Watch more TV.
That’s not advice you hear every day, but it’s a solid tip if you’re a handicapper.
Handicapping a race on paper is critical to figure which horses are most likely to win. But many players fail to follow up their figurin’ with a visual review of a horse’s previous race or races. That puts them at a big disadvantage when it comes to spotting the logical horses that can pop at good odds.
There’s more to it than just cracking a beer and watching the race flow by. You’ve got to think critically, learn what to watch for and keep good notes. And don’t watch a race just once.
With a few viewings you’ll have a pretty good idea how much ground a competitor lost on the turns, whether the horse faced an unusually fast or slow pace and whether it encountered trouble that likely prevented a better placing. You might also conclude that a jockey used questionable tactics that cost the horse any chance or notice an easy winner who wasn’t encouraged at all by his rider down the lane.
More subtle observations, such as spotting a horse stuck in a tight cluster of horses throughout a race, can lead to bigger rewards at the window.
Watching replays online using the often clunky interfaces offered by many tracks and wagering services or hunting through video services like YouTube.com can be frustrating. But after a couple months of using it, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Racetrack Television Network (RTN) as an affordable option that offers easy access to tons of tracks.
The service offers the same live racetrack feeds that RTN provides to simulcast outlets and racebooks around the country, as well as access to the replay libraries, which can be accessed via your TV remote. It offers more North American and overseas tracks than anyone and many of the feeds are in HD.
Subscriptions run from as little $5 for online or mobile access to a single track to $50 for a premium package via DISH Network and can be reviewed at the RTN.tv website. Non-DISH customers can access the feed via the Internet using a streaming service like Roku or Amazon Fire TV.
Todd Roberts, founder of the Las Vegas-based Roberts Communications Network, which includes the RTN, said convenience was the watchword in development .
“We look at this product as the ultimate way to watch racing because it’s all at your discretion,” he said. “Pick any track and watch it when you want on any device. That’s what we’ve created.”
The #RJhorseracing handicapping crew is all about speed this week, with Saturday’s $300,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes, a seven-furlong test for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, and the $$250,000 Bing Crosby Stakes, a six-furlong dash for 3-year-olds and up at Del Mar, both Grade 1 races, on the betting menu.
In the former, the handicapping crew is solidly backing No Parole, winner of the recent Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont (Gr. 1) and the 9-5 morning line favorite, to win for the sixth time in seven starts. They have Echo Town (9-2) to place and Tap It to Win (5-1) to show.
Fully agree that No Parole is the horse to beat, but I’ll try to do it with Mischevious Alex (8-1), who made a nice midrace move in the Stephens Stakes before tiring to finish fourth. That was his first start in 2½ months and he gets top rider Irad Ortiz Jr. for his rematch with No Parole. I’ve got No Parole in second and Sonneman (50-1) to show.
In the Bing Crosby, the crew is backing 2-1 morning line favorite McKinzie, apparently unaware that trainer Bob Baffert has said he will scratch the son of Street Sense from the race. If you take that one out of the equation, they see Collusion Illusion (9-2) narrowly prevailing over Desert Law (5-1) and Fashionably Fast (7-2) in the place and show slots.
There are some fast horses in the Crosby, but I’m not sure any of them will be able to keep up with Northern California invader Anyportinastorm (6-1). I’ll use Collusion Illusion to place and P R Radio Star (8-1) to show.
Ellis Starr’s Bing Crosby Stakes analysis
It’s fairly obvious to this handicapper where Anyportinastorm will be once the gate opens, which is in front. Winner of eight races from 16 starts, Anyportinastorm has won his last four races at 6 to 6 1/2 furlongs, the last three while leading from the start. His one defeat in the last year came when second, beaten a head by Law Abidin Citizen, in the Longacres Mile. Having earned 118 and 114 Equibase Speed Figures in his last two wins, the latter in the Oak Tree Sprint Stakes on July 4, Anyportinastorm stacks up fantastically well with likely betting favorite McKinzie, who earned 117 and 114 figures in his last two races. Better still, the 114 figure Anyportinastorm earned in the Oak Tree Sprint is the same figure Cistron earned winning the 2019 Bing Crosby. Jockey Juan Hernandez, a top jockey in Northern California for years, shifted his tack to Del Mar starting this summer and has done well. But more importantly he’s very familiar with Anyportinastorm, having ridden the horse to six wins in 13 races. With two local workouts at Del Mar to get used to the surface he’s running over for the first time, and with blistering early speed, Anyportinastorm can add his first graded stakes win to his resume in this year’s Bing Crosby Stakes.
Wildman Jack is a lightly raced 4-year-old who has only run on turf, amassing a strong record of four wins in nine tries. Wildman Jack ran his best race ever in May, one race before last, when winning the Daytona Stakes with a 115 figure effort. In that race, Wildman Jack rallied from fourth to get up by a nose, so if Anyportinastorm gets pace pressure or just can’t lead from start to finish it appears likely Wildman Jack can get the job done. I have no qualms about his ability to run as well on dirt because his most recent workout at Del Mar on July 26 was the best of 107 on the day for four furlongs. Additionally, his sire, Goldencents, won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and was second in the 2014 Bing Crosby.
Desert Law returned from 11 months on the sidelines in June and rallied for third in the Thor’s Echo Stakes with a 107 figure. In 2019 when making his second start off a layoff from the previous year, Desert Law won the Thor’s Echo Stakes with a 119 figure which is one of the best in the field. Following his win last year in the Thor’s Echo, Desert Law finished second, beaten just a half-length, in the Bing Crosby with a 113 figure. The pattern for improvement second off the layoff is easily identifiable and so Desert Law deserves strong consideration as a contender to win this race.
McKinzie will very likely to go post as the betting favorite as he has in his last 10 races. Noting he has only won three of those races, it is tough to consider a win bet at low odds. Additionally, McKinzie has never raced at this 6 furlong distance in 17 starts, beginning his career at seven furlongs and running that distance or more in every race. Last month in the Metropolitan Handicap, McKinzie disappointed badly when fifth as the favorite. Prior to that, he won the Triple Bend Stakes at seven furlongs with a 117 figure. No matter how talented a horse McKinzie is, he’s up against some true professionals at this trip and he does not have any advantage in terms of how fast he’s run, with six of the others having earned Equibase Speed Figures of 113 to 119. With that in mind, I believe the three horses above all have a higher probability to win than McKinzie, though there’s no doubt he could be in the thick of the action in the final stages of the race.
The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures: Collusion Illusion (106), Fashionably Fast (114), Heartwood (113), Law Abidin Citizen (116), Lexitonian (106) and P R Radio Star (113).
Ellis Starr is the national racing analyst for Equibase. Visit the Equibase website for more on the race or to purchase handicapping products.