Horse Racing with the Doctor

This blog is for fans interested in horse race handicapping and theory with application to betting practice. Handicapping will generally focus on the Gulfstream Park - Kentucky - NYRA circuit(s).

Location: Watertown, Minnesota, United States

20 year horse player. MS in Engineering from Northwestern University. Still looking for that elusive handicapping contest victory.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Nobody Home? And the Europeans are coming.

Nobody Home?

For years I have gone to the NYRA website to get stakes schedules for Belmont and Saratoga. Unfortunately, unless I just could not find the 2006 Fall Belmont schedule, it appears that NYRA did not post this feature and link it to their new homepage design.

In either case, I find this quite odd. Is not Fall Belmont the "Championship Meeting?" If a track goes to the trouble of putting up millions of dollars in purses for races in each division, it seems plausible they would like their fans to know when these races would be contested. In "major sports" like the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball, the schedule is made public as soon as possible to inform fans and increase interest. By NYRA not posting the stakes schedule, or at least not making it obvious on their homepage, they are de facto admitting they are a minor sport, that their biggest races are not important to their (shrinking) fan base, and that the races do not matter much, especially to new fans who may not know the pattern of major stakes races and how they play into the Breeders Cup.

The Europeans are coming! The Europeans are coming!

Here is how I would rate the incoming Europeans and their chance in the 2006 Breeders Cup.
A = Hot favorite
B = Consider for pick 3
C = Long prices only
D = Highly Unlikely
F = Has a pulse (hopefully)

Hurricane Run - A
Shirocco - A (if he runs)
Deep Impact - D (Headed back to Japan after the Arc)
Ouija Board - B (if she runs)

Filly and Mare Turf
Ouija Board - A
Alexandrova - A

Librettist - A
Any other European that finished in the top 2 in their last prep - B

Note: 20 of the 22 winners of the BC Mile were 1st or 2nd in their last prep.

David Junior - B (faces real horses here off a loooooonnnnng layoff)
Dylan Thomas - C (Not sure he wants 10 furlongs on Dirt)
Shirocco - C or D (He is not bread for Dirt, really)

Juvenile Fillies
Sander Camillo - B (If she comes over, not 100% right now. Very much Dirt bred)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Who is more important, the horse, the trainer or the jockey?

There has been much debate on how horse racing should market its 'stars,' equine or otherwise. I think horse racing has gone out of its way to market star horses. Heck, Saratoga gave out 10,000 posters featuring the omnipresent Funny Cide the same day he ran in the 2006 Woodward (he didn't win). I suspect we will see "Bernadini beanie-babies" and other toys if Bernardini can sweep to victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeder's Cup. Hopefully his connections will let Bernardini run at 4. I think that would be an exciting prospect for anybody.

Unfortunately, in this age of the 'fresh' horse and the limited campaigns, any marketing strategy featuring only the equine star is likely to fail. Why? The good horses don't run enough. Even in a year where 2 incredible horses came out of the same crop (Bernardini and Barbaro), racing was unable to arrange a fair series matching the two superstars (discounting the ill-fated Preakness).

Where should racing look for marketing guidence? The obvious analogoy would be NASCAR, where the DRIVERS, not the cars or the crew chiefs, are marketed relentlessly. Why is that important? Because the drivers will make the line up EVERY WEEK. A family friend of mine is rabid for NASCAR. I ask him what he looks for, and he replied "I like #24 (Jeff Gordon)." I ask him if he thinks Gordan is having a good season. "Not particularly," he added. But he went on to say he likes Jeff, and tunes in to cheer him on every week. I wouldn't be surprised to see 50 or a 100 million Americans tune in to NASCAR to cheer on their favorites drivers.

This NASCAR lesson would imply that racing should try to market the jockeys and trainers in our sport. THEY are the ones who put the show on every day. Jerry Bailey and Gary Stevens are on TV a lot these days and are doing a great job helping audiences analyze a race from a jockey's perspective. But I think we should do more. Garret Gomez' riches to rags to more riches could make a great TV movie (Lifetime, are you listening?). Alex Solis is a leader of our sport. There are jockeys at every track that deserve a strong following as much as anybody in NASCAR (it's probably more dangerous to ride a race horse today, unfortunately).

What about trainers? Lukas and Baffert are always in the public eye. Todd Pletcher is proving dominance can be commonplace. The Todd Pletcher bobblehead was a good start, but there has to be more ways a sport could market someone who is relatively young, well-mannered and good looking. C'mon people, get the thinking caps on!

As a final thought, I spoke to three people this weekend that go to my local track, Canterbury Park (in Minnesota, if you haven't heard of it). The go to the the races, they like the action, but they didn't know enough to understand it (and thus not bet or read a Daily Racing Form). I would suggest that fan education over TV (how about commercials at the halftimes of football games?) could educate fans on the virtues of win, place, show, exacta, trifecta and superfecta. That might be the best marketing of all.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Getting better? 7/27 Analysis and 7/28 Picks

July 27 Analysis
We had an odds-on winner today! Darn tootin'! Scat Daddy got it done at 3/10 odds in the Sanford. He had to work hard for it too. But hey, a winner is a winner!

On the bright side, we had a $53 exacta and a $103 exacta among our top 3 picks, so if you are following along I think we'll do better as the meet moves along. Think value, value, value.

Saratoga Track bias(es) - it looked like the track was fair, but most of the dirt sprint winners (3 of 4) were wide in the stretch. The rail generally wasn't the place to be today.

July 28 Picks
Not a very exciting card. In my mind there aren't any significant betting opportunities and I'm going to wait for Saturday and hope the weather holds up.

Race 1) #2 Citi Prancer has some really good BRIS speed figures and may be competitive here. The #1 and the #1A both look like good animals. The #8 appears the best of the rest.

Race 2) #2B Tall Story appears to be going the right way. #4 and #6 are win candidates.

Race 3) #7 Aristocratic Lady appears a little slow, but it is Pletcher/Velazquez, and the 6/1 ML does have some appeal. #3 Caren's Caper is the one to beat. The #1A has competitive numbers and Prado.

Race 4) NYRA, I won't bet a race like this.

Race 5) A very mediocre group, but #8 Maricopa has an OK number and a 5/1 ML. #9 may show speed and #2 has been competitive.

Race 6) Pass

Race 7) #3 Sir Tyler T is in good form right now. #2 has GREAT Suffolk Downs numbers and may surprise. #4 has speed and good form.

Race 8) #4 Pyramid Love has 2yo BRIS class numbers that make her competitive here, #6 and #7 are the obvious North American fillies to beat.

Race 9) Pass


Race 2) $100 to win on the 2B only (Tall Story)

Good luck to Everyone!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bitch-slapped at the SPA! July 26 Analysis/July 27 picks

It was a tough opening day at the Spa. It started off right when logical class dropper MASSOUD won handily at 5/2 odds, but it got ugly from there.

I think a lot of the "ugliness" was due to a bias that favored horses on the RAIL. Of the 8 dirt races (all sprints) carded for opening day, horses who ran on the rail won 6 of them. With the bias in mind, let's analyze July 26's results and try to find playable horses for later on in the meet.

Race 2: Rondo ran his race in good time and was 3 wide most of his trip. A very solid effort.

Race 3: I'm a Yankee may have seconditis, but he was wide chasing the speed and still held second. I'd give him one more chance, especially with an outside draw on a neutral track.

Race 4: Imperial Zip got pressed by a longshot through 21 and change. He could easily rebound.

Race 5: City Snitch looked solid blitzing slow horses. The rail bias probably did move him up some.

Race 6: Star Dabbler and Congo King both used the rail. Congo King appears to like Saratoga.

Race 7: I'm the Tiger got "late" and drifted off the rail, so Awesome Twist could run on by on his inside.

Race 8: Samsincharge got loose on the inner highway and scored. Other horses ran poorly, especially Sweet Sweet, who never looked like a winner under Johnny V.

Race 9: Cotton Blossom was the ONLY horse to make a wide move against the rail and even threaten to win, much less draw away and win. She looks like a filly who could contend in the bigger 2yo races.

Race 10: Exton has had plenty of chances, but it looked like to me he was too far back chasing a loose speed horse setting a slow pace. He split horses gamely in the stretch and very easily could have been second with some racing luck. He probably needs more distance too, as 1 mile appeared to be short for him.

Thursday, July 27
Race 1) We won't do steeplechase races here. They are fun to watch but tough to bet.

Race 2) The Jerkens Entry, #1 then #1A. They appear best. #4 might be live for Dutrow.

Race 3) It looks like #3 Tiverton had a rough trip in his last race, and there is some evidence he likes the Saratoga turf course. Hopefully he can bounce back here. #8 Forecourt fits well off his Gulfstream Park races. #6 Defer usually puts in a good effort.

Race 4) #5 Elle Belle looks quick for Jerkens. #7 Captive Melody tends to run second, and #8 Grand September will be coming late with 28% wins turf jock Julien Leparoux.

Race 5) #2 Nolo Key has a good record and might get to the rail. #3 Saint Jules could out-break the #2 for the lead. #5 Closing Bell and #10 It's the Ritz are the standouts on class.

Race 6) #4 Say Revain had a tough trip facing better in 2005. His works say he is ready. #11 LC Winston looks like a runner. #6 Tough and Easy hits the board often.

Race 7) #3 New Awakening appears to be in good hands and in the right spot to win. #5 Mascot has found a new home on the grass. #10 Solewisher is arguably the fastest horse, but he must draw in.

Race 8) #4 Scat Daddy won like a good thing, but that was on a wet track, so don't go crazy. #5 Trip To The Bank may grind away and complete the exacta.

Race 9) #2 Boysik gets a rider upgrade and has some turf pedigree, being a son of Polish Numbers. He's worth another look. #6 Secret Agent may be the fastest horse in here. #11 Buxton Hill likes to run second. #14 Couth will have to draw in but can threaten on his best.

Race 3) $30 win 3.....$1 pick 4 3,6,8/5/2,3,5,10/4,11 ($24) - (total $54)
Race 4) $20 win 5 (total $20)
Race 6) $1 pick 4 4,11/3,5/4/2,6,11 ($12) - (total $12)
Race 9) $10 win 2....$2 ex box 2 and 6 ($14 total)

Total wagered for July 27: $100

Results through July 26 (-$100)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The background on Dr. Fager

Dr. Fager was a machine at 4, winning 7 of 8 starts, and was named Horse of the Year, champion handicap (older) horse, grass horse, and sprinter. His 10-length Washington Park Handicap score established a track and world record of 1:32.20 for one mile. Not particularly caring for grass, he held off Advocator (Round Table) and grass champion Fort Marcy in the United Nations Handicap, and his six-length victory over top sprinter Kissin' George in the Vosburgh under a crushing 139 pounds set a seven-furlong track record of 1:20.20.

Dr. Fager died at the young age of 12, but not before siring champion Dearly Precious. His influence was strongest as a broodmare sire (that is, sire of the horse's dam), and his name is found in the pedigrees of Forestry, Quiet American, Artax, Cryptoclearance, Mecke, A. P Jet, and Sefapiano.

SAR 7/26/06

That's me, "Dr. Fager," over to the left.

A few ground rules.

1) People use these selections at their OWN risk. This is not a tout service.

2) All hypothetical wagers involving grass races are voided when races are taken off the grass.

Now let's get down to business.

Saratoga: Wednesday, July 26

I thought this card lacked a little pizzaz for a Saratoga opener. The racing office did write some creative races to get full fields, so that is a good thing I suppose.

Race 1) A fairly wide open affair. #7 Ten Cents a Shine may have soundness problems and should be avoided at low odds, though one can argue at his best he wins this easily. I looked at this race being between #11 Noah A. and #3 Massoud. Noah A. will be the higher price so I went that way. Massoud has faced better animals and certainly can triumph here.

1st - #11 Noah A.
2nd - #3 Massoud
3rd - #1 Hourly Storm

Race 2) #1A Rondo had no value at 3 to 5, and then they entered an entrymate to make sure his win odds might be 1 to 5. Rondo is a legitimate animal, and he will probably win this race.

Race 3) #3 I'm A Yankee (hopefully) will get to run on a fast track again, but his form is very sharp and he can set the pace or sit second or third early, which will be a nice advantage in this field composed largely of speedballs or plodders. He's worth a win bet at 5/2 or better. #4 Sultry City is also in good form and has a tendency to run second and third. #9 Sly Diamond Jim has run some nice races going a mile, but with his running style he may find the cutback to 6 furlongs difficult. He's the main threat to I'm a Yankee.

1st - #3 I'm A Yankee
2nd - #4 Sultry City
3rd - #9 Sly Diamond Jim

Race 4) Most people con't recognize City Zip as a turf sire, because he only ran on dirt. But his sire, Carson City, is a sire of some turf winners, and City Zip's progeny are winning 20% of the time "first time grass" with limited numbers. #4 Imperial Zip is by City Zip, and is certainly eligible to win this race using his early speed at a nice price. #2 Megatrend has run many nice dirt races and if the turf is firm he could run well in this spot. #1 Wave The Baton has run some nice grass races at a mile, but I'm not sure how he will do going 5 1/2 furlongs.

1st - #4 Imperial Zip
2nd - #2 Megatrend
3rd - #1 Wave The Baton

Race 5) The first 2 year old race at the Spa! And a difficult one at that. I'm going to put #11 Media City on top. This horse has everything you want in a 2 year old first time starter - an expensive 2yo sale buy, a good pedigree that can win at first asking, and top connections. Of course, that doesn't mean we should stop there. I thought 4 other horses has a good chance to win (in order): #5, #3, #9 and #10

1st - #11 Media City
2nd - #5 First Degree
3rd - #3 City Snitch

Races 6) and 7) we will pass (too tough to pick the winner)

Race 8) #3 Sweet Sweet and #8 Judy Soda are the logical contenders. #5 Carlow can hit the board.

1st - #3 Sweet Sweet
2nd - #8 Judy Soda
3rd - #5 Carlow

Race 9) The Schuylerville. I wish #1 Chief Officer had drawn off the rail, I think that would help her chances, but I still will put her on top. I had this race #1, #8, #5, #6, #7

1st - #1 Chief Officer
2nd - #8 Desire to Excel
3rd - #5 Francis G

Race 10) I LOVE this race! #6 Pulpiteer and #2 Exton both should be on the improve, but Pulpiteer figures to be the better price, so let's put him on top. #7 Tempt Fortune may be challenged getting the two-turn mile.

1st - #6 Pulpiteer
2nd - #2 Exton
3rd - #7 Tempt Fortune

Race 1) $10 to win #11....$6 ex 3/11....$4 ex 11/3 (total $20)

Race 3) $1 pick 3...3/1,2,4/3,5,9,10,11 (total $15)

Race 5) $15 to win #11 (total $15)

Race 8) $1 pick 3...3,8/1,5,6,7,8/2,6 (total $20)

Race 10) $20 to win #6...$5 ex box 2,6 (total $30)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Doctor is in

Welcome to "Horse Racing with the Doctor," a blog dedicated to the art of picking horse racing winners and the application of successful betting strategy in the simulcast era.

The launching of this blog preceeds the opening of the greatest six-week meeting in the world of horse racing, Saratoga in upstate New York. Racing there starts Wednesday, July 26th and continues through Labor Day, Sept. 4. Each day of the meet I will provide handicapping selections and (hopefully) thoughful discussions on how each selection was made. Accounting for successful selections and poor selections will all be done in due course, including a "flat bet" $1 ROI (return on investment). Lastly, a suggested "$100 worth" of plays each day will be posted for people that would like to play along with real money.

Before you take my word for everything, you should probably know my strengths and weaknesses.

This is how I would rate myself as a handicapper:
2 year olds, dirt: B+
2 year olds, turf: A

3 year olds, non-claiming: B+
3 year olds, claiming: B

3 and up, non-claiming: A-
3 and up, claiming: A

Maiden claimers: B+

International racing (racing outside the U.S.): A

I hope everyone finds this blog informative and useful.

Dr. Fager