Michael Pizzolla’s ValueCapping™ Rant: The 2016 Gotham Stakes

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From The Desk Of Michael Pizzolla
March 3, 2016
Las Vegas, NV
8:47 PM

Dear ValueCapper and Friend: 

The Gotham Stakes, a Derby Prep, is being run this Saturday, March 5, 2016. This one is a very interesting race, and I think it’s a good example of a question that vexes handicappers.

But first, I’d like to say a word about the Fountain of Youth. I’ve been asked how I handled the race in my own betting. To be perfectly honest, I wound up not betting the race. Because of very pressing issues with family, I could not stay at the book for the race, and therefore, couldn’t know what the odds would be. As I said in the Rant, if I got a price on Awesome Banner (which I predicted could happen if the crowd made Mohaymen odds on-which they did) I would bet it. 

Problem is, I couldn’t be sure since I would have to bet in advance, and therefore passed. But-and I’m not sure how many experts would admit to this-if I stayed and saw 6-1 on Awesome Banner, I would have bet. And lost that bet.

When you bet price horses, there will be more ‘non-cashing’ bets than bets you cash. That’s just the reality of the game we’re playing. The good news is that the ones you cash will more than make up for the non cashers and then some.

So on to this week’s Derby Prep, The Gotham at Aqueduct this Saturday, March 5, 2016.

This is an interesting race, and presents an issue that advanced pace handicappers face often.

From a Pace/Position perspective, Black Magic Handicapping Software makes the race an Unpressured race. So far so good. 

The issue is that the race is at a mile and a sixteenth on the Aqueduct Inner Track. From a velocity point of view, the recent races at Aqueduct at this distance have gone late. Not positionally, but from an energy expenditure point of view. 

So that will inform my value decisions about the race.

In the BLAM software, from the early scenario perspective, there are 5 horses above random, with a gap after the top 3. The top rated horse is the 7, Sunny Ridge, the winner last out of the Grade 3 Withers, and this colt was second in the Grade 1 Champagne in October.

Second and third on the line are the 8, Rally Cry, and the 2, Shagaf, two colts that ran against each other last out in an Allowance race at Gulfstream. Shagaf won that race, its second lifetime start and second win. Rally Cry is another lightly raced colt, but the fact that it lost to Shagaf should mean that it will be a better price than either Sunny Ridge or Shagaf, the two colts that should be favored by the public.

On the plus side, Rally Cry is the Fulcrum in the race, and has strong early numbers.

And there’s the rub. 

If the race goes as it projects-early-Rally Cry might be a decent bet. On the BLAM line, it’s 7/2. I would need at least 7-1 to take this colt against those other two. And against Adventist, the colt that ran third in the Withers against Sunny Ridge.

By the way, this is a classic caution to me, because the software does not put Adventist as a strong contender. While that’s how you get price, it doesn’t mean that we can’t use some common sense and approach the race cautiously.

So, I would take Rally Cry at 7-1, and have an exacta play that looks to leverage the Reversal-an exacta with Shagaf and a straight exacta with Rally Cry on top.

The intriguing possibility is what if the race goes more like the recent 8.5 furlong inner track races have gone, favoring late energy horses.

That scenario brings the longest price on the board, the 4, Vincento, into play. Although this colt has won 2 of its 4 starts, those wins were in NY State Bred races, its maiden win and an allowance.

Nonetheless, it is a closer, and the recent races have favored that scenario.

Very often, the quality of the questions we ask determine our results. Ask any good trial attorney!

The question many handicappers would ask is ‘How do I figure out whether the race will go according to how the race projects or how the track is running?’

This is not a terribly useful question, because before the fact there’s no way to know with certainty. Depending on the instructions the jockeys receive, and a hundred other random factors, the race can shape up in many different ways.

A more useful question-the ValueCapper’s question is ‘Where is the value in the race?’

My personal answer would be to take Rally Cry at a good overlay and, if I don’t get that price, consider taking a secondary bet on the longshot Vincento at very long odds.

This is the ValueCapper’s answer: He or she knows what they know, respects what they don’t know, and lets the price be the deciding factor.

Another very good-more conservative-strategy, is to acknowledge that there is doubt about the race, respect that and pass. This all depends on how risk adverse the player is. The swashbuckler player will jump in, the more cautious will pass.

As always, on these big race days, I urge you to pay attention to the hundred and fifty or so other races going on in North America. The crowd often overlooks these races, looking forward to the ‘big race’.

For example, the 5th race at Aqueduct on Saturday is a modest $35,000 claiming race. There isn’t really a standout. Tied for second on the BLAM line is the  5, Hectors Pride, 5-1 on the BLAM line, 3rd start after a layoff, Reverser to the 6 horse, blinkers off, going back to the apprentice that rode it to a second place finish second race back, solid numbers from Gulfstream. I would consider this at 8-1.

I hope this analysis is helpful, not so much in the ‘who do you like’ or ‘who’s going to win’ point of view, but how to integrate the handicapping aspects of the game with the overriding question of value.

My sincere thanks again to those of you who have written and your kind words about these Rants. Also, hearing about your progress and successes makes it all worthwhile.

Hope this finds you well, and best of luck at the races. Don’t forget to let the bet make you.

All the best,


Michael Pizzolla

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