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Sep 25, 2003

Numbers Are Only Part of the Story

By: Ray Taulbot

The Sprint Switch Angle: A Case Study

Of all the old bromides aboutracing, the one we like best is: "You can beat the races if you can beatthe price." We would much rather have one winner in ten at $40 than to be aself-styled super-handicapper who picked 40 percent winners at an average $7payoff. The difference in profit margin is just basic arithmetic. The catch isthat the player must have the patience to wait for openings and the fortitude toswallow losses while waiting for the big winner.

In previous articles we haveexplained that racing angles can be roughly divided into two groups:

1. Performance angles;that is, angles that deal exclusively with the manner in which a horse performsjust prior to a winning effort.

2. Trainer angles, which,of course, have to do with the manner in which trainers tend to work in order toget a worthwhile price on horses that are fit and ready.

There are, of course, angleswhich comprise both of these general features, and it is one of thesecombination "performance-trainer" angles with which we shall deal inthis article under the heading of the "sprint switch" angle.

The turf reader should understandthat doing a capable job of handicapping enhances the value of any racing angle.This is true because angles are necessarily mechanical and horses are notmachines. Secondly, all angles, like all factors in a race, are closely relatedto many other elements.

For example, a hard, over-taxingrace of recent date could destroy the winning power of the very strongest racingangle. Likewise, the class or current condition factor, or both, can strengthenor weaken the effectiveness of any angle. Thus, it is clear that the racing fanwho is capable of evaluating a racing angle on the basis of the factors to whichit is closely related, will derive better results than those who make onlymechanical use of the same angle.

In a previous column, we dealtwith a horse making the route switch in distance; this time we shall detail the sprintswitch in distance. Before advancing any further, however, we want to repeat aportion of our other article because of its direct bearing on our discussionthis month:

"A mistake commonly made bysome fans when considering the switch-in-distance angle has to do with the timefactor. When the switch is from a sprint to a route, and then back to a sprint,the final time in which the route race is run has little meaning. We all knowthat the pace of a sprint race over a fast track usually results in a fasterearly pace than does a route race run under the same conditions."

Remember, the route race is forconditioning purposes, because the trainer has evidently decided that hissprinter needs more "legging up." Hence an easy distance race is inorder.

This brings us to thatall-important date factor. Everyone who knows anything about racing surelyrealizes that the more recently a horse ran its last race the more likely it isto improve today, provided its last race was not a taxing effort that tended todull, rather than sharpen, the horse’s current condition.

The date factors apply to cheapclaimers. Higher-price claimers (entered for $25,000 or more) and horses enteredin allowances or other non-claiming events can qualify with more relaxed daterules.

We have found, however, that itdoesn’t pay to back selections — especially cheap claimers — at less than3–1.

Following are the angle rules:

1. The horse’s last race musthave been a route run within 15 days for cheap claimers, 30 days for high-priceclaimers and non-claimers. It must be switching to a sprint today.

2. The horse’s next-to-lastrace must have been run within the past 30 days for cheap claimers, 50 days forhigh-price claimers and non-claimers.

3. In its next-to-last race, asprint, the horse must have been leading or running within one length of theleader at the stretch call and finished in the money.

4. The horse’s most recent racemust have been an easy effort going a distance.

5. Prefer a horse that has turnedin at least one sharp workout at a date later than its last race. If no workoutsince then is evident, demand at least 4–1.


June 29, 2002 - Race 3 BelmontPark

Seven Furlongs

Maiden Special Weight

Unanimous Decisionc.3

7Jun02-9Bel fst 1 1/4 Md Sp Wt 4 33 522½ 2.75

17May02-4Bel fst 11/16 Md Sp Wt

1 1 1 21½ 34.50


We are reproducing the pastperformances of Unanimous Decision in the third race at Belmont Park onJune 29, 2002.

Strictly speaking, the colt’spenultimate race was not a sprint, but since he was leading all the way to thestretch call going around one turn, this was equivalent to winning aseven-furlong race, a potent argument for following the intent if not the letterof Rule 3.

Note that he ran in a much longerroute of 1¼ miles in his top race, beaten by 22½ lengths in an easy effort asrequired by Rule 4.

As a non-claimer, he had runwithin 30 and 50 days in his top two races as required by Rule 1.

When switched to a sprint racetoday he returned a $25.60 payoff enhanced by the fact that he was the onlyqualifier in today’s race.

Look for the sprint switch angle in future racesand you should receive some nice payoffs. u

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