January 12, 2001

Goodbye, Champ
We are saddened to learn of the death of a true champion, Affirmed, the last winner of the American Triple Crown. He was 26.

Not many racehorses are responsible for transforming the merely curious to the passionately involved, let alone scores and scores of them, but Affirmed was one of the ones. He had it all: speed, heart, class, charisma. Put the teenage riding sensation Steve Cauthen on his back, and it was hard to root against them. How many of us can trace our earliest racing memories to them, or at least some of our most passionate ones?

He will be missed.

Back to the Mundane
As they say, if it weren't for disappointment, we wouldn't have any appointment.

Case in point was the performance of the Three Most Enticing Longshots posted for Friday's racing at Santa Anita.

Longshots are notorious for finishing far up the track many times, but when a couple of headbobs keep you from a wildly profitable day, it's time to reach for the Maalox. Maybe something stronger.

The first two Santa Anita longshots finished second. Tyler Man, in the third race, closed and duked it out through the lane, but wound up a head shy at 17-1.

Then the third longshot, Naughty Hostess in the fourth, 10-1, was engaged in a similarly thrilling nip and tuck finish. At the wire, it was...too close to call!

The results of the photo were inconclusive, a dead heat! Instead of paying $20.20 to win for each winning ticket, the price was slashed to $9.80.

A profitable day at Santa Anita, but what might have been. Tough.

Practical Pointer #1
Intuitively, a late scratch should upgrade the chances of any longshot you back.

After all, if it's another frontrunner who withdraws, that should make things easier for your early-running selection. And if a closer is removed, that's one less late-runner to fear.

A little research into this suggests there may be some merit to the theory. A quick look into a handful of horses rated tops on an early-speed scale shows that these horses average position at the first call was 2.68. And at the finish, it was 4.24.

With any sort of scratch, the first-call average position increased a little, to 2.93 (maybe they ease up their fight), but their finish position average shrank to 3.89.

And when the late scratch was the horse ranked second or third on this early-speed measure, the results were even more pronounced. The average first-call position went all the way down to 2.26, and the average finish position was 3.26.

Practical pointer, in this case, is to feel more confident if your frontrunning type has less work to do in the early stages because of a late scratch of a similarly fast-early horse.

Weekend Contest Action
So you're not in Las Vegas this weekend competing in the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. Big deal. We've got the consolation prizes right here, and you don't have to get on a plane or put up with a surly cocktail waitress, either.

Participate in our Big-Prize Handicapping Contest. Great monthly prizes are available, and even if you didn't take part last weekend, you're still in with a big chance, especially in the Sunday Division.

That's because no one correctly tabbed a longshot winner in that portion of the contest. And even though nine players are tied for the lead in the Saturday Division, remember that last month's Saturday Division winner skipped a week and still proved best.

Time to grab your share of great prizes, including cash money. Go to the Cynthia Publishing Company Web site and click on the Big-Prize Handicapping Contest link.

Earthly Rewards, Contest or Not
We do appreciate your readership, and would like to show it by making special offers to you.

Now until Friday, Jan. 19, we will offer a very special FREE bonus for orders received in our on-line store, while supplies last.

Place an order on-line, and we'll throw in a copy of your choice of the Barry Meadow bestseller "Player's Guide to Las Vegas Racebooks," the record-keeping tool "The Horseplayer's Journal," Mike Helm's "Debut Trainer Guide 2000," "Debut Winners of 1999" or "Freshman Sires of 2000" or the January/February 2001 issue of "The HorsePlayer Magazine."

To take advantage of these bonuses, simply place an order in the on-line store and in the field labeled "Special Instructions," enter the bonus item of your choice. It's that simple. And remember, there's already a 15 percent discount in effect on all orders (except C&X Report).

Practical Pointer #2
Rain, rain go away.

Maybe not. When inclement weather drops in, there are a couple of quick elimination guidelines you can use to throw out bad favorites and upgrade longshots.

First, for races composed of runners who already have extensive off-track experience, demand an off-track in-the-money percentage of at least 50 percent. The win percentage can be slack, but the healthy proportion of second and third place finishes in the wet going can signal a horse who wants to do better.

Second, for inexperienced wet runners, look for solid wet-track win percentages from both the sire and the dam. When both parents have struck with 15 percent or more of their nonfast track progeny, it's a good sign.

Supposedly, horses with small, high-angled feet do better in the slop and mud. While it's not always easy (and sometimes impossible) to get down to the paddock to check out the hooves, these easy percentages tend to suggest performances and pedigrees that are likely to transmit this physiological trait.

Thanks for spending part of your weekend with us. We will see you next time.

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