March '00 Archived Newsletters

Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter
Saturday, March 4, 2000

Welcome to this edition of "Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter."

Last weekend I had a couple of decent plays that clicked, including Sunday's 10th. It wasn't a boxcar payoff, but it was a race that provided some insight that I haven't previously talked about. It was a pretty standard 6-furlong event, an allowance race for non-winners of 2 races other than maiden, claiming or starter, 4-yr-olds & up.

An original field of 10 was reduced to 9 with the early scratch of Frosty Coy and then to 8 with the late scratch of #7, Gallyn's Star.I'll list the entries and then list next to them my running style labels, followed by the last-race Beyer speed figure, the 3rd quarter fraction (raw/actual), except for #'s 8 and 9 who ran at routes so for them I'll list the 4th quarter fraction, the official morning lines and any moves-within-a-race.

1. Silver Magistrate P 87 24.3 / 24.0 3-1
2. Luther Rose EP 86 24.3 / 24.1 5-1
3. Rainstick P 83 24.3 / 23.4 5-1
4. Doswel EP 71 25.0 / 26.3 8-1 Profile
5. Cox's Sweep P 87 24.3 / 24.2 6-1
6. Thirty Six Hours EP 84 25.0 / 25.3 6-1 Profile / W.O.
8. Sushi E 46 25.0 / 8-1
9. Brian's Dancer S 83 25.4 / 25.1 6-1

The pace shape of this field of 8 is E-EP with a race shape of Honest. Since there are 4 early presence types and 4 that come from off-the-pace to varying degrees, there is no immediately apparent edge in running style advantage.

Who are the speed horses and does one of those have dominant speed over the others? #8 Sushi is an E-type and as such seeks the early lead every time. But #4 Doswell has sharp early speed also and since Sushi is exiting a route race, figures to be part of an early duel between those two and possibly even #6 Thirty Six Hours. Since none show an advantage that would indicate they should go wire-to-wire, this match up looks to favor a horse or horses from off the pace. But from how far off the pace?

What do we look for to come from off the pace? A P running style, an S running style? EP runners should always be considered first, but it also depends on how fast the early splits project to be run. Since Doswell ran a 46.2 half in his last on a 21 track variant, and Sushi is gunned from the gate every time, we can expect them to get to the half in this race pretty quickly.

If that is the case, then the horses with EP running style would have the best shot at the projected tiring pacesetters. It's good to remember that closers with a P running style and especially an S running style need a fast pace to set up their stretch run. If there are only a couple of E or EP runners in the race that's one thing, but if as in this case there are 4, that's another.

When we can be fairly certain that the early fractions, namely the 1st 2 fractions - the 1st quarter and the half - will be contested by only 2 horses, neither of which has dominance over the other, we can look to the remaining EP-style runners as our first considerations.

There is a fine line that separates early fractions and which running style has the advantage. As we know, late runners need fast fractions to close into, but if those early fractions are exceptionally fast, then the horses coming from farthest back will have a whole lot more work to do than those in the second flight and in spite of getting the needed fast fractions are still at a disadvantage.

What this all adds up to is that in a race that projects to have a sizzling early pace, if there are any decent-looking EP horses in the field other than the projected pacesetters, they will always have a better shot at the win than the P horses and a much better shot than the S horses.

In last Sunday's selections newsletter, part of my comments for this race were, "he figures to sit off a hotly contested early pace."

As the results chart shows, Doswell and Sushi did indeed run extremely fast to the 1st quarter and the half. They were heads apart at both call points, 2 lengths ahead of the rest of the field at the half and registered splits of 22.4 and 45.0. Compare those fractions to the prior race, The Hollie Hughes $83K handicap and the 6th race $61K Handicap and you'll see how fast they really were. Here are the splits for all 3 races:

Race 6 23.0 45.2 57.0 109.2 Purse: $61K

Race 9 22.2 44.4 56.4 109.2 Purse: $83K

Race 10 22.4 45.0 57.0 109.3 Purse: $45K

The raw internal fraction times were also fairly impressive with a turn time of 22.1, which means they ran the 2nd quarter 3 fifths of a second faster than they did the 1st quarter, and a 3rd quarter of 24.3, which also compares favorably with the higher class horses from races 6 and 9.

Let's go over this field from top to bottom and see which are the most likely contenders.

#1. Silver Magistrate - P - he's tied for the best last-race Beyer speed figure. If you noticed, 6 of the 8 entries had fairly comparable last-race speed figures so there was no large advantage there. This horse also shows a fondness for the Aqueduct Inner Track with a record of 3-2-0 from 7 tries. He is in good form and with a 24.0 final fraction certainly figures to be one of the horses who projects to be able to pass the tiring pacesetters. I placed him on my periphery play list only because of being 7th on the turn in his last and as such I thought he may be further back in the early going than some of the other contenders.

#2. Luther Rose - EP - he won his last and was claimed out of a $22.5K claiming race. At first glance, I looked at him as possibly a periphery play rather than a top-flight contender. For new subscribers, my periphery play list is composed of horses I think have a shot at 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, but not an especially good chance for the win. After taking a more detailed look at the pace shape, however, I could see that Luther Rose, with his just-off- the-pace running style, would probably get first run at the leaders. But could he win with the jump from $22.5K claiming ranks to NW2X? Looking at his final fraction of 24.1 and the fact that he backed up his maiden win with a NW1X victory, I thought he could very well be in the catbird seat among this group.

#3 Rainstick - P - here was another going from claiming to NW2X and he had the top last-race final fraction of 23.4. This was quite impressive. So why did I not even mention this horse in either of my lists? Because in his last race, the first after a short layoff, he was positioned around the turn in 10th and 11th in a field of 12. One of the themes I'm stressing in this newsletter is positioning, and Rainstick in this match up again figured to be among the early trailers. With a projected very quick early pace, in spite of his last-out final fraction, in my opinion he would still be at a disadvantage due to his running style versus the pace shape of the race.

Here is a demonstration that we cannot always simply calculate final fractions and choose the best as our top contender. Pace shape is the first determining factor and I certainly put it ahead of a number of other considerations, like whether or not a horse that last ran in a claimer can successfully move up to NW2X company.

#4 Doswell - EP - he is a Profile horse with sharp speed. I also did not list him in my selections, mainly due to the presence of Sushi. If Shushi had been a late scratch instead of the 7-horse, I may have wound up with egg on my face because Doswell very likely would have run slower splits and probably would have held up for 2nd or 3rd.

#5 Cox's Sweep - P - out of the same race as the 2-horse and finished similarly well in that race. I chose him ahead of Silver Magistrate because I projected him to have better early postioning. I was wrong in that assessment and although he ran well, finishing only a head and a head off the show spot, Silver Magistrate obtained better positioning from the start.

#6 Thirty Six Hours - EP - a Profile/Wide Out play, I made him my second pick, based on his being a move-within-a-race play with enough speed to sit just off the early pace. For reasons I can't completely understand, he sat 3rd early and then completely petered out. It's possibly as simple as him having reacted to a last-out lifetime best Beyer speed figure, I don't know.

#8 Sushi - E - as an E runner, he figured to be contesting a hot pace with the 4-horse and he didn't fail to do so, in spite of cutting back in distance from a mile and a sixteenth to 6 furlongs. In spite of displaying his customary sharp speed from the 11-hole in his last, I couldn't see a reason to put him on my contender lists. As it turns out, he and Doswell set such sharp early fractions that most of the field couldn't catch up and as a result he and Doswell held up for 3rd and 4th respectively; barely. If we had some way of computing the exact early fractions that would be run in any given race, we could predict a lot more accurately which horses would be able to close and also if the pacesetters would be likely to hold up for part of the purse.....but we don't.

#9 Brian's Dancer - S - with his running style, he's always at a disadvantage and in this particular case, he was at even more of a disadvantage. Why? Because not only was he exiting a mile race, but he was positioned on the extreme outside. I thought he had a chance for 3rd or 4th and as such, placed him 2nd on my two-horse periphery play list.

The final results turned out pretty much according to how the race set up. My picks were in order, #2 Luther Rose, #6 Thirty Six Hours, and #5 Cox's Sweep. My periphery plays were #1 Silver Magistrate and #9 Brian's Dancer.

Luther Rose did sit just off the 2 speeds and when asked to run, came on strongly and won easily. Although Thirty Six Hours ran poorly, Cox's Sweep and Silver Magistrate did close well finishing 5th (again, missing 3rd by a neck) and 2nd respectively.

Here are the official results:

2. Luther Rose $9.40
1. Silver Magistrate ex. $28.20
8. Sushi tri. $455.00
4. Doswell super. $4080.00
Late D/D with my top pick in race 9: $36.20

Clear skies and fast tracks.

Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter
Saturday, March 11, 2000

Last Sunday I happened to pick a cold exacta and trifecta in the 4th race at Aqueduct. In that short field of 7, there are some things to be learned. As per ususal you can get the file Here.

This was a race at a mile and 70 yards for Maiden Special Weight 3-year olds foaled in New York State. In my book, "Calibration Handicapping", I state that it's not always a great idea to ask or bet on a horse to do something that it has never done before. One such thing we can ask a horse to do is win a race if it's a maiden. Until he or she has proven it can win a race, we really can't be sure it ever will, let alone so so today.

Another task we can ask a horse to accomplish is to win a race at a distance longer than it has ever raced. As it happened, in this field of 7, which was reduced to that number after the late scratch of #3 Light Years Away, not only had none of the entries won a race, but only one had ever even tried going longer than 6 furlongs, and this was a 2-turn event.

If for example this race had been scheduled for a mile and a sixteenth or 40 yards more than this distance in June at Belmont Park instead of March at Aqueduct, it would have been a 1-turn race, which is a little easier to negotiate than 2-turns. The Belmont track being a mile and a half in circumference features 1-turn races for a mile and a sixteenth and a mile and an eighth.

Speaking of Aqueduct, one of the local signs that Spring is just around the corner is the fact that the Aqueduct Inner Track will be closing after Sunday's racing. All the action will be moving to Aqueduct's Main Track and eventually its Turf Course and this will result in a greater variation of distances run.

There are certain occasions that appear to present enough value to take the extra risk and ask a horse to do something it has not ever done before. When I first looked at this race, I thought I would pass it and not list it in my selections. But then something caught my eye, and it's worth remembering.

As we all know by now, the most important thing we should be looking for is value. My definition of value is simple: a payoff of more than we would expect. I put my own value-line odds to the right of the official morning line odds of each selection I post in these newsletters. This is so I (and you) can get a better idea of what I think a horse's true value is in a particular match up.

The first thing that stands out after a quick rundown of these 7 horses is a double-advantage Beyer speed figure horse. What this means is that #2 Don't Not has 2 consecutive Beyer speed figures that are superior to any figures ever run by any of his competitors.

So where's the value? This horse figured to go off pretty much as an odds-on favorite. The morning line oddsmaker made him 8-5 and I made him 4-5. 8-5 pays anywhere from $5.20 to $5.55 and 4-5 pays from $3.60 to $3.95. A closer look at Don't Not shows an intangible, something that numbers don't measure. The will to win; his heart; how much he'll dig in during crunchtime.

A.P. Indy possessed the greatest will to win I've ever seen in a racehorse. He was a truly one of the greats in racing and I have no doubt that he would have won the triple crown if an injury had not pulled him out of the Kentucky Derby the day of that race. Although he had to miss the Preakness also, he went on to win the Belmont Stakes and register the 2nd-fastest time for that mile and a half race since the great Secretariat set the still-standing record of 2:24 in June of 1973. He also won horse-of-the year later that season as a 3-year-old after winning the Breeder's Cup Championship race against older horses. On the flip side of the coin, some horses exhibit early on in their careers a preference for minor awards.

In his 2 races this year, Don't Not ran second each time. Additionally, in his last race he missed by a nose. While this is not enough evidence to put a "hanger" label on him, it is enough to make me wonder if perhaps he should have won at least one of those races and to look carefully at this field to see if there is a horse who can beat him.

And if there is and he does, bingo! We have automatic value because when there is an odds-on horse in the race, all or most of the others have inflated odds and will pay more than we might expect them to. Have you ever questioned the payoff of an exacta when an odds-on horse runs 1st or 2nd?

Often the payoff will be less than a parlay simply because the other horse's odds were inflated due to the large percentage of money bet on the favorite. In other words, the other horse may have gone off at 20-1, but had the favorite not been in the race, he would have gone off more likely in the range of 8-1 to 10-1, or even less.

Let's take a closer look at this field. If you print out the past performances and write down this information you can keep it and and learn from this race for the future. I'll list the 7 entries and then list the running style I've labeled each, the last-race Beyer speed figure/the lifetime high Beyer, the final fractions (raw/actual), the morning lines/and my lines, and finally any moves-within-a-race.

1. My Pal Al S 38 / 57 24.4 / 25.4 8-1 / 9-2
2. Don't Not EP 61 / 71 24.4 / 25.0 8-5 / 4-5
4. Hibbs Bridge P 30 / 37 24.4 / 27.0 20-1
5. Thunders Luck P 50 / 50 24.4 / 24.4 2-1
6. Welldoit S 47 / 47 24.4 / 24.3 4-1
7. Dashua S 24 / 43 25.3 / 27.1 15-1
8. Toddler EP 52 / 52 25.3 / 26.2 10-1 / 4-1 Profile

Let's analyze this information. The first step for me is always to see what kind of pace shape I'm looking at. We can clearly see that in a field of 7 we have only 2 EP or early presser horses. We also have 3 S or sustained closers in the race. In most instances this pace shape would give a substantial advantage to the EP horses because they will be allowed to set a fairly slow early pace and therefore make it very difficult for the others to close strongly.

I was surprised, unpleasantly I might add, when I saw one of the S horses, Dashua, shoot out to a totally unexpected clear lead. Why did he? Simple. He was a first-time user of that non-performance-enhancing (yeah, right) drug lasix. In his previous 2 starts he broke 9th and 10th.

Needless to say, not only was I annoyed, but I was less optimistic about cashing my tickets with that unexpected early turn of events. But back to our race. Immediately upon seeing the pace shape, I had to give the edge to the odds-on favorite #2 Don't Not and the other EP runner, #8 Toddler, simply because of their running style advantage.

Next, you can see the Beyer speed figure advantage for Don't Not. With such an advantage, he figured to be a strong candidate for the exacta, not to mention the trifecta. But what about value? There would be some of that only if he could be beaten.

Let's check out the turn times for the two EP horses. Don't Not last did a 24.3 on a 22 track variant, while Toddler did a 23.2 on an 11 variant. Quite a difference, but the former was achieved on a much tougher track. Let's go back to Don't Not's prior race, which was run on a very similar degree of difficulty, a 13 track variant.

His turn time that day was 23.2, a virtual tie with Toddler. This can lead us to believe that Toddler has a decent shot to run late with Don't Not, just on the basis of turn times alone.

What about final fractions? The 5 and 6 horses have better final fractions than the favorite, 24.4 and 24.3 respectively to 25 flat. But what are their running styles and where were they early in their last races? Where do they project to be early in this encounter?

The answers are that they were both far back in their last races. And while #6 figures to be far back again in this race, #5 is going for the first time with blinkers in this match up, and as such could project to be closer than in his only other 2 lifetime starts. The public grabbed ahold of this angle and made him the strong 2nd choice at 2-1.

Like I said before, if there is an odds-on horse in the field, all or most other odds will be inflated. This meant that 2-1 on the 5-horse was really like about 3-2 ($5.00). This was a hot horse in the eyes of the betting public and I'll have to admit, he looked good.

Here's a quick look at the field from top to bottom:

1. My Pal Al - an S runner - he stumbled on the turn in his last so we would want to take a look at his prior races also as he had somewhat of an excuse. While I could not see an S horse beating both of the EP horses in this race, he had a couple of things going for him over the rest. First and foremost, he was the only entry with 2-turn experience, which can count a lot in a spot like this. His Beyer speed figures for those route races were comparable to the sprint figures for most of his competition. And in his 2nd-race back he showed good closing punch in a sprint despite being bumped at the start.

2. Don't Not - an EP style - I've covered the virtues of this horse. It was pretty much a matter of whether he would run 1st or 2nd and what the odds were of the horse(s) that could possibly beat him.

4. Hibbs Bridge - P - outside of flashing a little early speed in his last, which wasn't enough to make him a contender, he was a toss-out.

5. Thunders Luck - P runner - as mentioned, he had a very good final fraction and the addition of blinkers would probably help his positioning. He also had a nice finish in his last and looked like a definite contender in this group.

6. Welldoit - S horse - in spite of having the best last-out final fraction, which was achieved while being far back, his running style made him a non- contender.

7. Dashua - S runner - another whose chances appeared to be compromised greatly by his deep closer running style. While the lasix enabled him to change running styles completely and open up on the field early, he collapsed at the quarter pole and finished second to last. This is an example of a horse who prefers to make a late run. A complete change in early positioning was apparently not to his liking.

8. Toddler - EP - the other early presence horse. He was the reason I decided to play this race. Being only one of 2 EP runners gave him a shot, but a couple of other factors made me think he was the one who could pull off the upset and make this a value situation. First of all, if you look at his post time odds in his 3 lifetime races, 48-1, 62-1 and 49-1, you can pretty well assume that he will be a decent price in this match up, especially with the presence of a likely odds-on favorite. Secondly, he had the 2nd best last-out Beyer speed figure. And last but not least, he was a Profile play, a move-within-a-race that is featured in "Calibration Handicapping." All of that coupled with the possibility that the favorite may be vulnerable due to a perceived lack of "heart" made this race an enticing proposition.

(For all of you "Calibration Handicapping" book buyers, to see a real good example of another winning "Profile" horse, look at race 8 at Gulfstream on Thursday 3/9/00. In a small field of 7 that included a 2-horse entry, he won for fun at a win mutual of $45.00. This guy looked awfully good to Profile players.)

Getting back to our race, everything hinged upon Toddler being 1st or 2nd. If Don't Not got brave and Thunders Luck ran better with the hood on, we were looking at a tiny exacta and no value. That was a risk I was willing to take. My selections in order were: #8 Toddler, #2 Don't Not and #1 My Pal Al. How could I throw out Thunders Luck?

In a field of 7 I didn't want to use more than 3 horses and it came down to choosing for the 3rd slot either Thunders Luck or My Pal Al. I went with 'Al due to his experience with 2-turns and on this occasion I was right as he managed to go by Thunders Luck late to get the show money.

Look at the prices and you'll see that the exacta of $83.50 was truly a value payoff. As stated earlier, most of the time when there is an odds-on favorite in the exacta, the payoff will be less than what a parlay would yield. By a parlay, I mean the payoff that would result if you mulitplied the winner's price, in this case $25.40, by half of what the 2nd-place horse would have paid had he won the race.

In this case that was one-half of $4.20 or 2.1. $25.40 multiplied by 2.1 equals $53.30. The actual exacta payoff was substantially MORE than a parlay rather than less. And those of us who were tracking the probable payoffs of the exacta plays knew that this was a race that presented solid value, which after all is what we should be focusing on any time we are contemplating a wager.

Winner - 8 Toddler - $25.40
Place - 2 Don't Not - ex. 8-2 $83.50
Show - 1 My Pal Al - tri. 8-2-1 $296.50

One final note. Another lesson we can learn from this example race. There were two horses that ran with a change of equipment, Thunders Luck with blinkers on and Dashua with lasix added, both for the first time. While these changes improved both horses' early presence, they also took them out of their preferred running styles. The first-time addition of blinkers and/or lasix does not always translate into in-the-money finishes.

Clear skies and fast tracks.

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