Joe and Brian Answer Your Facebook Questions - Vol. 9

By Joe Kristufek and Brian W. Spencer

A question about post positions - can you tell me why the #1 post is not a good post on races at 1 mile or less but the #1 post on turf races is said to be a good post. - Mike S.

Brian W. Spencer: For me, it's all about trips that result from the post draw. In a 6f sprint race, the horse with the #1 post often times must be used leaving the gate to avoid getting pinned down on the inside heading into the turn which can ultimately lead to troubled trips in traffic, but turf races are entire different story.

In two-turn turf race, it's most often an issue of riders finding their position, holding a steady gallop around the track, and then sprinting for home once they turn the final corner. From the #1 draw in a race like that, a horse with any tactical speed can usually take up position along the rail just behind the leaders and sit in what's termed the "pocket." That can be a very advantageous trip as the runner saves all the ground and then tries to tip out once they turn for home and be full of run.

As a trip handicapper, that's definitely the way I look at the #1 post, mostly as a potential hindrance in sprint races, but as a potentially huge advantage trip-wise going two turns on the grass.

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Who are the best trainers at Arlington Park when their horses come off at least a 2 month layoff? - Mark L.

Brian W. Spencer:I looked back at some of the stats that trainers had at the start of the meet to try to gauge what kinds of numbers they had. Obviously, the usual names come to mind, but I found a couple of other interesting trainers that excel with horses coming in off layoffs of greater than 60 days, but less than 180 days. Catalano surprisingly gets 17%, a bit lower than his percentage. Hugh Robertson only scores with about 12% of these types but does so with lots of price horses, sporting a big ROI. Rivelli, on the other hand, gets 25%, but shows a negative ROI, so when he does win with those layoff runners, he's doing so at small prices. The other two who may fly a bit under the radar are Mike Stidham, a 24% trainer in similar spots, and Scott Becker, who gets a ridiculous 33% winners with those types.

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The Super High Five can be an expensive wager to play but you can truly get paid if you hit it. It's the kind of wager I only would play when well ahead on the day. What are your strategies you recommend on trying to hit it on a budget? I am thinking maybe $32 or less. I assume I might want a fairly large carryover.  - Tyler T.

Joe Kristufek: In regards to your question on the High Five wager. The best way to play if you're working with a limited budget is to find a KEY horse to base your ticket off of. In a High Five, you have to pick the top FIVE horses in order, which is no small task. With ANY wager, you have to build your ticket based on YOUR opinion. The more horses you use, the more it's going to cost. If you're going to take a swing at the High Five, and don't have a lot of money to play with, KEY your top pick in first, and build the ticket out. For example: 3 with 1-2-4 with 1-2-4 with 1-2-4-7 with 1-2-4-7-8-9 (1 x 3 x 2 x 2 x 3 = $36). Just like the Pick Six, players with larger budget have an advantage because they'll have more coverage on a much more expensive ticket, BUT like you said, if there is a carryover worth taking a swing at, it only makes sense to give it a whirl. I hope you hit one!

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What is the equivalency on race classes, like where does a MdSpWt fall compared to an Allowance, and what's the true difference in the quality of horses in a claimer compared to optional claim etc.? This is one of the hardest things for me to compare when it comes to handicapping - does the horse belong in the class or not, and secondly, what would be some tips to spot the class dropping horses that drop solely to have somewhere to run/are hurt? Any good tips for spotting these no run class droppers? - Don P.

Brian W. Spencer:  Since maiden races are only for horses who have never won a race, that classification starts at the bottom. My list would go like this: maiden claiming, maiden special weight, claiming, allowance, allowance optional claiming, listed stakes, graded stakes.

Generally an optional claimer is going to be tougher than a straight claimer, because there can be some talented horses with conditions left that are not in for a tag -- so if you see a horse who last raced in an open $25K claimer, and they move to an optional-claiming $25K/NW2X, that races is likely going to be tougher than the claimer, because some of those horses are still protected and may have more upside than hard-knocking open claimers.

As for the class droppers, it's always a tricky game. There are three important things for me to consider when I try to figure out whether to use one or toss one.

1.) Who is the trainer? If a trainer is known for class dropping just to get a win, then I'm not always as skeptical. Trying to figure out the trainer's intentions is key.

2.) Is the horse competitive against tougher company (ie, higher purses)? If a horse is running very competitively for a $25K claiming tag, just missing, and all of the sudden drops to $5K, that's a red-flag for me. Caveat to that is that sometimes horses need a confidence boost, or just need to drop in for a win, etc, so that doesn't always work, but it will often lead me to pass on a race if I can't get a read on why a horse is dropping.

3.) Determining whether, in my opinion, if the horse may have some issues and may be on the downswing of a form cycle, that horse can STILL win with a less-than-his-best performance. Is the dropper that much better than the rest of the cheaper field where he or she doesn't even need to bring the "A-game" to win? Can the horse go backwards 5-6 lengths in this race and STILL win? If the answer is yes, then there's a chance that it doesn't really matter anyway.

Approaching those races with those types of droppers is very, very tough. Always take a good look at the horse on the track in the post parade, and if you are nervous about the trainer's intentions and don't feel confident making a determination on what reason the trainer is dropping the horse -- it's okay to pass a race, go grab a beer, and wait 25 minutes for the next one.