Updated on 09/17/2011 2:19PM

Ugly speedsters can pay pretty price


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Beaten-length margins should not always be taken at face value, especially when they involve "need-to-lead" horses who do their best running on the front end.

Such horses routinely fade out of contention if they are unable to make the early lead. The margin that they are beaten in such instances is usually irrelevant, because these faint-hearted types can retreat abruptly when they decide to spit the bit.

Need-to-lead horses also participate in suicidal speed duels with regularity, which is reason enough for them to back up in the stretch.

For value-conscious handicappers, the farther need-to-lead horses are beaten, the better, because an ugly running line is often conducive to producing overlaid odds. Put several of them together, such as confirmed front-runner The King N Rob did last winter in Florida, and a big payoff could be forthcoming.

The King N Rob showed brief speed in his first two starts last fall at Woodbine. He found softer company in a five-furlong maiden special Oct. 21at Fort Erie, and battled up front all the way en route to a neck win.

The King N Rob was dismissed at 10-1 when he returned to Woodbine in a seven-furlong sprint for $32,000 claimers Nov. 15. He darted out to a clear lead and set rapid fractions on a speed-favoring track, before drawing off for an easy victory.

After a dismal two-turn experiment in his next Woodbine appearance, The King N Rob bombed again after stumbling at the break in a Dec. 26 optional claimer at Calder. Next time out, in a five-furlong allowance at Gulfstream, he was a fading sixth after stalking the pace.

The King N Rob made the lead when he dropped into a $32,000 claimer at Gulfstream on Feb. 9, but was pressured through quick splits in that seven-furlong sprint. He gave way in deep stretch and finished a close second at 45-1, returning $35 to place.

Few could have predicted that The King N Rob would wake up in that race, but the fact that he got to run where he is most comfortable was certainly instrumental in his improved performance.

Grade 1 winner Peace Rules is another prime example of a runner who does his optimum running up front. His only two poor efforts on a fast track this year came when he failed to attend the pace, including when he was a beaten favorite in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 7.

Peace Rules was the even-money favorite in the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 24 at Santa Anita, but could only manage a distant fourth-place finish after racing 4 1/2 lengths off the pace. He redeemed himself in his next start, in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds, leading all the way at an overlaid 7-2.

A call for more exotic wagers

Woodbine has missed the boat regarding the betting format on simulcast wagering on major race days, such as last Saturday's Arlington Million card.

The usual menu of two pick threes and one pick four was offered on the 12-race Arlington Million card, but there were no serial wagers offered from races 8-12, except for a late double.

Races 8-11, which included a trio of interesting Grade 1 events, would have been ideal for another pick four, provided that it was promoted properly.

Unlike on its live Thoroughbred programs, Woodbine offered a pick six on simulcasts on Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes days this year. Tiny pools were realized, however, because of a lack of promotion of the wager.

The proper promotion of additional exotic wagering on major racing days should be of benefit to both the track and horseplayers.