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Monday, August 13, 2007

Notes - Aug 14

- According to the Form's Brad Free, Yearly Attitude was the first horse to win wire-to-wire in a two turn race on the Del Mar Polytrack when she did so on July 26. She did it again in the first on Monday. But the effort, in which she opened a big lead and then just hung on under desperate urging by Richard Migliore on board, was apparently too much. The race chart notes that she then did not return to be unsaddled and was vanned off. Hopefully, she was just exhausted from the effort and is OK.

Check out the results chart for the third there; an entry that went off at 24-1 ran 1-2, returning $51.00 $50.60 $16.80.

John Sadler and Doug O'Neill took the late double, and they're two trainers who I've noted have really picked things up lately after a slow start at the meet. And here, I refer to the discussion on trainer hot/cold streaks going on over at the Form's Cristblog.

The proprietor writes that he will dogmatically continue to insist that a "Who's Hot/Who's Not" approach to handicapping can be a dangerous path if followed blindly. I have to admit that if it were up to me (and perhaps it's possible and I just haven't figured it out yet), the trainer records in Formulator would default to This Track / Past 60 Days, with the races sorted by date order with the most recent races on top. This is especially true when I'm betting out-of-town tracks that I don't follow every day. To me, recent trainer form puts the more detailed and esoteric stats in proper context. I'm not in disagreement with Crist's comment due to the qualifier if followed blindly. Sure, it's absurd to say that Pletcher is an automatic bet-against at Saratoga; but not so in my opinion at this particular meeting if the Pletcher is under 5-2, and a two-year old making its first start, on the dirt. For whatever reason, the barn is lagging in that area, and I see those times as an opportunity to take a firm stand against until the situation changes. And if I happen to choose to oppose the 3-2 shot that he finally wins with, it's certainly not going to break my bankroll or spirit.

The notion of trainers going hot and colt is a peculiar one I think. It's not like a quarterback who gets into a groove, a hitter to whom the ball looks as big as Karl Rove's head (exiting stage left right, several years too late); or even a jockey in a streak of making all the right moves at the right time. But sometimes, I believe there are reasons. Take Sadler and O'Neill; it's perfectly logical to deduce that some trainers have made adjustments in their training methods to adapt to the Polytrack. I've sometimes wondered if a trainer can indeed hit his own kind of groove; finding a workout regimen that clicks on a particular track or in a certain climate, a new exercise rider, a new source for hay.

But probably, it's mostly, as Crist writes, a matter of random distribution. Whatever the reason is, it's really almost irrelevant to me. The fact is that trainers do have hot streaks and cold streaks, and even if it's just mathematics, they're real. So I look at those most recent trainer lines in date order in Formulator simply to see who's going well or not, and, better yet, to attempt to anticipate a streak in the making. I'll try to catch a trainer who seems on the verge, with a lot of 2nds and 3rds, or one who seems to be faltering, perhaps having sent out some losing favorites. I'll also look for the trainer who's on a ridiculous streak like six out of eight, perhaps to look for a spot in which the horse is overbet and the law of averages seems poised to catch up.

And I want to know if something about a particular trainer has changed in the recent past. I'm looking at Wednesday's Saratoga pp's, and John Kimmel has Winning Punch, a first-timer in the second. The trainer stat in the Form for 1st start reads (42 .05 $0.54). The BRIS Ultimate PP's points out that the trainer has a low percentage with first-timers. But Kimmel has won with two debut runners in the last two days. It might just be a coincidence, or maybe not. Remember that Zito explained last year that he had changed his approach with two-year olds, with which he rarely used to win first time out. Maybe if someone asked Pletcher about his juveniles this meeting, he'd respond that he's seen the light, and no longer believes in pushing young horses so early in their career because he's totally obsessed with finally winning the Derby (you think that question is going to go away just because he won the Belmont?).

In many cases though, a trainer streak, hot or cold, is simply a short-term statistical aberration. At the end of the year, it's a pretty solid bet that Pletcher is going to have his 25% winners. But looking at recent trainer form and trying to hop on the bandwagon at the right time either way is an aspect of handicapping that I really enjoy. And since I haven't exactly been making a living playing the ponies of late, at least I should try to have some fun.

- A Travers which at one time was shaping up as a climactic showdown of the top three-year old players before they go on to face older competition seems to be fizzling into a showcase for Street Sense. Steve Asmussen announced that Curlin will skip the race and point to the Jockey Club Gold Cup instead. David Grening writes in the Form that the trainer was never planning to run Curlin in the Travers. Well, excuse us for the misunderstanding! He said that it was Curlin's losing performance in the Belmont that prompted the decision:

"Even without having success, the fact that he ran well over it, he came out of it good and he hasn't run at Saratoga, which isn't exactly kind to most racehorses. [DRF]
And there's an interesting comment about the main track at Saratoga that I don't recall hearing before, do you? Sounds like he's campaigning for Polytrack at Saratoga!! (Are you out there Green Mtn Punter?)


Anonymous said...

Hey Alan, A quick ? if you don't mind. I am looking for a website (free-I have no paid subscriptions to DRF) that could help me determine if a particular horse is still in training. I would like to clean out my "stable watch" and remove some old horses I have not heard about in a couple of years, but I don't want to clean out anyone who is not retired. As soon as I do that-they would return off a long lay-off and score at huge odds and of course I would read about it the next day. Any thoughts or help. Thanks Byanose

Anonymous said...

After reading the debate on SC's blog, I decided on a one day experiement to see if "hot" trainer/jock combos could point out a winner or two at the Spa.

Limited by the paucity of stats made available by NYRA to the "leading" trainer and jockey standing based on winners, I noted 6 trainers winning at 20% or greater and 6 jocks winning at 15% or greater.

Surprisingly there were only 6 horses running Monday with a "hot" trainer/ jock combo.

R1 - #7 Dutrow/Prado - 4th at 8-1
R2 - #5 Mott/Kent - 3rd at 5-2
R3 - #4 Dutrow/Cast - WIN at 9-2
Note: 2-1 ML
R6 - #8 Clement/Gomex- 5th at 9-1
R7 - #7 Clement/Cast - Last at 41-1
R8 - #1 Dutrow/Prado - Last at 7-2

Will monitor again Monday as the sample is too small, but suffice to say that these combos are not overbet and can find you a winner.Since the three longer shots were automatic throw outs for me I would have a $5 profit on $6 risked on the "live" horses.

alan said...

There was also Wallace Dollase in the 4th; he was 2 for 8 coming in and scored with Ashima at 17-1. I recall him shipping in at least a couple of winners last year too. I know he didn't qualify for your study since Leparoux has a low percentage.

Nellie said...

Asmussen was referring to the 'graveyard of champions' thing that Saratoga has going on ... in other words, he's terrified that Curlin will lose and drive down his stud value.

It's disturbing - weren't we once calling him a sort of 'iron horse' earlier in the year, in light of his multiple starts in such a short period of time and how he seemed to handle them so well?

That comment about 'the worst race of his life' and stuff about needing to figure out what happened and where they're going after the Haskell really makes me think that his fate has already been decided. It's a shame.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Alan, that one caught my eye! But then again it's only Steve Asmussen coming up with a lame excuse for his tiger skipping the Travers. As you said, we haven't heard any other complaints about the condition of the main track. So, my solution for Asmussen is to ship Curlin to Del Mar so he can run him on Polytrack in the Pacific Classic. /S/Green Mtn Punter

Walter said...

Before the Jim Dandy/Haskell, i thought perhaps Curlin might bypass the Travers, but that was based on a theory that Tiz Wonderful might be spot-on for a Travers run (after his Jim Dandy prep) and Asmussen might want to keep his star colts seperated. With that out the window, i would've thought for certain that Curlin would run. All i can figure now is that Curlin's connections don't want him to lose the rubber match with Street Sense, and give that one the edge for the 3yo championship. That being said, allowing Street Sense to add the Travers to his resume (with little competition) doesn't really help that cause either. And supposedly, they'll face each other again in the Breeders Cup anyway. Right? So i dunno, maybe Curlin has some kind of problem right now. Maybe he's being held out of the Travers so they'll have some time to fix it. Really hard to see them passing on such a prestigious $1 million race, if they've got an animal who can potentially win it.

PS - If Asmussen wants to worry about racing surfaces, he should probably worry about Monmouth. It's not encouraging that Curlin picked the Breeders Cup site for his flame-job. Assuming the horse is healthy, i think ASmussen should try to make as much hay as possible before Curlin has to go back there. Assuming he does...

Byanose - The best way to solve your problem is "Workout Search" on the DRF site (a fantastic feature). Just type in the horse's name, and it'll give you all of a horse's recent workouts. If he doesn't have any (or if they're way in the past), you can assume the horse has gone bye-bye. At least for the time being. There's no site that lists retirements, as those things are mostly unofficial, and horses come back from retirement on occasion anyway. All you can go by is their recent activity, or lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply Walter!! Do you think that "workout search" would show other workout that are missed in the stable watch workout reports? Thanks again for taking the time to reply. Byanose

alan said...

Walter - Thanks for helping out Byanose. I too know of no definitive way to determine whether a horse is really permanently retired even if there are no workouts for awhile. Except for the Stallion Register, in limited cases. Or the obituaries (sorry)..

Anonymous said...

Walter, what happened to Exhale? He looked promising early in the year.

Walter said...

Exhale? Wow, there's a name i haven't heard in a while. I dunno, last i heard he was having knee surgery. He's probably just rehabbing on a farm somewhere.

Byanose - I don't know about the stable watch thing. I guess it's possible. I use Virtual Stable myself, and have found it to be pretty relaible.