Battle of the KY Derby Sires

by Justin Dew

In the red corner, standing 16.1 hands, a son of Johannesburg and the winner of the 2007 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, the now deceased Scat Daddy.

In the blue corner, standing a number of hands that I wasn’t able to confirm on Wikipedia, a son of Smart Strike, the winner of lots of huge races and two-time Horse of the Year, the amazing Curlin.

Scat Daddy via Coolmore

At Churchill Downs next month, the ‘Battle of the Sires’ will captivate horse racing fans around the world as the main event on a day that also includes an undercard event known at the Kentucky Derby.

Punching it out for Scat Daddy:

Justify– The Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated in three lifetime starts. Has run faster than any of his prospective Derby opponents.

Mendelssohn– The UAE Derby winner. A half-brother to the great Beholder. Expected to be among the top three favorites in the Derby wagering.

Flameaway– Your Sam F. Davis Stakes winner and Blue Grass Stakes runner-up. A hard-trier who fires every time.

Combatant- Consistent runner for Steve Asmussen picked up minor checks in both Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes.

Curlin via Lanes End

Representing Curlin:

Good Magic– Your 2017 Champion Two-Year Old. Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes.

Vino Rosso– Trained and ridden by last year’s Derby winning team of Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez. Winner of the Wood Memorial.

Solomini– From the owner and trainer who brought us American Pharaoh, he is a recent bridesmaid on the Derby Trail.

Am I a pedigree expert? No, I am not. Thank you for asking. But in a battle of attrition like the Kentucky Derby, which sire do YOU think has the best chance of seeing his offspring, either from the farm or from Horsey Heaven, win the roses?

My money is on Curlin. And in the Kentucky Derby, my money will be on his kids. In one form or another.

Superfecta Strategies for the Kentucky Derby

The goal between now and Derby Day is to figure out how to maximize my coverage and opportunity based on the opinions I will have developed on the 20 Derby entrants.

by Justin Dew

Favorites have won the last five Kentucky Derby. In 2016, the top four betting choices ran 1-2-3-4 in order. As a bettor who likes to use the Derby as an opportunity at a life-changing score (or at least a year-making score), an edition dominated by low odds horses usually means a bad day for me. But that doesn’t have to be the case, and to my credit I feel I have learned from past mistakes.

Take 2004, for example. Smarty Jones and Lion Heart were the top two betting choices in the Kentucky Derby, and they ran 1-2 in order of favoritism. Imperialism finished 3rd at a modest 10-1. But the fourth-place finisher, Limehouse, helped to light up the tote board by contributing to a $41,000 (for $2) superfecta at odds of 41-1. The trifecta only paid $987. So let’s say you liked the two favorites to run 1-2, and then used every horse that was under 20-1 the 3rd spot, with all in 4th. As a $2 play, that’s $380 and a return of over $41,000…..with the two favorites running 1-2 in order!

Easy game, right?

Not so fast. Last year, I liked Always Dreaming as a top win candidate, but wouldn’t have had Battle of Midway or Lookin at Lee even WITH the ALL button (joke). In 2013, Orb was my top pick, and I used runner-up Golden Soul on all tickets, but didn’t match them up with the rest of the superfecta.

Thus, one of my goals for this year is to make sure I am in a position to cash a big ticket if I am right about the most likely winner and also right about a longshot who runs big. And I need to do it economically. But at the same time, how many horses can I confidently eliminate from superfecta consideration? Six? Seven? Can I trim down my selections near the top of the ticket and allow myself to use the ALL button? Do I need to just single my top pick in the 1st spot in lieu of a win bet on him, and then spread heavily underneath?

Maybe I’m looking at something like 1x13x12x11 at a cost of $1,716 (that’s one horse keyed on top over the other 13 in spots 2-4). If one of the seven horses that I eliminate from superfecta consideration runs 4th, then I guess I can just accept the fact that I didn’t deserve to cash. Or maybe the thing to do is play my top two in 1st and demand that one of my top five or six longshots runs somewhere in the 2nd and 3rd spots, with the other logical horses in there as well. So, something like this:

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top six longshots
3rd: Top seven overall (including the top two)
4th: Top seven plus top six longshots

So that’s 2x6x6x10, for a cost of $720. And then I play it with longshots only in 2nd and 3rd at a cost of $600, followed by using the top seven in 2nd with just the longshots in 3rd for another $720.

So overall, I would spend more on the superfecta that way, but I’d have my top two on top instead of just a single horse. And in exchange for having that extra coverage on top, I must have at least one of my longshots run 2nd or 3rd, with a big payday coming my way if I’m right about the winner and the non-super-contenders, AND I get more than one one my longshots in the 2-4 spots.

With the 1x13x12x11 approach, I could easily envision a scenario where I hit the superfecta but lose money. See: 2016. But with the “demand a longshot” approach, my top pick could win, spots 2-3 could be filled by logical horses, one of my longshots could run 4th, and I lose. Again, that’s the price (in this example) of using two horses on top.

Or…maybe I try this…..

Use my top two in first, trim it down to three longshots, and leverage the ALL button.

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top three longshots
3rd: Top seven overall
4th: ALL

That would run me $612, plus another $612 when I move the longshots into 3rd and the top seven into 2nd, plus another $510 when I play it this way….

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top three longshots
3rd: Top six longshots
4th: ALL

The $510 play gives me a big score if my longshots run 2nd and 3rd, with some extra coverage in 3rd.

I am not after bragging rights. And having been very lucky in recent years to cash some very large tickets at the track, I am not excited by the prospect of winning a few thousand dollars on Derby Day. Apologies if anyone doesn’t like the way that sounds. But I don’t want to see another $75,000 superfecta pass me by.  I feel like I need to be willing to spend the money to hit it.

handicappers Dew Justin Rich Nilsen

Justin Dew (Left) and AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen (Right)

The goal between now and Derby Day is to figure out how to maximize my coverage and opportunity based on the opinions I will have developed on the 20 Derby entrants. And I am willing to use all or most of my bankroll to take a swing at that payday. Because if someone guaranteed me I could double my bankroll on the Kentucky Derby, I wouldn’t sign up.

Now, if my Derby bankroll is $2,000, and the horse I like is 12-1, maybe the thing to do is abandon the entire approach that I just spent the last hour writing about and simply bet to win.

I have a lot of thinking to do.

You’ve made it to the betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what?

You’ve made it to the actual betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what? Here are some thoughts and things to keep in mind for novices and very beginning race fans.

Source: You’ve made it to the betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what?

2018 Kentucky Oaks Thoughts According to Dew

by Justin Dew

It seems pretty clear that Monomoy Girl and Midnight Bisou, both of whom’s names trigger my iPad to tell me that I misspelled a word, are going to be your favorite and co-favorite in the Kentucky Oaks. They’ve done impressive things on the racetrack, and bettors will wager on them accordingly. But the key to betting on any race is to find value, and I think there are reasons to take a stand against one of them while using the other with perhaps a bigger price in the exotics.

First, Midnight Bisou. My gut tells me she will be at her best around one turn. I realize she is a dual-graded stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles, but those wins came against questionable competition. And I’m also not a huge fan of taking a short price on a daughter of Midnight Lute at 9 furlongs shipping east for the first time, especially when I suspect she’ll try to come from behind. She’s good. But I don’t think this will be her best game.

Monomoy Girl confuses me a little. She has two wins coming from way back, and four other wins going wire-to-wire. My guess is she will be part of the Oaks pace, and the way she drew off in the Ashland suggests that she won’t have a problem with the additional 100 yards. The question with her is the price. She’ll be favored. Additionally, she won’t be able to coast alone like she did at Keeneland. So she’ll need to really be the best filly to win this, because I don’t see her stealing it.

As for who are the most logical alternatives, I think there are a few ways you can go. For one, I think it’s interesting that Kieran McLaughlin is pointing the very promising Sara Street to another race Derby weekend. Is that because he thinks Take Charge Paula has a big shot? And what about Coach Rocks, who just beat Take Charge Paula? Does she have another move forward in her? Or do we need to look to the Oaklawn and Fair Grounds preps? Or the Gazelle?

I can probably make an interesting case for five or six of the alternatives to the top two. And since I just don’t love either‘s chances, the key to cashing big on the Oaks, for me, is to figure out who is prime for her best effort at a big price.

Betting at Keeneland or on the Kentucky Derby? See what goes into setting the odds.

Man studying racing paper trackside before races.

Betting at Keeneland or on the Kentucky Derby? See what goes into setting the odds.

Lexington Herald Leader Full coverage

Source: Betting at Keeneland or on the Kentucky Derby? See what goes into setting the odds.

Who’s a 2018 Kentucky Derby Contender According to Dew

Obviously I still think he is a major threat to win the Kentucky Derby, but I am far less excited about betting on him than I was previously.

by Justin Dew

Even though there are still four hugely important Kentucky Derby prep races to be run, I have already made some key decisions about my Derby Day wagering. That’s not to say I can’t go back and change my mind later. It’s possible that the upcoming prep races will change everything. But things are definitely starting to take shape.

Gulfstream Park horse toteThere is a 0% chance that Mendelssohn makes a prominent appearance on my tickets. I don’t care that he is related to Beholder, nor do I care that he allegedly earned a huge Beyer Speed Figure in winning the UAE Derby. That racetrack was a conveyor belt, and that race had to take a lot out of him. I think he will be over-bet based on the margin of victory and the track record time. If he is a freak of nature and runs huge in Louisville, then I will tip my cap and tear up my tickets. I am definitely glad that he is coming to America, and there is no doubt that he is a very exciting racehorse. I’ll even go a step further and say that I’d like to see the Coolmore people win the Kentucky Derby someday. But Mendelssohn is a bet against for me.

How much did we really learn about Audible from his Florida Derby win? I had him ranked very high before the race, and he certainly did not disappoint. But with the insane early pace, and with Catholic Boy apparently bleeding, he almost had no choice but to win. I am clearly not going to fault him for winning, but we can expect to see much lower odds in the Kentucky Derby based on how visually impressive he was in the Florida Derby. Obviously I still think he is a major threat to win the Kentucky Derby, but I am far less excited about betting on him than I was previously.

And speaking of the Florida Derby, if Hofburg runs in the Kentucky Derby, I have a strange feeling he is going to become the wiseguy horse. Everyone will start talking about how he will love a mile and a quarter and is just learning what the racing game is all about, and how Bill Mott is the greatest trainer in history and blah blah blah. But just like Audible, Hofburg benefited from the blazing early fractions and passed a bunch of horses that were stopping and/or bleeding. I actually thought Mississippi ran a fantastic race, but I don’t think he will have enough points to make the Kentucky Derby starting gate. It sounds like Promises Fulfilled will continue on to Louisville, where I see him finishing somewhere between ninth and 16th.

Perhaps the most significant Kentucky Derby development this weekend was the announcement that McKinzie is injured and will miss his start in the Santa Anita Derby. I’ll have more to say about him later this week, but suffice it to say I was looking forward to betting against him in Kentucky also.

There are a few horses who have already made their final prep that I would like to discuss. Noble Indy doesn’t do it for me, and based on what I’m reading he doesn’t do it for many other people either. I have a feeling Jon Velazquez will end up on Audible instead of this guy. Bravazo is interesting to me. Let’s see how he trains at Churchill Downs. And Runaway Ghost didn’t look like a horse who will have trouble with the Derby distance when he won at Sunland. I can see him closing late for a big piece of the Derby pie.

handicappers Dew Justin Rich NilsenLots to look forward to this weekend. It seems as if the Blue Grass Stakes is shaping up as an absolute battle. And it will feature the horse who I think is the most likely winner of the Kentucky Derby.

 

— Editor’s Note: I got to know Justin Dew (left) when he was the official blogger for the very official Kentucky Derby website.  He’s an amazing father and fantastic gambler.  Just ask him.  He’ll tell you.  Welcome aboard, Justin!

 

Interview with Garett Skiba, Elite Contest Player and OptixEQ User

Meet Garett Skiba, an elite handicapper and contest player with the most six-figure cashes in handicapping contests over the last two-plus years. He most recently took home third place in the 2018 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) tournament in Las Vegas, netting $125,000. We asked him to discuss OptixEQ and how he incorporates its products into his own handicapping process. 

 

Optix (O): When did you first start following horseracing? And what is your proudest achievement as a horseplayer?

Garett Skiba (GS): I started playing the races with my dad, going to simulcasting outlets at Balmoral Park and to live racing at Sportsman’s Park and Hawthorne. As a horseplayer, my proudest achievement is having won more than $650,000 in contests.

 

O: What kind of player are you and how often do you play? For example, do you follow just one circuit? Do you just play tournaments, etc.?

GS: I will focus primarily on Kentucky Downs, Belmont, Saratoga, Keeneland, and Gulfstream. I will typically play intensively one to two days a week, and then, for three or four days a week, I will look for spot plays.

 

O: What kind of handicapper are you, and which types of bets favor your style?

GS: Historically, I have been a handicapper who has looked for hot pace scenarios that would favor horses with perceived “weak form” who would benefit from a pace collapse. Optix has been a valuable tool in broadening my approach to the overall pace picture.

 

O: How long have you been using OptixEQ and what brought you to try our handicapping platform?

GS: I have been on Optix for about two years. My interest was brought on by a willingness to try new products and always tweaking my style/approach in order to better understand the game. 

 

O: Describe how OptixEQ has enhanced (or added to) your game?

GS: As mentioned previously, the product has improved my understanding of the pace picture. Additionally, OptixNOTES have been a fantastic way to explain away poor races by horses who are being overlooked on the board.

 

O: Over the past two years, OptixEQ users have been finishing very well in tournaments. What advice do you have for users who are new to the platform?

GS: I would highly recommend learning about all aspects of Optix and also take the time to review historical races. I wouldn’t recommend playing either OptixPLOT or OptixNOTES alone, but rather use them as tools to support/contract your entire picture/opinion of the race. It is not meant to be a prediction engine!

 

O: What would you like to see integrated into the platform to further enhance the product?

GS: Personally, I would like more control as it relates to the pace lines driving the OptixPLOT, or at the very least, visibility as to which line is driving what we are seeing.

Win More with Horse Race Bet Strategies

Guest Post

Horse racing boasts one of the biggest sports betting markets in the world, and this can only mean that bettors all levels of experience have certain strategies in place that see them winning more when they wager.

Whether you are a casual bettor who enjoys a range of online gambling activities, from horse racing betting to real money pokies play, there are systems which can make sure that you see more returns at the end of the day. Here are a few of the most effect horse race bet strategies for you to experiment with when the next big race day comes around.

 

Premier 2yos at Del Mar, SaratogaThe Recent Winner Strategy 

This master plan has you checking out the horses which have recently won a race. These will be strong contenders for the races following, and will be on top form. These horses are often submitted in order to avoid handicapping penalties, and frequently gain momentum once they have reached their prime.

 

Statistical Lays in Horse Betting 

Laying a horse in the sports betting market has bettors wagering against a runner. After you choose a suitable race, the next step of this grand design has you identifying the three favorites for the race, and then analyzing their odds.

After you have chosen the top three places for the upcoming race, you will then pick the runner that has odds of between 3.0 and 5.8, or 2/1 and 4.8/1, and then lay against the animal with the least chance of taking first place.

Implementing this could see you succeeding as much as 80% of the time.

 

The Dutching Game Plan 

For the more mathematically inclined among us, a very successful horse racing betting plan of action known as the Dutching Method may be a good one to try.

The outline of this plan of action states that, when you wager on a selection of horses, you will be cashing out with the same payout in all instances, no matter which one wins. Achieving this result, however, does requires some essential calculations. While they may initially seem rather complicated, they are in fact quite easy to accomplish, and bet calculators found online will help you with the Dutching Plan.

Enter the total amount you would like to stake, and the betting odds for reach of your selections. The advised amount to place on each of your wagers and the profit you could possible see will instantly be updated.

The Dutching Scheme has you first locating a race with preferably more than ten runners. You will then need to choose two of the Top Three ranked horses, with good odds, and then you can start working out what the implied probabilities are from these odds.

 

The Horse and Jockey Partnership 

This horse betting approach works on the horse which ranked second in its last race. The jockey who rode the horse that day was doing so for the first time, and so the next appearance of this duo will mark their second together.

The advantage of this strategy is that the jockey will now be familiar with and to the horse, the manner in which it performs in races, and the weaknesses and strengths the animal has. The increased experience with the animal in question will enable the jockey to adapt more quickly to events occurring in the second race. Additionally, the jockey will be 100% aware of what went wrong the first time, and will bring significant improvements into this appearance.

 

Handicapping Step-by-Step, A Beginner’s Guide

Guest Post

Follow these simple steps and watch your returns increase with the next horse race you bet on.  Find out, with an easy to follow step-by-step guide, how to start handicapping for better bets. Even experienced players may enjoy coming in at a new angle!

 

  1. Read Past Performances 

The first step is your learning how to read past performances.

A quick search on how to do this properly online will give you some explanations to help you get started. This step is a good one for all types of betting online -if you frequently enjoy no deposit bingo sites, for example, analysing your past results will help you predict future returns more accurately.

 

  1. Handicap the Race 

Now you will start handicapping the race, which essentially has you projecting or predicting its outcome.

Identify the contenders, eliminate the pretenders, and make these choices more easily thanks to the information on past performances you have gathered. These aspects include:

 

  • Class

This is used to evaluate one horse’s ability over another, and you judge a horse’s class by looking at their performance over various competition levels. Class is easiest to judge in stake races, and you simply eliminate those who are not at the class level of the race you want to bet on.

 

  • Speed Figures

These judge the horse’s speed, and you will need to compare the final times of the races a particular horse has won. You will then locate the speed figures assigned to the horse for each of these races, easily accessed online, and average out the last three or four speed figures to gain a more accurate measurement. Eliminate horses that are obviously not fast enough.

 

  • Recent Form

This determines a horse’s degree of readiness to compete and overall fitness. Just like other athletes, horses get tired, experience slumps, get injured, or simply check out. Judging a horse’s form cycle can be tricky, but if the animal has performed well in the last two or three races it has run in, you can assume its form is good. Eliminate those who are not in good form.

 

  • Pace Scenario

This is used to find out how the race will be run, determining which running style will enjoy an advantage. If the speed of the race, the pace, is too fast, mid-pack and come-from-behind horses, closers, will enjoy an advantage. If the pace is slow, front-running animals and stalkers will benefit. Eliminate all the horses that are disadvantaged because of the race’s pace scenario.

 

  1. Analyse Winning Horses’ Trips 

After you have ruled out the horses you feel sure don’t stand a chance, it is important that you get the video footage of the winners’ performances and analyse these in detail. Doing this is easy, just create an online betting account that provides its players with free replays.

 

  1. Make Your Bet 

Now its time to wager. Don’t bet on underlays, or horses that have odds lower than their chances of winning. Over the long run you will fare better wagering on horses that give you fair odds, or those that are overlays and have odds higher than they should be.

 

There are Many Options 

If you gathered 100 handicappers and asked them how to handicap, you would receive 100 different methods. This is just one way, written so as not to overwhelm bettors who are just starting out. Give these steps a good try, and make a note of whether you find your returns improving.

Understanding Handicaps in Horse Racing

by International Correspondent (UK)

A handicap horse race is defined as a method by which, or a race in which, every horse is made to finish as close as is possible to one another, in an effort to ensure that the races remain as competitive as possible. Horses that run in handicaps do so off of differing weights, with these specifically designed in order to ensure that each animal has an equal chance of winning. Those who study form will understand why handicapping is important, and how it can affect the outcome of a race.

 

Man studying racing paper trackside before races.

Handicapping in Action

Horse 1 is rated at a handicap of 70, and he is the best racing horse taking part in the contest, with the finest form and the highest level of ability. Horse 2 is rated at 60. He is an average horse, with some ability to perform, but not as good as Horse 1.

We know that Horse 1 is very likely to beat Horse 2 if they run off of the same weight, thanks to Horse 1 being rated as a better animal. Therefore, in a handicap, Horse 1 will need to make a concession to Horse 2 in order to make the event a more competitive one.

In this example, Horse 1 will be required to carry more weight during the race than Horse 1 will. This, theoretically, evens the chances each horse has going in of winning, and makes their respective chances of coming first much closer. Of course, as is the case of any kind of risk, including that posed by the super slots NZ has to offer, this is not always how things work out. This is why betting on these competitions is possible, and as enjoyable as it is.

 

Who is In Charge of Determining Handicaps? 

This will depend on which country the horse and its owner reside in, with the United Kingdom falling under the jurisdiction of the British Horseracing Authority, or BHA. Their work is to watch each horse and assess the animal’s level of ability. If Horse 1 beats Horse 2 in three races, it is possible for the handicapper to safely deduce that Horse 1 is better than Horse 2, and the latter will then receive a rating lower than the former. Thus, when the animals next meet in a handicap, the gulf in the ability of each will be evened out.

 

How Do Horses Get Handicap Marks

There are very important rules in place that govern how and when a horse receives its handicap mark. The most important two are:

  1. If a horse manages to win a race, it will receive an official rating
  2. If a horse finishes three times, regardless of what position it may finish in, it will receive an official rating

Interestingly, the handicapper retains the right to refuse to give a horse a handicap mark. If a horse has finished tailed off in its first three starts, for example, it is not possible for the handicapper to form a fair assessment of that animal’s ability. In all cases, however, the handicapper will give a horse a rating that is based on the best form that it has shown up to that date.