Friday, July 5, 2013

A method for attacking races with lightly raced horses

Not everyone likes betting on lightly raced horses in maidens or allowance races. These types of races have few horses with starts under them (in fact many races are filled with First Time Starters – a.k.a. FTS), and evaluating pedigrees of race horses can confound experienced players, much less the novice fan. Despite these challenges, I can attest I do very well playing lightly raced horses every year. I have a basic method that combines QUANTITATIVE and QUALITATIVE analysis of experienced runners and FTS. Lightly raced runners - QUANTITATIVE FACTORS (1) Trainer stats - some trainers are very successful winning with a FTS. Winning trainers will have developed a “winning pattern” to get their horses ready to win. Most data services in the States will provide this information to punters. A guideline I use is a trainer that can win with 14% of his FTS is a solid threat to win with a FTS in today's race. (2) Pedigree information - I uses's Ultimate Past Performances, and they are really effective at identifying which horses have a pedigree to "win early" in their first or second start. Using's data I can identify if a sire (father of the runner) and damsire (father of the MOTHER of the runner) both produce 14% winners or more from FTS. The higher a sire’s percentage of winners from FTS, the more likely the combination produces a quick firster. Another stat I look at is the dam (mother of the runner). If a dam has produced 50% or greater 2yo winners from 2yo starters that also implies today's runner could be quick. Lastly, a good rule of thumb for "win early" breeding is look for a sire and damsire that both had sprinter/miler speed when they raced. 2YO RACES - QUALITATIVE FACTORS (1) Workout Pattern – To me, workout pattern of any lightly-raced runner is the key to determining the type of runner a horse is (early speed, mid-pack, or back marker), and how fit the horse in question really is. I look at the initial work first, to see if the horse "breezed" well. Usually a North American-trained horse makes his first breeze at three furlongs (600m). I want to see a decent time. A good initial breeze would be 36 3/5 or faster, but 37 1/5 would be OK. This demonstrates that the FTS has some talent. Then, the FTS should work every 6 to 7 days, leading up to race day with NO BREAKS in its work tab. If there is a break in the work tab either the horse may be lacking in fitness or may have had a training mishap. Lastly, I want to see some 4 furlong (800m) works in 48 seconds or faster works mixed in with some 5 furlong works (1000m) for stamina. I consider it a strong negative if a horse shows ONLY fast workouts. Very often, these horses are hard to control and they “pull” against the exercise rider in the mornings, and it is likely they will do the same thing in the afternoons. Ironically, these types of runners take a lot of public money, because they are “fast!” But alas, most likely too fast to last, it seems. Here was the workout pattern for a nice 5/1 FTS winner named Anusara who won a $50,000 Maiden Claimer (all horses were up for sale from $45,000 to $50,000) going 1300m in Race 8 on May 19, 2013 at Churchill Downs. The purse was $25,701 (maiden races where there is no claiming price run for a much higher purse - $50,000). Anusara won by 5 and ¼ lengths. Feb 27 3f 38.0 seconds (first career work) Mar 7 3f 36.8 sec (Note the quick second breeze) Mar 17 3f 36.0 sec (even faster) Mar 26 4f 48.4 sec (very nice) Apr 8 4f 49.6 sec (stamina work) Apr 22 5f 62.6 sec (stamina work) May 1 4f 48.6 sec (work out of the gate) May 10 4f 48.0 sec (best speed work yet – also out of the gate) In North America the Form has to include every work for lightly raced horses. In the “olden days,” the Form only included a horse’s last four works, which would be incomplete, at best. It is easy to see that reviewing the Anusara’s work pattern, from the START of the workout cycle, indicated she was ready to win and was a must use in the exotics. 5/1 on this kind of horse is OK, but I was able to bet some exotics that hit after Anusara won her race. I should add that Anusara’s works were not every 6 or 7 days, so this would not be ideal. Note Anusara was entered against claiming maidens, so it might be inferred that she needed those extra days to recover between works and/or may have some soundness issues. The same day, I used a three year old filly, a once-raced runner named Intelyhente, who last ran November 24, 2012 at CD on the grass, showing some early dash before being beaten by 12 lengths. Not a very auspicious debut. The level was straight maidens – a $50,000 purse. The pedigree was good for grass (Smart Strike out of a Boundary mare) and the price was right (8/1 on the morning line and 6/1 when she won by going “over the top”). The race distance was 1800m. Here was here workout pattern: Apr 7 4f 50.0 sec (first work back) Apr 13 4f 49.2 sec (stamina work) Apr 20 5f 63.4 sec (stamina work) Apr 27 4f 48.6 sec (speed work) May 4 4f 48.0 sec (speed work) May 14 5f 60.2 sec (speed work) Most of the works were EXACTLY seven days apart, meaning everything was going to plan and she was fit and well. The speed works put some speed into her. (2) Sales Prices - generally yearling sales prices are meaningless in trying to predict success in sprint baby races, so I would submit not using yearling prices as a benchmark. I can recall a 2yo MSW at Saratoga a few years ago where a $50,000 yearling THRASHED a $250,000 yearling. 2 year old buys, on the other hand, are extremely dangerous. Why? Because 2yo buys have another 6 to 8 months to develop, they are thoroughly vetted, and they have to work out under a STOPWATCH. Expensive 2 year old buys ($250,000 and up) almost always can run. Cheaper 2 year old buys ($50,000 to $245,000) often times can be overlooked at the windows and should be considered live animals. (3) Number of starts - Horses that don't break their maidens by their third start are huge under performers at the windows. They often tend to lose by narrow margins, so their odds will be low, but it is my experience you are better off with a horse making its first or second start than betting on a potential "career maiden."

Thursday, June 27, 2013


It's time for the Iowa Festival of Racing! And that means a few good horses running in shorts fields for great money. SATURDAY, JUNE 29 R6 Iowa Oaks (Restricted to 3yo Fillies). 8.5 furlongs. Grade 3. Purse $200,000. Picks: 3-10-2-5 This is is an interesting race as only one contestant, #10 FIFTYSHADESOFHAY, fits the race conditions on distance and class, but she drew the dreaded 10 post with a fairly short run into the first turn. She should go well but I think it would be a mistake to key her in the pick four because of the post. I'll put the #10 second. I am going to put #3 HITECHNOWEENIE on top. This horse appears to be "on the up" for the underrated Ken McPeek and her last two races have been fantastic. #2 SO MANY WAYS is owned by Des Moines resident/prominent ownwer Maggi Moss and this race has been the filly's target since her Fair Grounds experiment didn't go as planned. Maggi tells me that So Many Ways is feeling great and "looks happy," which makes her dangerous in this field. #5 GOLD MEDAL DANCER gets "blinkers on" after a solid Churchill route race that got a big figure. Could surprise. R7 Iowa Derby (Restricted to 3yo). 8.5 furlongs. Grade 3. Purse $250,000. Picks: 3-1 #3 BASHAAR is my bet of the night for me. The pace of the race should be quick and his jockey made a very premature move in his last race (June 1 Race 7 Prm if you want to watch it). Either of his last two dirt races wins Saturday night. #1 OUR DOUBLE PLAY will be asked for speed out of the gate, but I think he will settle second or third in the run, taking on #5 Manando at the 5/16th pole or so. This horse loves a fight and his form is best on an OFF TRACK - there is a 30% chance of rain for Saturday in the Des Moines area, so if the rains come his chances improve. #5 MANANDO has never won on regular dirt in three tries, losing ground badly in all three attempts. Also, in his only two career wins he had huge leads at the eighth pole (4 lengths in his maiden and 5 lengths in his 'one other than' allowance), so I am going to try an beat him and leave him off my pick 4. R8 Cornhusker Handicap (3yo and Up). 9.0 furlongs. Grade 3. Purse $300,000. Picks: 5-6-2-1 #5 PRAYER FOR RELIEF looked great winning the Iowa Derby two years ago...and hasn't won since. His speed figures are good and I see no reason to leave him off the ticket. #6 TAPTOWNE keeps running on the engine and putting up good speed figures. I have communicated with this trainer and he has been pointing for this race since mid-April. Would definitely not be a surprise with a win. Connections going with 'stable jock' Borel. #2 SILVER MAX ran away from outclassed turf horses on JUNE 1, but if you look at his career the horse seems to run better in the Midwest and his pedigree actually leans more to dirt than turf. Certainly can't eliminate in this spot. #1 NICKLAUS WAY is rounding into form and his dirt record is really pretty good (8-3-2-0). I am going to throw him into my pick 4 if the race falls apart with all the speed in the race. R9 Iowa-bred (3yo and up)$12,500n2L. 6.0 furlongs. Purse $18,720 Picks: 12-4 In these kind of sprint races, I want LIGHTYLY RACED horses with a relatively high win percentage (1 for 7 or better), that I think could go wire to wire. The best candidates I found were #12 DIXIE SURGE and #4 BLUE BOY BLUE. Usually there are no 'quality closers') at this level. PICK-4 ticket: 2,3,5,10/1,3/1,2,5,6/4,12 = $32 cost

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Late Pick 4 (R6-R9) - Prairie Meadows - Iowa Festival - June 28, 2013

It's time for the Iowa Festival of Racing! And that means a few good horses running in shorts fields for great money. R6 - Saylorville Stakes (Race restricted to Fillies and Mares) - Purse $100k This is a contentious field, with every horse having a chance. Most of the mares know only one way to go - to the lead! As such, I will go with classy midpack-running animal #5 BEAT THE BLUES as my top pick, as she can close off fast fractions. She likes to win too - 10 wins in 24 starts while racing in top company. #4 LIVI MAKENZIE and #3 LULU WONG would both appreciate it if the other horse wasn't in the race - they are both one-dimensional speed balls. But both are capable of winning. #1 SECOND STREET CITY intrigues me because she'll be a relatively high price and she's in great form. I will throw her in my pick 4. R7 - Iowa Distaff Stakes (Race restricted to Fillies and Mares) - Purse $100k I am lukewarm on #2 FLASHY AMERICAN. Her last race was dynamite, but it took her 18 starts to get through her "two other than" allowance condition. I am going to use her but I would not be surprised to see her defeated. #4 CRUZETTE is the speed of the race and will have to be caught. Her speed figures are good enough to contend and the trainer and jock hit at a 30% rate together. #7 QUEEN LILY KAY's speed and pace figures also put her in the mix if Flashy American falters. R8 - Iowa Sprint Handicap - Purse $125k In possibly one the the most significant owner/trainer switches since Seabiscuit (okay, may not that many years), #3 DELAUNAY has turned into a win machine, winning seven stakes in his last eight starts, running huge figures. #2 GENTLEMAN'S BET is nearly as good, showing four wins and a third in five starts. Should be a great race for all the fans who come watch Friday night. R9 1(1a is OK but I much prefer the #1)-8-5 PICK 4 Ticket ($36 for a 50 cent base wager) 1,3,4,5/2,4,7/2,3/1,5,8

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hi! I have been away for a while but it's great to be back. I will be going to Prairie Meadows for the Iowa Festival of Racing on June 28 and 29 so I will try to post some insightful analysis Thursday night. Cheers, Anthony Kelzenberg

Friday, February 17, 2012

Black Caviar "Backs Up" in the Lightning Stakes

Black Caviar "Backs Up"

Tonight, around 12:10 AM EST on Saturday morning FEB 18th in the U.S. (or 4:10 in the afternoon on the 18th in Melbourne, Australia), the unbeaten and largely untested BLACK CAVIAR will try to win her 19th "major circuit" race in 19 tries in a 1000 meter (nearly 5 furlong) Group One race called the Lightning Stakes. This would tie the Australian record, and would as also tie her with Zenyatta's 19 for 19 start before 'Zen' lost the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2010 to Blame. While that alone may be noteworthy, there are many particulars special to the the Australian racing scene that make tonight's race perhaps the only time she may lose in her career.

To understand Australian horse racing, one has to understand the effect of climate. In the summer the weather can get very, very hot - as hot as 120 Degrees Fahrenheit. And in the winter it can get super wet and rainy, leading to boggy tracks. Because of these extremes, the top-level horses are usually given two months off during the winter and two more months during the summer. Lesser horses are pointed to summer campaigns if they prefer harder tracks, or the winter if they prefer wet, heavy or slow tracks.

The main effect of these several 8 to 10 week breaks is twofold:

(1) Nearly all Australian horses start their campaigns coming off of long layoffs, usually in which they are not meant to be at peak fitness until the third or fourth race of their form cycle. As such, even the best horses are generally trained NOT to win their first race start off the form cycle, as trainers do not want to have their horses to peak too early. Too Black Caviar's credit, she has never lost off an extended layoff.

(2) When a trainer plots a horse's campaign, the distance to resume is usually SHORTER than a horse's best distance. As the horse proceeds with it's program, it is slowly stretched out in distance with the intent to peak in the third or fourth start.

The problem that Peter Moody, Black Caviar's trainer, has to deal with is how does he get Black Caviar FIT enough and TOUGH enough on a limited campaign of races in Australia to get her ready to compete with horses as talented as Frankel, who is the rated the top thoroughbred race horse in the world (Black Caviar is considered a close second). There are rumors coming out that Black Caviar, if fit enough, will run at Royal Ascot in in June 2012, either running in the Queen Anne stakes at a mile on opening day, or in Golden Jubilee at six furlongs six days later.

So how does this all affect Black Caviar tonight? Moody's original race preparation plan for Black Caviar was this sequence of races:

10 week break
1200m Group 2 - January 27th, 2012
1400m Group 1 - February 11th, 2012
1400m Group 1 - February 25th, 2012

Black Caviar won the Group 2 race and the Group 1 race on the 11th, BUT something strange happened. The 800m(nearly half-mile) split of the February 11th race was 51 and 3/5 fifths of a second!!! Really slow. Black Caviar did her thing and went the last 600 meters (nearly three eights of a mile) in 32 and 2 fifths without being hand ridden and won by three plus lengths. In Australia, all winning trainers and jockeys are interviewed by the media immediately after the race. Moody knew the race on February 11th was not strenuous enough to get Black Caviar ready for her European campaign, so he essentially announced a new conditioning plan, detailed below.

10 week break
1200m Group 2 - January 27th, 2012
1400m Group 1 - February 11th, 2012
1000m Group 1 - February 18th, 2012
1400m Group 1 - February 25th, 2012

The race in bold is the "new" race in the program, the Group 1 Lightning Stakes. The Lightning Stakes is generally considered the second-hardest sprint to win in Australia, and is usually won by Australia's best grass sprinters, which as a group are considered the best in the world in that category. Moody has hinted that he is largely doing this to get Black Caviar ready for Europe. Turning back in distance, especially on short rest, is something Black Caviar has never done. For people reading this article that are familiar with only North American form, this is a move similar to when Jackson Bend ran in the Kelso in October of 2011 at Belmont, and then was rerouted to the 2011 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs, where we showed little speed and finished a very well-beaten third as the favorite. While Black Caviar is a much better horse than Jackson Bend, the fact she rated so well in the February 11th race might mean she will not be "speedy" enough to win tonight, and at her expected odds of 1 to 9, I think the two logical horses to compete with her are Hay List and Foxwedge.

Hay List has run second to Black Caviar 4 times, having the lead in the stretch over her three of the four times they have met, but I have two speed figure sources that I use, and they both say Hay list is the second-fastest horse to run in Australia in the last 10 years. PLUS, his connections were pointing for this race. Fair Odds = 5/1.

Foxwedge is a horse that is still maturing and he ran a fantastic race down the straight at Flemington to just miss to Sepoy, who is considered another top sprinter in Australia. Foxwedge came from off the pace in his last race and I expect him do try these same tactics tonight. I think the race on March 10th, the Newmarket Handicap (which is worth more money and prestige), is ultimately Foxwedge's target, BUT if Black Caviar flounders he might be up to the task.
Fair Odds = 10/1

Monday, January 9, 2012

Identifying Class in Claiming races


Claiming Races - Multiple Winners
I think that claiming races are pretty easy to beat - especially claiming races for horses that have won TWO or more races in their careers. In this type of race, basically the horse(s) that have finished the best in their most recent races at the highest claiming levels are the logical contenders. The other horses to look for are ones that ran close to the pace early, faded somewhat late, and are now DROPPING in class. Often these horses can be competitive. For example, a horse that showed good early speed at the $20,000 level before fading into 4th or 5th could be a great bet when it runs back for $10,000.

Claiming Races - Non-winners of Two Races (N2L)
These races are very popular now, because they usually get big fields and allow horses to compete for a restricted claiming price. This is especially useful if they can't compete in allowance (non-claiming) company. Unlike claiming races for multiple winners, where the quality is usually well established, the results of these N2L races can be quite erratic. Keep in mind there may be four, five, or six horses capable of winning one of these events, so don't take a short price. Horses that are unable of hitting the board in an Non-Winners of 1 other than allowance race (NW1ot or NW1x) can "drop into" a N2L claiming race and actually be the horse to beat. Watch those droppers closely!

Maiden Claiming Races
I REALLY like maiden claiming races because a lot of horses are generally not placed at the correct level of competition and can be eliminated. The class horse(s) in the race are the ones DROPPING down in class. Remember dropping from a Maiden Special Weight, or MSW (where a horse can not be claimed) into a Maiden Claiming (MDC) race is a very significant drop! Some players consider the MSW to MDC drop the "biggest drop in racing." Otherwise, focus on horses that while not winning, are dropping in class from say $40,000 to $30,000. That is a significant drop. After evaluating the class droppers, look at first time starters, especially from barns that do well with horses entered in maiden claiming races. Lastly, as the claiming tag gets cheaper and cheaper, keep in mind the equine quality and reliability will also deteriorate. Any maiden claiming race at the $15,000 level and lower is eligible for a win by a big longshot.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Whose horse is it anyway?

"The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit."

-- Milton Friedman

A lot of racing topics are discussed on Facebook, but a certain thread took me aback today. The thread had to do with the announcement that Line of David, the longshot winner of the Gr. 1 2010 Arkansas Derby (defeating 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, among others), was retired and will stand at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky. What struck me as odd was how several contributors to the thread DESPISED this transaction, as if they had any input on the matter. I'll just show the content of the posts without the names.

#1: Yes he's (Line of David) one of the most non exciting prospects to enter stud in a long time.

#2: He'll be in Oklahoma or South America soon enough. Personally I would cut him (geld him. i.e. remove his testicles) and try to have a nice 4 year old...

#3: Either they thought he couldn't stay racing sound or thought he only had one Grade 1 win in him. Nothing else makes much sense. So . . .Line of David and Battle Plan with, what?, 13 wins between them. Three cheers for fragility.

#1: Until the industry rejects these "one hit wonders" they will continue to leave them intact and allow them to pass along their genes. "He won't stand for a lot" in other words if your mare has ovaries that have produced a runner you get the season for free..

Wow! I wonder how many Graded stakes winners #1, #2 and/or #3 have been involved with? Obviously they "know" what the racing industry needs. My thinking is they know little, except in their own "purple-skied" world. Certainly they know how to disparage other horses, owners, farms, etc.

This deal with Line of David and Spendthrift Farm was a deal made between consenting adults, and we have to assume that the deal was beneficial to all parties. The owners of Line of David probably got a multi-million dollar deal and get to stand their horse in Kentucky, where the best mares are. Spendthrift Farm got a very good looking speed sire with a solid Grade 1 win on his resume'. Line of David gets to meet a lot of female mares. This whole agreement has win-win-win all over it.

Now, #1, #2 and #3 are certainly UNHAPPY, but the beauty of the free market is they can breed to horses like Empire Maker for $60,000 a shot and hope the horse will break it's maiden before it turns five. The beauty of the free market (and in general the world's equine markets have very few restrictions besides capital requirements) is that people get to CHOOSE what they want to do. Please don't hate on people for choosing.