05/14/2008 6:20PM

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


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.


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

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.


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.


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.

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.



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.



RCF More than 1 year ago
Hey Dan, On the subject of recordkeeping: Any tips? I've been playing the races forever, and I always track my bottom line, but I've never been able to stick with any kind of detailed recordkeeping. I've tried a few times because I know it's something I should be doing, but it usually comes down to time. I have trouble finding time to handicap anymore, let alone recording what happened when it's over. I think one of the problems I've had in the past has been that I've tried to include too much information. What I need is a system that's streamlined enough that it's not terribly time consuming, but detailed enough to be worthwhile. Is that possible? I feel kind of stupid for even asking, but it's something that's bugged me for a long time. I think I have a pretty good idea of my handicapping strengths and weaknesses, but I'd like confirmation. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Btw, I outgrew wrestling years ago, but the Hogan/ Iron Sheik reference was priceless. It brought a smile to my face. Thanks.
john r More than 1 year ago
C - I know you voiced some concerns about an animal rights group disrupting the races at Pimlico. And it should be a concern and I hope the security has addressed it but while there may be protests outside - and while a drunk did get onto the track many years ago - if you view the links Alan posted about what goes on in the infield - I don't think many will take too kindly to demonstrators. Particularly if the drunks feel their party could be impacted by said demonstrators. The Preakness has been sold out for months in terms of the seats on the apron. If they buy GA tickets they won’t be able to walk out the door of the grandstand. The only way they get close to the track is via the infield. I for one would enjoy watching them deal with what goes on in there. Let’s just say the folks in the infield are not the most politically sensitive or correct bunch. john r
Van Savant More than 1 year ago
Dan; Hulk Hogan and The Iron Shiek? That's hilarious. I am still snickering. By the way, could you please post the pp's for Black Jack Lanza, and Nick Bockwinkle (snort...sorry...I couldn't help it)?
johnnyz More than 1 year ago
Lawduck, Congratulations on passing the Bar Exam! I'll tip one up for you after closing the restaurant tomorrown night! Ray M., Jess Jackson may not qualify as a saint, but any racing fan should at least tip their hat. The money offers after the B.C. would have been mind bending to most, and I am sure the offers that are coming in today have many zeros at the end. How many good horses, (not great) have we got to see run at four in the last ten years? The Preakness: I for one am glad to see Gayego entered in the race. Even though he probably out ran his pedigree in the Ark. Derby, I am totally tossing his Derby peformance. He broke poorly, then was pinched by Big Brown, and RecaptureTheGlory. Was never in the race and, finsihed 17th. I expect him to perform well Sat. As do the odds makers, 8/1ML. While beating a now for sure weak field in the Ark Derby, his run was good. One of the better 3 yr. old preps IMO. His raw time for 9F, 149 3/5 is outstanding on the OP surface. Recieved a BSF of 103. His 1/8 come home time of 12 3/5ths while not great, is at least a passing grade with the pace that was set. Gayego is out of the speed influenced sire Gilded Time. While GT was Juv. of the year in 1992, winning the B.C. Juv. @ 8.5F there is no doubt his forte was sprinting. Gilded time set a track record for 6F @ Monmouth in the Sapling S., 1:07 4/5. As a stud, most of his progency have been prolific at 1M and, shorter. Although one daughter, Added Gold did win the Black-eyed Susan @9F. Gayego's damsire, the other element in the distance equasion is Lost Code. LC, displayed more stamina Gilded Time. Lost Code won the Ohio Derby, Illinois Derby, Oaklawn H, and the Arlington Classic. Interesting note on Lost Code, his dams sire is Ack Ack, a champion sprinter. But at 5 was horse of the year and also won the Hlw. Gold Cup, and The Santa Anita Hdcp. Good chance that Gayego could improve the older he gets. One other thought on Lost Code, his grandsire was Arts and Letters (Ribot), as a 3 yr old A&L won the Travers, Belmont S., The Jockey Gold Cup, and was runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, and Preakness. Also the only horse to beat Majestic Prince. Most of you that have been around for awhile know that I believe endurance and, stamina can come from far back in ones pedigree. Especially if both Nasrullah, and Princquello are present in the first 4 generations. Gayego's dam Devils Lake is also is also primarily a speed influence. She has produced three winners besides Gayego, and none of them have won beyond 1M. While a stretch, he could have inherited class and, stamina genes with Devils Lake being 4x4 to Ribot. Really a stretch, Devils Lake's great, great grandsire was Bold Ruler. Wasn't only sire to Secretariat, but grandsire of Ruffian, and great-grand sire to the undefeated T.C. winner Seattle Slew! While on paper Gayego might not be the perfect play for 9 1/2F, I can't see leaving him off in amu Tri/Super ticket. Laura, while having a very full plate right now would be happy to profile 2/3/4 of the Preakness contenders? Let me know.
Steve T More than 1 year ago
Although Big Brown has run very well, I wonder if he is vulnerable on short rest. Not to mention I want no part of a 1/2 shot... There are three horses I think can turn the trick: Behindatthebar He is growing up in leaps and bounds and is EXTREMELY dangerous. He closes a lot faster than he gets credit for. Running a 1:42 flat on Poly is almost herculean, and I think he can run a 1:53 in this race. Racecar Rhapsody Here we go, Alan and I on the same pony. But hard not to like one that seems like what he really needs is more distance, and he gets it here. Gayego His last was a toss, it had nothing to do with dirt, he was compromised from the git go. Also think this is one of the rare cases where blinkers is going to make a big difference. This is a tough little horse who once he gets up front is like a bulldog. Figure I would throw my two cents worth before everyone crowns Big Brown.
C More than 1 year ago
Ray, Yes, that's right. We agree on that, although "important" doesn't always mean "better". To me, it's more of a historical thing, kind of like the Ivy League. In that context, just off the top of my head, I'd probably go with (in order): Kentucky Derby English Derby Belmont Stakes English 2000/Preakness Travers/French 2000/French Derby Irish Derby as a loose worldwide hierarchy of "prestige" for 3YO males. That certainly doesn't mean the Belmont is always a better race than the Preakness. ------------------------------ I'm leaning towards watching, not betting, the Preakness. However, I have to disagree with some of the excuses being made for Gayego. He stumbled at the break, but wasn't pinched back or bumped that severely. He was rank and tried to run over Recapturetheglory, almost clipping heels with him. Once Big Brown got in front of him, he did not seem to appreciate the taste of dirt. Once Smith got him to settle down after the opening quarter, he was clear of trouble, but folded up and faded. I'm not sure if it was the crowd or a combination of things, but he clearly did not feel like running that day at all. I suppose the race can be excused, but are things going to be any better on Saturday? As the probable 2nd choice, if I were betting Big Brown on top, I'd look elsewhere for underneath plays in the exacta and triple. I'd be more inclined to use horses like Riley Tucker, Hey Byrn, Macho Again, and Icabad Crane to spice things up underneath. If Big Brown runs his usual race and the pacesetters fall out of it, there's a chance for some chaos underneath. Of course, if PETA has their way, there's going to be chaos all around.
Steve V. More than 1 year ago
In the Bloodhorse article on Big Brown's possible sale by May 15: Michael Iavarone(IEAH) states- we originally purchased him "as a dirt horse". Then why did they bring him back to the races in a GP alw slated for the turf??? They were extremely lucky the race was taken off the turf - and that has now brought about the Fla. & KY Derby winner. I just don't feel it was their design to win the KY Derby and that they had this stroke of genius- that he would be a monster dirt horse as well. They should thank God & Mother Nature, but also keep in mind :"It's all about the horse"- IEAH have mad e several huge purchases over the past few years & not all of them have turned into Big Browns- but having BB will help them make several more purchases for years to come.
Arazi More than 1 year ago
The era of great sportsmanship has sadly ended long time ago. The last great sportsman that I remember was Alan Paulson who raced the great Cigar for two seasons and at every track that could prove his greatness although there was no need to. Over the years, I've learned not to fall in love with the "star" because, now, the chances of a "star" not running again eclipses the chances of running because of early retirement due to commercial reasons (greed) or poor sportsmanship on part of owners. Jess Jackson did display some sportmanship by keep running Curlin for another year but we still have to see him run in the US. What good it did to the US racing fans if Curlin ran twice in Dubai or if he run this year in France? We know that artificial surfaces are claimed to be more closer to the grass racing than dirt then how do one justify running on turf in France and not on the cushion track in CA? As racing fans, we have to stop falling in love or getting emotioncally attached to big star who are now running less and less races in a year and the actual span of star's carrier is predicted to be just one year or maybe even less. After 12 years, people still remember the great Cigar and miss him and feel good talking about him but do we feel the same way about the "champions" in the past few years?
aparagon4u More than 1 year ago
Steve T., Behindatthebar? He looks like a synthetic lover as he is 3/4 on cushion/poly. His only poor performance came on the dirt at Bay Meadows. He is improving but if he doesn't transfer his form to the Pimilico dirt surface then he gets nothing. Racecar Rhapsody? Both you and Alan like this horse which scares me but he is 1/6 lifetime. Yes he is improving but his lone win came in a sprint on poly. Gayego I agree with as he has proven that can handle the dirt and earn a fast figure. Now I'll give you some ammunition to retaliate against me as my pick, along with Big Brown, is Tres Borrachos. Yes he is 1/7 lifetime, yes he tired in his last two and yes his lone win came on cushion track. However, his two top BSF's were earned on dirt and were 11 and 16 points higher then his top synthetic number. This horses clearly wants dirt, not rubber and he also has a favorable running style for the likely pace scenario. From post two Baze will send him to the lead. Who is going to run with him early? Desormeaux isn't going to engage in a speed duel with Big Brown when he proved he could stalk and still win, Gayego was outrun by TB in the Arkansas Derby and Giant Moon hasn't shown any speed in his last three. Can TB beat BB even with an easy lead? Maybe not, but I'll take a lone frontrunner at a huge price anyday. If he tires and runs second the exacta will still be generous. If he steals it the Pick 4 will be massive, regardless of who wins the first three legs. BB is a total standout on speed, form, class, etc, but "pace makes the race" and I'll go with the horse that figures to be on a lonely lead. 1. Tres Borrachos 2. Big Brown 3. Gayego Lenny
Ray Manley More than 1 year ago
C, Thanks for the reply. I did not know how the Timeform Ratings were made. That's quite interesting. And I understand that we can watch a horse race regardless of where it is run. But Jess Jackson was making a point about letting the fans go out to the track to see the horse. Running overseas makes it virtually impossible for Americans to see Curlin in the flesh. I believe that stars on the track translate into people coming out to the track to enjoy the sport. I just find it somewhat disingenious to say we are going to run the horse for the fans and then run the horse out of the country. I also find it very interesting that you make a point about if Curlin wins the Arc he will have won the three most important races in the world in a 12 month span. So that would be the Arc, the Dubai Classic and the Breeders Cup Classic right? Wow, is there a race missing from the list? I can hear the hardboots howling all over the BlueGrass. I agree with you. And the races you selected are all open - no restrictions (the roses being limited to 3yo's).