The old saying is that the third time is the charm, but sometimes it only takes two.
It’s the second time around, not the third, that pays off.
For handicappers, a prime example of that notion can be found in Collaborator, who ran in the fourth race at Saratoga on Aug. 12.
A 3-year-old colt, Collaborator had a limited body of work heading into the mile turf race for New York State-bred maidens. He had started just three times, the first two coming when he was two. In both of them, a pair of 5 ½-furlong sprints on dirt, he finished out of the money, coming no closer to the lead than four lengths at any of the points of call in the race.
It took Collaborator 11 months to return to the races after his last start at two and when he did he was entered in a mile and a sixteenth state-bred maiden race on turf.
Running on a new surface in the longest race of his career, Collaborator showed a new dimension as he led for much of the race. Sent off at 11-1 odds, he was still second at the eighth pole until fatigue set in and he faded to seventh.
This was clearly a different Collaborator.
Five weeks later, Collaborator was once again entered in a two-turn state-bred maiden race on the grass, only this time it was at a mile.
Some, perhaps most, might have thought that Collaborator would need another start to reach peak form as he was priced at 12-1 in the morning line and sent off at 8-1.
But it was the second try that was the charm.
Benefitting from the conditioning he gained in his comeback race, Collaborator showed he was best-suited by a two-turn grass race. He used his new-found turn of speed to take the lead at the start and never looked back, winning by 1 ½ lengths and paying $18.20.
THE LESSON: Don’t always wait for the third time to be the charm. Sometimes two will do the trick.