11/09/2011 12:45PM

History repeats itself at Yonkers Raceway

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For a decade that began in the late 1980’s, Walter Case Jr. began his domination of the driving colony at Yonkers Raceway. He never won less than 25 percent of his races and even eclipsed the 35 percent mark when he reached the winner’s circle a miraculous 1077 times in 1998. 

Case, who has only driven 25 times since 2004 due to a prison term and probation (ended Oct. 27 of this year) which would not allow him to leave the state of New York, was a master at making horses go faster. He would take horses that appeared lifeless on paper and make you realize that they don’t race on paper. He made speed and kept horses going until the wire that other drivers could barely get to finish fifth.

The problem with Case, as some people saw it, was his horses were almost always favored. Race after race he would be listed to drive half of the horses in each race and would get first pick of the best horses. So, Case’s charges were always heavily backed at the windows.

In 2011, Yonkers Raceway has a new version of Case. Veteran driver George Brennan, 44, came to Yonkers full time in 2010 after winning the Meadowlands driving title. Immediately upon arrival he began winning races at a high rate. After years of being a very good driver while sparring against the best at the Meadowlands, he came to Yonkers and became possibly the best driver in the country.  He is winning almost 29 percent of his races at Yonkers in 2011 and 27 percent nationwide.

Where the comparison between the two upper-echelon drivers really hits home is driving favorites and lower-priced horses. Like Case, every horse that Brennan steers takes plenty of tote action. Over the past five racing nights at Yonkers (11/3 – 11/8), Brennan has driven 20 winners in 59 races (33 percent). Of those 20 winners, 10 were odds-on (even money or lower), and his horses went off at 5-1 or lower in 50 of his 59 races (84 percent). So, you are hardly getting rewarded when he wins.

Like Case years ago, Brennan’s horses are being over-bet on many occasions. This zest by the public for betting Brennan opens up opportunity for savvy handicappers. Those who are willing to pick their spots and are not blinded by Brennan’s success can benefit 70 percent of time when he fails, and they will be nicely rewarded in the form of a big win price.

To be clear, I’m not saying you should avoid betting Brennan’s horses. Rather, ask yourself a few questions first:  1) Is Brennan’s horse a deserving favorite?  2) If another top Yonkers driver (Sears, Bartlett, Dube, Gingras) was driving the horse, Would the horse be a similar price? 3) Are you getting value on another possible contender because Brennan’s horse is taking too much action?

Brennan and Case are uniquely talented drivers. They are both capable of tapping into a horse’s hidden potential. That said, we should not be running to windows on name alone. Make sure the reward is worth the risk.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll do my best to answer.