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Track Tracts

Predatory Handicapping: Part 5
Non-Physical Predatory Situations

by Joe Takach

As you will soon see, in addition to the never-ending and more frequent physical predatory situations, you never have to leave your chair to exploit many non-physical predatory situations.

As mentioned in some of my earlier articles, after spending far too many winters on the East coast, I took Horace Greeley�s advise to heart and went West even though no longer a �young man�. I had been in love with Southern California ever since first visiting Del Mar in the early 70�s. And at 45 years old, I was more than ready for a much needed change in venue.

The turf had become my major wagering surface during the 70�s and remains so to this day. I couldn�t get enough of it on the East coast. What�s more, I was tired of spending countless nights and countless hours for countless years handicapping every single turf race as if it would be taken off the turf and run over the dirt.

But I had little choice.

�Dirt figures� had to be put up on every turf horse that had dirt races showing in his past performances. This was done just in case he didn�t scratch if the race moved to the dirt track, which it often did. Unpredicted rainstorms that seemed to come from nowhere were very commonplace, especially at Monmouth Park and Atlantic City during the hot and humid summer.

In addition to those freak afternoon storms, if it rained the night before, there were innumerable times when you didn�t know if they were �on� or �off� the turf until an hour before post. And even if kept �on�, they�d occasionally run the first of the 3 carded turf races over a suspect surface, deem the grass course unsafe, and then move the other 2 turf races to the dirt.

On top of the double handicapping that had to be done for nearly every turf race, I was quite tired of playing a different dirt track every single day, year-in and year-out. With moisture of some kind the �norm� every 2 to 4 days throughout the year in the east, the track I was playing at any given time was usually in a stage of getting wet or drying out. My daily dirt variants sometimes took wild swings within the same day and nearly always within the same week. The dirt surface could go from 6, 7 or 8 lengths slow to 6, 7 or 8 lengths fast within a day or two and quite often did! Consistently dry and fast dirt tracks that yielded more consistent results usually lasted no more than a day or two.

I felt that I had learned all that I was ever going to learn about playing wet, sloppy, good, slow, muddy or frozen dirt tracks---both in the afternoon and at night. I just wanted to bet dry and fast dirt tracks and more importantly, firm and uniform turf courses sans �sink holes�.

The only major league racing where you can wager on consistently dry dirt tracks and firm uniform turf courses is in sunny Southern California----period! That simply can�t be said of any other major racing circuit in this country. And after living in the �Southland� for well over a decade, my only regret in making my 3000 mile relocation to Southern California was that I didn�t do it much sooner.

The purpose of my dribble is to inform you that West coast predatory wagering situations pop up with the same frequency as with the east coast, but the West coast holds an enormous edge!

Since I have more than adequate tenure wagering on both coasts, I�ve found that I get a chance to act upon predatory situations many more times and with much more confidence when wagering at Santa Anita, Del Mar, or Hollywood Park than with any other East coast track.


In a word, weather!

On the east coast with both surfaces ever-changing, I too often found myself backing out of a potentially profitable predatory situation. This was done for very good reasons that saved me innumerable wasted wagers.

At times, I knew that the �predatory horse� I liked couldn�t �get� the surface that specific day because it wasn�t fast (dirt) or firm (turf). He or she didn�t like it too wet, too heavy, too sloppy, too soft, too muddy, too yielding, etc. Additionally, many jockeys rode poorly in the mud or the slop. The always-aggressive rides they offered over fast dry surfaces vanished as if they were 2 different riders. What�s more, a lot of trainers simply didn�t �send� their horses on �off� tracks if they weren�t allowed to scratch or were �stuck� (�hardboot� verbiage for literally being forced to run by the state stewards when you don�t want to run). This was true if they were �stuck� over a sloppy dirt track, or forced to run over a yielding turf course.

The West coast virtually eliminated that problem for me, so I rarely have to pass predatory situations due to weather. That said, it�s a no-brainer that I can bet more of them.

Since were on the topic of wet weather, we�ll start off with one of my favorites on either coast that begins with an �off� track. In this specific predatory situation, the East coast offers many more opportunities due to more wetness and therefore �off� tracks.

It sets up like this.

A well-bred dirt runner breaks their maiden in Special Weight company in their 1st or 2nd lifetime start while putting up a nice �number� for that class over a dry and fast dirt track. In fact, their winning number was good enough on that winning afternoon to beat other-than-2s or perhaps even better. Note I said minimally other-than-2s, not other-than-1s!

In addition to their big �number�, this maiden winner must have gained ground at every running call, or at least from the � pole to the wire. If you keep records of these situations for a few years, you�ll find that � pole to wire ground gainers with big winning maiden �numbers� do repeat, but not nearly as often as runners who gain ground at every running call!

Also needed for this predatory situation to work almost flawlessly is that the winning maiden comes from a good non-betting barn that gets more than their fair share of repeat winners. Whether those repeaters occur from maiden to open company or open company to open company matters little, just as long as the barn is fully capable of producing repeaters. One or two morning drills are also needed to confirm soundness and readiness, but those morning drills are usually a �given� with talented barns.

The last ingredient needed is the jockey. They must be the exact same rider who was aboard when putting up the big �number� in the winning Maiden Special race. Jockeys of equal or greater abilities don�t work------period!

To repeat the needed ingredients:

1---Broke Maiden Special Weight in 1st or 2nd lifetime start over a fast and dry dirt course.

2---Put up a big �number� that was good enough to beat at least other-than-2 allowance foes.

3---Gained ground at every running call.

4---Hails from a good non-betting barn that often produces repeaters while simultaneously not caring about the odds as would an equally talented �betting barn� that �sends� only if the �price is right�.

5---Same exact jockey remains in the saddle.

With the 5 ingredients clearly spelled out, an unspoken 6th ingredient always sweetens the pot in their first race against other prior winners. The horse should physically look as good as, if not better than, they did when breaking their maiden last out.

Fortunately for those handicappers unable to actually see the horse and forced to bet �in the blind�, if the first 5 ingredients are all present, the 6th unspoken one is usually a �given�!

Here�s the precise scenario where these ingredients all come together for a profitable predatory situation with an incredibly high win percentage.

Let�s say our horse breaks his maiden on the first of the month and does so as stated above over a dry and fast dirt track. He is then wheeled back in 2 to 4 weeks in a conditioned allowance race for other-than-1s. This is the next logical step up the class ladder for a Maiden Special Weight winner. Even though his last out number says he can beat at least other-than-2s if not better, the good barn isn�t �piggish� nor reckless and takes the path of least resistance in an other-than-1.

On race day, however, it rains and the track is �off�.

The surface could be wet-fast, sloppy, good, muddy or whatever. And even though our predatory maidenbreaker might be bred on both the top and the bottom for the �off� going, the good barn scratches him!


Most likely it is the fear of unnecessary injury!

Since other-than-1�s are the most frequently carded allowance race on any major circuit, the good barn is in no rush to injure a potentially good or even great runner. They know that an identical other-than-1 allowance affair over a fast and dry track is only a few days away. Why push the issue this afternoon over an �off� track with �downside risk� if you don�t have to? It isn�t as if today�s race is a one-time annual occurrence like the Kentucky Derby.

Once he�s scratched, the stage set. Our scratched horse finds his way into another other-than-1dirt race over a fast and dry track within a week and makes it 2 in a row!

While you might think that you�ll always have to take 6-5 in this predatory situation, nothing could be further from the truth. To this day I�m shocked that this scenario still offers an occasional 3, 4 or even 5-1!

You don�t find many plays like this, but if you follow this scenario to the letter, your win percentage will positively floor you!



Copyright �2003 by Joe Takach.  All rights reserved.  Joe Takach Productions

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