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Changing Leads
by Paul Volponi

Breaking The Code: There has been much speculation about winning horses that have dropped in price on the tote board during the running of a race. These droppers have mostly won with uncanny ease and proved this so called "smart money" to be almost too prophetic. Is it possible that with so many outlets feeding into on-track pools that a computer whiz can continue to pump money into a race after it has started? I would believe so! When automated betting machines first appeared in New York, you could punch in the amount you wanted to bet, the type of bet and then wait for the starting gate to spring open. The field could run a few strides before you finally had to punch in a horse's number to secure a wager. Some used this strategy to bet front runners that broke on top and alone. So why couldn't a more sophisticated approach be used to gain access and continue to pump money in as a race unfolds into the stretch? The computer read-out of such a heist would probably show a bet made as the pools closed. Many bettors might even applaud such a nimble and creative move. However, this Robin Hood would only be lowering the pay-outs for others who bet the winning horse at a somewhat greater risk of performance.

Workout Tips: When a horse breaks from the gate during a morning workout it is referred to as a "gate-work" and is denoted by a lowercase "g" next to the recorded time. For example, in this workout line -19Apr AQU 3f 37 bg, Go Man Go breezed his three furlongs from the gate. However, gate-works can be extremely tricky to evaluate. Clockers begin timing a horse when it reaches one of the pole markers along the racetrack, not when the horse leaves the gate. Yet the starting gate can be positioned at different distances from the nearest pole from day to day. Why is this important? Horses take a few strides to reach top speed. Also, most gate-works involve younger, less experienced horses that are still learning to do things right, such as breaking cleanly from the gate. Therefore, if the starting gate is within a few strides of the pole, the same work would be timed slower than on a day when the gate was further back from the pole and the horse could settle into full stride before the timing began. This is one piece of information that clockers have and the players do not. For example, the Belmont Park training track (a separate facility from the main track and denoted by "Bel tr" has the gate positioned far from the marker at which clockings begin. For this reason, the gate-works on Belmont's training track can be uncommonly fast.

What can the player do to get a sense of how this all really works? Most racetracks open their doors early to the public on weekends and big race days. Many even promote fans coming out to see the workouts with programs such as "Breakfast at Belmont." Simply make a note of how far the gate is from the nearest pole whenever you go out in the morning. Then you can compare the times of gate-works from those days and have a truer appreciation of how deceiving they can really be.

Hot Combos: Jockey Richard Migliore does his best riding for trainers Kimmel and Iwinski who both keep him on live mounts. This journeyman rides the New York circuit well at all distances and on the dirt and turf.

On The Track: (Here are some horses to back at the windows in New York) Cat Chat- million dollar Storm Cat filly seems finally ready to put together a campaign. Cocktail Sauce- appears to be a consistent sort. Dat You Miz Blue- New York bred filly will beat the big girls soon. Volponi-found a home on the turf and should continue to improve. Bay Dragon-another turfer from P.G. Johnson that has shown ability. Tropical Drink-two-year-old filly has looked professional early on for Mark Hennig. Two Item Limit- talented filly that wants to race. Mike the Greek- has speed and is developing a strong will too. The Cool Grape & Chocolate Overdose-both of these runners relish an off-track.

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