06/23/2009 11:00PM

Lessons from a $10,000 trifecta


PHILADELPHIA - This is the ultimate what-if game, as in what if I had been paying attention in the minutes leading up to the June 13 Jostle Stakes at Philadelphia Park. I did look at the race, dismissed it as a betting opportunity, and was focused elsewhere in the minutes leading up to the race.

The last-out Beyer Speed Figures for the nine 3-year-old fillies were 84, 82, 86, 86, 86, 88, 87, 88, and 0. It did not look like any of the fillies had any stylistic advantage. It looked like a race where nothing was terribly obvious, a race with too many possibilities to consider involvement.

The betting, however, was much different than the Beyers. The favorite was 11-10, followed by fillies who were 4-1, 6-1, 6-1, 8-1, 10-1 16-1, 37-1, and 45-1.

The public locked in on Saarlight. The filly had gotten a 101 Beyer back on April 8 when she got loose on the lead in a nonwinners-of-two-lifetime and won by 10 1/4 lengths. Then, she ran second in a Grade 3 stakes and got an 86. She wasn't getting loose on this lead, yet the public bet her off that wire job.

Cinderella's Wish, the second choice, had been a fast-closing second in the Miss Preakness Stakes, but had gotten just an 84 Beyer.

The public was betting the graded stakes form and missing the point. The two fillies were in slowly run stakes. They had no advantage, even though the others had no recent positive graded stakes experience.

When the three longest shots in a stakes race run one, three, two, it tends to get my attention. Trusty Temper (45-1) won it, followed by Northern Belle (16-1) and Bandora (37-1). The last-out Beyers were 86, 88, and 88 respectively.

This was a race that called out for that invention I wrote about several years ago - a device that takes me to a race like this with 10 minutes to post. Then, of course, I would need the inspiration to box the three longest shots in the trifecta because the Beyers suggested they were as good as the three favorites.

There was no invention and no inspiration. There was a $2 trifecta that paid $10,882.60.

All of which proves that there is still big money to be won by betting blindly on the Beyers (when the betting is upside down), even if the Jostle scenario was so unusual I am not sure I have ever seen one quite like it.

Trusty Temper earned her 86 by wiring a five-furlong, second-level allowance at Churchill Downs. It was her best Beyer by 11 points. She looked like a 20-1 shot on paper, but ended up at 45-1.

The trifecta had two things in common. Ronny Werner trained the two longest shots in the $200,000 race. The first three finishers had arrived at Philadelphia Park from Churchill Downs. I would not have known if that meant anything before the race. I am not sure what it meant after the race.

The two favorites ran seventh and eighth, beating only the filly who had gotten a 0 in her previous race.

The result reminded me of an exacta theory I have been using with some success for years. When I have locked in on an obvious winner who is going to be less than 2-1 and have no particular opinion in the exacta, I will often use one or two of the longest-priced horses for second.

Think about it. If you have no opinion and think the result could be random, why would you ever use the low-priced exactas? When in doubt, bet against the public, especially if the horse you like to win is a speed horse and the bombs are horses that can pass horses in the stretch.

It was the same theory, with a twist, that could have led me to the Jostle trifecta, if I had been paying attention.

Barbaro's brother bears watching

I would advise everyone to pay attention if Nicanor does indeed run in the July 18 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. If trainer Michael Matz had taken the more aggressive path and run Nicanor, Barbaro's full brother, in last Saturday's Colonial Turf Cup, he would have had the horse with the best Beyer - by a lot.

Nicanor earned a 104 when he won his maiden race at Delaware Park. The two best Beyers going into the Turf Cup were Lime Rickey (92) and Battle of Hastings (90). Battle of Hastings ended up winning the race with a 92.

Matz opted to take his time with a horse he knew a year ago had real talent. So Nicanor ran in a grass allowance race at Delaware Park on June 17. Nicanor went wire to-wire and got a 93, one point better than Battle of Hastings got for winning in Virginia.

Nicanor is 2 for 2 with blinkers on grass. How good is this colt? We likely will all know more on July 18. Just keep in mind the story the Beyers are likely to tell with the added knowledge that because of the hype, Nicanor is not going to be the odds equivalent of Trusty Temper.