• Super Favorites

    POSTED Jan 26, 2012
    For the last couple of weeks, I’ve revisited and revamped the work of one of my early handicapping heroes, William L. Scott. And the results have been… well, awful. However, that should not lead one to conclude that Scott’s work is useless or that reexamining it is a complete waste of time.

    In today’s column, I will show you how the application of one of Scott’s basic tenants coupled with my pace figures — or any pace figures, really — can produce great betting profits. But, first, some background...
    In the winter of 1996, I quit my job as a bank teller to become a professional gambler. I had $674 to my name, rent to pay and a baby on the way… OK, OK, I’m kidding about the baby, but you get the picture. On the surface, things looked bleak. Yet, I’d never been happier in my life, because, for the first time, I had decided to pursue a career I was passionate about.

    And for three glorious weeks I beat the game like the Patriots beat my beloved Broncos a couple of weeks ago. By restricting my wagering to horses with superior relative turn times that were going to post at odds of less than 3-1 (a concept I stole from Scott), I turned Gulfstream Park into my own personal ATM machine.

    After cashing on a horse named Fuzzy Risque (for the second time) in the third race on February 22, 1996, my record at the Hallandale, Florida track stood at 15 winners from 20 races, an astounding 75 percent success rate.
    I won’t bore you with the details of my professional gambling demise — suffice it to say it involved a lost wagering voucher and an unplanned expense — what's important is what I learned from the experience. For example: How pace figures can be used to identify strong and/or phony favorites.

    To demonstrate this, let’s take a look at the Breeders’ Cup.

    Of course, when most people reflect on the BC races, they think of the full fields and massive longshots that seem to dominate the two-day event. Yet, overall, betting favorites have performed OK (one of the great strengths of using final odds as a wagering criterion is the consistency they provide).

    Since 2007, Breeders’ Cup betting favorites have produced the following results:

    Number: 65
    Won (rate): 18 (27.7%)
    Return: $106.60
    ROI: -18.00%

    Minus the foreign favorites, for which pace figures are unavailable, the numbers stand at:

    Number: 43
    Won (rate): 13 (30.2%)
    Return: $81.00
    ROI: -5.81%

    Now, look at what happens when we insist that a horse’s last-race late speed ration (LSR) is greater than its last-race early speed ration (ESR):

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Obviously, the number of betting opportunities is reduced significantly, but notice that every category — win, place, show — produced a positive ROI. Notice too that the higher slopes (indicating a greater degree of late as opposed to early energy expenditure) performed best of all.

    We can use these energy slopes to ferret out false favorites as well.

    Below is a summary of all the BC favorites since 2007 that posted a negative last-race LSR and a last-race slope of -80 degrees or worse:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    What all this tells us, of course, is how important a horse’s finishing kick in its last race can be, particularly if the horse is getting bet on the basis of its most recent effort (which is often the case in high-class events).

    It’s one of the reasons I always harp on horses that won impressively, but recorded poor pace figures in the process, e.g. Turbulent Descent in her final BC prep, the Test Stakes. That Grade I affair at Saratoga earned the three-year-old filly a -3 ESR and -13 LSR.

    Turbulent Descent was off the board as the 7-5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint 90 days later (the layoff probably didn’t help either).

    Below are some interesting (potential) favorites to watch tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 27, 2012):

    Gulfstream Park (race 4)

    BOYS AT TOSCONOVA (6/5 on the morning line) earned a -10 ESR and -9 LSR in his latest start, a win versus optional claiming company. Although the “energy slope” in that race was just 42 degrees, it’s considerably better than the minus 72-degree slope his main rival, the filly GROUPIE DOLL (2/1), earned last time.

    Oaklawn Park (race 7)

    Despite the fact that she is 7-5 on the morning line, AMAZING SAINT looks vulnerable in this spot in light of the negative 81-degree energy slope she recorded in her last race at Delta Downs.

    Turfway Park (race 5)

    I’m a bit concerned that OPERATIVE ASSETS recorded such a huge ESR (-16) in his last race, but he did finish OK and is a threat here with a similar trip.

    Note: For an explanation of my pace figures, check out this video I made.

    Weekend Handicapping Reports

    In addition to various other reports I will be posting soon, I have prepared a special Win Factor Report for Friday’s mandatory races in the $1.5 million DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship.


    NHC XIII Mandatory Races (01/27/12)

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