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Early Speed Going Long – A Method to Profit

Early Speed Going Long – A Method to Profit?

"Luck goes to those with speed."
– Paul "Bear" Bryant, legendary football coach

"Speed kills in football. Speed kills in horse racing."
– Mike Tice, Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings and an avid horseplayer

I think everyone reading this article understands that early speed is critical in sprint races. What I am going to present today are some rules and concepts using ‘early speed’ to find value in 2-turn route races on the dirt. The data used will come directly from the Brisnet.com "Ultimate PP’s." In particular, we are going to focus on "Early-type" route horses that are either E-horses (front-runners) or E/P horses (very close to the pace).

Background
Once of my biggest scores ever was hitting One Dreamer at 47-1 in the Breeder’s Cup Distaff in 1994. Was she the best horse? Not at all. At her best she was probably the 5th or 6th best horse. But she had two things going for her. She was the lone E horse in a two-turn race (we’ll explain shortly why that was important). She also had a Grade 2 win over the track earlier in the year in May. While I don’t get 47-1 on this angle very often, 10-1 or more is quite common, with a win percent approaching 15%. Why does this happen? I have 3 theories:

  1. The crowd is infatuated with closers. I call this "Kentucky Derby-ism." In the Derby, and to some degree the Preakness, and the Breeder’s Cup Classic, the pace is usually very hot and closers have a much better chance. But in "garden-variety" American racing, short fields are dominated by speed horses that control the pace. The types of racing could not be more different in race shape.
  2. Jockeys and trainers, as well as horseplayers, read the "Form." They try to beat the favorite. If the favorite has early speed, they will try to press the favorite early. They don’t want to "waste" their horse early by pressing a long shot/non-favorite.
  3. Often speed horses can get a "soft" first quarter running into the first turn of a 2-turn race. This is different than in 1-turn races, where the early pace can be hot, even in 8f or 8.5f route races.

Our ideal 2-turn route "win candidate(s)" will follow the above criteria:

    • The horse(s) will be a "speed horse," as determined by the E or E/P identification of running styles in the Ultimate PP’s. We will prefer sprinters stretching out to route speed whenever possible. We will use pace figures and Prime Power numbers, also from the Ultimate PP’s, to further isolate and rank candidates.
    • The horse(s) will be over 5-1 odds. This will ensure value and a corresponding lack of jockey attention. Don’t be afraid of horses with high odds. That is where one can make a big score. I know a very prominent professional handicapper in Chicago who had a signed picture of One Dreamer in his den, but was scared off by the high odds and did not bet one dollar on her Breeder’s Cup Day. Don’t let this happen to you.
    • To help insure a soft first quarter, try to limit most plays to horses starting within the 6 inside post positions. That will help prevent the horse from going wide and/or the jockey having to use horse early to hold position.
    • Do not be too concerned with speed duels on the front end. Few jockeys are willing to use horse early, especially in a 2-turn race. Usually the two best speed horses will be 1-2 going into the first turn, then still be 1-2 at the quarter pole. At that point it is only a matter of how good the horses are.

The Method in Action on the Triple Crown Trail (March 15 and 16, 2003)

Florida Derby: Trust N Luck was the lone speed in the Fountain of Youth in February, 2003. He got little respect, despite a 110 Beyer at Calder in December, and went off at 9-2 odds. Breaking from his 6th post position, with a solid trainer, jockey, and proven record, he was an excellent bet that day, drawing off to win by 5 lengths over an overmatched field. The key number was Trust N Luck got the first ¼ mile in 23 3/5. In the Florida Derby, Trust N Luck was still lone speed, but now he was at 4-5 odds. Plus he was facing several new shooters in Empire Maker, Indy Dancer and Senor Swinger. Add in Bobby Frankel’s comments that "Empire Maker would be at Trust N Luck’s throat" with blinkers added and things did not bode well for Trust N Luck in the Florida Derby. Trust N Luck was pressed through a much faster first quarter (22 3/5) and "never got a breather," according to jockey Cornelio Velasquez. This is an example of how the favorite can get pressed on the lead. Empire Maker came up to Trust N Luck and blew past him, winning by nearly 10 lengths. It would be charitable to say Trust N Luck was a bad bet at 4-5, and maybe even a terrible one.

 

Gotham: Due to inclement weather, the Gotham was run around 2 turns. There were 3 legit speed horses:

Horse

Style

"Fast Track" Race?

E1

E2

Speed

Odds

Alysweep

E/P 8

Sprint

101

110

103

9.50

Mustbeinthefrontrow

E/P 8

Sprint

90

98

99

42.75

Torre and Zim

E/P 5

Route(using best)

113

116

99

8.20

No matter how you cut it, Alysweep and/or Torre and Zim figure to dominate the race. Case closed. The only question is if Alysweep and Torre and Zim will get into a speed duel, but in this case I say take your chances because the value was there. If you are a pick 3/pick 4/pick 6 bettor, I would recommend you use both of our top horses. You might also want to consider using both horses in an exacta box. Since the odds are so high overall, I would also recommend betting all three speed horses to win. If "Mustbe" got loose early (let’s say Alysweep broke poorly), his speed figures were competitive with everybody else in the field.

Result: Alysweep went wire to wire, winning by 4 and paying $21.00. Torre and Zim made a challenge at the ¼ pole and faded. Betting $2 to win on all three of our speed horses would have netted +$15.00.

 Santa Anita Derby: The betting in this race was very strange, because the closers took all the money. Here are the speed horses:

Horse

Style

"Fast Track" Race?

E1

E2

Speed

Odds

Buckland Manor

E/P 6

Route

93

103

97

36.50

Siberland

E/P 8

Route

84

89

99

10.60

Buddy Gill

E/P 4

Sprint (turf)

91

105

100

9.80

Brancusi

E/P 5

Route

94

99

99

48.90

Note first that there are no "E" horses. There are all E/P. This means there are no "speed crazy" horses in here, aiding to the chances of the speed horses to win. The most likely leader was Siberland, with his 8 speed points, but his pace figures in his last race were poor and he came from Turf Paradise, making him an unlikely winner of a Grade 2 race at Santa Anita. Buckland Manor is bred for turf and is also unlikely. That leaves Buddy Gill and Brancusi. Buddy Gill came off a turf sprint, but had a dirt pedigree and had a 57.4 work prior to the race. Brancusi’s last race is very competitive on both speed and pace and is monster odds. Both Buddy Gill and Brancusi should be used.

Here are the top 3 closers:

Horse

Style

"Fast Track" Race?

E1

E2

Speed

Odds

Man Among Men

P 4

Route

94

101

101

2.60

Domestic Dispute

P 3

Route

85

97

98

2.00

Atswhatimtalknbout

S 1

Route

85

100

102

3.20

I think this race shows people were betting on emotion and not "on the numbers." Domestic Dispute was the slowest horse of the top six contenders, by whatever metric, and was coming off a 2- month layoff. And he’s the 2-1 favorite. Man Among Men and Domestic Dispute were the 2 fastest horses (final speed) in the race, but figured to get caught behind a moderate pace.

Betting/Result: I have to admit I really screwed this one up. I "fell in love" with Man Among Men at 5-2 odds, using the logic he was the best horse because he beat Peace Rules and Empire Maker. Bad mistake. When one has a solid method and it gives you solid returns, stick with the method, especially when the odds are so well stacked in your favor. Siberland went to the front (as could be predicted), but he packed it in on the turn (also relatively predictable). Brancusi (my second pick) took over and looked like the winner inside the sixteenth pole, but he got a little tired, getting passed by winner Buddy Gill (paying $21.60) and the hard-closing Atswhatimtalknbout, who may have been best. A $1 tri box using the two top speed horses and the top 2 closers would have cost $24 and returned $1,475.90. Betting $2 to win on all 4 speed horses would have netted +$13.60.

Summary

A method for identifying live long shots using early speed in 2-turn route races was identified. The method was based on early speed horses getting a "soft" first quarter mile going into the first turn. The method was shown to be successful in identifying win candidates in the Gotham and the San Felipe stakes. A flat bet on all "overlaid" early speed horses in 2-turn route races shows the potential for profit.

-- Tony Kelzenberg is a long time Brisnet.com member who relies on BRIS performance ratings in his handicapping.


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