Photos by Eclipse Sportswire
The general sports media might have lost focus on Belmont Park after Tonalist won the last leg of the Triple Crown. But for me, Belmont is my home track and as one who runs a public handicapping service, I see the post-Belmont Stakes period as a time to intensify our focus rather than dial it back.
What I want to cover with you today are some recent longshots winners at Belmont and discuss how we can apply the lessons learned to pick winners in the racing days leading up to the close of the meet on July 13.
In the period after the Belmont Stakes (beginning on Sunday, June 8) and running through June 26, there have been eight horses at Belmont who have won races at a price of $20 or higher. Four of those horses are going to draw our attention here.
Let me first tell you the basis for eliminating four of the eight winners. Three of them—Half Wildcat (June 14, Race 5), Blue Sixty Four (June 19, Race 6) and Winnitude (June 25, Race 9) won at a price of $40 or more. If you had any of these horses, congratulations. But there’s just no guarantee of prices quite this high continuing to come in.
The fourth horse we eliminated is International Star (June 21, Race 1). This was a debut race and we naturally have no track record to use as a basis for future comparisons.
There are four others though that can give us some insights. Here they are, along with what sort of résumé they brought into the race that they won …
Chasintheblues (June 12, Race 9, $32.00)
His career began in August 2013 with a sixth-place finish at Monmouth Park. Then last fall at Belmont, two races produced a fourth- and a third-place finish. When New York racing shifted to Aqueduct, he seemed to be on the rise — three races saw continuous improvement, going from fifth to third to second. Then his last two at the Big A ended with seventh-place finishes. The return to Belmont for the spring saw him finish fourth on May 16 in the start that preceded his win on June 12.
Sushan (June 13, Race 4, $21.40)
A 3-year-old filly who just started running at Gulfstream Park this February, she opened with two third-place finishes. That was followed by some regression with a fifth and an eighth. A trip north to Monmouth Park resulted in a second-place finish on May 17, prior to her win at Belmont.
Saturday Appeal (June 13, Race 9, $22.40)
Whoever said Friday the 13th was unlucky? It wasn’t for horseplayers at Belmont, who got two big winners on this day. Saturday Appeal had a considerable track record entering the race, 26 starts total prior to June 13.
His six races in 2012 produced three times in the top three and an average finish of slightly higher than fourth. The following year did not go quite as well — there were 14 races total and while there were a couple wins, there was only one other instance of him finishing in the money. What’s more, both wins came in the first half of the year, which further accentuates the regression theme.
The first half of 2014 went a bit better. There were six races prior to the win at Belmont and two second-place finishes.
Plated (June 19, Race 5, $23.20)
Another horse that began his career in 2012, although prior to his win on June 19 he had only run 13 races in total. His six starts of 2012 produced only one second-place finish, and 2013 didn’t start a lot better with a fifth-place finish.
Then a series of races at Delaware Park, Laurel Park and Foxfield, extending to this past April, seemed to provide a spark. Four times in the money and never worse than fourth. That led up to his first career win on June 19.
A PATTERN WITH LONGSHOTS CAN PROVIDE GOOD VALUE
I would submit to you that the common theme of these four horses is one where they seem to be regressing significantly — not just one bad run, but a bad series of runs. This regression is what allows them to get value at the betting window. This is followed by a spark of life — just enough to give us a reason to bet them, but not so much that it takes away the value.
The pattern is not exact, but given that there have been 119 races at Belmont from June 8 to June 26 and only eight of them (less than 7-percent) have produced winners in excess of $20, we’re not after an exact pattern.
Furthermore, I do not mean to imply that the four horses above are the only ones in the 10-to-1 to 15-to-1 range who fit the “Regression-Followed-By-A-Spark-Of-Life-But-Not-Too-Much” theme. There were horses that did fit the pattern and lost.
That’s why I can’t emphasize enough that this is to provide a starting point — not a finishing point — to real handicapping. All of us need to dig deeper into the past performances, analyze the speed figures, watch video and do the other important elements of winning handicapping.
But that work gets a little more manageable if you have a starting point, and I hope that’s what I’ve been able to offer you today. That’s the approach we’ll be taking at the Jim Hurley Network for the rest of the Belmont meet, including our usual extra-intensive focus on closing week.
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