08/20/2015 12:36PM

Pandolfo: Future lies in the past performances


As most of you probably know, I compile a list we call Sharp Horses and Track Trends for DRF Harness bi-weekly. It's a list of horses to watch and includes track biases. Sometimes I find it helpful to go back over the horses to see which ones won their next start or which horses disappointed.

I've noticed a few things in these reviews. First of all, horses coming out of fast races tend to do better than horses coming out of races that weren't that fast. Consequently, I take the fractions and final time into consideration when choosing which horses to put on the list. Sometimes a horse will perform in a way that looks good, visually. Say a horse follows cover second over and draws off to win by four lengths but the final time was slow for the class. Chances are the horse will face a better field next time and I haven't found that these horses are worth following up on. I'm not saying that they never win, but over the long run, this type of winner often disappoints in its next start.

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I've also found that not only does the time matter, but also the horse that won the race. For example, sometimes I'll make a comment like, "Rockaround Sue went first over against a tough odds-on favorite that was taking a key drop in class and held gamely for the place."

Horses that go head and head against a sharp favorite and hold well tend to do better in their next start than horses that raced against a more modest winner. I've also found that horses that are clearly second best behind a strong favorite usually race big in their next start. In fact, any horse that finishes within a couple of lengths of the strong favorite is usually a horse that is ready to win.

As for longshots, sometimes the winner is so explosive that it buries the field. Monday, August 17, a horse named Western Cole dropped down to the NW6000 level and won the 5th race at Yonkers, paying $40.20 to win. In his prior start on July 27, Western Cole had dropped down in class from NW12000 to NW8000. In that race he had post 2 and he showed nothing, losing by 14 lengths. But in that race on July 27, the winner, American Venture was taking a key drop in class to the NW8000 level and he exploded to win by 10 lengths in 1:50 4/5, which was only three-fifths of a second off the track record. Talk about tough fields, wow!

When a horse draws off and crushes a field in a fast time, it muddles the performances of the other horses in the race. Yes, Western Cole did lose by 14 lengths, but the winner won by 10. It wasn't as if he wasn't able to keep up to most of the horses in the race. He just couldn't stay with the winner. None of the horses could. You can't expect horses in a NW8000 to race in near track-record time.

Speaking of time, when I analyzed the numbers, guess which horse projected to be the fastest in the 5th at Yonkers last Monday? Western Cole! If you go back and look at the past performances, you'll see that in his last two starts Western Cole paced in 1:53 3/5 over the Yonkers track. He was actually a "double fig," meaning that not only did he have the best final time in his last race, but both of his last two races were faster. Those of you who have my book, Trotpicks: Modern Harness Handicapping, know that if you used the BRT (Best Recent Time Over The Track) method, Western Cole was an obvious Best Bet.

I think what threw the bettors off was that Western Cole had dropped to the NW8000 level in his last start and had finished last. But as I've pointed out, that was a killer field. And I'll give you another important clue to look for when evaluating class. In his last start on July 27, Western Cole had post 2 and he was dropping from NW12000 to NW8000. In his prior start he had gone off at odds of 48-1 from post 4. In the race on July 27, he went off at 67-1 odds.

I know that most harness fans don't have the time, or don't take the time, to go back and carefully analyze each horse's last race. But, the key information you need is usually in the past performances. If I can't recall what type of a field a horse is coming out of, I always look to see what its odds were.

Think about it. Western Cole was taking a drop to NW8000 and he had a good post, yet he went off at 67-1, much higher odds than he went off at in NW12000. It was a sign that he was coming out of an extremely tough NW8000 field. So, when he dropped into NW6000 company earlier this week, he was actually taking a bigger drop in class than it appeared.

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The odds angle also works very well with shippers. When a horse ships in that I don't know much about, I always look to see what odds it went off in their last start. If a horse went off at high odds, it had to be facing tough competition.

If on the other hand you see a horse that keeps going off as the favorite and getting beat, what does that tell you? It tells you that the horse has been having trouble beating horses that it should beat.

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.