• A more telling weekend

    POSTED Aug 31, 2012

    The Pacific Classic had a bigger say on this year's three-year-old male division than did the Travers Stakes.

    Theoretically either Alpha or Golden Ticket could sneak into the Eclipse Award discussion by pointing toward the Breeders' Cup Classic following a win between now and then (Dullahan already has two Grade 1 wins plus he placed in a classic [the Kentucky Derby]), but the Travers bunch strikes me as not ready for primetime and evoke thoughts of playing out a loser's bracket rather than racing for a championship.

    The Pennsylvania Derby will be a good, competitive, race in the same way the Travers was, but any hope the connections of a three-year-old has of dethroning I'll Have Another must include a Breeders' Cup Classic win.

    Camelot is a sort of dark horse in the discussion, as a Breeders' Cup Classic win to go with his two classic wins (and possible Triple Crown) might be enough to sway American voters in a year without any real superstars. If Frankel would win Horse of the Year with a Classic win (and he would) then why not Camelot (the assumption being that if Camelot won HotY he'd also be champion three-year-old male)?

    The benefit of not having a superstar dominate the racing landscape is that the best of what's around in each part of the country face each other with some regularity, and connections of East Coast- & Midwest-based horses will have to ship West to the Breeders' Cup World Championships if they hope to secure a championship.

    I don't think the Woodward winner (even if it's Mucho Macho Man or To Honor And Serve) can lay claim to being the East Coast's best since Fort Larned, Hymn Book, Ron The Greek, and Wise Dan are sitting this one out, but certainly a win by either of the aforementioned horses would enhance their credentials while a win by any of the other starters would further illustrate the parity among this year's group.

    The Forego is a sort of in-between race. If Shackleford wins, it's impossible to see him cutting back to six furlongs, as the Dirt Mile around two turns is certainly in his wheelhouse, but could that path lead to a championship? If Game On Dude (Classic) and Amazombie (Sprint) both win out then which division does Shackleford reign (burrito) supreme in? Game On Dude would get HotY and older male honors while Amazombie would get the sprint nod. The same goes for Jackson Bend as well. The Dirt Mile is nice given the money and Grade 1 status, but it's not where a championship is going to be decided.
  • The Science of Betting

    POSTED Aug 30, 2012
    Originally, I’d planned on discussing a variety of racetrack issues in this week’s column — Dullahan’s surprise (at least to me) victory in the Pacific Classic, hopes that Frankel may travel to Paris, etc.

    But some comments on a couple of recent TwinSpires blog pieces have caused me to change my mind.

    Regarding a piece written by Ed DeRosa entitled “TwinSpires.com bettor plays name game to scoop Pick 6 at Del Mar” that — surprise, surprise — details how a TwinSpires account-holder made over $500K by hitting last Thursday’s pick-six as well as a few other multi-race wagers at Del Mar by keying on certain names, an anonymous poster had this to say:

    “Betting on horses is ridiculous. It's honestly the dumbest thing you can do. You might as well go play ‘War’ in the casino.”

    Later, Old School explained why betting on horses is ridiculous:

    “This is just another example of the true odds one faces wagering on horses. An industry that loves the [shadows] and refuses to punish lawbreakers creates results that can only be hit this way…

    “Give the government their 60% cut and learn to play poker. It will last longer.”

    Added to this, were comments I received from a guy named Kyle on my piece “Fit vs. Fragile.” Among other things, Kyle thought I was dead wrong about the effect of takeout and the importance of one’s winning percentage as it pertains to ROI:

    “The more bet collectively on a set of winners the lower the return; the less, the higher. How often horses of either set win is beside the point,” he explained.

    “Yes, takeout is not currently tied to field size. It should be. But racing does work that way — field size overcomes take at a certain point. You admit that (I didn’t and don’t). You just don't believe it, I guess.”

    Kyle then challenged me to a handicapping/wagering contest to, as he put it, “show you how much more knowledgeable I am than you.”

    Now, to be fair, I’ve since communicated with Kyle and he apologized “if he came off arrogant” (I did likewise). However, I still disagree with certain aspects of his approach — mainly, his dismissal of win percentage and what I consider to be his over-emphasis on field size (although, curiously, Kyle told me on my latest podcast that he does not pay attention to field size when he bets).

    I also took him up on his challenge. Each of us will start with a $1,000 bankroll — mythical for Kyle, real for me — and we will make bets up to and possibly including the Breeders’ Cup.

    I did this for two reasons:
    1) I want to show that the races can be and are beaten — in a myriad of ways. Frankly, although I certainly want to beat Kyle in our little head-to-head showdown, I also want him to show a nice profit — using techniques that are surely different from my own.

    2) It is my hope that this demonstration will help generate more interest and understanding of the wagering side of the game. Toward that end, I will periodically list some of my proposed plays. I won’t be doing this all the time, mind you — because I am betting real money, I want/need to concentrate on what I’m doing and not be sidetracked by social media stuff — but I’ll shoot for a post or two a week. (Kyle, on the other hand, doesn’t have my time management issues and has graciously allowed me to post his plays on my Facebook page.) 
    While Kyle has already started betting in earnest, I still want to finish a few database tests before I start officially, hopefully in early September. In the meantime, however, I’ll make a few action bets... just to keep things interesting.

    Below are my plays for Thursday, Aug. 30 (ignore races carded for turf that come off the green):

    2nd Canterbury Park (turf): $15 to win on 3-Love Makor.
    5th Del Mar (turf): $15 to win on 9-Marlenadarlena.
    7th Finger Lakes: Conditional $15 to win on 6-Say Mr. Sandman (at least 7-5 odds with 0 MTP).
    3rd Hoosier Park: Conditional $15 to win on 6-Our Blushing Rose (3-5, 0 MTP).
    7th River Downs: Conditional $15 to win on 8-Louimpressme (6-5, 0 MTP).
    10th Saratoga (turf): $15 to win on 10-Notacatbutallama.

    Check back for other plays this weekend.
  • ‘Captain’ My Captain; Big Finals Highlight Giant Harness Weekend--Update on Cane Pace

    POSTED Aug 29, 2012
    There is a herd of progeny from Somebeachsomewhere on the tracks this season. The incredible beast that paced a hole in a lot of winds and retired to stud after a monstrous sophomore season, winning $2.4 million and taking a mark of 1:46.4, presents the cream of his crop, Captaintreacherous, in the $1-million Metro Stakes on Sept. 1 at Mohawk. 

    His sire and the sire of his sire (Mach Three) won Metros but cannot bequeath a victory to this colt. He will have to earn it himself and it seems likely he will do that with the best legacy his sire and grandsire offer—speed. The freshman has already clocked two sub-1:50 wins and did those miles on his own, that is, without an opportunist trip behind another speedball.  

    Can Captaintreacherous break the world record set by Sweet Lou in the Breeders Crown last year? That was a 1:49 mile at Woodbine. It would only be a footnote to what appears to be a colt far superior to “Lou.” He comes into the Metro for trainer Tony Alagna with four wins and one second and a bankroll of $242,078. It is still too early to tag the “Captain” with super-horse status but he is under great pressure to continue his ravage through the division.  

    Also on the docket this weekend is the She’s A Great Lady Final for the frosh filly pacers; the Canadian Pacing Derby Final for the FFA pacing crew; a lot of Pennsylvania Sires Stakes at Pocono; and Grand Circuit Champlain and Simcoe stakes also on the Mohawk program.  

    A special update essay on the Cane Pace has been added for the Labor Day event at Tioga Downs (see below)

    Metro Men

    Captaintreacherous headlines a field of 10, with an also-eligible (Wake Up Peter) drawing in Mohawk Aug. 25 program. Let’s look at the elims. Another Alagna student, Rockmyjeans, has been scratched. He finished in an elim behind Apprentice Hanover and Vegas Vacation.  

    Here are the horses and posts and drivers and trainers, including the main feature, the Captain: 

    $1-million Metro Stakes

    Post-Horse-Driver, Trainer

    1-Johny Rock-Andy Miller, John Butenschoen
    2-Odds On Equuleus-John Campbell, Robin Schadt
    3-Apprentice Hanover-Jofy Jamieson, Ben Wallace
    4-Captaintreacherous-Tim Tetrick, Tony Alagna
    5-Captive Audience-Brian Sears, Corey Johnson
    6-Dress The Part-Randy Waples, Bob McIntosh
    7-Rockin Amadeus-Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter
    8-Fool Me Once-Sylvain Filion, Mark Austin
    9-Wake Up Peter-TBA, Tony Alagna
    10-Vegas Vacation-TBA, Casie Coleman 

    The move is simple: pass or go exotic. For exactas key Captaintreacherous with the highest outsiders’ odds. Exactas won’t be worth much with second or third choices, so look for big numbers with all from the 5 post up. Trifectas, of course, are tougher but if you go for it, use the same horses on the outside in some combination based on odds. 

    The Metro Consolation is worth $100,000 and it gathers horses that would rarely show up in a race of this purse caliber. But here they are, a ragged bunch of also-paced from the Metro Stakes elims. 

    We have no idea which horse will get the final push at the windows but we are going to stick with Teresa Beach, who was horrible in his elim. I think this is a developing son of Somebeachsomewhere that needs this kind of field to show improvement and will do so at a great price—if the crowd doesn’t back him due to his driver, the every-popular Brian Sears.

    ‘Great’ Frosh Ladies

    The frosh-filly pacers meet in the She’s A Great Lady Final on Sept. 1 and unlike the Metro situation, the horse projected to be most favored seems rife for defeat. We can beat I Luv The Nitelife and L Dees Lioness with the developing filly from post 8, Macharoundtheclock.  

    With a little luck the two probable choices will be in a battle for the lead and this speed-bred baby will be in a ground-saving position stalking and raring to upset with a big, late move. Jody Jamieson is up and although we rarely use drivers as positives for our choices, he is a great “money driver” and knows how to maneuver a horse like this, even up against blaring speed.  

     ‘Better’ Than The Best?

    Betterthancheddar, only four, is looking to topple older pacers the same way he did last week in the Canadian Pacing Derby elim. The $787,000 final is his target on the first day of September at Mohawk. 

    This week, however, he has to face Golden Receiver and Foiled Again, both given byes to be in the final, missing last week’s adventure in “Cheddar,” so to speak. The others are ones he defeated last week but adding Golden Receiver and Foiled Again to the field could make for more foes for Cheddar to grab the bulk of Canadian dollars.

    Among the outsider contenders, which on any other night might be choices, are We Will See, Bettor Sweet and Arachche Hanover. Hypnotic Blue Chip, Alsace Hanover, St Elmo Hero and Sparky Mark make up the rest of the traffic.  

    Golden Receiver is at the top of his game and will try to gun these foes. Cheddar will be looking for a trip, hoping that St Elmo Hero, who showed remarkable improvement last week, and Bettor Sweet will provide live cover before his move. If there is a shuffle as opposed to a flow in this mile, look out for We Will See.  

    The fact that We Will See has been less than powerful against this group for a spell, he is in the perfect spot from post 1 and can be driven courageously to give his best. That is what we have not seen lately from We Will See, so maybe Ron Pierce up can make us see We Will See at his best, where he is as good as any of these. My readers should see that I am being objective because this guy was not one of my favorites as a sophomore and his maturity proved that I was wrong about him at four. At five he still has much to offer and should go off even better than his morning-line 4-1.  

    A Spring Of Hope is a four-year-old-and-up-pacing-mares event with a $100,000 purse offered for some top femmes. When push comes to pace, though, so to speak, Rebeca Bayama, who we gave you to win the Golden Girls and did just that, returns to home and is in the best shape of her elder campaign. You may get a price from post 8.  

    The Hambletonian Society and TwinSpires continue to generate extra activity at the Breeders Crown Countdown, following prospective entries from all eight divisions in the classic events, scheduled to be presented again this year on a single card at Woodbine. Check the blog often for updates on great betting opportunities that don’t appear in the regular TwinSpires blog.  

    This week, go to the blog for the Grand Circuit races, featuring Simcoes and Champlains with many “Crown-bound” beauties, and the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes finals.

    The Big ‘Dance’ Rocks The Cane

    Like his sire and his sire before him, the genes of guts and heart, speed and stamina are on display again as soph-colt pacer A Rocknroll Dance takes on eight foes in the $322,716 Cane Pace Final on Monday, Sept. 3.  

     Tioga Downs is the recent home of this event, long described as the first jewel in pacing’s  much-ignored “triple crown.” This season the progeny of Rocknroll Hanover, which continues to an extraordinary winning beat once again has a star in the sophomore ranks.  

     A Rocknroll Dance will start the steps of this mile from post 6 and from there he and driver Yannick Gingras will improvise the tempo in one more attempt to wind up in the winner’s circle in a major event for the division. 

    A Rocknroll Dance is so dangerous in any field that he overshadows the “now” horse, Heston Blue Chip. And, since that one has to negotiate the 9 hole, though he has the acumen to handle an outside post, he still has to deal with the “Dance.” Even Bolt The Duer, the colt that beat Dance in the Adios, getting to him by saving ground in an awesome three-quarters time of 1:19 (pressured by Sweet Lou), would tremble in this field. 

    Dance received a bye to adorn the field in the final and that just gave him a little more time to take a breath before striking the match for another scorching mile. Time To Roll also comes to the field with a bye but Dance has left him in his wake before, rest or no rest.  

    So this year’s Cane Pace analysis is merely an essay hiding in the giant shadow A Rocknroll Dance is casting. New York fans may put more money on “Heston” than he deserves and other bettors will swing for the fence with fingers crossed, wagering on any of the others for an upset, but this essay can only suggest the Dance as a key to second-and-third finishers that may combine for a small-paying trifecta. And those two elements, for sure, are coin tosses at best.  

    In a footnote paragraph, the sister event to the Cane is the Shady Daisy for soph-filly pacers on the Cane program. In this short field for $100,000 you might find value again on Bettor B Lucky, who won at a huge price against the best in her division and who can again be overlooked considering the gals leaving from the first three posts.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • TwinSpires.com bettor plays name game to scoop Pick 6 at Del Mar

    POSTED Aug 27, 2012
    A name he liked coupled with a jockey he recognized led Mr. Hariri to scoop Thursday’s Pick 6 at Del Mar for gross winnings of $495,060.80 on a $146 play.

    Playing through TwinSpires.com, the West Coast resident took a stab at Thursday’s $89,785 Pick 6 carryover by crafting nine separate tickets, including a main $96 play that hit six of six plus six consolation (5/6) payouts. A separate $4 play in which he singled the seventh race (fifth leg) winner but missed the third race (first leg) also cashed a consolation payoff of $1,790.60.

    The seventh race (fifth leg) single in question was Zimmer, who shipped to Del Mar from Churchill Downs for trainer Pat Byrne and was dismissed at 14.9-to-1, the longest shot in the seven-horse field of optional claimers. Hariri was initially attracted to the horse because of his name and decided to gamble on the Empire Maker colt when he saw Racing Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith listed to ride.

    “The way I play horses is by name,” Hariri said the morning after his big score. “I don’t care about odds; I play names I like. The longshot who led to me getting the whole pot was Zimmer. When I saw his name I said, ‘That’s a pretty cool name.’ Normally I’ll just go with names, and if I like it I’ll play it, but when I saw Mike Smith was riding I knew I had to include this horse.”

    The only single on Hariri’s winning ticket was Orientatious in the fourth race (second leg). The Orientate filly paid $20.20 to win and helped key separate wins for Hariri in the double, Pick 3, and Pick 5 that brought the day’s gross winnings to more than $500,000.

    “This is what it’s like to be hit by lightning,” Hariri said. “I didn’t believe it until I saw the money in my account. I couldn’t sleep last night.”

    Despite being live through two races with $12 and $20.20 horses (first-time starter Carving in the third race [first leg] and Orientatious, respectively), Hariri also played the late Pick 4. However, by the time the final race rolled around, he was too nervous to watch following Zimmer’s upset score.

    “I couldn’t watch it live, and I didn’t look at the will pays,” Hariri said. “I watched it on replay and even when I knew I won I thought since it was the favorite in the last leg [even money Bev N Bud] I thought it might pay $40,000 or $50,000.”

    In addition to his Pick 6 riches, Hariri also hit the Pick 5 on a $63 play that returned $4,020.85 and the Pick 4 three times on a $49 play that returned $1,618.05.

    “You never know what will happen,” Hariri said. “Sometimes horses just have their day, and yesterday was my day. I’m sharing my strategy so others can use it and win too.”

    Hariri said he opened a TwinSpires.com account shortly after his initial trip to the racetrack, and although he loves the convenience and excitement of playing online he said that his favorite part of racing is when the horses turn for home.

    “The stretch run is very exhilarating,” Hariri said. “I love horses, and I love watching them run.”

    Hariri is planning a trip to Chicago with some of his winnings, but the big windfall did not keep him away from this past weekend’s action featuring the Travers Stakes at Saratoga and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

    “It’s a big weekend with Saratoga and Del Mar,” Hariri said. “I’m not greedy, though. I’ll still play, but I won’t go crazy just because I won.”
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Aug 26, 2012
    If you are one of “the crowd” then you cashed a few tickets this weekend, though most of the returns were pale and paltry. 

    You may have, however, zeroed in on one of our choices, Prestidigitator, from our Breeders Crown Countdown blog, and beaten a big choice as the ex-Hambo contender won and paid $11. That is a top price for this weekend’s big events. With the favorite, the other horse we mentioned, Knows Nothing, also from the 2012 Hambo field, the exacta came back $19.80.

    Our obvious choice of the week, Captaintreacherous burned up Mohawk in a Metro Pace elim as the big choice and was followed by exactly who we thought would follow him, as did everyone, Johny Rock. That exacta paid $7.40.  

    We were correct, as everyone was too, with Check Me Out in the filly Zweig Memorial at Vernon Downs. She didn’t break stride, which always means a win against anyone in her division. Her 1:51.3 mile equaled her own world record for a sophomore filly. She paid $2.20 in the win-betting only affair. 

    In the other Metro elims we handed out huge plays, Bigrisk at 68-1 (finished seventh) and Teresas Beach at 48-1 (finished sixth). We admit that during our handicapping we gave these horses far better chances than the public. Don’t worry, however, because the crowd choices won these races, so no other outside contenders did any good to play, either. 

    In the two She’s A Great Lady elims we faired better, with a favorite that wound up third (Parlee Beach) and a second with Cult Status.

    We gave Uncle Peter, the Hambo favorite, one more chance in his attempt to win the Zweig for glamour-boy trotters but he was every bit as miserable on the track as he was in the Colonial, finishing seventh at 7-1. Market Share won it, however, and the Hambo champ was an overwhelming public choice to do so.

    The Canadian Pacing Derby elim at Mohawk also went to the chalk as Betterthancheddar won at 4-5. Our swing at the fence with Allthatglitrsisgold, hoping he was returning with some spunk, was a fan; the 54-1 shot finished 10th.  

    Another favorite wiped up any chances for our second-choice pick when Heston Blue Chip (photo above left) defeated Pet Rock in the Cane Pace elim at Tioga Downs on Sunday evening.  

    News And Notes

    For the umpteenth time, California harness racing was saved from extinction. Recently, the state racing board unanimously approved a license application of a new harness operator for a meet at Cal Expo in Sacramento. W & W signed the management agreement with Golden Bear Racing LLC for the day-to-day operation of the race meet.

    The next meet kicks off on Friday, Nov. 2 and will go through May 11, 2013, with Friday and Saturday programs until Dec. 22. At that time Thursday, Friday, and Saturday racing is added through the remainder of the meeting.

    Colonial Downs will open its 15th harness racing season on Wednesday, Sept. 5 with a six-week campaign over only one-turn mile in harness racing. The meet goes through Oct. 14.

    Colonial offers a 10-race program every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. The annual $400,000 (est.) Day of Champions will close the meet with Virginia-bred freshman-and-sophomore pacers and trotters of both sexes in eight divisional championships.

    Director of Racing Craig Andow has put together a number of late-closer series spread over the six weeks. Most of the multi-leg events feature two preliminary legs and a final. Six of the 10 series feature races ranging from 5/8ths of a mile sprints to 1¼-mile marathons.

    Wishing Stone, a multiple-stakes-winner, including the 2010 Kentucky Futurity, is coming back to the states. The trotter has been racing in Europe since the end of his sophomore campaign. Dewayne Minor, who co-owns the horse, said Wishing Stone left Sweden last week and is shipping to The Red Mile after several days in quarantine.

    Minor said, “To have a horse like that in the barn … gives you a great incentive to continue doing what you do.”

    Wishing Stone’s final appearance in Europe on Aug. 15 resulted in a second in the Jubilee Trophy in Sweden. In June, Wishing Stone won the Copenhagen Cup. In 2011, Wishing Stone won the French Grand Prix du Sud Ouest at 1-5/16 miles and also the Kings Trophy in Sweden. He was second in the Gran Premio Continentale in Italy.

    Minor said the horse should be coming back in pretty good shape, adding he would have to “bring him back up to speed again, get his muscles going again where he’s speedy. There is way more speed here than [in European harness racing].”

    The last time Wishing Stone raced in the U.S. he won the Matron Stakes at Dover Downs, one of six of his final eight starts in the states, including an American-National Stakes at Balmoral Park. He was second to Break The Bank K in the Breeders Crown for soph trotters, covered live by us for TwinSpires at Pocono.

    Minor hopes Wishing Stone will race in the Pride In Progress Trot at Indiana Downs on Sept. 22. If not, the Allerage Farm Trot at the Red Mile on Oct. 7 is his next challenge. He also has the Breeders Crown and American-National on his schedule.

    “There is a possibility we might race him again next year,” Minor said. “We’ll see how it ends up this year and go from there.”

    The Breeders Crown is the next target for all the top horses in their divisions. Click here to get to  the exclusive Breeders Crown Countdown blog.

    Extraordinary Extras

    We invite you to enjoy our musings on other standardbred topics at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances. Every weekend as part of that blog we we offer Balmoral Pick-4-and-win picks at the USTA’s Strategic Wagering Program page which includes suggested win bets. Last week we hit with Blueridgevalentino at $6.80.

    Connect to Twitter and follow Frank and Ray Cotolo for up-to-the-minute suggestions on wagers at many harness raceways. Then, wager from your TwinSpires accounts.

    Get onto our mailing list and receive a free copy of a classic horseracing fiction book by clicking here. And listen to the podcast now available for beginners and veterans of harness betting, a new series available free so you can learn more to bet more and win more at TwinSpires. Click here.
    Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • Fit vs. Fragile

    POSTED Aug 23, 2012

    Rail Trip
    A few years ago, I wrote about the Freshened Horse Fallacy, the theory that the modern-day thoroughbred simply cannot withstand the rigors of day-to-day training and — heaven forbid — racing on a consistent basis.

    I pointed out that much of this hysteria is based on the belief that thoroughbreds are getting weaker and more fragile due to the emphasis American breeders are putting on speed, rather than stamina. 

    The premature retirements of both I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, the 1-2 finishers in this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, seems to back this contention up, as does the recent tendon tear that unethically targeted last year’s juvenile champion Hansen and likely relegated his career to the history books as well.

    That horses are making fewer and fewer starts is indisputable. In 1975, the average thoroughbred went to post 10.2 times a year; in 2011, the average number of starts per year was down to 6.2.

    Of course, whether or not this has to do with dubious DNA or a changing economic and social landscape is very much in doubt. After all, does anybody seriously think that we’ll ever see another Triple Crown winner compete past the age of five, which both Assault and Citation did (in the 1940s)?

    What’s more, if American stud farms are, in fact, breeding for speed these days, they’re having about as much success as Kris Jenner did breeding for class and dignity. While all eight of the quarter horse world records for distances up to 550 yards were set in the last three years and standardbred records seem to fall every week, only a handful of thoroughbred world-record times have been recorded in the new millennium. Some, like the seven-furlong mark, date back to when the Internet was merely a sparkle in Al Gore’s eyes.

    Personally, I think the notion that breeding for speed has led to the decline of the thoroughbred racehorse is largely bunk. Likewise, the view that more rest and fewer races is the only way to effectively deal with this “delicate” situation is also malarkey.

    When I penned “The Freshened Horse Fallacy,” I presented some test data to prove this and I want to do the same thing here, only with new, up-to-date statistics. But before I reveal the numbers, let me first establish the ground rules, as set in that original piece:
    Of course, the biggest challenge one faces when attempting to prove or disprove a racetrack “fact” is obtaining truly independent variables. The reality is that almost no single factor contributing to the outcome of a horse race can be easily isolated. Take, for example, speed and form — what’s the real difference? Typically, a horse that runs fast also runs well, right? After all, it’s not often that a 30-length loser will post an outstanding Beyer figure.

    So, my first hurdle was distinguishing between a “freshening” and layoffs resulting from injury or infirmity. Thus, I decided to concentrate solely on post-time favorites (ignoring entries). That way, I could be reasonably certain that I was apprising only those contestants that had shown at least a semblance of class and form in the recent past.

    Now, does this ensure an autonomous sample? Of course not. Obviously, the date of a horse’s most recent outing is going to influence the crowd’s betting habits, but at least it helps eliminate those hapless nags that neither racing nor resting will aid.

    First, I looked at favorites as a whole (provided they were single betting interests with at least one lifetime start) from assorted races run during 2004-2009:

    Races: 5,786
    Won: 2,075
    Rate: 35.9%
    ROI: -15.49%

    As you can see, these figures are right in line with long-term national averages. Thus, my database would appear to be “fair.” Next, I looked at favorites that were coming back on less than 10 days rest:

    Races: 250
    Won: 98
    Rate: 39.2%
    ROI: -8.36%
    At this point, let’s take a DeLorean back to the future and take a peek at the current figures, culled from my brand new database consisting of 4,873 races. First, all the favorites:

    Races: 4,873
    Won: 1,811
    Rate: 37.2%
    ROI: -16.82%

    What immediately strikes me, of course, is that although favorites are winning more now than before (37.2 percent vs. 35.9 percent), the ROI is even worse (-16.82 percent compared to -15.49 percent). Just more proof that value betting is the only way to profit in today’s game.

    However, that’s not what my test and this article are about. So, with that in mind, let’s see if the current crop of thoroughbreds can stand up to the “rigors” of a recent race. Below are the digits for favorites competing within 10 days of their last start:

    Races: 225
    Won: 97
    Rate: 43.1%
    ROI: -10.11%

    Once again, we see a huge improvement in the stats — an improvement that seems to argue against an increasingly brittle breed. This test also demonstrates why one should (at the very least) be hesitant to accept horseracing “truths” at face value.

    Far too often, they are anything but.

    Six-Figure Saturday & Sunday

    A couple of $1 million Grade I events highlight this weekend’s racing action. On Saturday, the top (remaining) three-year-olds do battle in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga; then, on Sunday, the best older horses on the West Coast square off in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
    In the former, I’m intrigued by the ever-improving Street Life, who just captured the Curlin by 1 ¾ lengths on July 27, as well as Liaison and Neck ‘N Neck, both of whom had wide trips vs. probable race favorite Alpha in the Grade II Jim Dandy on July 28.

    Where the surf meets the turf, I’ll be keeping my eye on Rail Trip, who recorded a race-best +6 late speed ration (LSR) in his last race, the Grade II San Diego Handicap. The old guy still has some spring left in his legs and he should get a great... well, rail trip... in Sunday’s feature.

    On the other hand, I’m completely tossing Dullahan, who is starting to remind me of Ice Box. Yeah, his non-effort in the Haskell can probably be excused — I’m not convinced the son of Even The Score cares for the dirt, much less Monmouth Park’s speed-favoring surface — but, honestly, this guy’s resume hardly screams greatness. And given that the Classic will mark his first try against older foes, I’ll take a pass.

    For FREE Brisnet past performance that include my speed rations (ESRs and LSRs), check out the links below: