07/11/2012 10:28AM

All 'Business' in the Meadowlands Pace


Playing with and examining numbers can often produce interesting results. Obviously you can manipulate figures to produce the desired effect and that is the main reason why I rarely point to statistics when dealing with handicapping.  I bring up numbers because this year’s $600,000 Meadowlands Pace final appears to fall into an interesting recent statistical trend.

When I was younger, I was definitely a numbers guy. After years of watching horses go around in circles, I would gladly argue with anyone the importance of human input over computers and numbers when it comes to handicapping. But I’ll get to my simple human thoughts shortly.

[MEADOWLANDS PACE: Watch Live video, free analysis and the latest news]

Did you know that favorites have won 4 of the last 10 and 9 of the last 20 editions of the Meadowlands Pace? That in itself is far from mid blowing and certainly in line with the normal current trend of a 40-plus percent win rate for favorites.

The interesting statistic comes into play when you break down the odds-on favorites (horses even money or lower) versus the rest of the favorites. Over the last 20 years, 9 horses have gone to post at odds of even money or lower and 6 have been victorious (66%). During that same span, only 3 of the 11 non odds-on favorites have gone on to Pace glory (27%).When you look at the last 10 years the numbers are even starker- 6 odds-on favorites produced 4 winners and 4 non odds-on favorites resulted in zero winners.

Simply put, recent history would suggest that if the public doesn’t feel strongly about the Meadowlands Pace favorite, well, you should not bet him. There are too many variables - trip, driver decision, horse health, track condition, weather, etc – to roll the dice at 3-2 on a horse that does not stand heads and shoulders above the rest. There are no easy leads, soft halves or respect for a horse that appears only slightly better than his competition.

That leads us to the field for the 2012 Pace. Few would argue that Sweet Lou will be the favorite. If I was making the morning line, 5-2 seems to be about right. Though, a true line would probably be around 7-5.  And who knows what the public will decide. We are talking about a horse which has yet to go off at higher than 1-2. Will the public continue their love affair with Sweet Lou and put him in the odds-on territory which produces Pace winners at an extraordinary rate? Has he earned that status?

No one was higher on Sweet Lou going into the North America Cup final and in his Meadowlands Pace elimination than I was. He was a lock in my opinion but only proved me right once in two tries; just as good as a coin flip.

I cannot predict the future and only the trainers have the inside lowdown on each horse’s fitness coming into the final, but anyone who watched the eliminations and came away with the feeling that taking a short price on Sweet Lou in the Pace final is a good idea should not quit their day job. Yeah, if he wins you can write me an email and tell me that I do not know what I’m talking about. I can take the heat!

Sweet Lou very well may be the best 3-year-old in North America, but betting a horse that was all out, clearly off his game a bit, and paced the same final time or slower than 7 of the 10 Pace finalists just does not seem like a smart move. The idea is to play the horse with the best chance of winning at the best possible price.

[DRF HARNESS: Sign Up for the FREE DRF Harness Newsletter Today!]

Can anyone definitively tell me that Sweet Lou is far and away the best horse in the race? Good enough to be 7-5 or lower against Saturday’s combatants?

This race is wide open on paper. When 1 ½ lengths separate the best horse from the worst in the two eliminations, it is safe to say that the field for the final is evenly matched. Obviously racing luck will come into play and the key for bettors will be to pick the right price-horse and hope the trip works out.

I do not believe there is a horse in the race that absolutely cannot win. But considering the odds and likelihood of winning, State Treasurer and Allstar Legend, which both drew outside posts, will be my quick tosses. State Treasurer put in a valiant effort in his Pace elimination while first-over, but he would have to show marked improvement again to win. Allstar Legend has proven fast enough at times but would need the perfect trip from my point of view.

I will also be tossing elimination winner Heston Blue Chip and the locked in and sure to be overbet Bolt The Duer from top spot consideration. While I cannot fault the undefeated Heston Blue Chip, his odds will be low and I’m not sold on him. Bolt The Duer is an attractive play in my eyes and I would reconsider my toss on him if his odds drifted above 4/1 or so.

[DRF HARNESS: Like our Facebook page for the latest Standardbred news]

That leaves us with five horses for the top spot: A Rocknroll Dance, Thinking Out Loud, Time To Roll, Pet Rock and Simply Business.

No one could argue the credentials of either A Rocknroll Dance or Thinking Out Loud. Either of these horses could easily go to post at 6-1 or higher and would look attractive at that mutuel. At similar odds, I lean towards Thinking Out Loud because he skipped the Hempt at Pocono and may be the fresher horse right now. He also locked wheels in his elimination which cost him some momentum. Despite an outside draw (pp7), Thinking Out Loud is a must use in the win slot on at least a few tickets and certainly in your multi-race exotics.

Now we have the longshots with a chance. Pet Rock, Time To Roll and Simply Business should all offer odds north of 12-1. The best 2012 résumé of the trio probably belongs to Time To Roll off his second place finish in the North America Cup. He clearly did not enjoy being on the engine in his elimination and could certainly turn things around with new tactics, but post 9 is going to place him in a tough spot to overcome. Pet Rock won the Rooney, but he had a perfect trip that night. He appears to possess the talent to step up but may offer the lowest price of this group and has more to prove from my perspective. It seems to be that he has been babied along a bit. If someone told me driver Brian Sears was going to loosen the screws, I would certainly take a shot with him. That leaves me with Simply Business, and here I go disregarding the numbers.

No horse has ever won the Meadowlands Pace without winning a race as a 3-year-old leading up to the race. Simply Business is 0 for 6 this year and has looked sluggish at times and lazy more often than not. Although he gapped again in his elimination, he actually displayed some signs of life in the stretch. Could he be ready to peak at the right time or is he just one of those horses which was good at 2 and never matures?

Here are some facts to consider: one month ago trainer Jimmy Takter said he would win the Meadowlands Pace with Simply Business; Takter is a master at aiming for a race; Simply Business will likely be floating around 20-1 on the toteboard; if the eliminations were 1 1/8 miles Simply Business may have won his split.

Another worthwhile note, Simply Business made the front in :26 at Mohawk Racetrack when he won the Metro final as a 2-year-old. So there is some early speed in his bag of tricks.

The one thing that worries me most about Simply Business is that he starting to feel like the wise-guy horse, and those never seem to win. I'm hearing whispers from people saying they like him and that could mean a lower price than I would consider fair.

If you are standing behind me on line at the Meadowlands on Saturday, and I invite everyone to come out to the track and enjoy a great night of racing, you will hear me call out at least a win bet on Simply Business and certainly some exotics with him involved. I’ll also be considering a win bet on Thinking Out Loud and/or Bolt The Duer if the price is right at post time.

Who do you like?

Meadowlands Pace Elim (Race 5):

Meadowlands Pace Elim (Race 6):

Watch Meadowlands Live

[MEADOWLANDS RACE TRACKLive Video for every race card]

Doug Kendrick More than 1 year ago
This race was a perfect example of what is wrong with harness racing. This race was for $600,000 and no one could get close to this horse and pressure him? 3/4's in 1:21 and change and the horse in front comes home in 26.4? This is competitive racing? This sport has become all about the speed. There was a time when you wouldn't want to be near the front on a mile track turning for home. Now if you aren't near the front you're dead. And ad the abomination known as the passing lane it's a wonder there are any fans left at all. Any one who thinks the 2012 Meadowlands pace was exciting probably love to watch grass grow. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
Im sorry you didnt lke the race Doug. I thought it was a test of the skill of the top drivers. Yannick knows the track like the back of his hand. I think "home" field advantage won the race. The horse was ready.... and Yannick made it look easy. I cashed a ticket so the race looked great for me ! I will agree the other drivers were lost in the sauce. Thats Racing... But juicing horses and low life horseman is whats wrong with racing...Not The Meadowlands Pace.
Carl Hiel More than 1 year ago
i thought the same john the whole card was very competive it wasnt just ckalks either .Dont forget it is in the middle of july horses will fly at this time of year .yannick did a great job pullin a ron pirece ultra aggresive i think jim morril really did a heckava job his choice to blast and the horses ability to sustain took must of the pack off guard
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
I agree,,,,Jim Morrill blasted out and did a great job keeping teagues horse alive. I been very impessed with the racing at the Meds... I know the top drivers go out of town alot during stakes season. This has always been the case. Some drivers will take atvantage,,,( hall,morrill )... How about the tackters winning everything in sight !! got lucky when googoo break breaked. So many stories.... The New Big M is back !
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
WOW.. It was great to see so many fans at the New Big M last night ! I believe they had over 13,000 guests . Way to go Jeff Gural and team ! It is tough to ignore the efforts of the employees at the Meadowlands I have been to all the local harness racetracks in NJ,NY, and PA and I believe the Meadowlands is still the Mecca of harness racing and should be the Gold Standard of how a harness racetrack should operate. The racing action was top notch and I can only imagine the product will only improve over time. I hope other fans are noticing that something good is going on at the Meds. About the Pace.... It was not the 5 horse blanket finish everyone wanted but prob the best driver at the Meadowlands stole the race !! well done !
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
Loved the article Derick !! It's all about the meadowlands Pace... Thanks for all the information. Any one of these can win the race. I will be there Sat Night ...I can't wait !!!
Wayne Haehner More than 1 year ago
Thinking Out Loud will be 7/2 or less and win authoritatively interrupted in final quarter and still looked powerful--use Time To Roll in exactas
Derick More than 1 year ago
I'll be shocked if Thinking Out Loud is 7/2 or lower.
Tim Bullock More than 1 year ago
Word on the street is that Walter Case's appeal to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was denied on Tuesday. Considering how the old Racing Commission issued a license back in 2008, and that Walter's standing has improved since (no longer on parole), it leaves me scratching my head. I honestly believe that having Ret. NJ State Police Lt. Col. Gayle Cameron as hearing officer was the equivalent of throwing Walter into a Kangaroo Court. The hearing should have been conducted by an independent arbitrator with no ties to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the Gaming Commission. I hope that Walter and his lawyer can appeal this decision to the courts somehow, otherwise, I fear that the years of mistakes on and off the track may finally have ended this once promising career.
Derick More than 1 year ago
Tim, I'll have a story posted soon on the Case decision. It will be in the harness section at www.drf.com/harness.
Justin Stygles More than 1 year ago
He'll get his license back in Maine just as most others have. Give it time. There is always a fair oval somewhere he can drive.
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
I hope a story is being put together for the mighty senate testamony of Jeff Gural on the current state of harness racing. I know Walter case was a popular story but the energy of the industry must be applied to issues adding value and that will help promote and save the sport that we love. The REAL issues are cheating trainers and the sport needs more money from horseman for advertising. It's time the industry came together and operated under the same rules instead of operating as independent franchises. I hope more energy is spent on the Gural story then the walter case story. I am sure it will generate more then 6 comments..:)