Archive for the Handicapping Category

Aug 10 2015

Attacking The Spa With Negative Stats

By Guest Author: Jim Mazur

Back in the good old days when I first started playing the horses (’72), this used to be an easy game to wager on. After handicapping the race, one simply went to the window and bet the selection to win, place or show. If a player really wanted to get exotic, then he or she could tie up two selections in a daily double.

Easy game. Can of corn. Now fast forward 43 years. The wagering menu has grown leaps and bounds both vertically and horizontally. From a vertical standpoint, there are now exactas, trifectas, superfectas and super5s. Horizontally, the game has evolved first into the Pick 3 and then wider into sequences demanding winners in 4, 5 6 and sometimes 9 consecutive races.

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Jun 6 2015

Triple Crown Dreams Dashed – Part 2

In Part 1 of this article we showed a chart of the “disappointed dozen” horses who have attempted 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, American Pharoah. We also contrast the Belmont Stakes spoilers from year’s past with the field from the 2015 Belmont Stakes.

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Jun 2 2015

Triple Crown Dreams Dashed

You know the story. Since the last Triple Crown winner in 1978, Affirmed, there have been 13 horses prior to American Pharoah, in a position to win the Triple Crown after they won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.  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 American Pharoah will be somewhere around that 4-5 mark when they load the gate on June 6.  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 (in Part 2) we’ll compare these past Triple Crown candidates with our present day candidate American Pharoah.  Then you can decide for yourself whether or not he’s destined for greatness.

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May 28 2015

Belmont Park – The Green Monster of Racetracks

Belmont Park is The Green Monster of Racetracks, with the largest oval of any thoroughbred racetrack in North America, 11/2 miles in circumference. That’s 12 furlongs, or put in relative terms, 3 furlongs longer than Saratoga and Aqueduct (the other two racetracks on the NYRA circuit). It’s 4 furlongs longer than Santa Anita, Churchill Downs, Monmouth Park, and other 1-mile tracks. Again, in relative terms, that 50% longer than those racetracks. Also, unlike many other racetracks, there are virtually no restrictions on the possible distances of races that can be run at Belmont.

Belmont is a visually stunning racetrack to witness in person. From the stands it seems like the backstretch is miles away. And, due to the structural design, there are no televisions mounted near the grandstand seats. For that reason, binoculars are as essential to the racing patron as a copy of the racing program and a cold draft beer. Fancy hats are optional.

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Apr 28 2015

2015 Triple Crown ‘Capping, Wagering, and Stories

Since I will be offline for the majority of the Triple Crown races this year, I thought it would be nice to put together a collection of previously published articles that might be of some use to horseplayers and fans as they make their way through the 2015 Triple Crown season.  Below is a list of the articles with a brief explanation why they might be of interest to you.  Click on the Title to be transferred to the full article.

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Apr 16 2015

Panning For Gold in the Keeneland Handicapping Database

Keeneland Starting Gate3

Keeneland is a beautiful race course, set in the bucolic hills of Lexington, Kentucky.  Each time we visit there we find something new.  Unfortunately, we were unable to return there in the Spring of 2015, so the search for something new was limited to the internet … and sure enough, it was found.  The Keeneland Handicapping Database.

Free to anyone with a computer and link to the internet, a database of 2,665 races run at Keeneland, from 2006 through the present.  With one click, the information can be downloaded to a spreadsheet … and then sorted, sliced, and diced to your heart’s desire.  And if you’ve been following this website for any length of time, you know that I can’t resist a little “Panning for Gold.”  Below is a list of some of the data that’s available:

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Apr 12 2015

Conditional Claiming Races: Require a Closer Look

In a prior article we introduced Claiming races. Click here for a review of that article. The type of races described in that article are open to any horse where the owner is willing to offer the horse for the claiming price of the race. But, there are other types of Claiming races where a horse can be entered only if they meet certain “conditions.” It is these type of races that we will focus on in this article. We’ll start with the simple, and work our way up to the more complex. Read More >>

Apr 5 2015

Needs The Lead: Causes Troubles Indeed

Battle for the Lead

When handicapping, I will sometimes make the notation, “Needs The Lead” at the top of a horse’s Past Performances (PPs). Meaning they do their best (and sometimes only) running when they are happily cruising on an uncontested lead at the front of the pack.

Now, if the horse is running in a race on a speed favoring surface, or happens to be the “only” speed in the race, I will color code my comment in Blue (for a good thing). But, more times than not I don’t view this trait as a “good thing.” Especially if there are other “Needs The Lead” horses in the same race or if the horse in question doesn’t seem to have superior speed to establish an easy lead.

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Mar 20 2015

How Did They Do It? A Visual Handicapping Lesson

Gary Stevens and Beholder

Beholder and Gary Stevens. Photo by Alicia Hamm

Continuing on the theme of a prior article on “Visual Handicapping” we’re going to get into more details on questions raised there.  Click here to review the visual handicapping article, and learn more about the differences between visual handicapping and trip handicapping.

With visual handicapping, it’s always important to look beyond the raw numbers (i.e. Beyer Speed Figures, Pace Figures, Running Lines) in the Daily Racing Form and ask the question, “How did they do it?”

We raised some of these questions before, but we’ll ask them again:

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Feb 27 2015

B2b … finally! (A Positive Sign of Racing Form)

In the introductory article on the topic of Form, we explained the challenges and potential rewards for mastering the art of evaluating a horse’s current racing Form (aka Fitness, Condition, Sharpness, Readiness).  Click here for a review of that article.  Unlike Distance and Class, there is no singular column of data in the Racing Form or Program that identifies “Form.”  But, possibly the most useful column is the Race Date column. Read More >>