Friday, February 22, 2013

Insanity and the San Carlos G2 Preview

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

As someone who has been passionately handicapping and enjoying the races since well before my adult life, I find that every so often I get stuck in that ‘handicapping rut’.  I fall into complacency with analysis and end up making the same mistake consistently.  Much like a pro athlete trying to get out of a slump, I find myself trying different things: handicapping a track where I used to have success (granted, that was years ago) and find that amazing in those years that the bias, jockey colony, trainers, etc. have all changed; re-reading a book that helped to hone my focus on a particular aspect; taking some time off to review data; and analyze both the ‘big picture’ and individual components I use in my daily handicapping.  Do these help to break the slump?  Not usually.

However, it is time to put the parts back together and get the engine running as I prepare for the Monmouth SSC#3 on March 30th (schedule permitting).  It is time to get my head back in the game.   I look back a year to see what I was doing differently.  I went into last year’s Monmouth SSC Qualifer well organized and confident in my spot angle plays, my software outputs, and my newly revised interest in pace analysis.  I look to where I am now – still organized, but second-guessing what I felt were many of my ‘givens’, I haven’t touched my software since October (either modified or used it), and a current lack of confidence in developing race shapes for late runners (early pace is still solid). 

I know I still have a lot of work to do (on many fronts), but have added resources for pedigree and class, and have been working on some new angle spot plays (naturally, pace is a secondary check before those become automatic).  Much like hitting golf balls at the driving range, where you try to develop a healthy ‘muscle memory’ of your swing to avoid consistently making the same mistake, I need to work on developing a healthy ‘mental memory’ of my handicapping approach.  Different classes, surfaces, distances, age groups, etc. all require a slightly different, yet fundamentally same approach.  Quantifying the factors I look for/review/dismiss and putting that in some order should help to make a routine that ensures that I look at the right factors for the right spots, much like at work how I approach a new project – from setting up the files to actually assembling my data and producing the final report.   I will be developing that personal checklist over the next week or so… and hopefully, in the words of Susan Powter, I can “stop the insanity!!!”

This week’s analysis:  Santa Anita – Race 8 – San Carlos Stakes G2 – 7f – 4yo&up

1 Comma To The Top (4-1) – pushed uncomfortably along at a hot pace in his last effort in the Palos Verdes again several of the same that are in here today.  Difference today is that the hot pace is not that likely and this race will set up for a horse on or close to the lead.  His subsequent works have been sharp and I would expect a solid front-running effort here.

2 Capital Account (4-1) – would prefer the poly-track, but did clear N2X over this course.  The pace does not set up well for a closer here, so figure he’ll be fighting for a minor share late as he runs out of real estate in the stretch drive.

3 Justin Phillip (8-1) – forwardly place and did fight a hot pace last out to hit the board as a weak favorite in the Palos Verdes.  Somewhat slower pace will allow him to be closer to the lead early, but just appears to be outclassed with this field.

4 Canonize (15-1) – would prefer a slower pace and probably if this race was run around two turns.  Shouldn’t be much of a factor here.

5 Midnight Transfer (3-1) – toss his two efforts in routes and this one shows a solid progression from breaking his maiden and a minor stakes over this course last year against 3 year olds to solid late run against a crumbling early pace last out to pass the N2X hurdle against older horses.  Expect him to be a factor late from just off the pace.  Definite contender.

6 Sahara Sky (6-1) – took advantage of a hot pace as a horse I had totally dismissed for lack of class (despite the potential of being the lone closer) in the Palos Verdes. I am still not sold that this one has the class to contend and that the pace will set up for him this time around.  Expect a late move by him to fall short.

7 The Lumber Guy (5-2) – has a G1 win and was runner-up in the Breeder’s Cup Sprint last fall.  Malibu was a disaster as the heavy favorite.  I expect the pace to be a little faster than he prefers and expect that Gomez may try to shoot for the lead early with him in this spot.  I am inclined to think he takes a shot and is short late. 

8 Drill (12-1) – has had a couple of poor starts lately and doesn’t seem to be in top form.  I would like to see him have a good showing against older horses and improved form before giving him any consideration.

Now for the Reader’s Digest version of how I see this one setting up…  1 Comma To The Top sets the lead with 7 The Lumber Guy being sent early.  1 Comma To The Top can duel and holds off the bid by 7 The Lumber Guy, who starts to lose ground before the top of the stretch.  Expect to see late runs by 2 Capital Account, 3 Justin Phillip, 5 Midnight Transfer, and 6 Sahara Sky, but all will be just short late.

Good luck all!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Don't Reinvent the Wheel... (and thoughts on the Very One G3)

"Don't reinvent the wheel, just realign it." - Michael D'Angelo

It has been a while since I posted last and a lot has been happening.  Kudos to NJHorseplayer for staying on top of the TVG takeover of 4NJBets and all the ramifications that has (both good and bad) for the weekend warriors here in the great Garden State.

I took a much needed break, not completely by choice (work has been insanely busy), but also in part to take a step back and re-evaluate a few things I had been working on.  I found that I have let pace become too big of a part of decision making process and had let that trump class which was ultimately leading to some poor race modeling.  Likewise, I started evaluating a few new 'situations' regarding certain factors (horses third off of layoff, trying to define hidden form, etc.).  I realized that I have a lot of good tools and solid angles/methods/analysis, but I just need to get back on track and do what has always worked best for me.

Much like NJHorseplayer, I do see an upside to the TVG takeover of 4NJBets - likely added opportunities for NJ based horse players to find additional means to qualify for the NHC, if you are willing to shell out the $19.95 a month an accessible bank of replay, and hopefully a much more reliable and consistent wagering platform - however only time will tell just how seamless and efficient the new site is.

Back to facing some of my 'fears'...  My 'Race of the Day' for Saturday is the Very One G3 at Gulfstream (Race 8 - 1-3/8mi Turf - 4yo&up F&M).

Rather than go entrant by entrant, here is a quick snapshot on how I see this marathon shaping up...  Weak early pace contested by 1 Starformer (2-1), 5 Closing Range (3-1), and 2 Seanchai (8-1).  Early pace will not hold and the late closers will make a run late - 8 Kadaya (4-1) will likely make the big closing bid for top honors.  1 Starformer (2-1) should still be a factor late, but 4 Game Fair (6-1) will also be moving late from way back

8 Kadaya (4-1) has been solid in clearing her N1X and N2X conditions after being moderately placed in France; third off of layoff and this mare is sharp! 

Likely plays:  WP8; Ex 8 with 1,4,5,7

Good luck all!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dreaming of Warmer Weather (Florida Oaks Preview)

Another cold, busy Saturday for the Jersey Capper.  The 60 degree spell this week was a tease after the arctic conditions the week prior...  it was nice to roll down the windows on my way to work and listen to Sinatra sing "Summer Wind".

I do want to wish fellow NJ bloggers and NHC hopefuls (Redrockorbust and NJ Horseplayer) the best of luck in Saturday's Monmouth SSC#1.  I am sure both will have a great insight and review of the day posted shortly afterwards...  I'll be seeing you guys in March at either #2 or #3...

I actually took a bit of a break from handicapping this week, granted a stomach virus will do that to you, but needed to step back and take a look at what I am doing and if it is still working... the hood's open and the engine is half taken apart right now as I go back and try to correct some of the bad habits I have developed with late pace analysis and as I embark on my 'Quest to Find a Capper'.  By 'capper', I am referring to a 'cap' horse in a contest (typically payouts are capped at $42 to win / $22 to place or some value near those totals).  It is tough playing devil's advocate after the fact with comments like - the horse had beaten one foe in his last 10 starts and lost those 10 starts by 345 combined lengths, moves up in class today, and retains the worst jock on the circuit...  This is going to be a work in progress that I will write about in the future...

Back to the matter at hand... my feature race of this weekend will be Tampa Bay Race 7 - 1-1/16mi over the turf Florida Oaks G3 for 3 year old fillies.

1 Cindy's Casino (20-1) - lackluster effort in minor stakes try over the Calder turf - PASS.

2 Rusty Slipper (8-1) - shows two solid closing efforts in two lifetime starts over the turf here, but will likely need to make up a ton of ground late with a quicker pace anticipated here.  Not likely to get up for the win, but could be a factor late.

3 Wave Theory (7-2) - solid effort last out in an open stakes and was spotted at this level over a yielding course at Belmont.  She shows a decent work pattern and moderate connections, but again the quicker early pace does work against her chances here.

4 Raven's Rockette (30-1) - not so fast to dismiss as she has shown some ability over the grass and her sire does produce a high percentage of turf winners, but still think she is outclassed here.

5 Caraquista (30-1) - PASS

6 Tapicat (3-1) - Strong back to back wins and showed a ton of speed in that last effort.  Inclined to think that she does get bothered here by a weak blast early from a foe and may be used a little bit too early.  Definite contender, but a beatable favorite.

7 Cotton Pickin (30-1) - PASS

8 Floral Sky (12-1) - Forwardly placed on the dirt but has shown nothing.  Lone turf start was a solid effort and she does get Contreras back in the irons.  Pedigree does fall a little short, but wouldn't be surprised to see her near the pace early.

9 Mariel n Kathy (9-2) - Open stakes winner over the Belmont turf in the fall, but has not shown much improvement since.  She adds the hood today and expect Espinoza to push her early on the lead which may disrupt Tapicat and set up a late runner.

10 Kitten's Dumplings (5-1) - toss out her non-turf start and she looks like a contender if she can bounce back off of that last effort at Gulfstream.  Stakes win two back wasn't exactly the toughest field though, looking elsewhere as the pace doesn't seem to fit her style.

11 Toasting (15-1) - had some trouble starting late last year and works don't show any gate work.  Pedigree is a bit lacking.  PASS.

12 Jadira (6-1) - Nice closing move last out to break maiden in her debut, decent work pattern suggest the other Casse entry may be improving with the big step up here.  A weak quicker pace will work to her advantage here.

I see 6 Tapicat breaking to the lead with a blast from 9 Mariel n Kathy which will likely disrupt her pace since she will hang for a while before fading.  6 Tapicat will have been used a bit early which sets up late runs from 3 Wave Theory and 12 Jadira.  I give 3 Wave Theory a slight edge late.

Probably bets:  Ex 3,12 with 2,3,6,10,12
Confidence - 1 of 5 - Field is still developing and improving - tough to have a ton of confidence on exactly how this one shapes up.

Good luck all!