'Formulating' Breeders' Cup opinions
We live in an era when a high school kid can Google the name of the cute girl sitting in the next aisle in an attempt to find out more about her. Back in my day, if you googled a young lady, you would either be slapped accordingly or chased by a shot-gun toting father. Times - and terminology - have changed.
They don't call this the (too much) information age for nothing.
In all walks of life, we thirst to know more. Twenty-four hour news networks are commonplace. Niche channels for golf, auto racing, outdoors sports and, yes, even two for horseracing, provide the satisfaction for any "need-to-know" jones from which you may suffer.
So how does the horseplaying public quench its increased thirst in this high-tech era? Daily Racing Form has made it possible to dig beyond the black and white of newsprint with its Formulator software, and most recently its Formulator 4.0 upgrade in the spring of 2004. Formulator 4.0 won't tell you if that lady next to you on the subway has eyes for you, but it will open your eyes to a whole, new world of handicapping.
Breeders' Cup week brings about the annual pinnacle of horseplaying information. At no other time of the year is more said about more horses than the days surrounding the World Thoroughbred Championships. Over-information becomes a real problem for those trying to make sense of 100 top-class performers over eight championship divisions.
What the Formulator 4.0 software does that many other information sources cannot is put the reins in your hands as the user. You chose what information to unearth, which trends/angles you feel are important. Literally thousands of options now stand between you and your past performances - if you have the time, interest and most basic computer skills. If you found your way to this website to read this piece, then you have enough tech skills to make your own way with Formulator 4.0.
It would take hours and volumes to explain everything this newfangled software can do. From trainer angles to going inside each race chart to "homemade" past performances, it holds a menagerie of handicapping nuances. Try it for yourself, but for this test drive, let's see what this baby can do for Saturday's Breeders' Cup races.
DISTAFF To be blunt, I'm a little leery of trainer Marcelo Polanco and jockey Kerwin John with Island Fashion. No-name connections is big-time spots just don't make me rush to the window. That said, I dug deeper in Formulator's trainer patterns section with Polanco and found that he has had more starters in the past five years at TWO furlongs (13) than he has in races at 1-1/8 miles or longer (9), the distance of the Distaff. His only win at nine furlongs and beyond is a maiden special weight at Del Mar this summer and he's 2-for-9 in the money in those events. Also, Polanco has shipped just nine starters outside of California with eight finishing off the board. He did win the Turf Paradise Derby with Mambo Train on the road.
JUVENILE FILLIES The Breeders' Cup always presents a challenge of comparing circuits. While most of the JF starters came from the Oak Leaf, Alcibiades or Frizette, what do you make of Canadian shipper Higher World? By going into the charts section of Formulator, I delved deeper into the Mazarine Breeders' Cup to find that the entire field, with 25 career starts, had two prior Beyer Speed Figures above 70 lifetime and none above 75. Higher World's 79 Beyer in the Mazarine is not only her career best, but a figure none of her rivals that day had ever achieved. There are no less than 9 pre-entrants in the Juvenile Fillies who would have busted that field wide open, figure-wise.
MILE Trainer Julio Canani has two bullets to fire here off the layoff, Special Ring and Blackdoun. Both have been off since Del Mar, with Special Ring the longest break at 97 days. Canani has had a reputation for success with layoff horses, but I wanted the stats to prove it. In the Formulator trainer patterns, I found that he's won 28 races the past five years with horses laid off 97 or more days, including six over 300 days and 19 over 200 days. I know now that, if his horses get beat at Lone Star, it won't be because of the time off.
SPRINT Breeders' Cup history tells me that no horse has won the Sprint without a past six-furlong win on the year since Precisionist in 1985, the only of 20 Sprint winners to do so. But I don't want to dismiss Midas Eyes, a horse I like a lot, just because of one trend. After analyzing Bobby Frankel's trainer patterns, I picked up on the fact that he's won 11-of-27 (41 percent) graded sprint stakes races in the past five years with horses coming off of a lifetime-best Beyer Speed Figure. Midas Eyes set a new top at 113 in his last start and the stats say he won't go back. I was able to click on Squirtle Squirt, get his lifetime PPs and see that he went from a 117 to a 119 in winning the Sprint in 2001 with a similar look. If Midas Eyes loses, it won't be because of a "bounce", but because he wasn't good enough.
FILLY & MARE TURF This race looks totally paceless on paper. Moscow Burning should inherit the lead as she did in the Flower Bowl, but I don't expect any wire-to-wire jobs going 11 furlongs. By sorting the past performances to include each horse's individual points of call running times (something harness racing fans have been blessed with for years), Formulator 4.0 lets me see who could get the best stalking trip and first jump on the big-time closers. I uncovered that Film Maker ran back-to-back internal quarter miles of :23-3/4 and :23-3/5 in the Gallorette Handicap this spring from the back of the pack and still managed to close nearly four lengths in the final sixteenth of a mile to the wire. That kind of internal move and sustained close could be very beneficial the way this race is shaping up with so many last-second closers.
JUVENILE Lone Star Park will be a new venue for all of these babies in the Juvenile. We've seen Afleet Alex and Consolidator able to take their show truly on the road and beat top horses. But what about Roman Ruler, Sun King and Proud Accolade who have never left their home base to race? Through the Formulator trainer patterns, I discovered that trainer Todd Pletcher (Proud Accolade) is just 3-for-24 the past five years with two-year-old shippers in graded stakes races (two of those wins coming in Canada). Nick Zito (Sun King) has shipped only seven babies for graded stakes the past five years with Eurosilver's Lane's End win last year the only victory. Bob Baffert is a more impressive 7-for-33 in this scenario, including Grade 1 scores by shippers Captain Steve, Point Given, Officer and Vindication. That said, I still prefer the versatility already shown by Afleet Alex and Consolidator, but if I had to pick between the Pletcher, Baffert and Zito runners, I'd lean towards Roman Ruler and Baffert based on his shipping success.
TURF A quick burst of acceleration in the final quarter-mile wins top international turf races. By sorting the individual horse internal fractions in Formulator, we're able to see who can quicken for home the fastest among the American turf horses. Because European races don't keep split times, there's no way of telling on those rivals. Kitten's Joy came home the final quarter is a sultry :22 flat in the 1-1/2 miles Turf Classic last out, putting him heads and shoulders above the other Yanks. Longshot Sarafan has come home in 22-and-change often in 1-1/4 miles races and, if the early pace of the Turf remains slower, it could stretch Sarafan's stamina and make him an exacta factor in a 440-yard late dash.
CLASSIC It's all about the layoffs. Birdstone, Roses In May, Ghostzapper and Pleasantly Perfect all embark on the Classic without a race since at least Sept. 18. Let's look specifically at the defending champion Pleasantly Perfect, who has been off since Aug. 22. While trainer Richard Mandella is a solid 80-for-441 with horses laying off 45 or more days in the past five years, we were able to dig deeper and see that he's 0-for-5 in 1-1/4 miles graded stakes races on dirt off this kind of layoff. Excellent horses like Olmodavor, Kudos, Puerto Madero and Malek all ran solid races, fourth or better, but failed to win in five combined starts. Pleasantly Perfect should run well, but knowing this, I'm cautious of his winning ability at Lone Star.