Using Replays to Handicap Horse Races – A Sure Bet

La Jolla Handicap Results, Recap and Review – Longshot Sky Cape powers home to win at $27.60

Why watching replays can be a sure bet to win at horseracing
by Kenneth Strong; Chief Horse Racing Handicapper at Predictem.com

We’ve been picking winners at a pretty good clip lately. In the four day span from August 8-11, we picked 50 percent winners at Del Mar.  But nothing could top cashing in on $27.60 winner Sky Cape in the 68th running of the La Jolla Handicap-G2 on Saturday, August 9, 2008 at Del Mar. The horse jumped off the page at us - after watching the previous race replays of the contenders. Actually, two horses stood out. Here’s the rub with the odds that each horse went off at, the methods we used to smoke out the winner, and the results. Note: This can be useful for handicapping future races!

Initial handicapping analysis – La Jolla Handicap, 9th Race Del Mar, Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ten horses went to post in the La Jolla, including 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Nownownow. At first glance the mile and a sixteenth turf race looked wide open. The horses were closely matched on Beyer Speed Figures and on first glance it appeared that the horse with the best trip would. We were looking for the biggest overlay we could find, that actually had a real chance of winning.

From post position out the quick analysis of each horse’s previous race went like this:

1. Tangled Tango (Post Time Odds:  5.10-1) – finished third beaten 1 ½-lengths after a wide trip in the slower division of the one mile Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar on July 16, 2008, for which he received an 87 Beyer Speed Figure.

2. Coronel Moldes (10.60-1) – finished fourth beaten 1 ¾-lengths in the faster division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar on July 16, 2008, in his first North American start. He was given an 89 Beyer Speed Figure for an effort that also included being squeezed at the start.

3. Jungle Wave (12.80-1) – a solid speed horse that had finished a game front-running third, beaten a ½-length in the faster division of the Oceanside Stakes and received a 92 Beyer Speed Figure.

4. Tiz West (Favorite at 2.60-1) – the logical favorite coming off a win in the mile and an eighth Cinema Handicap-G3 over the turf at Hollywood Park on June 27,2008, for which he received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure.

5. Nownownow (8.40-1) – winner of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf coming into the La Jolla off a 15 ¼-length drubbing by some of the top horses in Europe in the Irish 2000 Guineas-G1 on May 24, 2008. He had received an 85 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.


BET ON HORSE RACES USING YOUR CREDIT CARD TO DEPOSIT
AT BODOG RACEBOOK

6. Sky Cape (12.80-1) – coming into the race off a neck victory in the Alcatraz going a mile and a sixteenth over the turf at Golden Gate on May 24, 2008, for which he received an 81 Beyer Speed Figure.

7. Moral Compass (3.80-1) – finished second beaten a nose in the faster division of the Oceanside Stakes after experiencing some trouble in late turn. He received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort.

8. Zetterberg (37.80-1) – coming into the race off a third-place finish beaten a length in a grassy six furlong N1X allowance race at Hollywood Park on July 12, 2008, for which he was given a 79 Beyer Speed Figure.

9. Madeo – (7.60-1) coming into the La Jolla off a fourth and last place finish in the mile and an eighth Swaps Stakes-G2  over the Polytrack at Hollywood Park on July 12, 2008, for which he received a 91 Beyer Speed Figure.

10. Liberian Freighter (15.50-1) – another solid speed horses coming into the La Jolla off a third-place finish beaten 1 ¼-lengths in the slower division of the Oceanside Stakes, for which he received an 87 Beyer Speed Figure.

A deeper analysis of the Past Performances and detailed trainer patterns revealed a few more insights, but nothing that allowed us to smoke out a probable winner from a number of logical contenders. The most likely winner seemed to be favorite Tiz West , but we were looking for a longshot. So it was off to watch the race replays of each horse’s previous race, or races.  And we did find some nuggets of gold.

Previous race replays – What they told us about the 2008 La Jolla Handicap

Tangled Tango had indeed had a wide trip in his last. Back early, he’d made a good 7-wide move in late turn and kept coming to finish a strong third against a slow pace. Some said he was outkicked. No chance of that. The tough trip cost him the race – or at least being in the win photo. And he was moving to the rail for the LaJolla. Definite contender.

Liberian Freighter came out of the same race as Tangled Tango, but had received a perfect trip rating inside just off the slow pace and rallied to finish third. There was no question he had been outfinished for the place. We downgraded his chances but kept him as an in-the-money contender because of his speed.

Coronel Moldes had indeed been squeezed at the start in his previous race and had made a big late run to finish fourth.  He was a contender on a perfect trip but certainly no standout. In the same race, Jungle Wave (one of the two horses that had squeezed Coronel Moldes at the start) had rated on or near the lead and run gamely down the stretch to lose by only a ½-length. His speed would be dangerous but we viewed him as more of a pace factor along with Liberian Freighter. Those two would likely wear each other out before the final 200 yards – or so we thought.

Nownownow was a contender based on his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf win, but we downgraded his chances based on his dull try in his previous start on May 28.  We still thought he could finish in the money with his best race.

Moral Compass was sure to get a lot of action from the trip handicappers after experiencing some trouble in late turn in his previous race, but we watched the replay and weren’t so sure he would have won even with a perfect trip. Sure he only lost by a nose, but there was just something about his race that didn’t convince us he was a horse we could bet to win at low odds. Still, the trip handicappers swore this was the horse to beat based on his last race trouble. A definite contender but at what we thought would be underlay odds at post time.

We didn’t bother looking at the replays for Zetterberg. He was moving up in class and coming off two sprints and he had lower numbers than the main contenders. We viewed Zetterberg as a minor pace factor if at all.

Madeo was an intriguing horse. His previous race had come against the mighty Colonel John in the Swaps Stakes-G2 over the Polytrack at Hollywood Park. The best Colonel John could do in that four-horse field was third beaten 1 ¼-lengths by Tres Borrachos.  Although Madeo had finished last in the race, he had done so off a two-month layoff and he had actually made a run at his classier rivals before tiring to finish six lengths back. His race was better than it looked against classy company and we thought he might be a live longshot trying turf for the first time.

One look at the replay of the Cinema Handicap told us all we needed to know about Tiz West. This horse is not only talented, he knows how to win and he knows where the wire is. There are all kinds of horses that run fast, but few that posses that rare courage and desire to win – to dig in when it counts to get the job done. Tiz West is a horse that wants to win. We made him our main contender after watching his win in the Cinema Handicap. He was a deserving favorite.

Now for our longshot – Sky Cape. Listed at 10-1 on the morning line and coming into the race off a 75-day layoff.  We almost dismissed this horse after a fellow handicapper told us – “He’s not much. I watched him win that race at Bay Meadows (the Alcatraz going a mile and sixteenth on the turf at Golden Gate). He didn’t beat anything. These are way better.”

Ok, we thought, but what about that 96 Beyer Speed Figure he’d run to win the six-furlong Harry Henson on the turf at Hollywood Park in the start before that?  That 96 figure was the highest in the La Jolla field. What if he could repeat it at a distance? And what about his other races at Santa Anita over the winter. All but one of those races were strong efforts against good company. And he was getting a hot rider in Joel Rosario. We thought we’d better take a look at those last two races – just in case.

What an eye-opener. And this is the most valuable lesson you will ever learn in handicapping, based on currently available methods and technology:

Horses (even with lower Beyer Speed Figures) that can accelerate to win when it counts; that respond to pressure and dig in to win; that seem to know where the wire is and know that they are supposed to get their first;  will almost always defeat horses that run fast but don’t know why they are doing it.

What we learned about Sky Cape from watching the replays of his last two races

Two starts prior to the La Jolla Handicap, in the six furlong Harry Henson Stakes (8th Race at Hollywood Park on April 25,2008) on the turf, Sky Cape broke on top but immediately jumped a shadow and dropped back to last, five or six lengths back of the leader. He stayed there until late turn. He then made a visually impressive move to gain striking position into the stretch and could have thrown in the towel and finished evenly. Instead, he accelerated - again - and flew home to take over late, drawing off to win by 1 ¼-lengths. It was an impressive performance and certainly worthy of the 96 Beyer Speed Figure he received. That performance showed us he could run.

In his last start prior to the La Jolla Handicap, the mile and a sixteenth Alacatraz (2nd Race at Golden Gate on May 24, 2008) on the turf, Sky Cape was steadying early, but that trouble wasn’t nearly as significant in the handicapping process as his late run.  After steadying, Sky Cape settled in just back and outside of a pair of plodding pacesetters that set early fractions of 25.59 and 50.76. Sky Cape moved three-wide to press the pacesetters on the turn after six furlongs in 1:15.82, but the leader gave him the slip at the top of the stretch, opening a two length lead. Again, Sky Cape could have just run his race to the wire without winning. Instead he dug in until he found another gear and started closing on the leader in deep stretch.  But there was more to it than that.

While Sky Cape had been looking for an extra gear to catch the leader another horse had come flying up on the outside of him. Not only did Sky Cape find an extra gear to make sure he got to the leader late, he found an additional gear to hold off the horse on the outside.  He actually accelerated when the outside horse came to him. That was all we needed to see. We now knew.

This horse was a stone-cold runner. At a great price!

Sky Cape knew how to win and he had the ability to accelerate late to win when it counted. And he was listed at 10-1 on the morning line. We were already counting our money. Well, almost. We weren’t 100 percent sure Sky Cape could beat Tiz West. We thought the two might be inseparable based on class, form, trainer patterns, numbers and the performances we saw on the replays. Both seemed to have that will to win, but we were sure likely favorite Tiz West would have to run his very best race to beat Sky Cape. And we thought Sky Cape also had an edge in the jockey department with Rosario aboard.

Race time – Who we bet on and what happened in the 2008 La Jolla Handicap

When it came time to bet the race we played both Tiz West and Sky Cape to win. Tiz West was favored at 2.60-1, which we thought was a decent price for him. Sky Cape was sent off at 12.80-1, which we thought was a little low, but there was more to it than that.

When we first glanced at the tote board at 15 minutes to post Sky Cape was 19-1. The next time we looked he was 27-1. We couldn’t believe our eyes. We told everyone within speaking distance this horse had a great shot to win, but no one would believe us. Sky Cape drifted back to 20-1 at about five minutes to post time and we thought that would be the final odds on him. To our chagrin, someone hammered Sky Cape on the last click of the odds board, dropping his odds from 20-1 to 12-1. But it was also a vote of confidence. You have to bet a lot of money at Del Mar to drop a horse eight points in one shot.  Whoever was betting had to have known what we knew – this horse had a great chance to win at a fantastic price.

Besides the win bets we played a $5 exacta wheel  taking both Sky Cape and Tiz West on top of Tangled Tango, Moral Compass, Madeo, Coronel Moldes, Liberian Freighter and Jungle Wave and reversed the same exacta for $2. We then took Sky Cape and Tiz West on top in a $1 trifecta wheel that also had them in second (just in case they ran 1-2) with our additional contenders and we took all in the third position. Our total bets on the race came to about $240. Two hundred yards  into the race we thought it was ALL gone.

Tiz West, the horse we thought would be pressing from just off the pace, was checked sharply and then bumped between horses into the first turn (and we still can’t figure out why), basically taking him out of the race. One of the horses Tiz West had bumped with was Jungle Wave, who we had figured would be applying some type of pace pressure to wide speed horse Liberian Freighter. The other horse Tiz West bumped hard with was with was Moral Compass, another one of our main contenders.  Jungle Wave checked again shortly after the bumping incident but it wouldn’t have mattered at that point.

Liberian Freighter opened up into the first turn and was freewheeling with a good open lead under no pressure. There was no pace pressure to set up Sky Cape’s rally and Tiz West, now at least four lengths back, had never won from more than 2 ½-lengths off the pace. Both would have to catch a lone speed horse.

But all was not lost yet. Sky Cape had broken well and settled in off the rail back of Liberian Freighter. Tangled Tango, another of our contenders coming off a wide trip in the Oceanside, was also getting a decent trip along the rail. Madeo, one of our longshot contenders based on class, had steadied into the first turn and dropped back to last.

So it was Liberian Freighter at 15-1 merrily romping along on top by two lengths after a quarter in 24.01. If that wasn’t bad enough he continued to open up. After a half in 48.14 he was 3 ½-lengths in front and by the time he’d run six furlongs in 1:11.75 he was five lengths in front. But just as Liberian Freighter looked like he was going to kick away from the field, Tangled Tango began to edge up along the rail to challenge Sky Cape for second.  Remember what happened in Sky Cape’s last two races when he was challenged at go time. Yeah baby!

Sky Cape responded to Tangled Tango’s inside pressure and the pair laid it down from late turn, furiously closing the gap on Liberian Freighter. In early stretch they were only a length back. Tangled Tango surged between horses and Sky Cape matched him from the outside. It was all over in mid stretch. Liberian Freighter gave way and Sky Cape found another gear to accelerate away from Tangled Tango, winning by 1 ½-lengths and stopping the timer in 1:40.92 for the mile and sixteenth.  It was 1 ¼-lengths back to Liberian Freighter in third. Madeo put in a decent outside rally to finish fourth, ¾-lengths back of Liberian Freighter.

Nownownow, back early, advanced inside and finished well to take fifth. Moral Compass recovered from his early bumping to make a mild rally into sixth. Jungle Wave stalked off the rail after steadying hard into the first turn and was actually only a length back of the top two finishers at one point. But when the top two started to rally Jungle Wave was left behind and ended up finishing seventh. Coronel Moldes saved ground after having his jaw sawed on in the same fashion as Tiz West early in the race. He ended up lacking the needed rally and finished eighth. Zetterberg stalked from decent position outside but was overmatched when the running started and finished ninth. Tiz West finished tenth and last after being sawed on and bumped around early and stalking wide. He wasn’t really asked for anything down the stretch and could come back with a better race in his next after what was by far the worst race of his career – mainly due to his terrible trip.

But on this day, in this race, Sky Cape was the best horse, and we’d smoked him out of a very closely matched field by watching video replays of his previous races. Will he win his next against better? Maybe. Maybe not. That cat’s out of the bag now.  Bettors now know Sky Cape is a runner.  But who knows, they might bet Tiz West in his next off his poor trip and leave Sky Cape at a nice price for us again.

Trained by Kristin Mulhall and ridden by Joel Rosario for owners Steve Taub and Visionary Racing LLC, Sky Cape returned $27.60, $11.60 $7.40 across the board, topping a $1 exacta of $93.90 and a $1 trifecta of $1,072.10. The La Jolla Handicap was the third consecutive stakes win for the chestnut colt by Najran-Skyscape by Marquetry. Sky Cape has now earned $320,230 from a record of 5-4-1 in 14 starts.

We got back $1800 for our $200 bet, but this was about more than just money.

Sky Cape has heart.

La Jolla Handicap Results and Payoffs

Del Mar, Race 9, August 9, 2008

6 Sky Cape $27.60 $11.60 $7.40

1 Tangled Tango $6.60 $4.20

10 Liberian Freighter $7.80

9 Madeo

$1 Exacta 6-1 paid $93.30

$2 Quinella 1-6 paid $69.60

$1 Trifecta 6-1-10  paid $1,072.10

$1 Superfecta 6-1-10-9 paid $6,839.60

$2 Daily Double 12-6 paid $92.00

$1 Pick 3 9-12-6 paid $409.60