Not enough time has passed just yet for me to write about my performance at the NHC earlier this month. It’s just something I am not emotionally prepared to put to words. In short, I had a bad Friday, a great Saturday, and a Sunday that didn’t really matter. We’ll leave it at that for now. But as for Friday, as race after race was going against me, I thought I noticed something that, in actuality, may or may not have been there.
Over the course of the day at Gulfstream Park on Friday, February 7th, it felt to me like horses that stayed near the rail around the far turn, as well as those that could stay on the rail or move to the rail in the stretch, were able to close better than those that did most of their running off the rail. Now, on its face, this may seem like the Captain Obvious Statement of the Month. It’s rarely an advantage to be wide anywhere. And for sure, anyone that watches the replays of this day at Gulfstream will easily point to a number of big efforts from horses who ran wide and/or closed down the middle of the track. That said, an objective review of at least the stretch runs from the dirt races will highlight multiple strong finishes that at the very least give reason to believe it helped to be along the rail at Gulfstream that day.
In Race 1, the top three finishers did the overwhelming majority of their running way down on the inside. The winner ducked inside late and passed them all, though he may have been the best of the bunch anyway.
In Race 3, the winner went wide as the odds-on fave. But the eventual runner-up at 48-1 hugged the rail all the way around until it was time to pass tiring rivals. The 3rd place finisher never got off the rail, was no threat to the top two, but did “win the gallop-out” along the rail, for whatever that is worth.
In Race 9, 85-1 shot Running for Riz went fast and worked hard early, and would not be denied the place spot after getting passed in mid-stretch by the rival who ended up 3rd. Running for Riz was inside the whole way.
This evidence for a “rail bias” is spotty at best throughout the rest of the card. However, Trappezoid went wide in Race 10 en route to a solid 4th place finish, and then came back to win on February 23rd at 3-1. So perhaps early evidence is indicating that horses who went wide on February 7th and ran well actually ran better than they appeared to. Maybe?
Let’s test the very tepid theory this Wednesday (2/26), in Race 2 at Gulfstream. #6 Took a Cab comes out of the aforementioned Race 1 on the February 7th- the race where the top three finishers were along the rail pretty much the whole way. Took a Cab was wide around the turn and way off the rail in the stretch that day. At 6-1 on the morning line, I’ll take a stab.