When the Last Race Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

Handicapper Art ParkerBy ART PARKER

I try not to get involved in the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown hoopla prior to May for many reasons. I do admit that if I find a sophomore that impresses me early in the year then I may throw a couple of bucks on his nose-if his name shows up in the future pool.

That happened this year with a couple of horses. The first was Oxbow. The competition he faced was not considered world beaters in the LeComte Stakes (G3) in New Orleans, but Oxbow still got my attention. I looked at his breeding and saw Breeders’ Cup Classic written all over the Calumet runner. Oxbow was sired by Awesome Again, who won the Classic, and then Awesome Again sired Ghostzapper, another winner of the Classic. On the mare side I saw Cee’s Tizzy the sire of Tiznow, who won the Classic in two consecutive years. Oxbow was at 26-1 in the future pool and I couldn’t resist him with all of that going for the Wayne Lukas trainee.

Revolutionary was the other horse. Many of you will remember the moment Revolutionary became a Derby contender. It was his unbelievable win in the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. With a clean trip that day Revolutionary may have won by a dozen without breaking a sweat. I knew he would be bet in the future pool, but when he came up at 13-1, I thought that would be the highest price I would ever see on the beautifully bred son of War Pass out of an A.P. Indy mare.

As you know I didn’t cash a ticket on either of those two in the Derby. Revolutionary ran a good third and Oxbow, although far from the winner, was respectable in finishing sixth. A smaller field, a dry track and it could have been different. Who knows?

This year’s Derby confirmed what most of us know. It is hard to pick a winner in that race and so many good horses are immediately forgotten after an unimpressive finish in the Derby.

Then the Preakness confirmed something we should know. Too much focus is given to the Derby winner, those that finished real close to the Derby winner and any horse that is new to the scene with even a moderate amount of qualifications. Revolutionary passed the Preakness party in Baltimore and Oxbow was pretty much forgotten at 15-1.

The first two legs of the Triple Crown also confirm that many horseplayers place too much value in or fail to analyze a runner beyond his last race. The Preakness wagering is clear on this. Orb was a monster favorite and Oxbow was dismissed, and I am certain it is because of the results of one race – the Kentucky Derby.

I suppose that’s why they print up to ten races for each horse in the past performances. It makes sense to review as much of the past as possible before predicting the future. After all, none of us would catch ourselves reading a book by ignoring all chapters except the last. We would never know the whole story.

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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 Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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