• In Like Lions

    POSTED Feb 29, 2012
    Here comes March and no matter the weather, the standardbred beasts of 2012 thus far are roaring. It’s another weekend focusing on the Meadowlands and Woodbine harness and this time around the highlight for us is in New Jersey with the debut of some three-year-old colt trotters, bringing us the first signs of Hambletonian divisional activity in 2012.  

    Also, leg one of the Overbid for three-and-up fillies and mares brings back champion Put On A Show. In Canada, the Damsel continues for mares and the Cam Fella series ensues for males. 

    Saturday Woodbine followers playing on TwinSpires are once again eligible for bonus betting, collecting TSC Elite points to the tune of 10X with winning $10 tickets.   

    At Cal-Expo the exclusive TwinSpires-Cal-Expo no-takeout Pick 4 moves to the Friday night program, so we will be eyeing that exotic for March 2.   

    And more horses to watch are revealed from our personal (H2W) list.   

    ‘Singer,’ Not The Song

    Ten glamour-boy trotters enter the ring at the Meadowlands for the $44,500 Charles Singer Memorial, a conditioned event that in the past was contested on the Freehold half-mile.  

    Not Afraid stands alone in this field where there is an entry of three and another entry of two. This Jimmy Takter-conditioned gelding is a son of SJ’s Caviar, certainly a star for producing top soph-colt progeny. The “Singer” elim winners are all here but Not Afraid could be the one on the improve, which is nothing to take lightly early in the season. His morning line is 6-1, a bargain for a Takter trainee. 

    Classy Gals

    The first leg of the Overbid Series for FFA mare pacers is a lineup that matches the Breeders Crown field at Woodbine last year. Friday at the Meadowlands for $40,000, 11 are set to line up, with a quartet from the Ron Burke barn, a pair from P.J. Fraley and Chris Ryder’s Put On A Show. 

    This is a fine exhibition race, that is, you should probably watch this and take the best notes you can take for future races. It is impossible to predict trips here, no less how well Put On A Show comes back at five. Be aware that Anndrovette is also returning in this race after a championship season. And there are cases for others to win, also, including Rocklamation, who is known for picking up late ground after speed duels, Chancey Lady, who is know for upsetting the same kind of bunch on occasion, as well as Ginger And Fred, always a threat at this level. Indeed, this race may tell a tale that will help future profits and you may as well learn for free. 

    Meanwhile, Friday, March 2 at Woodbine delivers more classy gals in leg two of the Damsel pacing series, with only two divisions this week.  

    In the first mile, Jolting Kate gets the rail off of a tremendous mile last week. She is bound to be in the picture but probably not at a fair price. DGs Tinkerbell may be overlooked this week, in lieu of “Kate,” and as a second choice in the betting may be worth another look, especially with Oceans Motion in the 10 hole, where she will still get a lot of action. 

    The second split is the weaker of the two, leaving a chance for a minor strike with Mach Dismissal. The odds should be well spread out here, with some bettors backing flyers. Mach Dismissal, even as a favorite should offer near $10.  

    ‘Cam’ Jammers

    The Cam Fella, leg 2, goes with a pair of divisions on Saturday, March 3. With Itrustyou’s streak broken last week, many handicappers may be suspicious of him in the first division. Watch the toteboard. If there is a major straying of support, Itrustyou should be backed to race well. In the event he is wagered strongly, give a nod to Lizard King again.  

    In split two we have to go with Audreys Dream again but only if the fans lay off of her. Dangerous here will be Mach Wheel, who has every reason to improve on his obvious speed.  

    Again this Saturday, Woodbine players at TwinSpires get 10X TSC Elite Points for cashing $10-win tickets.   

    Meanwhile, at the Meadowlands on Saturday, the first leg of the Four Leaf Clover gets underway. The single mile has a field of 10 and Master Of Desire comes into it with sterling credentials for trainer Mark Ford. You can be the judge of value for wagering but it seems that he could be tons the best here. 

    All Along The Watchtower

    We open up our books for our Watch List (H2W) at Balmoral Park. At press time they have not drawn for Saturday and Sunday, so we will just name the horses that may appear in those cards and ask you peruse the programs for them. 

    Balmoral Park
    Bent Spoon
    Bravie Dex
    JCs Lucky Dreamer
    Made To Be
    Ogs Marie D
    Smiling Bob
    Sue From Peru
    Tuffery N
    White River Best  

    Cal Exotic

    The March 2 no-takeout Pick 4 at Cal-Expo debuts on the Friday program but still offers one of the finest exotic-wager values anywhere. This particular combination of races does not leave a lot of room for speculation or a large price but here is our evaluation.

    Leg 1
    (6) Attitude Rules won wire to wire and has little excuse not to repeat in this lazy field.

    Leg 2
    (2) Devilish Donnie stormed out early and got into a duel while leading. With some saved ground he could be right there at the finish, first. (8) Heelwin was second racing very well and will be competitive from the outside. 

    Leg 3
    (3) King Carver raced a monster mile, winning big. It’s hard to think he will bounce but if he does it may very well be Whendreamscometrue that takes advantage of it. This one was a great second last week.

    Leg 4
    (1) Fork In The Road should have won last week and will seek a strong revenge for only getting the show.
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review

    POSTED Feb 26, 2012
    Saturday night was great for my Twitter followers as we tweeted choice contenders at Woodbine. Most of the horses were alive and that should have been great for those reaching for the bonus TSC Elite points. Although the blog choices in the Cam Fella both finished up the track, the rest of the card was plentiful for win bettors, along with two juicy place finishers.

    We had four winners: Wild Dragon, $16.90; Upfront Hoosierboy, $14.90; Selfish Princess, $11.70; and Ive Got It All, $6.30.

    Placing were Ramegame Bruiser and Lookinforafight. Incredable Frank finished third and the other five were off the board.

    At Woodbine on Friday we did well in the Damsel Series, though two of the three pacing mares wound up being favorites. Jolting Kate won the first round, paying $4.30.

    Oceans Motion took the nightcap, paying $5.40. Plus, we gave you the exactor combo there with Ole Miss second; that paid $13.50.

    The middle mile in the Damsel first-leg trio was won by the favorite and our gal, Rock For Glory, at 12-1, was second. If you used her with the public choice you collected a cool exactor worth $71. Our triactor hopes went south when Shine N Shimmer broke and was eliminated, while our other hope for the top three, DGs Tinkerbell, finished third.

    On Friday, Ray Cotolo’s tweets offered an $11 winner with Glam Cam, with the exacta chosen cold for $45.80, featuring Orphan Annie. Sunday, Ray tweeted winners from Fraser and Flamboro. From the former he won with Thrill My Gorilla ($15.90), Cody Cobraski ($11.40) and Pretty Promised ($17.80); from the latter he struck with LM Elika ($15.90) and Rosslyn Hall ($15.40).

    You can follow Ray’s choices at Twitter and watch for Pick-4 winners (spot plays) at Racing Inquirer. Also on Twiiter, you will find particular action not mentioned in my weekly harness-review blog @FrankCotolo. 

    The horses-to-watch list (H2W) was hot for one race at Lebanon on Saturday. In Race 2 we had three going. They finished as the top three. Jacksbrotherjoe won, paying $6.60; Life With The Duke was second, completing a $23.60 exacta; and Special Weefold was third, completing a $58.60 trifecta.

    At Buffalo, if you followed Redford Hall after a third and a second and took him on Feb. 25, you got a $20.20 win mutuel. Earlier in the card, Allamerican Improv returned from a win and a loss to win again, paying $15. Twotowin won his second time, paying $14.80. Rick’s Jackpot won second week after being on the H2W but only paid $3.50.

    From Cal Expo, the list found us with a repeat winner, Sun On The Rocks, paying $13.80, more than the win price he presented in our Pick 4 last week. Replays on winners from the H2W are encouraged as much as following a horse as many as three times in the win spot.

    At Cal Expo, the no-takeout Pick 4 paid over $1,000 but not for us. Two favorites with an 11-1 shot and a 9-2 shot toppled the grand mark. We had a scratch in the first leg and the other horse finished third. In the second leg we finished sixth and our other horse broke. In the third leg we were fifth and sixth and our last-leg single was second.

    On the H2W from this week’s group are High Maintenance, Dawnlikeslillies, KD Rowdy One, Ailene’s Prince, Roger J, Sterling Chris and Wicked Beach. Watch for them in races other than those that make up the no-takeou Pick 4.

    Harness News
    Put On A Show, with a new driver aboard, was the fastest of the qualifying winners at the Meadowlands recently. Also returning for the season to qualify were Social Network, Anndrovette and Rocklamation. For the second week Anndrovette and Put On A Show won their respective qualifiers.

    Tim Tetrick guided Put On A Show and Anndrovette last week and stayed with Anndrovette week two.
    Put On A Show’s trainer Chris Ryder, who told us last November about “Show” returning (TwinSpires harness blog had the story first) had Brian Sears on Show for the second qualifier. The pair went gate to wire and held off a game Chancey Lady in 1:52.2, the fastest qualifier of the day.

    A winner of $1.9 million in her career, Show missed the entire 2011 season due to surgery to remove a chip from her knee. 

    Anndrovette pulled Tim Tetrick to a 1:54 victory. 

    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)
  • Sweet fantasy

    POSTED Feb 24, 2012
    Most would say that racing has failed to capitalize on the fantasy craze as well as other major sporting events, but that would be to ignore the idea that horse racing is the original fantasy game since cheering on Tom Brady for fantasy points is similar to cheering home a winner to cash a ticket.

    Other sports also have a clearly defined season with (mostly) balanced schedules that makes calibrating the worth of players against each other and the rules of the game a lot easier than in racing where number of starts and type of race (e.g. Grade 1, Grade 2, etc.) are variable for each horse from start to start.

    Still, if American Thoroughbred racing has any season, it's the Triple Crown and the road to the Kentucky Derby. In this way, playing a fantasy game related to those pursuits is a hybrid of March Madness bracketology and fantasy sports. The end goal is unquestionably to win the Kentucky Derby and other classic races, but there are different ways to get there, and those different paths are each worth a different amount of points.

    How to make sense of all those horses? Luckily there's help. The first place to start is with FREE Ultimate Past Performances for all Triple Crown nominees. The file is updated each week. For those looking for more in-depth of analysis of (likely) classic contenders, the Triple Crown Preview from Blood Horse is the type of product fantasy players are used to seeing from sports periodicals priming players for the upcoming season. It includes analysis of 40 Derby aspirants along with historical data and commentary.

    Once you have your teams set, you'll want to keep track of when your team competes. Brisnet.com Stable Alert allows you not only to track horses but also trainers. Load up your stable and enjoy! For a great summary of the weekend action, subscribe to Hello Race Fans Derby Prep Alert, which includes previews of the weekend's big stakes action along with free Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances.

    As with any fantasy game, it's important to know how to score points. In contests that put a premium on winning the Derby, I find it's more useful to take a horse you think has any chance of being in the gate for the big race than what might appear to be low hanging fruit with a sprinter type like Thunder Moccasin who could score some points in a race like the Swale but won't get you anything in May-June.

    For the Road to the Roses contest, which begins scoring with the Risen Star Stakes, there's a slight premium placed on the Kentucky Derby, but as a percentage of overall points isn't a huge pull.

    My strategy with a league of Road to the Roses' magnitude--in which many will play and all horses/trainers/jockeys are available to everyone--is you have to find that balance between not missing out on obvious points while still zigzagging in the right direction. For instance, I took Baffert because of sheer number power and how effective he is at managing those numbers to win races coast to coast. It's not particularly clever--everyone will have him--but that's just not the spot where I wanted to take a stand.

    The the chance to enter three stables, Road to the Roses allows a bit of juggling. I took Mike Harrington as my trainer in one of the stables and Matz in another. Harrington has two strong bullets while Matz has the overall fastest horse (assuming Union Rags hasn't lost anything from 2-3).

    Either way, my core horses who appear in all three stables--Creative Cause, El Padrino, Empire Way, I'll Have Another, Out of Bounds, and Union Rags--will have to do well for me to do well.

    Good luck to all playing!

  • The Favorite-Longshot Bias

    POSTED Feb 23, 2012
    Ask a roomful of value bettors the key to success at the racetrack and you’re likely to hear the term “contrarian” bandied about like the word “sucks” at the screening of a Michael Bay film. In other words, to make money at the track, one must be willing to go against the crowd from time to time — zig when others zag and ying when others yang.

    Sometimes this entails doing things that seem counterintuitive.

    Take, for example, betting to place. While most “pros” scoff at the mere notion of it, those that do espouse place wagering generally only do so if the horse in question is going to post at a decent price. No less an authority than Tom Ainslie advocated just such an approach in his “Encyclopedia of Thoroughbred Handicapping.”

    “In fields of seven or more horses, betting to place is acceptable when the selection is 7-2 or greater and the favorite figures to be out of the money,” Ainslie wrote.

    “In a field of six, betting to place is acceptable when the selection is 3-1 or greater and the favorite figures to be out of the money; in a field of five, betting to place is acceptable when the selection is 7-2 or greater and the favorite figures to be out of the money,” the father of modern-day handicapping opined.

    Of course, Ainslie’s rules make sense if one is concentrating solely on returns, rather than ROI. In a great chapter of “Betting Thoroughbreds” entitled LaPrevoyante to Win, My Wife to Place, Steve Davidowitz reached a similar conclusion after a modest win bet on Princess Doubleday turned sour in the 1972 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga.

    Despite his wife’s suggestion that he bet Princess Doubleday to place in the event, Davidowitz and buddy Andy Beyer (yes, that Andy Beyer) stuck to their guns and backed the 40-1 Princess Doubleday primarily to win.

    Naturally, the heavily-favored LaPrevoyante won the Spinaway, while Princess Doubleday ran second, paying a juicy $15.20.

    “We’re both idiots,” Davidowitz screamed at Beyer when the reality of their “blunder” hit home 15 minutes later. “Suppose we had been told LaPrevoyante was a late scratch and wouldn’t be in the Spinaway. What price would we then have made Princess Doubleday to beat the rest of that weak field? Even money? Seven to five? Well, by ignoring the place pool, by being so longshot conscious, we just passed up the sweetest 6-1 prime bet of the year.”

    Well, yes and no.

    Davidowitz’s logic is undeniably sound — as is Ainslie’s in seeking races with a vulnerable favorite. Given that both the first- and second-place finisher affect the payoffs, it makes sense to eliminate what is (theoretically at least) the lowest price on the board when betting to place.

    But both of these handicapping luminaries ignored the most basic element of the game when they took the positions they did — mainly, that one must always strive to be on the right side of the percentages if one is to achieve long-term success at the racetrack.

    And the right side of the place-betting equation is betting favorites and other lower-priced animals in the middle, not longshots.

    This is due to what many scholars have called the “longshot-favorite bias.” Essentially, this theory states that the American (and studies have shown that the phenomenon is, in fact, most prevalent in the States) wagering public, as a whole, tends to overbet longshots and underbet favorites, especially in the place and show pools.

    In a 2006 piece that appeared in the Southern Economic Journal, authors Dr. Marshall Gramm and Douglas H. Owens documented this phenomenon.

    Gramm and Owens found that “34.7 percent of all win bets are on the race favorites, while only 30.7 percent of the place bets and 29.6 percent of the show bets are on race favorites.” By way of contrast, “the least favorite horses receive 1.9 percent of all money bet in the win pool, but 2.3 percent of the place pool and 3.1 percent of the show pool,” Gramm and Douglas pointed out.

    Obviously, if the pools were efficient, a horse’s place and show pool percentages would mirror its win pool percentage, the “Silky Sullivan” problem notwithstanding. (The Silky Sullivan problem, named for the come-from-the-clouds closer who won the 1958 Santa Anita Derby, relates to horses that typically either win or finish out of the money).

    In the mid-1980s, two scholarly gentlemen — William T. Ziemba and Donald Hausch — attempted to prove that these pool inefficiencies could be exploited for pari-mutuel gain in “Beat the Racetrack,” one of the first and only books on horserace betting that had nothing to do with handicapping.

    Through the application of simple formulas, the “Dr. Z system,” as it came to be known, showed readers how to find overlays in the place and show pools. The system was (and still is) mathematically sound — and it worked… on paper.

    Unfortunately, as I have noted on numerous occasions in the past, overlay betting that relies on small edges is nearly impossible in a pari-mutuel system — for the simple reason that the final odds aren’t known until after the betting stops. According to Gramm and Owens, “only 57 percent of the final pool totals are viewable on the tote board when betting on a race ends.”

    Even worse, this late money, more often than not, erases the more obvious pool discrepancies.

    Take, for example, the third race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20, 2012. With a minute to post, this is what the pool percentages looked like:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    At zero minutes to post, just as the last few horses were being loaded into the gate, the totals looked like this:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    And, lastly, the final numbers looked like this:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    While there are still some discrepancies — most notably on the number six horse to show — they are noticeably less pronounced than they were a minute before post time.

    Gramm found this out the hard way.

    In a fascinating experiment, the Rhodes College professor of economics applied the Dr. Z method to 203 races at 34 tracks from February to April of 2003 — in real time.

    I’ll let the good doctor reveal his results:
    Overall, 319 $2 bets were made on 203 races. There were 113 place wagers and 206 show wagers and the net result was a $91.80 loss (-12.8 percent). While these bets looked attractive when made, the late money often lowered their expected return below [what was deemed profitable].

    A $45.70 profit (7.2 percent) would have been made had we received the payouts based upon pool totals when the wager was made. Only 90 of the original 319 wagers meet the criterion both at the time of wager and in the final total. These bets returned $9.30 or 5.2 percent. Using final pool totals, 134 wagers (43 place and 91 show) meet the criteria and [returned] $31.40 or 11.8 percent. The data from the arbitrage experiment exhibited the same favorite-longshot bias found in previous studies when final pool totals are examined. Thus, it is likely that the negative returns were not an aberration.
    So, what does all this mean to a value bettor?

    Really it just reinforces the notion that there are no easy edges out there… yet, one must still be aware of the mathematics. Betting longshots to place, as a general rule, didn’t make sense 30 years ago and it doesn’t make sense today.

    In the example of the 1972 Spinaway Stakes (referenced above), what Davidowitz glossed over is the fact that LaPrevoyante, the winner of the race, paid more to place ($3.00) than she did to win ($2.80) — making her the true (mathematical) overlay in the event.

    Remember, even if you are a great handicapper, it pays to heed the words of legendary gambler “Pittsburg Phil,” who said: “You cannot be a successful horse player if you are going to get the worst of the price all the time.”

    That’s true even in cases when it costs you $15.20.

    Dr. Marshall Gramm on TwinSpires Radio

    Be sure to catch this week’s TwinSpires podcast on Blogtalk Radio, as Dr. Marshall Gramm, co-author of Inefficiencies in Parimutuel Betting Markets Across Wagering Pools in the Simulcast Era (have you ever noticed that academic pieces always have such succinct titles?) joins me on the program. We’ll discuss his test of Dr. Z’s system and other racing-related things he’s doing.

    Click HERE to access the show page.

    The Preps Continue…

    It’s another great weekend for Kentucky Derby preps, as the Risen Star is scheduled to take place at Fair Grounds on Saturday, while the Fountain of Youth is slated for Sunday at Gulfstream Park. Below is a look at the preps run so far from a speed and pace figure perspective:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Weekend Win Factor Plays

    Thursday (2/23/12)

    OP1: WIN on 3-Oops And A Half (7/2 morning line odds). 3rd.

    Friday (2/24/12)

    GG6: WIN on 2-Excelling (2/1 morning line odds). 2nd.

    Sunday (2/24/12)

    GP1: WIN on 6-Don't Put It Back at odds of 4-1 or greater. Did not qualify.
    GP3: SHOW on 5-Canaima (if 70% or more of the show pool is controlled by #8). $5.00.

    GP11: From a speed and pace figure perspective, the Fountain of Youth comes down to a couple of horses — DISCREET DANCER, the likely pacesetter, and UNION RAGS, last year’s BC Juvenile runner-up. Hence, for me, it all boils down to price when it comes to betting the Grade II feature. I’m also going to look for value in the exotics with FORT LOUDON, who has shown some ability in the past and may have benefited from a tour around the Gulfstream Park oval in the Holy Bull on Jan. 12. BET(S): WIN on 5 at odds of 5-2 or greater. Did not qualify.

    OP2: BANDINI’S DREAM is a top turn-time contender that dons blinkers for the first time. He’s no Secretariat, but he looks best at a decent price. Despite a tendency to fade, HARLEY MAN scares me in this spot. I think he’s improving and Oaklawn Park is very kind to early speedsters. SHARP ALBERT is a first-time starter with good connections. BET(S): WIN/PLACE on 2. Out.

    OP9: SUNNY STEIN gets a much-needed jockey change following two crazy-fast early efforts in routes (a -23 ESR and -25 ESR on Feb. 10 and Jan. 29 respectively). She’ll be tough on the lead or rating just off the pace. BET(S): WIN on 1.

    PRX9: Not much form to go on; however, KEITH’S ROSE appears to be improving and recorded a very competitive turn-time in her latest. BET(S): WIN/PLACE on 6.
    $4.00 (average).

    Click HERE for more free handicapping reports and selections.
  • FREE Ultimate Past Performances

    In case you haven't heard, Ultimate Past Performances is FREE through February 29 (the promotion applies to the date the track is running, not when you buy).

    Of course, this type of promotion is just every day living for TwinSpires.com players, who receive free Brisnet.com past performances for the tracks on which they wager.

    I have been using Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances since January 1998 when a similar free promotion got me to sign up. As someone used to using the Equibase-style program on track, there was a bit of culture-shock-information-overload the first few times I interacted with the Ultimate PPs, which feature speed ratings, pace figures, race and class ratings, Prime Power, pedigree information, and detailed jockey and trainer statistics--all elements other past performance products have added through the years because of the popularity of Brisnet.com's products.

    For a quick tutorial on using Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances, click here. The most important thing to remember is that just because all that information is available does not necessarily mean you need to interact with all that information each race.

    When looking at a six-furlong race for bottom-level lifetime claimers on the New York circuit, for instance, the pedigree information is unlikely to be very helpful. Similarly, when evaluating a second-time starter who had trouble throughout his entire debut trip, you're better off using trainer-jockey stats and pedigree info than you are figures related to that horse's troubled performance.

    The key is that all that information is available each race, and the more you interact with it the more adept you will become at handicapping efficiently.

    NHC Tour winner Paul Shurman has a great approach when using Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances to complement the other information he uses.

    "I do use a lot of different products, especially for tournaments," said Shurman, who also finished sixth in the National Handicapping Championship. "What I rely on most from Ultimate Past Performances are the track bias stats and the pedigree stats, especially the dam production index when applicable. I have a template made up for tournaments; it's sort of like a checklist for every race, so I have all the information from all my different sources right in front of me, and I don't forget to consider something.

    "The first thing I do when I start handicapping is to make notes for every race in the contest on track bias from the Ultimate Performances. Then I go through pedigree information and mark down anything of significance."

    On balance, my favorite "exclusive" of the Ultimate Past Performances is the class rating, which measures a horse's performance against every other horse's performance not only in that race but also how those horses have performed in future races. I'm a speed figure devotee, but I have found that while speed figures are the best predictor of current form, the class ratings deliver an explosive assessment of relative talent. Entries with a class rating even two points lower than the median for a race are typical underlays, and 3+ points renders them a complete nonfactor.

    Enjoy the promotion!
  • Older Pacers Parade At Woodbine

    POSTED Feb 22, 2012
    The big action this weekend is in Canada, as Woodbine harness presents four-and-five-year-old pacers of both sexes in leg 1 of two major series. For the mares, there is the Damsel, with a trio of miles on Friday, Feb. 24. For the males there is a double-header of divisions for leg 1 of the Cam Fella. 

    Saturday Woodbine followers playing on TwinSpires are once again eligible for bonus betting, collecting TSC Elite points to the tune of 10X with winning $10 tickets.   

    At Cal-Expo there is more action in the last few races of the Saturday card with the exclusive TwinSpires-Cal-Expo no-takeout Pick 4.  

    And more horses to watch are revealed from our personal (H2W) list.   

    Delightful Damsels

    Friday, Feb. 24 delivers a great group in the Damsel pacing series opener.  

    In leg 1 for the mare pacers, nine tough gals, some of them in their first seasons racing as elders, go for $30,000 (as does each division). It is difficult to look beyond the morning-line favorite in this mile, as Jolting Kate takes that status even though she finished third at 17-1 last week. Perhaps the crowd will give Three Charms and Honey Do Jigtime enough play to keep “Kate” at a decent price.   

    In round two, Zeron once again gets our call with Rock For Glory. She won wire to wire last week and did it easily. With DGs Tinkerbell on the outside, we like Shine N Shimmer to be in the top two. We liked her last week and will excuse her for the loss, taking her here. That trio could make up the triactor.  

    The Damsel nightcap presents Oceans Motion, direct from the Meadowlands. She has been racing swiftly and with dead aim at better than this group and could topple the choice, which will probably be Ole Miss.   

    Forceful Fellas

    The series named after one of the sport’s stalwart pacers and certainly one of its great studs commences on Saturday, Feb. 25 with a pair of miles. The Cam Fella, leg 1, features nine of the big guys. Many of these will be performing in some of the top stakes for this division throughout the year, though in the richer events there will be the likes of those older than five.  

    The Cam Fella’s first of two events on the program offers two horses we have been following somewhat successfully in the early featured events of this season: Audreys Dream and C Major Hanover. At press time, Zeron had not decided upon which he would drive, though we feel it will be Audreys Dream. That one should get most of the play, leaving C Major Hanover once again in a position to display talent that has yet to shine against similar in 2012. Zeron or not, we feel both of these are the driving forces to this division. 

    Next, eight try to defeat the sparkling record of Itrustyou, also direct from the Meadowlands. An outside post may mean nothing to this on-a-roll monster that has devoured every field so far this year on the mile track. Even with questionable trips, Itrustyou has managed to be the best. 

    That doesn’t stop us from looking to take advantage of anything that can put a hamper in his streak, which is why we are going to put faith into the continuing improvement of the elder Lizard King.  

    Another reminder that it is a bonus Saturday where Woodbine players at TwinSpires will receive 10X TSC Elite Points for cashing $10-win tickets. Although we are just covering the features, the bonus is good for the entire program.  

    All Along The Watchtower

     Our Watch List (H2W) continues with some new to the list. In the event more than one of our choices goes in the same race, you must judge for yourself the individual value—if any—or if they qualify in exotics.  

    Lebanon Raceway
    Little Cam Cam, Feb. 24, Race 6
    Crusin For Cash, Feb. 25, Race 1
    Jacksbrotherjoe, Feb. 25, Race 2
    Life With The Duke, Feb. 25, Race 2
    Special Weefold, Feb. 25, Race 2
    No More Doubt, Feb. 25, Race 7
    Trackstar Flynn, Feb. 25, Race 7
    Blue Creek Bad Boy, Feb. 25, Race 10
    Northville Downs
    Tipton, Feb. 25, Race 4
    R Obsession, Feb. 25, Race 5
    Cowgirls Rock, Feb. 25, Race 6
    One More Yankee, Feb. 25, Race 8

    Cal Exotic

    The Feb. 25 no-takeout Pick 4 at Cal-Expo is one more giant step to profitland [sic] if we are right about the following contenders. Feel free to increase the size of your ticket by adding to our suggestions.

    Leg 1
    (6) High Maintenance was off and pacing solidly at 18-1, leading to three-quarters before caught. (8) Dawnlikeslillies put in a bad mile, finishing fifth but should do better here.

    Leg 2
    (4) KD Rowdy One had a sharp tank of speed early last week which is a good sign even though he tanked and finished sixth. He was 25-1. (5) Ailene’s Prince was on the attack from the outside and could not make up the lost ground at 7-1; a danger here.

    Leg 3
    (6) Roger J won outside of the Pick 4 where we had him and was powerful at 13-1. A repeat, though maybe at less the price, is in order (7) Sterling Chris should come back to form after being 10-1 and not able to handle the 10 hole.

    Leg 4
    (1) Wicked Beach made up a lot of ground to complete an exacta last week at 16-1 and although he has some competition in this mile he could utilize the inside to romp.
  • 23 races and we'll make a big fuss

    POSTED Feb 21, 2012
    The TwinSpires.com Triple Crown Showdown is your classic game in which a simple task is made harder by repetition.

    Successfully pick one horse to show and maybe double your money; successfully pick 23 to show and win $1-million.

    Succeeding at picking a horse to show is the easiest bet to cash in horse racing. There are instances in which a horse has a 95% chance of finishing third or better. What adds to the challenge of the Triple Crown Showdown is that you don't get to pick your spots.

    Still, it's reasonable to expect that a good handicapper studying typically formful races (even if longshots have prevailed on the Derby Trail in the win spot the past two years, favorites don't necessarily tank) can successfully pick a horse to show at least 50% of the time.

    That $1-million prize might not seem like a lot for 23 consecutive even money horses, and at first blush the odds play that out. The chance that something with a 50% chance of happening (i.e. an even money shot) will happen 23 consecutive times is 8,388,607-to-1. Meaning a $20 show parlay across 23 races with each successful wager paying $4 would theoretically return $167-million, but you could never win that much money in the pari-mutuel system because by the time you got to through a dozen races you'd be creating minus show pools. Suddenly your $4 return comes back $2.10 or $2.20 depending on the state (e.g., Arkansas has a minimum payout of $2.20).

    And the better the prices you get early, the quicker you get to that diminishing returns threshold. If you somehow managed to find horses who paid $6 to show, you'd be creating minus pools by the eighth race in the sequence. This introduces an interesting dichotomy: So long as you're alive for the $1-million prize, the correct play is to take the horse most likely to hit the board, even if that horse offers the worst value to show in that particular race. Ultimately the value is in going for the $1-million, not for cashing 5-to-2 on a horse to show who should have been 2-to-1.

    The Risen Star kicks off the 23-race quest and illustrates the above paradox perfectly. El Padrino is clearly the horse most likely to hit the board, but questions about his ability to handle a fast surface and/or not to bounce off a freakish performance in allowance company while now contesting stakes foes are legitimate ones. He is likely to be an underlay in the win pool and at $2.40 to show doesn't really offer much value there, but survival is the name of the game to win the $1-million, so he's clearly the choice against this bunch to finish third or better.

    Of course, there's still plenty to play for even if you're out of the running for the $1-million, as $10,000 will be up for grabs for those who make at least one successful show wager among the 20 prep races AND sweep the Triple Crown series. So 23 straight winning show bets for $1-million or four winning show bets (including all three Triple Crown races) for a share in a $10,000 prize pool.

    For those wondering, the $1-million is paid out as a 40-year annuity or there is a cash option. Sadly, the winner will not receive a crisp $1-million bill, but if s/he did, we'd probably put Todd Pletcher's face on there.
  • TwinSpires.com Announces $1 Million Triple Crown Showdown

    POSTED Feb 20, 2012
    TwinSpires.com (that's us!) is offering its Players an opportunity to win up to $1 Million by betting the Kentucky Derby preps and the Triple Crown with TwinSpires.com.

    The Triple Crown Showdown challenges Players to make a winning $20 show bet on a series of 20 Kentucky Derby prep races starting with the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes from Fair Grounds on Saturday. If a player survives all 20 Kentucky Derby prep races, they qualify for a chance to win the $1 million top prize by sweeping all three legs of the Triple Crown.

    "Making TwinSpires.com your home to bet the Kentucky Derby preps and the Triple Crown could make you a millionaire," said Jeremy Clemons, TwinSpires.com's Vice President of Marketing. "We are excited to continue our tradition of offering Players innovative opportunities to win through the $1 million Triple Crown Showdown."

    In addition to the $1 million ultimate prize, TwinSpires.com is also offering an additional $10,000-guaranteed prize pool and a chance to win tickets to the Kentucky Derby.

    "As illustrated by TwinSpires.com player Michael Beychok winning the National Handicapping Championship in January, TwinSpires.com players are among the most skilled and talented players in racing," Clemons added. "The Triple Crown Showdown will certainly challenge our players' skills and reward them handsomely for success."

    Complete details about the Triple Crown Showdown and official rules are available at www.twinspires.com.

    This article was edited and posted via The Handicapper's Edge.
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review

    POSTED Feb 19, 2012
    In last week’s review we suggested you get in touch with Twitter for my tweets and for my son, Ray Cotolo’s tweets. A strong list of winners accompanied our suggestion, taken from Ray’s picks, on his own Twitter page and tweeting @TwinSpires. We can only hope you got on board because this past Friday Ray shocked fans as well as the staff at the Meadowlands with a monstrous strike. 

    On Feb. 17, as the social networking horse handicappers mulled over the Meadowlands early races, all of them strongly disagreed with a horse Ray suggested would win, as well as they disliked his choice for the horse that would complete the exacta. Egg was seed on everyone’s face when Bell On Wheels won the third race at the Big M and paid $63.40.  

    The jaws kept dropping as his exacta was completed when Bragn Dragon came in second at 13-1. This exacta paid $692.20 for $2. That was the start of a night where Ray also produced Dragon Princess, paying $26 and Jaime Sue, paying $7.20.  

    You can follow Ray’s choices at Twitter and watch for Pick-4 winners (spot plays) at Racing Inquirer. Mine are floating out there, too, a spinoff of my weekly harness-review blog @FrankCotolo. Between these sources you may find yourself with some choices for exotics and win bets that you make on TwinSpires and some of them may not be on our published blog, as they are the result of late action. It doesn’t cost you anything to be included in our Twitter picks and Horses-to-watch (H2W) lists, as TwinSpires supports our campaign to give you the best information for betting that is available anywhere.  

    From our blog, our not-so-enthusiastic suggestions at the Meadowlands were unproductive and at Woodbine nothing panned out. The TSC Elite points are going for 10X with winning $10 tickets at Woodbine again next Saturday

    Next week we will update the Watch List (H2W) for a few tracks. 

    At Cal Expo, the no-takeout Pick 4 presented two scratches in our six-contender combo. Our two choices in the first leg won and finished second. Sun On The Rocks paid $6.40 and with Sonic Wave second the exacta came back $11.80.  

    In the second leg our single scratched. If you went to the favorite you had a winner in Mystically Mine (also from the H2W list at the track), which paid $4.20.  

    In leg three our 12-1 single finished sixth and in the final leg one of two of our choices scratched and the other broke at the start and finished seventh. 

    On the same program, our H2W list produced Dreaming Of Amy ($3.80) and Franky Provolone ($2.20). Friday night offered Roger J ($28.40) and Komoda’s Fantasy ($7.20).  

    We keep our Pick-4 suggestions on our H2W for future win bet, which you can see from the list above can result in decent win bets and exacta keys. 

    Harness News

    If you have a Facebook account you should know you can be connected to TwinSpires there as well as Twitter but did you know that a great number of people in the harness business also have Facebook pages? Although Facebook tends to discourage trying to make friends of people one doesn’t know, a simple email explaining you are a fan along with a request to be added as a friend could get you a social-networking connection to someone in the standardbred industry. You could go to my Facebook page and peruse my friends to find some of the high-profile harness folks that you may approach. Most of them are great ambassadors for the sport and more than willing to accommodate fans as Facebook friends.

    More good news for Illinois: The business figures at Maywood Park have been more than encouraging, especially on Friday nights. Maywood, the Chicago half-miler that alternates harness programs with upstate Balmoral Park, has seen an increase in handle of 16.9 percent compared to the same dates in 2011.

    Through Feb. 11, the track reports, Fridays at Maywood are averaging $1,027,864 compared to $879,561 in 2011. Business has been helped, some feel, by an increase of almost one horse per race in the fields. Fridays in 2012 have averaged 8.27 horses/race compared to 7.39 horses/race in 2011.

    Gaining in popularity, also, is the Maywood Pick 4 wager. The average 2012 Friday Pick 4 pool is $13,289 compared to $6,537 for the same dates in 2011, resulting in an increase of over 103 per cent.

    Maywood offers a guaranteed Pick 4 every racing with a low take out of 15 percent. 

    At 23, Matt Kakaley became the youngest driver in harness history to win 2,000 races. He did it at Dover Downs, where Kakaley was handling We The People. Kid Kakaley can be seen racing in Delaware and shooting down to the Meadowlands as well these days. He broke the record held by Tim Tetrick, who was 24 when he totaled 2,000 wins.

    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)
  • The Power of Turn Times

    POSTED Feb 16, 2012
    Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that in addition to commenting on the Animal Planet program “Finding Bigfoot” every chance I get, I’ve been immersed in racing research recently.

    My latest pet project concerns turn times and their effect on the outcome of thoroughbred races. Generally speaking, the “turn time” of a race is obtained by subtracting the first fraction (recorded at the 1/4-mile mark in sprints, 1/2-mile mark in routes) from the second call (1/2-mile mark in sprints, 3/4-mile mark in routes). The term is derived from the fact that, for the most part, this segment of time is measured as the horses round the turn for home — often, when the real running begins.

    Tom Brohamer, author of "Modern Pace Handicapping" once said: “The ability to handle the turn in an efficient manner is a characteristic of a fit horse.” To see if this was true, I developed a Turn Time Ration (TTR), which is similar to my early and late speed rations (ESRs and LSRs), except that it focuses on the middle, or “hidden” (as some handicappers have called it), portion of a race.

    I then came up with the following criteria to measure good and not-so-good turn-time performances:
    TTR less than 0= Good.
    TTR 0-3= Average.
    TTR greater than 3= Poor.
    Now here’s the amazing part: Nearly half (17) of the 37 Kentucky Derby winners since 1975 made their final prep in a race that featured a “good” TTR (less than zero). What’s more, 35 of 37 Derby champions came out of a race with at least an “average” TTR; only two exited a race with a “poor” TTR.

    If one were to add/subtract lengths gained/lost from the first to second calls, the stats get even better, as only Sunny’s Halo won the Run for the Roses following a poor TTR in his final prep (4.06 in the Arkansas Derby on April 16, 1983). Ironically, Sunny’s Halo also had improving LSRs, which has been a potent angle on the first Saturday in May… but that’s a subject for another day.

    So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the current Derby contenders that raced in less-than-stellar “turn-time preps” (obviously, the races below will not be the listed steeds’ final pre-Derby starts, but they’re fuel for thought):

    Algorithms (Holy Bull-G3, Jan. 29, 2012, 3.13 TTR)
    Ever So Lucky (Kentucky Jockey Cup-G2, Nov. 26, 2011, 3.04 TTR)
    Fed Biz (Maiden, Dec. 30, 2011, 4.98 TTR)
    Gemologist (Kentucky Jockey Cup-G2, Nov. 26, 2011, 3.04 TTR)
    Hansen (Holy Bull-G3, Jan. 29, 2012, 3.13 TTR)
    Mr. Bowling (LeComte-G3, Jan. 21, 2012, 3.57 TTR)
    Sabercat (Delta Downs Jackpot-G3, Nov. 19, 2011, 5.24 TTR*)

    *Recorded at a bullring (track with a circumference of less than one mile).

    Count Turf is a good example of what to look for in a Kentucky Derby contender.

    Notice that at the old Jamaica Race Course on April 14, 1951, he zoomed from eighth-place out by 11 lengths at the first call to second, out by 2 ½, at the second call. Although internal fractions were not listed at that time, one can imagine what kind of “turn time” such a move would have produced.

    Count Turf won the 77th Kentucky Derby as a member of the mutuel field and paid $31.20.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    1951 Kentucky Derby

    Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 Closes

    Speaking of the Kentucky Derby, the first pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager closed on Sunday. The final odds are listed below:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Weekend Win Factor Plays

    Click HERE for Oaklawn Park Win Factor Report for Feb. 20, 2012

  • Winter Series Rap Songs

    POSTED Feb 15, 2012
    We’re getting there, through this winter season, though timid for many in North America. We know time is passing because the winter series finals are parading at the Meadowlands, including the Cape & Cutter and Aquarius. As well, three-year-old colts headline the Junior Trendsetter Final and fillies in the Tender Loving Care. Sophs already? Soon you will see green on your trees. 

    Up north, where it has also been unseasonable, Woodbine rolls out more WEGZ and Horseplayer Interactive miles, while TwinSpires players continue Saturdays bonus betting, raking in TSC Elite points to the tune of 10X with winning $10 tickets.   

    At Cal-Expo we engage in another ticket hopefully filled with the kind of winners that will bury the number in the exclusive TwinSpires-Cal-Expo no-takeout Pick 4 ensues.  

    As well, we have repeats from our Watch List (H2W) along with another winner for your inspection.  


    The winter series at the Meadowlands cover the weekend, with the Cape & Cutter and Tender Loving Care miles on Feb. 17.  

    The “Cutter” gives us little choice but to take Mud Pie Hanover after a great winning mile. He doesn’t have to work for an early position, as he didn’t last week, to do it again. Still, our other contender, Oceans Motion remains in the picture. In the most recent Cutter leg, he worked hard to get the lead. Here it may come easier and a better trip will salvage some of that speed for when it counts. 

    What can you say about the Aquarius Final? Westwardho Hanover meets all the conditions and will attract all of the money as he attempts an obvious sweep. If you were to bank on an upset—not with a great stake on it—you might look to Townslight Hanover. Never count out the mount of a John Campbell drive in a series that dates back to when he was the only person participating out of anyone connected to any horse in this series. I am not solely suggesting you bet the driver; the horse has any day now to get better and this could be the day.  

    Also dangerous, Sir Ziggy’s Z Tam may be at his peak after rebounding well in leg two. Use him in upset exotics with the other two mentioned.  

    Take A Walk put in the strongest of the three “Trendsetter” miles last week and should be ready to handle a tough trip, one that may be presented by Eastwood Blue Chip and the fallen favorites Social Network and I’m A Pied Piper. In fact, “Walk” may be somewhat of an outsider, which is what we like in a good competitor.  

    The Exit 16W could offer an upset with Real Flight. He raced well after making an early move and that could have been the warning signal that puts him into contention to  win at a price.  

    Interactive And WEGZ

    It’s another Saturday where Woodbine players at TwinSpires will receive 10X TSC Elite Points for cashing $10-win tickets. Although we are just covering the features, the bonus is good for the entire program.   

    The Horseplayer Interactive Final has come down to four-year-old-and-up 10 pacing mares. The contender we feel could produce an upset is Shine N Shimmer. She closed well last week to get into the final and with good placement could be using that late flash with less real estate to gobble. With top-notched winner DGs Tinkerbell in the 9 hole, our choice could have a great trip from post 5.  

    More four-year-olds, though not specifically mares, get on track for the WEGZ Final. Our choice from last week, Topcornerterror, should do much better than last week and because that was a poor showing could be a bettor’s bargain.  

    All Along The Watchtower

    Our Watch List (H2W) continues to follow the horses on the lists below.

    Buffalo Raceway
    HBF’s Tommy-t, Feb. 18, Race 2
    Unrecognized Saint, Feb. 18, Race 5
    Redford Hall, Feb. 18, Race 6
    Rick’s Jackpot, Feb. 18, Race 8

    Pompano Harness
    Blue Boy, Feb. 18, Race 2 
    Waterside Champ, Feb. 18, Race 6

    Cal Exotic

    The Feb. 18 no-takeout Pick 4 at Cal-Expo once again challenges us in an effort to take down the pool. These four legs are volatile tests, for sure, so we are taking it cheaply but with courageous picks. Here are our suggested contenders with comments:

    Leg 1
    (3) Sonic Wave had a flash of early foot that was stressful but still picked up the show. (5) Sun On The Rocks should race better than he was bet last week when he caught second at 7-2.

    Leg 2
    I would never hit the “all” button but this leg is tempting. We will try with (8) Artilda, who we last left looking like a prospective winner after some reasonable trips.

    Leg 3
    (9) Cladstownimpression has been racing far better than his odds and even though he gets the outside here he could surprise and be another key to a giant payoff.

    Leg 4
    (2) Fork In The Road was hung badly and yet breathed enough to get third at 4-1. With an easier trip he could be home free. (4) Doit By The Clock was ignored at 3-1 while finishing second as if he were 4-5.

    You can add or subtract to these choices if you care to invest in more contenders.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this article