Talk to any two serious handicappers and inquire about their
betting strategies, and I can almost assure you that their angles will be more
different than alike. Some bet the trainer, others the jockey, another will
look for recent improvement, and still another may just bet the horse because
they like its name or think it’s pretty. As for me, my favorite angles are
record over the given track and record at the given distance. Usually, that
works pretty well for me, and if I had stuck to my guns concerning this angle,
I would have hopped off the Data Link
bandwagon quicker than a rat scurrying from a chicken.
I like Data Link, and really, how I could I not? He has a
nice Grade 1 win over the likes of Get Stormy, Turallure, and Doubles Partner.
He recently gave Wise Dan a run for the winner’s share of the purse in the
Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes. But in regards to the G3 Poker Stakes yesterday, there
was one glaring fact that I should not have overlooked: Data Link had not even
hit the board in his two prior starts at Belmont Park. I still managed to talk myself past that, though, because in both
starts at Belmont, he had raced over a yielding course and a soft course. He’s
0 for 2 at Belmont, but both starts were over soft going and he hasn’t raced at
Belmont since 2011, so with a firm course, he can win this. At least, that
was my oh so logical reasoning.
In every other way, Data Link was the obvious choice on
paper. He had the graded stakes wins against top competition. He had Javier
Castellano in the irons and Kentucky Derby winning trainer Shug McGaughey as
his conditioner. He was even dropping in class, so to speak, from his prior
start to this one. Everything screamed “pick me” except that pesky poor track record over the course.
I will admit to giving winner King Kreesa a very close look based on his record at Belmont, but I
ultimately passed on him because I was not impressed with the quality of the
fields he had beaten. The same thing goes for Lubash and Upgrade, who I was
obviously right to pass on due to their finish positions.
Here is where I really start to kick myself, though. I
handicapped the G3 Jersey Shore Stakes in the exact same way in which I
handicapped the Poker, right down to looking at course records at Monmouth.
Anyone want to take a guess at who I chose as the winner for that race? If you
said Rainbow Heir, then you are
absolutely correct. Despite only 3 career starts (even though he was and still
is undefeated) and the class hike, I picked him because he was the only
contender in the field that had previously raced at Monmouth. I really wanted
to go with Uptown Boy or Whiskey Romeo because of their prior achievements, but
I just could not look past the one advantage that Rainbow Heir had on them all.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and I cannot think of any one
statement that holds more truth. Looking back on yesterday’s handicapping, it’s
easy to say that I should have stuck with what had previously worked for me
rather than being seduced by the most accomplished horse on paper. You should
always listen to your gut instinct, but you should also remember that sometimes
the best horse on paper will lose, and will do so for no other reason than for
a lack of affinity for the track no matter how “weak” the competition is. Lesson