Andy Serling has been playing the horses for almost his entire life, and is currently the co-host of NYRA Live. To follow Andy on Twitter, click here.
Apparently there is often an impetus to handicap Triple Crown races weeks, if not months, in advance. That's probably not the best way to arrive at the winner, and as far as I know, you don't collect more at the window if you inform the teller " I predicted so and so would win this race on March 16th. " I could be wrong, but I would guess there is a major negative correlation between how much time before a race a handicapper arrives at his final decision and how well he ( or she ) does overall ( assuming an adequate amount of time is ultimately spent ). In fact, one of the reasons the job of a public handicapper is so difficult, is that decisions need to be made well in advance.
The other problem with making early decisions is that we effectively " marry " ourselves to these horses, and thus all too often, disregard other handicapping factors that we use on a day to day basis. Personally, from a handicapping perspective, I view every race the same. Each race is a matchup of relative talents, and the most likely winners are not just the most talented horses, but also the ones that will benefit the most from the dynamics of the given race. However, often when we decide well in advance of a race, we do so simply because we decide that our selection is the best horse. OK, the best horse does win a lot of races, but for the purposes of making money betting, you really need to determine the best horse given today's conditions. How effectively can you do this well in advance, before knowing the post positions, the track conditions, any possible track bias, or even how the horses look as they head to the starting gate? OK, the last one is hard for the sense of any significant pre-race opinions, but you get my drift.....the longer you wait, in theory, the better your chances of being right.
A lot of people seem to have decided that Charitable Man
would win the Belmont just seconds after his relatively easy score in the Peter Pan. He looked good, but he also got a very easy trip, and he was hardly flattered on Monday when Imperial Council
( who finished second in the Peter Pan ) finished 8th of 12 in the Shadwell Met Mile on Memorial Day. Yet, I have yet to hear one of his proponents taking this new piece of information into account. Maybe it is meaningless......but I can guarantee you had Imperial Council even run well on Monday, Charitable Man's advocates would be citing this as further proof that their choice would be tough in the Belmont Stakes. You can't have it both ways.....unless, of course, you prematurely marry yourself to a selection.
Many people think Mine That Bird
will be a cinch to annex his second leg of this year's Triple Crown. I can see this, he has run exceptionally well since adopting a deep closer's running style. However, he also got optimal set-ups in both the Derby and Preakness, riding a favorable rail in the Derby and getting a very sweet trip behind a strong pace in the Preakness. As of now, the pace in this year's Belmont Stakes does not appear nearly as strong as the one in the Preakness, but at the very least, wouldn't it be better to try to determine the pace of the Belmont once the final field has been assembled? Plus, how many deep closers have won the Belmont Stakes in recent years? Victory Gallop
came from well back, but got up by a nose after getting one of the greatest rides in history by Gary Stevens, with his competition, Real Quiet
, questionably challenging Grand Slam
at the three eighths pole. I wouldn't want to rely on that kind of confluence of events to get home what may well be the betting favorite. Now, maybe Mine That Bird is simply better than his competition, like Afleet Alex was when he came from well back to win the 2005 Belmont Stakes, but, at the very least, I think any ability gap is much smaller going into the 2009 Belmont than it was that year.
All of this may be moot if Rachel Alexandra
graces us with her presence. Maybe she will, once again, prove herself superior to the 3YO colts currently attempting the Triple Crown races. Or, maybe she won't. Maybe she will help ensure the pace Mine That Bird needs to win the Belmont Stakes, and the added distance will, in fact, help him while hurting her as some felt could have been the case in the Preakness. How will her presence affect Charitable Man, a horse whose best chance may well be galloping along on the lead? Of course, we don't need to worry about any of this if we, at least, wait until Wednesday June 3rd when the entries are drawn.
Then again, if we don't worry about this kind of stuff well in advance, what would I have to write about?