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My name is Jameel Anees and I am a bridge-jumper.
Most people who see me handicap are fairly surprised by my love of “across the board” wagering and bridge-jumping. They usually expect me to try and take down a big Pick 6 or a fancy superfecta, but I am a little too wise for that.
The point of handicapping is to enjoy yourself while giving yourself the very best opportunity to make a positive return on investment. Bridge-jumping is one of the best ways to get profitable and stay profitable in racing.
If you have been following Thoroughbred Analytics on Twitter, you probably gave such longshots such as VE Day and Hardest Core a second look. If you took a leap of faith and played either of those horses across the board, you were rewarded with a pretty handsome payoff.
Now, there are times when our longshot picks will fail to win or even hit the board, but in the long run, betting undervalued horses across the board and bridge-jumping on great horses usually pays off.
Here’s the important part
Do not play with money that you cannot afford to lose. Do lock in on one horse in one or maybe two races that day and bet your total wagering budget for the day. Like a boxer, you need to pick your spots when it comes to getting aggressive.
If I have set aside $200 for wagering for the day, I’ll usually pick one horse and play $60 to win, $60 to place, and $80 to show. The horse will usually be one that the TA algorithm and I both like, but the general public does not. I call these “true overlays”. There are rarely more than three “true underlays” in any one card and almost never two “true underlays” in the same race.
VE Day was a true overlay as I liked him and he did well on most TA metrics. The general public disregarded him because they thought the Curlin Stakes was a much weaker race than it actually was. Without going into too much detail and boring everyone, VE Day had no business finishing in the money, let alone winning the race, he was a prime candidate to improve off of the effort.
If you are interested in seeing this method in practice, I will be looking for “true underlays” at Canterbury Park and tweeting them on Saturday and Sunday a few minutes before the race, feel free to follow.
Most people who know me know that I am obsessed with the Travers. The problem is that I usually have no idea how to handicap this perpetually frustrating race. So, I took a look at all of the starters and dug up their TA Premium past performances in order to see if I could find a way to separate them.
The TA Indicator is a very powerful tool once you figure out how to adjust it’s rating depending on the angles that you find in the past performances. This is why you need to study the past performances and incorporate the TA Indicator into your handicapping.
Let’s apply this handicapping style to the Travers:
Ulanbotor, Viva Majorca and Commanding Curve all have TA Indicators that are too low to overcome and hence, they will be thrown out immediately.
Now, let’s look for horses that are most likely to bounce and subtract 2.00 from their TA Indicator. Bayern will probably bounce do to his runaway Haskell performance. Sure, Baffert knows how to keep a horse fresh, but even someone with the training acumen of Bob Baffert can’t take a horse who emptied his tank a few weeks ago and get him ready for the biggest race of his life. It also has to be noted that Baffert’s biggest successes have come with sturdier horses who can handle Baffert’s intense training style. Tonalist has had enough time to recuperate from the Jim Dandy, but has been drilling way too hard for this race and seems to be a bit spent at this point. Clement is a great trainer, but it looks like he is pushing Tonalist too hard. As much as I like Tonalist, lets subtract 2.00 from his TA Indicator as well.
Let’s add .75 to every horse in the field who hasn’t been eliminated and has the ideal running style for the expected pace scenario.
I wouldn’t have said this three months ago, but Wicked Strong has the ideal running style for this race. Jerkens has successfully converted this closer into a pure stalker and has been rewarded with a win in the Jim Dandy. You know that Wicked will stalk the pace again and that this tactic can only help his chances. Mr. Speaker was a deep closer in his most recent effort, but that was simply because the race was on turf. On dirt, Mr. Speaker prefers to adopt the classical stalking style as evidenced in the Lexington. He can be as far back as 5 lengths in the early going or as close as 1 length depending on what Jose Lezcano feels is most appropriate. V.E. Day usually sits far back, but the change from Jose Lezcano to Javier Castellano will probably result in a more classical stalking style, as this is what Castellano feels most comfortable with. I have often criticized Castellano of forcing all of his horses to be stalkers rather than letting them find their stride, bit this time Castellano’s forcefulness may actually benefit V.E. Day, who needs to get into the race early if he is to have a shot at winning.
So lets take a look at our adjusted ranking so far:
-We eliminated Commanding Curve, Ulanbator and Viva Majorca because their respective TA Indicators weren’t high enough.
- We subtracted 1.75 from the TA Indicators of Bayern and Tonalist because of their likelihood to bounce
- We added .75 to the TA Indicators of Mr. Speaker, Wicked Strong and V.E. Day because of their running style and how they look coming into the race.
Here are the adjusted TA Indicators for each horse:
So, our adjusted TA Indicators show a close race between Mr. Speaker and V.E. Day with Tonalist in third. Personally, I like Wicked Strong to get a piece of the money, so I will be playing the race as follows:
Win: Mr. Speaker
Place: V.E. Day
Show: Wicked Strong
One of the greatest gifts that sports bestows upon us is the rivalry. To be able to temporarily unleash your hate on something that cannot hate you back is to be happy forever. With the exception of boxing, no sport understands the concept of a rivalry better than thoroughbred racing. So, I have decided to count down the greatest rivalries that our sport has ever seen.
Swaps vs. Nashua
Though 3,000 miles separates New York and Southern California, the two places will always be interconnected through racing. Swaps, who no one gave a chance to beat the great East Coast favorite Nashua, easily handled his rival in what was one of the greatest performances in the history of the Kentucky Derby. The California bred rewarded the people (mainly Californians) who backed him at the windows with 3-1 odds. The experts slowly but surely came around to realizing just how good the chestnut colt really was. Of course, history repeated itself this year when another Cal-bred was dismissed by the experts only to win convincingly at the Derby.
Meadow Star vs. Light Light
“Meadow Star is tested, Light Light is right at her neck” This was the commentary at the three-eights pole! Yes, Corey Nakatani and Light Light battled with Jerry Bailey and Meadow Star for three grueling furlongs and at the end of it all both sides thought they had won. These two fillies will never be as good as Ruffin or Rachel Alexandra, but did Ruffin or Rachel have to run all out from the three-eighths pole to the wire? Meadow Star and Light Light earn this spot because they captured why we love racing in a single race.
Sunday Silence vs. Easy Goer
You never want to mention the 1989 Kentucky Derby to a New Yorker, and you never want to mention the 1989 Belmont Stakes to a Southern Californian. I almost got the death stare from my grandmother for pointing out that Sunday Silence defeated Easy Goer three times while Easy Goer defeated Sunday Silence just once. In typical New York fashion, she blamed all three losses on Pat Day and told me that EG simply has more ability, which is why he had the biggest margin of victory in the series; his emphatic 8.5 lengths win in the Belmont. There are two topics in life that get people riled up like nothing else, politics and the Easy Goer/Sunday Silence rivalry. I for one will never say a nice word about Silence if I am around relatives, it just doesn’t work out.
Affirmed vs. Alydar
How on earth does a former amateur boxer wind up in a rivalry with the royal family of horse racing? Honestly, Affirmed was the better horse, this rivalry would not even make the list if it wasn’t for the fact that Wolfson and the folks at Calumet were so different that it was comically awkward to see them next to one another. Unlike so many rivalries today, both sides seemed to have nothing but nice words to say about the other which is amazing considering that Calumet would’ve had another Triple Crown champion had it not been for Louis Wolfson and the gritty, dogged, and determined Affirmed.
Claiborne Farm vs Everyone else
The silks are classic like New York Yankee pinstripes, the farm is steeped in history and the greatest sire in the world right now lives there. Claiborne Farm is the closest thing we have to the Yankees or Manchester United. When Zenyatta lost to Blame in the Breeder’s Cup Classic, fans of the filly quickly wanted to sweep the defeat under the rug and bestow horse of the year honors on her anyway. When Claiborne argued that they won the Classic and should win horse of they year in the process, many were outraged, but why were they outraged? Did they really believe that Blame was undeserving of the award? Like the Yankees and Manchester United, Claiborne Farms’ commitment to excellence causes simultaneous feelings of jealousy and admiration in everyone connected to the sport. They make everyone around them better by forcing all of their competitors to raise their respective games; even Zenyatta herself would have to agree.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know how much I like marathon horse races. You also probably know that I check the condition book for them and smile ear to ear when I see them. Well, there is one scheduled at Prairie Meadows on the 9th. What makes this race even more unique is that it features seven horses that consistently run for a 5K price tag and rarely venture beyond a mile; this is truly the handicapper’s race.
So, let’s start handicapping by process of elimination. On the basis of talent alone, Truetap, Noble Vision and Supercandy are the only three horses dangerous enough to stalk the pace and keep going. So, let’s focus our handicapping on these three horses.
If I told you that there is a horse in this race who has won at 10 furlongs would you believe me? Supercandy is by Candy Ride out of a Woodman broodmare. This impeccable breeding shows in the fact that he handles distance pretty easily, but it doesn’t show in terms of his closing kick, which is non-existent. I think Supercandy can pass a bunch of tiring horses and take a piece of the purse, but the fact that he struggles to match strides with 7,500 claimers worries me a lot. If they go fast up front, Supercandy will take advantage and win going away. If the race is run according to plan, Supercandy will wind up second or third.
Truetap is by Tapit out of a Wild Rush mare and has handled 8 and a half furlongs pretty well. He was probably entered in this race because he has the aptitude for distance but may lack the class. He is also the only horse in this race that regularly runs in Allowance Optional Claimers, so while he isn’t classy by New York or So Cal racing standards, he is clearly the classiest of this bunch. He seems like the obvious choice to win right? Well, here is the problem, he likes to sit five or six off the lead. In a race like this, sitting far off the lead is a problem, because a horses finishing kick diminishes the further out he runs from his optimal distance and when he runs on dirt as opposed to turf. This is why plodders have won the Belmont, but stalkers have won more often. He obviously has a shot to win. I wouldn’t be surprised if he proved me wrong, but there is one horse who I like a little more.
Noble Vision is the one horse amongst the three who actually does have distance problems. He tired pretty badly in his second effort going a mile and seventy yards. He needs a soft pace to stalk in order to win this; I’m banking on him getting it. If they go 3/4ths in 1:15.00 then there is no reason why he cant kick away from the leaders and take this race. If they go even slower than that, he could just wire the field. If he liked the distance half as much as Truetap, he would be a no brainer. How you play this horse is directly related to how you think the pace scenario will unfold. I think Noble Vision will be stalking pretty pedestrian fractions, which should keep him in the hunt turning for home.
Noble Vision and Truetap are very tough to separate. I would make sure to play a win bet and place bet on Noble Vision but use both horses in my exactas and trifectas. Supercandy is very dangerous as well, but make sure that you get odds of 5-1 or better on him.
We are a society of wannabees.
Guys want to be like Cristiano Ronaldo. Girls want to be like Kim Kardashian, unless said girl is from Portland, then she probably wants to be more like Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey. Jockeys want to be horsemen and horsemen think they could make great jockeys. I am no different from any of these people. I have always been a wannabee horse breeder. I have always wanted to unleash my inner Federico Tesio and see what would happen. So, I will try to put together the five crosses that I think could produce the next great American racehorse.
If you are an avid reader of this blog, you have probably figured out by now that this blog is the culmination of the previous two blog entries. I spent several weeks trying to figure out which sire has the best chance of siring a racehorse that could rival Frankel, Lure and even Secretariat. No matter how I sliced and diced the numbers, I kept coming back to one horse, War Front. He is as good as advertised; when trying to figure out how to build a champion, all roads inevitably lead back to him. So, rule number one is any great cross should have War Front on the top.
War Front X Roy:
I chose this one because the resulting foal would have Mr. Prospector on both sides of his pedigree as well as two strains of Nasrullah thanks to Roy. I’m not obsessed with nicking theories, but I do believe that War Front does his best work when paired up with sturdier broodmare sires and Roy can supply some sturdiness. What really sold me on this pairing is that War Front usually supplies the speed and doesn’t interfere with stamina. Roy usually brings the stamina and rarely interferes with speed.
War Front x Lord at War:
I did not choose this mating for comedic purposes. I chose it because of the inbreeding to Hyperion. When breeding to War Front, it’s always a good idea to go away from Northern Dancer and towards Hyperian. The best part of this pairing is that most of the inbreeding is further back where it will be most effective. The second best part of this pairing is Ribot.
War Front x Lemon Drop Kid
Yes, I am trying to get away from Northern Dancer; no, it is not easy. I was going to initially choose Kingmambo, but that is too close to Northern Dancer, so I decided to choose his most exciting son. I honestly don’t believe that the next great racehorse will not be heavily inbred within the first four generations. Keeping Northern Dancer further back while introducing Buckpasser gives us some much needed stamina influence.
War Front x Acatenango
Do you see what I’m doing here? Once again, I’ve been able to get away from Northern Dancer while stocking up on Hyperion. It is probably Hyperion’s influence that made Animal Kingdom one of the greatest horses of the decade. Inbreeding to Hyperion through his best sire influence-War Front and his best broodmare sire influence-Acatenango gets us four strains of Hyperion all buried far enough in his pedigree that no one would think to call this inbreeding-and maybe it isn’t who knows?
War Front x A.P. Indy
I’m going to be honest and say that I never thought this cross would work as well as it has. Without starting a flame war, the best War Front horse to date has been bred on this cross, and while you don’t see this cross too often, it never produces a bad runner. I’m not clever enough to figure why it works, I just know that it does. It is probably War Front’s best nick so hopefully it catches on.
There you have it. These are the five crosses that I think will give us a fighting chance of ever producing something like a Secretariat, Frankel or Lure. Sure, I could’ve included sires other than War Front, but I didn’t even want to waste time pretending that there is another sire that could realistically deliver truly special horses on a regular basis. There is no cheesy sports analogy that could describe the ever-widening chasm between War Front and every other stallion on the market.
Sure, the next great racehorse could come from Wiseman’s Ferry, but as a betting man, I’m doubling down on War Front.
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