• Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 10-31-11

    POSTED Oct 30, 2011
    Last week, after the Breeders Crown eliminations, I suggested that there might be people who wish to enter rehab based on an “addiction to wagering on promising horses that the public rejects.” It is a condition that swears people off of prohibitive favorites, under-lays or whatever you like to call horses backed vigorously by the majority of bettors. If you were one of those people and you were successful in rehab, returning to wagering with an undiluted respect for the most probable winner, you cashed tickets in the 2011 Breeders Crown program at Woodbine on Oct. 29.  

    The Breeders Crown program, 12 races with most of the divisions’ best horses, produced an average win price of $7.50. If we eliminate the highest win price and the lowest, a usual ploy when attempting to calculate an accurate average, that price becomes $6.86.  

    If you won with every horse, that pick-12 cost $24 and returned $90.40. If you only played the favorites, your $24 got you back $25.60, a profit less than 2 percent.  

    The highest prices of the evening were 18.90, 12.90, 11.40, 11.00 and 10.60.  

    The first Pick 4 paid $53.10 and the second paid $196 for dollar tickets.  

    This was not the kind of card under any circumstances that would find me, as a player with an “addiction to wagering on promising horses that the public rejects,” turning a profit. The best, mediocre or the worse horses offered in any dozen races, I would not be playing all the races and I doubt very much if I would have profited from the few I played.  

    So, our work to discover those horses in the finals that would, in our opinion, go to the gate with odds better than their chances, was unproductive, which in the scheme of any dozen races, is not uncommon. With that explained, let me review what happened to our suggested contenders in all of the races, including how we dealt with the closing odds. 

    It began strangely, as the horse we chose to win became the race favorite. We could not flatter ourselves and think our published choice affected so many bettors but we had no idea why Jersey As went to post as the public choice. Our three “exotic material” choices, which we added in each race as horses you should consider using in exotic combos, included the three that made the race’s $183.70 triactor—Frenchfrysnvinegar, Action Broadway and Autumn Escapade. Jersey As raced in the rear and found that spot so comfortable she resided there until the mile’s end. We did not bet this race. 

    Our choice defied the dead-on favorite, going off around 5-2. She had a tougher trip, fanning three wide in an attempt to catch the favorite but finished second behind the favorite, which paid 2.90. We did not bet this race, which resulted in an exacta worth 5.30.  

    Our choice, Pirouette Hanover, went off a hard 5-1. She had to negotiate an outside trip, getting into a deadly duel in the stretch, contributing to suicide fractions which allowed the favorite to sweep pass those two late to win. We played to win; she finished third. 

    Hurrikane Kingcole went off a hard 7-1 and got a good position early. However, the favorite was monstrous. This freaky two-year-old colt made a three-wide brush to the top and ate up real estate to the tune of becoming the fastest two-year-old standardbred ever, winning in 1:49. We played to win; he finished third.

    Royal Shyster got rolling at 18-1 and looked fabulous getting the lead from the 8 hole right off the gate. He stayed there until the half, when the favorite took the lead from him and stayed there until the 7/8ths, when the third choice, on our exotic-material list, at 4-1, closed to win it. We played to win; he finished fifth. 

    On Sept. 3 we suggested you play Anndrovette. She won and paid $19. In this race, she was the celebrated public choice. We liked Maureen Rocks and so did a lot of other people, sending her off at an unappetizing 3-1. She raced on the outside as she had the week before but could not catch the favorite. The horse finishing second was on our exotic-material list, paying $13.10 to place, having gone off at 29-1. We did not bet this race; she finished third. 

    We had two conditions for this one. First our choice, Lucky Jim, had to go off at juicy odds. The second condition was out of our hands. He had to at least give us a shot by racing without breaking. The first condition was satisfied at 8-1 but he broke making a three-wide move only 4 lengths off the leader, who was the favorite and probably locked up Horse of the Year honors by winning. We played to win; he finished seventh (never regaining his gait).  

    Here we expected a favorite to win. In fact, we thought we would be looking at a world-record mile considering Drop The Ball blew away her elim field and was in the best of shape. However, the co-second choice (on our exotic-material list) was far better, passing her and strolling away with the win. We did not bet this race; she finished second. 

    As we have most of the second half of the season, we figured Manofmanymissions would win if he did not break stride. Still, he went off the second favorite to the colt that won the other elim for this division. In front at three-quarters, he broke, and the favorite soared on to win. We did not bet this race; he finished seventh. 

    This was to be the race that made history for us. We had to beat a monster of a filly, the prohibitive choice. On the toteboard, our choice, Pantholops, was 99-1. Her actual odds were 152-1. She was disadvantaged having to come from post 10 but that did not stop us because her odds were way better than her chances. As it turned out, she raced well, mostly on the outside with cover, though she, like the rest of the field, were powerless against the big favorite. We played to win; she finished fourth. 

    Here we were simply wrong about how our choice would race. We expected far more from Fashion Delight than he delivered. He was 60-1. However, we were right to think the highly touted favorite would lose. He lost to the third choice, though only by a nose. If our choice came out of the race all right we stand by our opinion he will return for a strong four-year-old season. We played to win; he finished eighth (by only 3 lengths; a mere 6 lengths separated the 10-horse field at the wire). 

    The public thought as we thought they would think, making our choice, We Will See, a solid choice, close in the wagering to the second choice. We expected a powerful mile by this guy, who at four, dominated older horses most of the season. But he surrendered  to a pair of horses we cashed in on this year, the winner being the longest shot of the evening at 8-1. We did not bet this race; he finished third. 

    Each of the races above are linked to review stories by Ray Cotolo, a contributor to our causes for harness racing success. 

    Do not despair. The major stakes season still has some gas in its tank and we did not wager so foolishly as to be damaged by the less-than-generous public. We will return to the stakes and overnight wars in our Thursday blog and never consider rehab. 

    We thank everyone for following us live the night of the Breeders Crown and we thank the Hambletonian Society, handlers of the magnificent series, for all of its cooperation and support for the wagering side of the audience, as we addressed through TwinSpires.

    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)
  • Big Win Baloney

    POSTED Oct 27, 2011
    Horseracing fans are funny.

    Although most insist that thoroughbreds want to run, love to run and were, in fact, born to run, often these same guys and gals cling to other beliefs that contradict such a notion.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Take, for example, the case of the “easy” winner — the horse that triumphs by a wide margin or with little or no urging from its jockey. On more than one occasion, I’ve been told that speed and pace figures are insufficient to assess the talents of such beasts, because, the argument goes, “they weren’t asked for their all.”

    Huh? I thought horses loved to run. Why do they have to be urged or whipped to strut their best stuff?

    The truth is they don’t.

    As proof, let's take a peek at the record books. For, if one accepts the notion that horses need to be goaded by human beings, i.e. jockeys, to put their best foot forward, it stands to reason that most world record times would be recorded by horses that were put to a drive in the stretch. Easy winners (as indicated by a large margin of victory) would be an exception to the norm, it would seem.

    Yet, such is definitely not the case, as only one of the 13 major records from four to 12 furlongs was set by a horse that won by fewer than three lengths:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    It is also a misconception that easy winners make for good bets in their next start. As Dr. William Quirin documented in “Winning at the Races: Computer Discoveries in Thoroughbred Handicapping” (first published in 1979), horses that captured their previous outing by three lengths or more do, in fact, win more than their fair share of races, but they do so at greatly deflated odds.

    My own studies confirm Dr. Quirin’s findings.

    And if you are searching for an automatic handicapping toss-out, look no further than the easy winner that is switching surfaces (turf to dirt or dirt to turf). I found 170 such instances in my database of over 6,000 races and the results were abysmal: just 14 winners (8.2 percent) and a return on investment (ROI) of -60.85 percent.

    The Breeders’ Cup races prove no exception, as the following statistics clearly demonstrate:

    * Horses that won their most recent race by three lengths or more over today’s general track surface (dirt/turf).

    Number (races): 113 (58)
    Won: 13
    Rate: 11.5%
    Return: $132.90 (4-1 average odds)
    ROI: -41.19%

    * Horses that won their most recent race by three lengths or more over a different general track surface (dirt/turf) than today’s.

    Number (races): 7 (7)
    Won: 1
    Rate: 14.3%
    Return: $7.20 (5-2 average odds)
    ROI: -48.57%
  • Night Of The Champions: 2011 Breeders Crown At Woodbine

    POSTED Oct 26, 2011
    All 12 divisions meet at Woodbine on Saturday, Oct. 29 for the Breeders Crown finals, the second-straight year that all the standardbred events take place on one race program.  

    Not only are the millionaire harness horses meeting to do ultimate battle with one another, TwinSpires players will be wagering on the early Pick 4 (races 4 through 7 with a $100,000 guarantee) and late Pick 4 (races 9 through 12) having a million TwinSpires Club Points on the line in the Hit-It-And-Split-It competition for each Pick 4s.  

    More analysis can be found in the last edition of this year’s exclusive blog, Breeders Crown Countdown. On the night of the finals we will be reporting live on TwinSpires with reports via Twitter, in exclusive cooperation with the event’s handlers, the Hambletonian Society. On the site at Woodbine we have sources (horsemen) giving us up-to-the-minute news about the entries, the track condition, et al. So follow the accounts @FrankCotolo and @RayCotolo for brief tweets.  

    TwinSpires helps you truly experience the Breeders Crown finals with its special harness connections, so lock and load those accounts and get ready to fire for points and profits on Oct. 29.  

    What follows are each of our suggested contenders to win; along with three other horses in each field we call “exotic material.” These are horses you may want to use in various exotic wagers in that race.  

    Open Mare Trot

    Race 1 presents the older femme trotters, a group that hardly has enough action during the year, as do other divisions. Still, these battleaxes can fly and with the retirement of Buckeye St Pat, hands down one of the division’s best and the defending champion, this race becomes more fascinating to wager upon. We will be backing Jersey As. She is consistent, competitive and always poised to challenge. Post 8 may be the best place for her to launch an upset attack. Exotic material: 6-Action Broadway, 9-Autumn Escapade and10- Frenchfrysnvinegar.  

    Two-Year-Old Filly Trot

    Don’t look for an upset, key the 5, Win Missy B. She had a week off (did not have to race in elims) and has gotten as hot as they can get coming up to this race. She may be a short second choice but she has what it takes to take down the big favorite. Exotic material: 2-Circles, 4-Check Me Out, 7-Miss Paris. 

    Two-Year-Old Filly Pace

    Mid-season, Pirouette Hanover was poised to dominate the division. However, after losing the Champlain in early September she took a well-deserved rest. Training into this event she looks great and because she stepped back from the scene we are promised a decent price on her with her regular pilot, Ron Pierce, ready to rumble from post 3. Exotic material: 5-Economy Terror, 6-Shelliscape, 7-Big McDeal.  

    Two-Year-Old Colt Pace

    In his elim, Hurrikane Kingcole was dynamic, especially from post 9. We picked him for that affair because he was primed to get to the “Crown” and he was ready to roll on his favorite oval. Trouble ensued; he suffered interference 11 lengths behind in the stretch and closed faster than a cheap outlet store to get third at 13-1. From post 5 this week we support a mighty upset. Exotic material: 4-A Rocknroll Dance, 5-Hillbilly Hanover, 10-I Fought Dalaw.  

    Two-Year-Old Colt Trot

    From Above was scratched from the final, earning the berth by the skin of his teeth in a poor mile that indicated something was wrong after two great wins. Trainer Greg Peck took him out of the final and now we have another kind of contest. Dan Daley’s Royal Shyster jumped uncharacteristically at the start of the race and still made the final. He draws post 8 but that won’t matter if Daley gets a sharp start that doesn’t take too much out of him. He is a rank outsider, for sure, but it could be Daley’s night with his best change for a Crown win yet. Exotic material: 3-Uncle Peter, 4-Possess The Will, 6-Appomattox.  

    Open Mare Pace

    We loved the elim mile traveled by Maureen Rocks and we adore her leaving from post 1 in the final. She held second after pulling to be first over at the half, chasing the favorite with aplomb. Expect a giant mile and a more severe challenge to the obvious favorite, the winner of last week’s sole elim for this division. Exotic material: 3-Chancey Lady, 6-On The Glass, 8-Rock N Soul.  

    San Pail, the dominating older trotter in North America has to contend with two imports that have traveled far to contest this division. But we are going to go with an upset here, banking on Lucky Jim having his way from post 7, staying flat and taking advantage of what might be some nifty duels ignited by the “visitors.” As well, this may be the best price you will get in years on this stalwart trotter. Exotic material: 2-San Pail, 5-Rapide Lebel, 6-Hot Shot Blue Chip.  

    Three-Year-Old Filly Pace

    Last week in the second elim for this division we won with Rocklamation, beating the once-super filly See You At Peelers. That one finished so badly she is not here. None of this matters because 2-Drop The Ball, cannot be denied greatness. A dead-on choice, perhaps odds-on, it is her race to lose and we don’t think she will lose it. Exotic material: 3-Rocklamation, 4-Krispy Apple, 6-Monkey On My Wheel.  

    Three-Year-Old Colt Trot

    This is as simple as it was in one of last week’s elims: 5-Manofmanymissions wins if he doesn’t break stride. The only colt to beat him straight up is also here and he could do it again but only taking advantage of some other mistake that may happen. Either way, Manofmanymissions should win the divisional championship even though he blew the Hambletonian by running. Exotic material: 1-Spectator K, 2-Luckycharm Hanover, 8-Daylon Magician.  

    Three-Year-Old Filly Trot

    We will stand alone with our prime contender in this race but we have done so before to the tune of great profits so here we go again. We are staying with our elim pick, 10-Pantholops, empowered by the fact that she earned a berth considering the trouble she ensued in the elim. Granted, she has her work cut out for her in this mile but going against the grain in this situation could pay off for such courage. Exotic material: 1-Lady Andover, 4-Cedar Dove, 7-Jezzy.  

    Three-Year-Old Colt Pace

    Again, we are sticking with one of our elim choices, 8-Fashion Delight. Trainer Jim Campbell calls upon brother John to take the reins. Tim Tetrick got the colt into the final with a great late move, one more impressive due to being impeded when second over to a jumper. Though he has not lived up to potential this season after a rock-and-roll frosh campaign, he looks like he may be heading for a great older season and why not start that charge now? Exotic material: 5-Alsace Hanover, 6-Roll With Joe, 9-Big Bad John.  

    Open Pace

    All year these monstrous males have plowed and pounded their pacing abilities against one another of some of the best purses in the business. We had our share of scores in this division but suffered from some bias toward We Will See. Awkward at three, he really blossomed at four, able to take on older horses with the kind of speed that terrorizes any horse near him. We surrender, even though he lost his prep, and support him from post 1 to close the 2011 series. Look for a track and possibly four-year-old speed badge here; driver Pierce will let this guy loose. Exotic material: 2-Foiled Again, 4-Mach Dreamer, 5-Bettor Sweet.

  • Players' Pool preparation
    Step 1, pre-entries

    Pre-entries for the 2011 Breeders' Cup World Championships are finally available, and with their release comes earnest planning of how to wager on the blockbuster cards November 4-5 at Churchill Downs.

    The preface to step 1 is staying up to date on all the divisions throughout the year by watching races, reading Handicapper's Edge, etc. Doing that without overdoing it is a topic for another day, but the macro view is I try not to get too invested in a particular horse or race before the pre-entries come out because things are so fluid, but nor do I want to be completely surprised by a name or figure in the PPs either.

    Pre-entry PPs help put things in focus. I won't get to the point where I'm proposing to any horses, but I'm definitely figuring out who I like--as in like like--and hopefully some those quality relationships will grow over the next week and a half to form the base of my wagering for Breeders' Cup. Of course, sometimes you get to know a horse and realize, I'm just not that into you.

    As captain of the TwinSpires.com Players' Pool, I'm responsible for wagering $100,000 on the races. The challenge at that price point becomes not picking winners--we have the capital to use most horses in most races (a 5x5x5x5x5x5 pick six costs $31,500)--but to structure the bets to optimize the syndicate's chances of winning money. Spending $50,000 on the Ultra Pick Six on Saturday and cashing for half that amount is not exciting. The pre-entry period is great for parsing each race and figuring out where to zig when others might zag or when to single when others might spread (or vice versa).

    Using last year as an example, using Dakota Phone was unquestionably the key to a pick six that paid $800,000. Having a strong opinion on Uncle Mo and Goldikova turned the rest of the sequence into a $2 pick four. I realize that's easy to say in hindsight, but to me, the best opinion to have last year isn't necessary "Dakota Phone will win" but "Uncle Mo and Goldikova will win and the other races are more open."

    I'm not sure who the Uncle Mo or Goldikova is this year if there even is one, let alone two, but having $100,000 means you don't necessarily need a single. To me, being able to use three horses with 90% confidence of getting through a race is far more powerful than a single who's 50% to win. That single is obviously a great win bet at 3-to-2 and certainly offers value exotic wagers, too, but you're still a coin flip away from elimination.

    And that's what this period is all about. I want to identify the races that are worth having the strongest opinion on and build my tickets around those opinions.
  • Players' Pool excitement

    POSTED Oct 25, 2011
    One of the items on my job description I was most excited about when I signed on as director of marketing at Bloodstock Research Information Services was the role of captain of the TwinSpires.com Players' Pool.

    I'm a big believer in syndicate betting for two reasons: A) I think it gives all involved a better chance at hitting a big number that still includes logical horses, and B) it's a great way to introduce bettors to the super exotic wagers that produce some of racing's biggest payoffs.

    Both points speak to the original mission of the bet when brisnet.com launched account wagering's first-ever Player's Pool for the 2004 Breeders Cup. The splash was immediate when the syndicate returned better than 9-to-2 to its investors by scoring five consolation pick six tickets worth $56,149 each for a total return of $280,748 on a $44,280 investment (it missed Wilko).

    My predecessor at BRIS, Rich Nilsen, was an inaugural panelist and went on to captain several successful pools for TwinSpires. Although I have no experience betting $100,000 in a single weekend, I have pushed through my share of big wagers on behalf of other people through the years as captain of my own Big Event Syndicate that showed a 6.12% profit across12 events dating back to the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

    The goal is not to grind a profit year to year, but to have the big score.

    Obviously I'm proud of a long-term profit in this game, but year to year being close to a big score but zeroing out always seemed more fun than breaking even. I get that something is better than nothing, but I don't think anyone puts $10 into a wagering syndicate really hoping for $12 back. Being alive for a chance at a 4-to-1 score versus being alive to break even is worth the $10 to go for gusto even if you roll craps now and again.

    And so it will go with this year's Player's Pool. Or put another way, if Breeders' Cup day chalks out, then we're going to lose. We definitely want to leverage our capital to catch the logical contenders who pay $20 to win and even some of the fringe contenders who pay much more than that (Midday was Players' Pool handicapper Jude Feld's best bet last year).

    Those interested for my thought process behind how we structured $100,000 worth of tickets can check out the multiple race wagering analysis available via brisnet beginning Thursday, November 3. That file itself is $5 but is included for those who subscribed to the Ultimate Breeders' Cup Handicapping Package.
  • Speed figures discussion

    POSTED Oct 24, 2011
    As an unabashed speed handicapper, I am very excited to be participating in this evening's Night School class using speed figures to handicap horse races.

    I'm excited not only to exchange ideas with some of the top minds in figuremaking but also to share my enthusiasm with other handicappers.

    Representatives of the top publicly available figures will be in on the discussion, and my sense from the preliminary instructions regarding the chat is that the tenor of the class is more about the strength of figures in general than which figure is strongest.

    The main idea I bring to handicapping with speed figures is not to look for who will win but who can win. Horseplayers place far too much emphasis on picking winners rather than handicapping a race. There certainly is something satisfying about tabbing the winner, and sometimes zeroing in on one horse is the correct play, but few is the race that features a horse who "can't lose", and those horses are usually overbet, anyway.

    Even if you're not into handicapping using speed figures, they're an important tool to understand because so much of your competition (including me!) does use them. Getting a feel for not only the race but also how people will be the race is an important part of the handicapping process.
    Not all figures are created equally, but I do think they apply equally to all types of races. Many argue that figures don't translate well on turf, and it is because of that misconception that I actually prefer using figures for turf routes than any other configuration of race.

    The Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Stakes on October 15 at Keeneland is a perfect example considering Winter Memories--who was one of the SLOWEST fillies in the race--went off as an overwhelming favorite in the win pool and finished a distant, nonthreatening fourth. Anyone who handicapped that race using BRISnet Speed Figures wouldn't have so much as bet Winter Memories to show, let alone win the race.

    And that's the beauty of handicapping--even with something as ubiquitous as speed figures. There is still a lot of room for interpretation and different ways to think about the same information.

    Enroll in tonight's class and join in the discussion!
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 10-24-11

    POSTED Oct 23, 2011
    All right, some of you may wish to line up for rehab. However, those of us addicted to wagering on promising horses that the public rejects are not about to surrender. We are merely retreating to a certain corner of the world where we can catch our breaths and take on the next wave of races where value, luck and smarts conspire for the good of our bankroll.  

    The Breeders Crown elims on Friday, Oct. 21 and Saturday, Oct. 22, are what drives us into a space where we need to refresh our ammunition, since those two nights were deadly waves of chalk that left us winded. Below is a list of our choices, with notes about their efforts and how we see the loss.  


    Classic Conway—At 41-1 he races with no particular goal; a bad choice. The winner pays $8.

    Appomattox—Closes strongly late at 49-1, just closes too late. The winner paid $9.60.

    Personal Style—At 43-1, breaks at three-quarters before being able to mount a charge; no luck. The winner pays $2.50.

    Hurrikane Kingcole—Caught in a tangle as horses break, makes a three-wide move and finished third at 13-1; no luck. The winner pays $3.40.

    Machapelo—He is never in the thick of action; bad choice at 10-1. The winner paid $4.90.  


    Jezzy—She does her best but can only be second at 9-1. The winner pays $4.20 and the exacta with that favorite and Jezzy is a remarkable $46.

    Chapter Seven—This guy wins as the favorite? He pays $3.70. We estimated this group all wrong, thinking he would be the outsider to the two horses that finished second and third.

    Manofmanymissions—We told you if he didn’t break he would win; he didn’t break and he won, paying $3. Unfortunately our second choice, Whiskey Tax, at 16-1, finished a poor sixth.

    Pantholops—This gal is so ready to win for us at 23-1 that she becomes too excited and breaks right off the gate. She gets back on stride quickly and closes enough to make the final, finishing fifth. The winner pays $6.40.

    Maureen Rocks—At 5-1 she races a hole in the wind, unfortunately she does so on the outside most of the way and she cannot catch the favorite, who wins and pays $4.50, and completes the exacta.

    Swinging Beauty—She makes up a ton of lengths and finishes third at 13-1. The winner pays $3.60.

    Rocklamation—This gal does exactly what we think she could and wins, paying $13.80, still much less than we thought she would pay. We are not surprised that See You At Peelers tanks badly and doesn’t make the final.

    Custard The Dragon—At 10-1 we have no idea why he is unable to maintain the early lead and even when he gets cover cannot suck along and finish second. He winds up last. We expect to hear a bad health report. Meanwhile, the favorite we thought would lose, loses and the winner pays $13.90.

    Fashion Delight—He goes off a whopping 18-1 and winds up raring to charge second over but has to re-route when the colt covering him breaks stride. He fires back and manages to make the final, finishing fifth. The huge favorite is a colt we knew would be backed more than he deserved; he finished third. The winner, thanks to a safe pocket trip, pays $14.60.  

    Those last two elims were for soph-colt pacers and they testify to what we have been saying all season regardless of the criticism we have received from some industry insiders. This division is fickle and it has produced multiple winners of big events, making each event wide open for betting. We took advantage of many of those events and have won. Be assured that no Horse of the Year will surface from this group. We were right; end of discussion.  

    As for next week, it’s the Breeders Crown finals, all 12 of them, at Woodbine on Oct. 29.  

    For the last time this season, our exclusive Breeders Crown Countdown blog offers analysis, news and handicapping (results, archives at Hambletonian Society) up to the moment. We will again be reporting live on the TwinSpires blog at U.S. headquarters in league with the Hambo Society and our special staff at Woodbine in Canada. As well, follow our updates on Twitter. After the draw for the elims is complete on Tuesday, Oct. 25, check the exclusive Breeders Crown Countdown blog for the fields and comments.  

    Our Thurday blog at TwinSpires will include all of our suggested contenders for the finals. By that time we feel we will have gotten our breaths back and will be raring to defy the public for profit. As well, we’ll tell you more about the special Pick-4 Hit It And Split It feature offering a million points on Oct. 29 at Woodbine.

    Harness News

    Maryland has more harness racing again now that Rosecroft Raceway has opened. TwinSpires carries Rosecroft’s latest incarnation. The first race post time is 6:45 p.m., EST every Friday and Saturday through Dec. 17. Thursdays will be added for Dec. 8 and 15. All Superfectas will have an ultra-low, 10-cent minimum. In addition, a 50-cent minimum will be in effect for all Trifectas (all races), Daily Doubles (first two and last two races) and Pick-3 (last three races) wagers.

    From Above, fifth in his elimination for the Breeders Crown frosh-colt trot has been scratched sick from the final. This is trainer Greg Peck’s colt which we won with in two successive races before the “Crown” elim. In that elim we did not choose him, since he was bound to be an underlay. However, his performance was hideous.

    “He just wasn’t himself in the elim,” said Peck. “I said so after the race and I won’t race him if he’s not in top shelf condition. I’ve only raced him a few times this year and there’s no point in racing him if he’s not right. In fairness to the process I wanted to scratch him while there is still time for the also eligible to draw in.”

    The first also-eligible is Delano, driven and trained by Ray Schnittker. The Breeders Crown conditions read that if post positions for a race have already been drawn, the also- eligible will assume the position on the outside of the remaining starters in the front tier of the starting gate. Since From Above had drawn post 9, American Gangster, who drew post 10, will move in one position to the 9 and Delano will take post 10.
    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)

  • Derek Simon's Saturday Selections

    POSTED Oct 22, 2011

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: As I mentioned on my podcast, I love 5-NEWBIE’s pace figures and think this race hits him squarely between the eyes (yes, I know, that sounds painful, but, trust me, it's a good thing).

    BET(S): WIN on 5 at odds of 3-1 or greater.

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    COMMENTS: This race is very intriguing to me, as I think it could offer a great return. 2-ONE TUFF STORM has faltered in each of his last two starts, but both came over very wet tracks. I expect him to bounce back over a dry surface today. 5-FIRST GUESS tops my Win Factor (computerized fair odds) line, but he’s unproven over a dirt surface. 9-VICE LORD ran great last time, earning a -3 late speed ration (LSR). ALABAMA CAY is a get it or spit it type that could go a long way on the front today (should he clear One Tuff Storm).

    BET(S): WIN on 2 at odds of 8-1 or greater and/or WIN on 5 at odds of 6-1 or greater. Note — Although not an “official” bet, I would suggest that players use 7 on top in at least some of their exotic wagers… and really watch the tote board in this race. Look for value.

    Derek Simon’s Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 56 (62)
    Wins: 22
    Rate: 39.3%
    Return: $156.60
    ROI: +26.29%

    (This year's published selections through 10/21/11.)

    Note: Play is restricted to any horse(s) that meet my fair odds requirements (when listed). Multiple qualifying contenders will be bet separately, however, multiple bets will be adjusted to equal a single wager and the payoffs averaged. For example a winning WIN/PLACE wager paying $6.20 on top and $4.30 underneath would count as a single bet paying $5.25 (the average of $6.20 and $4.30).
  • Introducing the Ultimate Breeders' Cup Handicapping package!

    One of the most common lamentations surrounding the build up to the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup World Championships races is that handicappers are susceptible to information overload.

    When it comes to good handicapping information, I'm of the school of thought that too much is never enough, but the key word there is "good" because one piece of bad information can negate all the handicapping you've done with otherwise good information. Think of it as a recipe. Fresh ingredients make the best goulash, but one rotten tomato can really mess you up.

    The main ingredient to your handicapping can mess you up as much as it can help if the ingredient is bad to begin with. I'm primarily a speed figure guy, but that doen't mean I'll handicap with any set of figures any more than I'd use sour milk to bake a cake. If that were the only dairy available then I'd skip the baking altogether.

    And so it should go with other information such as workout reports, analysis of European imports, and past performance data to help you establish class.

    The people who do this on a Tuesday in February should be the same ones you trust for the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup, and that was the thought process behind putting together the brisnet.com Ultimate Breeders' Cup Handicapping Package, which features Ultimate Past Performances, historical data applied to wagering strategies, workout analysis, European form reports, and full-card analysis for both days of racing at Churchill Downs.

    This is information packaged for Breeders' Cup but done by people who do this work all year, and that's the key for me.

    In each of the past nine years I've spent the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup in the stable area watching horses prepare for the big races, and inevitably people ask me how certain horses looked, and I have no answer for them because I'm not an assessor of horseflesh. It's a tremendous talent that is equal parts innate and learned, and I have neither of those parts, so I leave that type of evaluation to those more experienced--people such as Jude Feld, who is doing that work for brisnet.com this year.

    I enjoy European racing but don't follow it nearly enough to discuss the vagaries of class among its top stars. Past performances help me gauge their speed, but their overall form requires a more attentive perspective that Alan Shuback will provide brisnet.com readers this year.

    This is not overload but news I can use. When dealing with a finite bankroll to bet contentious races that produce overlaid payoffs, the fine line decisions on whether to single, include, or toss a horse from certain segments of a bet make all the difference, and good information leads to better decision making.
  • Handicapping & BC Notes

    POSTED Oct 20, 2011
    This week’s column is somewhat like the “Maury Show” — a lot of subjects, a lot of thoughtful opinions and a lot of serious analysis… come to think of it, this week's column is nothing like the “Maury Show.”

    However, I’m confident readers will be riveted by the content — despite the fact that no paternity tests are involved.

    Let’s kick off the festivities with a discussion of the upcoming Breeders’ Cup.

    Given that the BC races traditionally bring together the best of the best, it should come as no surprise that decent recent form is nearly as important to BC success as those two hydrogen atoms in H2O are to fish.

    Since 2003, horses with a Win Factor Method (WFM) Form Rating of less than 20 percent have won just once (Midnight Lute, 2008 Sprint) in 48 attempts, as the following table illustrates:

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    Last year, there were five horses that competed in various Breeders’ Cup races with a Form Rating south of 20 percent — none of them hit the board.

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    So, what does this mean for The Factor, who figures to be among the favorites in the BC Sprint despite finishing off the board in the Ancient Title at Santa Anita on Oct. 8? Well, luckily for his fans, The Factor earned a 28.1 percent Form Rating in that affair and, thus, doesn’t belong with the sorry group above.

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    State-Bred Stakes Highlight Weekend Action

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I love state-bred stakes races and/or special days dedicated to state-bred competition, which just so happens to be the case at both Belmont Park and Hawthorne this weekend. Below is a look at some of the races:

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    To get the full (free) Win Factor Reports for these and other cards, visit:

  • Breeders Crown presents: The Eliminators

    POSTED Oct 19, 2011
    The Grand Circuit season is not over but it is all down hill after the next two weeks as the best of 12 divisions meet at Woodbine for Breeders Crown eliminations (Oct. 21 and 22nd) and finals (Oct. 29). From Indiana Downs on Saturday, Oct. 22, come four sires stakes (INSS) finals at $200,000 each. TwinSpires offers 10X points on that card, so click here for those details. We offer our suggestions for the INSS miles below. 

    Continue in the next two weeks to check out our exclusive blog, Breeders Crown Countdown because we will be collecting all the inside information and then on the two nights of elims and one for finals we will be reporting on TwinSpires live with reports via the blog and Twitter in exclusive cooperation with the event’s handlers, the Hambletonian Society. On the site at Woodbine we have sources (horsemen) giving us up-to-the-minute news about the entries, the track condition, et al.  

    There is nowhere else but TwinSpires to truly experience the Breeders Crown, so lock and load those accounts and let’s get into the thick of the races for Friday and Saturday. 

    First, here are the races that will not be part of the elim-weekend agenda. Three events go straight to finals: The two-year-old filly pace, the Open Trot and Open Pace. As of press time, the Mare Trot “is under dispute and in limbo,” according to officials.     

    The Freshmen

    Friday’s eliminations are all for two-year-olds. No freshmen are allowed to supplement, so these five races feature colts and fillies that have been eligible all season.   

    Frosh-colt trotters start it off in splits worth $25,000 (U.S.). Eight go to post and one of them is a horse we hit on two times in a row ($18 and $13) streaking at The Red Mile. It’s From Above, trainer Greg Peck’s 2012 Hambletonian hopeful. This time around he may not offer such value, though a lot of money will go to Possess The Will after his record performance in Kentucky.  

    The outside contender with a similar style as both of those but who will not be bet to the hilt is Classic Conway. The New York-bred has a good gait and may be peaking right now.  

    The other colt-trot chapter presents some shaky stuff. These are very green boys and it is difficult to predict which will hop, skip or jump, no less trot to victory. The fascinating outsider here could be Appomattox. The Frank Antonacci-trained colt is one of two maidens in this field. Yet, he has excuses for his losses and was bet the best of his career when he trotted home second to From Above two races back. He could win by default or just because he is coming up to this race ready to do better than ever. 

    The single frosh-filly trot elim is as contentious as a face for youngsters as has ever been put on a racetrack. Circles and Win Missy B are byes for the final, leaving 10 to contest eight spots in the elim. Still, what a mess of talent taking step on the track.  

    We have raised support for many of these gals over the course of the season but it is now time to find the one that can spread some black ink into our accounts. That gal, it seems, is Personal Style. Her win at 49-1 in Kentucky was a massive overlook on the part of the public. She should have been given a shot off of a vet scratch and a break during a good performance but the crowd showed no mercy. Tonight, considering the popularity of Miss Paris and Check Me Out, “Style” may again go off a long price. Richard Norman’s filly will race better than an outsider and maybe go better than the recent win.  

    Two frosh-colt pace elims line up to reach for the final in Race 4 and Race 6 to complete the Friday Crown lineup. Continued support for A Rocknroll Dance is bound to dominate the win pool as this colt tries to put his pace in his sire’s  hoof beats. But this may be the perfect time to wager against him as he comes off a sub-1:50 mile. 

    Hurrikane Kingcole has had two blistering qualifiers, one in 1:53.2 on a good Pocono-five-eighths track, as tune ups for this week and next. He will be winging and he will be worth it on the toteboard.  

    The second split, Machapelo sits in a perfect spot to use the force he showed winning a Champlain Stakes. The son of speedy Mach Three may be the best of this group if his blueblood begins to flow as he heads for a promising sophomore campaign.  

    The Sophomores

    Two elims for each of the sophomore gaits and sexes are on the agenda Saturday, Oct. 22. Filly trotters start the evening in Race 1 and it is a matter of who stays flat that makes this first mile so difficult. Which will the public trust this time?  

    We think it is time for Jezzy to show what she can do. She is certainly the most trustworthy on gait and she is bound to be overlooked enough to make her a good investment.  

    Race 2 presents the first split for the glamour-boy trotters. Two supplements, Daylon Magician and Dejarmbro, take on some familiar and unfamiliar members of the division’s regular crew. This is class warfare, with the “fresh meat” coming from cheaper affairs. Chapter Seven returned to decent form and has the style to win here over the supplements, who should share favoritism.  

    In round two for the boys, Race 3, Manofmanymissions attempts to repeat his Crown championship at three and only has to stay flat to win it. Big Rigs will try to steal it, setting up what could be an awful duel with Broad Bahn and the other class figure, Whiskey Tax, could pull a giant upset or complete the exacta with “Man.” 

    For the second filly trot we have to give a shot to Pantholops. If she stays flat she could take off as she did when we had her at the Meadows at 16-1. She is the sharp outsider and classiest of the bunch. 

    Race 7 is the first mile for filly pacers. We have to love Swinging Beauty for the probable overlay she will be. Her style is perfect for Woodbine and she could pace down Drop The Ball as Strike An Attitude did in the last battle of these babes.  

    Race 9 marks the return of See You At Peelers, the sentimental favorite and one-time queen of this division. If her heart is better she will race well but only well enough to make the final, we think. We’re sticking with Rocklamation, who was tough in the Jugette and has the reserved style to do well in Woodbine’s sinking stretch, which leaves a lot of speed short. 

    The glamour-boy pacers cap the night with Race 10 and Race 11. The Teague team has been hot and Custard The Dragon breathed fire in a qualifier at Pocono to ready for this fray. He always wins when the odds are against him and this could be a big mile for him at juicy odds. 

    Finally, Fashion Delight has been primed and preened for this event and may give everything he has to at least win this elim and do so at strong odds against the crowd-pleasing favorites who have lacked being the threats that their odds have portrayed. 

    Indiana Sires Stakes

    Action in the Midwest, where TwinSpires offers 10X points on the Indiana Downs card this Saturday night, begins with a frosh-filly trotter INSS final. Under the radar here, My Sweet Sheila could upset the obvious favorites for driver/trainer Robert Taylor.  

    The two-year-old colt trot champ may very well turn out to be the weirdly named Velten San Siro. He has collected many big checks in only nine outs.  

    Free Girl is in a good spot to charge home first in the frosh-filly pace final. Her sire, LCB (named after the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) was solid in the East when racing and turning into a productive sire in the Midwest. 

    Fritz Bow has won half of his first campaign’s races and was close most the others. For only eight starts he may just be starting to wake up enough to win the frosh-colt pace final.
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 10-17-11

    POSTED Oct 16, 2011
    The Simpson Stakes at Vernon this past weekend did not offer many eligibles for next week’s Breeders Crown. The few freshmen racing had their connections looking for last-minute credentials to justify dropping their horses into the box. There is no supplementing for the two-year-old events.  

    On Friday, we approached the four stakes, two for filly trotters and two for colt trotters, with only three possible plays (we suggested a pass on the colt trot with Royal Shyster as the favorite; he lost anyway). Our first play for the fillies, Lady Crown, went off high enough to bet but was not a factor. Our longshot, 11-1 Getinonthesecret, was beaten by a 30-1 shot. We got third. 

    The success was with Classic Conway in the first colt event. We encouraged a wager at 9-5, feeling this colt had the big edge on the field. We were rewarded by having the betting public feel differently, sending “Conway” off at a hard 3-1. His victory rewarded us with a win mutuel of $8.60.  

    This is why we continually look to support contenders that the public won’t favor, those that offer a lot more than we estimate. Conway was a definitive overlay, personally valued at 9-5 and going off a good-deal higher than 50-percent more than that.  

    Saturday’s Simpsons were not so kind. Where we estimated a strong overlay situation with Blackjack Princess, we got just the opposite, an underlay. She won and paid a mere $2.70. Both of our colt suggestions, Blueridge Dancer (a bet at 9-2) and Steelhead Hanover a bet at (9-2) finished third.  

    This week, with a $2-base bet gauge, the total invested in our suggested contenders was $10 and the return was $8.60, resulting in a mild loss.   

    Speaking of an underlay, our Cal-Expo Pick-4 ticket produced a winner in My Tryin Ryan. We speculated he would go off at relatively strong odds in the third leg. We singled him, he won and paid only $3.80. The first two legs resulted in seconds and the last leg was unproductive. We go after them again next week. 

    As for next week, it’s Breeders Crown time at Woodbine.  

    Our exclusive Breeders Crown Countdown blog will offer analysis, news and handicapping (results, archives at Hambletonian Society) for the elimination rounds on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22. We will be reporting live on the TwinSpires blog at U.S. headquarters in league with the Hambo Society and our special staff at Woodbine in Canada. As well, follow us on Twitter for all the insider updates from sources we have planted at the scene. After the draw for the elims on Tuesday, Oct. 18, check the exclusive Breeders Crown Countdown blog for the fields and for comments.

    Harness News

    After a successful qualifier, See You At Peelers could be racing again soon. However, trainer Jimmy Takter said next week’s Breeders Crown elims may not be the venue.
    “Probably not,” Takter said about entering the filly in the soph-filly pace elims. “It’s very optimistic to go up there and maybe not fair to her to do that eight days from [the qualifier]. It’s something I really have to think about.”
    “Peelers” could, instead, according to Takter, race in an overnight and then go to Yonkers for the Messenger against the boys or go in the filly-equivalent event, the Lady Maud in early November.
    Western Fair is offering harness again, beginning its 51st season on Oct. 14. The schedule for this meet is four days a week, Mondays and Tuesdays with a 3:35 p.m. post time and Fridays and Saturdays which have a 7:05 p.m. start.
    Those Gerald Longo horses at Colonial Downs are still cooking. One we gave you, Free Parking Behind, was the second half of a $131 exacta last Thursday, paying over $32 to place.
    Two new series to several high-profile events highlight Meadowlands Racetrack’s 2012 winter late-closing program, according to Amy Silver of the track publicity department. The Charles Singer Memorial and Syrinx Hanover for three-year-old trotters that are non-winners of two pari-mutuel races or $30,000 lifetime will join the winter schedule. The Super Bowl for four-year-olds and Horse & Groom for non-winners of four will also provide earnings opportunities for conditioned trotters.
    The marquee events for older pacers, the Presidential, Cape & Cutter, Overbid, Aquarius and Four Leaf Clover, will return in 2012. Conditioned pacing events also include the Complex (five-year-olds and under), the Clyde Hirt and Exit 16W (four-year-olds) and the Junior Trendsetter (three-year-olds). For fillies and mares, the schedule includes the White Ruffles (four-year-olds), Night Styles (four and under) and Tender Loving Care (three-year-olds).

    (Exclusive cartoon by Thom Pye)  
  • Derek Simon's Weekend Wagers

    POSTED Oct 14, 2011

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    COMMENTS: Obviously, FRANKEL, who enters this contest with the fourth-greatest Timeform rating in history, is the one to beat. However, the son of Galileo is likely to be the fourth-greatest underlay in history as well; hence, I'll look elsewhere. The filly IMMORTAL VERSE is one option. She just defeated the great Goldikova, but has been away from the races for over two months. The rapidly improving EXCELEBRATION is another possibility, as is veteran DICK TURPIN.

    BET(S): WIN/PLACE on 8 at odds of 9-2 or greater and/or WIN/PLACE on 2 at odds of 12-1 or greater and/or WIN/PLACE on 6 at odds of 5-1 or greater.

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    COMMENTS: As I discussed on my podcast, WINTER MEMORIES, like Frankel, figures to be a big underlay on Saturday, so I'm leaning toward a couple of others. Although she's 0-for-7 in 2011, TOGETHER has been knocking heads against the best the U.S. and Europe has to offer, while MARKETING MIX is an up-and-comer that figures to get first run on SUMMER SOIREE.

    BET(S): WIN on 2 at odds of 7-2 or greater and/or WIN on 4 at odds of 6-1 or greater. SHOW on 2 & 4 if 3-WINTER MEMORIES controls over 75% of the show pool.