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
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!