Monday, May 17, 2010

Betting North American 2 year olds

Not everyone likes betting on 2 year olds. These types of races have few horses with starters in them (in fact many races are filled with first time starters - 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 2 year olds every year. I have a basic method that combines QUANTITATIVE and QUALITATIVE analysis of experienced runners and FTS.

(1) Trainer stats - some trainers are very successful winning with a FTS. Most data services will provide this information. A guideline I use is a trainer that can win with 14% of his FTS is a threat to win with a FTS in today's race.

(2) Pedigree information - I uses's products a lot, and they are really effective at identifying which horses have a pedigree to "win early" in its 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. A higher percentage of winners from FTS, the more likely the combination produces a quick juvenile. 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.

(1) Workout Pattern - I look at the initial work first, to see if the horse "breezed" well. 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 worktab. Lastly, I want to see some 4 furlong bullet or near bullet works mixed in with some 5 furlong works for stamina.

(2) Trainer touches - some trainers have a special move getting young horses ready to race. Steve Asmussen has two notable moves - any FTS he trains that breezes 5 furlongs in 1:01 3/5 or less in its worktab is most likely a serious runner, and he works a LOT of horses at Sam Houston, even ones he unleashes at Saratoga in July and August.

(3) 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 year or two back 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.

(4) Kentucky-trained 2 year olds at Saratoga - usually the older, arguably classier Belmont-based horses win more than their fair share at Saratoga, compared to the Kentucky horses (Steve Crist of tracks this on his blog every year). However, the Kentucky-trained 2 year olds win quite often and should be considered a threat in every 2 year old race at the Spa.

(5) Number of starts - 2 year old horses that don't break their maidens by their third start are huge under performers at the windows. They 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."

(6) First year sires - look for "hot new sires" that are getting winners, especially sires that are getting GOOD PRICES. Paying attention to successful sires would have put a player on Wildcat Heir in 2009 and Medaglia d'Oro (Rachel Alexandra's sire) in 2008. A sire that I think has a lot of potential for 2010 is Bluegrass Cat.

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