October '99 Archived Newsletters

Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter
Saturday, October 2, 1999

Today I would like to begin with a further discussion of the pick 3 wager, with which I'm sure most of you are familiar. It's a wager that requires you to pick the winners of 3 consecutive races. Some tracks offer more pick 3 wagers than others; in my neck of the woods, New York, the tracks typically have 2 pick 3 wagers on the card, races 3 through 5 and races 6 through 8. Occasionally, on special days they will offer an additional pick 3, usually on races 7 through 9. Note: As of late 2000, all 3 New York tracks now offer rolling pick 3's beginning with race 2 and have a pick 4 in races 6 through 9.

The pick 3 was introduced in California in 1986 and has since become one of the wagering options at most racetracks. However, betting pools reflect the fact that trifectas remain more popular with bettors. The problem with pick 3's is that the track regulates which races you must bet on to play this type of wager. Since finding more than one real good solid betting opportunity on one card is more of a rarity than a normal occurrence, if one has a strong opinion on a particular race, it makes more sense to play to win plus perhaps an exacta or a trifecta rather than to play that race in combination with other races in which one has no such insights. The same logic holds for daily double races. If you find that the one race you have a solid feel for is part of the daily double, does it make sense to play the double? In my opinion, only if the race you like is the second half of the double.

So to play the pick 3, you should have pretty firm convictions on at least 2 of the 3 races. If you do, it can be a profitable wager. Of course, without an edge there isn't much point in playing at all. If you like the same horses that everyone else does, you're not going to get any value and you should pass the race, just as you would if you loved a 3-5 shot that presented no value. Remember my 3-step wagering process? 1.) is there an edge? 2.) if yes to that question, is there value?, 3.) if yes to that question, what are all the wagering possibilities from which I should construct the best wager(s)?

If you answer yes to the first 2 questions and the race in question is one of the legs in the pick 3, you then have to look at the other two legs to determine if the risk is justified in choosing that wager. Because small bettors will usually single at least one horse on a pick 3 ticket, you should look at which horses are most likely to be singled and see if they are vulnerable.

Vulnerability could be any number of things, including a favorite that looks fantastic except for his potential for "bouncing." A good example of such a favorite was entered in Belmont's 9th race on Saturday, 9/25/99. #6, Crafty Friend looked awfully good in the minds of most handicappers (yours truly included - I picked him on top) and he went to the post at odds of 4 to 5. In a field of only six, he was coming back off a winning effort from 19 days earlier. Although the second and third-place finishers were not returning in this field, 4 of the 5 others that finished behind him were; the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th-place finishers were returning from the same heat.

Could savvy handicappers have eliminated Crafty Friend from the final leg of the pick 3? If so, how? Well one way sure would have been to recognize the Beyer "three and out" pattern which proposes that a horse that has run three consecutive very strong races is quite likely to have an off outing no matter how good he looks. In the case of Crafty Friend, his last 3 Beyer speed figures were his 3 best Beyer figures showing and likely his 3 best figures lifetime. They were: 111, 114, and in his last, 115.

If one were to eliminate Crafty Friend from the final leg of the pick 3 that day, they would have a tremendous advantage over their competition, many of whom would "key" or "single" on him. If we were to eliminate Crafty Friend, whom then would we use in that final leg? I liked the 5th and 4th-place finishers behind Crafty Friend in that common race. Why? I liked #5 Artax better than #2 Mountain Top, in spite of the latter having finished a length and a half in front of him in their last. Artax (who I picked second in the newsletter that day) was moving off the rail and had made a telling move into the internal fraction from the 4F point to the 6F point in the race.

He gained a length and a half and as a result ran a 23.4 quarter during that phase of the race. And that was into a 6f time of 108.1. Additionally, in his race prior, he earned a big Beyer speed figure of 116, which he could have reacted to (or bounced from). As it turns out, Crafty Friend did indeed bounce, beating one horse while finishing a distant 5th, while Artax jogged wire-to-wire paying $10.60. Sometimes it takes some courage to "throw out" a horse that looked as good as Crafty Friend did and there must be a reason for doing so, but when you do so successfully, you will occasionally reap some big rewards.

As Barry Meadow states in his book, "Money Secrets at the Racetrack", several situations yield potential pick 3 profits, and if you restrict your action to these circumstances, you can do well:

1. The public is certain to overbet a horse you hate (meaning you have good reason to strongly dislike a favorite).2. The public is certain to underbet a horse you like (meaning you have good reason to strongly like a longshot).3. At least one and preferably two of the races are wide open, which will eliminate small bettors who can afford to use only the top one or two choices.

After determining that you are going to go with the pick 3 wager, you may wind up with a main ticket of something like this: 1-2/4/5-6. This ticket has 4 combinations and if you were wagering $10 on it, your cost would be $40. You would also want to have a backup ticket using any peripheral horses you feel could sneak in there for the win. If for each leg you respectively had as backup horses 5-6, 2-3 and 1, you would have the following additional backup tickets: 5-6/4/5-6 (4 combos), 1-2/2-3/5-6 (8 combos), and 1-2/4/1 (2 combos), all of which would be placed at a smaller amount, say $2, for which the additional cost would be $28. You can adjust the amounts as you wish, but you get the idea. Although the pick 3 wager can be a solid betting opportunity, it is not wise to just throw one together without giving it some serious thought. As with all wagers, it pays to spend the proper amount of time to evaluate all the possibilities and construct the proper bets.

Do you consider track variants? The Beyer boys do, strongly, when they make their speed figures. As a matter of fact, all makers of speed figures take into consideration a track variant that they have figured for each day at each track. If one knows how the Beyer speed figures are calculated, which is public knowledge, they can compute the Beyer variants also. The Daily Racing Form lists their version of a track variant on each horse's past performance line. Basically, the track variant is a numerical translation of degree of track difficulty. What does that mean?

The degree of track difficulty can change dramatically from day to day, even from race to race, the reasons for which not always being obvious. You can have a 6 furlong sprint race at Belmont, for example, carded for 3-year-olds and up which are non-winners of 3 races other than maiden, claiming or starter with a final time of 109.3. The very next day there could be another 6 furlong race for the exact same class of horses and the running time could be 1:11.3. This means that the same class of horses ran two full seconds (or around 10 lengths) faster the day before.

If you think weather is the cause of this discrepancy, you could be wrong. Inconsistencies like this often occur in identical weather conditions. Weather, however, is the culprit many times, as well as track maintenance. A strong wind can not only slow down final times, but it can also create a strong bias in favor of or against early speed. That's why it's a good idea to know which way a strong wind is blowing at the track or tracks you intend to play. Let's say you have a 6 furlong race in which the wind is blowing strongly into the face of the field while they are running up the backstretch, heading for the turn. This means that the wind will be behind them as they run down the stretch.

Often this wind direction, especially if it is a strong wind, will create a bias that favors closers. The horses out front up the backstretch will be fighting that strong wind, while the pressers and closers will be "drafting" somewhat and will come on in the stretch when pushed along by the wind, while the frontrunners tire from their early exhaustive efforts. Of course an opposite wind direction will cause the frontrunners to have an advantage. They would have a real easy time of it to the stretch, at which point the strong wind would hold back the charges of late runners.

The track variant can be inflated or deflated by the quality of competition running on a particular day. The Daily Racing Form track variant is figured by measuring how close the average times for each distance are to the 3-year best time for each distance. Let's say you have a 9-race card on two consecutive days that include 5 six furlong sprint races and that the best current 3-year final time for 6 furlongs at this racetrack is 1:09 flat.

On day one, the five 6F races include the following fields with their final times: maiden claimer for 2-yr-old fillies - 1:12.4, maiden claimer for 3-yr-old colts - 1:12.3, bottom-level claimer - 1:11.4, NW1X allowance - 1:11.3, and NW3X allowance - 1:10.4. If you average these five final times, the result is 1:12. Since 1:12 is 3 seconds (or 15 fifths) slower than the 3-yr. best time for 6F, the track variant for the 6F races run on this day is 15.

The next day features these 6F sprints: maiden special weight - 1:10.3, NW3X allowance - 1:10 flat, money allowance - 1:09.4, stakes race for fillies and mares - 1:09.3 and stakes race for males - 109.1. The average time for this group of 5 races is 109.4, which means the 6F variant for this day is 4. Quite a discrepancy. This is why it's a good idea to collect and review results charts from the Daily Racing Form. The variants are listed at the bottom of each day's chart. You can spot some interesting situations that can prove valuable in the future.

What if, for instance, on day one above, one of the races was way out of line as far as fractions and final times go? What if an ordinary group of cheap to middle-grade claimers went the 6 furlongs in 1:09.3 on a day when all other fields were going an average of 1:12? Think that may be a race to follow horses out of? I do. And that's just one more way you can stay ahead of your competition, which as a whole does not take the game that seriously. I may get into internal fractions some more next week; for now...clear skies and fast tracks.

Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter
Saturday, October 9, 1999

Today's newsletter begins with the question, "what makes horses win races?" One thing is for sure; there is no one factor. If there was, such as speed figures, we would all be collecting $2.10 win bets all day long. As we know, there are quite a number of reasons why horses win races, and included among them are superior speed figures. But then again, that's what most handicappers look at as their primary handicapping tool and to make money at this game, we have to traverse the less traveled paths that John Q. Public doesn't even know exist.

Each race boils down to a unique match up of horses that may require a distinct and separate approach to solving the puzzle. An 8 horse field with 3 early speed types sprinting six furlongs will need a different handicapping slant than will a group of 10 turfers going a mile and a quarter. As anyone who has read my book or past issues of this newsletter knows, I believe strongly in matching up running styles and I think this is a good starting point in the analysis of any race.

Since sprints are one of the two race types I favor, the other being medium-distance routes on the grass, I'll look at a typical sprint race to make a quick point. Let's say we're handicapping a field of 8 claimers going 6F on the dirt. It sure helps me to begin by labeling the running styles of each; E (early speed), EP (early presser), P (presser) or S (sustained closer). If I see a match up of 2 E horses, 5 EP horses and 1 S horse, a couple of things come to mind immediately. First of all, the S horse is at a significant disadvantage in this match up and would need a great trip to win the race. Secondly, I will check to see if one of the E horses has a distinct early speed advantage over the other E horse (as well as the EP horses). If not, the most likely scenario is that both E horses will be out of the money, while the winner and runner up will be EP types.

How does one match up or compare the contenders or even an entire field in a sprint race? One way, which in essence is one of the above-mentioned "reasons" why horses win races, is to examine and carefully compare internal fractions. One of the reasons why I focus heavily on sprint races, in particular 6-furlong sprint races, is that for me they are the easiest to compare with regards to internal fractions. First of all, consider these 2 horses who in their last races have run the identical final time of 1:12 flat, and we'll assume they were running on the same track and the same day:

Horse A: 23.1  45.1  1:12

Horse B: 23.4  46.2  1:12

Horse A will beat horse B quite handily under normal racing conditions in spite of having just run the exact same time. Why? Because of his early pace advantage. Since he will be coasting on an easy lead against his opponent, he will have conserved enough energy to maintain a lead throughout the stretch also. 23.1 vs. 23.4 and 45.1 vs. 46.2 equals approximately a 3-length and a 6-length advantage after the 1st quarter and after the 2nd quarter. Granted, they came home the final quarter in 26.4 and 25.3 respectively, but early speed overwhelms late speed in this kind of a match up.

To give a specific example of a race with what I consider great internal fractions, take a look at race 1 run at Belmont Park on Saturday, September 11, 1999. Here are the splits for this 6-furlong race for 3-yr-olds & up with a claiming tag of $25,000:

22.2    45.1    56.4     109.0

First of all, if one were to compare these fractions with other sprint races run on the same day (by examining the results charts), they would see that they are superior to most of the 5 others, which included a NW1X allowance sprint and the $75,000 added Floral Park Handicap.

Let's look more closely at the internal fractions for this race, which were established by the leader(s) at each point. The 1st quarter was run in 22.2; the 2nd quarter was run in 22.4; the 5th furlong was run in 11.3 and the 6th furlong was run in 12.1. If you match up these internal fractions with most other 6-furlong fractions run at the current Belmont Fall meet, you will see that they are outstanding.

In this particular race, the most impressive fractions are the last two. 11.3 and 12.1 are very good compared to par for these splits, and adding them together results in a strong, better-than-par final quarter time of 23.4. The final best-of-the-day time of 109 flat was achieved after a half having been run in a not-too-shabby 45.1. In other words, this particular field was really motoring the entire six furlongs.

What does all this translate into? It spells superior race, and in this case, "key race." And you can locate races like this by doing something your competition wouldn't even think of doing; examine results charts. The first thing I did when I spotted the first horse to exit this race was to turn to my Daily Racing Form results charts for September 11th. When I looked at the chart of the 1st race, won by a horse named Robb, and compared it to the rest of the sprint races run that day, I knew I was looking at a potentially hot situation.

The first horse coming back from this potential "key" race was Sell the Farm in race 9 at Belmont on 9/23. He was entered as the 1 horse in a 6F sprint claimer with a Pace shape of EE and a Race shape of Fast. When I saw that Sell the Farm had run fairly close to the pace in the early part of that race (4½ back after 2F and 3¼ back after 4F) and that he had actually gained ground on the turn (1¼ lengths) and had run the final quarter in 24.1 and the final 8th in 12.1, I knew I had a real strong contender in this match up.

The only disappointing thing was that he was dropping in class from $20,000 to $14,000, which would make people wager on him solely for that reason. Sell the Farm did win the race, paying $5.60 as the favorite, but the late D/D and 9th race exacta payoffs of $30.60 and $38.40 were quite logical, which transformed chalk into good value.

The other real favorable aspect of Robb's race on 9/11 was the alignment of the race itself. Some of you may be scratching your heads saying, "what's he talking about; alignment? What's that?" It's been a theory of mine (and remains only a theory at this point) that a certain alignment of the horses in a race can contribute to the potency of that race, or propensity of being a "key" race, which is one that produces more than it's share of next-out winners and in-the-money finishers. Here's what was so impressive about the race in question.

What I look for is the alignment of the horses at and beyond the 8th pole. I think the power for a "key" or "power" race can be generated by an Indian file (or close to it) alignment from the 8th pole to the finish line. In this example race, the field of 7 was in the exact same alignment at the finish as it was at the 8th pole, meaning the horses were in a precise Indian file alignment, and another positive was that they were spread apart. At the 8th pole the number of lengths separating the 1st and 7th horses was 10 and at the finish it was about 12, and there was daylight between each horse, front and back during that final phase. This indeed can make for a strong race and horses exiting races such as this should be given extra consideration.

Speaking of "key" races, in my newsletter of Saturday, September 25th, I spoke about another race which I had identified as a potential "key" race (before any horse had exited it) because of its fantastic internal fractions - the Kings Bishop Grade I race won by Forestry with eye-popping fractions carved out by Five Star Day. To date, from that field of 12, eight horses have returned, with 4 winners and 3 place horses (2 of which completed exactas with 2 of the winners exiting the same heat).

Naturally, when the 3rd and 5th-place finishers from Robb's race returned on 9/26, I was ready to pounce. Unfortunately, Top Official had shown and confirmed that he did not especially want to go 7 furlongs. The 5th-place finisher to Robb, Stalingrad, won paying $18.60, while Top Official missed second by a neck at 4 to 1, spoiling a $100 exacta. Nonetheless, the strength of the supposed "key" race was established.

I was ready and waiting when Robb himself returned to action on Sunday 10/3 at odds of 7½ to 1. In spite of him taking a sharp hike up the claiming ladder, I was confident that he would perform well. I played him to win and used him in exactas, mostly with the favorite, Johnny Legit, who in addition to having earned a big Beyer speed figure while winning his last, also had a strong affinity for the distance and racetrack.

As an example of another factor that can strongly influence the outcome of races, but which is pretty hard to determine beforehand, the trip a horse gets from his jockey can be quite influential to his success or failure. In the case of Robb, one of the best jockeys in the country, Edgar Prado, made a decision that ultimately cost him the victory. Keeping Robb inside down the backstretch, he had no choice but to maintain that inside position at the top of the stretch, at which point, Johnny Legit was swinging to the outside.

As the 2 tiring frontrunners were dropping anchor, Johnny Legit rallied by and Robb had to swing 3-wide inside the 8th pole and go after him. In a very strong effort, he came up a half-length short and completed an exacta of $28.80. Nobody said this was an easy game. That half-length meant a decent profit, versus a big score.

If you look at the next-out performances of the 5 horses that to date have exited the 1st race on 9/11, you see 2 winners, a close 2nd, a close 3rd, and 4th by 2½ lengths by the dead-last 7th-place finisher. You'll notice my top pick for race 1 at Belmont today, Saturday, is a horse called Leap to Flame. He is exiting none other than this "key" race I've been talking about, won by Robb on 9/11.

He ran quite a race, coming up short by a head after setting all those sparkling fractions and should certainly do well against the group he's facing. His internal fractions are 22.2, 22.4, 11.3 and 12.1. After setting that kind of pace, to come home in 23.4 is quite remarkable. Anyway, key race or not, you get the picture; internal fractions are a practical reason why horses win races.

In my opinion, much of the time, playing the horses is like playing craps; you're rolling the dice in a game of chance. To win at this game and to maintain a positive ROI, you have to specialize. Like I say, I focus on sprints on the dirt and routes on the turf. I also focus on internal fractions and all the techniques covered in my book, "Calibration Handicapping."

It would be very beneficial for all players to determine where their strengths lie and zero in on those types of races. That's how you get the needed edge to succeed. Major wagers should be placed on those races only, while entertainment wagers on other races should be kept to a much smaller amount. That's the formula for success with the thoroughbreds.

Clear skies and fast tracks.

Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter
Saturday, October 16, 1999

Subsequent to the delivery of last Saturday's newsletter, I received the following email from John M. from New Hampshire whose home track is Rockingham, "what is a safe margin of 5ths to consider a good pace horse? Surely a horse that is only one (fifth) better at each fraction is not a very strong horse to dominate the pace in its upcoming race. There must be a rule of thumb, say 3 or 5 fifths at each call, or do you consider pace-pars to determine a strong pace race?"

Since each fifth of a second is equal to approximately one length, that small of an advantage can be significant when comparing internal fractions. I don't have any hard and fast rule or formula for margins or fifths that I go by, but as per my book, "Calibration Handicapping", I do have pars for each internal fraction. First of all, let me say that when handicapping sprint races, examining and comparing internal fractions of last races is a real good tool to use, but to be a strong contender, a horse must first meet the standard qualifications such as those that indicate his condition or fitness for his upcoming race.

Last Sunday I sent out some picks for Belmont to all subscribers of this newsletter. Race 9 was one of the races I made selections for and since it was a sprint (6½ F), I'll go over the procedure I used to come up with the horses I listed. It was originally a field of 9, which was reduced to 6 with the late scratches of 1, 5 and 8, with 5 having been my top choice. With her defection, my remaining 2 selections were in order, #3 Positive Gal, and #7 Flamingo Way. Since I handicapped this race a day before, I'll include the scratched horses also.

Originally having a Pace shape of E-E, with the scratch of one of the E horses, #8, it became an E-EP Pace shape and an Honest Race shape. This particular match up had the following running styles listed in post position order, originally and then after late scratches: originally: EP, S, EP, P, EP, S, P, E, E; final: S, EP, P, S, P and E. The pace complexion of this race changed dramatically with the late defections. After the scratches of 2 EP's and an E horse, there remained only 2 of the 6 horse field who had any tendency toward early presence, the E horse, #9 Delta Music and the EP horse, #3 Positive Gal.

On the day of the race, this became critical in that due to the all-day rains, Belmont's main track was quite sloppy. As per usual for conditions like this, the maintenance crew "floated" the track, which made it have a strong tendency to favor early speed. By "floating" the track, I mean that instead of "harrowing" it, or digging it up somewhat between races, the tractors basically pulled large wooden boards behind them, which simply smoothed out the slop. When the track surface is floated rather than harrowed, often, but by no means always, the result is a bias in favor of early-speed types. The interesting part of the handicapping process concerning this race is that I came up with the correct straight exacta result before knowing for sure what the track condition was going to be or what the late scratches were, and this strengthens the validity of the process itself.

I like to get a picture of how a sprint race will unfold by looking at and comparing the internal fractions of each participant's last race, unless there was serious trouble encountered in the last, in which case I may go back to the previous race. I examine these fractions in my head most of the time, but it always helps to take out a piece of paper and write down all the information like this. Taking the time to do exercises like this, by the way, can mean the difference between a winning day versus a losing one.

1. License Fee: 22.2 (22.0) 22.4 (44.3) 24.4 (109.2) 13.3 16 7F

2. Torch: 23.1 (22.2) 23.2 (45.4) 24.4 (109.4) 6.4 15 6½F

3. Positive Gal: 22.0 (22.0) 22.4 (44.4) 11.4 - 12.3 12.3 8 6F 24.2 - (109.1)

4. Marley Vale: 22.2 (22.0) 22.3 (44.3) 24.4 (109.2) 14.1 16 7F

5. Anklet: 22.2 (22.2) 23.2 (45.4) 24.0 (109.4) 6.1 15 6½F

6. Memory Call: 24.1 (22.1) 22.3 (45.0) 12.2 - 12.3 12.3 12 6F 25.0 - (110.1)

7. Flamingo Way: 23.0 (22.2) 23.1 (45.4) 24.2 (109.4) 6.3 15 6½F

8. Gold Princess: 22.3 (22.1) 23.0 (45.0) 13.2 - 13.0 13.0 12 6F 26.2 - (110.1)

9. Delta Music: 22.1 (22.1) 22.1 (44.2) 25.4 (109.2) 7.4 13 6½F

The first fraction is the actual first-quarter (2F) time for each horse, followed in parenthesis by the leader's time . This, of course, does not take into consideration the actual lengths in front or behind the horse was while running this fraction. The closer to the lead a horse is, the more significant the early fractions are when trying to compare running styles and visualize how the race is going to be run, etc.

The second fraction represents the turn time for each horse, followed in parenthesis by the leader's half-mile (4F) time.

The third fraction is the 3rd quarter time, or the time the horse took to run from the 4F point in the race to the 6F point, which is the finish for 6F races. For last races that were run at 6F (#'s 3,6 and 8), there are 2 fractions above the 3rd quarter time, and those are the 5th and 6th furlong times. In parenthesis after the 3rd quarter time is the actual 6F time.

The fourth internal fraction listed is the final fraction run by each horse, which for 6F and 7F is the final 8th of the race, and for 6½F is the final 16th. The next number represents the Daily Racing Form's track variant for the day of the last race, and that is followed by the distance of the race.

When I first looked at this match up, I saw that it was an E-E Pace shape and immediately wanted to compare the potential early speed horses. The 2 E horses were #8 Gold Princess and #9 Delta Music. The 3 EP horses were #1 License Fee, #3 Positive Gal and #5 Anklet. These would be the horses among which I would want to compare early fractions to try and determine if there was any dominant early speed or speeds. The quickest to the half in her last race was #9 Delta Music, who at Philadelphia Park zipped the first 2 fractions in 22.1 and 22.1 for a 44.2 half mile (4F). However, not only was that at a lesser racetrack, but it was in a four-horse field and she beat one horse while finishing 3rd. I could be fairly certain she would be there early, but would she be there late, especially if she had some company on the front end?

The rest of her internal fractions said no. Having run her 3rd quarter in 25.4 and her final 16th in 7.1, she didn't match up favorably for the stretch run. The public saw that she had good early speed, and on Sunday's speed-favoring track she went to the post at odds of 2-1. The first requirement I have to have met to think about making a wager is that I have to have an edge. Delta Music provided me with no edge as she was an E horse that figured to run out of the money since #3 Positive Gal's last race featured early internal fractions of 22.0 and 44.4...on the same track she would be running on against this field. The big tip off was the way Positive Gal finished her race, which was an 11.4 fifth furlong and a 12.3 sixth furlong, or adding them together, a 24.2 3rd quarter.

The other E horse, #8 Gold Princess was similarly outmatched late so I eliminated her from the money also. It turned out she was scratched anyway, but as I've mentioned in the past, in an E-E match up, if there is a horse with dominant early speed, any remaining E horses will usually be out of the money. Because in her last race Positive Gal ran fast early and ran fast late, I eliminated the two E horses, 8 and 9, for not projecting to be able to keep up with her once they straightened away in the stretch.

I eliminated horses 1, 4 and 6 because they showed no propensity to catch Positive Gal, who projected to have a fairly comfortable lead at the mid-stretch point of the race. There was a horse in this field, however, who provided me with an edge by showing that she could indeed close late and possibly catch the front-runner.

#5 Anklet, who ran a fairly slow 4 furlongs in her last in 45.4, closed very strongly as she widened out in the final 2½ furlongs of her wire-to-wire victory, which I was fortunate to collect on at odds of 14 to 1. When I examine and compare internal fractions, I look for a strong move into one or more of those fractions. Anklet's big move was her final sixteenth of a mile, which she ran in a very swift 6.1 seconds while drawing away. This move, along with her 3rd quarter time of 24 flat, would likely make her a force to be reckoned with late in the race. Unfortunately, she was among the late scratches, probably due to the conditions.

My original 3rd choice for Sunday's 9th race was #7, Flamingo Way, who would due to the late scratch of Anklet become my final 2nd choice. While she didn't show the same big move as Anklet, she did run in the same race, finishing 3rd, and came home in 6.3 and 24.2. Having established the true speed of the race (which means the horse that projects to continue on as the other speeds fade) as Positive Gal, the natural thing to look for was a horse that would close for second, if not the upset win. Flamingo Way fit that mold.

She did run a big race, running most of the way with Positive Gal before fading late and completing a value exacta of $37.00. The trifecta ($167.50) was completed by another horse out of the Anklet race, #2 Torch, a confirmed stretch runner (S horse), with late internal fractions of 6.4 and 24.4. Who knows, possibly the move made by Anklet in her winning race provided some energy for the other two out of her race, who ran big in this match up, but that is pure conjecture and food for thought for another time.

Clear skies and fast tracks.

Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter
Saturday, October 23, 1999

My topic for this week is "How Does One Build and Maintain a Positive ROI?" As everyone knows by now, this game we love is not an easy one to beat. One day we are either off the mark or get a tough loss, and the next day we're right on target. Take my picks for last Saturday and Sunday for example. On Saturday, I had a rough day overall, including the fate of my best bet of the day in Race 7 at Belmont.

Valerie's Dream closed like a shot down the stretch to miss by a neck at 9-1, as my 2nd choice runs 3rd and that exacta combination was to pay over $100. All this while losing to.....a $109.50 horse that had just broken her maiden and comes back to win the Grade II Astarita. According to the way I calibrate all factors in my handicapping process, she didn't match up well at all with the remaining 9 horses, but that's horseracing; sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Beaten out of a nice score by a 53 to 1 shot.

Then on Sunday, I list a cold pick 3 for $396.50, including a $24.20 winner and a $13.60 winner and suddenly the world is bright again, even though the payoff was well shy of what a $2 win parlay paid ($452). That's not supposed to happen, but again, that's racing. By the way, there was a misprint in various places of the winning pick 3 payoff as it was erroneously posted as $296. Take it from those of us that cashed on the bet, it indeed paid $396.50.

What then is the answer? How do we stay ahead of this game and maintain a positive Return On Investment? The answer is to do what the movers and shakers in all the other big arenas in life do; specialize. Specialization breeds success.

Today the categories of races in which I specialize are sprints on the dirt and route races on the grass. To break it down even further, my top preference is sprints and to break it down all the way, 6 furlong sprints. I'll play routes on the dirt occasionally also, but my real area of expertise is in sprints on the dirt and turf routes and that's what I try to focus my handicapping and wagering on. There's an old saying that goes like this, "you can beat a race, but you can't beat the races." There is some valuable wisdom in that phrase and to heed it would lead a serious horseplayer to "specialization."

By serious horseplayer I mean one whose primary goal is to actually make money at this game. If one has a less serious goal, then they can by all means enjoy their day at the races and play them all. But the more one learns about why horses win races, the more one usually begins wanting to actually make money on them. In my opinion, the more one specializes, the better chance they have of maintaining a positive ROI, which is another way of saying, actually making money at this game.

I'm not saying that one should not wager on all the races if that's what they really enjoy. But how about wagering small amounts on all races other than your areas of strength? In my case, if I decide to go to the track, as I did last Sunday, instead of staying home and wagering by phone and listening on the internet, I'll either skip races entirely or put no more than a few bucks on them. I will definitely save the bulk of the wagering for the races in which I feel I have a solid edge and value. Even with specialization, one can still have quite a number of plays with all the simulcasting of today's races. As a matter of fact, without specialization, if one were to try to keep up with every race simulcasted at their wagering facility, they would be hard pressed to make smart wagers.

Specialization can take various forms and can be broken down even further than routes or sprints, dirt or grass, etc. As I've said a number of times in this forum, I need a couple of things going for me before I can actually make a wager. First of all, I need an edge, and secondly, I need value. Since my "arena" is sprints and grass routes, how do I get an edge on those races? First of all, the ideal situation is a race in which there are no first-time starters, all horses have run at least 3 races, and there are no entries with lengthy layoffs of more than 3 months. As far as lengthy layoffs go, I pretty much throw out such horses unless they looked real strong when they last raced, and that's the tricky situation I prefer not to deal with.

The reason why I sent out picks for races 6 through 8 at Belmont last Sunday is that each of those three races for the most part met my criteria for being playable. Each of them were 6 furlong sprints and my top selection in each race provided me with an edge. An edge can be manifested in various ways and for each top pick I gave brief reasons why I preferred them. One of the things I look for in any match up is a horse that has made a particular "move" in its last race that will set it up for a strong next-out performance. This "edge" can be one of various moves, ranging from the "Profile" horse to the SRE move to the WIR move, all of which are defined and illustrated with examples in my book, "Calibration Handicapping."

Other moves to look for could be the ones I've been talking about at length in recent newsletters concerning internal fractions. As another example of what I look for in this regard, refer to the 2nd race run at Belmont on Wednesday, 10/20/99. Although it was a short field and it was run in the slop, the internal fractions told a story. In spite of being away from the races for 52 days, #2 Some Prospect was exiting a race with the following internal fractions for the 6½ furlong race: 22.1 46.1 111.3 117.0. Can you spot the standout fraction in here? Correct. It's the final 16th run in 5.2, which is exceedingly quick. Some Prospect set the early fractions in this race before succumbing to the late charge of the winner and finished third while missing second place by a neck.

In his match up on 10/20/99, he was an EP horse and what I figured to be the frontrunner of the race. The other running styles in the field were S, E, E, S, and E, so logic says to throw out from the exacta the 3 E horses. Well, Some Prospect did go wire to wire paying $7.10 and one of the S horses, Eagle Hall got up for the place and completed an exacta of $55.50. On a sloppy, floated racetrack that figured to favor speed, he completed an early Daily Double of $208 with the wire-to-wire winner of race 1.

Maybe the following examples will convince you of the potency of some of the things I've been talking about in recent weeks in this forum, and of the importance of focusing on certain angles for the needed edge required to make a wager. Hopefully you'll agree, this stuff works! Check out the results for the first 3 races at Keeneland on Wednesday, 10/20/99, all of which were sprints on the dirt, in which each winner had an "edge" over its competition; the kind of edge I've been speaking about. Race 1 was won by a Profile horse, #10 Sugars For Nanny and she paid $36.60. Race no.2 was won by #12, Holdin All Cards, and the edge she gave us was the huge move of 4½ lengths she made into a 5th furlong of 11.4, making her fraction 11 flat! She paid $14.20.

But the best was yet to come. In race 3, #8, Bellewood was a near-perfect Profile horse! Her payoff? $146.80! Imagine a player who was a reader of my book, "Calibration Handicapping" as well as a subscriber to this newsletter going to his or her wagering outlet and placing a $2 pick 3 on these three angle horses in the first 3 races at Keeneland? They would have nailed the $2 wager for.....$12,378.40!! Fairly nice score.

Back to Belmont. In the first leg of last Sunday's winning pick 3, my top pick, #2 Debit Account was a Profile horse and thus provided me with an edge for that reason alone, but she also had other things going for her, which I elaborated on somewhat in Sunday's newsletter. Due to a couple of late scratches, she went off as the favorite in a 5-horse field and paid $5.50. As it turns out, Debit Account, in addition to being a Profile horse, was exiting a race that I had talked about at great length recently. It was the race won by Anklet. The reason I liked Anklet and the race she ran was the move she made in the final phase of the race she won on 9/24/99. She ran a sparkling final sixteenth of 6.1. Out of that race, the 3rd and 7th place finishers had already come back to run a strong place and show together on Sunday 10/10/99, which made Debit Account look even better.

The second leg of the pick 3 in question was won by my top pick, #4, Copelan's Pache, who paid $24.20 in spite of taking a stiff hike up the claiming ladder. The edge I needed was found again in the internal fractions of his last race, which he won handily. His impressive move was the 11.4 he ran in the 5th furlong of that victory, followed by a continued strong run to the wire.

The 3rd and final leg of the winning pick 3 was won by my top pick, another Profile horse, #3, Stalwart's Secret, who paid $13.60. As a matter of fact, all 3 of the top finishers in that 8th race were Profile horses. But Stalwart's Secret, like the other 2 winners that preceded him, also had internal fractions in his favor. The winner of the race he was exiting had run a quick and comparably impressive 5th furlong of 12.1. Although Stalwart's Secret was fading back at that point, he was doing so after chasing the pace while 3-wide around the turn.

Stalwart's Secret had a couple of things going for him that I thought provided me with edges and that's why I felt pretty good about the pick 3 after hitting the first 2 legs. I felt that if he got a decent trip from his jockey, Jose Espinoza (who had just won the middle leg of the pick 3), he had a great chance to complete a nice number, which he did.

The purpose of reviewing this winning pick 3 is not to blow my own horn. I am quite satisfied with what I was fortunate enough to collect. As with all reviews of winning plays I have listed previously, the purpose is to illustrate to you why and how I came up with them so that you can do the same in the future, that is, come up with edges and winning plays. It's one thing to say that you should specialize and look for edges and quite another to be specific about what that means.

That's what I have tried to do here. I've also tried to encourage you to make your major plays on races on which you have a history of success and to keep your wagers on other types of races to a minimum amount. And also to make wagers only on horses for which you have determined you have an edge over the competition, a number of which I've given examples of. Combine these criteria and you have the formula for success, a formula for building and maintaining a positive ROI.

Clear skies and fast tracks.

Horseracing Handicappers' Free Picks Newsletter
Sunday, October 24, 1999

Rich I. had a question or two about yesterday's newsletter, so I thought I would send out to all my response to him in case anyone else had the same thoughts. Here is Rich's email:

"Could you shed a little deeper light on the internal fractions Example: for Copelan's Pache #4 in the 7th at Belmont on 10-17 you indicated an impressive move of 11.4 for the final furlong. His internal fractions from the DRF show as: 22.3 45.4 110.1. My calculations came up as:

110.1 = 70.1 - 45.4 = 24.2 ÷ 2 = 12.1

Also on 10/20, race #2, Some Prospect; I see clearly how you came up with the 5.1 in the final 16th. The example above was done the same way but the number does not match yours? Also, where did you get the internal fraction on Some Prospect, because the p.p. only shows 22.2 46.1 and the final time of 117.0. I checked the full charts at Belmont and I believe they give the fractions in 100ths. Also your final number of 5.2 on the example of Some Prospect does not readjust the internal fractions for beaten lengths."

Here is my response:

Hi Rich,

Regarding Copelan's Pache, if you look at the fractions in the DRF past performance line for his last race on 10/8/99, you'll see:

22.3 45.4 57.3 110.1

As I'm sure you know, the first fraction, 22.3, is the leader's time for the 1st quarter or first 2 furlongs and since he went wire to wire, all the internal fractions are his. The second fraction, 45.4 is his time for the half or 4F (the difference between the two is his turn time of 23.1, which is his time for the 2nd quarter). Now comes the 5th furlong time (not the final fraction), which I'm believing more and more is a crucial internal fraction, if it is run at par or better, which I've tabbed as 12 seconds flat, and is run into overall fast fractions.

To get the 5th furlong fraction, simply subtract 45.4 from 57.3 and the result is 11.4, (57.3 is the same as 56.8 if it makes it easier) which is better than par and matches up favorably with the other runners who exited 6F races. For 6 1/2F and 7F races, we can't figure the 5th furlong time because it doesn't show as it does for 6F races. In hindsight, both halves of the 2 entry were in races with a 5th furlong time of 12 flat, so I definitely should have included them and of course, the 2B did run second and capped a nice exacta behind Copelan's Pache. What made Copelan's Pache look that much better was his accelleration during that 5th furlong as he exploded to a 3-length lead from the 4th to the 5th furlong calls and also carried that strong run to the wire in the final, or 6th furlong. As it turns out, in last Sunday's winning comeback race, he did the exact same thing, and shot ahead again during that 5th furlong, and this may again set him up for yet another strong effort the next time he goes.

As far as Some Prospect goes, The Daily Racing Form results charts give internal fractions in 5ths first and then in parenthesis in 100ths, but when I referred to the race he was exiting, I was simply looking at his last past performance line in Wednesday's paper. The winner (obviously not Some Prospect) ran the final fraction, which was a sixteenth of a mile, in 5.2, which is extremely fast. My par for the final 16th is 6 seconds flat. To calculate this time, I simply subtracted 111.3 from 117.0, which is what shows in Some Prospect's past performance line from 8/29/99:

22.1 46.1 111.3 117.0

As a side note, one possible reason why this final 16th was so fast is that at Timonium (I believe that's the name of the track Some Prospect last raced at) the 6F distance is an approximation, and is indicated as such with an asterisk in front of the distance. Perhaps this explains the extremely good final fraction, which may be slightly inflated, but still real sharp. In the newsletter I didn't mean to imply that the 5.2 final 16th belonged to Some Prospect. When I said that he set all the early fractions and then succomed to the winner, I sort of left it implied that the winner was the one that ran the 5.2 time. In other words, a horse doesn't have to set the strong fraction itself. Many times just exiting a race in which there is a strong internal fraction or fractions will give the horse the needed energy for a strong next-out performance. If the horse made a move into a strong fraction, so much the better.

I look at all of the internal fractions in each match up and compare them among the entries to see if I can see an advantage. Of course, I take into consideration what track each last race was on, in addition to the track variant or degree of difficulty for each day. If I find a strong internal fraction, preferably the 5th or 6th furlong time or the final 16th time, then I'll look carefully at the horse or horses exiting that race.



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