Archive for the Handicapping Category

Aug 11 2018

Saratoga Turf Primer

Saratoga is a Race Track that has two turf courses located inside of the Main Dirt track. The outer turf course is officially known as the Mellon Turf Course, in honor of the Mellon family (whose members were prominent owners and breeders in the Thoroughbred industry). The inner turf course is located directly inside of the Mellon Turf Course. As far as turf courses go, it is pretty straight-forward with no chutes or extensions like turf courses at some other race tracks.

The following diagram highlights the Mellon Turf course (in light green) and includes the location of the starting gate (in a box) for each distance from 5f to 9.5f.
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Aug 6 2018

Know Your Trainers – Chad Brown

A frequent question asked by new fans trying to learn more about horse racing is, “Where do I begin?” My immediate response is generally, “Get to know your trainers.” While learning about topics like distance, class, and pace are important … in my opinion, none are as important as learning about the tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses of trainers. With that thought in mind, we continue our series of articles called “Know Your Trainers.”  In this series we will dig into the statistics of some head trainers and try to make sense of the numbers we find.

So let’s continue with a big name in the business presently, Chad Brown. Our focus will be on two main areas; Graded Stakes and 2-Year old horses, with a couple of extras that we uncovered by surprise.  We limited the data to the past year.  And statistics for this article were gathered on August 3, 2018.

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Jul 31 2018

Uncovering Workout Patterns – TimeformUS Style

In a prior article we discussed the importance of using workouts to evaluate a horse’s current racing “form.”  Workouts were described in detail and Daily Racing Form examples were provided, including the option to “merge” workouts into the running lines with DRF Formulator.  Click here to view “Workouts – A Measure of Racing Form.”

In this article we’re going to feature workouts, as they are presented in TimeformUS.  And specifically, how they help you spot patterns for a horse that is coming back from a layoff. The horse is Come Dancing, and she made her return to racing on July 25, 2018 in the 6th race at Saratoga. Below are her PPs.

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Jul 25 2018

Saratoga Post Positions – On Dirt

Horses in Gate

Post positions in and of themselves are not important. Post positions relative to where the starting gate is located on the track, the running style (e.g. early speed vs. closer) for each horse, and the size of the field are quite important.

For example, an inside post position when the gate is located only a few hops from the first turn is helpful to almost any horse, and greatly advantageous to a horse with fast-breaking early speed. On the other hand, an outside post position in the same situation is a serious disadvantage. Even if the horse has enough speed to run up to the front before the first turn, he must use some energy to get there, which could compromise his chances later.

If he cannot get to the front by the first turn, then he risks losing precious ground to the field going wide around the turn. And if the horse is not in the capable hands of a quality jockey, he might end up going wide around successive turns as well. He could end up running substantially more distance than the other horses located to his inside.

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Jul 19 2018

10 Things To Remember at Saratoga – 2018

 

In no particular order, here are some handicapping tips to remember as we head into the 2018 Saratoga racing meet:

 

  1. Speed is dangerous on the turf, especially on the Inner Turf course.  The tight turns and sun-baked surface seem to favor speed horses.  Also, the combination of speed and inside post position is deadly.
  2. “Horses for Courses” rings true at Saratoga.  In an article a few years ago we provided examples of three such horses in just the first four days of racing.  Click here to read the details, including what to look for when you’re handicapping.
  3. Trainer George Weaver is one of the few trainers with a positive ROI at Saratoga nearly every year. Click here to read an article about Timeform Trainer ratings.  George was featured in this article, in particular his record with 2-year old maidens.
  4. Use the tote board to help when handicapping 2-year old maiden races and pay close attention when a horse is being well bet from a trainer who is not one of the leading trainers.  Be wary of multi-race wagers (e.g. Pick-4,5,6) when a 2-year old race is toward the end of the sequence.  If a 2-year old race is the first or second leg, use the tote board and probable doubles payouts to help.
  5. Outside post positions at 1 1/8 mile (9 furlongs) on the dirt are really bad.  This is due to the location of the starting gate at the finish line, very close to the first turn.  In 2017, horses starting in post position 8 or higher were 0 for 19 in dirt route races at Saratoga.
  6. Jockey Jose Lezcano has the highest ROI of any major jockey over the Saratoga turf courses in the past two years.  In 2016 his ROI was $2.36 and in 2017 it was $2.91.
  7. “Never burn your winners.”  Coined by Jim Mazur, if you like a “single” horse and your bankroll is limited, make a WIN bet before spending a lot of money on “singling” your horse in multi-race wagers.
  8. Know your trainers.  Whether using Jim Mazur products from Progressive Handicapping, DRF Formulator statistics, or some other source, get to know the strengths and weaknesses of trainers and their tendencies at Saratoga.  Click here for a list of “Know Your Trainer” articles.
  9. Always listen to NYRA paddock analyst, Maggie Wolfendale, but especially on 2-year old maiden races and Stakes races – two areas where she seems to excel with her physical analysis of the horses in the paddock.  Click here to learn more about Maggie.
  10. Get the NYRA NOW App on your phone or tablet.  Live coverage is very good and insures you’ll be able to hear Maggie’s comments.  Click here for our detailed review of the NYRA NOW App.

I hope these tips help. Good luck to everyone during the 2018 Saratoga racing meet!


Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

The Article Sponsored By ADIRONDACK BEVERAGES

The Article Sponsored By ADIRONDACK BEVERAGES (A Favorite Cooler Drink Of Racing Fans at Saratoga)

Jun 8 2018

Triple Crown Dreams 2018 (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this article we showed a chart of the “disappointed dozen” horses who have failed to win the Belmont Stakes after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes since 1978. Included in that article was a more detailed account of the first six of these Triple Crown candidates. In Part 2 we describe the attempts of the remaining six, and offer a comparison of all twelve with this year’s candidate, Justify. We also contrast the Belmont Stakes spoilers from year’s past with the field from the 2018 Belmont Stakes.

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Jun 7 2018

Triple Crown Dreams 2018

Since 1978, when Affirmed won the Triple Crown, there have been 14 horses in a position to win the Triple Crown after they won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. One managed to win, American Pharoah, in 2015.  The other thirteen did not.

From this point forward, we are going to give a pass to one of these 13 horses, I’ll Have Another, who was scratched from the 2012 Belmont Stakes.  How did the remaining twelve fair in the Belmont Stakes.  Their record: ZERO wins, 4 seconds, 4 thirds … and 4 off the board.  Given the fact all twelve were post-time favorites and their average win odds was 4-5, that’s not so good.  It’s a pretty safe bet that Justify will be somewhere around that 4-5 mark when they load the gate on June 9.  Will he suffer the same fate of these dozen horses … highly regarded, heavily bet, and considered by many in the crowd to be destined for greatness?

In this article we’ll take a closer look at the disappointed dozen and see if we can find any common threads in their dashed dreams.  Later we’ll compare these past Triple Crown candidates with our present day candidate Justify.  Then you can decide for yourself whether or not he’s destined for greatness.

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May 3 2018

Kentucky Oaks Trends 2018

In the last article, Kentucky Derby Trends 2018, a reader commented:

“Great article Neal! Wonder how this translates to the Oaks race?”

That’s a good question I thought.  In this article I will try to answer that question.  Although the fillies run only 9 furlongs in the Oaks, compared to the colts going 10 furlongs in the Derby, the question of the stretch run in Prep races remains the same since horses are coming from racetracks that have a stretch run much shorter than Churchill Downs.  The results suggest stretch length might be a bigger factor in the Oaks than in the Derby.  Keep reading …

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Apr 30 2018

Kentucky Derby Trends 2018

This article includes some trends about recent Kentucky Derby winners and other horses that have finished in the money for the Derby.  Part of this discussion has to include the special challenge of distance for Derby contestants and related to that, the added challenge of horses facing a stretch run that is quite long at Churchill Downs.

As most people are aware, the Kentucky Derby is 1 1/4 mile (10 furlongs) long.  A distance that no horse in the field has ever run prior to the Derby.  That alone is challenge enough.  In addition to that, many of the horses are coming from racetracks that have a stretch run considerably shorter than at Churchill Downs.  The diagrams below shows the stretch runs for Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park.  The length of the stretch runs are shown in feet beneath the blue arrows.
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Aug 23 2015

Know Your Trainers – Pletcher vs. Mott

Includes data through July 23, 2015 (with a recent update on a Bill Mott turnaround category).

A frequent question asked by new fans trying to learn more about horse racing is, “Where do I begin?” My immediate response is generally, “Get to know your trainers.” While learning about topics like distance, class, and pace are important … in my opinion, none are as important as learning about the tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses of trainers. With that thought in mind, last year we started a new series of articles called “Know Your Trainers.”

In this series we will dig into the statistics of some head trainers and try to make sense of the numbers we find. We thought it might be fun to present the numbers in a “competitive” manner by pairing trainers. With that said, we are not trying to judge the trainers or claim that one is better than another. Our intention is to pair trainers who have statistics in comparable categories and present some plausible reasons why they might differ.

Here is an update on two of the big names in the business, Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott. Our focus will be on two main areas; Graded Stakes and First Time Starters (FTS). The statistics presented were gathered with Daily Racing Form’s online software Formulator. We limited the data to the past two years, but you can go back five years if you want a larger sample of data.

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