02/19/2015 5:28PM

Goldfeder: What Was I Thinking - X-Country pick four


What was I thinking?

Life and racing can be unpredictable. One minute you’re up and things seem to be going your way, then everything changes and nothing is going your way.

My goal has always been to be the best horseplayer I can possibly be. I am comfortable in the knowledge that no matter how much I think I know about racing there is a lot more I don’t know. I prepare to the best of my ability only to find out that there is more.

When reviewing any wager, I always think I could have done better. If I make a score, the first question I ask is, “Could I have made more money?” It’s not greed – it’s just me wanting to maximize opportunities (and okay, perhaps a little bit of greed).

There are times I make a bad bet, review it, and say to myself: “What was I thinking?”

Follow up to pick four

Wagering is an art form that needs to be developed. It is not a process that comes naturally. When there are resources available to make the work more beneficial they should be used. In my first article, I went over the importance of defining the A’s, B’s, and C’s when putting together a pick four, to make sure you can get the best value out of the bet depending upon your handicapping opinion. I came up with a more streamlined strategy that I tried to apply going forward.

On Feb. 7, I saw the X-Country pick four as an opportunistic play. The sequence looked like it could be chalky, but I tried to approach it in such a way where I would be able to get some value. The key to the play was to define my A’s, B’s, and C’s.

X-Country pick four Saturday, Feb. 7 (Gulfstream races 12-13 and Santa Anita races 7-8)

My thought process:

Race 12 Gulfstream

Contenders: All A’s

(1) Mshawish (7-5 final odds): Looked like the most likely winner based on recent form, a strong trainer, and back class abroad where he faced much better competition. Since coming to the United States, he finished first across the finish line in 3 of 4 starts and was 2 for 2 over the Gulfstream turf. Well posted, he figured to sit a good trip.

Contenders: All C’s

(5) Manchurian High (25-1 final odds): Consistent closer with a strong late turn of foot has the    ability to pick up the pieces and possibly get the top spot if the race were to break down.

(8) Lochte (10-1 final odds): The defending champ was 4 for 6 over the course before this race and was coming off nice win at Tampa Bay Downs. Third off a layoff, he should be sharp.

Race 13 Gulfstream

Contenders: A’s

(1) Constitution (7-2 ML): This figured to be the race he’d most likely be able to control on the lead as opposed to his last two starts where he ran well but got hooked and tired late. Back to a surface he liked (3 wins in 3 starts) and making his first start as a 4-year-old, he has the look of a solid contender.

(4) Lea (9-5 ML): The defending champ in this race making his second start off a layoff where he won over the Gulfstream surface for the third time in three starts, earning an impressive 107 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. After missing most of 2014 while ill, he seems to be back and ready for a strong 2015 season. Lightly raced and talented – and until he proves otherwise – he has to be respected. Solid contender.

Contenders: B’s

(2) Commissioner (4-1 ML): Showed promise in the Belmont Stakes and probably needed his last race off of the layoff on Jan. 15. Distance is not an issue, and with his tactical speed, he looked to sit a good trip.

Contenders: C’s

(5) Elmaawi (15-1 ML): Coming off a career-best race in the mud at Laurel, he seemed to be going in the right direction. He is the type who could pick up the pieces late. A shade below the top three, I made him a C, hoping in his third start off a layoff he would continue with the improvement he had already begun to show early in the year.

Race 7 Santa Anita

Contenders: A’s

(8) Dynamic Sky (3-1 ML): Coming off a troubled trip in the San Gabriel and second off a layoff, it looked like he was sitting on a good race. Add to that some moisture in the ground, and I thought he was the most likely winner in what appeared to be a competitive race.

Contenders: B’s

(1) Finnegan’s Wake (5-2 ML): The winner of the San Gabriel sported both a win over the track and at the distance. He also seemed to get a lot better and more consistent with the move out West with the trainer change to Peter Miller. Only knock was the moisture in the ground. Still a formidable foe but at the anticipated short price I rated him a B. I actually expected him to be the favorite over Dynamic Sky.

Contenders: C’s

(2) Patrioticandproud (4-1 ML): Competitive in three straight graded stakes but still not respected at the windows because of her tendency to finish second more often than first. Despite the 4-1 morning line, my feeling was that he would go off higher than that and be of value in the pick four sequence. I thought he was worth adding to the ticket as a C. Not without a chance.

(4) Power Ped (9-2 ML): Started off 2015 with what were probably the two best races of her career.  Was competitive with top two in the San Gabriel and followed that with a win at Turf Paradise.  Questioned the distance, but felt he’d get a good trip. Enough positives to use as a C.

Race 8 Santa Anita

Contenders: A’s

(5) Shared Belief (7-5 ML): No brainer. One of two A’s.  One of the top handicap horses in the country. Should be a match race with California Chrome.

(8) California Chrome (6-5 ML): Defending Derby winner and Horse of the Year. One of two A’s. If I’m sitting California Chrome and Shared Belief, I was hoping at least one price horse scored to give the pick four added value.

I used DRF TicketMaker to put the play together. There was no preset combination to format the play, so I used the last four races at Gulfstream to assemble the ticket:

:: Build your multi-race exotic tickets with DRF TicketMaker | DRF TicketMaker (Mobile)

Unlike in my previous article, I thought this play out early and was happy with it. There was no audible at the line of scrimmage, and I was willing to live or die with the play. The budget was $120, so I went with the allotted weight assigned to each wager.

Leg 1

Mshawish broke well and established good position immediately, tracking the pace two back on the rail under a hammerlock hold by Javier Castellano. At the top of the stretch, he maintained position but was boxed in behind the leaders and another rival to his outside. When able to split horses in midstretch, he had good run late and just out finished Slumber (11-1) by a nose to get the win.

Slumber had a clearer but wider trip and had he won, he would have been a deserving victor and my ticket would have been dead.

Lochte also had some traffic issues in the stretch and had no place to go. Not sure if he would have won with room to run as he did not really get the chance to prove it.

Manchurian High ran his race, getting caught a bit wide deep on the turn and finishing fastest with the most late run to get up for fourth. He would have benefitted from a quicker pace. Many turf races are decided by trip, and I got one that was just good enough to move the chains in my pick four play.

Leg 2

I never had an anxious moment as my contenders were pretty much in control of the race from the start. Constitution (5-2) did exactly as expected, slowing the pace in the second quarter and holding off a game Lea (6-5) late to prevail.

Coming wide off the turn, Elnaawi (17-1) closed well late to get up for a clear third running a lifetime-best Beyer of 105. He continues to improve, and there is no reason that this will not ultimately be a breakout year for him. Even in defeat, I have him on my radar as a horse to watch. 

Commissioner (5-1) pressed the pace to the top of the stretch and then flattened out. 

Leg 3

Finnegan’s Wake (9-5) settled toward the rear and when asked for his run on the turn responded nicely, muscling his way past Powder Ped (12-1) in upper stretch and then drawing off gamely for the win.  Basically, he had a great trip and did what he had to do to win.

In the stretch, I was hoping that Powder Ped would have enough late to get up, but he had a wider trip.  Although he ran well, he just wasn’t as sharp as the winner. 

My A, Dynamic Sky (8-5), had an odd trip, rating three wide in midpack on the backstretch. He then lost ground on the far turn and was looking done, only to come again late with a good run to get fifth, galloping out well after the race. He may not have liked the wet turf.

My second C, Patrioticandproud (6-1), was toward the rear much of the race and never really got involved.

Although not alive with my A, I felt okay going into the last leg knowing that I was covered with what were clearly the two best horses. I would have felt better had Powder Ped somehow been put up as a result of the bumping in the stretch with the winner, but that would have been something of a reach.

Leg 4

This race was all it was supposed to be, with Shared Belief (1-1) out finishing California Chrome (7-5) in what essentially was a match race between the two stars.  


The X-Country pick four paid $68.25 for 50 cents. Had my A’s all won, I would have had a ticket for $7 or 14 times the base payout. Using TicketMaker, the winning value of the other six tickets I played was $3.50 each, which meant I would cash $68.25 seven times. In the end, it was Ticket 3 that returned $477.75, for a total profit of $358.75.

I got 3-1 on a chalky pick four and only had to sweat out the first leg. I really had no complaints in this case because three of my four A’s ran well and had two of the C’s, Elnaawi or Powder Ped, been able to get up for a win, the profit would have been much better.
Overall, the end result reflected my handicapping opinion, and I took the lessons from the pick four of Jan. 3 to improve my play here. It is a matter of taking what they give you. 

Sometimes, we react better to adversity than success. When successful, we take things for granted and do not approach the race situationally. Even though I followed the formula from the last time, I need to be flexible in my approach. The goal is to establish a foundation from which to play and lay the groundwork for multiple options in order to maximize the ROI for the play.

The two A’s in the last leg actually were better than having one strong A because the keys were split and it resulted in what may have been a higher payoff than if there was one strong single at 1-5. The reason this chalky sequence was playable was because these two stars lay over the field. It would have been nice if one of the longer shots won in one of the first three legs, but as it turned out, I was okay with the result, hoping the karma of the longer-priced winners will reveal itself later as long as I am committed strongly to my A’s, regardless of the price.