Race of the Week 2017
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Handicapper's Corner

Practice? We Talkin' About Practice!?!?

When I first started writing for Horse Racing Nation, I envisioned blogging about how to help handicappers be successful, and how to be an artist at mixing the scientific components of racing to pick winners.  Not all handicapping axioms are tried and true for every situation in every race.  Handicappers need to be flexible and give more weight to certain factors, depending on the situation.  I do not have the keys to all the doors, no one does, but hopefully I can provide some new keys to help you unlock the doors to increased profits, and likewise.  I am hoping all the readers share little tidbits they like to look at as well, because all of us need to be evolving and flexible, just like this glorious game.  The examples I will be using going forward are from Brisnet.  As a long time user of the Daily Racing Form, I found Brisnet’s past performances/statistics just as easy to navigate through, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact me anytime.  Also, not all the examples are form winners I have selected.  As previously stated, nothing is 100%, but when you consider all strategies to solve a puzzle it becomes easier.   With that being said…….

PRACTICE! WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE!?!?  As with any professional athlete, practice makes perfect.   Analyzing workouts are difficult, since most of us are not there to watch them.  Private clockers will provide you with their observations, for a fee of course.   When I look at workouts, I am not so much worried about final times, as I am trying to decipher what the trainer is telling me with each workout.  Sure it is great to see a horse work 4 furlongs in 46 3/5 every time out, but what if the horse was strongly urged?  Wouldn’t it be better if a horse worked 48 & change under a tight hold?  Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s a negative to see a runner work in 52 seconds for 4 furlongs or 1:05 for 5 furlongs every time out.  I occasionally have to see a little pep in their step.

When handicapping a race, I constantly tell myself why is this horse in THIS race?  All capable trainers map out plans for their horses, regardless of racing level, so they can be at peak condition for competition.  Workouts are just 1 tool when preparing a runner, and since trainers tend to be creatures of habits, learning their workout patterns and looking for patterns in their runners is important.  Some patterns for high profile trainers include a slow 5-furlong workout for Bob Baffert first-time starters right before their debuts and long (6 furlongs & up), steady workouts for Richard Mandella runners returning from a layoff.  Let’s look at 2 runners from Breeders’ Cup Friday: Dayatthespa and Royal Delta.

Dayatthespa did not perform well in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, but looking at her workout pattern, she seemed like she was coming up to the race in good condition.  After her runner up finish in Woodbine’s Natalma Stakes, Dayatthespa was given a few weeks off and returned to Saratoga on 10/1 working 4 furlongs in 49 3/5 seconds breezing.  8 days later (10/9) she worked 5 furlongs at Belmont Park in 1:01 flat, 7 days later (10/16) worked 5 furlongs again at Belmont, 6 days after that (10/22) she worked  5 furlongs again firing a bullet in 1:03 4/5 over the turf.  Before leaving for Churchill Downs, Dayatthespa worked 5 days later (10/27) over the Belmont lawn.  See a pattern developing…8-7-6-5?  Though she did not hit the board, trainer Chad Brown had clearly mapped out a 5 week plan to try to get her to peak on Breeders’ Cup day.

It was no secret Royal Delta had been very impressive in her morning gallops leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, and was in fact the betting favorite in the race.  Most shippers invading Louisville for the Breeders’ Cup arrived about 1 week prior to the event.  Trainer Bill Mott brought all his contenders to Churchill about 1 month early to help them get better acclimated to the track.  This maneuver tipped gamblers off to the fact he meant serious business and it paid off in spades for Mott, who won the Ladies Classic with Royal Delta and the Classic with Drosselmeyer.  Though her times were not blazing Royal Delta’s work pattern signaled a top effort was in the making.  Once on the grounds, she breezed 4 furlongs in 48 4/5 seconds on 10/16.  7 days later she went 5 furlongs in 1:02 3/5 and 7 days after that she blitzed 4 furlongs in 47 4/5 seconds breezing.  Yet, another pattern signaling a peak effort.

The same day at Aqueduct, the 6th race was a New York-bred allowance/optional claiming race for fillies and mares going 6 furlongs.  Morning line favorite, #2 Spa City Lover (3-1) was coming off a victory at Belmont in a similar race (one class rung lower), so this slight class hike was warranted.  After her win on 9/28, Spa City Lover was off for 31 days before working an easy 4 furlongs in 51 seconds breezing at Saratoga on 10/29.  This was her only published activity between her victory and the race on 11/4.  Two questions come to mind when looking at Spa City Lover: 1. Why was she off for 31 days before working?  2. Why was her workout at Saratoga?  The 31 days off was a red flag for me, because prior to her win on 9/28 she had worked on 9/12 and 9/19, but there was no visible plan/pattern before this race.  Did her last time take too much out of her?  Also, Saratoga closes shortly after Labor Day, so why run at Belmont, ship all the way to Saratoga, work 1 time, and then come back down state to run? Some trainers (H. James Bond, Nick Zito, etc.) like to keep their horses at Saratoga after the meet, but I am not fond of this particular pattern.  By looking at the results you can see Spa City Lover was bet down to the 5-2 favorite and only mustered a 3rd place finish. Eliminating favorites such as Spa City Lover from exotic wagers will no doubt lead to bigger profits.  Please feel free to share your insights to analyzing workouts or any particular trainer patterns you like to follow.

Please be sure to follow me on Twitter-@cappercorner and/or friend me on facebook.com to continue the horse racing conversation!


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Older Comments about Practice? We Talkin' About Practice!?!?...

you have a horse with breathing touble, as many do who are inside the dusty dirty inner parts of barns. In order to help the animal to breathe you give him a standard dose of clenbuterol. He is breathing well and you make sure to give him said dose at least 4 days before he runs so as to not have a drug positive. Having open bronchi, he works out is a time augmented not by talent or conditioning, but by pharameutical bronchodilation. Now tell me that work out will tell us how the horse will run on race day without the medication?
Unless you are THERE on the grounds to SEE them evolve, in what company under what weight in what path in what conditions with what equipment AND you know or do not know the medications they are on (no drug tersts after workouts you know) then it is a guessing game which are worth noting an which are worth passing. Read Dr. William Quirin in this regard or wake up early several mornings, go out and see for yourself.
Also Be Aware of Morning Glory!
Well,Coach Matta, I guess they couldn't wait for the mountains to turn Big Blue!
blowouts are available if you know where to look: the horseman's office
Observing then makes some difference but just reading them doesn't tell you much
Shug McGaughey well meant 1st time starters usually have a 3 furlong blow out work 2 or 3 days before the race. This workout usually doesn't show up in the PPs, so you have to be on your toes to find out about it.
Another pattern I like to look for is a horse who has 4 evenly spaced workouts at 4 furlongs (for example) & each work gets a little faster.
Thanks for the nice comments & there will be more articles like this in the future
Great insight into morning works! It was a pleasure meeting you at BC11!
Great piece!
Not sure about Mr. Iverson, but ... I know the teams I played for always performed better in games when we practiced well. It's the same for horses ... they tell us an awful lot in the mornings. Loved your take on this aspect of handicapping, J-Money!

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Meet Jasen Mangrum

My interest in the Sport of Kings goes back over 25 years with my father taking me with his friends to the old Ak-Sar-Ben Race Course in Omaha, NE.  From those early experiences I was able to read the Daily Racing Form before the age of 10.  Once The Woodlands opened in Kansas City in 1988, I became totally hooked on the sport studying racing charts after homework and tennis practice.  In recent years, with the explosion of handicapping tournaments, my love for handicapping the races has risen to a new level.  Primarily focused on New York, Chicago and Louisiana racing, I have now been forced to study races far and wide in attempt to find “cap horses” in the tournaments I play.  I have also dabbled in horse ownership within syndicates and on my own.


My fondest memories in racing include Silver Charm’s 1997 Kentucky Derby victory.  Both my father and I selected him, which made for a memorable day.  The best race I’ve seen was Tiznow’s first Breeders Cup Classic win in 2000 when he outdueled Giant’s Causeway down the length of the Churchill Downs stretch.   My biggest windfall as a gambler was a pool-scooping pick-4 win, paying over $6,600 at The Woodlands in 2005.


The point of this blog is to get everyone out there a few winners, but also to go in depth at how I come to the conclusions that I do.  From week to week, I’ll explain angles I think are important to locate winners.  I encourage others to post picks they like too, but please explain how you come to your conclusions.  That way everyone can learn a little more about this great game, and add another weapon to their handicapping arsenal.-Best of luck, Jasen Mangrum

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