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Handicapping 101: Breaking Down the $100,0000 POINT OF ENTRY STAKES
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2018
by: Rich Bieglmeier
Only two graded stakes races worth at least $100,000 on the card today. Let's take the opportunity to breakdown the $100,0000 POINT OF ENTRY STAKES at Belmont Park, horse by horse. It's a chance to share "how we think" and some insights on handicapping that you might be able to incorporate into your game.
It's also an occasion for us to sharpen our blade and reflect on the building blocks of intelligently using data to separate the players from the posers.
Obviously, the first thing to look at is the length of race, surface and number of horses. Seven - maybe eight with a main track only entrant (three-year-olds and up) will take to Belmont's turf for a demanding 1 1/2 run around two turns. It's generally thought that two turn races can put an extra burden on front-runners, especially tracks with long stretches like Belmont. That being written, the only 1 1/2 mile turf race meet-to-date was wire-to-wire.
With only one race in the books, that makes utilizing track BIAS stats for an edge nonexistent. From experience, and the idea that front runners are at a disadvantage in two-turn races, we'll examine each horse from the standpoint that stalkers and closers have the best chance to win. So, picking a front-runner means he'll need a major advantage over the rest of the field.
Let's get to work.
The first thing we notice, as probably all horse players do, is the morning-line odds on the one, POSTULATION, are 6-1. As much as possible, we try to not let the odds influence how we rank the horses. We term it "Odds Bias."
Think about how many times you switched a bet at the last minute to the post-time favorite only to see your original pick win. The peer pressure of "what do they see that I don't" can ruin many a winning ticket. In fact, the way pool money is distributed based on the number of winning tickets, you WANT horses that are included on as few winning tickets as possible.
So back to POSTULATION. He ran a triple digit speed figure in his first race after a layoff, the highest one he put on the board in at least a year. Add that to the fact it was POSTULATION's first race with trainer Michael Matz. Looking back at the horse's second outings after a layoff, his numbers went up both previous both. That leads us to believe POSTULATION should be better today than he was on September 22nd at Laurel.
On paper, it's reasonable to believe the one is a legit threat to win. Dig a little deeper and we see his fractions in the higher speed rating were slower than his previous 1 1/2 mile race. That's a big flashing yellow sign. As are his finishes two and three races back, losing by 20 and 21 lengths. For now, POSTULATION gets a maybe.
Horse number two, PATTERSON CROSS is one of the morning-line favorites at 2-1. Reflexively, most handicappers will look for confirmation as to why low odd horses are going to win. We'd rather look backwards and find reasons why he/she won't win. Remember, the biggest tickets come when favs get beat and best when they run out-of-the-money.
In this case, 2-1 odds seem a touch high for a horse that's won three of 15 lifetime races on the turf. Getting 2-1 for a horse that wins one out of five, or 5-1? He's also only hit the wire first in one of his last nine races. On the positive side, his speed numbers and closing style say PATTERSON CROSS is a good horse and good fit for this field and a two-turn race, but he doesn't know how to win.
PATTERSON CROSS gets a maybe too.
IM THE CAPTAIN NOW (PP: 3 ML 8-1) is making his first start since August 5th at Saratoga, where he won an allowance of $90,000, inner-turf race at 1 3/16ths miles. Trainer Barclay Tagg wins at 14% with horses that won their last race, not the best angle. However, IM THE CAPTAIN NOW first race off the bench history catches the eye.
He broke his maiden coming off his last break at Belmont on the inner-turf. That's a plus. Prior to his first W, he came off the sidelines to finish second by 1 1/2 lengths at Belmont and second by 1 1/2 lengths at Saratoga. He backed up some in second starts. Translation, IM THE CAPTAIN NOW puts his best out there on his first run following a rest, just like today.
Despite having lower speed figures than the favorites, IM THE CAPTAIN NOW is the first to earn his way on our ticket.
TIZZARUNNER (PP: 4 ML 12/1) finished 10th in an 11 horse race, losing by 26 lengths. OUCH! With that line, we immediately look to the comments to see if he had an excuse. Was he bumped, pinched, hit the gate, bobbled at the start, pulled up... anything. Nope, the comment says "never a factor."
A self-imposed Cardinal Rule is to not ever bet lines like that. We throw out TIZZARUNNER as a possible winner. If he beats us, it will be one or two out of 100.
On to the 7/5 morning-line favorite, HELLO DON JULIO (PP: 5). Again, we look for reasons the colt won't win. He's making his second start off a layoff following a win. He hasn't won back-to-back races. After a win, HELLO DON JULIO has finished 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 7th, from the most recent back.
Despite his back-to-back woes, HELLO DON JULIO does have some major pluses. He's lone speed, which will allow jockey John Velazquez to set the tone and pace of the race. He just ran the highest speed figure for this group's last race, nearly a 30% winning angle. Don also set his personal speed figure high after a short vacation from racing, and his late race fractions were on par with previous races despite running at least 1/4 mile more. It's hidden improvement.
He might not break his post-win curse, but HELLO DON JULIO will be a factor in this race, add him to the ticket.
Post-position six, SECRET PASSAGE (ML 4/5) is main track only (MTO in the program). Since we've handicapped for turf, we won't bet the race if it moves to dirt; disregard.
Lucky number seven, MR MAYBE is morning-line 15-1. He's taking a sizeable step up in class from claiming $50,000. In his most recent climb up the class ladder, MR MAYBE finished fifth by three lengths in closing fashion. He passed two horses and made up 2.5 lengths in the stretch.
That race was 1 3/16th miles. A little more runway and he might have finished the job. Perhaps that's what trainer John Toscano, Jr. has in mind? That's what we have in mind and include MR MAYBE
The last challenger is the eight, JUST HOWARD (ML 8/1), and his last race was just bad. He finished eighth out of eight (too many eights for us) by 15 lengths. The comments say he tried to make a move going three-wide only to weaken. Keeping the self-imposed Cardinal Rule in mind, JUST HOWARD is eliminated.
The hoses left standing include:
PP: 3 - Im the Captain Now
Now we go through the process of making one-on-one comparisons.
We rate PATTERSON CROSS ahead of POSTULATION but would rather take a shot with IM THE CAPTAIN NOW or MR MAYBE ahead of the 2-1 PATTERSON CROSS. We'll put the three ahead of the seven, ever so slightly, because of his first race history. That leaves HELLO DON JULIO as the horse with the best chance to win in our view. He'll get to dictate the pace and force the other horses to run his race. If you think about sports in general, he/she who controls the terms of the battle usually wins.
Best of luck!
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