03/21/2013 9:54AM

Handicapping: Meadowlands slump


The numbers don’t lie. My handicapping statistics at the Meadowlands this year have been putrid. If I was just a bettor instead of a public handicapper, I could simply switch tracks or take a few weeks off to regroup. Since I don’t have that liberty, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at where I may have gone wrong.

Looking back over last weekend, I only picked 3 winners in 21 races on Thursday and Friday. That is an awful win rate and clearly an R.O.I. killer unless my winners are complete longshots. Digging deeper, my statistics, if I was a horse, would read 21-3-6-4. If I was a B-1 pacer at the Meadowlands, I would have earned $48,720. Anyway, my top choice actually finished in-the-money 13 times in 21 races (62%). Not bad, but not great, either.

On average my top selections in those 21 races finished 3.33, or just worst than third. This tells me that I’m picking horses that are in contention. They just are not winning! Ideally I would hope to have a number more in the 2.5 range. That would mean I’m probably picking about 3-4 winners per card.

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Sometimes the best way to fix the problem is to look back at the past. Let’s do some in-depth historical analysis of my selections from Thursday, March 14. Hopefully the exercise will hone my handicapping skills and perhaps key you into something new to consider when analyzing a race.

Race 1 – BRISSOT

He was my top selection but it was clear in my analysis I didn’t feel strongly about his chances. My logic was that he displayed a positive move last time and could move forward. He raced well at 13-1 but tired to fourth after trying the front. KEYSTONE COCOA wound up winning with a pocket trip and in retrospect, I missed the boat on this one. First, it is always worth a shot with a lightly raced horse in a dull-looking field. Secondly, I should have taken note of the lack of speed in posts 1 & 2 and the likelihood that at least one of the inside horses would make a break.

LESSON LEARNED: Take into consideration the field as they relate to each other. Often it is better to judge the horses individually, but especially when the field is questionable, what others are capable of will determine the probable winners.


I thought he posted a big effort the previous week and knew going in I would likely pick him in most spots. A Horses to Watch list can be valuable but also dangerous. You don’t want to fall in love with a horse in a bad spot just because of something that happened the previous week. It turned out that he raced pretty well and was just a victim of HOPSKIPANAJUMP being in a better spot at the right time.



My top pick broke so not much to analyze.


I completely misread this horse. I thought she would leave in her first start for this barn, especially considering that she was dropping in for a claiming tag. Instead she settled in along the cones and did nothing. Maybe I reached too far but this field was wide open and I felt taking a shot was worthwhile. The winner wound up being 44-1 shot I DO IT MYSELF. Given 7 picks in the 8-horse field, I’m not sure I would have used her on top. I don’t see anything I regret from this selection.


Race 5 – CITY KID

He won. I did something right.

Race 6 – TAMAYO

This guy came in hot and I was expecting to see some early speed. Instead he was relaxed off the gate and tried to come first over. Well, that failed miserably. He did win the first leg of this series and probably didn’t need to go “too hard” in leg two. That along with inside speed shown from 2-4 and more speed to his outside from #6, might have been my mistake.

LESSON LEARNED: The goal in a series is to win the final, not all of the preliminary legs. Also, pay more attention to the entire field and don’t get caught up on one horse.


This race went exactly the way I expected. My top choice made a rather easily lead and got away with soft fractions. Given the choice I would pick him again.


I went on the drop-down again and closing style being a better fit for the Meadowlands. This pick was my most obvious mistake on the card. First, my “closing style” comment is trumped by his 0-9 record at the Meadowlands with only one third over the last two years. On top of that, Lachance doesn’t win that much at the Meadowlands. He is better played in the bottom slots of the exotics. Turns out he did close well for fourth but certainly not the trip you like when playing at any track.

The winner was FOUR STARZ TWINS and I probably got sucked into his string of seconds as a reason not to select him on top. But looking back on it with a clear head, his most recent loss came to a pocket winner by just a neck and his prior loss came to Tamayo, who we already discussed as an in-form horse.

LESSON LEARNED: This is a trainer’s game. Picking horses in barns that win under 6 or 7 percent is a recipe for disaster. Form is form! Just because a horse is not winning it doesn’t mean that tonight won’t be the night.

Race 9 – BUZZ BOMB

He may have finished third but was a good play at an expected good price. That said, I dond’t think I gave enough attention to the winner, RINGSIDE LAURYN. This horse was getting a drop in class and picking up a new set of hands in Yannick Gingras. Both are good angles and the price turned out to be good at 7-2.

LESSON LEARNED: Sometimes a new driver makes all the difference.


I ignored her lack of speed on paper and rolled the dice thinking that the class drop would cure all her issues. And I stayed with her as my top pick even after the driver change to Bongiorno. Not that he isn’t capable, but I’d still prefer a top catch-driver at the Meadowlands.

The fact of the matter is that I missed the boat on my third horse, JOANNIEHASAFANNY. She was moving into a decent barn, getting perhaps the best driver in the world and looked competitive in the form and speed categories.

LESSON LEARNED: Speed and form trump a low to moderate class drop every time.

If you want to follow along and see if this exercise helped change my bad fortune, here is a link to my Friday Meadowlands selections. Good Luck!



Joel Weiner More than 1 year ago
It's become rather apparent at Yonkers Raceway that Brian Sears is eating George Brennan's lunch. Sears is officially "the Man" at that track. Just watch how little interest George has when he gets on a favorite and he sends it on one of his magical mystery drives. Sorry to post that here but I don't know where else to start a dialog.
Jay More than 1 year ago
Good article but I think you overlook a couple key points. First, as you have written before, good horses are racing in other more profitable locales. The class of horse is down making unpredictable outcomes more common. Second, the jockeys in harness racing are almost as important as the horse and have their own talents and personalities. Talented jocks are riding elsewhere where the money is better, like Yonkers. The meadowlands has no consistency with the jockeys now making the handicapping much more difficult. Looks like Tetrick has now bailed as well. Dave Miller's been riding in Yonkers too when NJ is dark so can he be long in NJ too? If not for the alliance with TVG, Meadowlands would be dead IMHO. Unfortunately, you need racino revenue to make it work and no racino revenue is forthcoming in Jersey. A new grandstand by itself won't do it. They better have a plan to build up to some event Super Bowl week to build off that. Bottom line is that handicapping the current Meadowlands is a real bear and likely to get worse with lesser horses and jocks filling the cards.
ML-NJ More than 1 year ago
If I WERE a horse ...
BornFunny More than 1 year ago
Nice piece derick - the game is a game of averages and sometimes a small sample size particularly one racing date where the track may have a bias or their is a weather influence (wind, etc) is not a good measure either. Needless to say, your picks are always well supported in their opinion and in depth and insightful given your passion for the game and thorough coverage. My bet is on you to turn around as your batting average just isnt that low.
Derick More than 1 year ago
I have a feeling it will start Friday. The exercise really changed the amount of time I spent on the races and the depth of my handicapping.