Hawthorne Racecourse (12/18/10)
Contact: Jim Miller
Morning line and handicapping at Hawthorne
A different approach for stable notes today. As you may know, I wear many hats here at Hawthorne and two of those are morning line oddsmaker and track handicapper. Both are not easy jobs, especially for a fall meet with full fields. What isn’t known by many is the timing and amount of time that goes into each. First of all, this industry is about getting information out to fans. For example, the races for today were entered into and drawn on Wednesday at 1:00 pm. By 4:00 pm, it is requested that the morning lines odds are completed so they may be posted to the web. So on a day like today, the odds have to be done, and balanced for over 100 horses entered, in less than three hours. I admit, I will miss some horses here and there, but betting tendencies and how a track plays, are also changing by the day. In the end, when I set the odds, I set them as to how I feel the betting public will play a race, not how I will handicap the race.
Being a public handicapper is also a fun, but sometimes thankless job. For myself, Joe Kristufek, Ron Uchman, Peter Galassi, and members of the Daily Racing Form, we don’t get the luxury of seeing the horses in the paddock or on the track before making our selections. Due to print times and deadlines, often the picks have to be done 48 hours prior to races at the latest. Also, we are required to make selections in every race. We may not always think those are races we would wager on, but we want to give our best possible opinion to the betting public. Myself, my picks are done 48-72 hours prior to races. Often times late scratches completely change the complexion of odds and how a race may set up and your pick is thrown out the window, yet because it is published you still have to stand by it.
For example, today’s picks were done on Thursday for me. Here’s my top pick for each race and my insight when I made the selection:
Race 1 - #4 – Hatfield – I had a very tough time with this race. For only a six-horse field I spent more time on this race than any other. In the end, I was split between Carnacks Choice, Hatfield and Cartouche. I decided that I felt the pace would be contested and Hatfield has faced some solid bunches in the past couple of races. Manny Perez has had a career meet and Hatfield got the nod for me.
Race 2 - #3 – Cathy’s Secret – To tell you how confident I was about this race, I went four deep for my early Pick 4 ticket. In the past week, Eagle Valley Farm horses have run some big races and this one looks to be a factor. In her debut, she ran into Modesta, who was taking a class drop. I felt Candy Pass was the one to beat in here, but also see the possibility of a speed duel between Cyberphobe and Candy Pass. If that is the case, the improved post draw and second time out should play to the benefit of Cathys Secret.
Race 3 - #7 – Dancing Euro – This is a spot where a few of these matched up last time. The race on December 1 that was won by Bag Tosser is a key race to me. Bag Tosser is a talented runner and second-place finisher that day; Corner Girl came back to finish first in a first level allowance in her next before being DQ’d. I do worry that Royal Gamble tries to steal this on the lead as there isn’t much pace and that one adds blinkers, but she needs to improve a couple of lengths to better Dancing Euro in this spot.
Race 4 - #6 – Iroquois Miss – This race didn’t take me very long. I saw that there was no early pace in here and fully expect Iroquois Miss to make the top. She cleared from the nine-hole in her last and that was her first start at this distance. With a better post draw today, and the hot riding Riggs in the saddle, I expect she will be able to hold on while on the lead.
Race 5 - #1 – Ocean Ace – This was a single for me. The recent starts for Ocean Ace have all been against much stronger fields. In his last, he ran into Monhocracy, who has been in very good form but I like that Ocean Ace ran on along the inside. While bug boy Roman is learning very quickly and will be a very good rider, journeyman Perez in the saddle is a bonus to me. Ocean Ace has shown he will race inside and the class drop is enough for me.
Race 6 - #14 – Prized Dancer, #1 – Moonlit Road – At the time of this writing, #14 – Prized Dancer was still waiting, hoping for another scratch so she can draw in. If she does, she has to be given consideration despite the post. Between the 2,3, and 4 horses, there should be enough pace to chase and the race that Prized Dancer comes out of had many droppers in it from open company races. If she scratches, I go to #1 – Moonlit Road. Not nearly the confidence with this one, but she gets her second straight start at the distance and likely won’t be stuck five-wide like she was in her last.
Race 7 - #12 – Holy Thursday – Very, very tough race here. I went five deep for my Pick 4 and could have gone deeper. I like Perimeter Defense but he starts for a new barn after a private sale. The problem with this race is that the last couple of times Holy Thursday got to run, he had speedballs Alabama Clay and Lighthouse Judge to set very quick early fractions for him. Post draw not a concern for me, but the 6 ½ furlong distance was what made me go his way. At three-quarters, I’m not sure he would have been able to get home in time.
Race 8 - #5 – Hangman – To me there is pace galore in this race. Caruso, Back to Gold, Foxie’s Boy and Seeking the Honor can all show speed. The race may be ripe for a closer and I look to Hangman off the layoff. To me, Hangman is trainer Rusty Hellman’s poor man’s River Bear. He has beaten better but always seems to give a good effort. Toss out his last on the poly and while he has been away for some time, he has posted consistent works and Hellman is a very capable trainer. Maybe he can steal one at a bit of a price.
Race 9 - #11 – Fuego Del Toro – The race last time out from this horse was a killer for me! It was the first leg of a late pick 4 that I had Fuego Del Toro in and hit the final three legs. In his race, he has decent pace to chase and was able to save ground in the turn. In my mind, he was interfered with by Massecuite at the top of the stretch enough to slow his move ever so slightly and I think it cost him the win that day. Thornton finishes on a horse as good as any jock in the room and maybe Fuego Del Toro can make amends for what I thought was an unlucky trip in his last.
Well, that is how I looked at the races prior to the day’s card, now let’s see how things unfold when all is said and done!
Don’t forget, we will have an online chat today at www.HorseplayerNow.com with Joe Kristufek and myself. The chat begins at 1:15 pm. Also, after today there will be no live racing at Hawthorne until Sunday the 26th. We are open for simulcasting through Christmas and will be dark Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Have a safe and Happy Holiday and see you when we return on the 26th.