Friday, April 19, 2013

Betting Woodbine: Speed and conditioning prevails early in the meet


Woodbine’s 133-date meet bursts from the gate on Saturday, a card highlighted by the $150,000 Star Shoot Stakes, and many local handicappers will be shaking off the rust after a long winter’s rest, trying to take advantage of Woodbine’s new continent-low 14.95% win takeout.

Last year, U.S-based trainer Wesley Ward dominated the opening day card with three wins and a third from four starters.  Those impressive numbers were actually a regression from 2011 when Ward won with five of his six opening day starters.
 
Horses are back on the track at Woodbine
Taking a look back at the 2012 meet, a whopping 54 of the first 100 winners were winter raced and/or trained or prevailed making their second start of the meet.

Clearly, selecting horses with winter conditioning, is one angle bettors can take when trying to find a winner.

Bettors that take note of the work tab at the bottom of the past performance chart, should pay careful consideration to horses that breezed in Florida over the winter at Palm Meadows (PMM), Payson Park (PAY) and Ocala Training Center (OTC) to name a few prominent training facilities

Woodbine-based trainers that took a string of horses south for the winter include: Paul Attard, Tino Attard, Roger Attfield, Reade Baker, Ian Black, Mark Casse, Carolyn Costigan, Mike DePaulo Mark Frostad, Rachel Halden, Brian Lynch, John Mattine and Malcolm Pierce.

Malcolm Pierce, who compiled a record of 9-5-7 from 38 starts at the Fair Grounds winter meet, is hoping his horses will have an advantage when the race distance increases beyond six furlongs.

“I don’t have that many sprinters, but I see they've written some longer races in the first condition book which suits us very well if those races will fill,” said Pierce. “We should have a little bit of an edge early on conditioning over horses that didn't go away for the winter.  Obviously, the Attfield, Frostad and Casse horses will be as fit as mine, but for the locally trained horses we should have an edge until they catch up to us.”

Pierce sends out the winter-trained Part the Seas (2-1) in Saturday’s third race.

While Ward, who will saddle just two starters on opening day (the coupled entry of Barisoff and Krazy for Kaya), is clearly a threat to continue his winning Woodbine ways, handicappers need not focus only on the former Eclipse Award winning apprentice rider turned trainer.

Tiller's horses working on the training track
Through the first 100 races of 2012, Bob Tiller won seven times with horses that trained their way up to the meet solely in Ontario.

“I've always been of the opinion that horses, and people, need a rest,” said Tiller. “A lot of two-year-old horses, turning three-years-old, need that break. They need those two months off.”

To get a head start on the meet, Tiller started up some of his string at Paul Buttigieg’s farm which has its own training facility.

“We get ours going early at Buttigieg’s, by the 15th of January, so they're started early and we try to have some ready early,” said Tiller. “Florida is a good thing for some horses, but its not the, ‘be all end all’.”

TRAINER STANDINGS AFTER FIRST 100 RACES
Trainer
Wins
Baker
7
Tiller
7
Carroll
5
Doyle
5
Ward
5
Casse
4
Ensom
4
Fairlie
4
Buttigieg
3
Cappuccitti
3
Griffith
3
Lynch
3
Attard, Tino
2
Banach
2
DePaulo
2
Gonzalez
2
Pierce
2
Vassilieva
2
Many others…
1

Putting the right horse in the right spot is a key to Tiller’s success year round.

“We try to have them ready early if they have speed. You have to have the right horse for the right race,” said Tiller. “Horses with speed that are dead fit, or raced the year before, they're going to fit into the proper conditions.”

Tiller, cautiously optimistic, has already pegged a couple young horses with potential.

“I've learned not to get too excited about horses until they run,” started Tiller. “But, we have a couple of three-year-old maidens that are unraced, that I know can run and I expect them to show up in the winners' circle.  I’ve got a horse called Langstaff, a three-year-old gelding that I like. He can run. And we have a nice filly named Born to Be Queen.”

Born to Be Queen is listed at odds of 6-1 in Saturday’s ninth race, while Langstaff is listed at odds of 3-1 in Sunday’s finale.

Leroy Trotman, assistant trainer to Reade Baker at Woodbine, believes that winter fitness is the key component to getting a quick start to the meet.

“From a trainer’s point of view, you need to find those fitter horses from Florida,” said Trotman. “But, don't overlook some of the Canadian horses that wintered here.  Some trainers will have their horse ready early, for example, Tiller had horses training at Buttigieg’s farm.”
 
Leroy Trotman
The key to finding a locally trained horse that is ready to run opening weekend can be found on the work tab.

“We had our first horse, Tiny Bear, reach five furlongs yesterday (breezed in 1:02.60 on April 1), and she was at The Thoroughbred Center (TTC) in Kentucky,” said Trotman.  “All my local horses are only doing quarters (quarter-mile breezes) right now. If there are any horses to run right now, they’ll be coming from Florida and Keeneland.”

Tiny Bear (3-1) will take on the Ward entry in Saturday’s second race.

Trotman also believes that handicappers making their way down to the paddock before the race could reap huge benefits opening day, simply by playing horses that look ready.

But, how do we know which horses look ready?

“You’re looking for a nice healthy coat, to start,” explained Trotman. “You can see how well a horse wintered, even if he still has that long coat, if you can see the shine in his coat and a spark in his eye.  It’s important to see a horse that has wintered well.”

*

Racing style is another key factor in finding a winner early in the meet.  With the majority of races at the front of the condition book listed at six furlongs and under, gate speed is key.

Last year, only 17 of the first 100 races were won with horses employing a closing style - - and 10 of those 17 winners came when the distance increased to six furlongs or more.

Style
Wins
Front Runner
35
Pace Presser
32
Stalker
16
Closer
17

The vast majority of winners came from horses with the ability to race gate-to-wire (35 winners) or pressed the pace (32 winners) of the front-runner.

Horses who stalked from mid-pack picked up 16 wins in the opening 100 races.

For those handicappers that like to focus on the pilot, leading rider Luis Contreras led the way with 12 wins from the first 100 races, followed closely by Emma-Jayne Wilson and Eurico Rosa da Silva with 10 wins each.

Contreras, like many of the top mounts he will steer on Saturday, is also winter raced. 

The native of Mexico has already picked up 16 wins in 2013 including a recent Grade 3 score with Regalo Mia, at Gulfstream Park.
 
Luis Contreras in the winner's circle
In addition to staying fit, riding south of the border also helps Contreras get first call on a number of top horses that raced or trained over the winter, such as Leinan (8-5), the morning-line favourite in Saturday’s Star Shoot Stakes.

And don’t let anecdotal evidence of the rider’s particular strengths sway your opinion.

“If you told people Luis won the most races out of the first 100, they'd be shocked, because people don't equate him to being a speed rider,” said Tony Esposito, agent for Contreras. “But, a good rider will win at every distance.”

Jockey
Wins
Contreras
12
Wilson
10
Da Silva
10
Husbands
9
Stein
8
Olguin
6
Moran
5
Rios
5
Campbell
4
Bahen
3
Callaghan
3
Moore
3
Pizarro
3

And while fitness is clearly paramount for both horse and rider when it comes to handicapping Woodbine early in the meet, a few helpful hints can also be attributed to breeding.

The offspring of the late Bold Executive, a perennial leading sire of the past two decades, tallied eight of the first 100 winners of the 2012 meet.

Another local stallion, Old Forester, boasted five winners from the first 100 races - - so get to know your speed influences early in the meet.

Sire
Count
Bold Executive
8
Old Forester
5
Speightstown
3
Where’s the Ring
3
Belong to Me
2
Dance To Destiny
2
Half Ours
2
Harlan’s Holiday
2
Not For Love
2
Philanthropist
2
Roar of the Tiger
2
Seeking The Best
2
Survivalist
2
Many others tied with…
1

Woodbine’s 10-race opening day card goes to post at 1 p.m.  Watch and wager on all the racing via HorsePlayer Interactive.

1 comment:

John Wilson said...
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