handicapping contest recap

Last week, I posted my thoughts on the ten races in the Danonymous Racing handicapping contest.  Formatted like many handicapping contests, we had to pick a horse in each of the ten races, and we had a hypothetical $2 win bet and $2 place bet on the horses we chose.  The results are in; when all was said and done, I didn’t do so great, but I didn’t come in dead last either.

Here are a few observations about the races, including who I picked in each — since even though it was probably relatively easy to narrow my likely choices down to a couple based on my discussions of the races last week, I wanted to keep who exactly I was picking for the contest at least slightly under wraps.


  • Forward Gal Stakes – In this race, Aurelia’s Belle was my first pick, and Onlyforyou was my second pick.  (The secondary horses were picked in case the first one scratched; this week, none of my first choices scratched.)  These were the 1-2 horses, but Onlyforyou won and Aurelia’s Belle came in second.  I picked Aurelia’s Belle because I thought Onlyforyou and Resistivity would get into a speed duel, with Aurelia’s Belle the beneficiary.  That didn’t happen.  Onlyforyou led basically the entire race, and Aurelia’s Belle was second basically the entire race.  She stalked Onlyforyou, but it became clear she wouldn’t be able to catch up.  I was correct, however, in my thought that the aforementioned three horses would be the better ones; there was an approximately five length gap between third-place Resistivity and the other three horses bringing up the rear.
  • Holy Bull Stakes – In this race, Conquest Titan was my first pick, and Our Caravan was my second.  Conquest Titan, though probably too far back early, managed to close strongly enough to catch everyone but the winner, Cairo Prince.  I said last week that I would be equally unsurprised whether Our Caravan did well or didn’t — and, he flopped.  He finished 8th, and wasn’t ever really a factor.  I was correct in my guess that Coup De Grace would be early speed, though incorrect in assessing that it would be Cairo Prince and Wicked Strong up there with him from the start.  Instead, Almost Famous and Mr. Speaker were likewise on the lead early.  Cairo Prince stalked and then took control coming toward the stretch; Wicked Strong just didn’t fire at all.


  • Miracle Wood Stakes – In this race, Jessethemarine was my first pick, and Master Lightning was my second.  Neither of these horses were much of a factor.  Jessethemarine finished fifth after just plain failing to fire, and Master Lightning was entirely too far back early to make up.  I had expected Master Lightning to be a speed horse in the race; that turned out to be completely wrong.  Once the gate opened, neither one was anywhere near the winning Extrasexyhippzster or second-place Joint Custody.
  • Native Dancer Stakes – In this race, Indian Jones was my first choice and Managed Account second.  Indian Jones finished well — he was the closer I expected him to be, but he just couldn’t catch the winner.  Managed Account wasn’t the speed in the race like I expected (that was mainly Warrioroftheroses, as Mail scratched), but he stalked the pace, was a head from the lead coming into the stretch, but then faded a bit.  I made a point of talking myself off of Bold Curlin, forcing myself not to be too swayed by the fact that I am a raving Curlin fandork, and what did that get me?  Throwing out a winner at a pretty nice price, that’s what.  I was completely wrong to think he was outclassed here.
  • What a Summer Stakes – In this race, She’s Ordained was my first choice, and Winning Image was my second.  They filled out the exacta, though in the less advantageous order since Winning Image won.  I was dead-on with picking the horses who would do well in this race, but rubbish at predicting how the bettors would direct their money.  I thought I’d get a better price on She’s Ordained than I would with Winning Image; that’s why I placed her first.  Turns out, She’s Ordained went out at odds-on, Winning Image went off at 3.7 to one, and I made a costly mistake.

Sam Houston

  • John B. Connally Turf Cup – In this race, Admiral Kitten was my first choice, and King David was my second.  This was my only winner among my first choices.  I nabbed the Kitten as the strongest of the closing-style horses in the bunch, and he did not disappoint, catching Fredericksburg just in time.  King David, who I thought to be the other class of the field, was second behind Fredericksburg most of the race but just couldn’t stay the distance, and faded to fourth.  All in all, I didn’t do a terrible job of predicting how this race would go, and I was glad to see Admiral Kitten prove himself once again to be the classy closer I thought he was.
  • Houston Ladies Classic – In this race, Awesome Flower was my first choice, and Rose to Gold was my second.  This was a risk that blew up in my face, hard.  I knew that Awesome Flower was a gamble: if she got the lead straight out she’d be a force to be reckoned with, but if she didn’t, it was over.  She didn’t get that lead; she finished sixth, beaten over ten lengths.  Rose to Gold looked like the class of the field on paper, but I placed her as my backup instead of my primary because I thought I was going to get a terrible, terrible price on her.  Turns out, she actually went off at a better price than Awesome Flower, and won the race to boot.

Santa Anita

  • Santa Monica Stakes – In this race, Teddy’s Promise was my first choice, and Heir Kitty was my second.  Teddy’s Promise finished third; she had the lead going into the stretch, but just couldn’t stay up to remain ahead of Scherzinger and Iotapa.  Heir Kitty stalked and tried to make a run for it on the far turn, but just couldn’t mount enough of a bid, and faded to fourth.  My prediction that Lexington Pearl would be the spoiler was no good; she was never any factor.  When handicapping the race, I wasn’t feeling Scherzinger at all — I thought she was significantly outclassed, and likely to bounce off her AOC63 win earlier in January.  In short, there wasn’t a whole lot I got correct about this race.
  • California Cup Turf – In this race, Jules Journey was my first choice, and Stoney Creek was my second.  Neither of them ran a bad race.  Jules Journey closed to cross the wire third, and Stoney Creek closed to finish second.  I was right to try and beat Summer Hit, both because he would go off at a bad price and because I had worries about the distance.  He went off at 1.2 to 1, and he weakened down the stretch.  Weewinnin, I wasn’t going to touch with a ten foot pole — this race was the longest of his career, and he was well beaten in his only attempt at a mile.  I had him pegged for a decent Cal-bred sprinter, nothing more.  Instead, to my surprise (and that of most of the bettors, as he went off at better than 20-1…), he found nine furlongs in him, and won by daylight.
  • California Cup Derby – In this race, Lucky Views was my first choice, and Aotearoa was my second.  I got approximately nothing right in this race.  I said Lucky Views would do well in a race without a lot of early speed.  The fractions were not as slow as I thought they’d be, Lucky Views kept drifting all over the place, and he finished last of all of the horses who finished the race.  Aotearoa, who I knew was somewhat of a gamble because it was his first dirt race, absolutely hated the dirt and didn’t finish the race.  I blew off Tamarando, despite his presence in my fantasy stable, because I knew the price would be bad, and I wasn’t sure how he would do.  I was right in that his price was bad; that was about the only thing I got right in this race.  He’s a deep closer, and did close to make second place, but couldn’t catch California Chrome.  There was no favourite or near-favourite who I felt as strongly would fail as that horse.  Instead, he proved me wrong, and won the race in an absolute blowout.

My overall biggest lessons?

One, I am still a total newbie when it comes to handicapping races based on pace, and I think I put too much emphasis in my selections on horses who I thought would close well.  Though more speed horses help the closers, closers are not going to win every single race in which there’s not merely a lone speed.

Two, I am completely inept at predicting the whims of the betting public, and need to pay attention to those patterns and adjust matters accordingly.  However, this second bit will be less of an issue in handicapping when I don’t have to turn in my bets hours in advance, as i did with this contest; this is what the tote board is for.

Since I spent a nice chunk of Saturday muttering at the TV about how my second choice horse had done better than my first, I calculated how I would have scored with my second choices.  There were fewer of my second choices who cashed (four for my second choices, versus five for my first), though more first places in my second choice list (three for my second choices, versus one for my first).  Turns out, it would have been significantly better.  Between wins from Rose To Gold, Winning Image, and Onlyforyou, combined with the second place finish of Stoney Fleece, I would have scored $47.00 — which would have placed me third, instead of close to the cellar.

You live and learn.  I, for one, am looking forward to the next contest.

More Saturday Stakes at Gulfstream and Laurel

Yesterday, I discussed my observations on five of the ten stakes that are part of this weekend’s Danonymous Racing handicapping contest.  Tonight I spent some quality time with the forms for Gulfstream and Laurel, and came up with a few thoughts on the other five:


  • Forward Gal (GII) – It’s a weaker field than I would expect to see for a G2 along the Oaks trail.  That aside, there are three horses who look like they can hang, and three who don’t.  The favourites are likely to be Aurelia’s Belle and Onlyforyou, for good reason.  Aurelia’s Belle looks slightly better only because of the likely pace; it wouldn’t be surprising to see Onlyforyou and the one other horse who does not look to be outclassed here, Resistivity, get into a speed duel.  If that kind of trip happens, Aurelia’s Belle is likely to overtake them.  If not, then whichever one of those two who manages to get up and hold on could take it.
  • Holy Bull (GII) – Clearly the marquee race of the day, and the hardest to handicap.  About half the field looks like they have a legitimate chance; about half of the field looks a cut below.  I like Conquest Titan best among the closers; though he has done most of his races closer to the lead, I cannot imagine after last race that he would do that, between the success he has as a closer last out and the fact that Coup de Grace, Cairo Prince, and Wicked Strong (all three horses who have a legitimate chance at this) are liable to be up front.  If they get going too fast, it’s Conquest Titan’s for the taking.  If not, I could envision any of those three taking it, though I probably like Wicked Strong’s chances best among the three.  Our Caravan intrigues me; there’s very little to go on saying he will definitely do well, but nothing pointing to saying he won’t.  His last (and only) race suggests he has a chance to run with the bigger boys here.  He’s a wild card, and I’d be just as unsurprised to see him do well (at what is likely to be a fabulous price) as I would to see him not.  However, if you’re looking for a long shot, Our Caravan is your huckleberry.


  • Miracle Wood – There are only two horses in this race who look like closers: Fleet Gold Digger and Jessethemarine.  With a lot of horses who tend to want to get up to the front in the races, a closer may get a good trip, and Jessethemarine is the faster and classier of the closers.  The 20-1 ML on Fleet Gold Digger may well end up an overlay, and I’d consider him for exotics, but given the format of the context (hypothetical $2 win/place on one horse) Jessethemarine is a better choice if I’m stuck with one.  Among the speed horses, I’m looking to Master Lightning to have a good race.  It seems his connections have been entirely too optimistic, entering him in races such as the Jerome, Remsen, and Nashua that were way over his head.  This stakes sounds like a far more logical place to send him, given the sorts of races he has been able to win or be a factor in.  Germaniac, I don’t know what to make of.  He looks good on paper, and this looks like totally the right race for him.  However, he ran the best race of his life by a good margin in the Frank Whiteley last time out, and that combined with the stretch to a mile makes him less tantalizing.
  • Native Dancer – I have a certain (and, by that, I mean deep and undying) love for the Curlin babies, so I want to see Bold Curlin do well.  However, he’s just not a logical pick here — it’s a jump in class, under the heaviest impost of his career, with a good chance to bounce.  As for legitimate contenders, I like Indian Jones and Managed Account.  Indian Jones has been running all kinds of distances, but doing best in routes, with speed on par with what he would need to do well in this race.  If there’s any kind of speed duel, he’s your likely winner, as the closest thing this field has to a good closer.  Both Managed Account and Mail look to be the legitimate speed horses in this race.  Do I think Mail may be slightly better?  Maybe.  If I were boxing, I would put both of them in.  However, given the format of the contest the terrible price Mail is likely to demand makes me lean more toward Managed Account (at least as a backup; I’m still higher on Indian Jones), who is a horse with a true shot who is likely to command a far better price.
  • What a Summer – She’s Ordained looks nice.  It’s a bit of a jump in class, but she has been racing well — hasn’t failed to hit the board since graduating from straight claimers at the end of 2012.  Her speed is in line with the field, and she’s working nicely.  Her history suggests she’s not a huge bounce risk.  Winning Image, as long as she’s racing in a field that suits her, is likely to do well, though also likely to have a terrible price.  She can’t hang with graded stakes company, but this race is the right level for her, and her works are very sharp.  Red’s Round Table has shown the sort of class she would need to win this race, but it’s hard to tell whether she is going to show it, since she seems to have spent more of her career on lay than on the track.  The interesting long shot here is More Than A Cruise.  This is her second race back from a six month lay, and her first was a win against easier company.  However, she does love to hit the board at this track — she’s 12-3-7-0 career at Laurel.

Of course, these last two posts may sound really perceptive in places — or downright stupid in places — by the end of tomorrow.  Only time and the races will tell.  But, these are my thoughts prior to race day.

Good luck!