If you’re like me and staring at feet of snow in your backyard, this is the time of year when the intellectual challenge of the Sport of Kings acts as a saving grace. The arrival of increasingly important Kentucky Derby prep races serves as a reminder that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. That’s right, my fellow handicappers. The Run for the Roses is only 74 days away. Monday’s Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park features a field of 12 Triple Crown hopefuls running for $300,000. (It is one of our free races of the day, which you can access from our homepage.) Given the size and inexperience of the field, the pace should at the very least be honest. This is confirmed by the Pace Projector, which shows several seemingly headstrong colts banging heads early.
Jockey Joel Rosario, aboard 2-1 morning line favorite Strong Mandate (#7, 2-1 ML), will face some difficult tactical decisions if the pace is too swift, and handicappers need to decide if this makes the fastest horse in the field vulnerable:
Strong Mandate was a very fast two-year-old, running a 109 at Saratoga back in September. He validated his quality by hitting the board in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after setting a torrid pace. Monday is his first start as a three-year-old, and he has been firing bullets in the mornings in preparation for his return. This horse has a large figure edge on the rest of the field, with the exception of Ride On Curlin (#8, 6-1), who does have the benefit of a recent race over the surface, in which he led most of the way against a strong closers bias (denoted by the race rating being shaded dark blue).
Both of these horses should be on everyone’s tickets. They are simply the fastest horses in the race, and we don’t want to get too cute here. But we believe that in terms of value, Ride On Curlin makes the better key, as his odds figure to be 3x as high as Strong Mandate’s.
The second favorite on the morning line is Tapiture (#2, 3-1). Tapiture projects a ground-saving journey behind the early speed, but note that neither his speed figures nor the quality of the races he has competed in match up to the other key contenders. He projects to run well on Monday, but at his morning line odds, he’s an underlay.
In terms of longshots, Louies Flower (#4, 12-1) has shown a lot of quality dominating lesser colts at Remington Park. His most recent figure of 89 represents a three-point improvement over his previous best, and he is in the hands of Bret Calhoun, who has a strong 94 Trainer Rating with horses coming in off moderate layoffs.
Another one to consider is Bourbonize (#11, 15-1), who came from well off the pace to dominate a mile allowance on the slop in the glacial time of 1:44 and change. The speed figure was only 83, but it was a small tick forward from his first race, which hints at further improvement. He should get a great pace to run at here and can hit the board if he leaps forward in his third career start–as a healthy, developing three-year-old should at this time of year.
The Play: #8 Ride On Curlin to win. Use #4 Louies Flower, #7 Strong Mandate, and #11 Bourbonize in exotics.
OK, went and looked at the variants. It was a slow, drying out track that was being worked on a lot during the card. 8 of the 9 races on the card were at 6f. The 1st was broken out, track was much faster for that one. After that it was a tricky day, but the track was fairly consistent. Races 2 and 6 (The ROC race) were the only two with extreme paces both fast. On a 1-10 scale of confidence in the figures for that day I’d probably go with an 8.
As for the rest, I’ll do some research and give details tomorrow, don’t remember much off the top of my head.
I do see right away the pace was very fast, and Ride On Curlin’s speed figure is a full 10 points faster than his final time figure.
I don’t remember specifics off the top of my head, but I will look back at this tomorrow and post the reasoning.
CORRECTION: The final time listed for the middle race listed above should be 1:13.98
I see that Ride on Curlin’s last out speed figures of 97 is the second best last out figure in the race. However, when looking at the other PP’s that publish speed figures, they have him at mediocre at best.
In fact, the major publication that sells its product on recycled paper has Ride On Curlin’s last race speed figure as one of the worse in the field.
So I decided to check out the times of the other sprints ran that same day at Oaklawn from using your chart feature and here’s what I observed:
(In order listed Class, TimeForm Race Rating, Raw Final Time)
Mdn Clm $30k, 61, 1:13.72
Clm N2L $7.5k, 68, 1:18.98
Clm $7.5k, 81, 1:13.34
Ride On Curlin’s raw final time was 1:13.77
The first two race were ran before Ride On Curlin’s and the last was run after his.
I know that there are adjustments to your figures for pace; however, the incremental fractions of those other three races are identical to the one that Ride On Curlin has ran in.
Any comments or take on this?
Good luck today