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Pandolfo: Examining recent Meadowlands races
The Meadowlands winter meet has always been big in harness racing. It's a bettor's meet. So far this year favorites are winning at 39%. That number makes it sound like picking winners at the Big M is easy, but of course it isn't. There have been plenty of longshot winners.
The Big M winter meet is attractive to bettors who like to take shots and try for a score. Last week they raced Friday and Saturday. Let's go over some of the races to see if we can find some trends.
Meadowlands, Friday, January 15
Race 1 -
In this race, Apostles Creed was coming off a two month layoff for trainer Jimmy Takter. His qualifiers were fine. I made the horse 8-5 and picked him second. My top pick broke stride. Apostles Creed went off at .30 cents to a dollar and finished second. I had picked against him because I figured he'd be overbet. This 4yo trotter only has 1 win in 18 career starts and it was a slow race at Freehold. This was one of 10 beaten favorites driven by Yannick Gingras last weekend. The winner, Bjanthony ($22.40) was coming off a layoff and won for hot driver Anthony Napolitano. I had picked the winner third at 6-1 odds, so according to my line, it was an overlay.
This was an Open Handicap trot. To me it looked like a toss-up between two horses that I made 2-1 odds, but Uva Hanover took the money and lost at 3/5. My 4th pick, Can Do, won and paid $31.20. I made the trotter 8-1 odds, so again, this was an overlay winner for hot driver Anthony Napolitano.
The 6-1 winner Armbro Entity hadn't raced since August but was getting a key driver change to Gingras.
Wide open trot, the 6-1 winner, Tag Up And Go, had shown speed from posts 9 and 10 in his last two starts. Tag Up And Go likes the Meadowlands, always a good angle.
Key handicapping note: In the two nights of racing last week, 7 winners were horses that were getting better post positions after starting from post 9 or 10 in their prior start. I expect this trend to continue as "improved post position" is one of the strongest angles in harness racing.
In this trot, it looked like it had to be either one of three horses, and the second choice won at 5-2 odds. Two Hip Dip went off at 3/5 and lost. You have to be careful with these odds-on horses.
Key handicapping note: 8 horses that went off at below even money lost last weekend and most of them did not look like they should be bet that heavily. Odds-on favorites are rarely worth a bet during the winter Meadowlands meet. If you're a chalk bettor, try the other harness track (Freehold) in New Jersey.
A two horse race on paper won by my top pick Misssomebeachblue, $7.00.
Key handicapping note: Misssomebeachblue had just missed in her last start and had made three separate moves. Horses that make 3 moves and either win or narrowly miss are tough to beat in their next start. I've cashed on this angle many times.
In this race the winner, trotter Capriccio Hanover, won and paid $67.40 for driver/trainer Mike Simons. Capriccio Hanover hadn't raced since December 18. But perhaps more significant was that it was his second start over the track after shipping in.
Mike Simons doubled up with 5-1 winner Bettor Chill Out. This mare was also second start over the track, dropping down after making a sharp first over brush.
Key handicapping note: Friday night, 6 horses won that were second start off a layoff, 5 of them were making their second start over the track after shipping in.
Meadowlands, Saturday, January 16
On paper it was a two horse race between the 8 and 9, but the key was if the 8 could stay flat, which he didn't. The odds were screwy . . . Connecting Flight went off at 3/5 and broke. Grand Theft had just won in the same class and paid $10.60. These two horses should have been much closer in odds. Horses that had won their last start did extremely well. Overall, Saturday night was more predictable, with repeat winners doing well.
Key handicapping note: On Saturday night, 7 of the winners had won their last start, 6 over the Meadowlands surface and one at Monticello.
This was a weak field but I thought it was an interesting race. The favorite, Visa Viper, is a horse that rarely wins and was coming off a bad year, 1 win in 13 starts. The second choice, Some Major Beach was good early in his career but he only has 3 career wins in 47 starts and was 0 for 17 last year. Piece Of The Rock, a horse with a lot of back class, shipped in off a strong win at Monticello and upset at 4-1 odds.
Key handicapping note: Horses that have very low win percentages, or are in the midst of long losing streaks, are risky propositions. The only time you should even think about betting this type of horse is at long odds.
An oddity, 11 year olds Intheblinkofaneye and Real Nice both won. But these pacers have a lot of back class. Intheblinkofaneye has always been a horse that had potential but the 11-year-old gelding has been plagued by physical problems and has only raced 79 times in his career, with 27 wins. Real Nice has 52 career wins and $1.3 million in earnings.
Key handicapping note: Anthony Napolitano, who usually drives on 5/8 size tracks like Pocono Downs, is driving at the Meadowlands this year and he has been hot and bringing in longshot winners. His style seems perfect for this track. He's a smart veteran driver who is good at saving something for the finish.
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, 112 Michael Ct., Northampton, PA 18067.
Nearly any horse can be justified as a reasonable bet once a race is over. There are so many "trends", "angles", "gimmicks", "systems", it will make your head spin. People handicap horses, post positions, drivers, trainers, odds, class, speed, form,trips, final quarters, earnings, etc. The variables are endless, but in the end, some guy hits a high5 by betting the same numbers every time. Isn't this a great game?