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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 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 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.


Let’s take a look back at Saturday’s Wise Dan Stakes (G2), Sunday’s Debutante Stakes, and Friday’s salty conditional allowance, all run at Ellis Park.


Fading Deep Closers at Short Prices 


With just three wins in his last ten starts, the 7-year-old deep closer Set Piece went off as the even-money favorite in the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) at Ellis Park on Saturday. That’s a short price for a horse who needs a lot of racing luck to get the right trip. 


Deep closers on the turf who come from last to first are up against it in three ways:

  1. They often go widest in the final turn to find open running room for their late kick, losing ground and running further than their competition,
  2. They often encounter trip trouble in the homestretch trying to navigate a path through a swarm of foes shifting lanes, tiring, or beating them to a spot, and
  3. If the pace doesn’t heat up early on in the race, then the forward horses have the energy left to produce a late kick as well.


Besides a class edge and a last-out win, two other factors tipped bettors’ money in Set Piece’s direction. Brad Cox’s horses get bet hard–the top trainers always do. Of the field, Set Piece was the only “horse racing household name.” Markets often reflect biases, where a bettor places more confidence in a horse’s probability of winning than they deserve. In this case, I’d argue it was based on their familiarity with the horse and the classy company it has kept. 


At 46-1 Stitched won the Wise Dan for trainer Greg Foley. The front runner Get Smokin, who had an easy lead, held on for second at 4-1. The exacta paid $609 on a $2 bet. Set Piece ran well but didn’t get up in time and finished third. We want to bet against underlay favorites who are deep closers just about every time. 


Overhyped, Unproven Sires


Last year it was Always Dreaming’s first crop. This year, all signs point to Mitole as being the overhyped, overbet, and underachieving sire we want to play against. 


Let’s start with Always Dreaming’s freshman crop. Racing 179 times they only won 13 times (7%). Of the 62 horses who made it to the starting gates, only 1 got it done at first asking. Sired by a Kentucky Derby winner, there were high expectations signaled in the purchase prices and at the windows. 


Mitole was described by his trainer Steve Asmussen as being the fastest horse in training and he backed that statement up with wins on our sport’s biggest stages, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. 


So far, Mitole’s progeny are 42-1-11-5. Disappointing to say the least. So far the lone winner from the freshman crop has been V V’s Dream, and she was sent off as the 2-5 favorite in Sunday’s Debutante Stakes at Ellis Park. She lost to fellow second-time starter Brightwork, sired by Outwork, whose 2-year-olds have won 15% of their races. 


Let’s keep betting against Mitole’s first crop until they begin to prove otherwise.


Non-winners Bet to Favoritism


Call it seconditis, call them social runners, call it bad racing luck. Whatever you call it, don’t bet them.


Your So Sillea is a perfect example. Entered in the second race on Friday’s card, a conditional allowance, she was made 5-2 in the morning line. At post time, they had bet her down to 6-5 against a tough field. Why?


Your So Sillea had many of the hallmarks of a deserving favorite: 

  1. Recent bullet workouts,
  2. Recently lost to a horse who won its next race,
  3. Consistently runs strong speed figures as good as or better than the field, and
  4. Being the track handicapper’s top pick.


With a lifetime record of of 2 wins and 5 seconds in 11 races, the 4-year-old trained by Phillip Sims had finished second in four out of her last five races. On paper she showed signs of being in top form, but she had no wins to prove it. 


After vying for the lead on the outside, she tracked the front runners and faded to a disappointing fourth. At 5-1 the lightly raced, last-out winner Non Violence dominated to finish in first by six lengths. The five-time winner Joke Sisi finished second.  


We want to bet against a horse who doesn’t win but looks strong enough on paper to fool the public.

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