• Big Soph, Frosh Stars On Track This Weekend

    POSTED Oct 30, 2013

    Yonkers Raceway hosts the final of the pacing classic, the Messenger, and though it lacks the ruler of the soph-pacing colt division, Captainstreacherous (see Hoosier analysis), the field is strong enough to perhaps deliver a cool upset. The sister event, the Lady Maud, offers its final, also with the division leader, I Luv The Nitelife, missing. The weekend also brings us back to Hoosier Park for some of its signature stakes finals. Check out the TwinSpires Pick-4 bonus at Hoosier, click here.

    The Simpsons Stakes for frosh guys and gals are covered in the Vernon section of the horses-to-watch list (H2W), which continues this week to pick up steam for its most prolific season. Check out the list below.

    The Medium Is The Messenger
    The open draw for Saturday night, No. 2’s $450,000 final of the Messenger Stakes placed eliminations winners Sunfire Blue Chip and Lucan Hanover on the outside, in post positions 7 and 8, respectively. With strong but not necessarily stronger competitors lining up in front of them, the draw may offer a few steps or two to an upset winner.

    The 58th Messenger final is the eighth race at Yonkers and features 1-Odds On Equuleus, 2-Ronny Bugatti, 3-Word Power, 4-Good Day Mate, 5-Twilight Bonfire, 6-Lonewolf Currier, 7-Sunfire Blue Chip and 8-Lucan Hanover (Dave Miller).

    Just one post in front of the pair of elim winners that will obviously be the choices, is Lonewolf Currier. He may get the edge of the few steps possibly available if the outer two choices work too hard on the four turns. If he races as he did in the Invite that opened the Breeders Crown program, he could win this and pay handsomely. He has won here before and certainly seems in finer fettle than the first five on the gate.

    For soph-pacing fillies the companion stakes event is the $176,684 Lady Maud final. It’s the sixth race and features 1-Certified Ideal, 2-Handsoffmycupcake, 3-Antigua Hanover, 4-Charisma Hanover, 5-Scandalous Hanover, 6-Live Entertainment, 7-Parlee Beach and 8-Jerseylicious (“Scandalous” and “Parlee” race as a Casie Coleman trainer (and part-owner) entry.

    Charisma Hanover set a track record (1:51.4) for soph fillies winning her elim and the entry includes the $15,000 supplemental entrant Scandalous, so there is the majority of win money. It’s Antigua Hanover that may be the outside contender with the best chances. At 24-1 against Scandalous last week she held to an outside move and gained ground in the end to finish second.

    Hoosier Hosts Heroes

    Hoosier’s big four stakes offer six-digit rewards and they hae attracted a number of fine national competitors. They are all presented on Friday, Nov. 1.

    We begin with the $157,000 Elevation for frosh-colt pacers. If we are looking for a possible price here we need to hope the inside colt, Totally Kissed, is dismissed for the more obvious pair in the field. This is one of the best colts trainer Brooke Nickells has had and she is earning well among tougher freshmen as she is three for nine wins with three other ont-the-board finishes.

    The $250,000 Monument Circle finds Captaintreacherous returning to the Indiana plant and facing nine other soph-colt pacers. He has beaten better and under more stressful conditions, so it is difficult to look beyond him once again. As a key we could pick up some exotic bucks with Emeritus Maximus and Apprentice Hanover.

    The main cast of older pacers ship in for the $223,500 Hoosier Park Pacing Derby, most coming from the Breeders Crown charges in that division. There’s little doubt that “Crown” champ Foiled Again and Pet Rock get the bulk of the win bets. Then you have Bolt The Duer, one of the most over-wagered-upon pacers of the past two seasons. He will get some money. There is talent left, though, and the major overlooked here may be Sweet Lou. There seems no other value possible here and we feel it safe to hope driver Ron Pierce goes winging with “Lou,” who has beaten these favorites before and returned a healthy double-digit mutual.

    Glamour-boy trotters from the contentious crop battling all season go in the $286,500 Carl Erskine trot. This field is closely akin to the division’s Breeders Crown final and no doubt Spider Blue Chip gets the public’s full attention in this one. That leaves Creatine to follow in the betting. We would like to see Tirade Hanover pull a shocker here because he may be a huge overlay. One of two from trainer Ron Burke’s barn, this guy has not lived up to his frosh season but has shown strong signs of life coming into this affair. It may be a stretch but then again we have to stretch it when there are favorites here that have proven vulnerable all season long.

    H2W Legend

    Review our choices and follow the wagering at the prescribed track. These are possible contenders we have judged from reviewing races. The horses’ names are listed beneath the name of the track after the date they will be racing. The race in which they are entered (R and race number) follows. If a + is in front of a horse’s name it means it is appearing on the list for the second (and last time) because it failed to win the first time it appeared. An “ae” signals the horse is entered but on the also-eligible list. Types of wagering on any of the H2W listed horses are based on your judgment. If you have any questions, email us at TwinSpires.

    11/1/13, Air Current R4; Winlighn’strikes R7; +Lettuce Hanover ae R9

    Cal Expo
    11/2/13, Bams Hottie R6; Hi Fidelity R6; Steuben Jumpinjack R11; Bo Knows Power R13

    11/1/13, Explosive Shark R1; Stonebridge Damsel, R3; Sad Story R3; Fifty Shades R5; Matt’s Smokin Lil R6; Stand Guard R7; Touch Of Charm R7; Makemywishcometrue R10; Twelve Steps R11
    11/2/13, Bettorific ae R3; Star Of The Game R4; Listowel R7; Cf Sting Rei R10; Nf Independence R12

    11/1/13, Smart As Frannie R13; +Lasting Endeavor R13; Dazzling Diana R14

    10/31/13, Gator Express R7; Makena Cat R12; Repertoire R13
    11/1/13, Hurricane Finale R7; She’s Automatic R8

    11/1/13, Mcliberty R1; Last Chance Harvey R3; Homestake ae R3; Baritone R4; My Last Tri R5; All Heart Gal R8; Lady Ashlyn R8; Aj Niko D’oro R9; Winning Double ae R15
    11/1/13, Jenjen’s Dragon R2; Flying Topless R4; Hollywood Rusty R5; Carlina Hanover R9; Hold Your Hat ae R11; Heavenly Way R13; Mach This Way R13; All About Justice ae R14
    11/2/13, Phenomenon R4; Lee Ave R7; Rick’s Crossroads R7; Il Mago R14; Flashbacks R14

    11/2/13, A Fool For Mark R4; Treasure Hunter R10

    11/1/13, Derby R1; Starsaboveallerage R3; +Dipietrantonio R4; Jk Molly R5; Annies Last R7; +Painite R8; Beat The Drum R10; +Don Dinero ae R12

     Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Oct 27, 2013

    We began the first post-Breeders Crown-season weekend on Friday, Oct. 25, at Vernon Downs with freshman stakes, the Kindergartens, for colt-and-filly trotters.

    From the Breeders Crown frosh-filly trot as our pick there and in the Vernon stakes, Goddess won. She, we suggested, would beat the obvious favorite, Yoga, and she did, with Yoga finishing second for a $26.60 exacta. Goddess paid $8.50 to win. In the single colt trot, our choice, Odds On Amethyst (18-1) broke and was eliminated.

    Saturday, Oct. 26 kept us in New York, as Yonkers held eliminations for next week’s Messenger Stakes. No one was fooled and the most obvious results ensued. We didn’t go against either of the probable favorites in the elims and they won, presenting minor awards. Sunfire Blue Chip paid $3 and Lucan Hanover $2.70. These two glamour-boy colts were also coming off of Breeders Crown performances, both losing to Captaintreacherous in the final.

    The soph-filly Lady Maude also offered elim divisions. We went one for two here, with Scandalous Hanover ($3.20) and a third for Parlee Beach. Those two also were coming off of Breeders Crown performances. The trend is obvious and reflects what we wrote about in the parting essay of our Breeders Crown Countdown blog. If you have not read that yet,
    click here. 

    Hoosier Park was busy on Saturday night with legs for two of its popular series, the Madison County for froshes and the Circle City for sophs. We had only two winners here but were in the hunt and provided a strong place finisher.

    Frosh-colt trotter EL Titan won for us, paying $3. Soph-colt trotter Punxsutawney won for us, paying $5.80.

    In the second colt split, our choice, Show Ticket was second, paying $15.80 to place and $9.60 to show. As the other half of the exacta in that race with the favorite, the pay off was $61.80. Also contributing to an exacta was Monkey Man ($4.20, $3.20), second in an exacta for the frosh-colt trotters. Along with the favorite, that exacta paid $11.60. Another choice was second, as Longwell was just beaten by the favorite in the second soph-colt trot to produce a $7.60 exacta. Two others that we chose finished second but neither My Lady Day nor Jk Endofanera assisted in favorite-related exactas. Both of our filly trotter choices broke and were eliminated and That Friske Feelin finished third. The other two were off the board.

    News And Notes

    For the first time, the $400,000 (estimated) Progress Pace will not be held on the first part of Dover Downs month-long “Novemberfest of Stakes,” which opens the track’s 45th season. The track’s signature event becomes the final showcase on the month-long stakes schedule.

    Dover’s six-month campaign begins on Sunday, Nov. 3. On the second Sunday, Nov. 10, all eight divisions of the Matron Series will feature eliminations with the top eight finishers returning on Nov. 17 for lucrative finals.

    The Progress Pace, the last outpost for glamour-boy pacers, is scheduled for $35,000 elims on Sunday, Nov. 24, with the top-eight finishers racing for an estimated $350,000 final on Sunday, Dec. 1.
    In addition to the Progress Pace and Matrons, the freshman division of the Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund (DSBF) is also on the Novemberfest program, starting on Nov. 11. The DSBF colt-and-filly pacers and trotters race in two preliminary legs and eight $100,000 finals.

    Sunday races begin at 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday post time is 4:30 p.m. There is no racing on Fridays and Saturdays. The meet begins on Sunday, Nov. 3 and continues until April 10, 2014.

    Jimmy Takter is now the leading trainer of Breeders Crown champs. After the 2013 series ended, Takter wound up with 18 wins, the most in the series’ history. From team Takter comes the announcement that two of this year’s champions, Father Patrick (one of the
    Four Horses of the Apocalypse) and Uffizi Hanover, are through for this year. Father Patrick will arguably become the winter-book favorite to win the 2014 Hambletonian after a sterling year of division domination. “Uffizi” was one of the two winners of a Breeders Crown final this year that paid double digits. He was our choice, you may, remember.

    Coming back to the track in Canada are 2011 Canadian Trotting Classic champion Daylon Magician and 2007 Breeders Crown colt-pace winner Santanna Blue Chip. They both won qualifiers at Mohawk Racetrack last week as they readied their next campaigns. Daylon Magician hadn’t raced since October of last year and was standing his first season as a stud in Canada. But now he returns to the mile battles. Santanna Blue Chip, who retired after the 2008 Matron and the 2007 Governor's Cup, is also giving up stud duty.

    Multiple world champion and 2012 Meadowlands Pace winner A Rocknroll Dance has retired from racing and will begin a stud career in 2014 in Pennsylvania. A Rocknroll Dance won $2,429,441 and was the first horse in history to take three consecutive sub-1:48 wins. Those scores came this year in an invitational at Pocono (1:47.4f) and then the elim and final of the $651,000 Canadian Pacing Derby (1:47.3-1:47.2).

    You may remember we backed him at his prime, winning the “Pace” and more at three. He was never the same dynamo at four until late in the season when he splurged from the doldrums and established world records at four on five-eighths and half-mile tracks. His 1:49.1 world mark on a half was taken winning the Battle Of Lake Erie at Northfield over Foiled Again and his 1:47.4 world mark on a five-eighths came in the Invite at Pocono. In addition, he set the pace for world record miles for Bolt The Duer as a three-year-old (1:47.4f in the Adios Final) and Pet Rock as a four-year-old (1:47.2f at Scioto). He would later defeat all three of those horses in the Canadian Pacing Derby at Mohawk in track and Canadian record time.

    Extraordinary Extras

    Indulge in many standardbred topics at my Hoof Beats blog titled
    Vast Performances.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this blog.



    Cartoons by Thom Pye

  • Eliminating the Non-Contenders in the Breeders’ Cup

    POSTED Oct 24, 2013
    If you’re like me, handicapping the Breeders’ Cup races is like judging the Miss Universe Pageant. Ultimately, all the contestants are above average in the looks department, they all want world peace and they all seem incredibly happy.

    In other words, as is the case with the Breeders' Cup events, there are few, if any, glaring toss-outs.

    Yet, unless one’s betting strategy entails wagering on every horse in every Breeders’ Cup race — which has produced a surprisingly decent -5.2 percent ROI since 1997, by the way — one must find a way to eliminate certain entrants... without any weeping and/or gnashing of teeth.

    Well, like Billy Swan, I can help.

    Using my database of BC results from 1997 to 2012, I found some angles that one can use to instantly eliminate horses from further consideration, thereby saving time and aspirin:

    1. Discard any horse that last raced on a dirt or all-weather surface if today’s race is on turf or that last raced over the lawn if today’s race is on the dirt.

    The Stats (since 1997): Six winners in 161 attempts, with a 0.44 impact value (IV) and a 0.56 odds-based impact value (OBIV).

    2. In routes (races of one mile or greater), toss any horse that last competed at six furlongs or less.

    The Stats: Two winners in 33 attempts (including Beholder last year), with a 0.68 IV and a 0.64 OBIV.

    3. Eliminate any horse with a median late speed ration (LSR) of -20 or less*.

    The Stats: Zero winners in 34 attempts.

    4. Reject any horse whose last-race form rating was less than 20 percent*.

    The Stats: Four winners in 119 attempts, 0.39 IV and a 0.59 OBIV.

    5. Toss any horse trained by Aidan O’Brien that is running on dirt.

    The Stats: This is no knock on O’Brien, whose overall BC record is impeccable (seven winners in 81 tries with a 1.01 IV). However, there is a clear distinction between the veteran conditioner’s starters on dirt (0.41 IV, 0.39 OBIV) and his starters on all-weather or turf (1.34 IV, 0.75 OBIV).

    6. In the juvenile turf events, don’t consider any horse with a Brisnet Turf Pedigree rating** of less than 110.

    The Stats: One winner (Maram, 2008 Juvenile Fillies Turf) in 59 tries, with a 0.22 IV and a 0.24 OBIV.

    7. In dirt races, avoid win bets on horses with an “S” style rating** (these types do finish in the money a fair amount of the time).

    The Stats: Seven winners in 138 attempts, 0.59 IV, 0.57 OBIV.

    Hopefully this will help you avoid a few losers and reduce your handicapping time on Breeders’ Cup Day.

    For more great stats like the ones above, be sure to check out my 2013 Breeders’ Cup Betting Guide available at Brisnet.com/bc and my 2013 Breeders’ Cup Trainers Guide available at SimonSpeedRations.com/products.

    * This number can be found in my Pace Profile Report available prior to the Breeders’ Cup via Brisnet.com or SimonSpeedRations.com.

    ** This rating can be found in the Brisnet past performances available at Brisnet.com.

  • Messenger Launches Season-Ending Stakes

    POSTED Oct 23, 2013

    It’s post Breeders Crown but action continues through autumn, as do stakes events. A number of lucrative freshman events and the Matrons for two-and three-year-olds will headling the closing months of 2013. This weekend we highlight Yonkers, Vernon and Hoosier, where a lot of money is on the line for talented standardbreds.

    The pacing classic, the Messenger, had enough soph colts to include elims, which we cover here for Yonkers Raceway, along with the Lady Maud. Vernon hosts frosh-cash events and the Midwest faction offers big bucks at Hoosier, which is having one of its greatest harness meets. Check out the TwinSpires Pick-4 bonus at Hoosier, click here.

    Read our parting essay for the Breeders Crown Countdown by clicking here.

    The horses-to-watch list (H2W) returns this week to pick up steam for its most prolific season. Check out the list below.

    Messenger Models

    Ten glamour-boy pacers, eight colts and two geldings, entered for Yonkers Raceway’s Messenger Stakes this year. The 58th version offers a total purse of $530,000. Having 10 drop in the box means the event necessitated eliminations. It’s the first time elims have been needed for the event since 2007. A pair of $40,000 elims are on the card this Saturday, Oct. 26, with the first four finishers in each returning for the Saturday, Nov. 2, final, worth a guaranteed $450,000.

    The first elim attracted a pacer from the Pocono Downs Breeders Crown (BC) show, Sunfire Blue Chip, who was second to Captaintreacherous in his Crown elim. Lonewolf Currier is also in elim one. He was second in one of the Invitational miles on the BC finals program and has won at Yonkers this season. The other first-elim entrants are Dedi’s Dragon, Ronny Bugatti and Good Day Mate.

    Sunfire Blue Chip is tough to try to beat here, though his price will be miniscule. As a key he could top a strong exacta or triple if you toss out “Lonewolf” and get lucky with two of the low-profile colts. Dedi’s Dragon may be overlooked and have a better chance than his odds.

    The second elim includes Lucan Hanover (also from the BC group), Bet The Moon, Twilight Bonfire, Odds On Equuleus and Word Power. Lucan Hanover is bound to be the favorite and may deserve it. Neither of the other four has come close to doing well against what he has faced recently (he won a “Jug” elim). Keying him to Word Power may offer a good exacta combo. That one has been getting better.

    The companion event is the $218,684 Lady Maud Pace for soph-filly pacers. It attracted 14 fillies, launching a pair of eliminations, also on Saturday’s card. The first four finishers return for the $178,684 final, also on Nov. 2.

    The first elim includes BC competitors Somwherovrarainbow and Parlee Beach (the latter races coupled with Social Scene). Also in it are Charisma Hanover, Handsoffmycupcake, Zinderella and Certified Ideal. We are going again with Parlee Beach, who couldn’t compare her BC mile to what she did on Jug day but may here at a price.

    The second elim includes BC players Scandalous Hanover (a $15,000 supplemental entrant) and Aunt Caroline, along with Live Entertainment, Jerseylicious, Antigua Hanover, Summertime Lea and Bettor Think Twice. “Scandalous” should be firing on all cylinders in the elim and final, which she may win also. Aunt Caroline raced well at Pocono and may be the second past the wire.

    Kindergarten Kids

    There have been five legs of this lucrative series, beginning at The Meadowlands in August, turning to Tioga Downs and The Red Mile as the season wore on, leading to the Friday, Oct. 25 Kindergarten Trotting Classic finals at Vernon. Foes will race for over $400,000 in total purses. 
    The fillies go first and trainer Jimmy Takter’s Yoga (photo left) is an early co-choice. She comes into the race a point leader with four wins in the series. Yoga, four for five in her short career, faces a three-pronged entry (due to ownership), two that are still maidens. Takter has Yoga coupled with a maiden, too.

    The outside contenders include a filly we liked in the Breeders Crown. Goddess made the final, finishing a strong third at 45-1 in her elim and off the board in the final. She is improving and can be prominent in this race. Also contending and bound to be ignored is Chocolate Crisp. She won the Marion Dancer at Freehold before breaking in Lexington and qualifying well in Philadelphia and she has won a Kindergarten leg.
    The colt final also hails a Takter pupil as an early choice. Trixton (photo left) is sharp now. She comes from the strong first crop of Muscle Hill in an attempt to win the $217,500 final. Trixon is a soft favorite at best, since the speedy Outburst is here, along with Southwind Spirit, fourth in the Breeders Crown against the marvelous Father Patrick.

    Overlooked on the morning line is Odds On Amethyst, a colt that was well considered in his Breeders Crown elim until busting at the gait and eliminating all chance of being in the final. Though he lost to Outburst in Kentucky, he trotted a longer mile on the outside to finish second to him in a Kindergarten leg. Then he was second to Father Patrick. With his successful stride he could topple the choices here at a price.

    Hoosier Haunts

    The Madison County miles for freshmen at Hoosier Park and the Circle City for sophomores line the program on Oct. 26. Here’s what we like in them in order of the races’ on the card.

    Two-year-old colt trot: EL Titan comes off a good win as a surprising favorite in Kentucky and should romp here.
    Two-year-old filly pace: My Lady Day is Joe Holloway’s spirited gal that is capable of high speed in this one.
    Two-year-old colt trot: Monkey Man may be the third choice and that could be quite a price for him against the two morning-line choices.
    Two-year-old filly trot: The sharp Chocolatier filly, Simply Class, will come out winging and possibly shake up these gals and the tote board.
    Three-year-old colt pace: Ron Burke’s That Friske Feelin will get play but still may be worth the win price. Hopefully, Dave Palone will pick the other horse that lists him because it could help the price not to have him aboard.
    Two-year-old filly trot: Three gals in this field are still maidens and we like the one sired by Deweycheatumnhowe. The Fighting Bug offers the best breeding in the field (per average earnings) and may shock this field with a win and a price.
    Three-year-old colt trot: Longwell may be a strong second public choice but has won in the Midwest and can topple the obvious choice in King Mufasa.
    Two-year-old colt pace: The Art Major son, JK Endofanera, is among the sire’s successful froshes and could score among this group.
    Three-year-old colt pace: Our Dragon King has not been as prolific as he had been at two but against a Midwest crew he could win again and pull of one of his high-price rewards.
    Three-year-old colt trot: You cannot try to beat Punxsutawney here, it’s a wire-to-wire glide, making him a key if you feel his price is too low.
    Two-year-old colt pace: Let’s Drink On It shows up to do what he failed to do on the BC elim card and can very well do the job easily.
    Three-year-old colt trot: Show Ticket is a good colt that is ready to pop soon and this could be the joint that hears the winning sound.

    H2W Legend

    Review our choices and follow the wagering at the prescribed track. These are possible contenders we have judged from reviewing races. The horses’ names are listed beneath the name of the track after the date they will be racing. The race in which they are entered (R and race number) follows. If a + is in front of a horse’s name it means it is appearing on the list for the second (and last time) because it failed to win the first time it appeared. An “ae” signals the horse is entered but on the also-eligible list. Types of wagering on any of the H2W listed horses are based on your judgment. If you have any questions, email us at TwinSpires.


    10/26/13, Jerrico R11

    10/25/13, TSM Pearldrop R1; Lettuce Hanover R5; The Awful Truth R9

    10/25/13, Kaptain Mac Daddy R2; Lasting Endeavor R10; Massasauga R12; Bound To Scoot R13

    10/25/13, Repertoire ae R7; Makena Cat ae R9; Gator Express ae R14

    10/25/13, Game Madison R1; Misschipbyart R8; Mcardle Direct R13

    10/25/13, Dipietrantonio R1; Painite R4; Rompaway Brandon R5; Con Air Crown R11; Don Dinero R12

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.


  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Oct 20, 2013

    Saturday night, Oct. 19 we gathered again in the press box at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs with the sport’s top journalists from all over the world, this time to cover the dozen Breeders Crown finals.

    It was a bit different from the week before when we covered the elimination races. On both nights when the racetrack offered elims on the program, the Pocono Mountains were aglow with bright nights and a sparkling sky. This week, the closer it came to post time the more gray the sky became and the air went from gently moist to pelting wet with rain. The five-eighths-mile oval went from conditions “fast” to “good” to “sloppy” more quickly than a world record mile was broken by either gait.

    Still, the show went on and the results were not so different than they might have been were the mountain breezes blowing in clear October skies. Armed with our on-site senses and our laptops, the Twitter accounts of @FrankCotolo and @HarnessRaycer rolled out tweets with tips, info and photos throughout the card.

    Again, we thanks the
    Hambletonian Society –Tom Charters, Moira Fanning and the Board of Directors—for the accommodations and chance to work at the event representing TwinSpires.

    What follows are the results of our efforts to assist bettors in finding the most valuable wagers up to the minute of each post. A few of our last-minute alterations in the Thursday blogs’ choices were positive, though the entire program offered far more public choices winning than we enjoy backing. But many of our horses were alive and thoroughly involved in prices on the board and in exotics.

    Breeders Crown finals, 2013

    Two-year-old Colt & Gelding Trot
    One of the four “locks” we addressed won the first event. Father Patrick ($2.10, $2.10, $2.10) finalized his divisional crown with an easy win just before sunset and showers. We backed him up with two horses, Nuncio ($3.40, $2.20) and Don Dorado. The latter broke and was eliminated. The exacta, which last week paid us $26.80, paid $4.20.

    Two-year-old Filly Pace
    One of only two winners on the program that paid double digits was our choice, Uffizi Hanover ($10.20, $5.20, $4.20). Our second-and-third choices were off the board.

    Two-year-old Filly Trot
    This was our worst effort in the result category but in our own defense we never had a shot with any of the three we offered because they all broke stride and chopped their ways over the finish line at the back of the field. Lifetime Pursuit finished ninth, Demanding Sam finished seventh and Cooler Schooner—the race favorite—finished eighth.

    Open Trot
    We did not mention the winner, Market Share, but he shared the trifecta with two of our choices. Our top choice, Arch Madness was third ($6.20) and our third choice, Mister Herbie was secon ($5.80, $4). The winner was tweeted by @HarnessRaycer. Market Share ($6, $3.20, $3.20) led the $1.96.40 trifecta.

    Three-year-old Filly Pace
    The second lock of the program, according to many punters, was I Luv The Nitelife ($4, $2.80, $2.10) and shockingly enough, she was second choice. Her even-money win was “a gift” according to more than one pro handicapper. Our other choices were off the board. From @HarnessRaycer came the place horse, Authorize ($10,60, $7.80) and an exacta worth $43.80).

    Two-year-old Colt & Gelding Pace
    Paying close attention to tweets and blogs may have rewarded followers in this event. One of our third-place choices and our choice that won last week’s elim, Luck Be Withyou ($5.80, $4, $3.20), won. The tweets offered extra warning about a 34-1horse not mentioned in our blog. Losing by only a head, Sometimes Said ($20.40, $7.80) took the second spot. The exacta paid $120. Our other third choice, Somestarsomewhere ($2.80) was third. That trifecta paid $3.80.80. Our first choice, So Surreal, broke making a big move at three-quarters, and was eliminated.

    Mare Trot
    Our third choice and the super favorite, Maven ($2.60, $2.20, $2.10) won easily as the rain continued in sheets through the area. Again, our choice broke as Check Me Out jumped at the beginning of the race and as he came back on gait and made a move late, he broke again at the top of the stretch. Our second choice was off the board while @HarnessRaycer tweeted the winner.

    Open Mares Pace
    Our main choice was off the board while our second and third choices finished in that order. Rocklamation ($5, $3.40) and Anndrovette ($2.80) competed the trifecta.

    Three-year-old Filly Trot
    The third lock won in a flash with a flash. Bee A Magician ($2.10, $2.10, $2.10) was never challenged once on the lead early. One of our third choices, Frau Blucher ($3.60, $2.80) completed the meager $6.60 exacta. Our two other listed horses were off the board, one of them due to a break.

    Three-year-old Colt Pace
    Once again we encouraged the adventures of Captaintreacherous ($2.10, $2.10, $2.10) and he provided the thrills necessary to make harness racing history (photo above). Multiple moves in the gritty going and a stubborn lead-capturing stride won it again for the pacer that deserves Horse of the Year honors. Our other choices were off the board.

    Three-year-old Colt Trot
    Our original choices, Royalty For Life, was scratched “due to injury” and that left us with two outsiders that were off the board.

    Horse Pace
    Passing the probable favorite, we were nosed by him at the wire when Pet Rock ($4.60, $3.20) finished second and our first choice, Modern Legend ($5.20) got up for third.

    It has already been determined that the 2014 championship series will be presented at The New Meadowlands. We hope to be there to cover it for TwinSpires bettors.

    The final two months of the harness season still offer some stakes events and we are going to return over the next few months and into 2014 with a more extensive horses-to-watch (H2W) list. So stay tuned, the action is far from over in 2013 and will continue abundantly into the winter of 2014.

    Indulge in many standardbred topics at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this blog.

    Cartoons by Thom Pye





  • Bet Against the Best in the BC

    POSTED Oct 18, 2013

    From the time I made my first trip to the track at 15 years of age until well into my 20s, I thought horse race handicapping was all about finding the “best” horse.

    Steve Davidowitz wrote about his 50-percent winning average in “Betting Thoroughbreds” and I was enthralled; William L. Scott explained how concentrating on the top three betting choices could produce consistent winnings in “Investing at the Racetrack” and I was mesmerized.

    By the time I reached my 30s, I was disillusioned.

    It’s not that those books have no value — at the time they were published (about 30 years ago), they were great. And I still consider them required reading for any aspiring horse player.

    But the game has changed over the last three decades. The hordes of novice players that used to pack the grandstand are gone, replaced by veteran players packing a laptop and a printout of sophisticated speed and/or pace figures.

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: The average horse bettor today knows more about the game he/she is playing than the average investor knows about the stock market. As a result, the pari-mutuel market is very efficient and finding the “best” horse simply doesn’t cut it. Sure, you may be able to win a fair percentage of the time, but invariably you’ll get paid $5.20 or less for the trouble.

    No series of races quite drums home this point like the Breeders’ Cup. Since 1997, favorites have won just 29 percent of the time, largely due to the highly competitive nature of the races and the bigger-than-normal fields.

    But this got me to wondering: Is there a way to profit from the knowledge that the best horses don’t always perform up to expectations on Breeders’ Cup Day?

    After some exhaustive research, I had my answer — yes. Better still, there are numerous ways it can be accomplished.

    The first test I conducted related to the Brisnet Power Ratings.

    Now, under normal circumstances, horses with the highest Brisnet Power Rating do about as well as favorites in terms of winning percentage and even ROI — with the added bonus that one needn’t monitor the tote board (to determine who, exactly, the favorite is).

    However, in the BC, this is definitely not the case. Take a peek at the digits on horses possessing the highest Brisnet Power Rating for the race in which they were entered (since 1997):

    Number (races): 131 (131)
    Winners: 21
    Race Win Rate: 16.0%
    Net Return: $1.10
    ROI: -44.89%

    The numbers aren’t much better for horses with the second-best Brisnet Power Rating (BPR) either:

    Number (races): 131 (131)
    Winners: 16
    Race Win Rate: 12.2%
    Net Return: $1.59
    ROI: -20.50%

    Yet, if we toss the top two BPR horses in every BC race and insist on minimum morning-line odds of 5-1, we get the following stats:

    Number: 970 (131)
    Winners: 54
    Race Win Rate: 41.2%
    Net Return: $2.02
    ROI: +1.11%

    Granted, these numbers wouldn’t have made you rich, but at least they’re positive.

    The second test that I did was even more straightforward — I simply used the morning line odds to assess who the best horses were. Like the Brisnet Power Ratings (only in reverse), the lower odds represented the best horses and, therefore, the horses I suspected one should bet against.

    I was right.

    The sole morning-line favorite (I eliminated entries to keep it apples to apples) in BC contests performed thusly (since 1997):

    Number: 153 (153)
    Winners: 39
    Race Win Rate: 25.5%
    Net Return: $1.48
    ROI: -25.78%

    Once again, however, we see profits if we toss the morning-line favorite and ask, instead, for a morning-line price of 5-1 or greater:

    Number: 1,484 (154)
    Winners: 92
    Race Win Rate: 59.7%
    Net Return: $2.08
    ROI: +3.89%

    These are just a couple of ways to find value in the Breeders’ Cup races; obviously, there are many, many more. The key thing to take from this, though, is that the “best” horse isn’t always the one to bet… especially come Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita Park.
  • Breeders Crown Finals Are Wager-Worthy

    POSTED Oct 16, 2013

    The Breeders Crown for 2013 takes place on the single program at Pocono Downs this Saturday, Oct. 19. We will once again be on site for the events, offering tweets @FrankCotolo , @HarnessRaycer with extended coverage. Follow us for some major late-breaking wagering opportunities, as well as exclusive insider comments.

    This week’s blog, like last week’s blog, splits into two volumes. We cover, below, the two- and three-year-old events. At the Breeders CrownCountdown blog, we cover the finals for the older divisions. Our horses-to-watch list (H2W) returns next week.

    The finals’ fields include the top finishers from the elims and the byes, making for competitive races, though four of them include arguable locks.
    Two-year-old Colt Trot

    One of this year’s three best horses has been Father Patrick. We have sung his praises through the season and he has not let us down. In the elim we nabbed him with Nuncio for an exacta, having faith in the latter’s return after a rest. Father Patrick made up a lot of ground to win but it’s the kind of horse he has been all season in this division. Don Dorado, here with rest, comes in on a bye and should be wailing. Nuncio could be in the mix again.

    Two-year-old Filly Pace
    Gallie Bythe Beach won an elim but her connections scratched her, disliking how she came out of the mile. So, Precocious Beauty, beaten a neck last week and getting post 8, may be a decent price, especially with She’s Da Bomb, though also an elim loser, and Allstar Rating, the other elim winner, drawing inside of her. If those three cancel each another out with duels and shuffling, which is a good possibility, Uffizi Hanover could be the upset performer.

    Two-year-old Filly Trot
    Cooler Schooner appears to be a step or two better than her main rival, Shake It Cerry, but that is impossible to prove. Ultimately, the filly that can topple them both, especially if they speed it up midway to get control, is Lifetime Pursuit. A spoiler for the exacta may be Demanding Sam, who was strong late against “Cooler” in a deceiving close (because “Cooler” won by over 10 lengths). “Cerry” could be off the board.

    Three-year-old Filly Pace
    This division went sans elims but what does that matter when I Luv The Nitelife shows up to race? She is the second of four outstanding division leaders and should cap her soph season tonight with a blaze of glory. There will be action on Shebestingin and Somwherovrarainbow but it is most difficult to see them beating “Nitelife.” In fact, while you are keying Nitelife in exotics, don’t leave out Parlee Beach, who could pull another great second as she did in Delaware, at a big price.

    Two-year-old Colt Pace
    This is a tough field with a lot of cases for many to win. So Surreal closed very well in his elim and may be a big overlay compared to Somestarsomewhere and Luck Be Withyou, last week’s steamers. Also a probable outsider with a decent chance of being in the mix is Three Of Clubs. He will be under-rated, especially from post 8, but is coming around to a strong peak at the right time.

    Three-year-old Filly Trot

    The next standout, unbeaten in her division and the filly many thought could have beaten the boys in the Hambo, is Bee A Magician. Readers of this blog heard the name first here, last year, when we forecast the daughter of Kadabra to be a giant. She has exceeded our expectations and could be the best around since CR Kay Suzie. Royal Assets scratched, bringing Southwind Cocoa into the field but that is a small asterisk. Chances are Coffeecake Hanover or Ma Chere Hall sit behind “Bee” and there is the exacta.

    Three-year-old Colt Pace

    Rarely at this time in the season can a harness writer be at a loss for superlatives when it comes to any horse but the well of accolades has been emptied when it comes to Captaintreacherous. It’s amazing that the track handicapper’s morning line makes him a 5-2 favorite. Those odds are madness; they represents a 29-percent chance to win for one of the greatest pacers to set foot on a racetrack in modern times. We should only be so lucky to get such a wager. For an exacta price look at Apprentice Hanover, who can sneak in there while the other public choices try again to thwart Captaintreacherous’ trip. Beach Memories could hoist the price of a trifecta. Horses in exotics with “Captain” have tended to be outsiders, the ones standing after the better ones lose their breaths.

    Three-year-old Colt Trot

    We think Royalty For Life will race far better than he did in the elim, where he finished fourth while maintaining a tiresome outside trip. No doubt he will be sent strongly this time and when he is able to take command he will do what he has done to these same horses almost repeatedly through the season. He may be a better price than ever, though, because the crowd is fickle and because he has not totally dominated the division and because All Laid Out is the “now” horse. We like to think that means he loses now. Use Deadliest Catch in exotics, as well as EL Rocket to boost your prices.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.