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?
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.