12/17/2015 1:04PM

Fornatale: DRF Plus is invaluable tool

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There are plenty of contest players who go to battle armed with just a copy of Daily Racing Form and a pen. But many tournament players use some additional information that isn’t printed in the Form. This makes sense: If you’re looking at the same information as everyone else, where is your edge?

There are many ways to get a leg up on your competition. One underused tool for contest players is a DRF Plus subscription. Some of the players reading this already have Plus subscriptions via their Formulator packages, but few have fully explored all the benefits of Plus. I know I hadn’t until recently.

Many people think that a Plus subscription simply allows you access to race previews and handicapping pieces. While these are both indispensable features of Plus, there is a lot more to the program. Let’s look at some of the lesser-known tools that a contest player will want in his toolbox.

We’ll start with the Breeze Figs. This report produces what is essentially a power rating for all workouts at sales of 2-year-olds in training across America. The application is obvious: In maiden races, without many running lines to rely on, the Breeze Figs are a way of identifying potentially live longshots. They also offer clues about how long a horse has actually been in training.

Another tool for maiden races is the Debut Report. Influenced by the work of DRF handicapper Dan Illman, the Debut Report ranks every debuting runner who hits the board by sire, broodmare sire, and trainer. As Illman says in his description of the product: “Want to know if Bob Baffert uses blinkers on his successful debut runners? Does Tale of the Cat have any early winners on synthetic surfaces? Carson City is a great debut sire. Are mares by Carson City throwing early winners as well?”

Let’s say you’re a player who doesn’t like handicapping maiden races. By using tools like the Breeze Figs and the Debut Report, you could turn that weakness into a strength.

Trainer-oriented players also will find value in a Plus subscription. The ROI Report for Trainers is an excellent, quick way for a player to find live conditioning patterns. By highlighting these successful trainer situations at a glance, the handicapper can save time – a precious commodity in any contest, especially one like the National Handicapping Championship, where six or seven tracks will be in play.

The Winners’ Book feature is a racing geek’s delight. It gives players a real head start in collecting information for a track profile. The report, which cuts and pastes fairly neatly into spreadsheet form, gives the pertinent information (including running style) of all the winners at a given track in the last calendar year.

At the NHC, a research project using the Winners’ Book could be invaluable. No players will be familiar with all the circuits used at the NHC. By spending time perusing the Winners’ Book and cross-referencing with Plus’s Chart Search/Archive, you can get a sense, say, of which running styles do well in 1 1/16-mile races at Oaklawn, or find out if Aqueduct’s winter reputation of being all speed all the time is really valid (hint: it’s not).

One final aspect of Plus that I’ll mention is the Key Race Report. As its name suggests, this is a shortcut to finding key races, where more than one runner has come back to win. The report gives a good presentation of the info very quickly. For even more serious form analysis, I recommend using the Key Race Report in conjunction with a deeper Formulator dive – I want to know not just if horses came back to win next out but also how much they improved their speed figures (you can find this info under the Beyer view in the Formulator charts).

I’ve barely scratched the surface about the benefits of DRF Plus. If you’re interested to learn more, Mike Hogan (@DRFFormulator) and I did a webinar where we walked through many of the features of DRF Plus. You can check it out on the DRF YouTube channel.

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “The Winning Contest Player” by Peter Thomas Fornatale.

Four contests this weekend

This weekend, there are four contests in the DRF universe, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. The headline event is Saturday on NHCQualify.com, and it’s the second-to-last online qualifier of 2015 for the National Handicapping Championship.

The NHC will take place Jan. 28-30 at Treasure Island in Las Vegas and is expected to have a purse of $2.5 million. Players can’t buy into the NHC – entry must be won via another contest. Saturday’s event has a buy-in of $165, and up to six players will win their berths for Vegas.

On Sunday, BCQualify.com takes center stage. The buy-in is $190, and up to four players (depending on participation) will win their $10,000 entries to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, the world’s richest live-bankroll contest.

On both Saturday and Sunday, DRFQualify.com will be offering players a chance to win their buy-ins to the March 19-20 Gulfstream-Santa Anita Coast-to-Coast Betting Challenge, a live-bankroll tournament. The buy-in this weekend is $110, and up to two $4,500 buy-ins will be awarded each day.

The contest races will be posted on the sites. Free DRF classic past performances also will be available.