The Triple Crown moves to Baltimore this weekend, so we wanted to provide some spotlight analysis for the Black-eyed Susan and Preakness Cards.
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Part of the intent of this post is to continue to educate users on how the ThoroPACE team incorporates our analytic tools into their handicapping process.
Let’s acknowledge that three products are presented in a single PDF. The ThoroPACE Forecast, ThoroPACE Spotlight Plays, and ThoroPACE Insider. While they’re all related, the utility of each is worth exploring independently.
The ThoroPACE Forecast is our core product and is where I start my handicapping process. The tool provides a snapshot of the projected pace dynamics for all races across the country – Typically in 2-3 pages depending on the number of tracks running.
ThoroPACE Forecasts range from -35 (best for speed) to +35 (best for stretch runners).
Our products are updated to reflect scratches as they become available (typically, an update of our products occurs around 11AM, 3PM and 6PM ET each day). This is important, especially in races that appear to favor stretch runners.
I scan the ThoroPACE Forecast daily and look for extreme-pace scenarios (my definition is anything in the outer two blue or red bands).
Races with a forecast that predict extreme pace scenarios are races that I will handicap. Will I handicap other races? Yes, but I make it a point to focus on those with extreme scenarios. This can be a huge time saver.
I’ve stated in multiple forums that this has changed my handle percentages. Prior to ThoroPACE, my bankroll was heavily skewed toward multi-race wagers. Now, I focus much more on Win, Place, and vertical exotics. The rationale is that it is rare to have a sequence where multiple races have pace scenarios that can be exploited. So I’ve become more focused.
Since we are focusing our analysis on Pimlico Park, I want to look at Races 1 and 11. These races feature a ThoroPACE Forecast of +24.1 and +25.0, respectively. In both races, I’m looking for stretch runners, assuming scratches don’t eliminate the speed horses.
With that in mind, the next step is to look at the ThoroPACE Spotlight Plays.
This product provides a summary of horses getting easier (consider playing) or tougher (consider fading) pace setups in today’s race.
The green and red carrots are pretty self-explanatory; more of them means a higher % and/or ROI.
For my own wagering, I’ve found “Vertical Value” horses to be extremely useful. The Green Carrots indicate runners are more likely to hit the board relative to their Morning Line expectations.
Of note, Race 12 at Pimlico features a stretch runner that is getting a hotter pace today – even though the Forecast is -0.7, as pace is relative. I’ll be sure to handicap that race in detail.
The ThoroPACE Insider is the newest addition to our lineup, containing tons of valuable information.
I’ll highlight the Pace Points first to orient you to the report. We assign pace points to each runner, collectively, along with field size, this is the basis of the Forecast for a given race.
We also show you the Pace rating from the prior two races, along with the general placement of the horse.
You will occasionally see red or green boxes around certain races. This indicates whether the runner was pace advantaged or disadvantaged in the race.
Finally, our TP Fig is a recent ability figure. I find it most useful when determining how much a horse might need to improve to compete. That said, we are currently trying to identify further utility of the TP Fig, which will likely be incorporated into Spotlight Plays. Stay tuned.
Let’s dive into these three races, starting with Race 1. The ThoroPACE Forecast is listed as +24.1, which should favor stretch runners. This bulky field of 14 could have a couple of scratches which might change the pace dynamics considerably. So, anytime I handicap a race and identify a stretch runner, I will check back after scratches to see if I need to reconsider.
The speed is drawn inside and they’re all next to each other. So the Forecast looks accurate to me.
Now, which stretch runner do we want to focus on? Most people will gravitate toward the outside, siding with 13 BATTLE OF NORMANDY for Shug and Irad. Given the race shape, there are plenty of things to like, but the price is not one of them. Also, this is a 3YO facing older horses – so the weight break is probably a wash, given the development edge that others have.
I’m looking inside, and while trainer Gustavo Delgado is focused on The Preakness, his runner has a big shot here. A confirmed closer, 1 O CAPTAIN is making a surface switch that should suit, based on his pedigree. Jockey Feargal Lynch is more than capable and will come up again later.
My hope is he will be able to save ground and come running in the lane. He might drift up given his lack of turf experience and spotty record, but he is an excellent vertical key horse.
Let’s move on to Race 11, another turf route with plenty of speed signed on. And this time, the speed is inside and outside – so I’ll look to find a closer.
The filly on the rail, 1 BREATH AWAY (GB), will be tough based on her victory in the Sanibel Island. She got a similar setup as the one expected today, and emphatically delivered. She’s hard to oppose.
You’ll notice the 5 LIL SPINNER, has the green box around the form line of her last race. She was “pace disadvantaged” that day. Typically, these are horses I want to include but she looks completely overmatched and is hard to figure. She also might face a tougher pace scenario today.
6 THIRTY THOU KELVIN is the horse I’m interested in. She was able to best the favorite two back, and while she got a better trip that day, she was game in the lane. She exited that victory to run in the Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park. A pair of Brad Cox runners dominated that race on the front end. Lasix might be a key for her, and the price will be right with Lynch, again in the irons. Getting her in the number would surely juice up the exotics.
The Pimlico Special has a Forecast of -0.7, which is a neutral rating. So, I’m generally looking for horses that will be forward.
As such, 5 LAW PROFESSOR should be a handful in here. He’s much more tactical than the likely favorite, 2 RATTLE N ROLL, who is trip and pace dependent.
Returning to the Spotlight Plays, 4 ARMANDO R is a stretch runner that should get a better setup on Friday. Even though this race is neutral, he’s exiting very speed-favoring races. This is a definite step up in class, but he’s 2-4 over the surface and 1-1 at the distance. He will be a massive price based on his low profile, mid-Atlantic connections – and I want to key him underneath.
It seems that most have conceded Friday’s feature to the Baffert trained, 9 FAIZA. She comes in undefeated but it’s certainly reasonable to question the quality of the fillies she’s been beating out west. She is rateable, which will help, but she figures to be a short price, especially for a horse that was “Pace Advantaged” in her last race (earning the red box).
Conversely, 4 MERLAZZA was “Pace Disadvantaged” in her last – closing into a race with a Pace Figure of -32.0. She’s dropping lasix and we don’t love the jockey on horses with this running style, but she should move forward and is certainly the most likely upsetter. We have the Black-eyed Susan Forecast pegged at +22.6, which should favor stretch runners. As such, we’ll use her as an A horse for multirace wagers. And relegate Faiza to a backup – only because we like several price horses in the prior races.
Let’s turn our attention to Saturday.
Pimlico Race 4 has a ThoroPACE Forecast of -12.6. 4 ARABIAN LION has a figure and pace edge. If you’re opposing him, you’re seeing something I’m not. He looks the most likely winner of the weekend. That said, it doesn’t mean he’s a good bet.
But maybe we can consider a multirace wager to create some value. Race 5 is a turf route with a Forecast of -2.5, a neutral setting but one that likely favors horses near the front. With a horse on the AE list and another entered as a MTO, at least one runner will scratch which means the race should be even more favorable to front runners come post time.
Unfortunately, the morning line looks to have sniffed out the best speed and accurately designated as the favorite. 6 TEQUILERA should get an aggressive ride from Tyler Gaffalione and they’ll likely have pass her in the stretch. I would want to be sure to include 5 DOWNTOWN KATIE who was “pace disadvantaged” in her last and should get a better setup today, even with the neutral designation.
1 HAVNAMELTDOWN figures to be another short-priced Baffert runner with a big shot to wire his foes in the Chick Lang Stakes. There is other speed in this race, but with a Forecast of +12.8, I’m comfortable siding with the likely “speed of the speed.” This Pick 3 sequence is one that I’d want to have for $20+, not one I’m trying to ‘just hit’.
I would use a couple backups in this leg, in case things get crazy up front. The best finishers (not necessarily closers) appear to be 3 FROSTED DEPARTURE and 7 PRINCE OF JERICHO. In A-B-C parlance, I’d use them both as Cs.
We will wrap up our spotlight analysis by taking a quick look at the Preakness Stakes. The ThoroPACE Forecast is +3.0. A neutral rating, should play fair in a small field. Still, other things equal, I’ll always prefer a front runner in this situation, mostly because of the graphic below.
1 NATIONAL TREASURE has the most pace points (likely driven by rail draw) and we project him on the lead. Based on the connections, this intuitively feels right. He will be tough to pass if others are content to let him go.
From there, it’s a little murky. 8 FIRST MISSION and 3 MAGE have the same amount of pace points but, drawn outside, it’s likely that the Cox runner will be more prominent early.
I’m not really against top two contenders – they both figure to run well. So how do we create value in this race?
My hope is that 6 PERFORM can be an underneath key horse that will offer some value. Most have pigeon holed this runner as a deep closer but that’s not really accurate in my opinion. He was shuffled back in the Tesio Stakes after a slight bobble at the start but prior to that he had consistently shown what I would describe as tactical speed.
He needs to improve but the stretch run of his last race gave hints of significant ability. Supplementing for this race is not a typical Shug move. I view that as a sign of confidence and indicates he has high hopes for this one. I am concerned that he’s dropping lasix but the works seem to indicate he’s moving forward out of his last race.
I prefer him to 5 – RED ROUTE ONE who is exiting a race in which he got a perfect setup. The fear with this runner is that Rosario leaves him too much to do.
In terms of wagering, I’ll bet this race vertically. Keying Perform in second, under Mage and National Treasure. And then I’ll play him in trifectas in the third position – while also keying the top two in the 1/2 slot.
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