The way I work is that I like to scope out any potential playable race the night before. When I say playable, i mean from a bridgejumper perspective. That means there will be significant spread in either the place or show pool, and I have some quick opinion of the favorite--or jumper horse. I either hate him, love him, or think I want to look harder and form an opinion. I also want a reasonably sized field. To go through 10 or 12 horses to find value other than the jumper horse is just not something I'm going to do and be time efficient. If I want to play a volume of jumper races, the way I want to do it, I have to be mindful of the amount of time it takes to do that. so, I forego the bigger fields. That is point 1. It's very much a part of how I exclude when I make my first pass through all the races.
My first potential race is race 3 at Gulfstream. Right off the bat, the variables are there to make it a play.
-7 horse field, including the jumper horse.
-a low ml (morning line) fave, 7-5, coupled with a low ml on the 2nd fave at 9-5. That tells me there will be win pressure competition for the jumper horse, if
she ends up a jumper horse. Thus, if they both race, its a lock I don't play this race on the jumper side, but find something to go against the top 2. That is a cardinal rule. Win pressure on the jumper horse is one of the best angles to beat that horse. If that horse has zero pressure. So point 2 is never play any jumper horse as a jumper when they have any legit win pressure. They are more likely to lose the ticket position in this scenario.
My experience is that most jumper horses that get beat but don't fall down somewhere simply run very hard to win, and fade late when that doesn't work out, and completely cave. Of course caving is relative, and you need to pick the ones that can do something about that. If the balance are total no talents that wont take advantage, it becomes a no play race. That is rare, but it happens. Out of the 5 left to run, if they all run, there has to be at least one with some talent to be there if the fave coughs it up. Relative strength of "the rest" is another very important factor or point when you think about making a play.
The other thing I like about this race--at first glance, is that there are two very low ml horses. That means if one scratches out, but the other stays, its a lock that horse is a jumper horse in the show pool if there are still enough left to leave that pool up. I wont get to know that until the early scratches come out. I have to handicap based on the likelihood they both run. So, I do that.
I start out just rating the horses, so I'm prepared either way. It's an earlier race so I want to get it out of the way. Some of the later ones, I might exclude early, but wont go over them thoroughly until later, so I don't waste time on horses that wont run, or if it changes to a clear no play race. I have 18 on tap to start with, so I don't want to waste any time I can avoid wasting.
There are other variables I noticed early, but I will go over them in my assessment of the field. They are somewhat constants anyway that I use repeatedly, but they aren't things I use early as exclusionary factors on the first pass through.
Gulfstream race 3 is my first race to potentially play as mentioned above. It might be cold out and tracks are cancelling, but Gulfstream is fairly safe from that chance, Being almost as far south as you can get on the map. post time is 1:30, so, I want to be ready early for this one.
Here is the field, top to bottom, by ml odds.
7 SIERRA LEONA
is the 7-5 ml fave. 3yo chestnut filly by Point Given. Its not a hard and fast rule, but I like to go against chestnuts, against fillies and against inexperienced horses that have shown early, but not terribly impressive results. As for the chestnut part, its a horse person thing. Generally, chestnut's bleed more from their lungs, and they have bad feet and legs, and thus, are prone to lameness, especially the more they run. Its a weak angle, but it is something to think about when you are making plays. Everything matters. I wrote a blog about that a year ago, and its valid. Every little angle matters. That is one of them. For me anyway.
I can tell you when I trained, just about every chestnut I had or was stabled with was a bleeder and had suspect or terrible legs. Watching the actual horse run in replays can give me some insight to the particular horse, as does looking at the breeding and noticing anything about their ancestors. That info is out there. Who bled, who was lame, specific problems a dam or sire or their ancestors had. Its just more info. more things that COULD matter. Or not matter at all in this case. That is my job as the handicapper to figure out. I cant see the horse up close, and certainly not one at Gulfstream, so, I have to work with what I have to work with. I can watch them in the walking ring, and as they gallop on the track, etc,,,pre race. You work with the tools you have race to race.
She goes for trainer Chad Summers, who I dont know of at all. I am a standardbred guy by trade and experience, and while I know of many trainers in T- breds, I don't know them all. So, that is one strike against my skill set. Its not a variable I get to work with here. A quick look tells me he has had the filly for all of her starts, of which there were 3 to date.
He started her out in a maiden claimer, which tells me he is somewhat realistic in how he approaches racing them. Many start in a MSW no matter where they think the horse fits. That race was Oct. 20th, at 6f, and it was a short 5 horse field, with no real long odds horses. She was the 2-1 2nd choice. The lukewarm 8-5 fave sat 5th and last, made a mild bid, never went forward and was a well beaten dead last. So, it was a short and weak field. She did run well, stalked early, made a run at the leader and ground her down, then held off another, but she was all out and the 2nd place finisher was coming to her and passes her if they go another half furlong. That is not the type of bridgejumper horse you lean on, but go against as they race on and try better. You will note if you watch closely that the jock used the right handed whip to get her to go forward, but switched to left handed when he needed to pass the leader, as this filly was running in. When she got by, he went back to right handed. That is a strike against her. If she is already running in her first start, against a short field of maiden claimers, she is likely to not wear well. Not for sure, but its more probable than not.
She came back 20 days later, on November 9th, same distance, but tougher company in an optional 50k claimer, a much tougher bunch. She didn't take the tag, but she was a 29-1 longshot. It was a 7 horse field, and she was the 2nd longest shot. She broke near the back, stayed near there, was out of run at the top of the stretch, under heavy whipping, and beat one horse who was basically eased up. A no factor 6th and she looked bad doing it. Her first two starts were Gulfstream Park West, which used to be called Calder for ages. She shifts to what is now Gulfstream and always has been. I don't see that as significant in this case, although I'm not an expert on these tracks.
5 weeks later, December 14th, back to Gulfstream, this time back in a claimer. She was 10-1 ml, but as can happen, a short priced likely fave was scratched, and she went off a clear 9-5 2nd choice. She won the race, and it was a field of 6 with the scratch of the likely fave, going longer this time at a full mile. Once again, she ran midpack, stalked but sat patient, made a move on the turn, cleared the tired leader who was the chalk, then drew off to win easy, but didn't look like she was running much or had much left herself. As well, the rider switched hands with the whip in exactly the manner he did in her maiden breaking score. The racetrack announcer certainly called her right. She runs at a grind away pace, but once asked, she has very little run if you have to move her earlier as he did in the first start she made. Behind her, there were some very poor runners who likely will be taking big class drops.
Today she runs right back to that tag, that distance, and basically its the same conditions as last time. I feel her win was deceptive to the bettors, and she is vulnerable to go backwards. That is how I intend to play it. So, I move forward with the balance of the field, to see what I have to work with against her. If I'm wrong and she beats me so be it. If this is a jumper race, which I'm not sure it is, I am on the other side and not jumping off her bridge. 7-5 ml suggests the line maker thinks the public are going to jump on her big time, even without a scratch of the 2nd ml fave. I will go with that assessment.
5 DRINKS ON ME
is the 9-5 2nd ml choice. She is trained by Larry Rivelli, and him I do know of. In watching other tracks, it has been mentioned he races where they fit, where they can win, and he wins a very high rate. If he shows up, he is there to make money. My experience is that is exactly the case in races I've seen his horses run in. As with any trainer, even the most successful, they don't win them all and not every horse runs huge. They are all beatable and you have to keep that in mind. She is a 3yo bay filly by Stay Thirsty, bred by Ken Ramsey and wife, but owned by another person. She is making her 3rd lifetime start, at her 3rd different track as is her trainers MO of finding a spot where the horse can win the most money, and comes off a maiden win her last start, not in a claimer. Clearly at first glance, she looks better on paper than the likely fave. Paper doesn't win races, so, I start there. Her first lifetime start was in a 40k maiden claimer at Keeneland, for the Ramseys and noted trainer Mike Maker. She went off a lukewarm 5-2 fave in an 8 horse field, and ran 4th. And changed hands after the race via a 40k claim.
That is important. It was 7f, her first start, also a maiden claimer, but she didn't run well. She sat around 6th, behind a bunch of 5 who ran hard and with each other. When asked on the turn, she picked it up a bit, then fanned very wide, was under very heavy left handed urging, but never really went forward, and in fact, went left sharply when tired and almost ran into another. She was not impressive. But she changed hands to Rivelli, and you have to give her a chance to learn and also improve in his care.
Rivelli took her to Hawthorne 22 days later on November 10th, a track he races at a lot. She was in a MSW this time, and was going longer at 1 mile and 70 yards. She went off the 4-1 3rd choice, in a 7 horse field, with a clear even money favorite, and still on lasix. In the race, DRINKS ON ME ran right out of the gate, on the outside of the leader the entire way, but in a grinding style that appears to be her way of racing. That leader was the 5-2 2nd choice, who carried her all the way to the end, and was also another Rivelli runner. Both seemed well spotted. Rivelli got the win and 2nd money, and a nice quick return on the 40k claim. Once again though, she showed a tendancy to both hang in the stretch, and run in badly, which she did worse this time. The even money fave was 3rd, but was never involved and not close to the top 2. It was a relatively weak MSW field by Gulfstream standards. She appears to be a claimer, and Rivelli has figured that out. He took the win for MSW, but once a winner, she is a claimer either way on the move up.
Today she runs off 7 weeks, back in a claimer but this time in for 25k, and shortens up a tad from her winning effort, which seems like a good idea. I can see her, but I can also see her being vulnerable. I wouldn't use her as an option underneath the fave who I will go against. That leaves me with 5 others to choose from for 3 show spots if it plays out that way.
4 SAVANNAH ROXANNA
is the 6-1 3rd ml choice. She ran against the likely fave in their last race, and was a well beaten, but decent enough 2nd in that one. She ran 8 times at 2, which is to many in my view, and is still going. That has got to take its toll eventually on a very young filly. She won start 6 in a maiden claimer at Woodbine for her current connections, going a mile and sixteenth in a maiden claimer. She is also a chestnut filly, by Shackleford, who seemed to want a shorter distance when he was on the Triple Crown trail and later. But he was a high class and game runner, and did well at Gulfstream as I recall also. She started very early, in mid May in a MSW, and was well beaten, as she was in her other MSW try. As she ran more, and in maiden claimers, she gradually improved with experience and distance added and got it done on October 4th at woodbine.
A mile in a claimer seems about right for her if she gets the right trip. Gunning at the leader like she did last time isn't that trip. The question of how tired she may be getting is an issue, but I'm expecting odds here and that mitigates the risk she is raced out. I like that she ran hard last time, stayed running well right to the wire, and she is good at this distance. She is a contender for the win, and a decent play against a jumper horse as one of a few who could pick up pieces. She loses the top rider from last time to DRINKS ON ME.
1 CASUAL CARO
is the 8-1 4th ml choice, a brown filly by UNITED STATES, who I have never heard of. I will look him up closer to post time. She comes out of the same race as the ml fave and 3rd choices, and had dead aim on a tired
SAVANNAH ROXANNA but could not go by her. That was start 8 for a filly who started out in maiden claimers, has run only in claimers, and took the lone win there in start 5. She has been a bit player in 3 tries since that one, but a decent bit player type who we are looking for if the premise is to go against the top 2 choices. She has a 2nd and 3rd at this distance in those 3 starts, and ran on only 8 days rest last time, but gets the full 3 weeks here. She is playable as an option. Note her 2 worst efforts were on turf and she doesn't race on that here. Otherwise, when in for the right price and distance, and raced properly, she competes and contends, but might take time to get another win.
6 MISS LOTUS FLOWER,
is a 3yo filly by Haynesfield. She won the maiden claimer on October 4th as the 30-1 longest shot on the board , but has been in deep since. To date, that is her only on the board finish in 7 starts. They have tried distances, different surfaces, and she even tried better horses. Nothing helped. She raced this bunch on December 14th and was a well whipped 5th as the 40-1 longest shot on the board. She is hard to like in this spot. Nevertheless, I've learned not to discount this type when I don't like the faves a lot, so, I take a closer 2nd look at how she ran. She broke slowly, was well back last, in a gapped out field, never made any move, looked to have no run, and couldn't even pass a very spent front end horse who was walking home. She looks like a 5 claimer at Mountaineer, and I have to pass on her. She has limited ability and doesn't look to be improving. She is 12-1 ml, I'd expect to see 50-1 plus.
2 SHEZ A GREAT ONE
is a 15-1 outsider with the same trainer as MISS LOTUS FLOWER. I guess the theory is two longshots with some chance to get some money somehow. This type of trainer just runs them and hopes the heavens are on his side that day. She makes her 3rd lifetime start, and her first was a maiden claimer at a mile on the turf, which she won. She moved up the ladder last time, and shortened slightly to 7.5 furlongs, but she stayed on turf and was 8th of 11 at 35-1. It was a bigger, and tougher field, she looked to have some run and try in the stretch. She goes back to a claimer here, switches to dirt, and gets a bit more distance in a shorter field where her stalking style can lay her close to a few who might want to stop in time for her to be viable. In her maiden win, she rocketed out to the lead, cut the entire mile and beat off the fave who challenged her much of the way, and won at 11-1. It was a solid effort. Her sire, TIZ THE ONE, ran only twice in his career, winning both early at 3, both at Gulfstream for trainer Chad Brown. He was a 375k yearling. This filly has some potential at this level and only 2 starts in.
5 BEAUTIFUL WIFE
is a 2nd time starter in the US, but ran 4 times at Camarero in Puerto Rico. She won a MSW there and was not placed in a stakes race as well. She ran December 9th in a stakes race at 60-1 at this distance. Here she comes back dropped directly into a claimer, although she is still a maiden in this country. She is in a tough spot under those variables. She ran near the back, off the screen most of the way, and was never contentious, although it was her first start here and the track was super sloppy. She has to be considered viable with the unknowns in play. These types are dangerous.
I had the two top faves pegged accurately. One was no good at all, while the other was lucky to hold 3rd. They both showed the lameness or soreness I thought I would see, and were grinders whose grinding didn't work with a slightly better class of horses. My viable contender for the win did win, as she did get the trip I thought she needed, while my unknown Puerto Rican horse ran well, and actually had the lead by taking a bold move mid race and finished well. My wild longshot acted up at the gate, and then had to be checked sharply mid race, and she gave up. She is on my radar for a future play, while the others were not good enough or good at all. I had most of it right here, but the odds and math wasn't in my favor, so, I made no play. Discipline is important, and I didn't get the value I was looking for. Such is life.
Gulfstream race 9 is my next race to play if...the fave races. At a 4-5 ml, its a certain bridgejump horse if it races. I will handicap it now, but not do the rest of the field until I see the changes and know this one is going to dance the dance. Without her, its a no play race, as the rest don't stand out in any way. Nevertheless, if she is 4-5 ml with these, she is short odds whenever she races next, so I have her scoped out whenever that is. Time still well spent and invested.
4 FLY SO HIGH
is a bay 3yo filly by Malibu Moon, who her trainer Shug McGaughey is very familiar with, as he trained ORB, who is by that sire, and I'm sure others by him as well. She is owned by The Phipps Stable, who are his main clients and high end owners to say the least. She ships in from New York, where she ran 3rd at Aquaduct in her first lifetime start, then won a MSW at Belmont at today's distance on November 16th. In that race, she broke from the inside, ran up and took the lead before the quarter, was on an easy lead with no challengers, opened up at will on the turn, then coasted well ahead, widening out all the way to gap the entire field, while coasting. On paper and just on how she ran, she looks very tough for the bunch she will meet today, which is why she is 4-5 ml. However, that is why you watch the replays. She carries her head funny, and wants to run into the rail very noticably. I need to watch her first start to see if that is just how she runs, or else there is a problem I can take advantage of.
In that October 9th race, there was a lot of stuff going on. First, she had the outside 12 post, loaded last, then backed out of the gate, went back in without much fuss, but while she did all that, another got ancy, laid down in the gate, got twisted around and then had to be scratched along with another beside her she probably kicked while she was thrashing around. When they all reloaded 5 minutes later, she left out, ran near the back, came along willingly along the outside, ducked between horses and finished a going forward 3rd at 6 furlongs. No surprise they ran her longer her next start and she started better. But, she also showed that tendency to run in, but not as bad as she did in her 2nd start. I see a progression of soreness. That leads me to make her a no play as a jumper play, but I will have to see if she runs and then look at the rest to find the value if it happens to go that way. She will draw a monster jumper if she races, no doubt about it. Probably 1-9 on the win also, and she can be played against in a double if you play that type of play. A quick glance tells me its a deep and talented field, so she can't be ordinary or have an off day and beat this bunch.
She ran as expected,but her talent was too much for this bunch. The spread I expected for the show pool wasn't even close to being there, so it was a no play for me. I have followed Gulfstream in the past, and there were many jumpers, but today, none. Even on horses that normally justify that. I have to be more careful putting that much time into races that won't be playable in the end. However, I also make other bets, and gaining info on any types like this is worthwhile because I do that. I can see her flaws, and I will get the money payout for my time today in her next few starts. She was just too much for this bunch as it turns out.
I had scoped out a whole bunch of races at Freehold which I thought I could get 4 or 5 plays out of, but I didn't do more than list those races. When I got started today, Freehold, along with many other tracks where I had a play or two was cancelled because of cold weather. So, my day was basically done with Gulfstream, which meant no plays period.
I did completely handicap race 1 at Monticello the night before, as I thought that was very playable, but they also cancelled. I had races 8 and 9 listed as playable races there, but didn't do any work and that paid off as there was no races to play. Below is my work on Race 1 that I can use when they recard those horses. I make some handicapping points within these comments, if you are interested in that.
1 IDEAL CANDIDATE is an old campaigner at age 12. That is not uncommon, and they do very well at places like Monticello, where there are many just like them, the speeds are not as fast as they were once used to, and they can get softer trips to favor them against mostly weaker and inferior or even washed up horses who are being raced for the smallest purse cheques by others who don't even have to or attempt to make a living racing horses. In that vein, the guys who do race these types race them hard and often and make a good buck off them while they last.
One thing you notice about Monticello in particular is that the ml is not well done. Almost all faves are 5-2, some go off 1-9, some don't even go off as the favorite. So, you have to start with it, but quickly look at the horses pp's and connections to see if you think the bettors will hammer it or ignore it. That is strictly based on experience in watching it for long enough. IDEAL CANDIDATE has a high profile and successful trainer, he won his last start--at this level, draws the rail, and has won 5 of his last 6--all at this level, with the only other being from post 7, where he still got 3rd. He will draw a jumper of some kind. Because of the nature of the fields at Monticello, and how the track plays, its not as easy to beat a jumper horse, so you have to find significant flaws to go against. That is where the work begins here.
There wasnt much to see in his last start. He used rail control to leave out, put the chalk in his pocket, got a breather 2nd quarter, sped up the 3rd quarter and beat off the fave who pulled the pocket very early, in spite of a passing lane, then accelerated away for a very easy win. He looks cinchy today at probably 3-5.
He appears still very sound, and willing. He likes control, and from a good post can leave and get it. The only thing that could get him beat is someone running at him the entire way and taking away his best friend, which is a 2nd quarter breather. So, the task is to look at the rest of the field and see if that is likely, and then make a call. He raced 42 times last year and won 15 of them. He isnt easy to beat.
2 Wink and Nod barely earns his way at this point. He draws well and will be looking to tuck and get a soft trip for a piece of the pie at the end. That is what is to be expected of him.
3 Brett Mcfavrelous is the wildcard in this bunch. You just never know with Staulbaum. He is very aggressive at times, and would park out his grandmother if that meant he would win the race. This horse shipped to Monticello last time, as Buffalo is closed for a while, and its a place Staulbaum knows well, as he used to race here steady for years. He dropped class last time, but while he had the rail, he was outleft, then stayed in 3rd, and backed up the entire way. So, he drops to the bottom claimer here. He is hard to like, but I could see Staulbaum blasting him out and trying to get the lead and hoping for a retake by the fave so he can sit a 2 hole. If that happens, and he gets hung, it could be a rodeo.
4 Oncoming Storm has lousy form and has had not done well at Monticello overall anyway. His last 3 have been bad, and he takes a further drop in class here. He had post 7 last time, went to the back, did nothing, and closed with the pack but passed none of them. He is hard to like or think he will be any factor in the pace. He has missed the ticket in his last 10 starts.
5 Lynyrd is by a sire I hate, and most of them are non triers and bad finishers. He fits that profile to a T. He has the longest ml odds, and for good reason. He had a bad post last time, went to the back and did zero to make you think he can do much better here. He is in deep to make the ticket or have any effect on this field.
6 Celtic Art comes off two wins but moves up. Moves up is relative. he isn't meeting Cam fella here. Post will hurt, but good form goes a long way when you meet many with bad form. Last time, he left well from the inside, stacked up the only other contenders, controlled the race and outfinished the pocket sitter. That might have worked here too, if he could get that type of trip. He wont. Two starts back, he blasted out from the 6 hole, cut very hot fractions and took them all the way as the longest shot on the board, but he bottomed out the field and came home in 32. If he blasts here, and doesn't get the lead or a hole, and pushed the pace with his overall good speed, he could set it up for others and wipe out the favorite with him. That is the key to the race.
7 Terrorize the Moon has decent form, but draws post 7 in a race with inside speed in front of him and likely a bunch of hangers who will block the road mid race. He can blast, as he did last time from the rail, but he doesn't have a second move. He was 2nd last time, but well back and outstaggered ratty hangers. He is likely to take back and come late. In that scenario, he is viable for the ticket if others battle.
As mentioned above, this race never came to be. So, who knows if I was right on not. But they will meet again, and I have a pretty good read on most of them from doing this. I will make it pay off under the right circumstances.
Knowledge is power. That is always my view.