week I received a very thought-provoking email from a client of my weekly
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH in which he asked
me “exactly how” I handicapped each race----and I do mean “exactly”!
question, because even though I do it day-in and day-out, I’ve never
put it down in print before, so here goes.
take note of days since the last race for each entrant and go back in
my track programs to that specific day and look up all my paddock notes,
trip notes and post-race notes and transfer them to my past performances.
any of the entrants are on our MASTER NO-NO LIST in our
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH weekly due to negative
equipment such as barshoes, blowouts, stops, martingales,
run-out-extension bits or are on our private SCHTW
“vetlist”, they are tossed out with utter confidence
from a “win” standpoint.
I put up my speed and pace figures for all my remaining contenders who
are capable of winning and have survived the “physicality” question.
These “prospects” are believed to be “racing sound” (at least they were
when we last saw them in their most recent post-race exits). In any
given race I could end up with anywhere from 0 to 6 contenders depending
on field size.
1 is completed for Race 1.
repeats itself until I finish the entire card. And yes, it is very
laborious and time-consuming work. I wish I had Santa’s helpers to
do the gruntwork every day! Unfortunately, I know that Santa has more
2 gets a little more up front and personal.
is here where I try to separate my remaining contenders if I still have
any for a specific race. Quite often in the lowly 8 to 16K claiming
races, I never even get to Stage 2, as every entrant in these bottom-feeding
affairs is eliminated in my Stage 1 handicapping.
survivals, I look for “lone F” horses (lone frontrunners) who can control
the pace from gate-to-wire.
put, there isn’t a better wager in our game-----at least in Southern
California where running surfaces are sun-baked and rock-hard. We
all know by now or at least should know by now, that speed UNCHALLENED
wins over any surface at any distance and wins with uncanny regularity
depending on the speed-friendliness of your specific oval.
sunny Southern California is your circuit as it is mine, you are already
aware that we wager on the same dry track every
day or at least 95% of the time. This daily consistency
is very conducive to a healthy and happy bankroll. That’s why I moved
here nearly 10 years ago. Back East, I simply got tired of playing
a different track everyday that was in
some stage of drying out, or getting wet, or frozen, or
more sand added, or less sand-----or whatever! It is really a no-brainer!
Same is easy, constantly changing isn’t!
Southern California, “the lone F” rules supreme, as we’ve been keeping
running profiles in the SCHTW for Santa Anita, Del Mar and Hollywood
for over 10 years. There simply isn’t a better wager
in the “Southland” assuming that the lone frontrunner passes muster
in the paddock and is warmed up properly!
there is no “lone F”, the tough mind-work begins and I start looking
for a “class” edge among the remaining possibilities. Once in a while
I’ll find a “pushbutton” class horse who might not necessarily be able
to control the early fractions nor want to, but
can easily close down on a hot contested pace.
I have neither a “lone F” nor a “class standout”, the only remaining
factor among equally-paced contenders would be the race-day physicality
of each survivor. Merely having excellent pace figures and implied
pace match-ups simply isn’t enough. If one of the anticipated pace
match-ups comes into the paddock with ZERO energy and
head low and bobbing, you can safely assume that he won’t carry his
speed all the way to the wire. His energy level and pre-race warm-up
are the best barometers of his upcoming performance.
almost goes without saying that any “paper” contenders who show up in
the paddock with a new physical problem such as
blowouts, stops, barshoes etc., are instant toss outs
from a win standpoint.
completes my 2nd stage of handicapping. But even before I
get to the track to check race day “physicality”, I do a 3rd
pass over both my earlier handicapping and my race selections (if any).
I call it my “reality” check, because I’ve found that when I go over
something 3 times, I rarely make “paper” mistakes.
it is aging and/or my eyesight is beginning to fail me at 55 (I’m running
out of “powers” on my reading glasses!). I somehow see things a bit
differently on my 3rd pass. Maybe I’m more relaxed
because all the info is before me to include our true “insider”
information collected by “yours truly” in our SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
HORSES TO WATCH.
ask myself a few questions about each remaining contender in each race
under consideration for betting that day. Some questions can’t be answered
until a few races are run.
I asking a horse to do something he’s never done before
against horses who have done it quite successfully in the recent past
at today’s level? If I am, I might be stretching my imagination
and my selection had better look “absolutely flawless” in the paddock
the running bias changed in any way from the day before and the way
I handicapped this race to be run today? In other words,
should I be fortunate enough to find a “lone F” in today’s 7th
race, if nothing but off-the-pace runners have won races
1 thru 6, his goose is already cooked before the
7th race goes off----I’d have to be “brain dead” to bet him!
with that thinking by race 7, is my jockey “awake” today and aware of
any running biases? Is he (she) riding normally and not hindered from
a mishap yesterday or today such as a spill or a banging around in the
starting gate? Is there any other reason I won’t
get a “ride”, such as prohibitive odds on a betting stable horse, a
bad pre-race warm-up, or severe body wetness at the starting gate?
Many questions, but they all must be answered!
how I do it everyday-----lots of hard work, but
the rewards make it all worth while!