05/14/2008 6:20PM

Devil's Bag, debut Beyers, angles, etc.

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Yesterday, we talked about big debut Beyers. 

Formal Gold's 112 Beyer Speed Figure was the best debut number ever recorded. 

Tugger, a three-year-old filly trained by Todd Pletcher, earned a 111 Beyer in her career debut on March 5, 2000. 

Hook and Ladder earned a 110 Beyer in his first start at Hollywood on November 28, 1999.   

I'm not sure if there are any other horses that earned 110 or higher Beyers first-out.

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Dan,
can you tell me anything about the horse " Freakin Streakin"? I remember betting on him on name alone a few years ago. Best name ever. Anyway, he seemed to just disappear. I think he raced in California.  Thanks
Matt

Here are the past performances:

Download freakin_streakin.pdf

Her dam was a stakes-winner, and it's possible that she's retired, and will be bred.

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I always find it hard to handicap in any educated fashion playing more then one card at the same time.  Even though I could handicap them before I venture to the track. I guess the key is to sit out races where you don't have an opinion.  I find that difficult because I don't get to the track that often and when I do I want to play the horses running in front of me.
Dan any thoughts?
john r

It's certainly not easy handicapping multiple cards and, most of the time, I don't even bother trying.  My advice would be two-fold.  One would be to handicap the track at which you're must comfortable.  You know the horses, trainers, riders, can figure out more angles than you would with an unfamiliar track, and can recognize overlays easier than you would at an unfamiliar location. 
My second thought would be to specialize, and keep records.  If you prefer maiden races, then print out all the maiden races that day from the simulcast menu.  Build your own card.  You may find three plays from five different tracks instead of one play from your local menu.  True, you would lose the natural multi-race wagers like Pick Threes, but you may find win overlays in races that you normally hit.  Patience is so important, and so tough to maintain when betting.  You want to find the horse that fits all the requirements (you like him/her, the horse is an overlay, the pace is correct, etc.), and you find yourself sitting out when you don't get your "value."  I've gone weeks without finding a usuable play, and just when I'm about to pull my hair out, a horse sticks out.  Sometimes it's tougher to stay away than it is to take chances and play.

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Steve T. gave some interesting handicapping angles, and I'd like to comment on some of them.

Class Drop
One of the most successful angles in handicapping is using a drop in class. Take a look at the $10K claiming races and note the times and competition, now do the same for a $20K claimer. Pretty identifiable difference, isn’t it? So just look for a drop in class and you are golden, right? Of course not, nothing is that easy in horse racing. If a horse ran in a Grade 1 and finished last by 20 lengths and is now in an open company allowance race, that doesn’t qualify as a drop - just because you run with them doesn’t make you a Grade 1 horse. So caveat number one is to identify their true class level, that is the level that they are competitive - competitive defined as the ability to finish in the money or within 3 lengths of the winner. Caveat number two is be suspicious of unwarranted drops, that is a horse that was successfully running in open company allowances and is now entered in a $20K claimer. This usually means that there are health issues with the horse and the owner and trainer are trying to dump them. This is especially true if there was a short layoff before the drop. Remember that males have no place in horse racing after they retire unless they are stud material. Fillies and mares with any breeding at all can be used as brood mares. So when you see a colt or horse that is taking a nose dive in class, you need to be wary.  So how do you handle those coming off an extended layoff? I am not concerned when there is some drop, i.e., they were running in handicaps and low level graded stakes and now they are running in allowances. In fact this is often a great angle all by itself. Probably the most critical class drop angle is Maiden Special Weight to Maiden Claiming - there is usually a huge difference between the two classes. But again, a horse that finishes in the back of an MSW isn’t  usually a great find in a maiden claimer. Look for those that are finishing 3rd to 5th and are still in the same zip code at the finish.


I agree with Steve T. 100% that one of the most powerful angles in the game is the class drop from maiden special weights to maiden claimers.  A horse coming out of maiden specials may have faced potential stakes rivals in those races, and now will tackle horses of limited quality. 
As for class drops in claiming races, I like to use trainer patterns to identify live horses.  Has the trainer dropped and won at this meet?  This year?  Or, is a trainer merely dumping a horse in the hope of finding some rube to claim an unsound animal? 
I've never been a big fan of "class" handicapping.  I'm in the Beyer corner that speed trumps class.  If a horse runs par for 25K in a 10K race, then I'm not leery at all of a hike in class.  As for dropdowns, I feel that it's important to handicap the trainers as well as the horses.


Layoffs
Using layoffs as an angle requires some additional knowledge, that is how does a particular trainer prepare a horse who has had a layoff. In Southern California, Bruce Headley will work a horse regularly and for as many as three months before they reappear in a race. So if it is a Bruce Headley horse coming back to race you can bet that they are 100% good to go. Others like Dick Mandella will use a race to finish their “rehab”. You have to know the style of the trainer to use this angle. Look at the trainer stats in the Past Performances to get the facts on how well their horses do when they return.  Just like works are critical to identifying “live” maiden runners, they are just as important for those coming off of layoffs. Are there regular works? Are they across multiple distances? Is there a trend of faster times?
One group to watch carefully is those that cross “maturity thresholds”, that is they went to the bench as a two year old and are now back as a three year old (this also holds true from three to four as well). Are their post-layoff works a significant improvement over the pre-layoff works? Horses, like people, will mature and get stronger in their adolescence.
Once you identify one that is likely to come back strong from the layoff, handicap the race as you normally would and expect that the layoff horse will probably be at 90-95%. In many cases that is more than enough to take care of business. If the horse is a frontrunner who is caught at the wire in his first race back (when normally they win), you can expect that their next race will be an improvement. Just like human athletes, horses need to get back in the groove. This is the “2nd off of layoff” angle. When a horse is on a layoff of over a year, you commonly see that it can take three or even four races to return to their former level. Of course some don’t come back and start dropping in class, and these are usually not a great bet.


Again, I agree with Steve T. that handicapping the connections as well as the horse is important in determining whether or not a layoff horse is ready to fire his best shot.  I like to see a string of long workouts with a horse returning from a long layoff.  I've always believed that the five furlong workout gives the perfect complement of speed and stamina, and I view multiple five furlong workouts as a positive for layoff runners.   
Of course, there are some trainers that don't use five furlong works, and still excel off the bench.  Bill Mott and Christophe Clement immediately come to mind.  This is where handicapping the connections comes in extremely handy.

Speed Kills
Nothing in horse racing is more dangerous that lone speed. Frontrunners win at a greater percentage than any other running style, and when they can control the pace, they control the race. NEVER DISCOUNT LONE SPEED! They have a couple of running choices - they can play “come and catch me” by creating a huge lead, the jockey calculating that the wire will come up before those behind them can catch their mount. The second choice is to go to the front and then slow the pace down, which gives them additional stamina at the end and tends to neutralize the closers as their is no pace to close into. Either way they have an advantage. Remember also that frontrunners don’t have traffic issues and can use the rail to shorten their trip around the track. Their are certain jockeys who seem to have an internal clock and can control the race; Laffit Pincay was known as “The Pirate” for all the races he stole from the front end. Pat Valenzuela was another who pulled more wire jobs than the phone company. So the jockey is a critical component of using this angle. Look at their races, do they win more than their fair share from the front? Look at the fractional times for their frontrunning mounts - do they have a fast first quarter (:22) and then mediocre mid-race fractions with a faster final quarter? When the stars align on lone speed, you can be pretty confident in the results. Another factor to consider is a class drop in one that is being beaten at the wire by two lengths or less. Lone Speed + Class Drop = LiveRunner
Steve T


As a fan of maiden races, I'd agree that lone speed + a class drop is a very, very powerful angle in maiden claiming events where many of the "chasers" are either too green, not willing, or not good enough to pass horses.  In the United States, lone speed wins more than their fair share of races, but finding the speed isn't as easy as one might think.  That's where pace figures can come in very handy. 

First Time Lasix
Because about every horse in North America runs on Lasix, this is really a category that should be called “First North American Start”. As the use of Lasix is illegal in Europe the theory is they can run better with the new medication. I can’t say one way or the other - I have seen horses that came alive when they come here, and I have seen others who drop like a rock. Is Lasix an advantage? I don’t know


I've found that one of the most powerful angles in all of racing is that of the  "second-time starter, first-time Lasix user."  Often this works with horses that get bet hard in their debuts, and stop after showing speed.  In their second start they add Lasix, and BAM, there is no stopping.  Lots of times, these horses show poor form in their first start, and are available at good odds second-out with the Lasix.   I do believe that the addition of Lasix can jump-start an improvement of at least five Beyer points with a horse with limited racing experience. 

Steve T. also mentioned getting ahead of the pack by figuring out which new sires will be precocious, and sources of early winners at good prices.  Unfortunately, we don't have Lauren's expertise in finding out these important nuggets of information.  There are some publications (Sire Ratings) that offer opinions on new sires, but I think it's important that handicappers/racing fans guess for themselves which sires will do well with young horses.  Often, it's the sires that were precocious themselves at two (Posse, Successful Appeal) that produce quick young juveniles.  You can't beat research and record-keeping in this area.

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Back for more tomorrow, but I first want to sincerely thank everyone for their contributions to the BlueBox.  I've learned so much from you, and am truly thankful.

Cheers,

Dan