March 9, 2001

Sorry About That, Sportsman's!
A week should be long enough to have forgotten about the most grievous of errors, but now that this humble apology is finally splashing across your screen, contrition is at last complete. That's what you get for listening to self-proclaimed handicapping experts! Even the ones who are trying to ply you with meaningful, actionable information, not the angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff!

Yup. If we had been a little less cavalier seven days ago and did some due diligence (or at least some rudimentary fact-checking) we would have correctly pointed out that it was Sportsman's Park, NOT HAWTHORNE, that was swinging back into action last Friday.

So here we go. Last full-meet stats we (the self-proclaimed experts) have for Sportsman's are as follows.

Five furlongs over there at the Chicago Motor Speedway, it pretty much favored the up-front-types, obviously, with 11 of the 12 races going to a horse within five lengths at the second call. Seven of those 11 were within a length.

Same story at five and a half furlongs, where 18 races were contested, 13 of them won by horses not more than a length back at Call 2. Four other races were won by, loosely speaking, pressers, while the infamous Meltdown Factor (nae, a horse five lengths or farther behind at the second call) accounted for the other race.

The speed fares worse at the next two distances--six furlongs and a flat mile. In 246 six-furlong races, 123 were won by the tight-early-speed sorts--just half. But the really deep-ralliers, behind five lengths or more at the second call, did quite well, winning 48 of the races, or close to 20 percent. From experience, we know this represents a very high Meltdown Factor, one that suggests those really deep-ralliers cannot be summarily dismissed.

At the one-mile distance, the front (again, defined as no farther than a length back at the second call) was able to hang on a relatively short 41 percent of the time. And the Meltdown-types successfully came out of the clouds 21 percent of the time!

Not many were run at a mile and a sixteenth, where the Meltdown Factor was less severe, and frontrunners did OK. And at nine furlongs, the few events were claimed strictly by fronts and presses--no closers.

And how has this current meet proceeded so far? The trends are holding at five and five and a half furlongs, especially at the latter, where 15 of the 22 winners at the distance in the first five days of racing have been labeled "front."

But so far at six furlongs, the front is holding better. The Meltdown Effect has yet to be felt. Eventually?

However, the mile has played to type. Seven races so far, and three won by horses behind five lengths or more at the second call. With the front having won just two contests.

Beating our breasts, decked out in sackcloth and ashes, we remind you that those figures are for the horse races, not the Nascar ones.

And, hey, now you're ahead of the curve when it comes to Hawthorne.

Armageddon Card at Gulf
Thirteen races, many of which drew that exact number of starters. Six-figure purses all over the place, and one seven-figure event. And it's only March!

They are putting on an equine show of shows down there on South Beach, and no doubt the racing world will be almost exclusively focused on South Florida and Gulfstream Park, where the sun will shine and racing as we know it will be forever altered.

They couldn't let the boss's son's idea just die an undistinguished death, so they'll prop it up for a couple of races, and everyone will go home happy, especially the fans in the stands who take the Miami Blaze by 17 points over the L.A. Cruzerz. Maybe. That tie-score proposition is going to rock!

And who knows? Maybe they'll all be whipped into a frenzy and clamor for it until it returns. They can get away with it tomorrow, since so much attention will be focused on what really matters--namely, a bunch of high-quality beasts slugging it out (by themselves!) for individual glory. Thirteen times over. It's almost as good as the Breeders' Cup!

Action galore, and prices to match. But what of the marquee event of the day and the meet, the one with the million-dollar prize. How is that going to play out?

At least we don't have to worry about calculating its impact on the point spread! Even so, the Florida Derby looks like a form-defying race from the get-go, a heat just waiting to be taken by some animal who'll bounce back or pitch a new career-best.

And who might that be? Of course, as is our style, the questions come before the answers. Please allow us this license when it comes to the nonclaiming three-year-olds. We are, after all, kind enough to send you these informational bits gratis.

From the rail out, then:

Radical Riley - Ran best as a rallier, with a wicked-fast pace helping him. But he's a dud on fast tracks, and when's the last time it rained in Floriday, anyway?

Invisible Ink - Freak of nature since going two turns. He's only getting better, too, and has a tractable up-front style that should prove handy in a bulky field. All well and good, but it's gonna be discounted on the tote board, and coupling makes it all academic.

Outofthebox - Put Jerome D. Bailey on the back of a nonclaiming three-year-old, and magical things happen. His only clinker was around the one turn, and learning how to close two back can only be beneficial for this trip.

Trailthefox - Your likely leader, but two turns figures to elude him again this time.

Turnberry Isle - Stayed stuck all the way around in fifth last time, in a six-horse sleeper. Got a full field in BC Juvy, but now gets the genuine pace to go along with it. The presence of the Patient One means another (maybe) effective rally is in the cards.

City Zip - Arrested development? Maybe he's still trying to get the hang of coming out of it a little. By now, this time of the year, you'd like to have seen some great leap forward.

Monarchos - He rallied last time, even into a slack pace, and the figure was huge. You know he's getting a much better setup this time, and is likely to move forward, or at least not decline drastically, and that would be bad news for the rest of 'em. Bad news for us is that he's part of that blasted favored coupling.

Dream Run - Improved a bunch last time, but now gets two turns. Another forward move seems unlikely, given his parentage.

Songandaprayer - Genuine speedfreak (see first two calls of his races if you're uncertain) and should stay out of any tangles. But when he's not out there winging all by himself by open lengths, then what?

Talk Is Money - Outpaced, no figs. 'Talk is out-of-the-money.

You Know Who - Rallied for the win last time, but still has to leap forward even more.

Cee Dee - Two back is deceptive. The pace crumbled, and while it might crumble here, this guy's late-kick is not genuine. Needs more true firepower in the lane.

It's So Simple - Yes, it is. This guy can close, gets an even better pace this time, and his fig isn't too far off the mark. Zito, a closer, Florida Derby--and you ask why history repeats?

If we had to go bottom-to-top from top to bottom, it would have to look something like this:

13. Talk Is Money
12. You Know Who
11. Cee Dee
10. Trailthefox
9. Radical Riley
8. Dream Run
7. City Zip
6. Songandaprayer
5. Turnberry Isle
4. It's So Simple
3. Invisible Ink
2. Outofthebox
1. Monarchos

No, not much imagination required to dope out the top three, but its Nos. 5 and 4 on the list who could make the race pay. (And if you happen to hit the triskaidekafecta in exact order, we wanna hear about it!)

The folks will be sentimental for City Zip and Songandaprayer, and while neither figures to be too short a price, they're still going to be overbet at 5-1 or 7-1 or anything like that.

Turnberry Isle and It's So Simple, Lukas and Zito. No Bobby B. to interlope this time, either, and both those runners should be stretching their legs nicely inside the eighth pole. Neither should be worse than fifth in the big field, and they seem like the only guys who can make the vertical exotics pay off anything meaningful. And with the entry maybe taking two of the three top spots, they'll have to slide to fourth to pay off the trifecta!

That takes care of the Florida Derby analysis for the computer between the ears. How about the one sitting on the desk here? It looks like it gives a bit too much merit to our friends City Zip and Songandaprayer. But the other three members of the top quintet match.

Too bad we can't dope out Louisiana on Sunday!

Practical Pointer #9

No, not another franchise from the XFL. Rather, it's riders (and trainers, though that wouldn't have fit the catchy title) who perform better than usual when the track is muddy, sloppy, wet-fast or slow.

For a jockey, performance might be compromised by an aversion to the slipping and sliding that can take place when the track conditions are not dry and fast. Or maybe they stake out the best part of the track on a regular basis when it's wet.

For a trainer, it could be as innocent as wrapping his or her charges' tails in a bob, so as not to have it dragging and sopping during the race. Or maybe mud caulks.

Whatever it is, it can be quantified and applied, and here's what we found.

At Santa Anita (and you can do the homework for your track), here are the rainy-day leaders (for any dirt track not listed as "fast" or "good"):

V Espinoza 9
T Baze 8
K J Desormeaux 7
L Pincay Jr 7
A Solis 5
M Garcia 5

How'd Garcia sneak in there? The others you might expect, but let's call it Baze and Garcia to watch out for.


Stute Bros 5
B Baffert 4
W Spawr
J Sahadi 3
V Cerin 3
W Stute 3
M Stute 2

OK, so Baffert and Spawr are one-two in the overall standings, anyway. But Sahadi has kept her reputation as an ace wet-track condtioner, after all these years. As have the Flying Stute Brothers. Does it run in the family?

Speaking of families, what's with the Stevenses? Gary came up as a slop-averse jockey at Santa Anita, and at the other track we dared test out--Turf Paradise--brother Scott also seemed to have his issues in the wet:

G Corbett 16
E Gomez 11
F Gonsalves 10
L Mawing 6
M Ortiz 5

Where the heck is the legendary Chance Rollins on this list? He's only the top jockey over there in Phoenix? There's a neat little negative-rider angle, eh?

Maybe Corbett and Ortiz know what it takes over there in the rain. Trainers:

The Johnson Gang 7
G Johnson 4
G Wasson 4
F Lucarelli 4
J Johnson 3
M Hop 3
D McFarlane 3

The Johnsons are the Stutes of the Valley of the Sun? Are they even related, those crazy Johnsons?

And what happened to Jeff Mullins, top trainer at Turf Paradise? If the track were in Seattle, he'd be hurting!

Wasson and Lucarelli are nowhere near the top 10, and neither is J. Johnson. Is it too late for rain in Phoenix?

It's a little technique that shouldn't kill you to try to research, and it's something that won't be sharing space in DRF with other off-track improvements any time soon.

It's not raining right now in Southern California, but that's forecast to change any second. And while you're at it, do a raindance at your Hopi mesa den over there in Arizona.

Random Ramblings
Time to order your pars and get the latest cool research into "How Tracks Behave." Lots of eye-opening info there. If you like the kind of practical, actionable findings and stats you get from reading On-Line at the Short Line, the PARS PLUS supplemental information will be much to your liking, too.

And the only reason imaginable for not entering the March Madness! Big-Prize Handicapping Contest is...well, there is none, really. It's free, and you can win cash money. So unless you don't like real American dollars or would rather get some short-lived bragging rights or the last word in in one of those glorified racing chat rooms, go for it. You're still in the thick of things, even if you're just jumping in this week for the first time.

Also, if you're joining us for the first time, you can check out past issues of this newsletter by going to and clicking on the Short Line link and clicking on the archives link of the current issue.

And remember, keep your e-motions in check! E-terrorism can ruin your life!

Until next time, adios! Vaya con dios! Eres numero uno!

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