Handicapping Tip of the Day #43 – Hard Races

by Rich Nilsen

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

On just a few select days of the year I put out a selection sheet.  It’s a way of producing some revenue for AGOS, helping many of the visitors of this site and doing so in a very affordable fashion.   This past Travers Day (2017) I did an analysis for the full card, all 13 races.  Along with pace scenarios for each race, I provide top selections and a few spot plays, which are my best bets with wagers.  Even though I missed the featured Travers, it was the type of day I would take anytime.  With 6 winners on top from 13 races, along with two out of three Spot Plays (Best Bets) scoring, I was very pleased with the results.

Unfortunately, there was one race in particular, the G1 Ballerina S. that I really messed up on and I was very disappointed in myself.  I always analyze the pace when dissecting a race, and there was clearly a lack of early speed types in this 7 furlong affair.  Given that this was a Grade 1 race for sprinters, the lack of early pace was unusual to say the least.  Races where you can’t really figure out who is going to get the lead are some of the toughest to handicap and find the winner.

I finally came to the conclusion that top gate rider and leading Saratoga jockey Jose Ortiz would put Paulassilverling on the front end, giving her an excellent chance of extending her graded stakes win streak to four races.  But therein lied the rub.  The 5yo mare had run three times this year, since April, and each and every race resulted in a gritty, close win.  She won the G1 Madison by a neck, then followed that up with another neck victory in the G1 Humana Distaff over a sloppy going.  She returned at Saratoga for trainer Chad Brown and gutted out another neck victory in the G2 Honorable Miss.

Brown didn’t work the Ghostzapper mare for 17 days after that win, but gave her two modest half-mile drills in preparation for this race.  Horses are not machines, and Paulassilverling was a prime candidate to regress off three hard races since returning as an older mare. That’s exactly what happened.  Despite a favorable pace scenario, Paulassilverling failed to get the early lead and “came up empty.”  She beat only two horses in the field of seven as the lukewarm favorite of 5/2.  Hard races, especially in succession, take its toll.

After owning horses for 10 years, one of the major things I learned is that horses are way more than the speed ratings, figs and past performances that you see in the ‘Form.’  It helps to look at them as what they are: living, breathing athletes who are affected the same way from competing that other athletes are affected.  When you add that into your handicapping, you improve your game.

Chart 2017 Ballerina Stakes

copyright 2017 Equibase Brisnet.com

Handicapping Tip of the Day #42 – Beware the Triple Drop

by Rich Nilsen

On opening day at Del Mar racetrack (July 19, 2017) top local trainer and crafty claiming horseman Peter Miller entered the 6yo gelding, Belisarius (Ire), in a $16,000 claiming race going one mile on the dirt.  On the ‘surface’ the winner of $174,659 lifetime looked like a major player. Although all his wins were on the grass (and this was on the dirt), Belisarius was making his third start off the layoff, getting a switch to a high percentage jockey, and was getting a sharp drop in class. At morning line odds of 8-1, he looked juicy … at first glance.

However, handicappers are always warned to look beyond the first glance.  With a closer look, one could see that Miller had dropped this runner in class three consecutive times since he had been moved into his barn from that of Hall of Famer Bill Mott.  His first start for Miller was an also-ran effort in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap. He then returned off a layoff, dropping sharply in class to an optional claimer, two other than.  He ran dead last in the field of six, beaten nearly 16 lengths.

He then received an sharp drop in class to a $35,000 claimer for non-winners of three races lifetime.  Off at 6-1, he defeated two horses.  So, let’s try another drop in class and a surface switch. Red flags don’t come any bigger.  Miller was desperately trying to find a spot where the once-sound horse could be competitive.  We don’t know why, but some reason this horse had soured on racing.

race horse from Peter Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bet down to odds of 6.10 to 1, Belisarius was never competitive en route to a fifth place finish.   Miller wasn’t done yet with the class drops.  On August 5, he ran for $8,000 at Del Mar and finished a non-competitive sixth.

Class drops are not always positive, especially when it is a series of consecutive class drops that do not result in improved performances.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #41 – Millions of Ways to Lose

Sad but True Reality for Everyone in the Horse Racing Game

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

Thirty yards out of the gate, Saturday’s $300,000 Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes [July 29, 2017] went from high expectations to high anxiety.

When 2016 Eclipse Award sprinter Drefong suddenly shot to the left at the gap where the chute meets the main track, sending Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith flying, the race was changed and so were the thoughts of fans and the connections of the horses speeding down the backstretch.

“There’s a million reasons to get beat and that was one of them,” Bob Baffert, trainer of Drefong, said Sunday morning. “He (Drefong) could just as easily have hit the rail and broken his shoulder. But everybody came out of it fine, and that’s all you can hope for.”

Drefong put himself back into the race and completed it without a rider. The 4-year-old colt’s position among the front-runners caused concern among the other riders and it affected the outcome when Drefong forced eventual runner-up Roy H. six paths wide turning into the stretch and created an inside route that Ransom the Moon and Flavien Prat took to victory.

Drefong came out of the race unharmed. Smith was checked at the track first aid station after the race and released, saying he was fine with no reports to the contrary coming from Baffert or Smith’s agent Brad Pegram on Sunday.

“I would have liked to have seen (Drefong) relax and rate himself behind horses,” Baffert said. “But he’s pretty light on his feet and he recovered and bulled his way through on the rail. He’s a competitor and he was still trying to win.”

Phil D’Amato, trainer of Ransom the Moon, was there with Baffert, observing Sunday morning workouts. D’Amato had celebrated exuberantly, just outside the winner’s circle, with his crew and owners Mark Martinez of San Antonio, Texas and Jeffrey Wilke of Omaha, Nebraska, when Ransom the Moon crossed under the wire.

But in his post-race comments he was careful to praise Prat’s skill in assessing the situation on the fly, follow behind Drefong, and be in the right spot to move inside when others were being carried out. “Hat’s off to Peter Miller’s horse (Roy H) who ran a really good race.”

Ransom the Moon came out of the race “in good order,” D’Amato said. Miller, contacted by phone at the San Luis Rey Downs training center in Bonsall, said Roy H “got clipped” in a close encounter with Drefong but the injury didn’t appear to be serious.

“I felt like we were much the best, we just got unlucky,” Miller said. “With a smooth trip, he wins by two lengths. But that’s racing.”

Miller will wait to make a decision on the next start for Roy H. D’Amato indicated that Ransom the Moon would have a race in the fall at Santa Anita and then return here for the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 4.

The Bing Crosby was a “Win and You’re In” challenge series qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Baffert said the Grade I, seven-furlong Forego Handicap on August 26 at Saratoga was a possibility for Drefong. The Grade II $200,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes, also at seven furlongs, is here the same day. The Pat O’Brien is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $1 million Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile here on November 3.

The major stakes races of the first two Saturdays of the meeting have been upsetting, in more than one sense of the word, for Baffert. In the TVG San Diego Handicap on July 22, world leader Arrogate finished fourth and Saturdaybrought the Crosby misfortune.

But exasperation doesn’t seem to be an option for the 64-year-old Hall of Famer.

“I don’t have any control of those things,” Baffert said. “As long as everybody is OK you just shake it off, laugh it off and go on to the next one.”

Source: Del Mar

Handicapping Tip of the Day #40 – Thoroughbred Race Horses are Not Machines

See Arrogate July 22, 2017 at Del Mar.

 

Beat Saratoga! 8 Tips for Turning a Profit

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8 Tips for Turning a Profit!

Download this free guide "Beat Saratoga: 8 Tips for Turning a Profit" and play the 2017 Saratoga meet successfully.  Beating this 40-day meet with so many contentious races is no easy task, even for experienced horseplayers.

13-time NHC Qualifier, 6-time major contest winner and AGameofSkill.com founder Rich Nilsen walks you through the steps required to beat this prestigious race meet.   Content is updated for 2017!

  • Learn what steps it takes to beat this meet successfully
  • Get the scoop on which jockeys and trainers dominate this meet
  • Find out which 'dark horse' jockeys and trainers you need to know about.  These guys bring home the prices!
  • Understand how each of the tracks play and how this affects you as a handicapper

Fill out the short form below to claim your free report "Beat Saratoga!"  You will automatically receive an email with a link to the PDF document that you can download to any device.

The 2017 Travers Stakes Begins in...

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8 Tips for Turning a Profit at Saratoga

Expert advice for beating the Saratoga meet

Handicapping Tip #39 – Pace Makes the Race

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

On select major days throughout the year, I offer my professional analysis of the big race, e.g. Preakness, and the undercard races at that track.   This past Saturday I did the 14 races on the Pimlico Preakness card, which is always a great day of wagering.  One of the key aspects of my report is the pace scenario analysis for each race.  If you don’t understand the expected pace of the race, it can be very difficult to select the winner or the top finishers.  How the race sets up is critical to predicting the outcome.

In turf sprints I almost always emphasize early speed, especially if it is a 5 furlong grass race.  In analyzing the pace of race #2 on Saturday (May 20, 2017) one horse jumped out to be as the lone speed.  #1A FLIGHT CREW was 20/1 on the morning line, enough to scare off many horseplayers.  After determining that he was probably the early pace setter, I needed to look at the overall early pace to determine if he could “hold on.”  Was there enough other early speed to put pressure on him at some critical early juncture of the race?  I came to the conclusion that the answer was “no.”  It looked like a moderate pace, so now I was very intrigued with this longshot and dug deeper.

Pace makes the race

He was the son of Elusive Quality, who has sired many good horses sprinting on the law, and out of a mare by Danzig (enough said).  The pedigree was certainly there.  This was only the 2nd career grass start for Flight Crew.  In his only other attempt, he pressed a fast pace (+17 +19 on the BRIS Race Shape figures) while going 1 1/16 miles on a good turf course.  Despite that, and breaking from a poor outside post, he still ended up defeating half the field, finishing 5th.   He was trained by 15% local horseman Hugh McMahon.  What else did one need to pull the trigger on a big longshot?

Pace makes the race.  Flight Crew did not get the initial lead but by the time the field hit the far turn of this turf dash, he was in complete control.  At odds of 9-1, he opened up under Katie Davis and kept the field at bay down the lane. Scores like this are very sweet indeed.

Make sure you analyze the pace of every race you wager.  It’s the first step to selecting many winners.

GOT REBATES?  Learn more here

Handicapping Tip of the Day #38 – Does the Favorite Make Sense?

by Rich Nilsen

Claiming races have often been compared to poker games.  The crafty trainers are making moves and hoping that their competition guesses wrong.  Recently at Laurel Park, red hot trainer Linda Rice (43% winner on the meet) had the overwhelming favorite Cheering On Al.  On the surface and with a cursory glance, the four-year-old filly look near unbeatable.  She had been very competitive at claiming levels more than three times the price of today’s race.  But therein lied the rub.  Why in the world was she in for only a nickel ($5,000) given her recent form?  Also, why had she not run back within two or three weeks off the claim?

Laurel past performances PPs

copyright 2017 Equibase and Brisnet.com

Her last race gave a clue as to why.  Bet down to odds of 7/5 she failed to hit the board, fading quickly in the final 1/16th of a mile.  Still, the fourth place finish beaten just over four lengths was a performance that should crush today’s competition.  Right? That disappointing race, however, came for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who is difficult to claim off of, and she had been shelved since the race in late December.  Red flags were popping up.

Does the betting favorite make sense?  If you had just claimed this filly, would run her in this spot?  You would only do so if her soundness was less than 100 percentage, and you were not happy with your $16,000 purchase.  That apparently was the case in this spot, as the connections were willing to unload her for $5,000.  She was a sucker bet at odds of 0.60 to 1, and she ran accordingly.

These opportunities don’t come along every day but they do appear frequently enough.  I just happened to be on 5-1 shot Weatherurnot, who looked like a winner in deep stretch, only to be nailed by a big longshot with improving form.

Laurel race chart

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #37 – Never Be Afraid of this Type of Favorite

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

There is one particular type of favorite that the experienced horseplayer should never fear.   I’m talking about the type of public choice, especially a maiden, who always runs well enough to get bet next time out.  His or her past performances always look like a horse in sharp form, with strong speed figures, and running lines that include a lot of 1-2-3s.  But what is always in common is a lot of “two’s” and “three’s” at the finish position.  This is the type of runner that lacks the will to win.  The horse is talented.  The  horse has speed.  The horse runs good enough to nearly get his picture taken, but the horse doesn’t want to “go on” and win the race.

A recent race at Finger Lakes was a perfect example of a money-burning maiden that fit this bill.  November 15, 2016 at Finger Lakes featured the heavy favorite Hazen’s Notch.  The New York-bred of D’Funnybone was seven-for-seven in the money racing at distances from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 mile and 70 yards and over tracks labeled fast, good and sloppy.

The versatile gelding was coming off another ‘good’ effort, a 2nd place finish at 3-1 odds at the maiden special weights level only 14 days prior. But look closer and this horse was life and death to hang on for second while drubbed 8 lengths by another rival.  In only one of his last five races had this horse gained ground in the stretch. In all but one of his seven career races he went off at odds of 3-1 or lower.  He was expected to win nearly every one of these races by many handicappers and had failed.

On this day Hazen’s Notch was odds-on during most of the wagering before finally settling at 1.05 to 1 at post time.  He finished third, beaten only two necks for all the money, behind $18.40 winner Winlocs Utopia.

The chart caller’s comments read:  Hazen’s Notch was well placed along the two path, angled out in the lane, gained some and hung.

false favorite

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #36 – Mud vs. Slop

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Art Parker

Many players get caught up in the “off” track versus a “fast track.” That is a mistake. There is only one type of fast, but there are multiple versions of “off.” It is important to know the differences with the most important difference being a “sloppy” track as opposed to a “muddy” track. A sloppy track may have puddles of water on the top of the surface but the track is such that horses can have excellent footing. In fact, you will sometime see times for a sloppy track be as good, or better, than a fast track. A muddy track is a different story. Once the water mixes well with the packed sand, a muddy track is created and can be like ‘goo,’ or even soft-but-thick peanut butter. Normally the times on a muddy track are noticeably slower than fast or sloppy.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #35 – Start at the Start

by Art Parker

Saratoga starting gate

Good horseplayers investigate troubled trips when trying to determine the truth about a horse’s past. The best way to do this is by watching video tape replays. The best place to start watching and begin your analysis of a troubled trip is the start of a race. The first three seconds of a race can mean everything. A horse may be prohibited from his usual running style. A slight squeeze at the start can cost three-four lengths. Trouble can be found at any point in a race, but more trouble occurs at the start than anywhere else. And, when you view the start of a race try to get a view from every angle possible.

Related Article:

Racing’s Most Important Moment is When the Gate Opens – great insight on this topic