by SCOTT SHAPIRO
Much like a large segment of the population’s ability to pick winners early in their NCAA tournament brackets, my week at Santa Anita Park got started with real promise but fell apart over winter’s final weekend.
The start of my third week as Brisnet.com’s Southern California Daily Handicapper was filled with a strong percentage of top pick winners and in the end produced solid overall results. However, much of that success came with winning efforts from logical contenders on Thursday and Friday, and weekend results left me feeling more like the ACC than Cinderella.
Thursday was a solid day with four winners over the eight-race card. Unfortunately one of the top choices that failed was the day’s “Best Bet,” 2-5-favorite Cut. The heavy chalk got a perfect trip, but could do no better than a well-beaten third despite the class drop for trainer Peter Eurton. All horseplayers know there are few things worse than endorsing an odds-on runner and seeing him under the crop early, but it happens to the best of us. Luckily, 5-to-2 second choice Moonman overcame a wide trip early and dominated a maiden claiming group late to make Thursday a slightly profitable day.
I continued to find winners on a formful Friday afternoon at “The Great Race Place” hitting with 5 of 8 top choice selections. It could have been 6 if I landed on heavy favorite Tribal Fighter in the fifth, but I was incorrect in my assessment that he was vulnerable in an allowance optional claimer down the hill. No regrets.
The average win payoff on a two-dollar wager was just $6.88 over the eight-race Friday card, so a strong performance in terms of picking winners is nothing to brag about. However, landing on Warren’s Joe T in the 3rd ($8.20) and Ike Walker in the 6th ($9.20) allowed me to turn a significant profit heading into the weekend.
Saturday and Sunday did not go as planned.
It was certainly disappointing to not have any of the three double-digit winners over the first four races of the weekend in my top two selections. I am rarely if ever going to endorse a Mike Puype conditioned first-time starter going long on the grass, and I was dead against 7-1 shot City Steel in the second, so missing both legs of the early Double was not hard to take. On the other hand, omitting 19-1 shot Prime Attraction in the fourth was a decision I regret. He was a horse that I bet last time out and at that price at least warranted consideration and placement in my top 3 selections.
Fortunately two chalky top choice selections over the final 4 Saturday afternoon events gave me a little momentum heading into Sunday’s nine-race card. However, the final racing day of the week produced similarly subpar results.
A pair of horses formerly owned by Conquest Stables saved me from an awful day. Conquest Sabre Cat ran a big race over the lawn and scored at 5-2 for trainer Vladimir Cerin while my top choice in the featured Pasadena, Conquest Fahrenheit made every pole a winning one with a dominant gate-to-wire win in the $75,000 two-turn turf event.
In reviewing my work over the first three weeks, I have been pleased with my ability to pick winners at a 35.2 percent clip during the month of March, but have been disappointed with my failure to connect when trying to beat vulnerable favorites.
With several runners from my Brisnet Stable Alerts set to run during the first week of Spring hopefully I can find a few double-digit winners as well as continue to find logical runners that stand out in subpar fields.
Scott Shapiro is a Southern California-based handicapper. Follow him on Twitter @ScottShap34