Reviewing Maiden Claiming Week: Favorites, Plays, and Surprises

This past week, the Race of the Day focused on the maiden claiming ranks from around the country. There was still a good variety of races, with three different surfaces, four different tracks, three different distances, and, of course, a race for two years olds to cap it off.  Let’s review by looking at the charts, along with the predicted/actual favorite, whether I believed the favorite was risky, what plays I suggested, and the biggest surprise out of the race.

I track these because I like to assess the accuracy of  both my predictions about the public’s behavior and whether the favored horse is beatable.  Sometimes, these indicators can tell you more about your handicapping than temporary fluctuations (both positive and negative) in your ROI.  Notable surprises are both interesting, but also useful in future handicapping. Enjoy!

Monday, June 16:  Presque Isle Downs, 7th race, 6½ Furlongs, Dirt, PA-Bred Maiden Claiming $12.5K, 3 and up, Purse: $13,000.

  • Predicted and Actual Favorite:  1/1A   Little Drummer/Burning Point 2/5
  • Favorite Status:  Beatable
  • Play/Rationale:  Textbook Blues (9/2) and Mission Man (9/1) as second time against artificial surface with improvement in first effort.
  • Winner:  Favorite
  • Notable Surprise:  Money Eyed Boy’s sire, Jet Star, had his first starter on artificial surface, which could bode well for the Pennsylvania sire at Presque Isle.

Screenshot 2014-06-21 10.23.12 Wednesday, June 18:  Mountaineer Racetrack,1st race, 1 Mile, Dirt, Maiden Claiming $5K, 3 and up, Purse: $8.1K.

  • Predicted and Actual Favorite:  Peekaboo Vision (1/2)
  • Favorite Status:  Beatable
  • Play/Rationale: Diamond Mind at 5-1 as a well-meant first-time starter with heavy risks on other contenders
  • Winner: Heza Belfast
  • Notable Surprise:  Hezabelfast was 0 for 26 with six seconds and nine thirds.  But he just rolled on by Peekaboo Vision and Diamond Mind, who had led in the stretch before tiring late.  That’s horse racing!

Screenshot 2014-06-21 10.35.32 Thursday, June 19:  Belmont Park, 5th race, 1 Mile, Inner Turf, Maiden Claiming $40K, 3 and up, Purse $41K.

  • Predicted and Actual Favorite:  Corinthian Summer (Even)
  • Favorite Status:  Beatable
  • Play/Rationale:  Shoot for the fences — Azorian and Hooping — with the beatable favorite taking way too much money.
  • Winner: Plated
  • Notable Surprise:  The “extreme cutback” from over 2 miles by Plated.  For those curious, FX is twice a year day-long meet in Charlottesville, VA for jumpers.  Learn something new every race!

Screenshot 2014-06-21 10.37.18 Friday, June 20:  Lone Star Park, 6th Race, 5 Furlongs, Maiden Claiming $20K, 2 year olds, Purse $12K.

  • Predicted and Actual Favorite:  Prime Pilot
  • Favorite Status:  Very Legitimate
  • Play/Rationale:  Prime Pilot — legitimate favorite that was playable down to even money.  Combine with Pick 3’s and Pick 4’s.
  • Winner: Favorite
  • Notable Surprise: The stronger part of the #1 entry, Nonobaby, was scratched by the track vet before the race, making it easier for Prime Pilot to romp.

Screenshot 2014-06-21 10.41.59 All charts are: Copyright 2014 Equibase Company, LLC.

Lone Star Park, 6th Race, Coverage begins at 9:40 ET on Twitter.

Race of the Day, June 20

Lone Star Park, 6th Race, 5 Furlongs, Maiden Claiming $20K, 2 year olds, Purse $12K. 

We’ll wrap up Maiden Claiming week here on All Day Racing with a visit  to Lone Star Park, site of the 2004 Breeders Cup.  You might remember that Ghostzapper was awesome.  A solid card kicks off the weekend with some Friday evening action.  I’ll focus on the 6th race — maiden claiming two-year olds going a short 5 furlongs.

What you need to know about 2 year old Maiden Claiming:

#1:  The conventional wisdom  for two-year old maiden claiming is to view every horse with skepticism.  Why? Because nobody would offer a 2-year old for sale — this early in their career — if they were a decent horse.  There’s some truth in this for sure, but it’s incomplete. Many of these horses typically are bred for very early speed with little stamina.  They are fast-ish early, but likely won’t develop  to excel beyond their two-year old campaign.  They are placed in this level not because they are not good, but because this is the best place for them to win early.  Offering them for sale is just part of the game for not-so-fast horses.

#2:  As with all two-year old races, there are some trainers that excel at juvenile horses. Nationally, Wesley Ward comes to mind, as does Steve Asmussen and Jerry Hollendorfer. This could be a result of a special penchant for trainers youngsters, or simply be landing precocious two-year old in the barn.  But, either way, past success with babies usually portends future success.

#3:  While it may seem suspect to offer a young, unproven horse for sale, many horses at this level originally cost less — sometimes much less — than the claiming price.  This, of course, ignores the real cost of raising a horse, but it the relationship between the purchase price/stud fee and claiming price tends to be a good measure of who might just be a bit better, especially for first-time starters.

#4:  Two-year old races tend to be among the most formful of races.  This goes against the conventional racetrack wisdom that young horses tend to be erratic.  In fact, according to Brisnet, of the 8 of the 9 most recent winners at this level were 5/1 or lower.

Five Facts about the Runners:

  1. Prime Pilot (#5, 2-1) is the likely favorite.  His race last time out was good enough to win here, if repeated.  He drops from the maiden allowance level — along with several others.  I rarely say this, but he’s a legitimate favorite!
  2. The entry of Nonobaby and Broken Zipper (#1-1A, 3-1) will likely scratch one.  Conditioner Jack Bruner trains well with two-year old and can get it done at this level.  He’s not the best with first-timers, though, and it could be difficult for either entrant today.  I like Nonobaby better than Broken Zipper, with a sharp recent workout and good sprint breeding.
  3. Chatain Pass (#6, 10-1) has a chance to run well.  Young does well with his first-time starters and there’s some decent win-early pedigree here. But up top seems like asking too much from him.
  4. Time for Taylor (#4, 5-1) doesn’t have the pedigree to show speed early, and likely needs more racing.  Pish can win with two-year olds, but typically not first out at the claiming level.
  5. The entry of Witt’s Tax Day and Witt’s Runner (#2, 4-1) drop from maiden allowances. Both are a little too slow, and if the entry runs, they will likely be overbet, given their actual combined chances.

What I’m thinking of playing:

I almost always try to beat a favorite, but it’s hard to see Prime Pilot having much trouble with this group.  Some decent works at the track, but more importantly, an actual earned speed rating fast enough to win here.  I’ll probably try to link up in a multi-race wager — the late Pick 4 starts with this race.

Coverage starts at 9:40 ET on Twitter @alldayracing.