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Handicapping - Pedigree - History - Dosage

Derby Strategy

After yesterday’s Travers Stakes, it would appear that Tiz the Law is the crowned Derby lock based on his commanding performance at 10f. This sentiment will be prevalent in the minds of every bettor come Derby Day. Odds for the win will be at the lowest it can go. The trifecta, and of course the superfecta, will be the big plays. Shooting for handicapping the 2nd place through the fourth place will be everyone’s ammunition. It would appear obvious that with both Nadal and Maxfield gone, everything lands on Tiz the Law as the superior animal with that Tapit stamina and not a horse in sight comes close. A win bet or even an exacta bet is simply out of the question. The only play is a superfecta bet.

I often talk about profit. That is the name of the game. Obtaining profit smartly and to your advantage is much more important if you want skin in the game. Betting $5.00 to profit one dollar or 10.00 to profit 2.00 is ridiculous. Spending 500.00 on a superfecta ticket to cash 600.00 is even worse, especially when there is an even money monster expected to win the race.

Everyone wants to cash in on the big purse at Churchill. There are two ways to do this. One is to single the horse on top, saving money in the process and loading up the bottom slots. In this example, a ticket may look like this: (Tiz the Law is Horse “A”)

1st Spot – A

2nd Spot – B, C, D

3rd Spot – B, C, D, E

4th Spot – B, C, D, E, F, G

For a one dollar ticket, this configuration would cost $36.00. Is it even worth the trouble? It would mean taking your top 3 horses underneath Tiz the Law and spreading them in each slot while throwing an extra horse or two in the 3 and 4 spot. Most likely, your top 3 under Tiz the Law are going to end up being the likely favorites under Tiz on the Tote board. This type of configuration is what the vast majority of gamblers will end up doing come race day. Only horse “F” and “G” will separate you from thousands of pari-mutual bettors across the globe. This means that the superfecta purse will be split up six weeks to Sunday. You would be lucky to triple your money with this bet. After a year of waiting for the biggest purse of the year, I’m certainly not interested in cashing a couple of hundred dollars. It’s not even worth the effort. But that example above is exactly how the majority of superfecta players will be configuring their ticket. It is a fools bet.

The second way to bet your superfecta is with logic and with risk. Minimizing the risk is essential but then again, no risk, no reward. The key to the risk is to at least get your money back while going for gold. The second key is to make sure that the risk is even plausible. In this case, I do believe it is. This is due strictly because of the bias and not the bias you are thinking of.

In this example, the configuration of the superfecta would ensure that you are covering yourself in one regard, but going for a hit that will most likely not be on everyone’s ticket. This means you are putting yourself into a much smaller bucket to take a piece of that superfecta purse. You are minimizing the risk while covering yourself on the back-end. (Tiz the Law is Horse “A”)

1st Spot: A – B – C

2nd spot: A – B – C – D

3rd Spot: B – C – D – E - F

4th Spot: B – C – D – E – F – G

For a $1.00 ticket, this configuration will cost you $116.00. You now have Tiz the Law in the first and second spot. You now have 2 other horses in for “the upset.” You have yourself covered and even if Tiz the Law wins, you will get your money back (plus a bit more on the back-end). You gave yourself an extra shot with an extra horse in both the second and third place. You are now in a bucket that can produce a payoff in the thousands. If you want to spend more, add a few horses to the bottom slots. If you want to spend less, take away those extra horses. Is the risk worth it? Pay-off wise, yes. Is the shot plausible? Absolutely positively – YES.

The reasons why this is worth every penny of the risk…

  1. There are no sure things in gambling.

  2. It is a fools bet to gamble the exact same way as the majority when all payouts come from the same bucket.

  3. Are there other contenders on the field that can run 10f and who were not entered into the Travers Stakes? Absolutely yes.

  4. Is Tiz the Law guaranteed a favorable gate in the Kentucky Derby? Nope.

  5. Will Tiz the Law be guaranteed a safe and unimpeded trip? Nope.

  6. Will Tiz the Law have a target on his back? Yep.

  7. Will Tiz the Law find the exact same bias at Churchill as he found at Saratoga? Nope.

Point #7 is the single most important point out of that group. It is easy to make claims, but when you see it in black and white it truly opens your eyes to the possibilities. Since the changeover in the track at Saratoga, that dirt surface has done a complete 180. Stamina horses coming from the rear had a ball on that track for years. Yes, there is a shot that Churchill will play the same come September, but the odds of two separate tracks producing the exact same results is extremely low.

Saratoga’s meet began on July 16th. To date (August 8th) the following chart depicts the winners of every dirt race, run at 7f and over, and their position on the track in the early stage of the race to their final stretch win.

The above chart shows all 37 dirt winners at Saratoga since day one of the meet, July 16th through August 8th. These were winners on DIRT, both male and female, traveling 7f and over. Out of the 37 winners, 32 of them ran the beginning of their race up on the pace, at least 4th position to 1st position. That is an 86.5% win ratio. That is a serious bias on that track. It did not matter the distance, from 7f all the way up to 14f, the same. These facts present an even greater bias because regardless of it being shorter or longer, the front positions dictated who had the advantage and who did not. That is the track doing the work, not the horse. These winners, all 32 of them, had a deep advantage which negated over half the field in every given race from the opening bell to the finish line.

There is no down-play of Tiz the Law's impressive performance at 10f at Saratoga. It is pointing out that the track was extremely biased to front runners regardless of distance. The two lead runners who were in front of Tiz the Law in the Travers Stakes throughout the race, Uncle Chuck and Shivaree, are both 9f runners based on their breeding. They had no shot, even with the strong bias. Now, try to imagine two different runners in those two spots in front of Tiz the Law who actually had the breeding for 10f. They too would have found an extreme advantage on an extreme bias. It's an entirely different ball game. This is not say that Tiz the Law still would not be crowned champion, but what I am saying is that this presents a possibility BEYOND the BIAS.

To put this into perspective, if Tiz the Law won this race coming from any position below 4th, I would say, dont even try to beat him. Just single him on top and load up on your 4th spot. If he ran like Echo Town and Everfast and Stay Fond, who ran up against a huge disadvantage with that bias, then I would conclude that he is truly the super horse. He ran true to the bias with two little 9f speedsters in front of him. He couldn't lose with that scenario. In addition, there is a strong possibility that many laid off of their horses mid-stretch when it was apparent their Derby Dreams were shattered. The margin of the win was most likely enhanced by that.

When looking for a plausible reason to lay out additional dollars to beat a monster, one must determine if the risk has some legs to it. There are a few factors that would suggest the opportunity is not out of the realm here.

Is it worth a shot to try to beat him for a payout in the Kentucky Derby? If you cover yourself and leave him in the top two spots - ABSOLUTELY. Nothing is ever a guarantee.


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