• Weekend Handicapping: The ‘Value’ Approach

    POSTED Mar 29, 2013
    Although I’ve often extolled the virtues of value betting as it relates to one’s ROI, there is another feature of the “value approach” that is equally important: frankly, it makes handicapping easier. This is especially true on days like Saturday, when big races like the Florida Derby, Dubai World Cup and Louisiana Derby reduce many handicappers to dart-throwingmonkeys… or babbling baboons.

    By applying the concept of value to one’s selection process as well as to one’s betting, certain otherwise difficult decisions are practically made for the handicapper — without angst, teeth-grinding or (further) loss of hair.

    Let me explain.

    Suppose you think, as I do, that Revolutionary is the horse to beat in this weekend’s Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. The question we must ask ourselves is this: If this race were run 100 times (to keep it simple) how many times would the son of War Pass win? Obviously, the answer likely lies somewhere between one and 99, as zero represents no chance at all (a scenario that Mine That Bird proved to be false in the 2009 Kentucky Derby) and 100 signifies a foregone conclusion (as Big Brown proved was nonsense in the Belmont Stakes a year earlier).

    Now I know that, for some of you, this is a hard notion to grasp. After all, the result is the result, right? Big Brown was not going to win the ’08 Belmont, just as Mine That Bird wasn’t going to lose the ’09 Derby — call it fate or destiny or pure chance, but what happened, happened.

    Well, I suppose if everything stayed exactly the same in each re-running of the race this might be true. But how many times — in the real world — does everything remain exactly the same? Maybe the rail doesn’t open for Mine That Bird like he’s Moses parting the Red Sea; perhaps Big Brown is sent to the lead and relaxes for Kent Desormeaux… who knows?

    Hence, the first step in the value wagering process is to assess a horse’s realistic chance of winning — and this is where the method lends itself nicely to handicapping. Personally, I think Revolutionary has about a 22-25 percent chance of capturing the Louisiana Derby this weekend; however, does anybody really think that the Todd Pletcher trainee will go to post at anything above 5-2, much less 3-1 or 7-2?

    I sure don’t.

    And given that, it is highly unlikely that I will be using the colt in any significant way on Saturday. Instead, I’ve got my eyes on a trio of horses that I think will show the opposite phenomenon — higher post-time odds than what I believe is fair. Before I reveal these super steeds, though, let’s take a look at the entire field, along with my fair odds for each entrant:

    2-PALACE MALICE (6-1)
    4-GOLDEN SOUL (15-1)
    5-WHISKEY BRAVO (30-1)
    6-SUNBEAN (10-1)
    7-DEPARTING (6-1)
    8-CODE WEST (8-1)
    9-PROUD STRIKE (15-1)
    10-TITLETOWN FIVE (8-1)
    11-MYLUTE (15-1)
    12-BRAZILIAN COURT (40-1)
    13-GROUND TRANSPORT (20-1)
    14-NINA'S DRAGON (25-1)

    While I like both REVOLUTIONARY and PALACE MALICE, I suspect the value in this race lies elsewhere. Although DEPARTING beat next-to-nothing in his latest start at Sam Houston (2.0 Key Race Rating), I’ve been impressed with:

    A) The facile manner in which he’s won all three of his lifetime starts and the positive Pace Profiles he’s earned in each of those affairs.

    B) His two consecutive zero late speed rations (LSRs) coupled with his competitive Brisnet speed figure last time (96).

    I make DEPARTING 6-1 (he’s 8-1 on the morning line and will probably be higher come post time).

    I also think that GOLDEN SOUL and TITLETOWN FIVE could offer value. The latter appears to be the likely pacesetter on Saturday (in part because noted “gate rider” Jon Court is in the saddle) and, despite the fact that he will be making his route debut this weekend, a repeat of his dominant wire-to-wire maiden win at Churchill Downs last year makes him a prime contender.

    As for GOLDEN SOUL, well, he’s OK… and OK in a contentious field often means a higher-than-fair price.

    Now let’s look at the Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park:

    1-SHANGHAI BOBBY (3-1)
    2-PICK OF THE LITTER (15-1)
    4-PONTIFF (50-1)
    5-FRAC DADDY (8-1)
    6-ORB (8-1)
    7-INDY'S ILLUSION (12-1)
    8-MERIT MAN (15-1)
    9-ARE YOU KIDDING ME (20-1)
    10-NARVAEZ (15-1)

    Again, the fair odds help guide the final selection process. SHANGHAI BOBBY and ITSMYLUCKYDAY may be the horses to beat… but everybody and their brother knows it. To me, the value lies with FRAC DADDY, who grabbed a quarter and battled a throat ulcer while finishing a badly-beaten sixth behind “Bobby” and “Lucky” in the Holy Bull.

    Still, it might pay — literally — to remember that the son of Scat Daddy was highly regarded in that Grade III event and also looked like the real deal as a juvenile. Obviously, he’s got some obstacles to overcome on Saturday, but that’s why FRAC DADDY will probably be 8-1 or 10-1 on the tote board, while SHANGHAI BOBBY and ITSMYLUCKYDAY will be vying for favoritism.

    By the same token, I give INDY’S ILLUSION a puncher’s chance as well. I love the colt’s improving speed and pace figures and I suspect his odds will be through the roof.

    Lastly, I didn’t personally look at the races from Dubai, but I ran my Win Factor Report (computerized fair odds line) on some selected races below:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    FREE Weekend Handicapping Reports


    Anonymous said...

    You stink

    Anonymous said...


    Anonymous said...

    I've been doing this professionally for 20+ years and make a fantastic living. If a horse is going to win, then he is going to win. Play exotics if you don't like the odds. That was the STUPIDIST piece I ever read.

    Derek Simon said...

    You've been playing 20+ years and make a "fantastic" living, yet you make three inane ANONYMOUS posts and misspell “stupidest” on top of it… not real credible. If you care to back up what you say, throw out a name and let’s track your picks. If not, save this kind of stuff for your psychiatrist.

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