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HomeHorse RacingThey Didn’t Know: a weekly look back at horses that fooled the...

They Didn’t Know: a weekly look back at horses that fooled the public (Aug. 1)

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If we want to score big at the races, we need to know when the public’s money is on the wrong horse. When we are confident in our opinion, we should be confident at the windows–no matter where the public’s money is going. This column is all about looking back to find the kinds of horses that trick the public time and again. 


Tuesday at Ellis Park 


Tuesday’s 9-race card at Ellis Park was comprised of seven maiden races. The Late Pick 5 paid $23,274 on 50 cents. The Early Pick 5 paid $2,411. Let’s brush up on some angles for picking the winner in races where none of the horses have ever won, a.k.a maidens.


Beware Class Droppers


Dropping in class is when a horse is entered into a race with a smaller purse than the prior race. The common line about a horse who is dropping in class is that they will win because they are now facing easier competition. The logic is that the best horses will be entered in the richest races, so each purse level gets viewed as a talent level. 


Instead of seeing a class dropper as the most talented runner in the field, we can understand where a trainer enters their horse as a signal for how the horse is doing. When moved down the ladder it likely means the horse is not doing as well as it was when the trainer saw fit to enter them for higher purses. Why would we want to put money on a horse that is not doing as well as they were last race? We don’t.


Race 1: $16,000 Maiden Claiming going 1 1/16 miles on the turf


Who’d they like? A lot of the early action was on #1 Take It South who went off 3-1, but the morning line oddsmaker got it right and #10 Goldcrest went off as the 5-2 favorite. Both had raced five times and both were exiting the maiden special weight level, where the purses are higher and a horse cannot be claimed, i.e. purchased. Today they would be facing “easier.”


On the other hand we had #8 My Blue Valentine. Making just her third start, she debuted in a $100,000 maiden claimer at Churchill Downs which is a signal that J.F. Hill Jr. had confidence this filly could fair alright against quality older maiden fillies and mares. Next out Hill entered My Blue Valentine at Belterra Park in a $16,000 special weight. She ran considerably faster, a positive sign, and it was her first try on turf. Back to Kentucky where the winner of Race 1 on Tuesday would get $31,250, My Blue Valentine was entered with a price tag, but was moving up in class–a positive signal. She attracted the hottest turf jockey in the colony, another positive signal, and went off at 11-1, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. 


The two top choices finished 7th and 8th.


Payouts: $100.02 exacta, $1,519.02 trifecta, and $12,376.20 superfecta (all with $1 base bet). 


Surface and Distance 


The Late Pick 5 on Tuesday at Ellis Park paid $23,274. Only five tickets had all five winners, even though the 8-5 favorite trained by Todd Pletcher won the get-out leg. Even though the 2-1 Wesley Ward freshman won the first leg. Even though the 2-1 second choice wired the field in the fourth leg. So what happened for it to pay out so much? 


The key to picking the winners of Race 6 and Race 7 at Ellis Park was simply remembering surface and distance. Looking at the recent form of both winners–how fast they went and whether they were able to win or at least put forward a solid effort–yeah, I see why bettors didn’t cut in line to back either at the windows. But if you take more than a cursory glance, you see that what might be mistaken for poor recent form could actually be situations where they had been racing on the wrong surface and distance. The surface horses run and the distances they go affect whether or not they’re able to put forward their top effort. 


Race 6: $70,000 Maiden Special Weight going 6 furlongs on the dirt


#4 Pat’schromecompass had raced twice. He debuted at 5 1/2 furlongs, as many do, and ran second with a solid speed figure. Next out, he went long on the turf and ran well for the first half of the race but not the second, dropping from third to tenth and 20 lengths back. He got some rest before Robert O’Connor cut him back to 6 furlongs and put him back on dirt. Yep, that’s the sweet spot, as he won by 1 1/2 lengths at $25.31-1. 


Trainers are always trying to find the best spots for their horses, and especially early on, you’ll see them experimenting. When there’s value in it, take a swing with a horse returning to the surface and/or distance where they have been most impressive.


Race 7: $70,000 Maiden Special Weight going 1 1/16 miles on the turf


Race 7 was unlocked with the same handicapping angle. #12 Autism Community had raced six times but had not been on the turf since December 2022 when she ran a field-best Beyer figure going one mile in her second career start. Field best, meaning she could be considered the fastest filly in Race 7. So she was the favorite, right? 


The new addition to Jeff Engler’s barn returned to maiden special weight company after running against maiden claimers last out, a positive signal that the horse is doing well, and she returned to the grass. Talamo kept her in the back until the far turn and then passed nine foes to win by a length at 18.18-1. 


Maybe you don’t play Pick 5s, but how about the Daily Double payout? $202 on a $1 wager for taking a gamble that these two would run back to efforts produced under similar circumstances. 


Remember it’s not that these angles work every time. When we see the public is sleeping on horses like these, that’s when we want to attack.

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