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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM


It can be argued that there is no more attention placed on Juvenile Maiden races than there is during the Saratoga Meet.

This is understandable for a number of reason, not least of which are the late summer being the time where the precocious ones are ready to debut, here the top barns are looking to get a head start in preparation for high level stakes racing and many owners want to run at the Spa and point their youngsters to these races.

What comes with these races is also a number of misconceptions. I’ve discussed the primary one before, which is the assumption on the part of the general public that little information exists and the best way to play or not play these juveniles is to follow the tote board and the supposedly smart money.

Now that the New York Circuit has switched from Saratoga to the Fall Championship Meet at Belmont there is another scenario that should be addressed. How do juvenile maidens that raced at Saratoga and are now making their second or third career start at Belmont compare with those juvenile making their career debuts there?  

There can be no question that from a handicapping standpoint, more often than not experience trumps none. However, when it comes to that experience being light it is worth beginning this basic analysis by looking at some numbers.

During the first 14 days of last year’s Belmont Fall Meet there were 27 juvenile maiden races run. In those races, 71% of the participants were last out runners all but 3 shippers were from Saratoga.

From those 27 races there were 18 winners (all last out Saratoga) with experience and 9 first time starters that won.

This means that 67% of the races were won from the 71% pool and 33% from the 29% pool. On its face that is pretty even.

Those numbers, however do not tell the complete story.

Even before the analytical handicapping process begins, there should be a question of whether or not one or the other (experienced winners or FTS winners) presents better value.

In this case those 27 races show quite a difference. From the 18 winners we find only 2 winners that paid double digits and an overall Average Win Payoff of $8.00. From the 9 first time starters there were 3 winners that paid double digits and an Average Win Payoff of $13.20.

Obviously the first time starters are worth at least a glance, if not more.

Now the question becomes, how does one turn the recognition of that potential value into finding the right winner?

Let us begin with moving forward to the first 3 days of juvenile maiden races at Belmont this year.

There have been 8 juvenile maiden races so far. There have been 47 experienced runners and 26 first time starters. This means that compared to the larger sample from last year there was in the 8 race sample a higher percentage of first time starters (35.6%) and only 2 of the 8 races were won by first time starters (25%.)

That being said, the experienced winners had an Average Win Payoff of $10.60 while the two first time starters paid $66.00 and $27.80 for an average of $46.90.

It is only natural for one reading this to then say…sure…great payoffs but there is no way to find the two first time winners. I can only add…not if you follow smart money…but there was more than enough reason to back these two.

9/11 – Race 4 – Yellow Agate $66.00
7 works spread 7-9 days apart.
Trainer Christophe Clement – 17% FTS…20% Debut MSW…18% juveniles…20% sprints.
Across the board numbers higher collectively than any other runner, experienced or not.
A son of the hot young sire Gemologist.
There were 12 runners and the favorite Amapola was 1-2 from trainer Bill Mott, whose across the board numbers with experienced runners could not match Clément’s.
9/11 – Race 6 – Lipstick City $27.80
Trainer Chad Brown took the youngster to Saratoga but by July 25 was back at Belmont and worked 7 times, in 5-8 days intervals.
Brown of course just won the Saratoga training title and if anything is better on grass than dirt and this was a one mile turf MSW.
Brown is 20% with turf debut types...25% overall on turf…and 25% with runners debuting at a mile or longer.
In this 12 filly field Brown’s runner dwarfed the numbers of the other 7.
And just as important, there was no consensus among the 4 experienced runners, which spread the confusion at 3.7-1 to 12.4-1.
Added to the possibility of shooting with Brown was that the 2.7-1 favorite, Defiant Honor, was one of the first time starters and was “all smart money” because her trainer Jimmy Toner is 5% with first time starters, 0-for-12 first time on turf and 10% overall.

These are the observations, the breakdowns and the relentless evaluation that finds winners like the two above.

So the next time someone says there is no information regarding juvenile maidens except the tote-board and “smart money,” dig a little deeper.







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