Mar 05, 2004
Numbers Are Only Part of the Story
By: Ray Taulbot
The Sprint Switch Angle: A Case Study
Of all the old bromides about racing, the one we like best is: "You can beat the races if you can beat the
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 is that the player must have the patience to wait for openings and the fortitude to
swallow losses while waiting for the big winner.
In previous articles we have explained 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 performs
just 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 to
get a worthwhile price on horses that are fit and ready.
There are, of course, angles which comprise both of these general features, and it is one of these
combination "performance-trainer" angles with which we shall deal in this 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 not machines.
Secondly, all angles, like all factors in a race, are closely related to many other elements.
For example, a hard, over-taxing race of recent date could destroy the winning power of the very
strongest racing angle. Likewise, the class or current condition factor, or both, can strengthen or weaken the
effectiveness of any angle. Thus, it is clear that the racing fan who 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 only
mechanical use of the same angle.
In a previous column, we dealt with a horse making the route switch in distance; this time we shall detail the
sprint switch in distance. Before advancing any further, however, we want to repeat a portion of our other
article because of its direct bearing on our discussion this month:
"A mistake commonly made by some fans when considering the switch-in-distance angle has to do with
the time factor. 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 know that the pace of a sprint race over a fast track
usually results in a faster early pace than does a route race run under the same conditions."
Remember, the route race is for conditioning purposes, because the trainer has evidently decided that
his sprinter needs more "legging up." Hence an easy distance race is in order.
This brings us to that all-important date factor. Everyone who knows anything about racing surely
realizes 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 to dull, rather than sharpen, the horse’s current condition.
The date factors apply to cheap claimers. Higher-price claimers (entered for $25,000 or more) and
horses entered in allowances or other non-claiming events can qualify with more relaxed date rules.
We have found, however, that itdoesn’t pay to back selections — especially cheap claimers — at less
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-price claimers 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 the
leader at the stretch call and finished in the money.
4. The horse’s most recent race must have been an easy effort going a distance.
5. Prefer a horse that has turned in at least one sharp workout at a date later than its last race. If no workout
since then is evident, demand at least 4–1.
June 29, 2002 - Race 3 BelmontPark
Maiden Special Weight
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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