Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Harness Racing

There are four readily identifiable characteristics of each horse in a harness race. They are the horse's form, the consistency of the horse's racing effort, the horse's final finish time, and the ability of the driver. If the handicapper considers each of these attributes for each horse in the race, he may be able to select a winning bet. The way I accomplish this is: I look at the past performance chart for the race. For each horse in the race I add the finish position of each of the last three races. The horse with the lowest total is the horse that is awarded an "F" for form. I write it in the left margin of the performance chart next to the horse's betting number. On the right side of the chart near the top of each horse's section is information about the number of starts, firsts, seconds, and thirds for the current year. I add the finishes (firsts, seconds, and thirds) and divide that total by the number of starts. This percentage is the consistency. The horse that has the highest consistency number is awarded a "C" in the left margin. Most modern past performance charts list a speed rating either in front of the chart for a race or near to the right of the times for the race. Go through the speed ratings and for the highest number, put a "T" in the left margin. When I first began using this system, that speed rating didn't exist and I examined the finish times of each horse in their last race. Usually the last race was at the same track where the current race was taking place and it was an easy task to see which horse shows the best time. Sometimes, though, horses would not have raced at the current track previously and I had to exercise care in comparing times when that occurred. There is a chart available at www.ustrotting.com/speed_ratings/print_sr.cfm that allowed me to convert various track times to a time for the track where racing was taking place. When I determine which horse had the best time, I awarded that horse a "T" in the left margin. There may be instances where this older method might have to be used. I then consider the driver of each horse. In addition to starts, wins, seconds, and thirds, there is a number in the area of driver information that is the USTA proficiency rating. Generally, it means that the higher this number the better the driver. I find the highest number and put a "D" in the left margin. At times there will be ties in the totals used in awarding letters. I always award everyone a letter that has the best number. Occasionally there will be a horse that has been awarded all four letters and no other horse will have a letter. It is likely that this horse will win the race and a win bet is indicated. Three letter horses are usually first, second, or third and it is usually a safe bet to bet them to place or show. When only two horses have letters, an exacta box has a good chance of happening. The odds on the tote board should be watched closely because in harness racing a major drawback is that good horses tend to have payoff odds that offer a really low return. It is not unusual to see a four letter horse have odds of 1/9 at post time and pay $2.10 for a $2.00 win bet. Although it is fun to cash tickets, this is probably not a profitable bet and bets should be made only at better odds. There are times when the letters are a hodgepodge of characters and no decision is possible. In those instances no bet should be made using this method.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Union Rags ready for Florida Derby

By Jay Privman | Daily Racing Form

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- As good as Union Rags ran last time out in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, trainer Michael Matz expects an even better performance Saturday, when Union Rags heads the field in the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby, which drew a field of nine Wednesday at Gulfstream Park.
Union Rags is the favorite not only for the Florida Derby, but for the Kentucky Derby, too. He is the 3-1 choice on the Kentucky Derby future line set by Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form 's national handicapper, and also is the 3-1 favorite on the line set by Mike Battaglia of Churchill Downs for Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which opens Friday and closes Sunday.
If not for the head of Hansen in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall, Union Rags would be unbeaten in five starts as well as the reigning 2-year-old champion. In his only start since the Breeders' Cup, Union Rags romped to a four-length victory in the Fountain of Youth, a win that re-established his position as the ante-post favorite for the May 5 Derby.

Interviews with trainer Larry Jones -- who sends out Mark Valeski and Mr. Bowling in Sunday's Louisiana Derby - and the trainer of Florida Derby hopeful El Padrino, Todd Pletcher. Plus, a Barry Abrams commentary on the Maktoum family.

"You never know how they are going to act after four months off," Matz said Wednesday morning, during a break at the Palm Meadows training facility, where he is based during the winter. "But I thought we couldn't have written it any better. We didn't have to use him that hard. I don't think it was a tough race on him. I can't see why he wouldn't make another move forward after that last race. But this is obviously a tougher race."
As Matz spoke, he was standing just a few yards from Union Rags, who was getting a bath after his routine gallop about 30 minutes earlier. Union Rags always has been advanced for his age, but he developed over the winter into an even more glorious-looking athlete.
"He's doing good right now," Matz said, a wide smile crossing his face.
"Mentally and physically, he did what he was supposed to do from 2 to 3," Matz added. "I just have to try and keep him happy now."
Union Rags drew post 6 when nine 3-year-olds were entered Wednesday in the Florida Derby, which will go as the 11th race on a 13-race card that begins at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Chuck Streva of Gulfstream Park made Union Rags the 6-5 morning-line favorite.
El Padrino, winner of the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in his last start, is the 2-1 second choice. He drew post 8.
The only other horses less than 12-1 are Take Charge Indy (5-1), who was second to El Padrino in an allowance race here two months ago in his last start, and News Pending (8-1), second to Union Rags in the Fountain of Youth.
From the rail out, the Florida Derby field is Fort Loudon (Luis Jurado the rider), News Pending (Rajiv Maragh), Take Charge Indy (Calvin Borel), Neck 'n Neck (Edgar Prado), Z Camelot (Joe Bravo), Union Rags (Julien Leparoux), Bartolome (Jesus Castanon), El Padrino (Javier Castellano), and Reveron (Elvis Trujillo).
Bartolome, whose lone win in four starts came in his debut in September on a sloppy track at Calder, and Z Camelot, who is winless in four starts and has yet to finish in the money, were the surprise entrants. Streva made Bartolome 30-1 and Z Camelot 50-1.
Not entered, even as a tire kicker for 72 hours, was Alpha, even though trainer Kiaran McLaughlin at one point considered it. But after several twists and turns, Alpha is committed now to the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial next week at Aqueduct.
"He's going to work here Friday morning and then fly later Friday to New York," McLaughlin said Wednesday morning at Palm Meadows.
One consideration for McLaughlin is that Ramon Dominguez, who has ridden Alpha to victories in the Withers and Count Fleet in his last two starts, is expected to be riding again by the Wood after separating his collarbone earlier this month.
But Dominguez's status for Alpha could be impacted if Hansen, whom Dominguez rode to wins in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Gotham Stakes, winds up in the Wood. In that case, McLaughlin would need a replacement rider for Alpha. Hansen is under consideration for the Wood, but, as of now, is expected to run in the Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 14.
"We're going to run in the Wood, and we hope we will get to have Ramon," McLaughlin said. "Even if they change their mind with Hansen, we will run against Hansen."

Thoroughbred News | BloodHorse.com