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Track Tracts

Distaff Is De Stuff
by Gordon Pine

There�s so much yadda yadda yadda about the Breeder�s Cup races right now that I�m just going to handicap a race and get off the stage. I was thinking about handicapping "The Penske Auto Center Breeder�s Cup Sprint," but the name was so incredibly tacky for the biggest card in American racing that I decided to do the Distaff instead. (What�s next, the Pep Boys Kentucky Derby?)

Ignore the Hype: If you�ve read my stuff before, you may know that I recommend ignoring all articles and hype about big races. Racing journalism is usually best read after the race as comedy material. (I know, I�m on thin ice � after the race, this article may well fall into that category.) Just handicap the big races like you would any other race � it�ll give you the significant edge of being able to easily ignore or downgrade the publicity horses, if they deserve it.

Check the Pace: The first thing I do when handicapping with the Racing Form is to calculate the speed points for the entire field so as to get an idea of the pace scenario. With a little practice, this only takes a few seconds. Here we have a speedster, Tranquility Lake, on the rail with 8 speed points. Miss Linda, Queenie Belle and Spain, with 6 speed points, all have fairly good early speed. The rest are midpack types and closers.

Eliminate the Non-Contenders: Here�s where I do my automatic contender-picking and let the horse chips fall where they may. I�ve written about this method before: take the highest two of each horse�s last three Beyer numbers (no matter what the distance and surface were) and average them. That gives you a contender number for each horse. (If a horse has only one ratable race, that�s the number. If he has only two ratable races, take the higher one as the number.) Cross out all horses but the top five. (Include any horses tied for fifth place.) Here�s what we get in the Distaff:

Tranquility Lake 103
Flute            106.5
Exogenous        109.5
Miss Linda       104.5
Two Item Limit    99.5 non-contender
Unbridled Elaine 103   non-contender
Queenie Belle     94   non-contender
Pompeii          104   non-contender
Starrer          105
Atelier           94   non-contender
Critical Eye      92   non-contender
Spain            101   non-contender
Fleet Renee      104.5

I�m letting Tranquility Lake back in as a contender because speed on the rail is always dangerous. I may regret throwing Pompeii out in such a cavalier manner, but that�s horse racing � full of hazards. I�ll risk the possibility that she�s about to erupt with a big performance.

What�s Each Horse�s Story?: I don�t always do it this way, but today I�ll revive the fine art of picking pacelines to represent each horse�s likely performance. This is a procedure which it�s better not to get too fancy about unless you�re a computer. For Tranquility Lake, I�ll take her last dirt race at Del Mar. For Flute, her second-to-last race, skipping her last because of trouble and a possible negative rail bias. Exogenous, her 8Sep01 race, because I expect a good performance and want to make her look good. Miss Linda, her second race back, because I think she�ll regress a little off her last, which had a Beyer number greater than her lowest bounce point of 100. Starrer, also the second race back, for the same reason � a last race equal to her lowest bounce point of 105. Fleet Renee, her last race.

Estimating Probabilities: Now it�s time to estimate probabilities and come up with a betting line. I do this one of two ways: by the seat of my pants or using a popular handicapping program that begins with the letter "A" which I designed. Since I�ve picked pacelines for my contenders, I entered them into the handicapping program. Here�s the betting line I got for this race:

                 Fair Bet   ML
Horse            Odds Odds Odds
Flute             9/5  3/1  5/2
Exogenous         7/2  5/1  3/1
Tranquility Lake  9/2  7/1  10/1
Miss Linda        6/1  8/1  12/1

Finding the Value: Flute and Exogenous, the first and second morning line favorites are the top two horses on my line. I personally like Exogenous, but unless things shape up differently at race time, there�s no value and no bet there. However, a couple of longshots look promising: Tranquility Lake and Miss Linda. As always, it depends on the odds, but if they are similar to the morning line, I�d make win bets on Tranquility Lake and Miss Linda. In the exacta, I�d wheel both of them top and bottom to the top two favorites, and also box them. So, the likely bets are Tranquility Lake and Miss Linda to win, both of them wheeled top and bottom to Flute and Exogenous, and finally, an exacta box of Tranquility Lake and Miss Linda.

Okay, here�s where you actually learn something. Did you know where the word "distaff" originated? A distaff is a hand-held staff used to wind flax or wool when spinning. This was, in ancient times, considered a woman�s domain, hence distaff. You have my permission to impress your friends with that trivia during a lull in the proceedings � maybe during the Penske Auto Center race. NC

Copyright �2001 NetCapper Inc. All rights reserved.

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