August 31, 2001

Point Given, We Hardly Knew Ye
Point Given, winner of four straight $1 million races -- Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Haskell, Travers -- was retired early this morning after his connections detected an injury to one of his tendons.

Winner of nine of his 13 starts and nearly $4 million, Point Given, despite his premature departure from the racing scene, is very much a contender for Horse of the Year honors. And perhaps that is the worst part.

Sandy Koufax left baseball on his own terms, and probably could have tacked on a bunch more years of dominating performances. Point Given was at least among the top two horses in training worldwide, and, given his achievements and the large promise of more, the injury had to be pretty severe for such a dramatically abrupt and final decision.

Would Point Given have broken the all-time earnings record? Who knows? But that we as racing fans and enthusiasts of the sport are now the prospect of watching him pursue it, well, it hurts. He was starting to gain that look of dependable, consistent winner, the likes of which the sport has been missing since Cigar. (Hallowed Dreams, eh...)

Point Given, the big horse, the big red train, was a dominant specimen, and his aura during the career-ending streak was similarly imposing. Deep down, you knew he was always going to be pretty close at the wire. Indeed, he won by 12 lengths or by a nose -- he just got the job done.

A look at the horses left in training -- gee, that sounds derogatory, but that's the kind of void Point Given's retirement creates, that's how big a set of barshoes must now be filled -- is discouraging. Obviously, not much is going on with the three-year-old division Point Given was dominating, and the older horses are led by such wobbly runners as Albert the Great and Aptitude. Aptitude.

Trainer Bob Baffert was subdued this morning during a NYRA-arranged teleconference. The usual inside humor and sharp wit were muted by a numbing realization that the champion would no longer race. "We have Officer," said Baffert. "We hope he carries the torch. We have to move on."

The Need for Speed
Figuratively, it's like beating a dead horse, but the tendency toward early speed in American racing is too great to ignore.

An emphasis on final time or a similar "whole-race" outlook will likely result in tiny mutuels and a natural kinship with the lowest prices on the tote board and the lowest common denominators in the stands. (OK, so you might have a higher hit rate. Great.) Early speed and pace are not irrelevant, as you might have been deceived to believe.

A recent scan suggests as much. A blind emphasis on potential lone speed candidates at the first and second calls resulted in a grim success percentage of slightly more than 20 percent.

But the average winning mutuel was $10.61, and if you run the numbers, that's a profit margin of 8.5 percent. Not bad for a single-factor-type scan.

The rate of early-leader prediction was reasonably high -- around 50 percent -- and that suggests that an outlook that can correctly pick out the first-call frontrunner in one race out of every two, should be able to generate an OK return. And it can often steer you clear of the obvious public choices.

Much has been written about the frontrunning advantage, but put it this way: when's the last time you saw the horse on the lead take up or have to wait for a hole to develop or get stopped cold? In a game measured out in fifths of a second, it means a lot.

Scanning for Lone-F's
It might be a cheap ploy, but it takes up space and, besides, it gives readers and writers something to look out for for the next day. Here are some to look out for at three tracks.

Race 1: De Coax (5)
Race 3: Southern Prime (8)
Race 5: Apple Dapple (9)

Bay Meadows
Race 3: Risky Twilight (3)
Race 6: Trif (6)
Race 7: Amber's Beau (7)

Race 1: Lord Sunday (1)
Race 4: Adagio Twinkles (1A)

Best wishes to Mr. Paul D., who won the Ultimate Weekend Final Showdown of the August Iron Survivor Edition of the Big-Prize Handicapping Contest. He outlasted Mr. Tom D. by a few dollars to take the all-or-nothing top prize.

Both esteemed gentlemen and handicappers have also begun their subscriptions to the C&X Report.

No contests this weekend due to the long holiday. Have fun, sit tight and chill for a few days while we come up with the next obstacle course.

Year 2 of C&X Is History; Resubscribe Now, or Start Fresh for Year 3 in September
(Reprinted from all of last month's editions, early, late and in-between.)

Mark Cramer is gearing up for another 12 spectacular issues of his acclaimed newsletter, C&X Report, and though it'll be a great feat for him to improve upon his output in Years 1 and 2, Cramer will do it -- and do it in style. Not like those artless techno-mopes or other assorted geekheads.

Yes, we're happy to report that Mr. Mark Cramer has a soul, and he shares it with readers each month. And he'll be off to a flying start in Year 3.

The first issue will contain a complete listing of all the probabilities of winning of all the C&X Report research articles from the first two years. All the techno-mopes and geekheads will want a bootleg copy of their own (they're notoriously tight), but they'll be sorely out of luck. (And if they ask if they can borrow your copy, look at them and say through gritted teeth, "I don't normally clench my fists, but what you just asked me angered me.") Don't be surprised if they retaliate with some sort of e-terrorism.

But their loss is your gain. For less than the price of a couple of off-track Racing Forms each month, you can get a monthly masterclass in both the art and science of Modern Thoroughbred Race Analysis. Cramer will take you on a dazzling, at times mystifying, at times breathtaking but always informative and entertaining tour of the waterfront of handicapping, wagering and winning horse-race psychology. Bottom line: You can't help but improve your bottom line.

Now for the tricky part. So you don't miss a single word of Cramer's wisdom during Year 3, you have to take action and either resubscribe or begin your subscription now. It's not too hard. Really. Just pick up your phone and dial (323) 876-7325 and have your credit card ready. Your subscription cost is $109 for 12 issues -- again less than the price of a couple of off-track Racing Forms each month. Or you can do it right here from your computer by getting on the Internet and going to Cynthia Publishing Company's Handicapping Store.

As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time.

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