or so better than the first one or two, followed by a 3F blowout within a week of the race.

12. Gypsy Sparkle - Here was a horse who had the look and numbers of a strong contender. He was tied with the favorite with the best last-race final fraction of 25.1. His prior race was a good second-place finish from the 11-hole. And in his last race, not only did he finish very evenly in that 11-horse common race, but he gained a half-length in the 3rd quarter and one and a quarter lengths in the final furlong.

With a last-out Beyer speed figure of 68, coupled with the other strong points I've just noted, Gypsy Sparkle had the look of a top-2 pick, right behind Wild Appeal. Why did I list him only as a Periphery Play?

Here were my picks in order: #1A Wild Appeal, #8 Battle Song and #7 Monetary Justice. You tell me, did #12 Gypsy Sparkle look better than my 2nd and 3rd choices? You bet he did. My periphery plays in order were the 2 likely speeds, #6 Cellular Joe and #11 Gritty Devil, followed by #12 Gypsy Sparkle.

On Friday, before any late scratches, I saw Gypsy Sparkle as a horse who may not even draw into the race due to being in the 13-hole with only 12 allowed to run. Since there was no guarantee that part of the entry would be scratched, I was not even sure he would get in.

But additionally, if he did get in, he would be on the far outside with a win record of 1 for 38. Gypsy Sparkle completely forgot that he didn't like to win and outran even my highest expectations for him.

When he moved in from not even being a sure entry from the 13-hole to a horse with the best last-out final fraction going from the 10-hole, his chances were upgraded significantly.

Due to the subtle tipoffs he displayed in his last race that indicated he was sitting on a big race, he not only ran big, he ran huge. Not showing a wire-to-wire win in his p.p.'s, let along a win of any kind, he outbroke Cellular Joe and Gritty Devil and led every step of the way, widening his lead to 7 1/2 lengths at the wire.

Obviously I regretted having mentioned that Gypsy Sparkle should be used only as a Periphery Play and not in the win slot because as I've said, the late scratches changed the complexion of this race. Namely, moving in 3 slots to the 10-hole made Gypsy Sparkle look a lot more appealing than some of the others I had listed ahead of him.

Here were the results:

Win: 12 Gypsy Sparkle $22.60Plc: 1A Wild Appeal; ex. $56.00Shw: 6 Cellular Joe; tri. $153.00D/D: $81.50 (with my top pick in race 8)

In this particular instance, the top 3 finishers had the best last-out Beyer speed figures and also were the top 3 morning line favorites. Like I've stressed in the past, we don't have to focus entirely on speed figures, but when we locate horses that have those top numbers and figure strongly to us and not the general public, we've got an edge.

There must have been an awfully large number of handicappers who felt that Gypsy Sparkle could not win due to his 1 for 38 record. Thus his payoff of $22.60. This underscores the importance of the lesson about incorrectly stressing this one aspect of handicapping. Remember, (me included) the horse doesn't know what his record is.

Clear skies and fast tracks.

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