Wednesday, Santa Anita Race 9 — 5 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Today is opening day at Oak Tree and this ninth race looks like it should have a good bet or two. I’m still a bit behind in record keeping, so after this I will only be posting on the weekends while I catch up.

Possible overlays                   Morning line

#3 Red Door Drive                      7/2
#8 Good Newsman                      9/2
#9 Markus D.                            12/1
#10 Little Heater                       12/1
#11 De Brief Me                         8/1
#13 Boo Too                             4/1

Owner Arnold Zetcher transferred #3 Red Door Drive from trainer Ron McAnally to Bob Baffert since the colt’s last race one year ago. This colt tried nine times to win on the turf against better horses, but was often wide and never quite got the job done.

Red Door Drive, who last raced in September 2008, has the right running style for 7 furlongs and has a good shot to win despite the layoff — especially if there’s some betting action. Also, jockey Martin Pedroza jumped off #13 Boo Too, 4-to-1 on the morning line, to ride for Baffert.

Four other runners are also coming off recent layoffs. Trainer Dan Hendricks saddles #8 Good Newsman and Hendricks has done well in the past with this type of horse. I would only consider geldings #9 Markus D. and #11 De Brief Me if they are bet drastically below their morning lines of 12/1 and 8/1 respectively. But the Jeff Mullins 5-year-old #10 Little Heater could spring an upset at a good price.

I will bet $300 on #3 Red Door Drive at 2/1 to 7/2, but only $150 if the odds drift from 4/1 to 10/1. In the unlikely event that any of these horses are 2/1 to 7/2, I will bet $150 on the highest priced runner in that odds range among #8 Good Newsman, #9 Markus D., #10 Little Heater and #11 De Brief Me.

At odds of 4/1 and up, I’ll put $100 on #10 Little Heater.

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Sharpening the saw for Oak Tree

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In the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Steven Covey uses an analogy of a lumberjack who has been sawing wood for several days. As the days go by, the sawing process dulls his blades and the lumberjack is becoming less and less productive.

Covey’s solution for the lumberjack to regain top production is to take time out to sharpen his saw, then get back to work. Although he probably never plays the ponies, Covey’s life lesson is also valuable to horseplayers.

On this blog, I depend mostly on information that I compile myself to come up with horses. Pulling data out of the Daily Racing Form then entering, reorganizing and filtering it in a computer is a time-consuming process. In fact, big-money horseplayer William Benter wrote that he and his crew spent five man-years getting ready for their assault on the Hong Kong races.

Since July 2008, I have been juggling researching and handicapping with wagering and writing. But I now find myself far behind in the information gathering part of this process. So before both my production and confidence slip too far, I need to stop.

To me, an important aspect of the psychology of betting is having the confidence to wager large amounts of money without the fear of going on long losing streaks. Horseplayers might have a winner that pays well, but profits will be limited if they have no confidence and bet just $5.

And the only way to get this kind of confidence is to gather large amounts of past data then analyze it correctly. So, with Fairplex running now, I will stop betting for a while and take the elevator down to my research lab, which is some 60 feet under the basement of the Wynn Hotel & Casino (not really).

I will try to finish up by the beginning of Santa Anita on Sept. 30, but it’s unlikely that I’ll meet that deadline. When I am done, I’m hoping that my saw will be sharp enough to cut down an Oak Tree.

It’s tough to beat Saratoga’s Travers Stakes

The first Travers I attended was with my father in 1982 when Runaway Groom beat the three horses that won the Triple Crown races — Gato Del Sol (Kentucky Derby), Aloma’s Ruler (Preakness Stakes) and Conquistador Cielo (Belmont Stakes).

The five-horse field was small, but the quality was high.

Conquistador Cielo, who was syndicated for $36 million before the Travers, was 2-to-5 that day and showed up in front bandages for the first time. Angel Codero, riding Aloma’s Ruler, pinned Conquistador Cielo on the bad rail in a two-horse speed duel.

The race caller didn’t recognize Runaway Groom until midstretch when  the Canadian invader was within two lengths of rolling by the two leaders. I was watching the race on the track apron and couldn’t believe my eyes.

Like everybody else, I believed Conquistador Cielo couldn’t lose.

Since that day, I’ve been to the Travers maybe 10 times and I can’t recall ever having the winner. But I keep coming back because, as I quickly found out in 1982, the atmosphere is tremendous.

This year, my results were no different, as I keyed Quality Road on top in the tri while putting both Charitable Man and Kensel on top in my exactas. Summer Bird, I deduced, was being overbet at 5-to-2 so I didn’t use him much.

The Saratoga paddock looked like the red carpet on Oscar night as the Travers field entered the walking ring.

The Saratoga paddock looked like the red carpet on Oscar night as the Travers field entered the walking ring.

Trainer Bill Mott, far right, saddled Hold Me Back to a second-place finish in the Travers. The horse was ridden by Julien Le Paroux

Trainer Bill Mott, far right, saddled Hold Me Back to a second-place finish in the Travers. The horse was ridden by Julien Le Paroux

Rain was off-and-on all day, but things seemed to go smoothly regardless.

Rain was off-and-on all day, but things seemed to go smoothly regardless.

Something tells me that this isn't the first time these two have been to a racetrack.

Something tells me that this isn't the first time these two have been to a racetrack.

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