Know the Field



Anyone who is serious about gambling on horses is always looking for that special angle. These days, a bettor has all types of information right at their fingertips while sitting in front of their computer. There are programs where you can input all of the horse stats and it will magically kick out the top contenders. There are lists and videos of workouts that you can pour over. There are past performance sheets, Timeform sheets, Beyer figures, articles, tips, pedigree charts, dosage figures and on and on.

The one thing lacking in all of those items is probably the most important part of handicapping.


Common Sense.


Maybe it is the thrill of the race itself or the beauty of the horses or the idea of cashing that makes one forget about that good old fashioned common sense.


Think about the Kentucky Derby for a moment. Trainers and owners strive to make it there and if the points are in the bag, their horse will be in that gate no matter what. Hell, it’s the Kentucky Derby, do you blame them? But did you ever consider, using common sense, exactly who comprises the 20 gates in that 10f race? These are the winners of the Derby Preps. Now think about that for a second. These are horses who wowed us in the Champagne, the Springboard, the Sham, the Jerome and the Gotham going 8f. These are the Champs who crossed that wire first by untold lengths in the Breeders Cup Juvenile running 8.5f. These are the colts we fell in love with when they grabbed another win in the Wood Memorial or the Florida Derby or the Santa Anita going 9f.


If you really think about it, would any great Trainer put their horse into the Breeders Classic after only one win in an 8f race? Or better yet, would you really put a huge wager, the biggest bet of your year on that same horse who only won a couple of 8f or 9f races? Sounds ridiculous when put that way doesn’t it? But this is what people do year after year after year in the Kentucky Derby. After all, you can see that they ran fast and won and that their beyer figures were top notch in those 8 and 9f races, weren’t they? Not one of them ever ran in a 10f race so they all have that disadvantage together and somebody has to win so why not bet the fastest guy based on his PPs?


Now look at it this way as well. That same Breeders Classic at 10f is filled with Graded Stakes top notch horses who put in some time to get there in the first place. Maybe they won the Derby or the Pacific Classic. We know who we are dealing with. They have a track record. Not the same with the Derby.


Common sense should tell us that no matter what Derby Prep a colt has won to secure his points to star in the Kentucky Derby, he will be there because this is the Holy Grail of Horse Racing and this is all an owner and trainer thinks about from the time he secures that colt. They will be there in that gate no matter what. Horse-players can’t wait to get their hands on those Past Performance sheets and some of the true fanatics will even take a day off from work to watch the Post Position Draw. It’s the Derby, and we are told that we have a level playing field with the best 3 year olds in the world. After all, they did win a race or two.


Now consider the fact that there is a very strong possibility that half of the colts standing in that gate actually won their 8 or 9f prep race because that was their optimum distance and they probably do not want any part of running further than that. The prep(s) they won is where they belonged and they dominated that field that they were up against because that was the distance they were bred for. That is pure common sense. So realistically, half of the field is probably only there because the horse’s owner and trainer sees the glory and pageantry and all that surrounds this historical race. Their colt made it to the Kentucky Derby. It doesn’t matter what distance the little guy tackled and is most comfortable with, the simple fact that he grabbed that golden ticket regardless of the distance is all that matters to them. So now he becomes part of the show.


What this means for gamblers, in the truest sense, is that unlike handicapping the Breeders Cup Classic where you are dealing with real data in the past performance sheets with entrants who competed and won Graded Stakes races at the proper distances, you are handicapping 20 colts with a huge blindspot. The spot that matters the most - Can he sustain his wicked speed going the 10f distance to even be considered a serious contender in the first place.


With the Kentucky Derby or the Belmont Stakes, you have one major important first step and that is to cross off the horses who simply can’t run 10f in the first place. At least half of the field will fall into this category year after year. It makes sense to immediately and without mercy, just take them out. You can do it blindly by staring at a colorful pedigree chart on Pediquery or you can do it with real, true and tested data that is backed up by history.


Pick one.


If you have a field of “the best 3 year olds” and you know that the only way you are going to get a piece of that multi-million dollar purse is if you separate the top 4 or 5 in that field who will be running at their absolute optimum distance against the majority who could never navigate the 10f no matter how incredible their win was in that 9f prep, then why wouldn't it make sense to make that the first step.


In its simplest form, you need to remove the dust to get to the gold. The only way to do that is to know exactly what that horse inherited that gives him the potential to run the fastest at that distance. The rest means nothing until you shave that field down, remove the pipe dreams of the owners and get down to the real players. After that, breakout those PP’s, consult the workouts, do your thing. But do it, with 8 or 9 of the ones who can run 10f. Don’t waste your time doing it for the full 20. It is a waste of time and clouds your judgement. Either the horse can run 10f or he can’t. If he can’t, then move on. The four horses who hit that finish line first are hitting it because they can run 10f and most likely, this is the distance he thrives at. These guys are not hitting the board because they received at 102 beyer in a 8.5f race. That is common sense.


Lastly, it would also make sense if you really thought about it, that many colts who did not show off their true talents in those shorter Derby preps and hit the board underneath just enough to grab their gate are the very ones who are finally given their chance to shine in a race that is much more to their liking. In other words, they may have struggled to keep up with the speed that dominated that 9f prep, came in second or third with a sub-par beyer figure as compared to the winner but now they are given the chance to shine at 10f which is truly their optimum distance. That is the reason why, year after year, that one overlooked colt always seems to grab a piece. It is not because he ran a fluke race, it is because his speed/stamina balance at 10f was finally recognized and it was his time to shine. That is the money horse. That is is the one you need to find prior to the running. The only way to find him is through the proper use of the numbers. You need to know who wants the 10f and who doesn't.


There are two sets of numbers for every colt. The Chefs numbers and the Mare numbers. They are completely separate from one another. Most all handicappers have heard of Chef-de-Race numbers. You either subscribe to them or not. Throughout my many years of being captivated by these numbers, I have had many "spats" with many so-called pedigree experts who condemned the numbers as old-fashioned, outdated and just plain useless. In hindsight, I should have just walked away with my complete confidence in knowing that they had no idea what those numbers were actually all about. When someone shrugs off an absolute goldmine of information and insight into the sport they love so much, it could only mean one thing, they have no idea what the numbers actually mean and therefore have no idea what they are talking about. It’s just as well, quite frankly, they can throw their money away on sprinters in the Derby for all I care.


In the plainest and simplest language, I read horse numbers. It sounds silly when stated that way but it is what I do. I read them in my own way. I combine them in my own way. I never truly wanted to know all of the ins and outs of WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE, but I wanted to know how they related to the distance capabilities and advantages within a particular race and if there was any historical value with these numbers as it pertained to Winners and In The Money colts within the given race. The answer is an emphatic and definite yes.


When you look at a colts chart, you read the names of the sires and the mares and make determinations as to how they ran while they were in their prime. Maybe one or two sires will stand out and the assumption that this is how his son could possibly run is a bit ridiculous in my mind. I am not afraid to go against the grain of those who have studied pedigree in school or whatever route they took to become who they are. I will tell you all now, I am not that person. I did not go to school for this, I do not even find it necessary to know all of the ins and outs of what the numbers are even supposed to absolutely mean and what they should be used for. My schooling was on my sofa, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and pouring over race results of Graded Stakes races. I did this for years until the bell went off.


All I ever cared about was how can these numbers be used to make money at the track. How can these numbers be used to tell me exactly what this particular colt is capable of. Is this horse actually running to those numbers and his inheritance? How far will his numbers take him? Is the horse running past his inheritance whereby he should be considered a standout? And can I make money on this horse?

For me, the numbers take the place of the names. For instance, Seattle Slew is a listed Chef in the Intermediate and Classic distance. Now, if one was to consider this particular sire when analyzing a chart, we already know what they would say. They would list his accomplishments while he was on the track. They would list some of his high profile sons and then discuss the accomplishments of the sons and somehow and miraculously that is supposed to be a window into the potential of the new boy.


Or worse yet, they will discuss the immediate sire in the same manner. A sire who is not a listed chef, which means that he has not proven that he has the power to pass down anything at all with any sort of consistency. It takes decades to even be considered elite for a reason. He must be proven over time, over and over again.


If they pick out one sire, what about the other Chefs in the chart? Do we just forget about their influence and just talk about that one? And how does their influence affect what he gained from the other Chef? And what about those mares? What happens when all of that royal blood get mixed together? How does all of that mixed blood boil down to this particular guys speed/stamina balance with any sort of accuracy? It cannot be one-sided. It cannot be determined by one or two sires. It certainly cannot be determined without the female side. The numbers give us everything.


It is all outlined easily, effectively, and without guessing within THE NUMBERS. Both sets. Combined. No names, no picking and choosing or neglecting. They are all there standing tall in those numbers. The best of the best sires in the past 4 generations and the most influential conduit mares of the past century. You can see exactly what the colt inherited in each distance category. You can see his dominance and you can see where he is deficient. You can see how his mares affect his chefs. You can see, within two seconds, if he is a little speed demon or if he is going to thrive in marathons. The numbers are resolute. This is what the colt inherited, it is a perfect snapshot of his speed/stamina balance with which he gained from his tested and proven Chefs and his mares who are proven conduits in passing through these attributes. If the colt ends up bringing up the rear in his first 3 races, then you will know that he has no interest in running to his capabilities and you can easily walk away


Chef’s numbers are readily available for all on the top of a colts chart. The other half of the puzzle, the mare’s numbers, are not as readily available and one would need a paid subscription to certain sites like Pediquery to have access. It is a good investment. Then you need to know how to combine them and read them for each and every race that you are betting on.


I combine numbers to get to the true potential of the colt. In some cases, when combining these numbers, some distance capabilities will get watered down, sometimes they get enhanced, and sometimes they remain pure. Sometimes a colt runs so perfectly to his numbers that it is amazing to witness and sometimes the colt has no interest in running to those numbers at all. Sometimes a colt will far surpass those numbers and that is when the magic happens. As a horse jumps up in class and in distance, how could anyone not consult the numbers to see if he is even capable of running to that distance? It is such an upper-hand to know exactly when to bet a horse and when not to.

For example, you decide to put up your hard earned money and place a bigger than normal bet in the Kentucky Derby. You spend time on the past performance sheets, you watch the workouts on video, you scour the internet for information. You watch the post position draw and you actually seek out tips and picks. But did you ever consider finding out what type of inheritance actually wins the Kentucky Derby? What is it that would allow a specific colt to run the fastest going 10f on the Churchill Down surface? What is it that makes one colt win or hit the board in that same race on a sloppy track? And most importantly, how could you get that golden information before the race is run and not afterwards when it is too late?


Could you consult the chart and see what names pop out and make a determination? Sure, but that may give you 5% of the information you need. You would also have to do some serious work going through the charts of all the past winners of the Derby and see what lines up. That is fruitless and ridiculous for one major reason, if one sire passed down sprinting traits and another passed down Classic distance traits, the combination would need to be blended together to get somewhere in the middle. Now, try doing that with 30+ different mares and sires in the chart and there would be absolutely no specific answer. Now do that same procedure with mathematics and you land directly on the optimum. Spot on. The Speed/Stamina balance for the colt from both the sires and mares can only be determined through the use of the numbers.


Every Chef within the chart is assigned his numbers. All Reines are assigned their numbers. Not one is left out. Each one is considered. When you take both sets and combine them together, everything that the colt inherited is found within those numbers. The configuration of those numbers tells you what the colt has inside him. Once you have that, you can determine, with reasonable accuracy, how that specific combination will fare in a specific race, at a specific distance and on a specific bias, based on what has already consistently taken place in the past. Each set of numbers is unique to that particular colt and when you dissect the numbers you can determine the optimum distance he is carrying. But what is even better, is that you can clearly see if his combination of numbers have the standards that have actually won that particular race as that particular track.


You can see what type of configurations thrive at 7f in a particular race or what type of configurations are needed to win at 12f in the Belmont. (Believe it or not, the same type of configurations are almost exact for those 2 distances in Graded stakes races) We will get to that later.


There are some races where the same numbers reappear at the top of the race results list over and over and in some races, there is no advantage to be found. Maiden races, Derby Preps, The Kentucky Derby, The Belmont Stakes, some Breeders races, Sprint Races and many more have a consistency that is undeniable and yet others, there is nothing to be found. We take what we can get.


Every race will have its own set-up and rules. What hits that board in one race will be different in another. It all has to do with optimum distance, speed/stamina balance and bias of that particular track at that particular distance. There are some races that cannot be analyzed at all because their track surface has been changed in recent years. Of course, if the surface is different, then a different type of colt will now have the advantage. When looking at past results, everything must be the same or the data becomes skewed. You cannot compare the configurations of all of the past winners of say the Breeders Cup Classic because they are run at different tracks. The type of configurations that win on the Churchill track are different than the winning configurations run on the Santa Anita track. The surfaces are different. You need to look at everything the same. This includes race results on a clean track vs a sloppy track. Everything must be compared the same.


This is the goal with Dirty Horse Club. A place to learn, over time, how to use the numbers in conjunction with your normal handicapping standards.


Next up – The Mares.

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