Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
As important as facts and figures may be in handicapping a horse race, there are times when logic can be your best friend.
While there’s no sure-fire way to determine how a horse will run as it descends in claiming price, applying logic to the situation can fill in some of the blanks.
A good example involved Denzel in the ninth race at Aqueduct on Dec. 11.
Denzel was coming off a runner-up finish in a $35,000 claimer and was now running for a $16,000 tag.
On one hand, he had a huge class edge and appeared to be the horse to beat.
On the other, after a good effort, why would his connections be willing to get $19,000 less for him if another owner dropped a claim slip? Was there a problem?
Since past performances do not list trainers’ cell phone numbers so they can report on their horses’ physical condition and their intentions in racing the horse at that level, logic can unlock valuable clues.
Why indeed was Denzel dropping so sharply?
If he had never raced at a similar level, the drop certainly would have been highly suspicious.
Yet in Denzel’s case, two starts earlier he had broken his maiden in a $20,000 claimer at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert.
Taking into consideration that Denzel had recently raced for $20,000, the drop to $16,000 company by trainer David Jacobson was not as drastic as it might have seemed. The best guess after seeing the highs and lows in his recent placements was that his connections wanted to return him to a winning level rather than give him away at a Black Friday-like discount.
If you bought into that notion, your reward was a $5.90 payoff as Denzel rallied from last in a field of 10 and won decisively in a highly logical result.
THE LESSON: In handicapping horses taking big drops in claiming price, do not rely solely on their class edge. Use some logic to determine whether it’s a fire sale or the proper placement.