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Jun 24, 2005

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 the crop" insofar 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 its last contest. Personally, we do not care to accept a selection that has not started within the 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 non-claimers.

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 a distance.

5. Give preference to horses that have turned in at least one sharp workout 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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