Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
Horses dropping in class pose one of the biggest headaches for handicappers.
What looks so good on paper can sometimes be utterly misleading. As much as racing for a cheaper claiming tag equates to easier competition, the drop could also be reflective of declining form.
Choosing between the two can be problematic and demands a thorough examination of the evidence contained in past performances.
In the ninth race at Belmont Park on Saturday, May 17, Sayler’s Creek was entered in a $25,000 claiming race after running third in an allowance race at Keeneland in his previous start.
At first glance, the class drop seemed worrisome. After losing by a length and a quarter in a $59,000 allowance race, why would his connections drop him into a claimer and risk losing him?
The answer might be found in Sayler’s Creek’s two previous races. They were a pair of $16,000 claimers at Gulfstream, which he won.
Considering that trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey had claimed Sayler’s Creek last October for $20,000 and already had three wins in claimers and a pair of seconds in allowance races from him, the drop into a $25,000 claimer did not seem that drastic – especially since the May 17 claimer was worth a hefty $47,000.
Weighing all the evidence, the $25,000 claimer seemed a nice spot and that the drop was more likely because of a desire to win a race rather than unload a horse.
That notion was reflected in Saylor’s Creek’s 8-5 odds and handicappers who did their homework and scrutinized the gelding’s past performances were treated to a length and a half victory and $5.20 payoff.
THE LESSON: Class drops can arouse suspicion but a thorough check of a horse’s past performances can often explain away any reasons for concern.
SAYLOR'S CREEK'S PAST PERFORMANCES SINCE THE CLAIM