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HANDICAPPING ON THE ROAD BY MARK CRAMER



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OUTSIDE THE USA


 

 

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One other trainer had an interesting past: G.G. Margarson, who handled the 14 horse. In the last two weeks, Margarson showed two wins and a third in four races at Windsor, a type of trainer-for-course, and one of those wins came with a 2-year-old.

(The amount of data available at a click from the Racing Post is dizzying, and in order to avoid fainting from information overload, we should always remain focused on the primary factor. The trainer-for-course factor would have risen to a higher layer of importance if I had found any other piece of information surrounding the Margarson horse, but there was nothing: nothing of sufficient consequence to trump the American breeding of Gold Pearl, supported by the rider-for-course info, the promising debut race and above all, the precocity and class in the pedigree.

Furthermore, I found no particular statistical or past performance info that would be reason enough for the 1-horse, Escholido, to be favored over Gold Pearl.   

I went across the street to my friendly OTB (PMU in France). This is one of the great advantages of living in a compact neighborhood.  It’s a shorter distance for me from my living room to the OTB across the street than it is for Hugh Hefner to go from his bedroom to his kitchen for a beer.

I played Gold Pearl to win, with odds of 3.4 -1 on my TV monitor.

Gold Pearl pressed the pace and took the lead with about two furlongs to go. He was challenged by a horse I had not considered, trained by Richard Hannon, who showed a serious flat-bet loss at Windsor, even if Hannon’s win percentage was competitively high. If you’re in the lead, you don’t ever want to be chased by a Hannon horse.

In the end, it was the skill of Ryan Moore in the saddle combined with the intrinsic class of Gold Pearl himself that prevented the challenger from getting by.  
 

Monday Night Windsor

We don’t have Monday Night Football in Europe but we have something better: Monday Night Windsor. Exactly one week after the victory of Gold Pearl, I found another 16-horse maiden sprint at Windsor and waited for my favorite factors to fall into my lap. As with Gold Pearl, I was looking for American pedigree coupled with a big trainer stat.

This time it was a bit more complicated, with more American-bred horses in the field, but the trainer stats pointed clearly to two of them.

It was the second race, the 19:40 (British races run like train schedules).

At first there was a flash of poetry. The 12-horse, a first-time starter named Symi, was sired by Hennessy, the dad of Henny Hughes, who in turn was the sire of Gold Pearl. I wanted very much for this poetic pattern match to be my play, but I had to subject it to empirical data.

Symi was actually bred in Europe, and the dam had long-winded route pedigree (all this info is easily identified in the Racing Post on-line past performances). The Hennessy evidence started to look frail. But John Gosden, not usually a flat-bet-profit trainer, was red hot with 2-year-olds. In a race where the horses with past racing experience had traveled about as fast as the contraptions that seal the track, the first-timers had a better shot, and Symi was one of them.

In fact, there were three American breds in the race, but two of them, Cloud Illusion (Smarty Jones) and Porthgwidden Beach (Street Cry) had raced like tractors in their debut outings. The trainer of the first had never won a race with a 2-year-old and the trainer of the second had won only 5% with his 2yos, showing a negative 75% return on investment. These two were easy to eliminate.

One more American bred remained: Winnie Dixie, sired by a leading juvenile sire of 2009, Dixie Union. Winnie Dixie’s dam sire was Allen’s Prospect, pure sprint. Winnie Dixie’s trainer, Paul Cole, showed a flat-bet loss in all categories except 2-year-olds, where he had 23% wins and a 1.75 return on investment for each 1.00 pound.

I was tempted to leave out the Gosden horse, who technically was not an American bred. But I couldn’t get past his sire, Hennessy, nor could I ignore that Gosden was hot in the baby races.

I ended up putting the empirical 40% of my wager to win on Winnie Dixie, the poetic 40% to win on Symi, and the remaining yin-yang 20% on a quinella with the two.

They got off, and from the start, Symi was struggling, having left from the outside 16-hole. Even with a degree of early speed, it looked as if Symi could not get settled comfortably in the first furlongs. Barring a miracle, my remaining hopes rested on Winnie Dixie.

From the inside, Winnie Dixie gradually moved from mid-pack to presser and to the lead. As Symi was calling it a day, a Richard Hannon horse came out to challenge Winnie Dixie. A sixteenth from the finish, I witnessed a poetic symmetry between this race and the Gold Pearl event from the previous Monday: American bred chased by a Hannon horse.

Winnie Dixie drew away easily. She returned 5.4 –1. The exacta with the Hannon horse, which I did not have, returned 54.60 for 2.

Once more we have seen the combination of American pedigree in Euro sprints, in juxtaposition with positive trainer specialty stats.

In a way, these maiden races are ideal for interactive on-line past performances. There is less information required to manipulate, meaning less of a chance for information overload.

In the days leading up to our bicycle odyssey, I resolved keep a keen eye open for any possible American pedigree advantage for young horses in sprint races.

PS Mark paid for this entire adventure through bets he made at these 11 tracks. But the book goes beyond those 11 tracks and provides handicapping lessons for foreign racing in general, with examples from England, Dubai, and other racing venues.

In later chapters, you can see how American speed pedigree functions in Euro dirt races. But above all, a major point in the book is that potent handicapping factors that work in the USA can be applied abroad, almost anywhere on the globe. In this case, it's the binary combination of a positive trainer stat and a hot 2-year-old sire.
           

   
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