03/07/2002 12:00AM

New tools to help make sense of chaos

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JAMAICA, N.Y. - With Mongoose (Donn) and Milwaukee Brew (Big Cap) joining the ranks of the elite as Grade 1 winners, it's clear the older handicap division is a free-for-all.

Lessons from the Big Cap:

1. With so many horses, even at the Grade 1 level, not holding their form well from one race to the next, the approach of constructing personal betting lines is more in tune with the realities of today's game than the traditional "who do you like" mentality of betting horses regardless of price.

As post time neared for the Big Cap three horses offered odds higher than my personal betting line printed here last Saturday: Sky Jack at 9-1 (5-1 on the line), Giant Gentleman at 6-1 (5-1 line), and Western Pride at 19-1 (10-1 line).

I played devil's advocate with Giant Gentleman, who was a negligible overlay and suspect at the distance to begin with, and focused on the other two, who had run the field's top recent Beyers of 113 and 111.

2. When considering horses in the 20-1 range such as Western Pride, it's advisable to bet win and place if the obvious betting choices are vulnerable or false. When the chalk is viewed as legitimate, protect the win bet with an exacta saver(s). This helps keep the financial and psychological stresses of extended losing streaks at a minimum.

3. A hot trainer can supersede all other factors. Milwaukee Brew hadn't won a race since the Ohio Derby (by a head) in July 2000. As a 4-year-old last year, he compiled a 0-1-1 record from four starts, while peaking out at a 101 Beyer, and was beaten more than 10 lengths in both attempts above the Grade 3 level. Despite those dubious credentials, he crushed the Big Cap field with a Beyer of 116. How? Second start for Bobby Frankel, that's how.

There are many ways to win at the races. Again, take the Big Cap:

Pace players could point out that 19-1 runner-up Western Pride had recorded the field's fastest internal fractions winning the San Fernando two starts back.

Users of sheet-style figures might have liked Western Pride on the "bounce-back" angle. He had run a 111 off the layoff, "bounced" to an 82, and bounced back with another big effort.

Form-cycle analysts might have reasoned that Milwaukee Brew's previous high-water mark on the Beyer scale (110) had been delivered second time back from a layoff in the 2000 Haskell. He was second back from a layoff in the Big Cap.

And of course, trainer aficionados were probably licking their chops over the prospect of a Bobby Frankel-trained entry at 9-2 in a stakes race, even if they looked like his third-string representatives going in.

In that eclectic spirit, several worthwhile handicapping products covering a wide range of topics have hit the market in the past several weeks. They are:

Hidden probabilities: Hard-core research for X-rated horseplayers - Contrarian handicapper extraordinaire Mark Cramer is at it again, this time with a 59-page booklet jammed with facts gleaned from painstaking research into the past performances. Myth-exploding discoveries are to be found in categories such as speed figures, repeaters, second-time starters, recent in-the-money finishers, chaos races, and more. "Our intention has been to compile a beneath-the-surface set of handicapping probabilities," writes Cramer. "These probabilities provide an enhanced wager value . . . for they are not considered essential by the betting public."

Available through Cynthia Publishing, 11314 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604. Phone 323-876-7325. Website: www.cynpub.com; e-mail: info@cynpub.com

The 4+30 Method: Percentages and Profitability - Trainer specialist Ed Bain is a Maryland-based pro player whose main income is derived from betting. This stat-intensive, 87-page study centers around the "4+30" method, which identifies trainers with at least four wins and a minimum 30 percent hit rate in specific categories, along with "filters" to weed out qualifiers with a low probability of success. "I discovered that the 4+30 statistic predicts improvement and not the speed of the horse," Bain explains in his introduction. "My style of handicapping is an abstract contrarian technique."

Available through East Antietam Racing Publications, LLC, P.O. Box 2054, Hagerstown, MD 21742. Website: www.edbain.com; e-mail: edbain1@aol.com

Blinkers off (New Frontiers in Form Cycle Analysis) - What happens when you cross sheet-style performance figures with the feet-per-second velocity ratings of the Sartin Methodology? A thought-provoking 197-page softcover book that examines the condition factor in trademarked terms such as "cyclical pace tops," "delayed reversals" and "compression lines," to name just a few. "Many variables affect the outcome of a horse race," writes author Cary Fotias. "But a majority of the time one factor supersedes all the rest. Form, or as we prefer to name it, condition, is the most consistent determinant of the outcome of any given race."

Available through Equiform, 23-11 24th Avenue, Astoria, N.Y. 11102. Phone 866-374-3676. Website: www.equiform.com

2002 Horsestreet Pars - Statistical whiz David E. Schwartz has just released his updated pars for all North American racing circuits. I've been using the "2001 Pars Plus" (Schwartz's first set of commercially available par times) since last spring with good results, though it would be nice if horses would, just for once, run the same race twice. These are the times I use as the bedrock for constructing my own Quririn-style pace and speed figures. The major improvement to the 2002 model is times in hundreths (instead of fifths). Indispensable for the serious student of the game.

Available through HorseStreet Publications, 4955 Pinesprings Drive, Reno, Nevada 89509. Phone 775-825-0260. Website: www.horsestreet.com

The way things are going this year, handicappers are going to need all the help they can get.