• Betting Advice to Make You Money

    POSTED Nov 29, 2012
    As many of my followers know (and by “followers” I mean those that regularly read my columns and/or listen to my podcast — don’t want folks to think I’m building a compound), I have been on a quest to prove that one can make decent money at the racetrack ($20K or more) on a small stake ($500 or less) — without relying on rebates — for some time now.
    Recently, after a period of reasonable success but infuriating losing streaks, I decided to shelve my more speculative and less consistent angles/methods in favor of higher-percentage techniques. I wrote about this approach in “Thinking Small.”

    After the Breeders’ Cup, I began concentrating on two things:

    1) Win bets on overlays (horses with Win Factor Report fair odds less than their actual odds).

    2) Exacta bets keying my top Win Factor contender with the next three Report contenders (in specific races at specific prices).

    So far, this has worked like a charm. I’ve been more consistent for a longer period of time than at any point in my handicapping life, save when I used to spend hours analyzing races manually (prior to the advent of simulcast wagering and the development of my computerized programs).

    Since Nov. 7, when I this experiment began, until yesterday (Nov. 28), I have accumulated a 26 percent overall ROI, with a 30 percent ROI on win bets and a five percent ROI on exacta bets. During this time, my bankroll has nearly doubled and I have even played a smattering of standardbred events with equal success.

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    (Click on image to enlarge)
    (Click on image to enlarge) 

    Of course, while I’m encouraged by the early returns, there’s still a lot of time and challenges ahead of me. However, if — excuse me, when — I succeed, I want to write about the experience (I’m documenting everything I do) to help other players, because I think the psychology behind successful investing/gambling is nearly as important as one’s handicapping acumen.

    It will probably come as no great shock to anyone that I have made far fewer bad bets or silly mistakes this time ‘round (in the past, I’ve shown a talent for betting the wrong numbers or getting shut out). Keeping my bets simple is clearly part of the reason for this — and it is why I believe that players need to understand their own psyches to succeed as gamblers.
    In many ways, I’m a stereotype of my German ancestry when it comes to wagering — I need structure, consistency and discipline to succeed. When any of those three elements is missing, I struggle and can, seemingly without effort (another talent), turn a good handicapping effort into a financial disaster.

    So, before you attack the windows today (preferably, not literally), ask yourself: What is it that I’m good at? What is it that I’m poor at? And, most importantly, what is/are the trigger(s) that lead to poor money management when I’m betting on the races?

    Answer those questions and you might just make some money — or at least not lose as much.

    The Perfect Negative Show Pool Bet

    I’ve often opined that the best bet in racing is a show bet on a horse other than the favorite in races featuring a negative show pool — particularly at tracks that use net pool pricing.
    Now, I like these bets in almost all instances; however, the very best betting situations occur when the race favorite is weak or vulnerable. And, generally speaking, the most vulnerable favorites are confirmed frontrunners… like the one that I spotted on Nov. 26:

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    (Click on image to enlarge)
    That day, in the fifth race at Parx Racing, D’Tiger controlled $22,543 of the $26,523 (85 percent) bet to show. Yet the New York import had a fatal weakness: not only had he not won from off the pace, but he had also been recording some pretty mediocre early speed rations (my own measurement of early energy disbursement).

    Given the presence of Notre Grande in the field, I thought there was a pretty good chance that D’Tiger would have to rally from off the pace or, at the very least, go a lot faster early — and I sure as heck didn’t think he was 2/5 (his post-time odds) to do that successfully.
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    Moreover, I felt that if Norte Grande produced an ESR of -10 or less ("brisk" to "demanding" on my scale) — something he had done in three of his eight prior races — D’Tiger might lose heart altogether and finish out of the money.

    As  it turned out, I was right and lucky. Norte Grande did, in fact, post a sub-minus-10 ESR and D’Tiger made his plight worse by stumbling at the start.
    (Click on image to enlarge)

    I collected $20.20 to show on Norte Grande and another $9.20 to show on Grande Prelude, who I thought was a safe show bet whether D’Tiger ran his race or not.

    These situations occur a lot more often than one might think, so it pays to keep one’s eyes peeled. Again, I think it is the best bet in racing. One can still cash in instances where the big favorite finishes in the money, and when the big favorite runs up the track… well, you get show payoffs like the ones above.
  • Best Of The Rest Roll Into December

    POSTED Nov 28, 2012
    From my perspective, sitting in a cold office looking out at a frozen field where only months ago long, golden corn stalks were rising from the rich, brown dirt, winter has arrived. It’s dramatic weather for harness horses; the elements of a wintry climate set up more adversity for the monstrous equines.  

    Though it is an adventure to visit a raceway under the pressure of this season, we are all fortunate to have our connection to TwinSpires to be able to spend other nights watching and wagering in a private space, not having to weather the biting winds or sheets of snow and ice. 

    We can see it all on line and as far as the season’s stakes are concerned we have just about seen it all. Glamour-boy pacers give one more shot for big money on Sunday at Dover in a Matrons Final. In Canada, pacing sophs that have not played a major role in the division get a shot at some larger purses in th Autumn Stakes Finals.
    And of course, our personal books are published in these blogs as we continue our Horses to Watch list (H2W).  

    Autumn Stakes

    The Autumn Stakes final for soph-filly pacers is at Woodbine on Friday, Nov. 30. Ten, with an also-eligible on hand, go to post for $60,000 total. 

    Getting into the final fray against solid favorites is a filly that fits the Woodbine oval perfectly. Third in an elim last week, The Speed Of Music got started a little too late to get to the top but was wailing in late stretch just the way a lot of longshots like to do at Woodbine in those final hundred or so feet. The speed is on the inside and there doesn’t seem to be an argument against the top three morning-line choices.  

    The Speed Of Music can sensationalize on what could be some shuffling from the top three and be in a grand spot to use her late speed to topple them at a price.

    The field for the $60,000 soph-colt pacing final has a pair of boys getting into the field from less-than-perfect trips in their elims. Pass The Deuce was charging with a lot of pace late at 13-1 and got to the wire with a close pair.

    As well, Winbak Carl was ready to charge but became locked in dearly, being robbed of third place by foes in front of him. Set free, he could be the major upset and these two may even share first and second in either position over the obvious public choices.


    Matron Pace Boys

    On Dec. 2 Dover Downs features the $176,663 Matron Stakes final for glamour-boy pacers. A talented field of eight will go behind the gate in the final major dash for the division.  

    Most of the win betting will go on Heston Blue Chip and Thinking Out Loud, both impressive in last week’s eliminations (although “Heston” lost to Hillbilly Hanover). However, a long-time foe on the far outside poses a major threat for the top choice.  

    Bettor’s Edge made an uncharacteristic move last week, brushing to the lead by the half. He will likely not challenge the leader early as he drew the outside and pace will come from speed-demon Heston. Bettor’s Edge will be somewhere in the middle-pack and should get cover from either Thinking Out Loud or Escape The News. In this scenario, Bettor’s Edge would fan off cover and successfully chase down Heston to win the Matron and keep the divisional champ status as cloudy as it has been for most of the season.

    Watching Horses

    Our H2W list was open to the public beginning last week and our files are being updated even as you read this. Again, we offer TwinSpires players some overnighters with the kind of potential we look to find, usually and hopefully accompanied by decent prices.  

    For those of you that missed last week’s recap of the H2W specs, let’s go over them. 

    The H2W list offers horses you may play up to twice if they don’t win the week after appearing on our list and you may wish to play them only if they are a reasonable price; it’s your call on the value. Sometimes a pair of H2W entries will appear in the same race. In the past, this has produced a number of exactas and trifectas; these plays, too, are your call.  

    But the selections are potent, based on our experienced spotters’ evaluations of recent trips. We will report on all the results as each horse on the list races.  

    The legend is simple. We list the track atop the horse’s name, the date it (or they) will be racing and the race where it is (or they are) entered. If a + is in front of a horse’s name, it means that horse is appearing on the list for the second or third time. An ae means the horse is on the also-eligible list and needs a scratch to get into the race. 

    11/30, +Anastasia Willie R2; 11/30; Romeo Star R4; Keystone Bernard R7; Warrawee Nimby R11
    12/1, Brody Hanover ae R3, Just Frank R3 

    Cal Expo
    11/30, +Cruisin Inmybeamer R3; Delightful’s Shark R3; Cherry Tree Luck R4; +Oompa Loompa R9;JC’s Lucky Dreamer R11; Chocolate Nemesis R11; Charmer R12; Vantage R 14; Upncoming Prospect R 15; Im The Readon R15
    12/1, La Cantera R6; Franco Smoothie N R8; Gold Deuce R12; Dreaming Of Amy R13  

    11/30, Kthanxbai R1; Princesse Dorleans R2, Just Cruise On R3; Pureform Cruisader ae R3; Tahuya Rub A Dub R4; Cody Cobraski R6; Panic At The Disco R8; Fighter Bliss R9; Sweet Reunion R10 

    11/30, +Request To Win R5; +Western Mandy R5; Buckeye Beauty R6; +Clem’s Pride R9; +Jen Finn R11; +Machine R12; +Hatsoff For Gracie R14 

    12/1, Major Najor R2; Mister Hill R2; Goldstar Raider R4; Fox Ridge Banker R7; Win Gaiter R9; Kommander Hawk R9

    11/30, Southern Strength R6; Cash Poor R11


    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Detroit Race Course started Michigan woman's path toward TwinSpires Online Handicapping Series win

    Betty Christian's path toward winning the TwinSpires Online Handicapping Series and earning a seat at the National Handicapping Championship began at age 11 when her family moved from Tennessee to suburban Detroit.

    Following that 500-mile journey it took another15 years before Christian discovered horse racing, but one trip to Detroit Race Course with her brothers soon led to many others, including visits to Hazel and Raceway Parks. None of those three venues conduct Thoroughbred racing anymore.

    The wagering did not begin in earnest until she retired from General Motors following 33 years of service, but even at work she found a way to enjoy the races.

    "I used to take my breaks in the back because I would be able to hear the race call from DRC," Christian said referring to Detroit Race Course by its acronym. "I have three brothers, and we all like to play the horses."

    Christian, 74, qualified for the TSOHS final in July, but four months of anticipation turned to melancholy after just seven races when she had $6.20 following a winner in the opener but nothing since.

    The Golden Rod Stakes was the eighth race up, which meant the contest would be more than half over following this race, and Christian was ready to make her move by selecting 31-to-1 longshot Seaneen Girl. The Spring At Last filly went on to win by half a length from favored Gal About Town to give Christian $85.60 and a big boost in the standings.

    "I just wasn't doing too well, but once I hit that longshot things really seemed to start clicking," Christian said, adding that her strategy is to look for longshots competitive at the current class coupled with top jockeys. Miguel Mena, who ranked third by earnings and fourth by wins at the recently concluded Churchill meeting, was aboard Seaneen for new trainer Bernie Flint following a runner-up finish behind Spring Venture in the Grade 3 Mazarine at Woodbine.

    "Hitting that one in the Golden Rod gave me some confidence, and then I started making all the right moves," said Christian, who scored in four of the final five races, including the last three, to take over the lead.

    She used Tap To Magic, a dead heat winner of contest race 13 who paid more to place ($6.80) than to win because of the dead heat. She then landed on Dancing To The Stars, a 9.8-to-1 winner of contest race 14. Pussycat Lips' rally fell short to gate-to-wire winner Travesura in the final contest race, but her furious rally was good enough for second and generous place money of $10.20 thanks to 9-to-10 favorite Premier Steps finishing off the board.

    "Garrett Gomez is one of the jockeys I like to play, and he finished second in the last race," Christian said. "The favorite was overbet, so I was thinking a longshot in the top two would be enough for me, and it was. I was so excited when I saw my name on top at the end."

    For a complete list of Christian's picks, click here; for a list of all TSOHS final participants with their picks and ranking, click here.

    Christian is not the first person in her family to qualify for the NHC. One of her brother's sons has competed, and she said she'll be relying on his experience to help her prepare for a shot at the $750,000 top prize. Christian said that one of her biggest adjustments will be placing contest selections with a live teller after using TwinSpires.com for the past 5-6 years.

    "I do almost all of my playing on the internet now," Christian said. "I have to keep my mind busy in retirement, and this is something I enjoy."

    She will also have to get accustomed to selecting optional races since the TwinSpires Online Handicapping series uses a model of all mandatory races. However, Michael Beychok did not have a problem making that adjustment last year when finishing third in the 2011 TSOHS final and first in the NHC.

    Christian said her favorite horse is Zenyatta even though the certain future Racing Hall of Fame inductee cost her a contest win in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic--but not because Christian needed her to win but because she bet against her!

    "She was the even money favorite, and I thought I'd need a bigger price than that, so I picked against her," Christian said. "As it turns out, I only lost by $3."

    Zenyatta was the even money favorite and would have paid $4 to win. She fell a head short of Blame but still paid $3.60 to place, which would have given Christian the win. It's a lesson she plans to keep in mind at the NHC.

    "I'm going to keep playing every week to stay sharp," Christian said. "I like Fridays and Saturdays best, and that's the days of the [NHC]. Hopefully I'll be able to study the past performances a few days in advance. I just hope I can do the best I can."

    Christian has a son and two grandchildren, but the racing bug has been slower to infest her branch of the family tree.

    "I've brought my grandchildren before and told them grandma would split whatever she wins with them, but they weren't too interested," Christian said. "They liked when we won, but it can be a long time between races."

    That will not be an issue for Christian at the NHC, who--along with about 450 other players--will have to navigate 30 races over a two-day period, including the addition of a "best bet" from among the eight mandatory races each day. 
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Nov 25, 2012
    Harness bettors’ consciousnesses are fickle. Sometimes you lose so much you crave a winner at almost any price, mostly because a long string of losers makes one feel as if one will never win again. It’s human nature. Another strange characteristic comes when you have winners that refuse to pay “enough.” You never really distinguish how much is enough, you just don’t feel right when you win a few and you have to share so much of their success with the crowd in the form of a low payoff. 

    All that counts is what the ledger reveals. When there is more money recorded in the “cashed” column than in the “wagered” column, you are ahead. So it doesn’t matter if a string of low-priced horses get you there or a few choice longer-than-long wins get you there. Either way, you get there. 

    Few of us, however, keep running totals in our heads, so a few days tend to stand on their own merit, even if they mean little to the long-run wagering-investment campaign. That being said, let’s look at another weekend of harness action as one piece in this endless stream of playing we hope winds up in the black, when the numbers are crushed. 


    We wound up with two Woodbine favorites in Nov. 23’s Autumn Series elims for the soph-filly pacers. The one of the two that won, Aubession, we figured to be a second choice at the least. But she won and paid $4.50. The other, a filly on a streak that did not seem to want to stop, made the final but lost. That was Drunk And Dramatic.  

    On Nov. 24 our two Autumn Series elim colt pacers did not win. True To Mach wound up third and Machinist was out of the money. 

    During the season we heralded the talents of Hillbilly Hanover, a glamour-boy pacer that showed promise against the top rung of the division. He failed countless times and was winless until two weeks ago when he won a conditioned event against far less productive horses. The week later he comes back and defeats Heston Blue Chip in a Matron Stakes elim and pays $30. 

    That happened at Dover on Nov. 25. “Heston” had a tough trip and defeating nothing last week encouraged “Hillbilly.” So it goes. Mel Mara made the final but finished fourth in the other elim.


    From last week’s Horses to Watch List (H2W), we had two winners.

    At Batavia, we gave you Vintage Fenom ($6.50) and Right Back At You ($3.20) on Nov. 23. These two leave the list but if you like them next out off of the win and they are offering decent prices, you could back them again. The two others on the Batavia H2W list remain another race. One of them, Anastasia Willie was third at 21-1).

    There were two seconds at Lebanon, Request To Win (11-1) and Clem’s Pride (5-2). These two remain listed, along with the other four on the Lebanon H2W list.

    The Cal Expo H2W list gave out Cruisin Inmybeamer, who finished third at 8-1, and two others. Of those two, Delightful Shark scratched, so he gets two more chances.

    At press time only two of three raced from the Balmoral H2W list and they were both off the board.

    In the next blog, later this week, we will update the list and add entries as well as rename those with more chances (non winners).

    News And Notes

    The Meadows released its racing schedule for 2013. The western Pennsylvania track’s 50th anniversary season will feature 208 live cards, highlighted by the Delvin Miller Adios on July 20 and July 27. Generally, the Meadows will race four days each week, Monday and Tuesday at 12:55 p.m. and Wednesday and Friday at 6:55 p.m. The schedule also features 13 Saturday cards, including both Adios programs, in the spring and summer. A two-week summer break from live racing begins Aug. 17.

    Pocono Downs looks to 2013 featuring another hosting platform for the Breeders Crown. Opening night is March 23, the 48th season for the eastern Pennsylvania track. Post time will be 6:30 p.m, with racing taking place on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays through May.

    A special doubleheader program will be featured on Kentucky Derby day, May 4, with the first post time of 11 a.m., and the second post immediately following the 139th running of the prestigious race. In June and July, racing moves to five nights a week, maintaining a post of 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. A special earlier post of 3:30 p.m. on Fridays is a new addition to the race card.

    The Breeders Crown will be held on one night, Saturday (Oct. 19). Eliminations for the huge night of racing will be held on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12. TwinSpires hopes to once again have us on site at Pocono for elims and finals evening, monitoring exclusive coverage of the historic night of world-class racing.

    Racing in August through Nov. 16 will continue on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday (with the early post) and Saturday. A total of 140 race days are scheduled. The track will be closed March 31 and the week of Sept. 8 for the Pennsylvania Oktoberfest.

    Buffalo Raceway, in Hamburg, N.Y., opens its 71st season of harness racing on Jan. 9 with renewed optimism. Structural improvements on the grounds include two new barns and major repairs on existing facilities, with the racing surface “improved” according to officials. Horsemen are also happy about the plan to increase purses by 10 percent daily.

    All of this contributes to better racing as the usual schedule ensues. Programs will be offered with a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday format. The post time for Wednesdays will be 5 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays will be at 6:40 p.m. Thursdays are added in April. Sunday afternoon racing returns in June and July.

    Buffalo is pleased to announce that they have joined with the USTA Strategic Wagering Program, offering a guaranteed $5,000 Pick-4 wagering pool every Wednesday in January, February and March. Also offered, beginning opening day, will be a guaranteed $5,000 Pick-7 payout.

    Extraordinary Extras

    Get onto our mailing list and receive a free copy of a classic horseracing fiction book by clicking here. Check out special podcasts 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. The latest is called “Three Things Every Harness Player Should Know” and you can watch it by clicking http://harnessbettorpodcast.libsyn.com/podcast-04-3-things-every-harness-player-should-know … 

    Podcast download link: http://tinyurl.com/bsgrx5m 

    And there are mini-essays on playing twice a week. Click here for the latest.  

    Indulge in many 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 weekend we had two winners of four in the Nov. 24 Pick 4: Quality Sport ($8.40) and Holdingallthecards ($3). 

    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.

    Cartoons by Thom Pye
  • What’s In a Name?

    POSTED Nov 23, 2012
    Over the past week, my friend and colleague Ed DeRosa has written extensively about Eblouissante, the three-year-old half-sister to Zenyatta.

    (Click on image to enlarge
    At the heart of his writings was one simple question: Would Eblouissante offer value in her debut or would the Zenyatta connection assure that her price was lower than a pair of pants at a skate park?

    In the end, Ed concluded that 7-5 was more than fair on a filly that he felt had a 50-50 shot of visiting the winner’s circle and, judging by Eblouissante’s convincing 4 ½-length score, he was right. But it got me to thinking (something I like to do when I’m not keeping up with the Kardashians): Does it make economic sense to follow and play horses that even casual players are aware of and, therefore, more likely to bet? I decided to do a little — emphasis on little — study to find out.

    Below is a table that includes all the 2011 Eclipse Award-winning thoroughbreds (minus Black Jack Blues, who was voted best steeplechaser) along with their pari-mutuel performances thus far in 2012. I figured if any group of animals could be considered “name horses,” recent Eclipse Award winners fit the bill nicely.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    The results, as one can see, are somewhat ambiguous. While last year’s champions have certainly outperformed the average thoroughbred running for a tag at Aqueduct on a Thursday afternoon, they have not exactly been cash cows.

    Havre de Grace, Hansen, My Miss Aurelia, Animal Kingdom, Royal Delta, Acclamation, Musical Romance and Amazombie have combined to win 17 of 35 starts this year. A $2 win bet on each of them in those 35 races would have resulted in a profit of — drumroll please — 50 cents.

    That’s right, two quarters... five dimes... 10 nickels... you get the picture.

    Mind you, this is better than one could expect betting a bunch of random no-names or even favorites, but it is hardly the stuff of legends, which brings us to Saturday’s Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct.

    Among the entrants in that Grade I event is Groupie Doll; the same Groupie Doll that won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint by 4 ½ lengths. The same Groupie Doll that is a lock to win the Eclipse Award for top female sprinter.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    Now, contrary to my recent betting opinions of her, I like Groupie Doll. I think she’s a tough and talented filly and the deserving female sprint champion, but that doesn’t mean I think the daughter of Bowman’s Band is worthy of a bet at any price. Personally, I wouldn’t take less than 2-1 on trainer William Bradley’s stable star in the Cigar and, given her reputation, I think such a price is probably a pipe dream.

    I feel likewise about another “name horse.” Although Stay Thirsty has not won an Eclipse Award (and isn’t likely to), many fans are still aware of him thanks to his high-profile connections. Owned by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, Stay Thirsty is coming off a game second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 29 and also has a win in the Grade I Travers on his resume.

    But Stay Thirsty is a plodder. Definitely not the kind of horse that I think will relish turning back to a mile at this stage of his career.

    The horse I’ll be taking a long look at in the Cigar Mile is Buffum, a four-year-old Bernardini colt owned by Godolphin Racing.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    Buffum has run some of his best races at a flat mile and comes off an impressive wire-to-wire score in the Grade III Bold Ruler at seven furlongs. I think he could be on the engine again Saturday and he could prove tough to overhaul in a race without a lot of strong late runners.

    Plus, I’m guessing Buffum’s price will be a lot more generous than the price on either Groupie Doll or Stay Thirsty. And value, my friends, is the name of the the game
    — the only name that counts.

    Additional Aqueduct Analysis (11/24/12)

    AQU6: To say that 1-UNLIMITED BUDGET’s debut was impressive is akin to calling the Rocky Mountains “hills” — a gross understatement. Not only did the daughter of Street Sense win by 9 ½ lengths on Nov. 9, she recorded a -14 early speed ration (ESR) in the process. Unlimited Budget ran so fast early that day that she left the 1-2 favorite Brilliant Jewel, who was coming off a second-place showing behind 2-EMOLLIENT (today’s morning-line favorite) in her lifetime bow, gasping for air even before the field turned for home. What’s more, Unlimited Budget earned a -7 late speed ration for her maiden score — just a couple ticks slower than Emollient recorded in her maiden victory.

    AQU7: In a race that could feature a fairly hot pace (most juvenile races do), I like the fact that 9-NORMANDY INVASION is a proven commodity from off the pace. I also love the -3 LSR the son of Tapit earned last time. 6-INDY’S ILLUSION sports improving pace figures and should get first run on the early leaders; big shot at a big price. The 1/1A Repole Stable entry of MICROMANAGE and OVERANALYZE can also be used at the right price (5/2 or greater). I’m taking a stand against 4-DELHOMME if he’s a short price (less than 4-1) because I think that last race looks better on paper than it did on the racetrack.

    AQU8: Will try to beat the “name horses” 7-GROUPIE DOLL and 1-STAY THIRSTY with 3-BUFFUM and 5-HYMN BOOK (see analysis above).

    AQU9: I’m afraid the morning line tells the story. 2-DANCE CARD has the most talent, but I hate the layoff, while both 6-BOOK REVIEW and 7-MY WANDY’S GIRL look like viable alternatives.
  • Action Aplenty In The Lower Ranks

    POSTED Nov 21, 2012

    With about five weeks left in 2012, the stakes schedule is lean and awkward. It’s lean simply because there are a scant few races left that qualify as stakes. It’s awkward because all racehorses will have a birthday on Jan. 1, though technically there are horses performing that have already graduated into the next year.  

    Winter will display the newest older divisions as designated when the New Year launches and those groups will dominate through the cold months as the two- and three-year-olds develop for debuts in warmer weather.  

    Bettors should not dismay. The munificence of overnight racing easily takes over the spotlight and there is plenty of it on all sized raceways. As this year ends, then, we will do what we have done over the years. For one, we will be opening our personal books and publishing, in these blogs, our Horses to Watch list (H2W) and monitoring those horses as the deep freeze persists in the Midwest and East.  

    Autumn Stakes

    The Autumn Stakes at Woodbine have conditions but make the stakes grade based on their total purses. On Friday, Nov. 23, two elimination divisions ($25,000 each) are on tap for soph-filly pacers that must be Ontario-sired and have earned-money restrictions. The final is next week. 

    In the first chapter it’s difficult to separate the top choices in the small field but you could get a bargain from Drunk And Dramatic. Coming in from Rideau-Carleton, the filly could bring her form along and disregard what is a step up in class. Trainer Phil Doyle has brought her here with the best intentions and she may have what it takes to go well with this bunch and get a good spot in the final.  

    In the second elim, Bill Budd’s student, Aubsession, has an excuse for the Nov. 12 loss and was scratched the week after. The rest should put her in perfect shape to be slightly overlooked, while her class and form should stand up to this group. 

    On Saturday, Nov. 24, a pair of $25,000 Autumn Stakes elims for soph-colt pacers are the featured events at Woodbine. 

    In the first episode, Rick Zeron takes the mount on Machinist, who fits in this series like a glove. There is no telling where the public will stuff all the dough in the win pools here but this one may make a real race out of this elim. 

    True To Mach is in a great spot to show his inherited speed and may take the other seven around all the way. But for some trouble along the way this season, he winds up in this series and could be looking at a terrific four-year-old season, though starting now. 

    Matron Pace Boys

    On Nov. 25 Dover Downs features two Matron Stakes elims with glamour-boy pacers having had their shots at the Progress Pace last Sunday. 

    Two big favorites top the first elim, with only six horses going to post. There is only one chance to get any money out of this race and that would be for Major Bombay to take well to the five-eighths oval and either steal the race atop or find a tight place to travel as the two choices duel themselves to oblivion.  

    In the other elim, the late-season surge of Heston Blue Chip will again offer no decent payoff and he is the kind of colt you can always play against. We like Mel Mara at a decent price against the stark choice. Mel Mara also got started late this season and since his win at The Red Mile in October he has had decent excuses while always in the mix. He can be the legitimate upset choice here and deserves attention.  

    Watching Horses

    Our H2W list is now open to the public. We offer TwinSpires players some overnighters with the kind of potential we look to find, usually and hopefully accompanied by decent prices.  

    Let’s go over the specs again for those who were not here last season and whoever may have forgotten. 

    The H2W list offers horses you may play up to twice if they don’t win the week after appearing on our list and you may wish to play them only if they are a reasonable price; it’s your call on the value. Sometimes a pair of H2W entries will appear in the same race. In the past, this has produced a number of exactas and trifectas; these plays, too, are your call.  

    But the selections are potent, based on our experienced spotters’ evaluations of recent trips. We will report on all the results as each horse on the list races. The legend is simple. We list the track atop the horse’s name, the date it (or they) will be racing and the race where it is (or they are) entered.  

    11/24, JJ Shark R10; Lil Roy R12
    11/25, All Blues R6 

    11/23, Anastasia Willie R2; Right Back At You R3; Vintage Fenom R6
    11/24, Best Bet Yet R9 

    Cal Expo
    11/23, Cruisin Inmybeamer R9; Oompa Loompa R13; Delightful’s Shark R16 

    11/23, Clem’s Pride R2; Request To Win R4; Western Mandy R6; Machine R11; Jen Finn and Hatsoff For Gracie R12

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Did Eblouissante offer value in her debut?

    POSTED Nov 20, 2012
    At the racetrack, value and not always beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or, as my college newspaper editor, Robert Levine, used to say, "One man's gold is another's gonorrhea."

    Benoit & Associates photo
    Indeed, trying to scratch that itch with a "sure thing" at 7-to-5 can burn you, but passing on easy winners at what appear to be overlaid odds after the fact smarts, too, and the debut of Zenyatta's half sister, Eblouissante, on Friday at Hollywood Park offered the perfect backdrop of this handicapping conundrum.

    The base question is, what is the lowest odds at which a horse can truly offer value? Did Frankel offer value when 2-to-5 in the 2011 Queen Anne Stakes? I thought so and made a prime win bet on him. Would I have played at 1-to-5, though? Definitely not, and I know plenty of people who wouldn't have bet Spectacular Bid at 2-to-5 to win the 1980 Woodward.

    Eblouissante was far more generous in her debut, paying off at 7-to-5 in a race I thought she was even money to win while prepared to take 6-to-5. Of course, that "generous" modifier is my opinion, since plenty of pre- & post-race chatter involved calling her overbet.

    When I first looked at the race my impression was that trainer John Shirreffs would have her in peak form for an unraced late-season three-year-old filly. The BRIS Speed Rating par for the race was 89, a number only one other starter had come close to. Given Eblouissante's family's history and the string of workouts I was confident she could run atleast par.

    The final piece of the puzzle, though, was reading Andy Harrington's workout notes in his National Turf Clocker Report, which is available daily ($9.95) via Brisnet.com for Southern California tracks.
    EBLOUISSANTE Nov 11 HOL 5 :59.1H M FT    B+      
    Jet black powerfully built sort tracked a barnmate was asked some on the turn drawing away late while on own in 35.2, 59.3. Clearly has run, clearly fit (has turned in 45 drills since last year in preparation for debut). Think she can run as far as they card 'em. Was in blinkers; Blanc up. Like her sis she appears to have a mellow disposition.---Grade: B+
    EBLOUISSANTE Nov 5 HOL 6 1:15.1H M FT    B+      
    In blinkers; grand looker made a good run at barnmate Odeon and galloped out quite well while not asked in 38.1, 103.1, 115.0 out around the bend in 127.4. Not overly handy but can run forever.---Grade: B+
    EBLOUISSANTE Oct 19 HOL 6 1:14H M FT    B+      
    Corey up; noticeably caught hold midstretch running away from barnmate Cotton Belle finishing 3 clear in 37.3, 113.4. Much substance here.---Grade: B+
    As you can read, Andy liked what he saw, and these notes gave me the confidence to bet my opinion that Shirreffs had this one ready to roll and that a par effort for the class was likely. As it turned out, she bettered par by a few points with a 93 BRIS Speed Rating when winning easily by 4 1/2 lengths.

    The 7-to-5 price seemed more than fair both before and after the race, but some disagreed even after this tour de force, citing that her price was suppressed because of her family. I don't disagree that Eblouissante would have been a higher price if she weren't Zenyatta's half sister and/or hadn't been written about for the past year and a half, but I do disagree that the extra money because of that automatically makes her an underlay.

    Assessing her chances to win the race at 50% had nothing to do with knowing that there'd be a lot more casual money bet on her. Obviously I knew that was in play and a big reason I was so surprised at the 4-to-1 morning line, but just because she may have been 2-to-1 without the Zenyatta connection doesn't mean she didn't offer value at 7-to-5 if I thought she'd win 50% of the time.

    All this discussion is not to say that every favorite who wins by daylight is a good bet, but knowing Eblouissante would take casual money didn't automatically make her a bad bet either.