06/06/2013 8:36AM

Bob Pandolfo: Go shopping for a smart bet

Lisa Photo
Feeling You (1) was good value on June 1 at the Meadowlands.

In my last column I mentioned that I took a stand against Orb in the Preakness because he was overhyped and overbet off his Kentucky Derby, a race where he got a dream trip and passed exhausted horses who had been used in a hot pace.

Last Saturday, June 1, at the Meadowlands, there were a few favorites who I thought were worth taking a stand against. Form held up pretty well on the night, with nine favorites winning on the 14-race card. But let's look at two of the favorites that didn't win.

There are bad favorites for two reasons. (1) A horse is a suspect favorite - maybe it shouldn't be the favorite at all. (2) A horse is an overbet favorite. On Saturday night there were horses that fell into both of these categories.

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In the first race, a six-horse field, Anndrovette was the 1-2 favorite. She is an outstanding pacing mare with more than $2 million in earnings. She has 32 career wins. But, she came into the race with only 1 win in 8 starts at the Meadowlands. The classy mare has a 43-percent win percentage overall, but an 11-percent win percentage at the Meadowlands. Another thing that I took into consideration was her trainer, P. J. Fraley. He has started 32 horses at the Meadowlands this year with no winners. So I picked Feeling You, who has 31 career wins and had beaten Anndrovette to win the Blue Chip Matchmaker final at Yonkers. Anndrovette raced gamely but was beaten by Feeling You. Anndrovette was not a suspect favorite, but she was overbet considering her record over the track. We saw a similar situation with another great horse, Foiled Again, a few weeks ago. Foiled Again is a tough horse to beat at most tracks, but he only has 1 win in 24 starts at the Meadowlands.

Saturday night in the Golden Girls, I was hoping that classy Drop The Ball would be the favorite off of her reputation. She was making her third start of the year. But in her last start, Drop The Ball had set the pace at Harrahs Philadelphia and faded to sixth. Harrah's was very speed-favoring that day, as it has been most of the time this year. When a top-class pacer like Drop The Ball sets the pace over a speed-biased track, she is either going to win or finish second. For her to finish sixth off that trip was a sign that she is not herself right now. Drop The Ball was given an easy trip and finished a nonthreatening third Saturday night, at 7-2.

Another favorite that I felt would be overbet was I Luv The Nitelife. She came off a layoff on May 18 and won at 4-5. But she was able to quarter-move to the lead past a 28-second first quarter, which by today's standards is slow. She barely held on by a neck. Saturday she was moving into a stakes final with a $150,000 purse. Usually when the purse goes up, so does the pressure. I felt she may be a vulnerable favorite which I indicated in my handicapping comments. The second and third choices, Jerseylicious and Ms Caila J Fra, each had two races that were faster than I Luv The Nitelife's career best.

She would have to improve to win the race. Do you want to bet an even-money favorite hoping that it will improve? Of course not. When you bet a horse at that price, you want a horse that has already proven that it is the fastest horse in the race.

Ms Caila J Fra beat Jerseylicious by a neck and I Luv The Nitelife finished third. It was a tight finish and these three Jersey-bred fillies seem closely matched, so I Luv The Nitelife should have her chances for revenge. But in this spot last Saturday, she was overbet.

When you're deciding which horse to bet, try to think of it as a purchase instead of a bet. What do we do when we shop? We look for value. Several years ago I saw a nice designer shirt in Macy’s, made by Clairborne. The material was soft and unique. I really wanted one. The shirt was $50. Not at that price. I went back a few weeks later and they were on clearance for $10 each. I bought five of them in different colors. At 50 bucks each, the shirt was poor value. At $10, a big overlay.

When we bet a horse, aren't we buying something? If we're at the track or offtrack betting outlet, we put our money down and they hand us a ticket. That is our stake on the race. The ticket is our purchase. A smart shopper knows value; so should a smart bettor.

If you try to think of each bet as a purchase, you may make better decisions. Sometimes I think that Internet betting can make a bettor careless. It's so easy to click into my account and make a wager that sometimes at home I make bets on horses that aren't good value. When I'm at the track, the only time I take money out of my wallet to bet is when I spot an overlay on the toteboard.

And when you think about it, when we make a wager, we really should be shopping: Shopping for a good bet.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, his free picks at handicapping.ustrotting.com/pandycapping.cfm or write to Bob Pandolfo, 3386 Creek Road, Northampton, Pa., 18067.