10/18/2007 1:02PM

Q&A 10/18/07

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Manyquestions
bob_hay says: Now that the pre-entries have been released, how do you go about starting to handicap these races? Is there a certain amount of time that you put in per race? Will you do some handicapping before the post positions are drawn? When do you start the letter grading process?

I'll do most of my handicapping, but almost none of my betting strategy, before final entries are taken next Tuesday. My goal is to be thoroughly familiar with all the horses by then, and spend the final days leading up to the Cup fine-tuning rather than researching, making adjustments and focussing in on how to play the races. This is a day that goes by so quickly, and with inevitable headaches just getting your bets down, that you really don't want to be staring at the past performances by the time you get to Saturday.

The first thing I do is simply read through the past performances as if I were reading a breezy magazine article -- no replays, no notes, no lookups -- to get in the spirit of the thing. I did that yesterday. Step two is that I am in the process of entering a lot of the basic data into a spreadsheet, making a kind of cheat sheet for myself so that everything's in front of me on three pages -- one for Friday's three races and a page each for Saturday's two pick-fours. I'm an old-school believer in writing stuff down to remember it, and typing in each horse's basic record and info burns this stuff into my brain.

Having all this data on a sortable spreadsheet also allows me to come up with useless but mildly entertaining info nuggets to share here or in newspaper columns, like the fact that the 141 pre-entrants have a combined record of 623 victories in 1,521 career starts for earnings of $93.3 million. Those numbers will rise to 634 victories in 1,660 or so career starts, for earnings of $116 million, by the time darkness descends on Monmouth Oct. 27.

pauly says: I am practically salivating at the mouth after going over the wagering menu at Monmouth for the 2-day Breeders Cup... Since these kinds of plentiful opportunites occur once a year, it's almost irresistible to NOT bet every race, every Pick 3, Pick4, superfecta, etc.. I was wondering how you handle all this in terms of your bankroll? I typically have a bankroll of $100-$150 on any normal betting day, but usually up that to say $500-$700 on Breeders Cup day. Now with the expanded menu and 2-days worth of juicy betting opportunites, I feel I need to double my typical BC bankroll this year.

Everyone has his own comfort zones when it comes to bankrolls and personal finances, but I strongly believe these races are well worth playing at the top end of your limits. It's just correct basic strategy to play more on a difficult day when there are lots of novices and occasional players in the pools than on a rainy Thursday at Aqueduct in February with five-horse fields and just you and the other hard cases competing with one another.

Whatever your number is, the most important things are to be sufficiently capitalized and to have a plan. This is not a day when you want to be taking the walk of shame to an ATM and waiting on line behind busted-out drunks as the minutes tick down to post time. Nor do you want to be flipping pages in your pp's frantically working out a multirace play at the last minute. All my bets are written out by Saturday morning and I put most of them in before the BC races start. I can then focus my raceday attention on the races and on noticing late changes or unexpected opportunities on the toteboard.

bob says: What happen to Vacare? Thought she was going in the Filly & Mare Turf. Thought she had a sneaky good chance at a price.

Especially with the F&M Turf being at 11 furlongs this year, Vacare is probably instead being pointed to the Matriarch, a grade 1 at a mile. As Jay Hovdey pointed out in a column last weekend, a filly-and-mare turf mile -- a race that also would have suited horses such as Citronnade, Lady of Venice and My Typhoon -- may be one of the next additions to the Friday BC menu in future years.

billm says: On the 2007 Expo DVD, I don't think there was any mention of DRF track variants. It seems like I've read a couple different pieces regarding them as unreliable, and I can't find them within the result charts on Simulcast Online. Basically, what approach do you take on gauging the speed of a track on a day-to-day basis?

The DRF "speed rating" and "track variant" -- that column with a two-number field that looks like 82-17 -- is probably the most useless and misleading piece of data in the past performances. Before I got involved with DRF, I constantly advised people to ignore it. So why, you might well ask, is it still in the paper?

The answer is simply that a small but noisy constituency of oldtimers uses it and would be devastated if we took it out. So it's there for those who grew up with it and think it has some value. Everyone else should ignore it and use the Beyer Speed Figures, a much more sophisticated and accurate rating that incorporates the variant into the one-number figure and is far more firmly based in reality and sound mathematics.

tony says: Why doesn't the Form include a come-home time like they do with harness PP's? I know it's easy to figure it out but it would be nice to just have there in front of you for quick looks at the horse that came home the fastest .

It's a space issue -- there's really no room for another column in the pp's to add a four-digit number. Fortunately, space is not an issue online, and one of the neat features of our Formulator software is that you can change the settings so that each horse's individual fractions, including come-home times, appears in your customized pp's rather than the leader's fractions. You can toggle back and forth with a click. But until you're familiar with individual tracks' quirks, be careful with getting too excited over seemingly-fast raw come-home times, just as you'd be careful with fast raw final times at Turf Paradise. For example, a lot of people look for grass horses who can come home in under :12 or :24, but when Belmont's turf is hard, the worst grass horses on the grounds seem to be able to do it.

jhbvta24 says: It has been well documented that you play your picks with your own bankroll. What do you think of the wagering networks' on-air talent releasing multiple tickets each day without knowing if they are players or churn schills? At least a stock analyst has to disclose their firms/personal holdings on an equity play.

I have a different beef from most people with the on-air pick-4 tickets the TVG analysts put up. I'd bet dollars to donuts that none of them is flirting with long-term profitability, but no one's representing it otherwise. No one's forcing you to play them, and anyone dopey enough to actually bet a television announcer's tickets blindly is probably also playing online craps and assisting deposed princes of Nigeria in recovering vast inheritances.

My complaint is that limiting the announcers to a single ticket and a $50 limit is teaching people the wrong way to play these bets. You can get a lot more bang for that $36 or $48 by making multiple tickets with main and backup selections, and there are times when you should be making a $3 ticket through Horse A and a $1 ticket through Horse B instead of using them in equal strength. I understand that this would make for more complicated graphics and explanations, but I think it would be worthwhile.

jeff_moss says: I think the connections of Globetrotter should have sent Dakota Fanning in front of the Breeders' Cup Selection Committee and had her make an impassioned speech about the horse's qualifications. I have seen that work.

Jeff is referring to one of the most awful scenes in "Dreamer," that most awful of racing movies, where the adorable little girl convinces the stuck-up, tweedy BC Selection Committee to let her patched-up filly run in an oversubscribed BC Classic off one start in two years in a claiming race. Shockingly, the wise-beyond-her-years moppet melts their hearts, and the filly goes off at 57-1 in the big race, with truth, justice and the family farm on the line. If you can't guess how the race comes out, can I interest you in assisting me with cashing a check from the Royal Bank of Nigeria?

Larry Kerr More than 1 year ago
Steve - I live in Miami and can't get a copy of the B.C. Advanced Edition. Went to a DRF outlet Thursday morning and they did not have it and had no idea what I was talking about. Went to a different outlet Friday morning and they also did not have it and also had no idea what I was talking about. I guess I won't be able to do my own handicapping, and will just have to wait for all of your picks before the big days!!!
jcp More than 1 year ago
You are right, the Nigeria thing is a scam; it's the Ghana one that's real
Jack Pritchard More than 1 year ago
Dear Steve,I have all the respect in the world for you, but unless YOU pay for my losses at the track, I don't care who you like. The best advice you can give a person reading your blog is, learn to pick your own winners, don't rely on anyone to do your homework. I never pay attention to Beyer numbers, I don't care if I know the owner of a horse,I don't care what the jockey says, I don't care if I'm sitting with Pope Paul and he tells me who he likes, if I can't see it I'am not betting.The T.V.G. crew would go broke in a hurry if they had to play the horses they pick.If you want to succeed at a high level playing this game it's a 12 hour a day 7 days a week JOB.
steve More than 1 year ago
Larry You can print the PP's online on DRF. They also have have a number you can call to have the BC Advance sent to you by mail or Fed Ex.
race More than 1 year ago
Hey tony---I'm sure Steven is looking forward to giving out all his picks to us Steven Crist fans "Before" the B.C. races--right Steve? We'll be able to use the money that we received from the Royal Bank of Nigeria for our bets.
Davie Florida Nick More than 1 year ago
Steve, What info do you include on your early handicapping spreadsheet???
David More than 1 year ago
Jack, I like Steve's insight into how he approaches the game. I don't think that he or anyone else in the media/racing game would suggest playing their picks blindly at the expense of learning to handicap better and better every day/year. You are right it is a job, hopefully a labor of love. I learn something from every handicapper I meet b/c we all have different approaches and wouldn't hang around if we didn't have one or two valuable insights into various nuances of the game. DF
arazi More than 1 year ago
F&M Turf Mile sounds like a fantastic idea but how about the turf sprint? Don't you think it should be also on the BC menu?
Mike C More than 1 year ago
Yes Tony, I was thinking Steve would review his bets with me when I stop over for B.C. day breakfast...
Tony More than 1 year ago
steve u make us all laugh that is true . Now lets win some money on BC day !!!! Will you post your picks or plays on the blog before hand ? That sure would be nice to hear your thoughts and pk3 pk 4 plays . .