Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2)

Classy 2YO’s going 8.5 furlongs today at Churchill Downs in another step on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Many contenders in this race, including a couple horses that have run well in the juvenile turf stakes (International StarImperia), now making the obligatory dirt-routing try.  They could win, but I’d rather not share the gamble with the connections. Lord Nelson (#9, 5/2) returns to routing for Baffert. I loved him on the cutback and out of the Frontrunner, but don’t share the same enthusiasm against this field today. He was far the best on paper in that race, and looked it while dominating on the track. But the angles and condition don’t favor him nearly as much here, and I’lll let him beat me.

Instead, I’ll focus on El Kabeir (#5, 7/2) who finds a dry track for the first time since his maiden win today. I’m willing to throw out the two off-track tries and hope for 3-1, which would be very fair.  He’ll take off blinkers and hopefully rate and get a ground-saving ride from Borel. If he runs to that maiden, he should win today and stamp himself as a contender to return here in 6 months for the Derby. He’ll be a win bet for me. Good luck!

Handicapping Question: Angles — 3 Good & 1 Bad

[As part of the mission of this site to further smart discussion about handicapping, I’ll be asking experienced handicappers to share their wisdom. This week, I asked Gregory Edwards for three handicapping angles that work and for one handicapping angle that doesn’t work. As usual, he really understands the class nuances of smaller tracks.  SA]

Three Handicapping Angles that Work:

  1. A claiming horse winning relatively easily (1 length plus.) while setting a speed figure in range with today’s move up in class. What’s easily? Best way to tell is to be flexible and watch the race!  This is most frequently encountered at smaller circuits where knowing claiming brackets is a must. Often overlooked as being outmatched, this type of horse will be frequently be in good form and move up within his/her claiming bracket effectively and at a price. An example would be a move from 7500N2L to 7500N3L.
  2. The second place finisher first out in maiden special weight running for a leading barn and well-bred. This horse tends to go off at short price, but can be a great horse to use as a “key” vertically and horizontally. Conversely, horses in cold or average barns are great bet against when they go off with heavy favoritism. When these types pop up, its time to find a price elsewhere.
  3. My last one requires a very fine eye, but when this occurs it cashes handsomely. The angle is a high-priced claiming horse entered in N2X allowance company. The caveat? The race must be devoid of any impressive maiden 3-year-old or 4-year-old winners. The claiming horses are frequently left bare on the board, but have been racing against top claimers on the grounds. This angle is especially amplified in the first quarter of the year when these races are composed of stalled 4 year olds.

One Handicapping Angle that’s False:

  1. Bet against maiden 3-year olds/4-year-olds facing winners for the first time. This angle is atrocious in my book. Any lightly raced maiden winner that wins impressively is a huge contender first out in n1x company. These races are often filled with horses stuck at level. A well-meant lightly raced horse can devour this level and often the next. Of course, pace scenarios must always be considered.

Image: Dennis Forgione, “Rounding the bend.” Copyright 2014.