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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 (July 8)

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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 at the weekend’s races to find the kinds of races that trick the public time and again. The better we get at recognizing these, the better we’ll get at capitalizing on the public’s mistakes.


Barely Lost to Today’s Favorite (but Twice the Price) 


It happens a lot. A horse who won a recent common race with others in the field is bet like a sure thing while a horse who finished within striking distance in that race is overlooked. 


In Saturday’s $100,000 Dash at Horseshoe Indianapolis, the public bet Henrietta Topham to lukewarm 5-2 co-favoritism, along with two others. In her last race Justify My Love finished half a length shy of Henrieta Topham but no, Justify My Love was not one of the co-favorites. The 6-year-old trained by Paulo Lobo was let go at 12-1. 


Justify My Love won, beating Lovely Princess by a half-length and Henrietta Topham by 2 1/2.


Let’s look closer at Henrietta Topham. After beating Justify My Love in June at Churchill Downs, she won the Mint Julip (G3), running back to her previous fastest Beyer speed number, as well as her previous top Thoro-Graph figure. At five-years-old, though not impossible, it was improbable she would post a stronger effort. But there she was in the market being bet like one out of every four times a horse in her form would run a career-best next-out effort.


Obviously competitive with the best in the field, and coming into the race with fresh legs, Justify My Love’s upside was there to go with her price. Betting overlooked horses out of common races is a better handicapping angle for finding value that will keep you in the black as a horseplayer in the long run. 


How Many Steps Forward Can One Horse Take In a Row?


Ask around and you’ll hear: it is unlikely a racehorse will take more than three steps forward in a row. But at 2-1 the public gave Mission of Joy a 33% chance that she would take her fifth step forward on Saturday in the $500,000 Belmont Oaks (G1). Thinking probabilistically can help you to recognize horses who are being bet down below logical odds, which in turn floats other horses up in value. These are good races to attack. 


In a field of nine classy 3-year-old fillies, only one had attempted the 1 1/4 miles distance for this turf race. Mission of Joy was not one of them. She found herself in a good position rating in third but Graham Motion’s 4-time winner fought TGaff in the irons, and faded to seventh.


The 15-1 Irish-import Aspen Grove was much the best. Trained by Tommy Stack and his son Fozzy, this daughter of Justify won by a commanding 3/4 length, improving off her race two back, and proving her trainer Fozzy right that her last race was a toss. This filly has talent and word is we’ll see her again this summer either at Saratoga or Del Mar. 


Equipment Change


A bullet workout after an equipment change is a nice handicapping angle to help find a horse who could be in sneakily good form not present in the running lines. However, when that horse is taking a lot of money, we should consider looking in other directions.


Take Moon Cat in Race 7 on Saturday at Ellis Park who did just that after trainer Christopher Davis took the blinkers off. Prior to Saturday, she had finished a combined 36 lengths back over her last four races. But if her form was there, then why was Davis dropping her down for a tag after trying stakes company in her latest outing? Even running her in a graded stake three races back.


Facing a field of nine and bet down to 9-5, Moon Cat crossed the finish line two lengths back in second but was disqualified and placed seventh. In a wide-open race, Trigger Happy was made 7-1 for his first try on the turf, and he got the win. 


If these two swapped prices, Moon Cat would have been a good bet to win. It is so important to remember which handicapping angles are appealing for finding a sneaky angle on a horse at long odds and to get off backing those same horses when they are bet to short odds.

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