When handicapping a race, the Daily Racing Form is a nice blueprint, but by no means do Beyer Speed Figures, half mile times and beaten lengths tell the whole story.
A horse who ran a low Beyer in his last, or who didn’t seem to fire, may still run huge today. As any horseplayer knows, crazy things happen that cause horses to run poorly.
For example, the saddle sometimes slips, jockeys lose their irons, horses take heat strokes, and sometimes the wackier ones try to jump the inner rail. More commonly, losing contenders get caught up in speed duels, go wide on turns, or get blocked in the stretch.
So, a margin of safety is in order. Personally, I will not bet a maiden in Southern California at less than 2-to-1, and I prefer 7-to-2 to 9-to-1.
Using handicapping tools, we can get a good idea about a lot of things that will happen during the race. And that information can be used to judge who the contenders are and what odds we need for a bet.
But no matter how hard horseplayers work, some valuable information will be known only to a few insiders. And there’s nothing unfair or dishonest about it. These jockeys, trainers and owners are simply in position to know some things that almost all horseplayers will not be privy to.
An example of this happened in the ninth race at Santa Anita on Jan. 19.
Jazzin Razz, a 3-year-old gelding, was making his second lifetime start in a $32,000 maiden claiming race at 7 furlongs. In his debut on Dec. 14, Jazzin Razz was 52-to-1 and broke 10 lengths behind 12 other runners. The comment in the Daily Racing Form said “hesitated, off slowly.”
His Beyer Speed Figure was a lowly 38, which is a far cry from the median winning figure for the class of 69. So, Jazzin Razz looked like an automatic throwout.
However, trainer Richard Rosales added blinkers to Jazzin Razz, dropped him slightly in class, and on Jan. 19 the horse sat just off the pace, took the lead in the stretch and was all out to win by a nose.
After the race, Jazzin Razz’ owner and breeder Shirley Girvin found this blog and read my summary of the race. She commented to me that Jazzin Razz’s full sister Razi’s Star also paid a big price of $58 when she broke her maiden back in 2007.
Girvin and her husband Russell operate a small California breeding business and are trying to prove their stallion Raz Lea, who sired Jazzin Razz, by themselves. To date, Raz Lea, who is a son of Arazi, has sired eight runners with four winners, she said in the email.
Then she explained why Jazzin Razz’s debut went so poorly.
“In Jazzin’s first race, the reason he got such a late start was because Alex Solis, through no fault of his own, got his boot caught in the starting gate,” Girvin wrote.
Well, that was very important to know. Because 10 lengths at 6 furlongs equates to 25 Beyer points and if that is added to Jazzin Razz’s 38 it gives him a 63. And that makes him a contender at the juicy price of 15-to-1.
Solis’ boot got stuck. Such flukes happen in racing, and some things are not possible to know. And just because Jazzin Razz had problems in his debut, didn’t mean he was going to win second time out. It just made him a good bet.
Obviously, we’re playing a game with imperfect information, so we need solid prices to make up for all of the things we don’t know, and for all of the races our ignorance will certainly cause us to lose.