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Track Tracts

No Genius Handicapping Required
by Gordon Pine

I, like most handicappers, enjoy pulling off a genius handicapping feat in public. But it�s easier to look like a genius when handicapping the Kentucky Derby because the public so consistently screws up and underestimates solid contenders in that race. The Preakness rarely rewards genius handicapping because it�s usually won by a solid contender which everyone knows about and is going off at underlay odds.

The Belmont is often conducive to genius handicapping, though. Fresh horses, foreign horses and just plain ignored horses come into this race and win it at nice prices: Go and Go, Colonial Affair and Lemon Drop Kid come to mind. But this year�s race doesn�t look very promising for longshots.

Having said that, you can never entirely disregard quality three-year-olds, especially a horse like Dynever, who is what I call an "unknown ceiling" horse. That�s a horse who has never really shown himself to be outclassed yet � his ceiling is unknown, so you can�t really throw him out completely. Or a three-year-old like Ten Most Wanted could jump up and surprise you with a good performance, even though his record is not that impressive if you think his Illinois Derby Beyer number is suspect, as I do.

But what this Belmont seems to boil down to is a two-horse race: Funny Cide and Empire Maker. That�s what the public handicappers are saying and I have to agree.  Just the fact that the field is so small this year seems to indicate that most of the trainers with potential three-year-old competitors concur � they don't want any part of these two horses.

So here�s my handicapping procedure. I start with my standard mechanical contender-selection method. I take the highest two of each horse�s last three Beyer figures and average them. That gives me a contender figure for each horse. (If there are only two races available in the pps, I average them. If there is only one race available, I use that as the number.) I then take the top five horses as my contenders. If anybody is tied for fifth, I include them.

It seems kind of silly to bother picking the top five contenders in a six horse race, but these contender numbers are useful in pointing out the relative ability of the field. My contenders for the 2003 Belmont Stakes are:

  • Empire Maker       108
  • Scrimshaw             99.5
  • Funny Cide           109
  • Dynever                  99.5
  • Ten Most Wanted  103.5
  • So, using my contender-picking method I boldly throw out Supervisor (50/1 morning line). But look at the ability of the remaining horses. Funny Cide and Empire Maker are in their own league here. And using Jim Cramer�s speed figures, which I prefer over Beyer�s, this difference is accentuated because Ten Most Wanted�s suspect Illinois Derby figure doesn�t bias the numbers.

    Funny Cide and Empire Maker both have the presser running style suitable for winning the Belmont. An early running style would also be desirable, but nobody seems to fit the bill � Gary Stevens might push Scrimshaw to the lead and try to take it gate-to-wire, but I would be amazed if he pulled it off. I would expect both Funny Cide and Empire Maker to be in the front three entering the stretch. If they�re not, something has gone wrong for them.

    Running these contenders through my handicapping program, The Capper, I get a two-horse betting line with Empire Maker favored over Funny Cide. But I like to handicap these big races by the seat of my pants, and this is the line I would give the race:


    Fair Odds

    Bet Odds

    ML Odds

    Funny Cide




    Empire Maker




    No genius handicapping here � I don�t expect any surprises in this race. I think Funny Cide or Empire Maker will probably win. I don�t think either one of them will be worth a bet. The one good betting race in this Triple Crown was the Derby, and that�s already been run. I will probably buy a $2 souvenir ticket on Funny Cide to win. I really hope he does it. If he runs the Belmont like he did the Preakness, he�ll go down in history. But I think Empire Maker has a good shot at spoiling the party once again. Let�s hope not. I love an underdog. It�d drive the Kentucky breeders crazy if a New York bred with no gonads became the first Triple Crown winner in a quarter century.

    And now for a Drinks of the Triple Crown reprint:

    Not to be outdone by Churchill and their mint juleps, Belmont Park has announced that the Belmont Breeze is the official toast of champions for the 2001 Belmont Stakes. (I don�t know if that means it will also be the official toast of champions for the 2002 Belmont Stakes � the trouble with traditions is they take so dang long to become traditional.)

    Anyway, this delightful concoction was created by Dale DeGroff, head bartender at Manhattan's Rainbow Room/Windows on the World. Says Mr. DeGroff, "One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak. I wanted to use a spirit that has significance in New York, so I chose rye whiskey. New York has always been a big rye town, and it was one of the first spirits to be distilled in quantity in America, by none other than George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. I wanted a drink that would appeal to a wide audience, which can be difficult with rye. So, I introduced another flavor to cut the strength and bite of the rye. I chose Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry and finished with a combination that is the base of the most popular drinks in the last 10 years, cranberry and citrus."

    Here�s the recipe:

    � 1 1/2 ounces Seagram's 7 (or good, blended American whiskey)
    � 3/4 ounces Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry
    � 1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice
    � 1 ounce Simple Syrup (or substitute 1 ounce sweet and sour mix for the lemon juice and simple syrup).
    � 1 1/2 ounces fresh orange juice
    � 1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice
    � 7-Up
    � Club Soda

    Shake the first six ingredients with ice, then top with half 7-Up and half club soda. Garnish with fresh strawberry, mint sprig and lemon wedge, and drink after you make your bets, not before.

    In my ongoing quest to promote alcoholism and deepen the stereotype of horseplayers as half-drunk losers, I plan to inaugurate special mixed drinks for all kinds of races. The third race at Hollywood, a maiden-claiming $32,000: the Harvey Wallbanger. The fourth race, a two-year old $50,000 claimer, the Goose Joose. You get the idea. NC

    Copyright �2003 NetCapper Inc.  All rights reserved.

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