By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
Handicapping on John Engelhardt’s “Winning Ponies” radio show prior to the 2012 Boiling Springs (G3) at Monmouth Park, the host and I discussed one of my favorite handicapping angles. Far from complicated, horses with this pattern usually jump off the page, but often times they are overlooked in the wagering due to competitors more accomplished on the turf drawing most of the betting action.
Play a horse running in a grass race today, who switched to the turf in their last start and ran a significantly better race than in their previous races on the dirt or synthetic track.
Dancing Solo was a $100,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase. By Giant’s Causeway out of a Kingmambo mare, her pedigree screams turf racing. This is what prompted trainer Todd Pletcher to run her on the sod at Saratoga in her racing debut. She raced in contention early, despite being three or four wide all the way and was not persevered with when she tired in the stretch. She finished last that day.
Whether through circumstances or design, after her dismal debut, Pletcher kept her on dirt and polytrack with some success, including a second-place finish to the talented Black-Eyed Susan (G3) winner and her stablemate, In Lingerie, in the Bourbonette Oaks (G3).
When Monmouth opened, Pletcher decided to try the turf again after seven starts and entered her in the Little Silver Stakes. Dancing Solo romped home to an easy victory under Jersey Joe Bravo and earned a 90 Beyer speed figure, nine points higher (that’s four and a half-lengths better) than her previous high of 81, earned against In Lingerie.
Clearly, on pedigree and now on performance, Dancing Solo is a turf filly, and quite possibly a very good one.
The Boiling Springs (G3) was no easy spot. Somali Lemonade is a proven commodity on the sod, with a victory in the Jessamine (G3) already on her chart and highly regarded Destiny’s Child was making her U.S. debut for Team Valor International after a solid European campaign.
Dancing Solo, “did it again,” as Britney Spears would say. Making short work of the Boiling Springs (G3) field, winning by a length and a half in the very nifty clocking of 1:41.99, further stamping herself as a rising star.
Be aware of these improving types. Although Dancing Solo was the second choice in the wagering, often the prices are juicy and these horses can run up the ladder paying dividends as they go, beating previously accomplished turf runners.
This angle also works with horses switching to other types of surfaces. When a horse switches surfaces and improves dramatically, we get a big clue as to where they do their best running and we should capitalize on it.
The grass isn’t always greener, but it can be.
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