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American Turf Monthly

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Picking Your Spots When the Price is Right

The angle we'll outline this month is intended for live racing at winter-weather tracks where it catches many maiden and allowance winners at good prices. It isolates winners in claiming races as well, too, where trainers have an opportunity to cover up form on horses that have been rested.

Many racing fans have an idea, or at least a suspicion, that when the stable supports a horse it always wins. This, of course, is not true. Nonetheless, a horse that was supported in its last start by stable money, and which failed to make good, does come right back to win next out. This is particularly true of a horse that showed early speed or closed well in its last race.

Perhaps we should pause now and define what we mean by "closed well." This term does not necessarily mean that the horse finished close up in its last start. It actually means that the horse finished among the first four, having gained several lengths last start between the pre-stretch call and the wire.

The gain between these two calls is important because it serves to establish the horse's improving condition. The call prior to the stretch call is often the point where the jockey really gets to work, and a gain from this point onward is strong evidence of approaching sharpness.

Early speed is quite obvious; but for the purpose of this angle we will restrict it to a horse that was leading or not more than two lengths off the leader at the pre-stretch call and finished no further back than fifth. You might suppose that when a horse has won, the stable recouped its bankroll and will not try again. Our experience is that if the trainer shoots right back in the same company, he is out to win another bet. We will back such repeaters with confidence, providing that they close at post time odds of 4-1 or better.

With this in mind, certain horses which displayed early speed or a gain from the pre-stretch to the wire are good wagers next start. This is always true of the horse that was supported by stable money last start and which failed to make good.

Therefore it is necessary for the bettor to be able to determine whether or not the horse was supported by the stable in its last engagement. One might ask, "How can that be done unless you have access to someone connected with the trainer?"

Frankly, it is not always possible to determine whether or not the stable supported the horse last start. However, in many instances it is possible to get a sound indication of such support.

For example, suppose the horse finished out-of-the-money in its next-to-last race at high odds. Since the horse did not display a sharp effort in this race, there is no logical reason to believe that it will go postward next start in the same class company at odds that are much lower than those which prevailed in its last race.

If the odds do drop sharply next start, and if the horse was not lowered in class, then it is difficult to believe that the drop in odds was the result of heavy public support. This is because the public seldom gives strong support to a horse that finished out-of-the-money last start, especially if it is meeting the same class company today.

Accordingly, a drop in odds under these conditions can be accepted logically as evidence of stable action. For instance, suppose that a horse went to the post in a $25,000 claiming event in its next-to-last time out at 30-1, being beaten five lengths or more.

Next start this horse is again entered in a $25,000 event, but its odds today are only 10-1. Why? Certainly it is not logical to believe that the public is supporting the horse with sufficient money to drive its price down more than 50 percent below its previous odds. Thus the only logical assumption is that stable interests are supporting the horse today.

Now to continue with the example. At odds of 10-1, the horse turns in a race where it showed early speed or made a substantial gain in lengths between the pre-stretch call and the wire. Now, if this horse is again entered today in the same class or in a lower grade race, you'd better watch it closely, because the chances are good that the stable will shoot right back. However, if the horse is boosted a notch in class today, then it is best to ignore it. The boost in class may mean that the stable believes the horse needs further conditioning before trying for a purse.

It is logical to suppose that the stable will not shoot right back with this horse?

The answer to that question depends upon the date of the last race. If the last race was run within the past 14 or 15 days, then you may be sure that the stable will try again today. To put it briefly, the shorter the number of elapsed days between the last race and today's start, the stronger the evidence that the stable will send the horse to win if it can.

Angle players must learn to be flexible when applying the rules of any angle. With experience, they will learn to make the right move more often than not and this is better than waiting for a black and white adherence to formula.

As we have just said, we are not true believers in hard-and-fast mechanical rules in the application of any racing angle. However, the following rules will point out those horses that meet the demands discussed above. If the horse is starting within 15 days of its last race, and if its odds today are 4-1 or more, it is a good wager:

I. The horse must have started within the past 15 days.

II. The horse must have been leading or within two lengths of the leader at the pre-stretch call while finishing no further back than fifth or it must have gained two lengths or more between the pre-stretch call and the wire in its last race.

III. It must have finished out of the money in its next-to-last race. The odds of the next-to-last race must have been 10-1 or more.

IV. The horse's odds in its most recent race must have been at least 50 percent lower than the prevailing odds in its next-to-last race.

V. The class of its top two races must be identical, and the horse must be entered today in the same class as its last two races or in a lower class race. It positively must not be moving up in class today.

VI. Its odds today must be 4-1 or more.

VII. Where two or more qualify on all the rules, play the horse going off at the highest odds today.

This angle will not give bettors a wealth of action, but it will isolate sound investments at worthwhile odds. For that reason, it is well worth adding to your handicapping arsenal.

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