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Submitted by John DaSilva on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 2:18 PM

From The Desk Of John DaSilva
19 Year Lead Handicapper For The NY Post

Thursday 11/16

On Saturday, December 2nd the premier national winter meet commences when Gulfstream Park opens their 4 month Championship Meet, which runs through Florida Derby Weekend on April 1st.

This meet wastes little time getting going. Right from the start there are key races for big purses just like last year when the meet opened with a pair of 42K Maiden Special Weights followed by the STARTER STAKES DAY comprised of 9 races that provided $110K for six of them, $125K for another two and $200K for the featured Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes.

As you would expect, the purse structure and the Florida winter weather are paramount to making this meet what it is every year as all the big outfits fill their allotted stall spots with the best stock.

From day one there are numerous angles to deal with, not the least of which is which shippers do well. On opening day last year four of the eleven races were won by horses that last raced at Gulfstream Park West. The other seven races were won by a pair from PARX AND A PAIR FROM Laurel as well as one each from Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Belmont.

As this series of previews continues I’ll discuss these shippers, but today I am going to take a look at two angles that I consider important.

One is the value presented by betting maidens and the second is a look at running style on all distances on the turf over the first 15 (there were 17 days overall but 2 were washed to the main track) racing days of grass racing (from 12/2 – 12/23 before the Christmas break.)


If you are going to bet maiden races during Gulfstream Park’s opening weeks it might help you to know what sort of VALUE TRENDS have been available the last few years.

There is a general overview of maiden races which suggests that less form than that of races for winners makes these races difficult to handicap.

At Gulfstream during the first 3 weeks of last year’s meet (which are representative of the last few years) this general overview has been difficult to either prove or disprove based on statistics, but the very data presented allows a player to apply it to their search for value.

For purposes of his preview I looked at all the maiden races run between 12/2 and 12/23 and separated them into Maiden Special Weight races and Maiden Claiming races.

There were 20 Maiden Special Weight Races in which 8 post time favorites prevailed. That 40% success rate is well above the overall winning favorite percentage for the meet.

There were an additional 38 Maiden Claiming races in which 17 post time favorites prevailed. This was an even higher than the overall rate at 44.5% success rate.

Yet when you break these numbers down further you find that there are some dramatic differences from a value standpoint and that knowing this and applying it from a handicapping standpoint can be quite rewarding.

Breaking down the Maiden Special Weight races into overall, favorite and non-favorite winning payoffs shows the following:

(Maiden Special Weight)
Overall Average Payoff…$9.81
Favorite Average Payoff…$5.73
Non-Favorite Average Payoff…$10.32

(Maiden Claiming)
Overall Average Payoff…$17.64
Favorite Average Payoff…$5.12
Non-Favorite Average Payoff…$30.55

These differentials could not be more pronounced. Even with a higher percentage of favorites wining Maiden Claiming races the payoffs for this classification are much higher.

From a value perspective there are two ways to approach this. Either take a longer look at the much higher reward Maiden Claiming races in general, or based on your handicapping ability, look long and hard at the non favorites in these races. After all, these are races in which a player should NEVER BE AFRAID OF A PRICE if he or she likes a non-favorite.


Turf racing across the nation is becoming more and more popular both for owners and trainers as well as the public bettor.

It is no accident that the number of grass races written has increased each of recent years. In fact, Aqueduct now plans on joining both Saratoga and Belmont by having two turf courses.

For owners and trainers there is a breeding, safety and conditioning angle and for the bettor there are fuller fields which generally run deeper in contention, which leads to higher payoffs.

And while occasionally biases might briefly crop up at one race venue or another, for the most part these turf races are much more “honest” from a pace and running style point of reference than are dirt races.

Along those lines I will briefly show you, based on the opening three weeks of racing at Gulfstream last year, just how honest these races are and how for the most part you can all but eliminate pace setting speed or deep closers on the grass at Gulfstream…at any of the 4 predominant distances at which these races are run.

Below is a break-down of the 4 different distances which the total of 64 turf races were run over the 15 days in question (12/2 – 12/23.)

I list the average place in the race winner was in at first and second call and the average number of lengths off the leader the winner was at first and second call.

(5 Furlongs)
13 races
4.4 Place…4.2 Place
2.4 Lengths…2.4 Lengths
2 wire-to-wire winners

(7.5 Furlongs)
20 races
5.5 Place…5.4 Place
4.6 Lengths…3.8 Lengths
1 wire-to-wire winner

(1 Mile)
14 races
4.4 Place…4.4 Place
3.1 Lengths…2.8 Lengths
3 wire-to-wire winners

(1 1/16th Miles)
17 races
4.5 Place…4.9 Place
3.4 Lengths…4.2 Lengths
2 wire-to-wire winners.

These numbers could not be more even. The low figure of only 8 wire-to-wire winners from 64 races plays into the earlier claim of the stalkers and trackers which are plus-types from a scenario basis. And this is further supported when you know that from the 64 races only 8 other winners were further than 6.5 lengths off the pace setter at first call.

Obviously any given race will have a number of runners who fit this running style, but there are also any number of horses which based on their running style will give you significant pause as to their inclusion.

IN CONCLUSION: These are a few of the angles that I believe important to a handicapping overview. I’ll have a few more next week as we get ready for the meet to begin on December 2nd.





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