One of the most confusing handicapping conundrums for many horse players comes when horses that spend time in restricted allowances venture into claiming company.
If, as I’ve done, you’ve taken the trouble to calculate standard times for each grade at each distance the task in sprints is easier. But, even for those armed with par times, it’s not so simple for races beyond sprints where pace and jockeyship become paramount over speed. So it behooves us to acquire a deeper understanding of what it means to win a restricted allowance.
Here are some critical perspectives that, although they should be obvious, are examples of things often hidden in plain sight:
- A horse that wins a maiden race has only beaten maidens. It sounds redundant it’s important to note its opponents have never won a race;
- A horse that wins a non-winners-of-two (nw2) event has only beaten horses that have only beaten maidens. Without more, there’s no substantial accomplishment.
- When a horse wins a non-winners-of-three (nw3) race it has done something of note for the first time.
- When these horses that have won maiden or nw2 events, especially those who have spent two years in these races, come to claiming, they have a tough task especially racing against winners, at any level, of multiple races.
Please don’t talk to me about some easy, visually impressive winners of fast run three-year-old maiden aces (e.g. recent exciting prospect Morimoto). These rarely go claiming; usually aim at the classics; and aren’t relevant to this discussion which is focused on four year olds and upwards who become claimers because they were unable to win at nw3.
I remember when I was in a team of commentators covering live horseracing (anchor Dr. Paul Wright; analysts George Davis and ye olde Touty; interviews by Donovan Wilson) about ten years ago (when live horseracing radio coverage was as good as it gets) my young colleague George Davis (now PAJ President) repeatedly proposed a betting principle for the lower classes. He postulated the entry with most wins was usually the most likely winner.
He wasn’t wrong. But The Davis Principle is even more applicable to those claiming races (usually lower tags) from which you can filter out those who have only beaten maidens or nw2.
A prime example of this occurred on Saturday April 23rd in the day’s second race. It was a 1600m mixed-grade event (EVERY betting edge is more pronounced at distances beyond sprints) for $250,000-200,000 claimers and 6yo+ nw3. Eight started (age; lifetime starts/wins/seconds/thirds in brackets):
Moon (6yo; 42/1/0/4); Ashley’s Glory (6yo; 35/2/3/3);Black Royalty (6yo; 64/2/5/6); General Mubarak (8yo; 63/7/11/5); Funky Fashion (6yo; 47/2/3/6); Smooth Criminal (6yo; 36/2/2/1); Golden Emperor (7yo; 64/2/4/2); Dare to Speak (7yo; 41/2/5/0).
Only two opted to run for a tag namely General Mubarak and Smooth Criminal. The latter was sent to post as the odds-on favourite. ODDS-ON? Really? Seriously? In a poor claimer? Sigh.
Apart from being unable, after four years, to win three races, Smooth Criminal was running off a 2+ months layoff which is a bright red flag for any horse 5 years old or more. The older we get the more regular activity we need or our muscles tend to atrophy.
Not one starter except General Mubarak had been able to win a race better than a 5yonw2! Not. One! Moon only ever won one race. General Mubarak had been claimed by Steven Todd, a trainer with a blue blooded horseracing pedigree who won with General Mubarak over 1820m on the identical tag when last in his barn.
On the race day, Twitter followers of The Very Terrible Tout saw the following post:
“This may be unusual but today’s BANKER BET is Race 2#4 GENERAL MUBARAK a multiple winner (including in this grade) running against rivals who have won only twice(thus beating horses who haven’t beaten winners) out of the barn where he recorded his best win on January 1. Whatever beats him today wins!”
It’s “unusual” for me to advise a banker in a low-class race. But, as a five star BANKER General Mubarak trotted up at overlay odds of 2-1. Smooth Criminal finished out of the frame. When will they ever learn?
Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of track conditions’ effect on official times to arrive at “real/corrected” times); TVs are expressed in fifths of a second; “minus” (-) means a fast track; “plus” (+) a slow track (e.g -2 is fast by 2/5th second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.
In Public Opinion’s first January issue, I proposed five to follow for 2022. They were (and are) Excessive Force; Jordon Reign’s; Power Ranking; She’s My Destiny and Slam. They have already won multiple races but the star of the show for punters has definitely been EXCESSIVE FORCE about whom I wrote “he can win races in better company than Overnight Allowance…. He has only 19 career races so should have much more in the tank. e seems best at around 1600m and goes well for Linton Steadman.”
Excessive Force with Steadman up won on February 19 (1900m) at 5-2 and then, on April 23 (1600m) asked to carry 48kg thus disqualifying Steadman, he upset the Horse-of-The Year Further and Beyond at the mouth-watering odds of 11-1.
Pay, Pool Pay!
Time for more mundane work:
SUNDAY APRIL 17, 2022 [TV+0.1 per 200m (Round) +4 (straight)]
POWER (-3) was impressive (up with the pace throughout yet finishing strongly) winning by 3¾ lengths going away (Race 9; 3yonw2; 1600m; TV+1) in 1:40.3. His CT (1:40.2) guarantees him a win at nw3 (standard 1:41.0) nut he seem sure to take his chances in the 2,000 Guineas instead where he’ll need to find more (standard 1:39.4). But he’s a progressive, unexposed sort with obvious class and scope for improvement so he should be a real contender there.
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
It’s Guineas’ weekend in England with the 2,000 Guineas for colts to be run tomorrow and the 1,000 Guineas (fillies) on Sunday. Next week Saturday it will be USA’s Run for the Roses (Kentucky Derby) at Churchill Downs.
In the 2,000 Guineas it’s difficult to see beyond long time ante-post favourite NATIVE TRAIL who has been flawless in five career starts ending with an imperious win in the Craven Stakes over course and distance two weeks ago.
Aidan O’Brien has won six of the last seven 1,000 Guineas and holds a strong hand with classy fillies Tenebrism, the new ante-post favourite after the withdrawal of John and Thady Gosden’s Inspiral (training setbacks), and Tuesday, a filly with massive potential who won a Naas maiden on her second career run (March 27). The former, unbeaten in two career starts, steps up in trip (only raced at six furlongs). Being by Caravaggio,who won the 2016 Coventry and the 2017 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and whose six wins were at five or six furlongs, Tenebrism has stamina to prove and may turn out to be better suited by the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. The latter, by Galileo, won her maiden at a mile and seems likely to be better suited by the Oaks than the Guineas. This race could come too soon for her. Stable jockey Ryan Moore’s choice should be significant.
But I’ll be avoiding both and instead concentrating on the Irish-trained pair of Discoveries (Mrs. Jessica Harrington) and HOMELESS SONGS (Dermot Weld). The former beat the latter decisively at the Curragh in September but Homeless Songs proved he had trained on and improved markedly with a sparkling re-appearance win at the 7f Leopardstown Guineas Trial four weeks ago. The way she quickened up that day to beat decent yardstick Agartha (gave 3lbs) who had been ¾ length behind Discoveries (level weights) at the Curragh (7f; Moyglare Stud Stakes; September 12) is the hallmark of a Guineas winner. So it’s HOMELESS SONGS for me.
Caribbean racing fans will have a real interest in the Kentucky Derby as Barbadian Saffie Joseph Jnr, who has been doing brilliantly in Florida, saddles WHITE ABARRIO who overcame a training setback to win the Florida Derby and is nailed on to progress again. His last furlong of the Florida Derby was run in only 14 seconds but he wasn’t at peak that day. Expect him to come to Churchill Downs fully revved up on May 7.
Here’s another notebook horse for the flat:
SOLENT GATEWAY [4yo b.g. Awtaad-Aoife Alainn (Dr Fong)] It’s difficult to come from off the pace at Epsom so Solent Gateway’s ½ length 3rd there on April 19 (12f Metropolitan Handicap) can be marked up. He was the most inconvenienced of those that fought out the finish coming from much further back than the pair he chased home. He was also denied a clear run up the straight so doubly unlucky. He looks a thorough stayer who could go well in the Chester Cup.