Noting track bias is a daily chore

Noting track bias is a daily chore

February 13, 2019 3:00 AM
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An unstable weather pattern out west has led to a number of wet tracks, sealed tracks and drying out tracks at Santa Anita. The changing surfaces have led to track biases appearing from out of the blue.

For handicappers, those track biases represent opportunity. Here are examples from last week.

Last Thursday at Santa Anita, on a drying out main track labeled “Good,” here is what happened:

• Race 2 – Brioso got into a three-horse speed duel from the outside in this seven-furlong sprint, but was able to put his pace rivals away and inched clear for the ­victory to pay $5.40.

• Race 4 – Noble Contessa was able to get the lead in this one-mile event, shook loose entering the far turn and pulled clear through the stretch to win by eight lengths. She paid $8.00 to win, and the bias was becoming clear. Frontrunners had a decided edge.

• Race 6 – Just a Smidge was sent from the gate by jockey Assael Espinoza, and despite being four-wide entering the first turn he kept after the filly until she was able to get clear. Instead of tiring in the stretch, Just a Smidge held sway for the entire mile trip to pay a hefty $52.00.

• Race 7 – Give credit to jockey Aaron Gryder for sending cheap claimer Roaring Fork from his inside post to establish the early lead in this one mile race. Like everyone else on the day, Roaring Fork kept extending his advantage to win by over 10 lengths and pay $8.80.

Last Friday at Santa Anita, another type of track bias appeared as the main track finally got back to being labeled “Fast.” Here is a recap:

• Race 1 – Runningwscissors broke quickly from his rail post, and after ducking out crossing onto the main track in this seven-furlong sprint, he dropped back to the rail entering the turn and pulled away to win easily. The payoff was $5.00.

• Race 3 – Empress of Lov got an easy lead from her inside post and appeared on her way to victory when she opened a clear lead at the top of the lane. However, she came off the inside just enough to let Award It sneak through and get up in time to pay $4.20. No big prices, but a pattern appeared to be established. Stay on the rail.

• Race 5 – Forestation appeared to be overmatched in this Cal-bred Allowance route, but jockey Assael Espinoza kept Forestation along the fence from the start, was able to find a clear lane along the inside to rally in the stretch and got the job done to the tune of $43.60.

• Race 7 – In the paddock prior to this seven furlong Allowance, trainer Bob Baffert told jockey Drayden Van Dyke that “the rail is golden.” Van Dyke sent Ax Man up the rail to duel on a fast pace, put away his rivals while on the best part of the track, and kept going to win at $6.20.

There are two key ways for the handicapper to take advantage of any perceived track bias. First, pay close enough attention to catch it early. Just because a favorite rides the rail to win an early race doesn’t mean there is a strong inside bias for the day. He may simply be the best horse.

Being able to identify horses that have moved forward for no other obvious reason than a possible track bias can help you look to horses later on the card that could be helped in a similar manner at overlaid prices.

The second way to use your bias notes has yet to happen for those horses identified from last week. When those same horses come back to run again, their running lines will look better on paper than they really are. They will likely be overbet and create inflated opportunities on others.

The best way to keep track of such horses is to create a stable mail or some other form of file to remind you why a horse may be worth playing – or just as important – be worth playing against next time.

Coles NHC champ

Steve Coles, a 34-year-old futures trader and first-time qualifier for the National Horseplayer Championship (NHC), won an Eclipse Award as Handicapper of the Year along with the $800,000 winner’s share of the purse at Treasure Island last weekend.

The Illinois resident said: “There are legends here. I had to come up with a different game plan.”

Coles decided not to shoot for longshots, but instead concentrated on picking winners and trying to move slowly up the board.

His key to victory came in the next-to-last mandatory race at the final table when he selected 12-1 shot I Love Romance in the eighth race at Golden Gate Fields. That winner put him in the lead with one race to go.

Coles also selected Santa Anita ninth race winner Fiery Lady ($4.80) in the final race to secure the win. His total mutuels of $367 were $10.60 more than runner-up Jim Meeks, who cashed for $250,000. Matthew Vagvolgyi, like Coles making his first appearance in the NHC, finished third with total mutuels of $354 to earn $125,000.

2018 champion Chris Littlemore made the final table again this year on the way to finishing seventh with total mutuels of $298.40.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Race 5 – Twirling Diamond (No. 4). Rain is forecast most of this week at Santa Anita. Twirling Diamond draws a better post and looks like the controlling speed. She could carry them all the way.

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