Ordinarily, I am not the slightest bit interested in human achievement stories in horse racing. I roll my eyes whenever we see a trainer holding up a sign in the winner’s circle commemorating his eleventy billionth win at Churchill Downs or wherever. And it seems like we get a new one every few days. This jockey recorded his 1000th win. That trainer got his 500th win at this track. You’ve seen it a million times. I don’t care about them and I don’t know why anyone cares. Obviously, as a handicapper, you need to know what trainers win at what tracks. That goes without saying. But it’s too much. That’s my two cents.
But what Drayden VanDyke did yesterday at Del Mar was just fun to watch. Seven wins from eight mounts, with the lone loss being a 2nd. If there was ANY doubt as to his place among the top jocks of today, there should not be anymore. He’s an elite rider. And as a bettor, you have to accept that his status will affect the price you get on his mounts. I think he’s reached that level. That’s not to say you can’t get value on the horses he rides. But like we’ve seen with so many other top riders over the years, we will see horses that should be 4-1 instead go off at 5-2 simply because Drayden is on board. We were kinda headed in that direction anyway, before his big day. But this will speed it up.
One aspect of my handicapping game that needs work is knowing when a jockey is a plus or a minus based on race shape. For years I’ve felt that every handicapper who dismissed a horse in a given race because of, for example, an expected slow pace and the ability of a certain rider to get a certain horse into the right position based on that rider’s reputation for this or that was making a mistake and was guilty of overthinking. So we are going to explore this aspect of handicapping here at LoneSpeed and see if it’s something we all need to learn, or if focusing too much on jockey tendencies can cloud our vision. How would we feel to dismiss a 9-1 shot on the turf at Saratoga because the horse has Leparoux on his back and likes to come from off the pace, only to watch that horse skim the rail late to win easy? Personally, I’ve lost too many bets because of what I feel were bad rides by Julien. So do I need to remember that and make it part of my handicapping, or do I need to treat each race and each horse as its own puzzle? After all, riders can learn from mistakes just like bettors can.
Anyway, let’s tackle this as we go.