Handicapper Blog

Posted by Brian Skirka on Thursday, May 31, 2012 5:28 PM

Between this past Sunday night and Monday during the day, I spent about two hours handicapping the $500,000 guaranteed late Pick 4 at Belmont on Memorial Day.  It was a nice sequence anchored by the Met Mile and after a long day of food trucks on Sunday, I was ready to play a few P4 tickets.


I watched a lot of race replays, spent time analyzing expected pace scenarios, and plotted out a plan to play 4-5 separate tickets while being sure to maximize my returns should my top picks come in.


I put in a good amount of work and was pretty confident in what I had come up with:


  • Because there was no pace in the race, I didn’t like the eventual 4-5 favorite at all in leg 1 because she was a deep closer. 
  • In Leg 2, I couldn’t get past the two logical contenders and simply used them on all tickets.
  • In Leg 3, I didn’t see how the runners on the rail and far outside could avoid a speed duel with each other.
  • In Leg 4, I thought it came down to any one of three with a preference towards Caleb’s Posse.


About 45 minutes before the Pick 4 sequence started, I thought of something that I hadn’t spent any time on – but something that could play a major impact.  How was the track playing?  I put in a call to someone whose opinion I trust very much, but he unfortunately had not been watching Belmont on Monday.  


So I went ahead with my Pick 4 plays as if the track was playing fair to everyone.  Boy, was that a mistake. 


The horse who won the first leg at 8-1 was on every single one of my tickets.  I was on my way.  It’s Tricky – who was also on all tickets – thankfully got up to win Leg 2.  However, despite the win, I knew I was in trouble moving forward.  Speed looked really dangerous (pacesetter almost hung on while odds-on favorite spun her wheels off the pace).


Looking ahead at the final two legs of the sequence, while I had both of the speed horses covered on one ticket in Leg 3, I didn’t use Shackleford at all.  With the track playing how it was, I wasn’t very excited about my chances.  


About 100 yards out of the gate in the Acorn, I knew I was doomed.  Baffert’s filly was all alone in front – where in the world was the speedy filly on the outside to press her!!! – and the two horses I used on all tickets were stuck off the pace.  The race was over before the first quarter mile was even run.


After watching the Acorn, not having the speedy Shackleford on my ticket was not very comforting.  And despite a gallant try by Caleb’s Posse, the gorgeous Preakness winner just wouldn’t be denied. 


I predicted the winner of all four races before they ran, but I cashed no tickets.  Unfortunately, when you play the Pick 4 you have to make all your selections before the first leg.  (What kind of a rule is that!?!?)


While I spent a couple hours handicapping the races on paper, I never took the time to take in some action from Belmont to see the conditions.  If you would have told me before sequence that the track was super speed favoring I would have constructed my tickets much differently.


And I would have been cashing at the end of the day instead of throwing my tickets in the garbage.


Lesson learned.


Monmouth Blogs
Blogger Bio


Brian Skirka graduated from Rutgers University in 2007 with a degree in journalism. He currently works for Monmouth Park’s marketing and publicity departments and is in his fifth year working at the track. In the past, Brian’s work has also been published on www.thebigm.com and www.ntra.com.