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Little Mike was overlooked entering the 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf but returned a hefty profit to gamblers who stuck with him off one uncharacteristically poor performance. (photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

With another spellbinding edition of the Breeders’ Cup now a part of racing history, some important lessons in handicapping were offered that should be stored away for next year’s return engagement at Santa Anita Park.

While the names of the horses and some circumstances might be different a year from now, certain angles that surfaced this year could very well be in play again in 2013 – and perhaps next time they won’t sneak under the radar.

Here’s a few things to watch for:

The grass is greener: If there was one longshot that got away it was probably Little Mike. Let’s just say getting 17-1 on the Arlington Million Stakes (G1) winner is the deal of the century.

What happened here was that after winning the Million in gate to wire fashion on good turf, Little Mike stretched out to a mile and a half over soggy, boggy turf in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1). In his first try on a yielding turf, Little Mike flashed his customary speed but was finished on the far turn and wound up fifth, beaten nearly 30 lengths.

Off that performance, Little Mike was ignored in the wagering. Yet an effort that poor should have been easy enough to ignore, especially since he would be running on firm ground in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) that would enhance his speed.

The lesson was that there’s a world of difference between wet and dry turf and you shouldn’t let a single poor effort on yielding turf sway you from backing a horse when it returns to its more comfortable footing on firm turf.

One other interesting point about this year’s BC grass races was that the major ones for older horses, the Turf, Mile and Filly and Mare Turf, featured 1-2 finishes by horses who had spent the year racing in the United States. Maybe the turf was a bit too firm for the Europeans.

The Best Laid Plans: Sometimes it pays to heed a trainer’s intentions.

Beholder loomed an easy winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint if trainer Richard Mandella elected to follow the conventional path with his speedy 2-year-old filly. Instead he sent what turned out to be a powerful message when he elected to send her out in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) against a significantly stronger field.

Beholder was sent off the 7-2 second choice, but her connections were rewarded with a length victory. If you tagged along the payoff was a nice $9.80 as well as a lesson in the value of a trainer’s reading of his horse’s abilities.

BEHOLDER DOMINATED THE JUVENILE FILLIES

JuvenileFilliesMain

Single minded:  As it turned out there were four winning favorites out of the 15 Breeders’ Cup races, none as certain as Groupie Doll in the Filly and  Mare Sprint.

If there was a horse worthy of being singled in a multi-race wager it was clearly Groupie Doll, who returned $3.40 for $2.

GROUPIE DOLL POWERS CLEAR IN FILLY AND MARE SPRINT

GD1

As welcomed as the measure of sanity contained in such a popular victory might have been, let’s see how much value she actually offered.

Her win price of $3.40 was surely low but reflective of her dominance over her nine rivals. The $12 exacta combining her with second choice Dust and Diamonds was no bargain, either.

A $2 double combining her with George Vancouver, the $20.60 winner of the Juvenile Turf, returned $35.40 and basically matched the parlay on the two horses. The double linking Groupie Doll and Tapizar, the $32.60 winner of the Dirt Mile, returned a more generous $59.20. The three Pick 3s involving her returned $74.50, $380.30 and $390.70 for $1 which were fine but were basically similar to the parlay prices.

As much as Groupie Doll helped turn a Pick 3 into a Daily Double, so many people tagged along with her there was little value in backing her in a multi-race sequence. The proof was best found in the Pick 3 that featured Groupie Doll, Tapizar and Mizdirection ($15.80) that paid $390.70. That sounds fine until you consider the payoff for a Pick 3 with Tapizar, Mizdirection and another winning favorite, Shanghai Bobby ($4.60). That one returned a much more substantial $730.70 for $1.

Laws of ‘The Jungle’:  Okay, so you liked Mizdirection in the Turf Sprint and you loved her 20-1 morning line. Then the odds flashed on the toteboard and she was the favorite. A bad line? Not really. Though 10-1 was more realistic, what happened was that Mizdirection was owned by popular sports talk host Jim Rome, whose “Jungle” is inhabited by a legion of loyal fans.

ROME CELEBRATES MIZDIRECTION'S WIN

TS-Rome-Smith

There’s no doubt Rome’s fans brought the win price down to a smaller than expected $15.80, and that wasn’t the first time that a win price was skewered by something that does not appear in a horse’s past performances. Sorry, but If a male jockey rode Pants On Fire in the 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1), instead of Rosie Napravnik, there’s no way that horse goes off as the second choice.

While there’s little that can be done in these instances, more times than not the biggest chunk of cash comes from win bets. These novice gamblers tend to focus on win bets and there’s usually more realistic value in the exotics or multi-race wagers.

As proof, the exacta with Mizdirection over the favored Unbridled’s Note returned a cool $80.20 for $2, while the double with Tapizar and Mizdirection brought back a hefty $364, a higher price than the parlay.

Now if a horse owned by Jay-Z and Beyonce pops up at next year’s Breeders’ Cup, you should know what to do.

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

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