CONTENTS APRIL 2015 5
From The Publisher
Topics that titillate the racing mind.
COVER STORY: Les Onaka
Noted Los Al handicapper explains loving it, living it and learning it.
BRIS Stats Spotlight: Keeneland Spring Meeting
Ed DeRosa crunches the database to unearth key meet approaches.
Back to Night School
Stakes Schedule/Key Dates
Quick-link summaries to all of our fan education lessons in March ‘15.
Meet Our Team –Newcomer Candice Hare joins HPNOW
We begin season-long series on the folks behind our success.
Woodbine Season Preview
What’s new north of the border? What can players expect at WO?
Also: Key Illinois Derby stats & trends in the Race of the Month.
Dirt is back in Lexington, so what can weanticipate this Spring?
45 Galloping Out
Quality vs. Quantity: Keeneland’s New-Age Juggle
Batteries recharged and ready for an all-new season of action.
From the Publisher Welcome back for our 2015 season of Horse Player NOW Mag. With nearly 300,000 views / downloads of our inaugural season’s publications in 2014, I’m honored at the response. We look forward to making our second go‘round even more vibrant, current and interesting to you, the betting customer of horse racing. Among the changes you’ll see this year is an easier access to the most recently completed editions of our Night School national online fan education program. Miss a class? No worries, the free archives always are available and will be spotlighted here as well as at our website with an easy-to-use page for all audio podcasts. We also will begin a year-long feature series on the women and men who make up our Horse Player NOW team, giving you a rounded perspective of the people behind the picks and fan education initiatives we offer. Thanks to the sponsors who allow us to offer this for free once again. Support those who support you!
Horse Player NOW Magazine Copyright 2015 Horse Player NOW All Rights Reseved
Editor, Publisher, Designer Jeremy Plonk Contributing Writers Candice Hare Denis Blake Ed DeRosa Photography Chief Enzina Mastrippolito (Photosbyz) Contributing Photographers Michael Burns/Woodbine Benoit Photos/Los Alamitos Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park Four Footed Photos/Arlington Park Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Ultimate Kentucky Oaks-Derby Handicapping Package (available Tuesday, April 21) Kentucky Oaks Day Ultimate Past Performances (available Tuesday, April 28) Kentucky Derby Day Ultimate Past Performances (available Wednesday, April 29) Daily Selections full-card analysis with best bets (available Thursday, April 30) Bruno With the Works Oaks-Derby morning report (available Thursday, April 30) Spotlight Selections from NHC winner Michael â€œChampâ€? Beychok (available Thursday, April 30)
From a pick three for the ages to a prickly peach Teaser, definition: A male horse used at breeding farms to determine whether to Korean chaos, a mare is ready to receive a stallion. Also, perhaps the eventually it will most unfulfilling occupation in the universe. all make sense. Pick Three Pays $512,422! When Teaser first heard about a San Diego dude that had nailed a pick three for over a half-million bucks he was happy for the fellow but a bit confused. Why hadn‘t Teaser been aware of such a monster pick three payoff? More importantly, since the boxcar return had to have been hatched from a huge pick three pool, why wasn‘t Teaser aware of the opportunity prior? The winning ticket holder Macario Encarnacion Jr. originally was a bit confused himself. ―My wife came in the room and started dancing,‖ Encarnacion told
TimesofSanDiego.com. ―The first thing she told me was, ‗I need a new car.‘‖ Encarnacion also plans to pay off the mortgage and maybe take a vacation. Teaser subsequently spent hours scouring Internet race results charts in search of the track and event that had produced the monster pick-three payoff. It was a waste of time. Turns out the winning combination of California Classic, Lucky Star and Hot Shot, who completed the distance in 1:40:11, didn‘t even do it at a racetrack. The winning combination appeared on Encarnacion‘s Daily Derby California Lottery Ticket!
Georgia Photo Finish Goes ‘Wrong Way’ As Thoroughbred racetracks across the nation close doors and/or threaten to do so – see Los Alamitos – the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition recently made a valiant attempt to legalize the sport in the state. Unfortunately, their efforts to bring one of America‘s oldest sports and best gambling games to the Peach State came up a nose short.
―We want to thank all the senators who showed their bipartisan support for bringing the great American sport of racing to Georgia,‖ said Dean Reeves, GHRC President and better known as Mucho Macho Man‘s owner. ―Horse racing would bring thousands of jobs and over $25M in revenues for education to Georgia and become another marquee tourist destination for the state.‖
Relax, guys. Take it from an Georgia, oh Georgia. Needing to secure experienced just two more Senate votes to win horseplayer who‘s lost more photo the 38 votes required for a twofinishes than you can shake a stick thirds majority in the Senate, time at. We feel you, man. It‘s in times ran out to bring the resolution to like these when you gotta look at the Senate floor by the March 13 the bright side: When your group crossover date. finally does bring horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering to GA, you‘ll The possibility of horse racing in lose plenty more photo finishes. Georgia had not been a hopeless Consider this initial one practice. longshot, either. ―The two votes we needed to pass the Sentate DQ Draws Ire of Koreans were clearly in reach…we just Recent criticism of inconsistent needed a hundred more yards to stewards rulings in the good ole U. cross the finish line,‖ said Carl S. of A. (see trainer Rick Violette‘s Bouckaert, GHRC Chairman. rants following the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby) can‘t hold ―Unfortunately, we just could not a match to what happened in finalize them before the deadline.‖
Korea when horseplayers became enraged by a steward‘s decision— an indisputably correct one at that! Following a race in which the winning horse carried less weight than originally assigned, stewards at Seoul Racecourse did what they were supposed to do—they disqualified the winner. Since horseplayers at the track, OTBs and other simulcast locations that had wagered on the winner saw no obvious infraction during the running of the race they became irate when their mutuel tickets on the winner proved worthless.
Via @Koreanracing on Twitter
Mutuel clerks were the first to feel the ire of players as they were verbally assaulted. Next, a ―small but vociferous group gathered by the winning post and made clear their intention to disrupt the following race‖ with the runners already at the starting gate. According to reports, ―form guides, betting slips, pens and anything else that came to hand were hurled onto the track.‖ Individuals also climbed the fence and ran onto the track. Track security quickly was overwhelmed and the race—the afternoon‘s third—was cancelled. Track officials then appeared on inhouse and simulcast television to
explain the reason for the disqualification. The protestors, however, weren‘t buying what officials were selling. As horses paraded for the fourth race the vitriol increased in intensity and, despite the presence of riot police, more irate fans poured onto the track. Ultimately, it became unsafe for jockeys to parade mounts past the grandstand. The fourth race also was cancelled. Apparently, Korean horseplayers are a mercurial lot. Seven years ago there were riots when a race day was cancelled due to cold weather. That‘s wild. Even die-hard New York punters were able to control themselves throughout multiple cancellations this winter. With the potential for a full-scale riot on their hands, the Korean Racing Authority announced that bets would be paid out on the disqualified horse as a ―goodwill‖ gesture to customers.
Via @Koreanracing on Twitter
The ―goodwill‖ gesture actually may have benefitted the Korean Racing Authority more than it did the irate customers. Two cancelled races had cost the Authority approximately US $7 million. At those numbers, it‘s clear that losing another race was not an option. Amazingly, the refund quickly subdued the mob and 30 minutes later families were enjoying sunsplashed picnics by the finish line as if nothing had ever happened. Racing and (most importantly) wagering resumed.
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LES ONAKA: LOVE IT, LIVE IT, LEARN IT Los Al handicapper explains his love for the game + how to pick more winners!
By Denis Blake
any people waver with uncertainty throughout their high school years and into their 20s (or beyond) before they truly figure out what they want to do with their life. Les Onaka is not one of those people. When he was a teenager, fate stepped in and pointed the young man down the path to becoming one of the most successful and well-known handicappers of American Quarter Horse racing. The first step down that road began at Hollywood Park in Southern California, where the Hawaii native was attending the races with his parents. “I was about 15 years old, so I was picking up tickets just to pass the time and I saw a $20 bill on the ground,” Onaka recalled. “So I put
it all on one horse. The horse won and I got back over $200, and ever since that day I‟ve been hooked. I just kept going and going. It was a life-changing experience.” A familiar face on TVG‟s “The Quarters” and a longtime clocker at Los Alamitos Race Course, Onaka
has been involved in the sport for more than 30 years. Although he caught the racing bug at a Thoroughbred track and also experienced Standardbred racing as a youth, the speed and excitement of Quarter Horse racing attracted him to the breed. “It was such a fast game,” Onaka remembered about how Quarter Horses caught his eye. “The shorter distances just clicked with me. I thought, „this is my game.‟” Onaka now conducts handicapper seminars at locations around California, where Thoroughbreds run during the day before Quarter Horses take over at night.
“I get there early when I do seminars and it‟s mostly the Thoroughbred handicappers at that time,” Onaka said. “They think Quarter Horse racing is all about the break and if your horse doesn‟t break you aren‟t going to win. But I think Quarter Horse racing is so much easier to handicap.” Onaka, like other successful Quarter Horse players, points out that handicapping Quarter Horses that are generally running in straightaway races is a more straightforward process than Thoroughbreds running around one or more turns. The complexion of a Thoroughbred race can change dramatically if one of the
anticipated early speed horses misses the break, making the pace of a race difficult to predict, and that breed adds the extra challenge of different surfaces with dirt, turf and synthetic to consider.
Onaka said the game really isn‟t all that hard to learn, but the recipe for success calls for a generous amount of hard work and dedication. And while Onaka can appreciate fans who come out to the track or play a few races online as a pleasant diversion, he does not hold back in saying that there is no shortcut to success.
“To me, there‟s more that can go wrong in a Thoroughbred race than a Quarter Horse race,” Onaka opined. “In Quarter Horse racing, if “When you go you do your homework, to the racetrack, you can find the fastest if you look horse and he usually “I tell people three around most wins.” things when I do people are there seminars. First, just looking at Upon you have to love the odds and Further the game. Second, the program,” Review you have to live he said. “That‟s the game. And all they use. I If you love your work, third, you have to watch video of then it really doesn‟t learn the game.” every horse in seem like work at all. - Les Onaka every race. And that‟s how it is for Almost nobody Onaka. Even on his “days off,” Onaka said he might does that. It takes me 10 or 12 hours a day to handicap one spend five to six hours watching program. replays, as opposed to the 10 to 12 hours of time he might put in on a “work day.” “For one horse, I might watch the replay for five to seven minutes,” “I tell people three things when I he continued. “I watch the pan shot and the head-on. The head-on do seminars,” Onaka said. “First, you have to love the game. is very important. Not many horses Second, you have to live the game. run a straight course. Look at the And third, you have to learn the horses drawn to the inside and game.” outside of the horse you are
watching. Do they run a straight course? Horses are creatures of habit, so you want to watch out for trouble for your horse.” Onaka stressed the importance of not just watching race replays, which he often does through the AQHA‟s Q-Racing Video service, but also video of morning workouts or training races, which tracks including Los Alamitos and Remington Park make available online. Workouts and training races can be especially important for unraced or lightly raced 2year-olds, and watching those videos can give a handicapper a big edge over others who are merely looking at the times listed in the program or past performances. “Sometimes a horse goes :12.20 (for 220 yards) and another one goes :12.60 under a stranglehold,” he said. “But if the :12.20 horse is all out, that‟s a big difference. Most people will look at those works and figure the :12:20 horse is faster by
a couple of lengths, when maybe he‟s really not.” Few handicappers are able, or dedicated enough, to put in the time that Onaka does. One shortcut that Onaka can endorse, however, is using his “Los Alamitos Handicappers‟ Report,” sold at www.lesonaka.com. Each report includes his selections, suggested wagers and a detailed horse-byhorse analysis with notes on any recent race trouble or workouts. Onaka said even those who can find the time to do just a little homework before placing a wager will be rewarded. “If you can take an hour to watch replays, that will help,” he said. “Just concentrate on the top four horses and give them a look. It‟s not hard to pick out the contenders and also look for the troubled horses. Some people will toss out a troubled horse, but those are the ones to look at. Everyone can see the horse who won the last race,
but look at the horse that had trouble and lost by two lengths last time to see if he can beat the favorite.”
up the number, and I was shocked. I really thought I lost it by a nose. I will never forget that; it was so much fun.”
The Perfect Card
The keyword for Onaka is “fun,” that is if you consider spending countless hours watching and rewatching replays and meticulously calculating race times to be fun.
Even the greatest racehorses— Dash For Cash, Easy Jet and Special Effort among others—were not perfect and lost an occasional race. But on one particular night in 2002, Onaka was indeed perfect as he selected all nine winners at Los Alamitos as an analyst on TVG.
“Quarter Horses are just my cup of tea,” he said. “I love the game and I enjoy it every single day.”
Even though favorites prevailed in all nine races, it‟s still a remarkable accomplishment, especially considering that the card included two Arabian races and an Appaloosa race at 870 yards. “It was a mixed bag of races; it wasn‟t just Quarter Horses so that makes it even tougher,” Onaka said. “It came down to the last race; the name of the horse was A Big Shot Of Brandy, and Eddie Garcia, the all-time winningest rider at Los Al was on the horse. I was on TVG with Dave Weaver and I think Todd Schrupp. The race is run and we all thought my horse lost by a nose. I was eight-foreight before that, so I thought it wasn‟t bad a night. Then they put
Denis Blake is one of the American Quarter Horse Association‟s Wrangler Racing Aces and is also editor of American Racehorse and The Horsemen‟s Journal magazines.
MEET OUR TEAM: CANDICE HARE Editor’s Note: We begin a seasonlong series spotlighting the members of the Horse Player NOW staff by introducing you to our newest teammate, Candice Hare. The California native joined HPN in March 2015 in her first foray into the horse racing industry and will help us develop new products, promote our initiatives via social media and more. She’s a graduate of the University of California-Riverside with a degree in mathematics and a curator of the blog cappingwithcandice.com.
ften, a winning bet is behind the making of a horseplayer and that was exactly the case for me. Growing up, my father enjoyed horse racing and would bet the Triple Crown races, as well as the Breeders’ Cup. The Kentucky Derby was always a race which was looked forward to most in my family, however, not just because of the prestige of the event, but
because my father would make a $2 bet for each of us on a horse of our choice. While my childhood bets were mostly losing ones, the first one I remember getting correct was 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm. While I didn’t exactly get rich that day at 4/1, making a few dollars and subsequently watching his close call at becoming a Triple Crown winner hooked me as a racing fan at the young age of 7.
Even still, it took one more horse for me to make the transition from racing fan to horseplayer. Growing up in Southern California, Zenyatta had a massive impact on the local racing community and simply put, her presence brought people to the racetrack. The night before I drove down for my first trip to a racetrack – to see Zenyatta in the 2010 Lady’s Secret – I taught myself how to read the basics of past performances. I’d go on to bet the entire card that day, which was capped off with her dramatic win in the feature (click video below to watch), a race
which, to this day, I name at the top of my list of most memorable races attended. I was officially hooked. From that day on, I made a point to learn this game -immersing myself in replays daily and learning as much as I could about pace scenarios, trip notes, speed figures, and trainer/jockey stats. It also was during that time that I was finishing up my college studies in mathematics, and while there is a firm numbers and statistics aspect to this game, I’ve found
that the logical reasoning and critical thinking skills I developed during my studies helped me as a horseplayer far more than my pure understanding of numbers ever could. At this point, while I factor several different aspects into my handicapping, I predominantly rely on pace and trip notes when I’m making larger wagers. My biggest win bets will come on “betback” horses who were either pace compromised, had a tough trip, or I'll bet against my “pattern runners,” who due to the draw will likely be forced into an early situation which they’ve not yet faced in their career. Among my favorite bets, I count Santa Anita’s Pick-5, which nearly always seems to pay well given the odds of the horses who won in that sequence. It’s a wager that I’ll make several times a week, particularly on weekends. While a few special horses and a couple of $2 wagers sparked my interest in the sport, it’s the
excitement of the races, the dream of making a huge score, and the thrill of victory that motivates me to this day. In me, horse racing has gained a horseplayer for life.
You can follow Candice on Twitter @chare889.
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2015 WOODBINE SEASON PREVIEW
After a long winter’s thaw, the return of live racing to Canada’s premier racetrack, Woodbine, signals a fresh start. For horses, their time off has been appreciated to rest, recover and develop. The horsemen have bided time in many cases, traveled south in others. And for horseplayers, a fresh outlook puts a bounce in the step with abounding optimism.
April 11 marks opening day of the 2015 Thoroughbred season, running 133 days in all through season’s end on December 6. The national showcase, the Queen’s Plate, will be held Sunday, July 5 for the 156th time and anchors the stakes schedule. The 2015 Queen’s Plate Winter Book saw Ami’s Flatter (pictured) installed the rock-solid 5/2 favorite among more than 125 nominees to the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.
The Florida Derby 3rd-place finisher for trainer Josie Carroll could give his trainer her third Plate victory following Edenwold (2006) and the filly Inglorious (2011). Trainer Brian Lynch also has a powerful Plate hand to play that is led by Unbridled Juan, who turned heads at Gulfstream Park in March. Meanwhile, trainer Mark Casse, who notched his first plate a year ago with the filly Lexie Lou, figures prominently on the trial with the likes of Conquest Typhoon, Danzig Moon and Conquest Tsunami. Casse figures prominently in the leading trainer discussion once again this year and should bring horses north early in the meet who have had extensive conditioning in Florida and Arkansas. An interesting twist in the Woodbine
jockey colony will be newcomer Alan Garcia (pictured), who will be represented by successful local agent Tony Esposito. After booking mounts for 2011, ’12 and ’13 WO leading jockey Luis Contreras, there’s no doubt Esposito will be putting Garcia in a live position to contend with Patrick Husbands and Contreras in a competitive colony. Garcia hasn’t had this kind of support since he rode strongly for trainer Kenny McPeek at Keeneland in 2011 when he went off for 14 wins during the short Spring Meet.
KEY WOODBINE STAKES DATES April 18 – Whimsical Stakes May 9 – Hendrie Stakes May 16 – Marine Stakes May 23 – Nassau Stakes June 7 – Eclipse Stakes June 14 – Woodbine Oaks / Plate Trial June 21 – King Edward Stakes July 1 – Dominion Day Stakes July 5 – Queen’s Plate Day (5 stakes) July 19 – Nijinsky II Stakes Aug 2 – Seagram Cup Aug 16 – Breeders’ Stakes/Sky Classic Aug 23 – Play the King Stakes Sep 12 – Summer / Natalma Stakes Sep 13 – Woodbine Mile Day (4 stakes) Oct 3 – Durham Cup Oct 4 – Grey / Mazarine Stakes Oct 18 – Canadian Int’l Day (4 stakes) Nov 8 – Autumn Stakes Nov 22 – Kennedy Road Stakes Nov 29 – Display / Valedictory Stakes
Wednesday night racing begins May 27 and continues throughout the meet, featuring the return of the popular Horse Player NOW / Night School live chats during the full cards. Attendees get free BRISNET.com past performances and live analysis from our experts.
This marks the final season of the Polytrack at Woodbine, which will be replaced following the racing year with a Tapeta synthetic surface. Currently, Tapeta is used at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California and Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania. – HPN
Quality vs. Quantity: Keeneland’s New-Age Juggle
By Jeremy Plonk
You can talk about Keeneland’s surface situation until the jelly cables and fibers spill from your mouth, but the decision to move back to dirt last summer comes down to high-end, quality horses. If along the way the race meetings lose their ability to over-flow fields in an era when only casino-fueled tracks fill fields, the trade-off resonated with Keeneland brass. Keeneland’s racing meet isn’t the necessary moneymaker it is to every other racetrack operator in America. Keeneland is a sales company at its heart, auctioning off the very best the sport has to offer each year in a series of sales headlined by its September Yearling extravaganza. For many close to the operation, its racing meet should be a showcase of the best horses it sells ... a public display of affection, if you will. It’s not as though star horses failed to show at Keeneland during its Polytrack era. The Blue Grass Stakes, for all its critiques, showcased superstars of current
and future repute like Street Sense, Palace Malice, Hansen and Dullahan. The Thoroughbred Club of America stakes during the Fall Meet became a rubber stamp to winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Horses like 2-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan ran on the Keeneland Polytrack.
But in many cases, the “name” horses who tested these races failed to win, and that sat uneasy with the racing public and, eventually, with those who felt Keeneland’s reputation was becoming more sideshow than blockbuster on its biggest days. I never subscribed to that; but I can empathize with those who did. No doubt the Polytrack removal and return to dirt had much to do with the 2015 Breeders’ Cup decision that was looming. Now, the championship days will come home to Lexington this Oct. 3031, where most all of the competitors racing those days will have been born. The fact that Del Mar will follow suit with an all-new dirt surface this summer and land the Breeders’ Cup in ’17 only underscores that realization of why Keeneland would move away from a Polytrack that not only had an amazing safety record, but also sported all-time record meet handle totals by the time the public had acclimated. Folks in many camps figured I would be disappointed in the removal of the Polytrack, given it became a niche handicapping
genre from which I exploited much business and interest. While the conclusion is false, the premise is true: Polytrack was very good to me. But the footing absolutely never mattered to me emotionally as a handicapper, and that’s why I embraced it from the outset while others did not; and that’s the same reason why the return to dirt doesn’t disappoint me either. The “new” dirt is new again for everyone, and my goal as a horseplayer always has been to outwork and outthink everyone else. While we all scramble to figure out what will work in the new surface twist for a few meets, those who study hard and accept the challenge will succeed. Those who take shortcuts will find wallets short circuited. It’s no different than the beginning of the Polytrack era. The biggest negative to the surface change from Polytrack to dirt definitely comes in my ticket structure and money management. As a devout win and trifecta bettor, the full fields that Polytrack provided and the enormous payouts were a fantastic draw to me. In this case, the numbers don’t lie for the quantity camp.
Avg Win Odds Avg $1 Tri
’06 Fall-’14 Spring
The 2014 Fall Meet’s return to dirt forced me to alter the way I play, not because of the surface, but because of the math. Exotic wagering strictly is about numbers and how you can get them to work in your favor as a horseplayer. Whom you pick and what methodology you employ in handicapping a race are much more adaptable to individuals, surfaces and situations. And that adaptability will come in handy as we approach a 2015 Spring Meet that will be the first season on dirt during this timeframe since 2006. WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS SPRING During the most recent Spring Meet in 2014, horses who prepped at Gulfstream Park won 35 of the 109 races on the Polytrack, nearly tripling up those from Fair Grounds (13) and Turfway (13). But only 9 of those 35 Gulfstream winners exited dirt preps as the vast majority were turf-to-Polytrack surface movers. The same goes for
Fair Grounds, where only 4 of the 13 winners exited local dirt races. Of course, Turfway was all Poly-toPoly as a one-surface racetrack. Keep in mind that even with the dirt surface change implemented for Fall 2014, only 65 of 121 dirt races were won by horses exiting dirt preps. One area where I think you’ll see an immediate upgrade in results will be shippers from Tampa Bay Downs. That circuit fed only 2 winners dirt-to-Poly last Spring, but if you go back to the 2006 Spring Meet at Keeneland on dirt, it produced 2 winners opening day alone and was much more effective. Oaklawn Park would be a natural place to see some improvement, too, but note that Oaklawn’s meet overlaps with the opening weekend at Keeneland, so there’s some dates conflicts that can stunt some of that volume. Still, common sense tells you Gulfstream dirt runners are going to be very tough in the maiden special weight, allowance and
stakes ranks. When it comes to Keeneland turf races in the Spring, Gulfstream shippers have won 31 of 68 races presented over the past 2 years. Fair Grounds (6) and Woodbine layoff horses (6) lag far behind that standard as next-best. Julien Leparoux was leading rider at Keeneland in the Spring of 2006 when the dirt was flying, and a close third 2 wins behind Rosie Napravnik when the dirt returned in Fall 2014. Expect Paco Lopez (pictured), who made a strong dirt impression here last Fall, to be a strong contender for leading rider with Napravnikâ€™s retirement and fact that heâ€™ll have a better arsenal of trainers he rode for at Gulfstream showing up at Keeneland in the Spring than he did via Monmouth in the Fall. As for the trainers, the last 3 Spring dirt meet winners for the title were Nick Zito, Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen. All support the season stronger on dirt than in the Polytrack era. Of the 121 dirt races offered at the 2014 Fall Meet, leading trainers were Todd Pletcher (7), Kellyn Gorder (5), Ingrid Mason (5-pictured), Eddie Kenneally (4), Kenny McPeek (4), Chris Richard (4), Al Stall Jr. (4), Wesley Ward (4).
Carpe Diem (pictured) rolled to victory in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in the Fall Meet on dirt, and is expected back to headline the April 4 G1 Blue Grass. This year’s premier Kentucky Derby prep has been moved up a week, to opening Saturday of the meet, in order to give horsemen 4 weeks until the first Saturday in May.
KEY KEENELAND SPRING INFO Live racing April 3-24 1st race post time 1:05 pm ET (except 4/4 & 4/11 12:30 pm) April 3 opening day April 4 Blue Grass Day with 5 major stakes races No racing Easter Sunday (4/5) April 10 Maker’s 46 Mile April 11 Lexington Stakes Day with 4 major stakes races April 24 closing day WPS takeout 16%, all exotic wagers 19%
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Pace Makes the Race And A Winning Horseplayer At Keeneland By Ed DeRosa The Keeneland Race Course main track has certainly challenged horseplayers the past 10 years. From the speed-favoring golden rail of spring 2006 to the everevolving Polytrack from fall 2006spring 2014 to the return to dirt in October 2014, staying on top of how horses raced on the surface (and how horsemen prepared their charges to do so) was never easy. But it could be lucrative. Other than a crazy run of favorites in spring 2013 (most campaigned by Eclipse Awardwinning owner Ken Ramsey and his merry band of Kitten’s Joy homebreds), Keeneland had gained (earned?) a reputation as a track that could be counted on for big prices—especially in its marquee events such as the Ashland and Blue Grass Stakes that will be contested on opening April 4 Saturday in Lexington.
What brought these prices home? Evenly matched fields? Inscrutable synthetic surface form? Jockey adjustments? A combination of those variables, for sure, plus another element: over-thinking the handicapping process. In the vast majority of American races, speed is king, and early speed is the court jester that makes you laugh for ignoring a wellpriced winner who goes gate to wire. Doug Salvatore writes about it on the TwinSpires.com blog, and it’s been the topic of countless handicapping treatises from Steve Klein’s The Power of Early Speed to chapters in practically every handicapping survey tome published. And yet horseplayers constantly look for reasons to ignore early speed. Turf sets up for closers, synthetic races are all won closing wide, etc. While it’s true that certain surfaces (and tracks and class levels) have a
certain profile, handicappers should be careful not to overweight the mode of how a race is won. I.e., just because closers most often win a race does not mean that a frontrunner cannot offer value. Stats from the 2013 and 2014 fall meetings at Keeneland play this out. The 2013 was the last autumn meet for Polytrack while 2014 was the first with dirt. The top last-out E1 pace figure in the Brisnet.com Past Performances produced an ROI of +41% in all main track races in October 2013 and “only” (in quotes because it’s still impressive) a 2.5% positive ROI for the same meeting in 2014. Bettors mostly ignored early speed on the Polytrack, but those who didn’t were rewarded handsomely, and unlike Salvatore’s examples from the blog post cited above, you didn’t even need to know who would get the lead to cash in on this angle—only know who ran the fastest to the first call last time out based on the Brisnet Pace Ratings. 2014
Speed Last Speed 2/3 1st call
1 call 2/3
The preceding chart was generated using my ALL-WAYS database. Speed Last is the best last-out Speed Rating. Speed 2/3 is the two best Speed Ratings from the last three starts. 1st call is the best last-out E1 pace rating; 1 call 2/3 is the two best E1 pace ratings from the last three races. The best last-out Speed Rating remains a powerful dirt handicapping angle, and we already know early speed is powerful regardless of race type, surface, location, etc. So what happens when we combine them? At the 2014 Keeneland fall meeting in non-maiden main track races, horses who had both the best lastout Brisnet.com Speed Rating AND the best last-out E1 pace rating won 38% of the time with a return on investment of +27%. It’s humbling as a handicapper— someone who enjoys spending time trying to outsmart everyone else—to see that I could have paid for Christmas last year just betting that angle. Maybe I can make enough for my Derby bets this year.
This issue we review classes from:
APRIL 2015 Since 2011, Night School has been teaching novice and expert handicappers alike in the finer points of playing the races. Through live chats, videos and radio simulcasts, the best in the industry have shared their expertise free with horseplayers. In each issue of Horse Player NOW Magazine, we go “Back to Night School” with a look at some of the high points of past lessons.
The 2015 Night School season, our fifth (how time flies!), kicked off last month with a series of topics strategically aligned to provide the building blocks of the handicapping process. Click to listen to each! Week 1: The First Things To Look At Week 2: Jockey Angles Week 3: Trainer Angles/Form Cycles Week 4: Trainer Stats – Pros/Cons
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COMING THIS MONTH IN NIGHT SCHOOL! TUESDAYS, 8:30 PM ET APRIL 7 PSYCHOLOGY OF THE HORSEPLAYER
APRIL 14 SMALL BANKROLL BETTING
Go inside the minds of the game’s top players to see what makes them tick ... and how they ride the tide.
Identify and implement strategies to help stretch your wagering dollar and maximize smaller investments. APRIL 21 LARGE BANKROLL BETTING Learn from the ‘whales’ about the mindset and strategy of playing big.
APRIL 28 KENTUCKY DERBY WEEK ‘CAPPING We’re all-in for a live chat analyzing the contenders for the Kentucky Derby/Oaks!
LOOK AHEAD: MAY 5 WHEN TO BET MORE…LESS? What factors make you punch an opinion harder, and when you know when to fold ‘em?
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8 Carousel (OP), f/m, 6F
9 Count Fleet (OP), 4&up, 6F Premiere (LS), 3&up, 6.5F 10 Maker’s 46 Mile (Kee), 4&up, 8F-T Apple Blossom (OP), f/m, 8.5F Bachelor (OP), 3yo, 6F Santa Lucia (SA), f/m, 8.5F Point Given / Photos By Z
APRIL 2015 3 Transylvania (Kee), 3yo, 8F-T 4 Blue Grass (Kee), 3yo, 9F Ashland (Kee), 3yof, 8.5F Madison (Kee), f/m, 7F Commonwealth (Kee), 4&up, 7F Shakertown (Kee), 4&up, 5.5F-T Santa Anita Derby (SA), 3yo, 9F Santa Anita Oaks (SA), 3yof, 8.5F Providencia (SA), 3yof, 9F-T Wood Memorial (Aqu), 3yo, 9F Carter (Aqu), 4&up, 7F Gazelle (Aqu), f/m, 9F Bay Shore (Aqu), 3yo, 7F Fantasy (OP), 3yo, 8.5F Fla Showcase Day (Tam), 6 stakes Wildcat (TuP), 3&up, 11F-T Arizona Stallion (TuP), 3yof, 7.5F-T
11 Arkansas Derby (OP), 3yo, 9F Oaklawn Hcp (OP), 3&up, 9F Northern Spur (OP), 3yo, 8F Instant Racing (OP), 3yof, 8F Jenny Wiley (Kee), f/m, 8.5F-T Ben Ali (Kee), 4&up, 9F Lexington (Kee), 3yo, 8.5F Giant’s Cswy (Kee), f/m, 5.5F-T Woodstock (WO), 3yo, 6F Kona Gold (SA), 4&up, 6.5F Las Cienegas (SA), f/m, 6.5F-T Top Flight (Aqu), f/m, 9F Hanks Memorial (LS), f/m, 6F Czaria (Sun), f/m, 6F 12 Beaumont (Kee), 3yof, 7F Appalachian (Kee), 3yof, 8F-T San Pedro (SA), 3yo, 6F Star Shoot (WO), 3yof, 6F Plenty of Grace (Aqu), f/m, 8F Sunland Park Hcp (Sun), 3&up, 9F
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17 Doubledogdare (Kee), f/m, 8.5F 18 Charles Town Clsc (CT), 3&up, 9F Sugar Maple (CT), f/m, 7F Robert Hilton Mem’l (CT), 3yo, 7F Elkhorn (Kee), 4&up, 12F-T Federico Tesio Day (Pim), 6 stakes Whimsical (WO), f/m, 6F Santa Barbara (SA), f/m, 10F-T La Puente (SA), 3yo, 9F-T Illinois Derby (Haw), 3yo, 9F Sixty Sails (Haw), f/m, 9F Distaff (Aqu), f/m, 6F Woodhaven (Aqu), 3yo, 8.5F Noonan (Mvr), 3yo, 6F Austintown (Mvr), 3yof, 6F 19 San Simeon (SA), 4&up, 6.5F-T Mmrs of Silver (Aqu), 3yof, 8.5F-T 24 Bewitch (Kee), f/m, 12F-T Texas Mile (LS), 3&up, 8F Matron (Evd), f/m, 8F 25 San Fran Mile (GG), 3&up, 8F-T Last Tycoon (SA), 3&up, 10F-T William Walker (CD), 3yo, 6F Miami Mile (GP), 3&up, 8F-T Powder Break (GP), f/m, 8.5F-T Excelsior (Aqu), 4&up, 10F John Henry (Evd), 3&up, 8.5F
Bsslman/Fonner (Fon), 3&up, 8.5F Milwaukee Ave (Haw), 3&up, 8.5F Goldfinch (Prm), 3yof, 6F AZ Showcase Day (TuP), 5 stakes 26 Jacques Cartier (WO), 4&up, 6F Wilshire (SA), f/m, 8F-T NY Stallion (Aqu), 2 divisions Campanile (GG), 3yof, 6F Silky Sullivan (GG), 3yo, 6F 29 Elusive Quality (Bel), 4&up, 7F
April April April April April April April April April April April April April April April
2 – Pimlico meet opens 3 – Keeneland meet opens 8 – Evangeline meet opens 9 – Lone Star meet opens 11 – Woodbine meet opens 11 – Oaklawn meet ends 18 – Emerald meet opens 18 – Prairie Mdws meet opens 21 – Ind Grand meet opens 24 – Keeneland meet ends 25 – Churchill meet opens 26 – Hawthorne meet ends 26 – Aqueduct meet ends 27 – Thistedown meet opens 29 – Belmont meet opens
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ILLINOIS DERBY April 18, 2015
APRIL RACE OF THE MONTH Dynamic Impact made the Preakness prepping in the 2014 Illinois Derby KEY INGREDIENTS TO THE ILLINOIS DERBY: The Illinois Derby often is contested on a very fast, speedfavoring track over 1 1/8 miles with a long stretch run at Hawthorne measuring 1,320 feet – longer than any of the TC venues. This race has been a confluence of runners from all over the country as the local scene doesn’t have a true prep path. Runners from Tampa, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Aqueduct, Sunland and Santa Anita often dot the field. Both Illinois Derby winners since the race was denied Kentucky
Derby qualifying points have gone on to compete in the Preakness, finishing 6th (Departing) and 7th (Dynamic Impact). Winning Preps for Last 10 Illinois Derby Winners ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
Dynamic Impact Departing Done Talking Joe Vann American Lion Musket Man Recapturetheglory Cowtown Cat Sweetnorthernsaint Greeley’s Galaxy
1st 3rd 10th 1st 4th 1st 3rd 1st 3rd 1st
Maiden (OP) Louisiana Derby (FG) Gotham (Aqu) Allowance (Lrl) San Felipe (SA) Tampa Bay Derby (Tam) Allowance (FG) Gotham (Aqu) Gotham (Aqu) Allowance (SA)
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Recharging the batteries. It’s been a few months since we’ve published and I hope you missed us. That’s not being mean; more so it’s an admission that even something we love needs the rejuvenating qualities that only space and time can give. That’s why I’m such an advocate of boutique meets, a winter break in the schedule and a chance to feel like there’s a start and a stop to the horse racing calendar. The Triple Crown pursuit from January through June, for instance, gives us not only a defined timetable, but its restriction to 3-year-olds insures that every single year we get fresh faces, new storylines and unique horses to embrace. We’re back for a second season, April through December (as well as January’s Countdown to the Crown Preseason Annual publication) by design. The time off has allowed us to look at initiatives we undertake – from Night School, to our live chats, to our BUZZ Report handicapping products, and this digital magazine – and evaluate the
strengths and weaknesses of each and make them all better. It’s no different than being a horseplayer. Time off to recharge the wagering batteries, and the real-world wallet, is one of the most important things you must accept and understand for long-term success, much less survival. During that time, assess what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, and review your wagering records (if you don’t keep them, start!). Be honest with yourself; no one else will evaluate your performance except you. It’s a rare place in life. Personal responsibility is real in this game we love to play. We’ve made a staff change or two this offseason and met with focus groups to better understand what we can do better. And now, we’re fresh off the layoff to fire.
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Published on Apr 1, 2015
The horse racing industry's leading player development and fan education team is back with the start of 2015 monthly publications. Enjoy fea...