07/11/2012 9:28AM

All 'Business' in the Meadowlands Pace

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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