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Can a champion bounce back after adversity? This is the classic handicapping problem that has seperated the men from the boys for years so to speak. The question is even more important this year because of the story lines surrounding the Pennsylvania Derby. California Chrome and Bayern-the two most talented horses in the field in my opinion- have been humbled. They are wounded warriors looking to redeem themselves.
California Chrome’s chances of redemption
California Chrome was on a six race winning streak before an injury and a mediocre ride compromised his chances of Triple Crown immortality. What makes this remarkable is that horses don’t go on six race winning streaks in graded competition anymore. California Chrome was head and shoulders above every other horse in the division this spring. I speak in the past tense because I do believe that three horses have caught up to him, however none of them are in this race.
The more I look at this race, the more I am reminded of Sunday Silence’s narrative. They are both scappy Californians who looked unbeatable until they ran into a track and racing style that they were unaccustomed to. I think the similarities will continue. Sunday had lost a step after the Belmont and did not regain it until the Breeder’s Cup. I believe that California Chrome has also lost a step and will not regain it until the Breeder’s Cup. Now here is the important part; though Chrome has lost a step, there isn’t a horse in the race with the talent to fully exploit this deficiency.
Chrome’s signature move is to explode at the top of the stretch and maintain that lead for as long as he can. I do think he’ll unleash that move at Parx, and I do think the track is set up to allow for it, but I don’t think he’ll execute that spurt as well as he has in the past. Of course, none of should matter as there are no superstars in this race.
Bayern’s chances of redemption
Here is another horse from the same female family as Chrome who is also attempting to make a comeback; what a strange coincidence!
This descendant of the great Betty Derr will have much more to overcome and may not be up to the task.
Like California Chrome, Bayern had a win streak snapped in a major Grade One by a rising superstar. Unlike California Chrome, Bayern’s win streak was a result of an ideal track and pace scenario which allowed a good but not great horse to shine. Bayern is a need the lead type who may get the lead. The problem is that Edgar Prado and CJ’s Awesome will not let Bayern get away with anything less than ¾ in 1:10 and four.
Do you like Bayern to pull away from this field after having to go 1:10 and four? If you do, then Bayern isn’t a bad play. The problem for me is that there are horses that are almost as good as Bayern and do not need the lead.
If you look at the TA Indicators of each horse in the field, Candy Boy and Protonico have almost as much form and ability as Bayern, but a running style more conducive to route racing. Look for both of these horses to be within range of California Chrome turning for home. If Chrome falters, it is Candy Boy and Protonico who will be the beneficiaries not Bayern.
Ultimately, I am going to trust my eyes which tell me that Chrome has lost a step, but no more than that. I don’t think he deserves to be a heavy favorite, but he is still head and shoulders above this group of horses.
Win: California Chrome
Place: Candy Boy
The Keenland sales season is upon us. Baby horses (yearlings/two-year olds) are embarking on the first step to becoming a champion racehorse; finding an owner. With all of the sales madness, and these horses about to hit the track in MSW races that you will probably be wagering on, I thought it was time to rank the ten best sires in the country right now. The rankings are based on a simple formula that I will not go into the details of becasue I wouldn’t want to bore you. I looked at all sires with North American runners who have made a combined total of 1500 starts within the last five years. This population is assumed to be the complete list of sires whose foals race in North America on a regular basis. The results were somewhat obvious, but there was one surprise.
10. Bernardini: Everyone had high expectations for this son of A.P. Indy even after he lost to Invasor. Well, he certainly hasn’t disappointed. He has a higher efficiency rating than both Tapit and Pulpit and has yet to kick his career into full gear. With two of the sires on our list no longer producing foals, this son of A.P. Indy becomes all the more important.
9. Smart Strike: He can get horses like Minorette then horses like the speedy Centre Court. He can hit home runs with horses like Curlin. There is very little that this horse cannot do. He almost snuck into the eigth spot on our rankings, but fell short because of stakes wins per starts. Either way, this horse is keeping American Racing interesting.
8. Empire Maker: Why did we let him go to Japan? Even though many of his runners are overseas now, he was still in the top ten in several major categories which landed him the eigth spot in this countdown. His yearlings are usually strikingly big and strong for their age. His runners are durable and consistent. Basically, his sons and daughters represent everything that American racing lacks right now. So, why exactly did we sell him?
7. A.P. Indy: This brings us to our first pensioned stallion; the great A.P. Indy. If you are surprised to see the legendary colt all the way at number seven on my list, you are not alone. As great as A.P. Indy is, there are horses who are producing stakes winners at a much higher clip. There are also horses who have been slightly more versatile than the legend has been. Either way, seventh is a respectable finish to a remarkable career.
6. Medaglia D’ Oro: Eleven grade one winners on all surfaces kind of says it all. He isn’t the type of horse that comes to mind when most think of versatility, but he is as versatile as they come. He has had success in two-year old races, three-year old races, and older horse races as well. The best thing about him is that he can hit home runs with horses like Rachel Alexandra, but hit plenty of base hits as well which is evindenced by his great stakes wins to overall starts ratio.
5. Dynaformer: I never realized how good this horse was until I started looking at his numbers. Though he was definitely a turf route sire, he could sire the occasional dirt miler. He wasn’t always the best horse for commercial american breeder’s, but he sired the types of horses Americans are accused of not producing anymore. It doesn’t seem like his male line will be carried very well, which makes his passing all the more heartbreaking.
4. English Channel: This is the big surprise on the countdown! So, how did a horse with a paltry 25K stud fee beat some of the biggest stallions in the industry? He gets stakes winning routers; many stakes winning routers. He is also very adept at getting these stakes winners on both surfaces; just look at V.E. Day. When I looked at his stats I wished that I were in the business of buying and selling racehorses because a 25K stud fee for this stallion is the bargain of the century.
3. Giant’s Causeway: The greaest son of Storm Cat has had quite the impressive stud career. He leads all sires in stakes wins contested at a mile or greater. This alone would have given him the number one spot if he didn’t sire the occasional 10K claimer. Nevertheless, Giant’s Causeway is worth every penny of his stud me in my humble opinion.
2. Kitten’s Joy: Second to Giant’s Causeway in stakes wins contested at a mile or greater, but fewer duds on the racetrack earned this son of Kris S. his runner up spot. His progeny earnings are also at the top ten, quite a feet for a sire of turf horses. If he was slightly adept at siring dirt horses he would probably be at the top of this countdown.
1. War Front: The numbers do not lie. No horse has better ratio of stakes wins contested at a mile or greater to overall starts. He has more than half the route stakes wins that Tapit has but only a third of the starts! If that stat doesn’t surprise you I don’t know what will. When the efficiency ratings were calculated, he won and it wasn’t even close. There is a chance that he regresses closer to the mean, but even if he does regress a bit, I don’t see him losing the top spot anytime soon. As bettors, we rarely gain any value from playing his already overbet foals, but they are so much fun to watch run.
Two year olds are full of promise. The next Sunday Silence, Easy Goer or even Secretariat could be in that barn. When you have a two-year old in your barn, you might be one race away from having all of your hopes and dreams come true or on the fast path to financial ruin. There are two races at Arlington Park that could introduce us to our next superstars; let’s roll up our sleeves and handicap them.
The Arlington Washington Lassie Stakes:
Why she’ll win: She handled her foes pretty easily last time out, and there is reason to believe she can run faster than she has in the past.
Why she’ll lose: Though I said she can run faster, she still needs to step up by a lot in order to have any chance here. She seems like one of those horses who if she runsd through the bridle she wins, but anything less than that will simply not be good enough.
Why she’ll win: Did you see her debut? This horse is unbelievably professional. She won gate to wire, and seems to have a very high cruising speed
Why she’ll lose: She’s the wrong horse at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her connections probably had no intention of running in this race before her surprisingly good maiden win, and now they want to quickly wheel her back because it’s all about the green. She would have to be Serena’s Song to bounce back this fast; I highly doubt she’s the new Serena’s Song.
Why she’ll win: Judging by her maiden, she seems to have as much talent as Sarah Sis, but is coming into this race the right way. She wouldn’t have to do anything special to win here, just repeat her last effort.
Why she’ll lose: She may be one of those “need the lead” types. She may get baited into a speed duel. We don’t know her running style just yet.
Why she’ll win: She has won before, and has the class to stay competitive with Quality Rocks and Sarah Sis.
Why she’ll lose: Though it may be too early to tell, she has all the making of a need the lead type of filly. I just don’t see this race working out the way she would want it to.
Why she’ll win: She is undeafeated and has a terrific running style.
Why she’ll lose: She is like five steps too slow for this bunch.
Happy to Go
Why she’ll win: She has an excellent running style. If they go 45 and 4 she wins this easily.
Why she’ll lose: They’ll probably go a little bit slower than that, making her job of winning from off the pace a little tougher than she would want. She is a very dangerous horse though.
Why she’ll win: She is an even more talented Happy to Go. She would be the biggest beneficiary of a battle up front
Why she’ll lose: They will probably run at a sensible pace.
Win: Quality Rocks
Place: Susan’s Day
Show: Sarah Sis
Arlington Washington Futurity Stakes
Why he’ll win: He was carried off of the pace and still ran huge
Why he’ll lose: Didn’t beat much so he isn’t as battle tested as the rest of the horses in this field
One go All Go:
Why he’ll win: Overcame plenty of adversity to win last out. It seems he is every bit as talented as his connections think he is.
Why he’ll lose: He gave a lot of himself to win that race, and as talented as he is he may not be able to come back so soon and duplicate that effort.
Why he’ll win: The connections must think highly of him to make his first dirt race one of the bigger two year old races of the year.
Why he’ll lose: The connections have no idea what they are up against. This should be fun.
Why he’ll win: If you believe that Bourbon Cowboy is a very, very good horse, you have to like how Recount man handled him in their debut. Anything can happen, but Recount has shown a ton of promise.
Why he’ll lose: He couldn’t put away Private Prospect and Private Prospect happens to be in this race.
Why he’ll win: He already beat Recount. Recount is one hell of a racehorse. The win was his most recent effort, which leads me to believe that it wasn’t a fluke at all.
Why he’ll lose: This is one of those where I don’t have a solid answer. He seems like a legitimate contender, I just believe that if Recount had a better pace scenario and a trip that was more to his liking, he would’ve beaten Private Prospect. This is my innate belief, we’ll see if I’m right.
Why he’ll win: He ran well against Recount and steadily improved off of that race. He certainly isn’t outclassed in this one.
Why he’ll lose: He has the talenst, the running style and the heart, but he seems like 5.5 furlongs is his ideal distance. I know that questioning the distance abilities of a horse with Giant’s Causeway in the pedigree seems strange, but he seems like he wants to race shorter distances.
Why he’ll win: Some horses get very brave on the lead. He is one of those horses. If he gets the lead, it could be game, set, match.
Why he’ll lose: He simply doesn’t have the class of horses like Recount or Private Prospect. Yes, if he gets on the lead and goes 47 flat he wins, but I’m handicapping this race on the assumption that the pace will be slightly fast if anything. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him in the winner’s circle, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath either.
Mr. Lightning Boy
Why he’ll win: There is a suicidal speed duel AND Recount stumbles at the start AND Jesse Campbell drops his whip mid-stretch AND Mr. Lightning Boy takes a big step forward.
Why he’ll lose: The odds of the scenario I have just described happening are approxiamately 500-1
Place: Private Prospect
Show: One go All Go
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
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