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.

Mountaineer, June 18, 8:40 PM on Twitter

Race of the Day, June 18

Mountaineer Race Track, Maiden Claiming $5K, 6F, 3 and up.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for the Race of the Day.

Five Facts:

  1. Diamond Mind finds his way to the racetrack for the capable Jeff Radosevich barn.  Good breeding for these and certainly figures against a lackluster group.
  1. Pekaboo Vision is the possible favorite, but has some risk as he tries six furlongs – not his best distance.  He might be on form and best all (but Diamond Mind) easily.  Speed and rail bias can be huge at Mountaineer, so it makes sense to watch at least a few races (or replays) to get a sense of how the track is playing. Also the excellent track handicappers usually tune you in to this fact on the live feed from Mountaineer.
  1. Dark Winter comes off a short layoff – something his trainer excels at.   He would need to improve and likely needs longer.  Note: nothing on the worktab since coming into the barn.  Likely not reported  – perhaps a late workout will be added.
  1. Imperial George gets a long look.  Too slow at Charles Town is meaningless for the Mountaineer surface.  A horse can hate Charles Town, but can love Mountaineer.  If anything, hating Charles Town makes it more likely that you will at least like Mountaineer.  Rarely do horses like both, but sometimes they like neither, which could be the case here (absent bias).
  1. Hezabelfast is 0 for 26.  But along the way he’s had six second and nine thirds.  This is a horse that does not want to cross the finish line first.  Very little value on top.

The rest all have longshot chances, but no likely value.


  • Is Diamond Mind ready to go?  If so, he should win easily against all but an improved Dark Winter or Pekaboo Vision.
  • Is Pekaboo Vision improved out of that last race?  If so, then the extra furlong might not be a huge challenge.  This is about form – a difficult handicapping factor to discern on paper.
  • How is the track playing?  Speed and/or rail bias – different at different distances at Mountaineer can be strong, but often difficult to predict.
  • Is Dark Winter in shape of the layoff?  If so, he still needs improvement, which still means he should be in the middle-range odds (6/1 – 10/1).  Ultimately, this need for improvement makes his value questionable.

What I’m thinking of playing:

Diamond Mind is probably my pick up top, unless he hovers too low.  I’d play him at 4-1 or higher; there are always reasons a horse debuts for $5k at Mountaineer. I’ll also take a look at how the track is playing.  As said, bias can be huge at Mountaineer,  in which case I’d probably go with Pekaboo Vision down to 5-2..  I’d take stands against Hezabelfast winning for those who play vertical exotics or, better yet, in exchange betting.  That might be the safest pick with the best return of them all.

Tune in @alldayracing on twitter beginning at 8:40 P.M. ET for live coverage of the race of the day.  See you then!

Mountaineer, Claiming 8:32 ET

Race of the Day, May 11, 2014

Mountaineer Race TrackChester, WV, Race 5, 8:32 ET

5 1/2f, Claiming $5K, Restricted to Fillies and Mares, non-winners of 2 races in six months, Purse $9.7K

We return to Mountaineer racetrack for one of their specialties — a conditioned claiming race.  Most horses at Mountaineer always run for a $5,000 tag (there are exceptions primary with allowance horses and younger maidens).  To maintain parity, they run a number of conditioned levels, typically based on either lifetime wins or wins in a preceding time period (usually either six months or a year.)  The horses in today’s race are better than most — they have each won a race — at any level — in the past 6 months.  Some of them, however, aren’t fast enough to win at this level and will race here until they can drop into a lower level (winners of no races in six months, winners of 1 race in a year), and we typically can find a few eliminations.  Distance is always an important factor at Mountaineer, with horses quite sensitive to the difference between 5 and 6 furlongs.

Waltzing Time (#1, 4-1) won on the lead at this level on April 22.  Last year, she raced in 5K claiming races, but they were unrestricted (any number of wins in any period) and she managed to win one last fall.  She’s had a long career at the Mountain (57 of her 76 lifetime starts) and has one 1/4 of all her starts at this distance.  Acacian Spice (#2, 3-1) won last time out, but at a lower level (horses that hadn’t won even one race in 6 months).  She is 0 for 6 at this distance.  This Cats On Fire (#3, 6-1) won at the harder non-winners of three level after the layoff, but seemed to fall off form against these last time.   A turnaround labels him a strong contender.  Sweet Moonbeam (#5, 12-1) is a notch below the others, but won at this level two back.  French Dawn (#6, 8-1) won at this level before, but seems to need another race or two to get back in racing form. Angel of Fire (#7, 5-1) has been solid since arriving at Mountaineer.  She changes barns, but is certainly fast enough to win here.  Shock Me (#9, 9-2) seems to have lost her best days. Sunday Choir (#10, 8-1) is a contender as well.  She switches to a lower percentage barn,  but gets some class relief, moving from open $5K claimers.  She starts on the way outside, though.


  1. WIll Angel of Fire maintain his form for the new barn?  The barn wins less, but does well with them the first time.  If he does maintain his form, and there’s pace, he should win easy.
  2. Will This Cats on Fire rebound, or did she go off form?
  3. How will the outside post affect Sunday Choir?


This race seems to begin and end with Angel of Fire. The trainer switch from Brent Angelle raises some questions that demand that you get some bit of a price. Past Angel of Fire, the race is very deep, and certainly could be a place to find a price.  Sunday Choir shoes some promise and may offer the price that we’re looking for.

Tune in @allldayracing on twitter for live coverage!


Good pace, and Angel of Fire was the answer, paying $6.00 for a $2.00 win bet.  Sunday Choir looked sharp, but wilted in the stretch.  This Cats on Fire ran a solid race, but was never in real contention.  Waltzing Time was sharp, but Angel of Fire has a better set-up and was just a bit better.