I have to admit that I’m a little sad 2012 is coming to a close. From a wagering perspective, this was easily the most profitable year of my career as a bettor. But more importantly, purely from a handicapping perspective, I feel that, over the course of this year and particularly through writing these blog entries, I’ve really honed my skills. I’ve learned that with the proper discipline and vigilance, you actually can make money betting on horse races. There are always going to be highs and lows, to be sure, but if you have faith in your proven methods and stick to your convictions, you won’t go wrong in the long run.
In the first couple days of the New Year I’ll be posting an entry summing up my 2012 as it pertains to That’s A Horse to Watch. I’ll recall some winning “Horses to Watch” and make some notes about how I can improve the site in the upcoming year.
Now let’s get on to the final New York card of 2012, and it’s a pretty good one. There is a mandatory payout of the Pick 6 today and, while I’m not much of a player of that bet, I may take a shot since there are a few horses that I feel are very likely winners in the sequence.
Note: Even though I don’t usually add to the Horses to Watch list until the end of each week, I had tabbed both Miss Da Point and Point Taken for inclusion at the end of this racing week. But they’ve both been entered back already today, so I’ve added them to the Horses to Watch and Entries/Results pages.
Race 3: The Our Shopping Spree Stakes at one mile and 70 yards for NY-bred two year-old fillies
This is the first opportunity that I’ve come across (and one of a couple on the card today) to bet back a horse that raced on the heavily biased “golden rail” track from this past Wednesday and Thursday. Or more specifically, I’m interested in horses that were not on that “golden rail” and thus did not produce their best performances. I must admit that I probably would not have given my selection here, Miss Da Point (#2), a second look if it were not for her trip last time. But now that I give her a closer look, I think she is a very live long shot in this race.
First let’s discuss her trip against the bias last time when she ran in the eighth race on Wednesday, December 26th. The race is a perfect example of how much it helped to be on the rail on these days. The winner Little Rocket led wire-to-wire racing close to the rail the entire way, while second and third place finishers Carameaway and Sharon Spaghetti also rode the rail into the stretch. Sharon Spaghetti was only passed for second late by Carameaway because she came off the rail for the stretch drive. Horses who chased outside were doomed–except for one notable exception. Miss Da Point was taken to the back of the pack early by Keiber Coa and launched a rally around the three-eighths pole. At that point, Coa angled her three-wide and she started passing horses as the field entered the stretch. Horses that had even gone two-wide around the turn were dropping like flies, but Miss Da Point stayed on well through the final two furlongs to only miss running up into second by a neck. She was one of the only horses to make such a rally on Wednesday.
But there are other things to like as well. She gets a huge jockey switch today to Irad Ortiz, Jr., who has been riding as well as anyone over the inner track. She also raced with blinkers for the first time in her last race, so perhaps that added focus helped her put in such an improved effort. The distance is a minor question, but her dam (ironically named Long Distance Love) produced one other foal who was a four-time route winner. I think Miss Da Point may be ignored on the tote board with the consistent Agilion and Hope for Tomorrow likely to garner much of the play, but if she’s as good as her race last time, she can easily win.
$10 Win 2 (WINNER; Payout: $55.00)
Race 4: Claiming $15,000 at one mile and 70 yards
I’ll be very surprised if the winner of this race is not either Sumo or Bail Out the Banks, but I strongly prefer one. Sumo also raced on that inside speed biased track last Wednesday so I can forgive his effort, but that doesn’t change the fact that I think Bail Out the Banks (#4) is just a better horse. Almost any of the races he ran over the inner track last winter would crush this field and I’m not totally convinced that he can’t run anymore. I know that it’s a bit of a concern that he was brought back for that $15,000 tag, but he actually didn’t run nearly as bad as it may look that day. Chairman Now was allowed to set a very slow early pace–50 to the half and 1:14 and change to the six furlongs–and Bail Out the Banks was trying to make a wide rally. For some reason, Pablo Morales guided him into the four-path for the run around the far turn and he actually ran on very well to be fourth while never having any chance to make up ground on the top three. Point Taken, who was also compromised by pace that day, came back to validate the race by running a very strong second here as the best horse versus tougher competition last Thursday. Bail Out Banks needs some pace, but I think he’s the best horse and may not go favored.
$20 Win 4
Race 5: Starter Handicap $15,000 at six furlongs
Frazil’s (#9) two races since the layoff are stronger than the recent races Orsonian, Driven by Solar, and Take Down Two have been running. Some technicality in the conditions for this race apparently still makes him eligible even though he hasn’t started for a claiming tag in the past three years. There is enough speed to set up his late run and I think he should win this as the favorite. His 3-1 morning line seems like really generous value to me so I don’t really expect to get that. Still, he feels like a single in my Pick 6.
$15 Win 9
Race 7: Optional Claiming $50,000/N2X at one mile and 70 yards
I’ve been waiting to bet against Big Business in a spot like this and, despite the fact that I’m picking a long shot, you can be sure that I’ll be using horses like Colizeo, Gallant Fields, and even a little Sailmate in multi-race wagers. The former two are very likely winners and their prices should only be helped by the presence of likely favorite Big Business, who has been beating easier fields going one turn recently. Sailmate should be an even bigger price, but you can forgive his last race when he was wide for much of the trip in a race where the winner went wire-to-wire.
But I have another horse whose price is going to make him too juicy for me to resist. Percussion (#2) feels to me like the sort of horse who is finally figuring this game out. He’s always had the pedigree to be a good horse–his dam is a half-sister to High Cotton–and I think his connections feel that he has potential since they’ve never dropped him in for a tag despite some poor performances. Yet he never really put it all together until last time. He had shown some signs of life in his race two back when making a wide rally to be sixth in his first start with Lasix. Then he really stepped up his game last time when he was the only horse to seriously challenge Groomedforvictory, who was left alone on the lead in a pretty paceless race (I know the fractions look legitimate, but watching the race makes you feel like the winner had things his own way). I think this horse is on the upswing and he’s now run fast enough to contend with just about anyone in here. His trainer and jockey are not a team that you’re usually looking to bet, but he’s going to be a big price and I think he has a decent chance to win with the right trip.
$5 Win 2
Race 9: Claiming $30,000-$25,000 at one mile and 70 yards
With the late addition of Point Taken (#11) to my “Horses to Watch list he joins Minescape (#8) as one of two “Horses to Watch” in this final race of 2012. I’m posting three separate bets on this race because I feel that it is a great example of what I’ve tried to accomplish with this site over the past 11 months and would be an appropriate punctuation mark on the year. So let’s hope I’m not wrong!
Point Taken is the one that I prefer, but only slightly. He draws into this race form the also-eligible list and thus has to deal with a wide post position. Still, I think he will present value over his actually chances of winning this race because he’s better than he looks on paper. Two races back, he was rated off a very slow pace and never had a chance to make up ground on a wire-to-wire winner that sprinted the final three furlongs. Then last time, when he was stepped up to this level and turned back to six furlongs in his first start for new trainer, Rick Dutrow, Jr., he had to deal with the dreaded inside speed bias. The bias was just as strong on Thursday as it was on Wednesday and Point Taken was one of very few horses that was able to run well despite going three-wide all the way around the turn. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have won on a different track and be coming into this race with a flashy Beyer in the 80s. If Mike Luzzi is able to get him over from that wide slot, he looms a very likely winner.
Minescape had to deal with the biased track on Wednesday, and he was more hurt by the speed bias than a wide trip. Taken to the back of the pack by Jose Ortiz, he could just never get close in a race where the two up front seemed to just widen away as the race went on. Minescape’s previous form had been solid, so I’m inclined to chock his performance last time up to the racetrack. He’ll probably be a higher price than Point Taken, but his good races give him a chance to win. I had actually noted when I picked him last time that his races two and three back were better than they appear due to pace and trip, respectively.
I think either of these two has a chance to win at bettable odds so I’ll bet them both and use them together in the exacta.
$10 Win 11
$5 Win 8
$5 Exacta 8-11
I’ll be back with more picks tomorrow, but in the meantime I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Thanks for reading.
[1:33 p.m. update] – “Horse to Watch” Miss Da Point ($11.00) gets the day started in excellent fashion with a facile wire-to-wire win in the Our Shopping Spree Stakes. She was helped by Eyes of Midas not getting out of the gate, which left her alone on the lead, but the real story is that she was much better than she looked after getting a wide trip on that “golden rail” racetrack this past Wednesday.
[3:26 p.m. update] – The luck hasn’t exactly continued. Bail Out the Banks dropped Irad Ortiz, Jr. at the start of the fourth race, cost me a win in the Pick-4 and most of my Pick-6 tickets. Then in the seventh race, Percussion got a pretty odd ride through the first half of the race with Maylan Studart basically at a 45 degree angle leaning back in the saddle steadying the horse. It was especially confusing because Percussion didn’t even appear to be racing in that much traffic. Perhaps he was overly aggressive, but she was more concerned with restraining him than attaining position early in the race. However, I know that’s what you get when you bet long shots with low-percentage riders.
[4:22 p.m. update] – I couldn’t have been more wrong about the finale as both my picks were gasping at the top of the stretch. Minescape seems to have gone off form and I think I’ll be removing him from my “Horses to Watch” list while Point Taken had to endure a four wide trip the entire way and deserves another chance. Terminus, the other horse who was compromised by the gold rail last Wednesday won as much the best.
But I can’t complain and I’ll look back on this year fondly. From tomorrow, January 1st, moving forward, I’ll be refreshing my bankroll under the My Bets tab (which will go back to $1,000) and starting from 0-0-0-0 with my “Horses to Watch” under the Entries/Results tab.
Happy New Year, everyone! I’ll be back tomorrow.