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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, June 26, 2016 at 12:08 PM

SARATOGA SIGHTINGS
VOL. 16 - Number 1

SARATOGA 4 WEEKS AND COUNTING...LET THE STUDY BEGIN

Here we are again. Just weeks from the Biggest and Most Profitable Race Meet of the Year in New York. 40 days of racing begins July 22nd and runs through the traditional closing card on Labor Day, Monday 9/5.

You know the drill. The best barns, the best trainers, the top stakes runners as well as debuting juveniles. Bigger fields, huge local and national simulcast pools in races that regularly run 5-6 or more horses deep in contention. Contention that last year produced a $14.55 average win mutuel. To put that in perspective, here are the current average win payoffs at currently operating meets. Belmont ($12.60), Churchill Downs ($11.86), Delaware ($9.48). Gulfstream ($13.10) and Santa Anita ($12.30.)

It must be obvious that we don't need to wet your appetites but the above is just a reminder that the seminal 40 days of summer racing are right around the corner.

That being said, today is the first SARATOGA SIGHTINGS preview of 2016.

We have decided to change the format this year with each of our previews being a bit shorter and much more directly focused. This way we will have multiple previews which break down specified angles you should keep in your handicapping storage bin as you move through the meet.

Rather than a larger article every 4 or 5 days which compiles a lot of information at once we will present 4-5 previews a week leading up to and then continuing through the meet.

For example, in past years we would have created one preview focusing on juvenile maiden runners. Now, as you will see below, the focus on Juveniles will be split into THREE DISTINCT PREVIEWS. Today we will look at the 33 juvenile dirt sprints (5-7 furlongs) run last year. On Monday we will publish a breakdown of the juvenile turf maiden races from a year ago (run at the 5½ furlong sprint distance and the two turn 1 1/16th mile distance.) Then on Wednesday we will take a look at5 the juvenile stakes races, focusing on the connections and the preparations leading up to those races.

These pages will be busy between now and July 22 so perhaps you should bookmark now and make certain to revisit.

JUVENILE MAIDEN DIRT RACES AND USEFUL OBSERVATIONS
During the 2016 Saratoga Race Meet there were a total of 33 juvenile maiden races run at the sprint distance. The breakdown was as follows:

29 Maiden Special Weight races
4 Maiden Claiming Races
1 race at 5 furlongs
14 races at 5½ furlongs
13 races at 6 furlongs
2 races at 6½ furlongs
3 races at 7 furlongs

Over the course of the last 15 or more years, when it comes to juvenile maiden races there have been two mantras that get chanted more than any other. The first is the rue of following the tote board in betting 2-year olds and the second is follow trainer Todd Pletcher.

ONE - with so many first time starters and so many solid outfits waiting to debut their youngsters at Saratoga it is wise to BET THE TOTE. This means either follow the money towards the favorite or follow money that significantly reduces the projected ML price of the juvenile in question. We'll take a look at the first of those...following the tote generically rather than money showing up to reduce the ML price.

While the latter would seem to speak louder than public money that simply follows a ML favorite or second favorite it must also be remembered that the MORNING LINE IS AT BEST A GUESS BY THAT MAKER AS TO HOW THE PUBLIC WILL BET. It has little to do with his handicapping merits regarding the juvenile.

What indeed did the tote board tell us a year ago?

It told us that the smart money created 14 favorites as winner out of 33 winners for a 36.4% success mark which was in keeping with the overall favorite winning percentage for the entire meet. On the other hand the Average Win payoff for all juvenile maiden dirt sprint winners was $11.47 a full $3.00 or about 24% less profit than the overall $14.55 average.

This is an important distinction because the average field size for these races was 8.9 which was in keeping with all races run. On that level you need to understand that you are betting into a lesser value "type" of race to begin with. This is important and as well move through subsequent PREVIEW ARTICLES we will show you the "type" of race where value does exist. Now lt us move on to the SECOND MANTRA.

TWO - Follow Todd Pletcher. There is no doubt that there is a certain kind of wisdom in this as the conditioner once again led the meet with 5 maiden dirt sprint winners. Next in line with three winners each were Steve Asmussen and Linda Rice.

Here, however, is how you might look at this.
Pletcher started 21 horses to get his 5 winners...a decent enough 23.8% result but for a player Pletcher is a complete wash no matter where you look.

Bet $2 on all 21 of his starters ($42) and his 5 winners combined returned $40.80 He had 9 of the runners go off as the favorite and cashed three of them. That meant you bet $18 (the 9 favorites) and the 3 combined to return $15.

Asmussen's 3 winners combined to return $17.90, well below what would have been needed if you bet on all his juvenile maiden dirt sprint starters.

What about Linda Rice you ask? We'll she is the exception which proves why we do our work. The trainer started only 7 juveniles in maiden dirt race sprints. If you backed every one you would have invested $14. What did the three winners pay? Glad you asked. These winners returned $9.50, $20.40 and $10.20. It must be rather apparent, but it is worth adding up anyway...$14 got you $40.10.

This is how you evaluate these races Here are a few race scenarios to keep in mind as the kind of evaluation you should be making when you consider how the young horses might match up (breeding, early speed, training patterns, etc.)

Of the 33 winners last year...
9 were on the lead at first call.
18 others were no more than 3½ lengths off the lead at first call.
16 of those 18 were within 2¾ lengths or less of the leader at first call.
Only 6 runners were further off the lead than 3½ lengths at first call.
Finally, 15 of the 33 winners ran from posts 1 or 2.

We are under way. We'll be here again Monday afternoon with breakdowns of the juvenile turf maiden races form last year. Again, don't forget to bookmark this page.

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