March 30, 2001

Practical Pointer #10b
Back on this theme of two-strike favorites.

The inspiration for this type of research was a pair of feature articles in the March 2001 issue of the C&X Report. Mark Cramer proposed the concept of anti-handicapping as well as the even more exciting idea of "random betting warps."

Anti-handicapping has been around for a long time, or at least as long as Cramer has been writing about it. It basically takes a stand against traditional full-dress handicapping on the grounds that it's too time-consuming and hardly a cost-effective approach to trying to generate a healthy profit at the track.

As such, anti-handicapping lives up to its name in that it eschews the terms of your typical handicapping lexicon. "Speed figure," "pace rating," "variant" and "last-race finish position" all count for little in the anti-handicapping realm. As Cramer writes, "One anti-handicapper may have nothing in common with another."

From there, Cramer segues into what he calls random betting warps. The random betting warp transforms "ordinary" random betting, which can generate losses of from 15 to 30 percent on the invested dollar, to a much-less-painful perdition, or sometimes even a profit.

To illustrate the latter possibility, Cramer writes that when he's isolated so-called chaos races in which no horses can win or all of them can win, he's turned to his children or nephews for a selection. "The result?" he asks. "My kids have shown a profit with quasi-random betting in races that I identified as 'chaos.' "

Additionally, he points out that an equivalent win wager on every single horse in every single Breeders' Cup race would have actually produced a profit. "That's much easier than handicapping! In fact, that's anti-handicapping."

Thanks, Mark. Thanks for opening up this can of worms for us to sort out! We love you!

Unfortunately, it's apparent that our run-of-the-mill overnights are not going to behave like the Breeders' Cup races. However, that's OK. We don't want to get involved in handicapping every single race on the card.

Or even anti-handicapping every single race, for that matter. As Cramer points out, the classical handicapping approach might uncover a different insight from the public's once every 10 races. By logical extension, it should follow that anti-handicapping might uncover one race in 10 that could be genuinely "chaos."

The races in which the favorites are saddled with multiple, potentially negative changes come up about 20 percent of the time, maybe a little excessive, but not debilitatingly so.

If we can bet every single horse in a race every once in a while and still generate a profit, we should be able to bet up to four or five beasts in a race and come out OK. At least that's what the theory of this "quantum mechanics" of horse racing says.

Moreover, the elimination/wagering guidelines presented shortly are designed to keep the prices high, even if the safety of a guaranteed winner (by betting every horse in every race) isn't utilized.

To recap from last week, let's try to isolate a race in which we think the favorite is false or vulnerable. Whether we identify said favorite as having multiple, potentially negative changes or likely to regress from a new top or whatever, we've determined that the favorite is, at best, shaky.

From there, we look for horses that we think will go off at huge prices, the bigger the better. To achieve this lofty goal, we look for horses that will look horrible to the rest of the crowd, another Cramer-type ideal.

Accordingly, that means the following:

    Last-race speed figure or rating not among the top three in the field
    Morning line of at least 8-1
    Current form cycle at least four races in length

The first two are fairly obvious. The public is nothing if not final-time-speed-crazy, not to mention last-race-fixated. The morning-line requirement also helps inflate the prices.

The last one might seem arbitrary -- and indeed it helps trim the sheer bulk of plays -- but it prevents us from horseplayers who expect improvement due to a layoff, or a move forward in the second or third races back. If the horse looks bad without a recent vacation as an alibi, the public is more likely to stay turned-off. (However, second-race-lifetime and third-race-lifetime horses are exempt, especially at the forecast juicy odds.)

That's the theory, and so far in limited testing, it's produced some doozies. It's not a strategy you want to employ if you're looking to play every race on the card or can only enjoy, say, the nine live races at your track on a weekend day. For the truly recreational, full-dress handicapping will probably be more appealing, or at least more understandable as a relaxing, if time-consuming, pursuit.

But for the guerrilla handicappers who want to take a shot once or twice every card on a potentially bad fave and some decent mutuels, it's worth a stab, at the very least.

Practical Application of the Practical Pointer
Ah, with no big three-year-old races on tap for this weekend, it's as good a time as any to list some examples of the Practical Pointer, if in a scattershot style.

As always, we reserve the right to list some caveats. First, good results or bad, one day does not a season make. It's merely a glimpse into something you might want to try out. Second, without knowledge of the actual odds or which horses will be favored, we are forced to assume (many times a bad assumption, thanks to some screwy morning lines) that the favorite on the official track program is going to be the actual favorite. Cross your fingers. And, of course, scratches are always a factor.

Again, this won't be for everyone, but you never know. We will list the plays, followed by the name of the suspect fave (in parentheses).

Aqueduct
Race 6: Ally's Valentine (Carry All)

Beulah
Race 5: Bold Archer, C J's River, Cryptic Cosmo, One Spot, Gold Hawk (Not for Favors)

Charles Town
Race 7: Sirolo, P.A.'s Iron Man, Strong Enough (Citilatin)

Delta
Race 4: Mama Tried, Tsunami's Majesty, Grandma Ruby (Dixieland Cowgirl)
Race 5: All Obstacles, Meadow Robin, Step N Motion, Razor Point (Cryyoulittledevil)

Fonner
Race 2: Blurr City Bandit, Track's Dancingboy, Running Roo (Gold Studded)

Golden Gate
Race 4: Panzeer, Dixie Canyon, Monday Flyer, Belgravia (Cat Blade)
Race 8: Mistakenly Special, Prodigious, Milk Wood (Dixie Dot Com)

Hialeah
Race 1: Kea Lani, Kayaking Katy (Groom's Echo)
Race 4: Blake's Groomstick, Michael Thomas, Stephen's Pokey, Mimi's Promise (Invitation)

Houston
Race 8: Coco Grande (Ta Ta Moro)

Penn National
Race 1: Barbeau's Hope, Too Many Shu's (Fear the Knight)

Philadelphia
Race 10: Pequat, Robyn Ralph, Victory Verse (Brother Deputy)

Pimlico
Race 2: Case It Out (Lit de Lace)
Race 7: Runaway Rich, Spit and Polish, Stormin' Lad, Money's Star (John Michael)

Portland
Race 6: Sociable Root (Inanout)

Santa Anita
Race 2: Media Beach, Before and After (Mr. Vice Prizident)

Sunland
Race 7: Hooie (Nashville)
Race 8: Second Avenue (Gravel Road)
Race 11: Todo Togo, Tiger Moon (Where's My Truck)

Tampa
Race 7: Bucsunday, Roar by the Shore, Doc Savage, Fair is Fowl, Jet Whirl (Gold Premium)
Race 10: Jack Taco, Volcan Nativo, Out of Champagne (Glok)

Turfway
Race 2: Tinc, In Dancing Order (York Hills)
Race 3: Miss Bishop (La Franship)
Race 4: Imperial Trouble, Hawkeye's Circle (Cope With Diablo)
Race 9: Head Count, Dontclosemiaccount, Prized Ambition (Trip)

Woodbine
Race 4: Radyla (Moonlight Affair)
Race 7: Ms. Ghazi (Sports Flashy)
Race 8: Ruby Park (Gandria)

Three-Year-Old Update
Kudos to Dave Litfin of DRF, and not just for the nice notice regarding 2001 PARS PLUS in Saturday's editions of the paper, either.

The guy had it right on when he talked about Balto Star's freakout in the Turfway Spiral. When Keats came out of the starting gate like that, it was all over -- and not only for Keats.

The rest of the field had to submit to a freerunning romp by a stone frontrunner, and remember what Beyer used to say about those: discount the figure earned by the gate-to-wire streaker.

Pace usually takes care of itself in the races for the three-year-olds (for proof, remember what happened last year, when More Than Ready and Trippi and Hal's Hope and whoever else it was got involved in the early fractions of the Derby). So Balto Star, even in his next prep, might be in for a bit of a shock down the road.

A P Valentine did what he had to, but don't be overly excited about the track record. Zito is babying this horse, and the surface in Miami has been producing blazing clockings so far. In context, it was a workout over nothing.

Halo's Stride ran second at 55-1, paying $35.20 to place.

Next time, a trio of Derbies.

Bulletins, Advisories and Other Announcements
Congratulations to Tom K. and his winning of the Sunday Division of the March Madness! edition of the Big-Prize Handicapping Contest.

T.K. is also in the running, with Bill H., for perfection in the Saturday Division. Can he complete the double? We'll know in 24 hours!

And our April Foolishness edition of the Big-Prize Contest is taking shape -- and quick, since Sunday is April 1. No foolin'!

Please check back on the Cynthia Publishing Company Web site Saturday evening after 5 p.m. PST for more details on it!

And don't forget to visit for Dean McMillan's new "Windfall Angler," Tuesday's answer to the Short Line.

Enjoy your racing week. See you next time with big action from Keeneland and Santa Anita.

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