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Numbers Are Only Part of the Story
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 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 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 understand that 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 which it 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 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.

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 it doesn’t pay to back selections — especially cheap claimers — at less than 3–1.

Following are the angle rules:

1. The horse’s last race must have 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-last race must have been run within the past 30 days for cheap claimers, 50 days for high-price claimers and non-claimers.

3. In its next-to-last race, a sprint, 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 Belmont Park

Seven Furlongs

Maiden Special Weight

Unanimous Decision c.3

7Jun02-9Bel fst 1 1/4 Md Sp Wt 4 3 3 522½ 2.75

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

1 1 1 21½ 34.50


We are reproducing the past performances of Unanimous Decision in the third race at Belmont Park on June 29, 2002.

Strictly speaking, the colt’s penultimate race was not a sprint, but since he was leading all the way to the stretch call going around one turn, this was equivalent to winning a seven-furlong race, a potent argument for following the intent if not the letter of Rule 3.

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

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

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

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

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