Sometimes the best horse loses

Sometimes the best horse loses
Photo: Arron Haggart/Eclipse Sportswire
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 learned. 

Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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