[At this point, I intervene from the present: April 2011, simply to say that there is little of the above that as changed since Kinky Handicapping was written. I can comfortably continue with the exact wording from “Kinky” with no need for updating. The class factor is still underbet by the public.]

In this particular case, class factors diametrically opposed speed data. Here was a field of six horses in which five of them had recently lost at today’s level, while the sole dropper, September Star, had not even raced as low as today’s level in his last 10 tries, with his only recent win coming at one class level above today’s!

With a class drop, the classic question usually follows: is this a positive or a negative drop? Three pieces of evidence pointed to the positive:

(1)    This gelding was switching to Rocco, the rider aboard him for his last victory;

(2)    That last victory also came with a class drop;

(3)    September Star’s last-race trouble was worse than the vague “wide” listed in the pps. He had been fanned five-wide on the last turn, effectively aborting what looked, on the replay, to be a bold move that had begun at the end of the backstretch.

The race now materialized the wrong way for September Star. He had not been able to get the lone-presser trip that had been a distinct possibility, since a rabbit had taken the lead, leaving Gold Proof in the enviable position of lone presser, with September Star weaving in and out of traffic on the backstretch, trying to find his best stride.

Gold Proof was by no means a need-to-lead horse. While his recent wins had been aided by lone-front-running trips, he had won before as a presser (3Nov92) and the rider’s strategy seemed planned rather than circumstantial.

In the stretch, the favorite, Gold Proof, took the lead. Coming on three wide on the turn, September Star made up ground in the stretch and gradually wore down Gold Proof. September Star paid $19.60 to win.

Before the speed-is-class ideology swept through handicapping circles, you never would have gotten $19.60 for a lone dropper vs. a field that had all lost at today’s level. But today, class handicapping is considered deviant, call it “kinky”, by the handicapping establishment and their number-crunching troops.

Clearly, creative figure handicapping can still pick a decent percentage of winners. But Figure Fundamentalism flies in the face of the Davis study and so much subsequent research. Assuming that both speed and class have their place in handicapping, after you finish factoring in the average mutuel for speed-figure selection compared to the average mutuel for class-based choices, the bottom line now favors the class handicapper.

Naturally, we disavow “vulgar” class handicapping that deals with class drops in a monolithic, non-interpretive way. Eventually, class handicapping may resurface as a respectable pursuit, but for the time being, should you choose this methodology, be ready to be labeled as deviant and warped.

What follows is a list of some positive class handicapping scenarios [with the text abridged for this on-line version]. Some of these situations may contradict others, allowing for the splendid asymmetry in keeping with the old baseball stadium aesthetics. (Careful of droppers whose only win is a maiden claimer, unproven against winners and whose legitimate class level is yet to be determined.)

(1)    Only dropper vs. a field of proven losers;

(2)    Horse drops and is switching to the rider of its last victory, or to a higher percentage rider, indicating a positive trainer intention;

(3)    Dropping after a race that was “needed”, to the level of its last victory;

(4)    At lower level tracks, in the “non-winners-of” conditions, a horse that comes from open company or that has not been a frequent non-winner-of whichever condition is noted. For example, “non-winners of 3 lifetime”, a lightly-raced horse that has won twice, that faces others that have won only once or that have accumulated losses under this condition;

(5)    A recent maiden special weight winner that faces winners of maiden claiming races;

(6)    A horse inexplicably dropping in odds compared to its last race, even though that last race looks terrible in the past performances;

(7)    A horse coming from a key race, a race that has produced next-time-out winners;

(8)    A horse coming from a more dominant racing circuit;

(9)    A one-level drop to the bottom-of-the-barrel class level at this track, when such a field is comprised of horses that have already lost at this bottom level and simply have nowhere else to get entered;

(10) A class drop plus track switch, implying a positive trainer intention in shipping the horse.

None of these angles would have been considered “kinky” had the dominant figures culture not attempted to brand class handicapping as a deviant way of life. In pre-Beyer days, September Star never would have paid $19.60 to win. Today, class handicapping is no better at picking winners than it was decades ago, but thanks to its being trashed it produces a higher average mutuel.