Greetings to all TrackMaster customers. I'd like to introduce you to a product that was originally designed by and for professional level horseplayers. Don't let that intimidate you though, because the nice thing about On-Target Performance Ratings is our presentation is so user friendly, even a novice can learn how to make sound selections with it. Now, before we jump into the handicapping commentary, those of you who are unfamiliar with this product will probably find the image map of Perfect Parfait's record (shown below) to be quite useful. Our reports may appear vastly different from what you're accustomed to handicapping with, so please take a few moments to examine Perfect Parfait's record before moving ahead. Simply hover your mouse pointer over different areas of the image and that will allow you to find out what everything is. It won't take long to become at ease with this innovative format which has drawn high praise from some of the best handicappers in the game today. Notice our performance ratings are graphed, with the fastest numbers on the left and the slower ones to the right. As time goes on you'll find this feature alone to be indispensable.
Taking aim on the lightly raced
By Michael J. Cahill - Creator of On-Target Performance Ratings
Most horseplayers will probably agree with me when I say rarely does everything fall neatly into place when it comes time to separate the real contenders in a horse race. Usually you're faced with mixed signals on paper and a tote-board which seems to serve up unacceptably low odds at every turn. Friends this is not an easy game by any means. It takes patience and discipline to uncover those races where nearly every factor appears to lean favorably in the direction of one horse. Unfortunately, coming up with a solid horse on paper is only the beginning of your struggle. Before you can even pull out your wallet, the odds should be compelling on the board. Another factor of paramount importance is that you absolutely must learn how to be direct with your wagers. Losing players will consistently find a way to turn a good opportunity into a minor score. Their lack of confidence and/or judgment shows up in wagers spread out too thin. So it's tough to win at this game, but then again it's not impossible, I can assure you. Take comfort in the fact that certain situations do generate bottom-line profits for professional horseplayers on a regular basis. Let's walk through one of those "situations" at Fair Grounds on the 2nd of February 2002...
The 7th race was for three-year-old maidens, all of which happened to be lightly raced at the time with three lifetime starts or less, the exception being the easy throwout 'Ike and Fanny' (shown above). This type of race can certainly be played, and even singled out for special attention. I actually prefer betting on lightly raced horses because their ability has yet to be classified by the masses. On-Target Performance Ratings are a valuable handicapping weapon in races of this type. Young, developing horses often show improved form by setting or pressing a fast pace somewhere during the running of their first couple of starts. Fortunately because of the widespread use of final time based speed figures, these brief flashes of ability sometimes go unnoticed by the public. Final time based speed figures do not reflect hidden moves, and they can leave you well behind the curve in determining which horses are true contenders, particularly in maiden races.
Now let's get back to our walk-through. I'll resume by looking at the public choice in this field of eight.
Cash Tyme - This filly is the post time favorite at odds of 9/5. Although the 19 Cash Tyme ran two races ago is the fastest number showing in this field... it's worth noting that Beached, Fidget, Cielo Girl, and Broad Harbor have all run a 21 (or better) in at least one of their past few starts. The close proximity of these rapidly developing horses with comparable numbers makes Cash Tyme a very vulnerable favorite in here. Cash Tyme also ran a slower number (20-1/4) in her 2nd start, which means we can't classify this horse as forward moving. The 20-1/4 is a solid number, but you ought to be giving strong preference to forward moving three-year-olds. By "forward moving" I mean horses whose numbers are getting faster in each consecutive race. A total of three forward moving horses are in this race, The Dallas Dancer, Cielo Girl and Broad Harbor.
The Dallas Dancer is clearly the weakest of the "forward moving" trio on paper. She ran a new top of 23-1/2 last time out when she was treated with first time lasix. First time lasix often generates a top effort in the lightly raced horse, if it doesn't, then 2nd time lasix can become a factor. In this case I'm leaning away from Dallas Dancer, and not just because I sense a possible bounce (off the lasix aided top) to a slower number today. A more concrete reason to "lean away" from this horse is just the slowness of the top itself. Chances are slim that a 23 will have any impact in here. As it appears on paper, the race contains several horses who are either threatening to breakthrough, or have already broken a 20.
Beached cannot be classified as a forward moving horse. She made a giant performance jump from a 29-1/4 in her first start down to a 21-1/4 in her second. Notice the slight backward move to a 21-3/4 on 3 weeks rest last time out. The big jump down to the 21 and the slight backward move on moderate rest last time makes me feel Beached will not likely breakthrough a 20 until she has several more starts under her belt.
Split The Arrow is a first time starter coming from a barn that's winning at a 12% clip with these types. I don't often bet on first timers and especially when others are showing healthy forward moving lines. While this field isn't especially fast, I still feel confident the odds will be stacked against a firster running faster than a 20 when it comes out of a 12% barn. It's one of those times where you just take your chances and hope she's not quite ready (or good enough) to beat you.
Fidget's condition must be classified as neutral and not forward moving. Fidget ran a strong race (21-1/2) in her only lifetime start just three weeks ago. The dilemma that you face with a horse which shows only one start and a strong number is, you can't quite be sure if the debut race took something out of the horse. What I mean by that is, you don't know if the horse is ready to start moving forward immediately since it looks to have been "cranked up" (conditioned) for a big effort right out of the box. That said, so many young horses move forward in their second lifetime starts that it would be foolish to think negatively about this particular horse. Fidget is an obvious threat to win in here.
Cielo Girl is another serious contender. She's certainly forward moving and has a strong recent workout since her last start where she earned a 21. However, two other horses in the race have already run 19's, and I think it's worth noting that Fidget's debut race is nearly as fast as Cielo Girl's best effort. Cielo Girl might be a half-step behind these at this point in time, but it's hard to knock a horse that hasn't taken any backward steps yet. I believe if she only had those two recent races showing on paper and didn't have a 25- first time out, then I'd probably feel much stronger about her potential to move forward for the third time in a row to a 19 today. Others in this field have moved forward much less in terms of their overall development and yet they've already run faster races than Cielo Girl's best.
Broad Harbor is last but certainly not least of the forward moving horses mentioned earlier. Closely examine the forward movement of her condition line because it's almost textbook. From 23-1/2 to a 21, and then down to 19-3/4. Setting new tops with small incremental development is positive, you don't want your horses moving forward a half-dozen points all at once if you can help it. This can stress a horse in the same way as a human who goes out and does too much exercise all at once, body and muscle soreness are a factor in racing. Then you have the spacing between races, and in Broad Harbor's case it's a solid freshening angle, she'll be making her 2nd start following a 5 week rest, this again is positive. Last but not least, Broad Harbor put her best foot forward at 8.2 furlongs in her most recent start. Importantly, today's race happens to be set for 8.5 furlongs and none of the strongest contenders we've looked at has ever gone beyond 7 furlongs. You always want to show a little favoritism to the horse which has already proven it can run a good number at the distance. Broad Harbor has to be the top selection here on all counts, not only is there nothing negative about her, several positive factors are working to solidify her position.
Now examine the odds at post time:
 - Ike and Fannie (55-1)
 - Beached (7-1)
 - The Dallas Dancer (16-1)
 - Split the Arrow (5-1)
 - Fidget (3-1)
 - Cielo Girl (5-1)
 - Broad Harbor (7-1)
 - Cash Tyme (9/5)
Question: "How should this race be played?"
I'd say there are two primary ways. The easiest way, and most preferred way in my opinion, would be to simply bet the top selection Broad Harbor to win at 7-1. Another way would be to bet Broad Harbor to win AND use her as part of a boxed exacta ticket with Fidget & Cielo Girl for a bigger score.
Although this wasn't exactly what I'd describe as a high percentage situation, I felt as though Broad Harbor should've been the favorite at odds of 5-2 or 3-1. In this case, odds of 7-1 were more than compelling to me and the race result certainly proved to be lucrative.
Well friends, until next time... I hope you enjoyed walking through this race with me. Good luck to all of you, and stay On-Target!
On-Target Performance Ratings are now available exclusively through TrackMaster for the low price of $99 per month for unlimited downloads. If you'd like to become a subscriber or just want to find out more information, click here to go directly to the On-Target webpage at TrackMaster.