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The Best Broodmare Sires…Period!

With the Saratoga/Del Mar meets coming up, I thought I would take a look at who the best turf broodmare sires are and see if there were any surprises. Well, let’s just say that there were no surprises in the top 10, but it was surprising how the top 10 actually stacked up.

Here’s how I came up with the top ten:

I looked at how many stakes wins a broodmare sire had on the turf in the last ten years. I took the top ten horses and then arranged them by the amount of stakes wins their progeny have had by the amount of stakes wins their progeny have made. The top ten may be the usual suspects, but some Broodmare sires are just too good to be true.

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The one surprise to me was seeing Thunder Gulch take the nine spot. I’ve always thought of him as a dirt sire and broodmare sire and never really thought he was that great on turf let alone the ninth best turf broodmare sire. Of course, your attention has probably drifted to the top right hand corner of this chart, and who can blame you. This is not a misprint; Sadler’s Wells has a Stakes Wins/Starts ratio of 93.00. He is basically the Lebron James of broodmare sires. The fact that he is better than his American counterparts isn’t that surprising, it is more the fact of just how much better he is. Keep in mind that I chose these two numbers for a reason. The reason is that certain Broodmare sires have a great stakes wins to stakes starts ratio because owners only run the progeny if they prove themselves beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Take California Chrome’s sire Lucky Pulpit. An owner isn’t going to take a chance with a horse by Lucky Pulpit if he hasn’t proven himself in some way shape or form. This is why Lucky Pulpit’s ratio of stakes wins to stakes starts is pretty good, but his ratio of stakes wins to overall starts is not as good.

The next takeaway is Thunder Gulch. He clearly has had no problem holding his own as a broodmare sire over the years and is right behind Dynaformer and A.P. Indy. Think about this for a second, he is currently sitting behind the two most famous sires of all time. Dynaformer and A.P. do not even produce horses anymore, which means that provided all goes well Thunder Gulch will surpass them both. I would look for a few two-year old races with horses that have Thunder Gulch on the bottom and take a chance. I would highlight all ten of these sires, but Thunder Gulch is the only one who’s going to provide you with any value as the others have already been hyped as much as is humanly possible.

The best situation for you as a handicapper is to find three year olds who are making their debut and have one of these sires on the bottom. If you see a bunch of horses stretching out in distance, feel free to give extra consideration to any horse that has one of these ten Broodmare Sires as his own.

Next week I’ll discuss the other part of this equation; sires. I’ll talk about who the best sires are, whom they nick the best with, and when to play them.

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Handicapping The American Derby

I’m a sucker for a good turf race. There’s something about turf horses that really catches my eye. The way they just glide over the ground unlike dirt horses is just more natural to be honest. Well, Arlington has a bunch of great turf races headlined by the American Derby.

I’ll cut to the chase. I think they’ll run an honest pace in this one. I highly doubt Ghostly Wonder is going to sit back when his only chance to win is set in solid fractions and try to wire the entire field. I also think their may be some traffic in this race. So, basically this looks like every other graded stakes turf race. It’s going to come down to who can circle the field and kick clear to win it all.

Why did Highball have to run as recently as June 14th? If it weren’t for the fact that I think he’ll only be at 80% strength, he would be my obvious choice. He is one of the few horses that you know can get the distance and maintain that closing kick. I drew a line through his debut because apparently he was giving trouble that day and clearly lost his race in the post parade. Highball looks like the class of this race, but since he’s wheeling back too soon we must look elsewhere.

Giacallure catches my attention. He’s a horse stepping up in class and though 8.5 furlongs might be his optimum distance, he could possibly maintain some sort of kick to hang around. The other interesting thing about this horse is his breeding. His broodmare sire is the great Lure. This is pretty miraculous considering the fact I thought Lure was impotent. I’m pretty sure he was. Apparently, he sired a couple of good-looking fillies and decided it wasn’t for him. Anyway, if you like this horse, take a shot playing him in exactas and trifectas only.

Speed usually kills, but not at Arlington on the turf. This is why I’m throwing out Ghostly Wonder. I look for him to get gobbled up like Spanish chestnut on Derby day way back when.

This brings me to the two horses I think will come running like freight trains on Saturday; Afortable and Big Tom Prado. I love how easy it is for both of these horses to just relax and settle way off of an honest pace and then make one sustained run. I think this style works well anywhere including Arlington. So, what’s the difference between these two? One word: class.

Afortable seemed like he belonged the last time he ran against graded stakes company wile Big Tom Prado is basically a classy 62K Allowance horse. I do believe that the cream rises to the top and that’s why I have to go with Afortable to kick clear and win the American Derby for Julien Leparoux.

Next week will be fun as I talk about how I would go about breeding the next great American Turf horse. This is a topic I’m pretty passionate about so feel free to debate with me through e-mail or on twitter.

Win: Afortable

Place: Divine Oath

Show: Big Tom Prado

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My Picks for the Suburban and Belmont Derby Races

This is a good week to be a horse racing fan. If I’m with the right crowd and 5/8ths of the way to being completely drunk I’ll usually lament the carding of sprints and wax philosophical about how the game was meant to be run at the classic distance of a mile and a quarter, so, needless to say I am pretty excited for the Suburban and the Belmont Derby. Both of these races feature some of the best 10-furlong horses in the country.

I won’t get into the Elmont Derby too much except to say that it will take a lot to beat Adelaide. I always give the Europeans a half a grade bump when comparing their races to American races. This means that a Group 2 is a Grade 1.5 – classier than an American Grade Two but not quite as good as an American Grade One. Adelaide has run with some of the best in Europe and the American contingent isn’t at its best this year. Yes, Bobby’s Kitten is the real deal, but he’s no Wise Dan, especially at ten furlongs. As long as Adelaide ships well he should find this distance within his reach. I would like actual raw times for the last 600 meters, but those figures are not accessible. Still, on video his last 600 meters look significantly better than anyone else does in this field.

The Suburban looks like the race that is more up for grabs. In the Suburban, we basically have a couple of horses who are stepping up in class versus some really classy horses who have fallen on hard times.

This is one of those races where I think tactical speed helps. Yes, there have been plenty of horses who have pressed the pace in the Suburban and faltered, but those horses were milers and shouldn’t have entered the Suburban to begin with. Now, when there is a horse that has tactical speed and can get the distance, he tends to win pretty easily. This is why I like Last Gunfighter and Norumbega. I think they’ll stay close to whomever gets the lead, press that horse into an honest pace and then battle one another throughout the stretch. When combing several TA metrics and weighing them how I thought best, Last Gunfighter and Norumbega both really stood out. Once again, they aren’t the most talented horses in the race, they just fit this track and pace scenario better than the other runners. I also like Mylute, but coming from ten lengths off to win the Suburban just isn’t going to happen. I do think Mylute is a great horse to pick up the pieces though.

WIN: Last Gunfighter

PLACE: Norumbega

SHOW: Mylute

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Sprint Handicapping for Beginners

I like looking at historical data and seeing if any trends have emerged. As you can probably tell, sometimes I overthink a race, but I’ve always believed that eight out of ten times historical data and trends will help you to better handicap a race than you could have otherwise. I like seeing anything that I enjoy being done to be done at its best. I play a ton of six-furlong dirt races, so naturally I like the Breeder’s Cup Sprint.  As much as this may surprise some, the historical trends of the BC Sprint actually are relevant to six furlong races run across the country regardless of class. Let’s take a quick look at the race and see what it can teach us about sprints in general.

In the past 15 runnings of the race, stalkers have won more than half of the runnings of this race.

Running Style Number of Wins
Frontrunner 4
Stalker 8
Closer 3
Deep Closer 0

This may not surprise veteran horseplayers, but the art of knowing how to rate is as important in a sprint as it is in a route. What does not show up in this data is that of the four frontrunners who won, three enjoyed some type of speed bias that day. This means that on an average day at the track, regardless of how the pace scenario looks on paper, you would be better off playing the confirmed stalker.

One thing that I love to do when playing sprints is breakdown the horses by running type and play the stalker with the highest TA Indicator, even if a frontrunner has the highest overall TA Indicator. This will all become irrelevant once we launch our pace projector, but for now you as a handicapper must do a little extra homework when handicapping sprints.

As far as post position is concerned, there isn’t a significant anti-rail bias. Most jockeys are savvy enough to know that if they draw the rail they need to gun their horse or take all the way back and so post position one isn’t great, but isn’t nearly as bad as everyone thinks it is. Surprisingly, anything further than post 11 is pretty bad due to the fact that you will get hung out wide. The best thing to do is if you see a horse that draws one of these posts, subtract four points from its TA Indicator. Do not add any points to horses who drew post positions 1 through 11 as there isn’t a huge advantage one way or another.

Breeding is a tough angle. As California Chrome has shown us, horses don’t know and don’t care who their parents are. This is why I traditionally have not been the biggest pedigree handicapper. However, there are certain sires that are worth looking into. They are the usual suspects like Speightstown and Teuflesberg. I will be getting into pedigree handicapping in next week’s post, so I don’t want to go overboard here. The main takeaway is that you should be prepared to forget a horse’s pedigree if he is showing you that he wants to outrun it.

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What Makes a Handicapper Great?

We often talk about training angles, jockey switches, speed figure analysis, how to adjust the TA Indicator to pick better long shots, but we never actually talk about what makes a handicapper great.

I have been around a ton of handicappers in my life and learned a lot from each of them. The thing I have taken away is that some are better than others and it’s because of four factors-three of which are mainly a function of personality. The four traits are non negotiable and are as central to being a great handicapper as bravery is to being a firefighter.

Great handicappers have no preconceived notions of anything

Did you pick California Chrome? Let’s be honest and say you probably didn’t. The funny thing is that if you didn’t know who his parents were, you probably would’ve picked him. Let’s break this down; in terms of natural talent, Hoppertunity was one of the best horses in this three-year old crop and Chrome made him look like an amateur. Chrome also had the only consistently high speed figures in the entire group – he was the logical pick, but we had all seen this story before and thought Chrome’s bargain basement breeding would catch up to him – well it didn’t

Great handicappers are neither optimists nor pessimists

This is where the cream starts to rise to the top. You must understand that most people truly are one or the other. There are very few people who wave the colors of neutrality when it comes to this crucial personality trait, but the great handicappers I know all do.  They take calculated risks, but they aren’t overly confident nor are they downtrodden for no apparent reason. The fact that they are neither optimists nor pessimists can be summed up in the types of plays they make.  If they are on a win streak and there is an evenly matched 14 horse race they will not play it. However, if they are on a win streak and there is a 14 horse race with a 10-1 shot who should be 4-1 they will play that race for sure. They don’t comply with the arbitrary rules of most pessimist handicappers and the pick 6 obsessions of optimistic handicappers. They are even keel.

Great handicappers are very intuitive

Let’s go back to the triple crown once more. Most of the great handicappers I know saw similarities between California Chrome and Sunday Silence. They picked up on his grittiness and heart. They saw that his tactical speed would translate and that he doesn’t have an Easy Goer to contend with. They know without knowing.

Great handicappers all wanted to be horseman

Okay this one sounds weird, but is the truest of them all. Every great handicapper secretly wants to be Nick Zito or Graham Motion. They love discussing workouts and are usually more well versed on the subject than the general handicapping population. It’s the art of getting a horse to the race that excites them the most. The betting is just part of the journey. They really shine when it comes to horses off of layoffs. They always seem to know whether the horse is being brought back as a tuneup and hence the current race is a throwaway, or if the horse is fully cranked up. They realize that workout times don’t matter and can tell how much effort each horse has put out. They have studied training patterns so well that they know what works for a particular type of distance and what doesn’t. When you talk to great handicappers, you see the race through the eyes of a horseman. The five horse has a limited worktab because he’s old and needs rest more than a 6 furlong bullet work. The four horse is working in company because he doesn’t have a sense of competitiveness and needs to develop one. Teuflesberg will beat Stormello because Teuflesberg is being taught how to rate and Stormello isn’t. You start to see what an advantage you would have in handicapping if you saw the race the way a Zito or a Motion does.

So, there you have it. These are the four things all those guys cleaning up have in common. You may think you have some of these traits, but I guarantee you that if you work on becoming well-versed in all of them you will have a positive ROI at the track.

I love talking about great handicappers, so feel free to shoot me an e-mail or a private message on Twitter if you want to discuss this further.

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