Friday, March 22, 2013

I Thought I Knew a Lot... (preview of the Excelsior Stakes)

“I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is.” – John Mellencamp

I think the same can be true of handicapping, or any vocation/hobby/profession. Over the past few weeks, I set out to better automate some of the figures I like to run and identify spot plays without pouring over PP’s for hours on end (especially with the 60+ hour work weeks ramping up again). The more I ‘troubleshoot’ my Excel masterpiece as I handicap more cards manually in parallel with the output, the more I find myself questioning givens and seeing trends and factors that once didn’t seem that important in a different light.

As I have finalized certain more common factors in my sheets, such as an overview of the pace shape and identifying whether the race should favor a particular running style and based on the characteristics of the race, how likely the favorite is to win – I am finding several other nuances that now require further tracking and investigation.

My recent findings have made me wonder more about how to properly assess a potential speed duel. What factors cause a horse to be able to outlast the early pressure of another foe – whether he is facing a one dimensional ‘pop and drop’ horse or if the foe has the stamina to duel to the wire. Likewise, when you know the early speed is going to fail, how can you pinpoint which one of late runners will have an edge when there are several candidates for that big late run? Certainly there are obvious horses that appear to be a negative influence on the pace, but how can you really assess the impact of a horse that you know will blow to lead, set blazing first and second call times before retreating through the field to jog home last at the wire? How much negative influence is enough to decrease the other’s chances of winning?

I have always had a theory that some ratio of energy expenditure (along the lines of Brohamer’s %E figure and use of velocities) would be the smoking gun. If a horse has a finite amount of energy to expend, and he is forced to run a quicker 2C time that what is his comfort zone (when in proper form), he should be flat late. Wouldn’t reason say that if he expended some additional percentage of energy that should set up for a closer late? How do you accurately figure what that time and percentage would be? How do you inter-relate the various styles and form of the field and assess the probability that they will run to their potential and/or have a clean trip?

All thoughts to start mulling over and plugging away with different scenarios… but that is all going to wait until after next Saturday’s Monmouth SSC #3. Once again, I will employ my strategy of last year, albeit with an expedited handicapping effort. Last year, I set myself up with my master sheet that had a line for all of the 32 contest races sorted by post time. I forced myself to look at the last two races of each card first when I knew I would not be distracted so that I would at least have a very focused and well attended late run as needed. Otherwise, I identified the races where my best chances seemed likely based on race characteristics (class, surface, distance, track) and worked backwards from there. This year will be no different, except, I will be running my sheet both electronically and manually (still troubleshooting and tweaking). I will go with my usual high percentage plays and tag a few value plays. The goal is to still be in the picture late, even if it means making a bold move (which backfired last year) on the final race.

On to other business, my race of the week – Aqueduct Race 9 – 1-1/8mi 3yo&up – Excelsior Stakes G3

1 Colizeo (5-1) – interesting horse – has back class having been competitive in graded stakes company two years back followed up by a dreadful 5 year old campaign that was capped by being claimed out on New Year’s Eve for $50k. He did wire the field last out while in for a price against N2X company and I would suspect he is sharp here. He will factor on the pace early, but think he will be burnt out by the stretch drive.

2 Last Gunfighter (5-2) – has rattled off 4 straight wins and comes back off of a 63 day rest to face what isn’t exactly the strongest of G3 fields. Contender.

3 Isn’t He Perfect (12-1) – forwardly placed last year and was in the picture late in minor stakes company, however inclined to think he best chances are on the bottom a trifecta. Expect to see him involved early.

4 Mordi’s Miracle (4-1) – started to improve after hitting two turns two back and closed in a speed favoring field last out. Expect a good effort today here with a late run. Contender.

5 Heart Butte (8-1) – was flat in the Tom Fool off of the 13 month layoff, but one turn races are not his forte. Recent works are decent, but not sure he is quite back in form yet, but any return to form would give him a shot.

6 Joan’s Choice (6-1) – took a minor stakes field wire to wire last out without any real pressure, he won’t get that same soft pace here.

7 Ruler On Ice (3-1) – lone closer in a field of speed that looks likely to burn itself out early. He has been somewhat outclassed in G1 and G2 efforts, but should find this field softer. Expect a big late run here.

The race appears to set up with Colizeo and Joan’s Choice early with Isn’t He Perfect giving chase. Mordi’s Miracle and Heart Butte will settle off the pace and wait for the far turn to start making a move. Last Gunfighter will try to be a bit closer before making his move. Ruler On Ice will be coming from the back of the pack to rally to prevail in the stretch.

Probable Plays: W7; Tri 2,7 // 1,2,7 // 1,2,4,5,7

Good luck all!

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