So what have we learned over the first five nights of racing at The Meadowlands?
1. Pete Koch is doing a pretty good job at finding the right class levels for the horses under the new ABC system.
2. Just when you think you see a “trend,” it can turn on you in a minute.
After opening night, when all six of Ron Burke’s horses finished off the board, I thought, “OK, here’s a key -- lay off Burke until the horses sharpen up.” The very next night, Burke goes 9-4-1-1. So you think, “Well, scratch that theory.” And then in last week’s three cards (sorry to mention this, Ron), the stable went 24-1-5-3. It’s a real rollercoaster ride.
The watchword early has been “longshots,” but on the two Saturdays the favorites are 13-25, or 52 percent.
Part of this phenomenon is because Saturday has the highest-class open pacers, and there have been quite a few horses who have been “stuck” in a class perhaps a notch lower than their actual level because a big stable has a horse/horses in the level(s) above who has an even stronger claim to being classified higher.
Let’s look at our friend Ronnie on the first Saturday. He had Hillbilly Hanover, who had beaten Heston Blue Chip two starts back, but the highest fillable class opening week was A-1, so Hillbilly was 4-5 and won. Burke had two in the A-2 class, including another classmaster in Mortal Zin, who maybe could have fit in A-1 but there was no spot for him, so he was in A-2 and won at 8-5. A third Burke winner, this one at $9.00, was Brookstone at B-2: again, maybe he could have been B-1, but when Ron has one in both divisions of B-1, and they both go off at 7-2, it’s hard to argue.
This past weekend, the chalks ran the first seven races, including a $4 Daily Double, after starting the meet 12-46 (26.1 percent). But the races included two precocious youngsters in nw3, a claimer, and Golden Receiver in the FFA -- like Hillbilly, he still laid over his field even though it was the highest class offerable. ABC can’t do much against these types.
3. In the 12-horse fields, it is imperative that your horse have -- and use -- the ability to get away quickly. Four of the five winners have been quarter move, pocket, pocket, pocket; the fifth improved starting position early but was still outside every step with live cover (and came back to step up and win the next week).
The chalk: seventh at the quarter and trapped in from post 11; parked without cover from the quarter; ninth out at the quarter from post 12; tiring on lead after being parked to the quarter after recent record of 10-1-4-1, including losing last five despite not being over 7-2 in any of them; and tenth out at the quarter from post four.
So how do we catch us one of these “bombers” that have been striking the M(1) toteboard? Easy -- follow everything above: beat a Burke favorite; watch for horses who may have “more class” or “back class”; and pick a horse in a 12-horse field who has speed.
Let’s look at this past Thursday’s last race, a $15,000 F-M claimer in post position order:
1. MYSTICOLE MAGGIE -- won from the pocket vs. $12,500s at YR last time; fair against $15,000s; a few showings of early speed.
2. TANNED FOR LIFE -- form tailed off vs. $15,000s at Phl, and absent 27 days.
3. CARRIE ANN -- well, let’s leave her for last.
4. RUNAWAY ROSE -- program chalk off quarter-move pacesetting photo win at this level at YR; had not shown gate jet since claim in September.
5. LATIN LYRIC -- first-over at 16-1 against RUNAWAY ROSE and held for third; won out of pocket two back; 2012 record of 29-2-4-8 not aweinspiring for win bettors.
6. TERROR RISING -- won on lead from good posts at Saratoga, but shows two October losses vs. $10,000, and also a few close-but-not-enough races against the Stga $15,000s.
7. LADYBONES -- failed twice vs. $10,000s at Fhld, then after a second in Stga debut vs. $15,000s, had a mediocre race vs. that level; Qualified at M(1), but not impressively.
8. CHARLOTTE’S MAGGIE -- won for Dobson against low-level Stga conditionites; never shows facing this type Stateside; lost 11-plus lengths in last quarter of M(1) qualifier.
9. ELODIE -- decent vs. this type at Freehold, but shows little early speed recently.
10. SKYAWAY SHANA -- lost in the class CHARLOTTE’S MAGGIE won in at Stga; last win vs. conditioned claimers at Indy; post ten in 12-horse field.
11. (trailer) JACK’S MAGIC JEWEL -- wire-to-wire twice vs. $10,000 at Stga, but was only fair vs. $10,000s previously at Pocono. And can’t use speed from post 11.
12. (trailer) PETEANTNART (Burke, 7-2 favorite) -- Claimed for $15,000 four back; then dropped to $12,500 after one start at tag level; winless in almost three months.
Some good, but nothing overwhelming so farm so let’s look at #3, CARRIE ANN.
This mare won first-over, at Yonkers, the last time she was in as low as $15,000; she went to Saratoga and raced with a $25,000 tag (or an equivalent class), with many decent showings, and got a check against Open mares there. She was entered for $20,000 at Yonkers on Dec. 6 but was scratched sick; back at Saratoga in the $25,000 class in her comeback, she still left (off the scratch) and was involved in :28.3/:56.3, and was still less than three lengths out at the three-quarters. The fact that she lost a large amount of ground in the last quarter means nothing to me, as it is to be expected under those circumstances; in fact, I like it because people recoil (thus making your price better) from a horse showing “9 by 30 lengths” at the finish, when it’s the early part of the race that’s meaningful.
She has post three with nonleavers inside of her, and has shown speed. And class.
And, oh yeah, she’s 35-1.
Eric Carlson sends her right to the lead and yields to Elodie, who got back to her Philly gate speed in September, and sat the pocket. Elodie fought off a challenger at the half, and drew clear on the turn, but inexorably Carlson and Carrie Ann inched closer in the last quarter, and won by three-quarters of a length on the money -- $75.80 money to win, thank you, very much!
But remember, trends may change any minute. Especially since Ron is so much taller than I am.
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