- I am nowhere with my handicapping these days. Off the board; up the track; out of the money; left at the gate. I made it to Belmont for a couple of hours on an unexpectedly beautiful spring day with only 5,423 on hand. I bet three races from three different tracks, and ran dead last in two of them. Is there some kind of Grand Slam bets that includes horses that run last? The three were all medium long shots, and all seemed so logical at the time.
Monmouth is open. Kind of. Weekends only up until June 2; it’s kind of a preview. No turf racing either. The brand new turf course will debut around June 24. In the 6th on Saturday, Cherokee Breeze looked like an overlay at 8-1; he’d been in the money 8 out of 13 lifetime starts. Make that 9 of 14, but he never threatened passing tired horses for third. In the 6th at Churchill, Boggy Creek was coming off a long layoff for trainer Paul McGee, sporting a 3 for 5 record with 180+ layoff horses, and a $6.56 ROI. He’d won at different tracks and distances last year, including a minor stakes at Sam Houston, but didn’t beat a single horse here.
Gary Contessa seems to be getting going after a slow start the the meeting; he had two winners on Friday, including a 15-1 shot ridden by Elbar Coa. The jockey was back up for Contessa on Closing Bell in the 7th on Saturday, and he seemed worth a shot at 12-1, cutting back to his favorite six furlong distance after a dull two-turn try. He briefly had the lead in a 21.83 second 1st quarter, and was quickly done.
Looking back, they all seemed like sound bets, with the possible exception of Boggy Creek, who was plain dead on the board. 6-1 morning line, he went off at 11-1, and a look back at his pp’s shows that his three wins came in his three most well-bet races. And therein lies what I think are a couple of good handicapping reminders to come out of the day. I sometimes find it instructive to look back at the odds that horses have gone off in the past. I will find horses that run remarkably in line with their betting – they always seem live on the track when they’re live on the board, and vice-versa. It can be a real challenge to distinguish between “dead on the board” and a legitimate overlay, and the past odds can sometimes be a clue. I’ve found that horses that have won at a price before can do it again. But in the case of horses like Boggy Creek, whose good races correspond with low odds, I’m wary, or at least I should be, when the odds drift too high.
The other handicapping hint here is one I rarely stick to. There’s much to be learned in going back to the past performances after the race is run to see how your analysis fared, and what lessons can be taken from it. This goes along, I guess, with the idea of keeping written records of your bets, so that you can learn your strengths and weaknesses. I recall reading one author advising that you should, in theory, spend as much time studying races after they are run as before. It’s a nice and logical concept of course. How does anyone learn if you don’t go back and analyze what happened?
But it’s just impractical, life being what it is, at least for me. I think most of us are probably thankful whenever we can find any time to indulge in this most incredible game, whose pleasures never seem to recede, no matter how many times we partake. The idea of plunging into a detailed analysis of yesterday’s bets is just not going to happen for me. But any little bit helps, and I try to discern what I can from that post-race peek at the Form – you know, the one when you look to see what went wrong.
And writing about it here helps too, so perhaps I should just write about all my losers. It could be very instructive, and perhaps therapeutic too! I wouldn't have much time to write about anything else though, at least not now.
- Reader Thecalicocat alerted me to this item, about the betting at Delaware Park for the Derby.
If the Derby betting was restricted to a separate pool at the Stanton track, Barbaro would have paid only $7 to win and the exacta with Bluegrass Cat, with Delaware's leading rider Ramon Dominguez aboard, would have paid only $217.80. [Philadelphia Inquirer]It’s starting to look like a six horse field, as Baffert has declared Point Determined and Bob and John out. (Though King Leatherbury is talking about entering someone named Ah Day into the race.) Barbaro will certainly be favored again at Del Park, and everywhere else. He may very well be overbet at 3-5, but in a six horse field, what kind of value are you going to get even if you like Brother Derek, who I think you have to give a good shot?
If you thought that Brother Derek was a better horse than Barbaro before the Derby, even if you thought that the circumstances of the race made him an unlikely winner, I think you have to still like him in the Preakness. I can’t say that the Derby didn’t prove anything about the relative merits of the two – Barbaro had a dream trip because he had the talent to get himself into that spot – but Brother Derek showed enough so that his supporters should keep the faith. He deserves to be the solid second choice. But the way Sweetnorthernsaint gets bet, you never know.
Barbaro is on the front page of today’s New York Times. Joe Drape writes about how Michael Matz has trained and campaigned him with the Triple Crown in mind from the start. Literally, from the start.
A year ago, after the big dark bay horse arrived at the European-styled training center here, the trainer Michael Matz and his assistant, Peter Brette, shared a transcendental thought about a colt by the ho-hum name of Barbaro. But they dared not say it aloud.
Barbaro was a superhorse, Mr. Brette believed, after he first took him onto the racetrack for a morning workout. Barbaro could sweep the Triple Crown, Mr. Matz said he kept thinking. It was the beginning of what would become a most unorthodox plan to chase after one of sport's most elusive prizes.
"We were training for the Triple Crown," Mr. Matz said, daring to tempt racing's fates. "It has been so long since anyone has won it, why not try something different?"