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Lessons in Handicapping
Changing Leads
by Paul Volponi

Quick Study: On June 3, Belmont Park’s fourth race proved a unique lesson in handicapping value. Three speed horses (Adverse, Prince Monty and He’s A Charm), looked like they would slug it out on the lead in a field of six going six furlongs. With just two minutes to post, Adverse was declared a late scratch by the stewards because he was mistakenly posted around the track as a scratch earlier in the day. However, Adverse was allowed to run for purse money only. Right before this pari-mutuel scratch, both Adverse and Prince Monty were co-favorites at 2-1. After Adverse was removed from the betting, Prince Monty fell to 6-5 on the tote board. The good folks at Belmont then allowed several minutes before the start of the race to accommodate their customers at the windows. During that span, there were only two logical things to do:

1. Try and cancel your now undervalued wager on Prince Monty or He’s A Charm if you were unlucky enough to have previously made one.
2. Consider betting the closers, solely for the sake of good value.

Why? For though Adverse was excluded from the betting, he was still going to be a major obstacle for Prince Monty and He’s A Charm to overcome in their battle for the lead. Yet Adverse could no longer draw any money in the pools to offset this risk factor. Correspondingly, the closers (Wolf Boy 5-2 and Bullet Buzz 9-1) were now over-valued. The outcome? Adverse put away both Prince Monty and He’s A Charm in their duel for the lead, and Bullet Buzz swept by them all in the lane to return $21.40.

Real Late Money: On May 19 at Belmont, Berchtesgaden sprung from the starting gate at 40-1 going a mileand- a-quarter over the inner turf course. He broke on top and set pedestrian fractions of: 25.3 for the opening quarter-mile and: 52 for the half. Right before the half-mile fractions were posted, Berchtesgaden dropped to 34-1. I can only continue to suggest to you that money is being bet into the system after the race has started. And if that were true, this would be a classic example. A computer whiz, who can stutter the pari-mutuel pool for some time into the final sixty second cycle which begins when the race starts and totals the bets made during the final minute before post-time, takes a flyer on a longshot off to a perfect beginning. The result? Berchtesgaden parlays that easy first half-mile into a victory returning $70.50 Now, don’t you wish you were a computer geek? Management is so spooked by the impression events like these have made on bettors, they have posted a note in the program explaining how bets made before the race are still being totaled into the odds after the race has begun. Funny how they never had to explain that before.

Drawing From the Belmont Stakes: What can be gleamed from the wake of Point Given’s dominating performance in the Belmont? A.P. Indy, the only horse to even try the clear-cut winner, had every right to fold-up and finish fourth. After running his heart out on the far turn in an attempt to stay with Point Given, A.P. Indy continued the final quartermile on to the wire in courageous fashion, holding off Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos to finish second. Though he may be no match for Point Given, we’ll back A.P. Indy against all other three-year-olds this summer.

Travers Angles: The Jim Dandy at Saratoga is the major prep race for the Travers, which is commonly referred to as “The Mid-summer Derby.” Yet over the last two years, performing poorly in the Jim Dandy has not prevented trainers from entering the Travers and running well. Vision and Verse (’99) and Albert the Great (’00) both overcame horrific races in the Jim Dandy to run solidly in the big one.

At the Windows: Spindrift is a classy closer on the turf from trainer Bill Mott. Celtic Sky is another with closing punch on the weeds. Personable Pete is a big-time New York bred with talent to spare. Jostle is set to take on the best older females around. Dat You Miz Blue is super speedy and ready to show some guts. Yaz is going to develop well for trainer Bond. Bowman’s Band is a streak of lightning from the Kimmel barn.

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