09/28/2014 1:49PM

Super Saturday 2014 Notes


Some notes on yesterday's two Super Saturday cards at Belmont and Santa Anita:

Beyers: As the chart above shows, the Belmont races got slightly higher Beyer Speed Figures in the three comparable Grade 1's (Jockey Club Gold Cup/Awesome Again, Beldame/Zenyatta, Flower Bowl/Rodeo Drive) This is at least slightly misleading in the first two cases because the two champions who narrowly won their races at Santa Anita clearly are capable of running faster.

Shared Belief was less impressive on dirt than he has been on synthetics, but the aggressive riding tactics used against him forced him wide and cost him momentum. He is more than a neck better than Fed Biz. As for Beholder, her losing ground late to the front-runner she had already passed was somewhat alarming, but she had not been out since June and looked like a textbook case of a horse's needing a race. Reasonable handicappers can look at the Awesome Again and the Zenyatta and marshall arguments for or against the two winners in the Classic and Distaff.

Guaranteed Pools: The Belmont all-Grade 1 late pick-4 was "guaranteed" at $500,000. The pool passed that mark with 14 minutes to post and ended up doubling the guarantee with a final total of $1.09 million. At Santa Anita, the late daily double is now "guaranteed" at $100,000, an unimpressive sum for a pedestrian bet. Both guarantees are superfluous and do not make anyone's blood run faster.

Race Placement: Belmont had the opportunity to offer an all-G1/G2 Pick-6 -- Kelso, Beldame, Flower Bowl, Vosbugh, Joe Hirsch, Jockey Club Gold Cup -- that might have gotten some more casual players to take a small shot (and gotten the likes of me to play instead of sitting on my hands). Instead, the track broke up the stakes action by carding a turf-sprint allowance between the Beldame and Flower Bowl, on the theory that a nine-horse allowance field is more compelling and draws more action than a seven-horse Grade 1.

This field-size mantra is frequently trotted out to justify carding stakes races early on cards and to break up stakes sequences on big days. Only problem is that the entire premise is false.

Look at the handle on yesterday's 4th (Kelso), 5th (Beldame) and 6th (allowance) and see if you can still argue that the seven-horse Grade 1's had to be kept out of the pick-6 because bettors will wager more on the larger field:

WPS Pools: Kelso-$668k, Beldame-$648k, Allowance-$499k.

Exacta pools: Beldame-$448k, Kelso-$423k, Alowance-$382k.

But surely the trifecta and superfecta pools were larger on the nine-horse field, right? Wrong again:

Tri pools: Kelso-$272k, Beldame-$257k, Allowance-$213k.

Super pools: Kelso-$137k, Beldame-$127k, Allowance-$104k.

As constructed and even with a 15 percent non-carryover takeout, the Belmont pick-6 handled a paltry $125k, about half of one percent of the day's handle. And if the goal was to create a carryover, that didn't work either, as Grand Rapport nosed out uncovered Make a Decision in the finale for a $13k payoff.

At Santa Anita, it appears that winning pick-6 tickets were handed out with each paid admission. It paid $309, and there are no missing digits in that payoff. This after a day that began with a $146 winner and a $142k pick-5.

Superfectas: When is New York going to end its ridiculous prohibition on superfectas in races with coupled entries? Belmont had to scrap superfectas on the 1st and 9th races yesterday because-- and I'm not making this up -- regulators believe the betting public would be confused if two parts of an entry both ran in the top 4. The horseplayer has yet to be born who can not figure out that a 1-2-1a-3-4 finish means a 1-2-3-4 superfecta.

Diminished payoff: The willpays posted after the Joe Hirsch at Belmont said that a victory by Tonalist would result in a pick-4 payoff of exactly $1,000 for $2. When the race became official, the payoff was only $638. What happened? It was the late scratch of Prayer for Relief with just 7 minutes to post. Tonalist ended up a slight favorite over Wicked Strong in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, so all the tickets ending with Prayer for Relief were transferred to him.

Handle: Despite similar cards -- 11 races, six stakes races, five Grade 1's and an average of nine starters per race -- Belmont's Super Saturday outhandled Santa Anita's by a tally of $20.01 million to $13.48 million. Belmont drew more wagers in 60 of the 68 pools offered by both tracks, and that includes two Santa Anita races where there was serious bridgejumping in the show pools. The one major exception was the pick-6, which attracted $125k in New York and $325k in California. Here's the pool-by-pool comparison: