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Apr 12, 2004

The Sprint Switch Angle

By: Ray Taulbot

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 10 at $40 than to be a self-styled super-handicapper

 who picked 40 percent winners at an average $7 payoff. The difference in profit margin is just basic

 arithmetic. The catch is that the player must have the patience to wait for spots and the fortitude to cope

 with losses while waiting for that big winner. In previous articles, we have explained that handicapping 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: Angles concerned 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." Last month we dealt with a horse making the route switch in distance; this time,

 we"ll detail the sprint switch in distance. Before advancing any further, however, we want to repeat a portion

 of our last article because of its direct bearing on our discussion this month. Last month we stated:


"A mistake commonly made by some handicappers 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." So an easy distance race is in order.


This brings us to that all-important date factor. Every astute bettor realizes that the more recently a horse

ran its last race, the more likely it is to improve today, provided its last race was not a taxing effort that

tended to dull rather than sharpen the horse"s current condition. Horses that have started within eight days

are the "cream of thecrop" in so far as the date factor is concerned. However, there are times when a trainer

 is unable to find a race for which his horse is eligible within eight days of itslast contest. Personally, we do

not care to accept a selection that has not started with inthe past 14 days at the track. While we have advocated

 backing those selections which show at least one workout since their last race, it does not pay to quibble if the

last race was within the specified 14 days, particularly if you are getting the best of it from an odds perspective.

 We have found, however, that it doesn"t pay to back selections —especially cheap claimers — at odds of less

 than 3-1.


Following are the rules of the sprint switch angle in summary form:


1. The horse"s last race must have been a route run within 14 days for claimers, 28 days for non-claimers. It

 must be switched to a sprint today.

2. The horse"s next-to-last race must have been run within the past 30 days for claimers, 50 days for


3. In the next-to-last sprint race, the horse must have been leading at the stretch call, or finish in the

 money, or within two lengths of the winner,closing ground in the stretch.

4. The horse"s most recent race must have been an easy effort going adistance.

5. Give preference to horses that have turned in at least one sharpworkout at a date later than its last race.

 If no workout since then is evident, demand odds of at least 4-1.

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