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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. 27)

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Social Runners


Let me rattle off two 2023 race records for two of the starters in Race 2 at Ellis on Sunday. (That’s a lot of 2s… awkward writing, I know, but too perfect for the point I want to make about not betting social runners to win). 


Sugoi: 5 starts 0 wins 3 seconds and 1 third. 

Kazan: 9 starts 0 wins 4 seconds and 3 thirds. 


These, my friends, are what we call social runners. They’re not out there trying to pull away from the crowd and win; they are out there simply content to run with the pack. Their head and heart is not in it to win it, as they say. Do not bet horses to win who have proven over several races that they are not in it to win it. Bet them underneath in your exactas and trifectas. 


Some people see horses with these stats and think, hey they are running well, just haven’t been able to seal the deal and get the win on decent efforts, so maybe today is their day. If you are getting a good price on them, then okay, maybe that could be a way to approach it, but Sugoi was the 3-5 favorite and Kazan the 7-2 second favorite. 


At 9-1 Mine Own Star proved yet again that a class hike can be a positive angle. Making his first start for Juan Cano after being claimed out of a $10,000 claiming race, Mine Own Star was entered for $25,000 on Sunday and won by over two lengths. Sugoi ran second and Kazan ran third. You could have bet Mine Own Star at 9-1 or you could have keyed him and the other two who were good prices in this six horse field over the two social runners for $3 on a 50-cent trifecta and gotten 10-1 as the trifecta paid $34.14.


Suspect Form


If you suspect that a horse’s form is not good, then don’t bet that horse (unless the odds are so good, it makes it worth it). Form is a way we talk about a horse being their best racing self. Most horses round in and out of form and you get a good sense for what their best is by seeing where they top out in their speed figures. There are some who stay in form race in race out, usually with big gaps between races to allow them to recover from their big efforts. Think of it like your performance in your job. Some weeks, man, you are killing it–loving what you do and it shows. Other weeks, well, you’re glad you did so well last week because if not, your boss would fire you in a heartbeat. Or maybe you just don’t have that pep in your step. Being in form is doing our best–out of form is when our efforts and mentality is, well, not as impressive.The same goes for race horses. 


One to nine. On Monday the public bet Insignia down to 1-9. One to nine means you believe if this race were run 100 times, this horse would win 90 of them. Flightline is a 1-9 horse. Insignia is a well-bred horse who has had issues, been unable to race much of her career, and entered into Monday’s contest with suspect form. How can we tell? Let’s take a closer look.


Making three starts as a 3-year-old between May and July 2022, she wasn’t able to return to the track in the afternoons for an entire year, and when she did she showed up at Ellis Park, not Saratoga where she had previously raced. Her trainer Brad Cox is a Kentucky man and he knows the purses are strong and you need to get a horse confidence to begin a campaign, so the Ellis placement didn’t bother me. What did was the fact that she ran slower in her first start as a 4-year-old then she did in her first start as a 3-year-old. Earning a 5 on ThoroGraph in her rail-skimming debut, she earned a 6.2 going 3-wide at Ellis in July. Now she drew off and was not asked through the wire, so there could be more there, but also, she had a perfect trip and was aided by a forward-favoring Ellis track. 


I get it–Brad Cox and Gerrardo Corrales have teamed up to win over 40% together this meet. That’s insane. Bettors start to believe some connections just can’t lose. They had won the race two back on the card, and if Insignia were to step forward off that last race, this was a slam dunk. If.


With 4-year-olds, I play the angle of improvement in their first three maybe four starts of the campaign often when the odds are right. There’s nothing right about 1-9. Specifically I look to play this angle as a way to find value–an improving horse that we have not yet seen the best from. There are no rules with all this, but you begin to gain a feel. 


Insignia fell into the category of a horse who had suspect form. She was surrounded by fillies who needed to step forward to beat her, but not by much. Fogo Island got it done. Making her fourth start for Paulo Lobo, who had a sensational Ellis meet as well, the $320,000 3-year-old daughter of Speightstown had won aided by a speed and rail bias last out in her first attempt at one mile, so I understand why bettors let her go at 11-1. I don’t understand why they didn’t cancel their win bets on Insignia at anything less than 2-1.

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