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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Santa Anita Handicap

The Santa Anita Handicap, the Big Cap, goes at 8:04 Eastern time with a field of 11. Saint Liam has never been the 1 1/4 miles distance, but the Form’s Brad Free says nevermind.

Neither had previous Big Cap winners Southern Image (2004), Sir Beaufort (1993), Farma Way (1991), Ruhlmann (1990), or Martial Law (1989). Over the last 15 years, the combined 1 1/4-mile record of Big Cap winners, going in, was 11 for 30. [Daily Racing Form (sub. or print edition only)]
It seems as if his ability to get an extra furlong is not really being questioned much given the way he's finished at 9 furlongs. Besides, only two other horses in this field have won at 10 furlongs anyway; one, Californian, hasn’t won since Gore was president, and the other, Island Fashion, has speed figures that have declined since last year more than the chances of the Syrian ambassador being invited for lunch with the Bush twins. Rock Hard Ten (Kris S) and Imperialism (Langfuhr) closed to run 1-2 in the Strub, both earning a 109 Beyer, and are considered the top contenders; but they didn’t beat anyone in the same league as Roses In May. Truly a Judge (Judge T C) is a legitimate pace factor that Saint Liam will have to deal with, but again, so was Roses in May. Saint Liam is just the best horse here; in fact ever since Richard Dutrow brought him back from a five month layoff last September in the Woodward, he’s a neck away from being the best horse in the country.

- Brad Free also has a warning for those just feel compelled to find a reason to beat the favorite.
So rather than employ a traditional analysis that is based on condition, class, speed, and pace, some handicappers will wrap themselves up in incidental factors. And if it means crossing the line from creativity to recklessness, well, so what? Bettors can always fall back on the tiresome excuse that they at least considered "wagering value."

Problem is, not every race includes an overlay. Most of the time there is no value, because the wagering public typically prices the field just right. Depending on the local takeout rate, horses that start at 2-1 usually win about 28 percent of the time; horses that start at 3-1 typically win about 21 percent.

The lower the odds, the less likely the public has made a mistake. The combined wisdom of the betting market is tough to beat, and that so-called wisdom is based on condition, class, speed, and pace. Everything else is window dressing. Yet there is just enough chatter out there - speculation that Saint Liam is something other than a standout - that odds of 2-1 might be possible, even though he enters as the standout of the meet.[Form]

- Besides the fact that, as pointed out by Steve Crist, Magna would have had a much better TV package to showcase their tracks this Saturday rather than the Sunshine Millions, Nick Kling in the Troy Record highlights another peculiarity.
Ironically, the Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Handicaps compete for the same pool of horses. This is the second time in recent weeks when racetracks owned by Magna Entertainment, Inc. have gone head-to-head with identical events. The Barbara Fritchie at Laurel and the Shirley Jones at Gulfstream went off February 19 at the same distance, for the same filly and mare sprinters. [Troy Record]