JC / Railbird

This Again?


“They’ve turned the Kentucky Derby into a guessing game,” [Thoro-Graph proprietor Jerry Brown] fumed. “The introduction of synthetic tracks has created mass confusion among handicappers. In the Derby, you’re left to guess whether a horse can handle dirt after running on synthetics.

“This is an absurd situation to create for people who bet the game seriously. It’s tough enough to beat it with good information and rational thinking, but now you have situations where it turns a race into pure guesswork.”

Actually, the synthetic-to-dirt surface switch seems to be one of the more predictable elements in handicapping the Kentucky Derby in recent years.

1:30 PM Addendum: Dean smartly notes on Pull the Pocket that when it comes to assessing surface changes, handicapping principles still apply, but “the questions you have to analyze just might be a little different.”


Man, I love the figs and use them in my handicapping but their creators whining about handicapping surface changes is, as you somewhat alluded to, getting real old.

Every horse race has tons of variables. If you don’t think you can assess a race accurately enough given the variables present then just don’t bet the race.

It’s not like Animal Kingdom was 4-to-1 and you were really taking a chance, his odds in the Derby more than accounted for the unknown surface factor.

And you know these guys HAMMER 2yo races, so it’s tough to accept these types of excuses for not picking winners.

Posted by EJXD2 on May 23, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

As loathe as I am to admit it, I’m with EJXD2 (isn’t that the robot handicapper from Star Wars: Revenge of the Thorograph?)For a couple years, I struggled conceptually with the new California surfaces, and Keeneland was and remains a puzzle. I have adapted now and feel comfortable. In fact, I only find chaos reigning at Keeneland. What has happened, for me, is the primacy of figures has been reduced, while visual interpretation of performance has ascended. The problem with that is I can’t just show up at the track and divine synthetic races – or moves to dirt – by looking at the Form. I need to build up some sort of reserve bank of past performances I have witnessed. This is true for all handicapping, of course, if you’re really on your game, but I think it is even more important with the artificial tracks and moves to dirt. Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby was a major play off this type of assessment. If you’re complaining, you’re probably stuck in some sort of orthodoxy. Free play of the mind is the most ignored aspect of the successful horseplayer.

Posted by John S. on May 28, 2011 @ 2:46 pm