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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Handicapping: When a trainer speaks without saying a word

This past weekend, we witnessed quite a few upsets in various Stakes races.  Fortunately, I was able to cash on a few of them by trying to get into the trainer's head.  Why would this trainer enter this horse in this race?  One of these races was at Keeneland while two were at Oaklawn.

Hard Not To Like failed to fire in the 2013 edition of the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland, but this year she pulled off the upset at 13.5/1.  The question of why would this trainer enter this horse in this race was asked in my head while handicapping this race.  We'll use Today's Racing Digest Data Lines below.
The big thing that popped out for me was her comeback win vs. NW3 Optional Claimers at Gulfstream Feb 28.  That suggested that the time off did her very well and that she was doing so well that trainer Michael Matz decided to give her another chance at this race.  The fact that Javier Castellano was in the irons strengthened my reasoning that this mare had Matz thinking she had a big chance of winning today.  Below were my actual bets from Twin Spires: 

Me being the huge bettor I am only had $2 to win on Hard Not To Like which paid $29.00.  I also played two Exacta's with what I thought were the other contenders in the race, Stephanie's Kitten and Centre Court, with Hard Not To Like in second.  I also played Double's using the other two contenders with two longshots in the next race and three Double's keying Hard Not To Like with three in the next race.  My three horses finished 1-2-4 in the next race with Dance With Fate winning completing my Double that paid $193.70. 

At Oaklawn, I had been waiting for Ride On Curlin to run back after his 3rd in his last start after a brutal ride March 15.  I was hoping he would receive a rider switch for the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn and he did to Jon Court.  Ride On Curlin was listed at 12/1 on the morning line, but I knew he would only be about half that.  Since Oaklawn does not have rolling Double's, I tried a Pick 3 with multiple horses in the first two legs and singling Ride On Curlin.

In the first leg, there was a Bob Baffert trainee who was working fast and seemed well meant and went off favored.  Another caught my eye and that was Street Story.

Street Story won a similar event Jan 10 and didn't fire in a similar route Feb 1.  She went off favored in a NW2 Allowance sprint March 16 and was a pace factor only.  Why would Steve Asmussen now jump this filly back up in class off a poor race?  I was hoping she would be ridden the way she was in her Jan 10 win with a stalking trip and that was what happened.  I played her to win and backed her up in the Exacta with four other runners on top.  She rallied for the win at an amazing 14/1 and paid $30.60.

As for my wagers, I did like the Baffert filly and Street Story so I used them two in both of my Pick 3 tickets.  I keyed these two in one and went five deep in another which included my two keyed runners (#2 and #4).  

The middle leg included heavy favorite Will Take Charge.  I thought he was a "must use" along with Prayer For Relief.  There was another horse that I found interesting and he looked similar to Hard Not To Like.

Carve came back a winner vs. NW2 Optional Claimers March 9 and his record at Oaklawn was impressive.  He was way up in class, but I thought he had a shot at the upset.  Carve made a nice move along the rail entering the stretch and may have had a brief lead, but he just could not hold off two other runners in a roughly-run stretch drive.  Will Take Charge won at 2/5 with Revolutionary rallying for 2nd.  I was hoping Carve would hold 2nd as I did place the Exacta with Will Take Charge on top.  Anyways, I was alive with both of my Pick 3 tickets to Ride On Curlin which was my goal all along.  

Ride On Curlin would rally for 2nd in the Arkansas Derby at 7/1 which killed my Pick 3.  However, I have learned over the years that upsets do happen.  I have also learned from handicapper Steve Fierro that betting a horse to Place is not the right thing to do.  He told me that you will hit more Exactas by betting your horse in the bottom of the Exacta with other contenders on top instead of a Place bet.  Since I was not going to let a huge bomb beat me, I placed an All with Ride On Curlin Exacta.  

The winning Exacta paid $280.70 for just a $1 bet.  Now, who was this longshot that won?

Talk about overlooked.  Danza would go off at 41/1 and win by nearly five lengths.  This horse did finish a good 3rd in a Grade 2 last year and now he was asked to route in a $1 million race off just one race this year.  Trainer Todd Pletcher may have just been taking a shot with this colt or it could be he knew the horse would love the distance.  Either way, Pletcher has won quite a few Derby preps over the years and this one should have received more respect at the windows even if he did not win the race as Pletcher was quietly speaking "this horse has a huge chance today". 

Keeping in mind that these type of horses do not win every time, but there is a reason why they pay well as what a trainer is quietly speaking is not exactly translated on paper.  There are many factors as to why a trainer would enter a particular race.  It could be they think their horse is doing very well, it might like today's distance, it might like today's surface and on and on.  Ask yourself a few of these questions when you see a horse that doesn't seem to belong in this particular race.  It could help you find more of those high-priced winners we are all looking for. 

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