How I Nailed a 22-1 Longshot at Saratoga

By Dan Costanza

What happens when you pair some solid handicapping fundamentals and a little bit of luck? You get a 22/1 winner at the Spa that pays $46. A rarity for sure, but my longest price in recent memory was helped by a bit of my own misjudgment.

When looking through the past performances to make my selections on Monday at Saratoga, race 8 was one of the four races I had selected to make plays on. This was a longer-than-usual maiden race at a 1 1/8 miles and it gave me a chance to look deep into the race, beyond just where these horses finished in previous races.

Let me step back to my thoughts when I dived into this race. A quick look through the past performance and I see that this race does not have much early pace, and a speed duel doesn’t seem likely. There are two horses at short odds both of whom are deep closers. With the lack of early speed, I look deeper to try and get on a price that might be getting overlooked. I immediately focus my attention on the #2, Tiz Yankee, who is the 9/5 morning line favorite, and Grandpa Len, who at 12/1 seems worth analyzing as the race could set up nicely for him. I assume that Grandpa Len is going to be on the lead early because of the lack of early speed in this race. After looking at Tiz Yankee, his race over this distance back in April caused me to subtract him from the equation because of his early running and faltering late in that race. With no interest in playing a 9/5 horse anyway, I focus on Grandpa Len and see if I can make a case for a play on him.

PPs of winner at Saratoga July 23 2012




A quick look at the start of Grandpa Len’s career and I like what I see. In his debut, he finished 4th, beaten 9 lengths, to Currency Swap, who was 6 lengths ahead of the 2nd place finisher. Currency Swap went on to win the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes after that maiden victory. Next time out for Grandpa Len, he clashed with another classy horse in El Padrino who was on the Derby trail for much of last year. He finished 3rd in this race, and just over a length back from El Padrino who came home 2nd. His 3rd time out, Grandpa Len is pegged as a favorite, but faces another tough one in eventual stakes competitor News Pending. Once again it isn’t in Grandpa’s cards and he finished 4th, only beaten 1 3/4 lengths in a race which News Pending finished 2nd.

The next few races he has legitimate excuses. Grandpa Len tried the turf next and was not successful at all on that surface, so I am not counting that against him. Then he goes on a 5 month layoff and comes back in a sprint where he is not a factor. Again, not counting this against him. Then he has a race which really makes me think he can be a winner today. He is entered in a 1 1/8 miles race and while it is over a muddy track, he leads nearly the entire way and stays on to finish 2nd. This makes me think that he can certainly get this distance, and if he is on the lead or near it, he can stay there if it isn’t very fast. After this race, for whatever reason, they decide to try him on the turf two more times, both of which I am not counting against him for the race today since it is on the main track. So with this information in mind, I settle comfortably and confidently on Grandpa Len. I know that 12/1 will probably go up, so even if he doesn’t wire this field, I am thinking I will still get some nice prices if he hits the board.

Well to my surprise the race begins and Grandpa Len is not leading this field early on as I anticipated. He is actually forced 4 or 5 wide going in to the first turn. Despite this, he is forwardly placed and sitting just a few lengths back while Tiz Yankee is leading them around at a snail’s pace. When the half mile goes up and they are still crawling around, I know my horse has a chance because he hasn’t used much energy yet and is just a few lengths off the lead. Tiz Yankee on the lead was not what I had handicapped, and is still at the front and has me worried that he would be the one wiring this field with such a slow pace [instead of my longshot].

At the far turn though, Grandpa Len picks it up and with a fantastic move by Cornelio Velasquez, is now right in the thick of things turning for home. Instead of swinging 5 or 6 wide and circling the field, Cornelio sees an opening and cuts Grandpa Len around the turn and towards the inside. This is a move that in my opinion won the race as it saved a lot of ground and strides, while leaving less work to be done to collar the leader. As expected, the deep closers are nowhere to be seen and it is actually Grandpa Len who is charging home and passing Tiz Yankee to come home a 22/1 winner.

While I may have overlooked the early speed of Tiz Yankee and his ability to slow things down, I found the positives of in this live longshot. I believed I was getting a great value for a horse who had faced some top class runners in the past and would benefit from both the lack of early speed and surplus of late runners. The result was a juicy payoff at the Spa!


About the Author

I am 25, from New Jersey, lived there my entire life but now currently living in the United Kingdom. Have loved and played sports my entire life and love handicapping horses and sports.

Share this with your horse racing friends
Handicapping tips from


* indicates required

Email Format

About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.


  1. Bill Mentes says

    To be 25 and living in the UK! AWESOME! Especially after surviving New Jersey, which is also where I grew up. Three of my 10 years in the US Army were spent as a Veterinarian in Denmark, where I also had responsibility for inspecting all the food plants in the UK which supplied US Forces in Europe. So when I had to plan an inspection tour, I would use my William Hill racing calendar to find out where the races were each day, and match them up with the area of a plant I had to inspect. Begin the inspection at 0600 hours, be done by 1100, and head for the races. I loved going to the track in England-the punters were so friendly and out for a good time. I was there while the great Stevie Cauthen was riding and had several thrills-he always seemed to win those close photos. When I was in Scotland, however, I went to a bookie shop, and when listening to a race call, the Scottish accent was so heavy that I had no idea where my horse was!
    Nice article-glad you hit!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More in Handicapping 101, Learn to Handicap
FREE One Minute Handicapper (OMH) Worksheet for Saratoga

Enjoy a FREE One Minute Handicapper (OMH) Worksheet for Saratoga, Del Mar and Monmouth, Saturday July 21. This is a handicapping...