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Horse Racing - Info’s the Key with Spa Babies

Posted by Pete Mitchell on 4/26/2012 10:53:38 AM

2008 Racebook odds: Saratoga Spa

As a fan of horse racing, I’ve always found it exciting to bet on those well-bred two-year-olds at Saratoga. After all, many superstars of the “Sport of Kings” were unveiled at the “Spa”. Names like Regret (1914), Tom Fool (1951), Shuvee (1968), Ta Wee (1968), Weekend Surprise (dam of A. P. Indy and Summer Squall, 1982), Winning Colors (1987), Epitome (1987), Easy Goer (1988), Is It True (1988), and Flanders (1994) come to mind. Aside from the excitement, though, there’s money to be made on these debuters. That’s where a bit of research comes in handy.

When handicapping baby races at the “Spa”, you should incorporate the daily articles written by DRF’s Dan Illman entitled “Spa Babies for (date)” into your research. These articles are chock full of useful information.

Let’s take a look at yesterday’s 7th Race at Saratoga, for example. The post-time favorite was Bill Mott trainee Zensational (2.00-1). Mott’s first-time starter is a beautifully-bred Claiborne Farm colt (by Unbridled’s Song out of a Phone Trick mare), who brought a whopping $700,000 as a two-year-old in training. He was training well at Saratoga and had Mott go-to guy Kent Desormeaux in the irons. But if you read Illman’s article, you’d know that despite his Hall of Fame credentials, Mott has gone 0-for-33 with debut runners in 2008, and is batting 11% over the past 5 years with juvenile debut runners at Saratoga and overall. I’d need more than 2-1 odds in the face of those stats.

On the other hand, you had Steve Asmussen firster Kensei at a juicy price of 7.50-1. For years, Asmussen had done some of the finest work around with young horses, and now he’s working with much more talented horseflesh than he had back on his parents’ farm. Kensei was also purchased as a 2YO for the tidy sum of $300,000, and his final work from the gate on the Spa main track was a solid 1:00 3/5 (2/31 at the distance that day).

From Illman’s notes, you’d know that Asmussen is batting 19% with debut runners in 2008, 20% with juvenile debut runners over the past five years, and 21% with juvenile debut runners at Saratoga over the same time span.

Zensational broke like a shot, but faded to finish fourth.  Kensei stalked the pace in second, drew even with the pacesetter approaching the top of the stretch, took charge a few strides into the stretch, and maintained a length-and-a-half advantage to the wire. Here was a case where a little homework would have gotten bettors off the false favorite, and put them on a great value play at better than 7-1.

Pete Mitchell has been handicapping horses since his teenage years. He has been a professional horse player for many years, and came to’s attention through multiple referrals from industry insiders/sportsbook owners. Pete is revered for his horse handicapping opinion and industry experts acknowledge his impressive career winning record. Thoughts or questions?



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