10/25/2007 12:02PM

Q&A 10/25/07


mike_c says: How much of a factor is track condition in your handicapping? What do you do if the horse you like has never run on an "off" track? Relying strictly on bloodlines seems a bit risky.

The 48-hour forecast for the Monmouth area is looking grim as of noon Thursday, and it makes sense to take an "off track" run through the pp's to see who might benefit or suffer from slop or soft turf, but be careful about getting too excited or discouraged off scant evidence. A horse might show one big win on an off track but if it was a four-horse field where he walked to the lead, so what? Similarly, a poor effort early in a horse's career isn't necessarily a black mark if it had happened before the horse reached his current level of performance.

Another pitfall to avoid is pronouncing a track bias on the basis of early races. Sometimes the day starts with a sloppy track that appears to favor speed but with ongoing racing and maintenance it becomes muddy and tiring as the day goes on.

I always think of a conversation I once had with Jorge Velasquez, who had a reputation as a superior wet-track rider. When I asked him his secret, he said that if he had one it was that he didn't do anything all that different while other riders overreacted.

bellmore_joe says: In the event that there are two tickets that share the pick six jackpot, one being yours and one being the one you played for those Capital folks, which will best describe how you feel?
1. Dumb to have given away millions.
2. Proud to have given the winner and satisfied with your half.
3. Focusing on the half you gave away.
4. Focusing on the half you collect.
5. All of the above.

I'd like to think #2, but I truly don't fantasize about being one of a very small number of winners on BC Day. There are players' pools and wealthy individuals pumping $50,000 or more into the BC pick six that make my usual $2k or even this year's $5k a pretty small fish. If my duplicate play is responsible for an extra ticket, it's a lot likelier to be the difference between 49 and 50 winning tickets, or 499 and 500, rather than 1 and 2.

jhbvta24 says: Why is Forefathers listed in the body of both the Dirt Mile and the Sprint. I doubt that he's running in both races, so what gives?

Under the BC rules, you can enter in both a Friday and a Saturday BC race if neither is oversubscribed. I don't think too many people beyond Zayat/Mott with Forefathers realized this or there might have been more cross-entries between the Juvenile Turf/Juvenile and Dirt Mile/Sprint. Personally, I'd like to see them close this loophole so that handicappers know who's really running in these races sooner rather than later.

dave says: I like to bet exactas and trifectas and have budgeted $30 per race. How would you fashion your wagers in this case?

With $30 a race to work with, I would probably skip the trifectas, which are going to chew up your bankroll without giving you much coverage. You might consider dime supers as an alternative to give yourself a tiny bit of superexotic action, like spending $24 a race on exactas and $6 on dime supers -- that's 60 super combinations, whereas you could only get six tri combos for $6.

andyscoggin says: Will you be at the BC Handicapping Forum at MTH on Thursday night? Do you think it is worth the $30 price? Of course, aside from the fact that you get a copy of "Exotic Betting"!

I won't be there but $30 seems pretty reasonable considering you get a book (retail value $24.95) and a set of past performances (retail value $5). That means that the "light buffet dinner" and the wisdom of a fine panel of handicappers need only provide $0.05 worth of perceived value for you to break even.

ejxd2 says: What do you make of this guy's comments in USA Today: "The individual skill of the player determines the outcome, unlike betting on the horses or betting on the lottery," said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance. "It's not an individual competing against the house, and that's an important distinction."

Either this guy was misquoted or he's clueless. Parimutuel betting is the very definition of what he's talking about. Just as in poker, in racing the house rakes the pool but the players are competing against one another.

--If you haven't read the news yet, scratch Dixie Chatter (fever) from the Juvenile and Attila's Storm (filling) from the Sprint. I thught Dixie Chatter had some kind of a chance, while Attila's Storm seemed only a pace factor. The latter's defection increases the possibility the Sprint can be won on the front end, but Talent Search, Commentator and Bordonaro should still provide a contested pace.

--I had to make my selections for the weekend newspapers by Tuesday night, and I "picked" Miss Macy Sue, Strike the Deal and Xchanger on Friday and Indian Blessing, Tale of Ekati, Honey Ryder, Midnight Lute, Excellent Art, Unbridled Belle, Dylan Thomas and Street Sense for Saturday. I'll be posting a graded-handicap version of the Friday and Saturday spreadsheets over the next two days and the ungraded versions will also remain available. Here's a page worth bookmarking if you're playing from home and want a handy set of silks on your screen while the races are being run.