Sep 24 2018

Collaborative Handicapping – A Travers Stakes Story

Nancy Meyers

Introduction (by Neal Benoit): The following is a story about a 2018 Travers Stakes score by our guest author, Nancy Meyers. FYI, the order of finish was Catholic Boy (7-1), Mendelssohn (13-1), Bravazo (10-1), King Zachary (28-1). The $1 exacta paid $145, 50-cent triple paid $744, and 10-cent Superfecta paid $1,796.

By Guest Author: Nancy Meyers

Neal has asked that I take on the topic of “collaborative handicapping”, in response to my recent success wagering on the 2018 Travers.

My definition of “collaborative handicapping” means that you draw information from multiple sources and other people’s opinions which exceed personal review of the PPs and other statistical data. When I look back at my process I found I initially used a lot of the techniques listed in my prior article, The Casual Handicapper.

First, I got the PPs from Equibase and spent some time Friday evening perusing the card and trying to plan wagers over the course of about 10 races so that I was sure to have some cash available to wager on the Travers.

In my initial review, I identified 3 horses of interest: Tenfold, Mendelssohn and Catholic Boy.

Tenfold was intriguing because of the effort he displayed in the Preakness. Asmussen and Santana have had a pretty strong Saratoga meet and I hated to have them knock me out of a big score.

I had picked Mendelssohn as a strong Kentucky Derby candidate and realize that he was absolutely eliminated out of the gate. I didn’t hold his most recent dirt race against him. If you follow Euro racing even a little bit, you know that Aiden O’Brien is a great trainer. Period. What’s the old adage, “Once you get off a horse, they win”. He had to be on my Travers’ tickets or else my husband would be reminding me of that advice.

Catholic Boy. He’s a fighter and a winner and in the hands of a talented young trainer, who learned from the best. He was being ridden by a Hall of Fame jockey who had ridden him to great success already, but could probably find a better ride, if push came to shove. What’s another angle in handicapping? “Turf to dirt.” Why shouldn’t that apply in a Grade 1 race like the Travers, rather than just a N2X one mile race at Belmont? For those reasons, I thought he was worth inclusion.

Wonder Gadot? I was initially curious about her entry into the race. Maybe she was worthy of a look, but I quickly decided her numbers wouldn’t hold up in a contested Travers.

With apologies to Good Magic, he’d fought and lost most of his battles in the Triple Crown. Admittedly, they were against Justify. He is a very good horse, but again, I thought there were enough tough horses inside of him to make him fight for an easy trip and he wouldn’t be up to the task.

Gronkowski? In my opinion, he wouldn’t be getting there, just as the human athlete lost to my beloved Eagles! (As a casual handicapper, sometimes emotions do help to eliminate horses, simply because of a name.)

Now you’re probably asking yourself, what about Bravazo and King Zachary?

If you read my earlier article, you know I make my own choices, but do consult some public handicappers to see who they like. Frequently, my husband pulls up Steve Byk’s picks at Byk is an excellent handicapper. He usually identifies price horses. Of course Neal Benoit provides everyone who reads Getting Out of The Gate great stats and trends, especially at Saratoga. But for this Travers’ Day there was some strange Travers’ mojo in the air.

My husband was texting our friend, Xpressbet’s own John DeSantis, or more commonly known to many as simply “Johnny D”. Johnny has contributed to our enjoyment of the races during several Preakness weekends and Saratoga meets. We’re glad he’s a friend. Fortune intervened, and Johnny and his friend Will had seats next to us. This has never happened before! We enjoyed spending the day deep in handicapping, with little to show for it. As the Travers approached, Johnny overheard me lamenting my near misses. In his dulcet tone he proclaimed “Whatever you do, you got to have Bravazo on your ticket.” He made me realize if I liked Tenfold’s Preakness, I had to like Bravazo’s as well. With that Bravazo was now my 4th horse. Thank you Johnny D.

So back to King Zachary. How could I have picked King Zachary? I mentioned there was some strange Travers’ mojo in the air. The racing fates intervened. I believe in life there are not just small coincidences, but also big coincidences. (Yes, think of Seinfeld). On Travers’ morning my husband went to the vending machines located on our hotel floor to get some ice. Upon his return, he related the following interaction.

“I was getting ice and a nice gentleman was operating the soda machine next to me. While he was trying to buy a soda, he asked, “You got a horse in the Travers?” That made me smile. I explained we didn’t. I asked “Do you?” The gentleman said “Yes. His name is King Zachary.” I said, “Romans’ horse?” He replied, “Yes. He trains my horses.” I answered, “Well I guess I’d better send it in on him.” The man replied “I’d back him up if I was you. He’s 15-1.” He then leaned in and said, “I’ve never had a Travers’ horse but he’s going to run today.” I finally introduced myself and he did as well. With that Mr. Tom Conway invited us to join him in the winner’s circle if King Zachary won.”

Upon hearing that story, I knew that fate provided us with a potentially great story and now I had a fifth horse to consider in my wagers. To eliminate him would be to poke the eye of the racing gods.

That’s my illustration of “collaborative handicapping”. On some occasions, the ideas and opinions of others need to be given serious consideration.

Ultimately, my selections were all horses at substantial odds, so the payoffs justified wagering more than in the other races. As a result I could play a 5 horse box on the minimum horizontal wagers (Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta). It wasn’t creative, but I was absolutely guarding against one of the bombs winning it all and leaving me with worthless tickets with only my personal selections on top. (Remember the 2012 Alpha-Golden Ticket Travers’ dead heat?) In retrospect, if I had keyed my top selections, I could have increased my wagers, thus eliminating the big box wager and had a super score. I’m not complaining and glad for the results, especially since my handicapping was correct. However post race wagering analysis is important, and something Johnny D. advocates. As he always advises players, we can learn a lot when looking at wagers won and lost. In fact one of my more fun wagers is a straight superfecta for $2.00. Yes it’s a long shot to hit, but it’s cheap and if it does hit, it justifies my handicapping and ticket building.

Although we didn’t get a chance to appear in the winner’s circle, King Zachary did run and help me with a key score. The same can be said for Bravazo. Combine their efforts with my Mendelssohn and Catholic Boy picks, which were grounded in handicapping maxims that date back generations, and you can see I had a successful day, despite having missed on some earlier efforts. Tenfold? I’m not sure what to say. He just didn’t fire the way he did in Baltimore. He reminds me even within a “winning” race I’ll not make a perfect pick.

In conclusion, we should all look to collaborate with others and take assistance from various sources. When the racing gods seem to be pointing you in a certain direction, it’s wise to pay attention. You’ll find collaborating with others can prove to be profitable too, just don’t forget to make sure you stick with your picks! And be sure to thank those who helped you when you cash!

By Guest Author: Nancy Meyers

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