Let's me pose the following scenario:
Horse A - Won three races in a row including a stakes race in their last start. Clearly the horse is arguably at her career best. Odds are 11-1
Horse B - Has been very impressive this year but finished off the board in their last start a month ago. Before that, the horse had been virtually flawless racing in the same class as horse A. Five days before today's race the horse qualified impressively winning by 10 lengths (being parked a half mile). Odds are 1-5.
Who do you bet?
Well that scenario played out yesterday at the Meadowlands for the $100,000 Matchmaker Stakes for FFA Trotting Mares. Horse A was Classic Lane and Horse B was Buck I St Pat. We all know the racing press has been understandably gushing over Buck I St Pat and she deserved it. As a result, the wagering public listened to the press too much that they ignored basic handicapping principles and made Buck I St Pat so much of an overlay that you were given a massive overlay on the eventual winner Classic Lane.
Remember Buck I St Pat was virtually unbeatable prior to her trip to Sweden for the Elitlopp. In the Elitlopp, Buck I St Pat went off stride before the race and actually was impressive in that she caught the field and at one point was threatening in fourth position before the break caught up to her and she tired to finished seventh. That was May 23. This past week on June 16, Buck I St Pat goes the Chester Downs and raced an impressive qualifier winning by 10 lengths.
Classic Lane had obviously been racing her career best of late. She won an Open at the Meadowlands and then went on to win a preliminary leg of the Classic Series and then the final at Mohawk Raceway. The Classic Series is probably as tough as it goes now class-wise for older trotters.
The Matchmaker being a $100,000 race is one of the few big money races out there for older trotting mares so you know the competition is going to be fierce. While Buck I St Pat was impressive in a qualifier, qualifiers never are as competitive as a race mile so while Buck I St Pat was parked a half mile, most likely she just raced on the outside because they wanted to give her an easy warm up; just go easily until the time was right to win. So for all practical purposes, Buck I St Pat hadn't raced competitively for a month; the possibility of her being short was real.
So take all the facts and then ask yourself, are you going to bet a champion that has been off a month at 1-5 or are you going to take a horse that has been racing during this month and has been sharp winning a $200,000+ stake race in her last start at 11-1?
Those that remember the basic rule that qualifiers are not competitive races but merely are to show a horse can meet the time standard for the meet wagered on the eventual winner and collected handsomely. If there was a mismatch on talent, then maybe you could see wagering on the 1-5 shot but when there was a horse in the same level at her career best, it was time to take a shot. Could Buck I St Pat won the race? Sure she could have but when you consider the situation the odds clearly were skewed incorrectly; if the champion was ever going to be beat, yesterday was the day. The smart handicappers went with the eventual winner and were proven right as Buck I St Pat tired and beat only one horse.
There are definitely times when a horse can win of a qualifier, especially when they raced two qualifiers in a row to get up to form. But the fact remains in these situations when a horse may be vulnerable, you just have to take a chance; especially when the odds are so skewed.
Three Year Olds at Mohawk
The three year old trotting division may becoming a little more exciting. Obviously Muscle Hill is the one to beat but Federal Flex went wire to wire in his elimination of the Goodtimes Trot at Mohawk on Saturday for his first start of the year. Southern Rocketop, in his division, followed up a track record at Balmoral in hist last start with a win in the third elimination. Being he has been racing in state bred races prior to Saturday night, he has more to prove but he has taken the first step in beating a field of open trotters.
As for three year old pacing fillies, Yellow Diamond continues on the march with her win in the first elimination of the Fan Hanover. Not Enough won her elimination but will be hard pressed to knock off Yellow Diamond. Clearly Yellow Diamond appears to be the star of her division.
As for the marquee division, the 3yo pacing colts, Dial Or Nodial was very impressive winning in 1:50.2 in his elimination of the NA Cup after being parked the whole way. If I Can Dream won his elimination while Barber Pole and Passmaster Hanover finished 4th and 7th respectively. While not winning, I am not ready to write off Barber Pole yet and as for Passmaster Hanover, his race can be excused. Mr Wiggles shocked in his elimination. Over all, I think Dial or NoDial is starting to emerge as the best in this muddled division.
As a side note, based on the finish of eliminations Saturday night, we are seeing Yonkers Raceway is beginning to attract the big horses in the their stakes with an elimination winner in the Lismore (Not Enough) and Art Rooney (If I Can Dream) winning their eliminations at Mohawk. Don't expect to see Muscle Hill going to the Yonkers Trot as these days, the 3yo trotting colts seem to be racing 'managed' campaigns to maximize their breeding value. It is a shame they don't try the half miler.