By Michael Valiante
When Alex Cintron won the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap on July 24 at Saratoga producing a mutual of $43.40 it was considered a major upset. For jockey Cintron it was his second graded stakes win in a month that also saw him achieve his 1,000 victory. For me I was reminded of the value of my favorite spot play angle.
For you old timers this is a variation of an angle taken from Tom Ainsle’s, Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing. It is a good tool for experienced or moderately experienced handicappers but could be used by first timers also because its basic application is fairly straight forward.
The mechanics of the angle are simple. First, add the Speed Rating and the Track Variant for the most recent race listed in the form for each horse. Then add the Speed Rating and the Track Variant for the 2nd most recent race listed in the form for each horse.
The Speed Rating and Track Variant are the pair of numbers that are directly to the right of the odds in the past performance running line(s) for each horse. They will be separated from each other with a dash. So for example “96-12” is a Speed Rating of 96, and a Track Variant of 12. That sum is of course 108. For information on how these numbers are derived and their interrelationship I would refer you the Daily Racing Form website. Cintron’s horse, Mint to Stardom, achieved this figure two races prior, in a race that was contested at Delaware Park on May, 8.
If the sum of either race is 108 OR higher, the horse is a play provided that ALL the following are true. The qualifying race took place within the last 90 days. The qualifying race is on the same type of surface that the horse is running on in the race you are betting. The qualifying race did not take place at a track that is substantially cheaper than the track you are betting. As an example if the qualifying race is at Finger Lakes and today’s race is at Belmont, then, do not play. It is acceptable if the qualifying race takes place at a mid-level track. Do not play horses that qualify on synthetic surfaces and do not play if the qualifying race was run at a distance that is rarely contested at a track.
If you use this angle, with no additional handicapping, you will find that playing it blindly makes it almost a dead even proposition. By adding some general handicapping tools moderately experienced and experienced handicappers should be able to throw out a few of the losers.
Most weekend days will provide approximately 5 to 10 bets total if you handicap all the mid-level and large tracks. As you would expect, there are generally less qualifiers in the weekday cards. For some reason there are usually more plays at east coast tracks.
Do not be afraid to play horses even if the odds are 5 to 1 and higher. Although $43 payoffs are rare, it is the $10 – $20 winners that can make this a profitable angle. This angle is also good for identifying horses that you can play in horizontal bets particularly when more than one horse qualifies. In the 2016 Travers Stakes there were 3 horses in the field that qualified. The winner, Arrogate was one of the qualifiers and as you may recall paid $25.40 to win. The double, beginning with that race was very generous and the other two qualifiers were the place and show horses.
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