I have been working, attending races, or following the action longer than I would like to tell. Here are some ideas for handicapping the oval, and hopefully this will take some of the chill out of the season.
The poly track that was installed in 2005 has stood the test of time. But, one thing that is certain. The track will always be fast, and the rain and snow do not hinder racing. When it gets horribly cold, there may be a day-or-two when they are forced to cancel out of safety for horses and riders. The track is very safe, and during the winter months you will see a bit more kickback than you would have during the Fall meet.
Where do you want to be when the gate springs open? You want to find runners that stay within 2-3 lengths of the leader. Up close speed and stalkers do very well, and sometimes the track plays kindly to closers if the weather goes from 10 degrees to 50 degrees overnight. I have always thought that the track played “tighter” when it was cold, and speed ruled the roost. When the race has a bevy of speed, you may want to examine some closers who enjoy salty fast fractions. Overall, you can expect a steady diet of near the lead sorts who stay in the three path off of the rail.
Look for Perry Outzs to be at the top of the standings riding speed horses, and Victor Lebron who has an excellent sense of early pace. Don’t leave out Rodrigo Vergara, Marcelino Pedroza, John McKee, and Luis J. Martinez to mark as your riders to watch. Since my early days, there has been a “bug-boy” or apprentice rider who does well during this meet. There are two that come to mind that graced the oval in the early part of their careers: Julien Leproux and Rafael Bejarano.
Pay close attention to Mike Maker off a claim or dropping in class. Joe Woodard does very well for the Hays barn, and be sure to follow Kellyn Gorder, Carolyn Murphy, and Sergio Baez among the top conditioners. Be on the lookout during any day that has a stake race, as Dale Romans, or Charles Lopresti can sneak in and take down the prize. My two that will get a special look this meet will be: Jeff Greenhill, and Eric Reed. Both are incredible horsemen, and are dangerous everytime they come to the paddock.
This and That
The pools are solid, and offer up some betting value when the field size is above 7-8 runners. You will want to keep a special eye on shippers from Chicago, and layoff runners from earlier in the year looking to make a good start over the safe oval. Also, runners who work over the track may have a slight advantage, and pay close attention to good or bullet works with younger horses.
So, there it is in a nutshell. Don’t be afraid to follow the winter action, and Winning Ponies has done extremely well with this winter wonderland for years. So be sure to get your E-Z Win Forms in hand early before making your first wager. Good luck, and stay warm. It won’t be long until the $500,000 Lanes End Sprial will be here in March, and the Derby trail starts all over again.