Note To Self: Avoid Short Prices in Short Fields!

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Note to self:

Avoid short prices in short fields!

By Dustin Haluska

Most tournament players will tell you that they like big fields because there are more opportunities to catch longshots. Even though I would consider myself one of those players, it’s funny how I continuously take shorter prices in small fields.

I feel the need to bring this up because a part of me is still feeling the sting from last Saturday’s Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. A 6-horse field which included the 1-2-4 finishers of the Belmont Stakes (Creator, Destin and Governor Malibu), the early winter favorite for the Kentucky Derby (Mohaymen), an upstart in Race Me Home and maiden Laoban. 

Take the $10-15 in the win-place payout and move on, right?

Wrong!

Laoban pulled off a shocker at 27-1 and those who had him enjoyed great success in their respective weekend contests. Those who opted for shorter prices like myself faced an uphill battle. Destin, who went off at 2-1, wasn’t only my top pick in the race but probably one of my top three highest rated selections out of the 21 races I handicapped last Saturday.

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Would have been a great single in a pick 4 or even a nice win bet if you wanted to triple your money. Early to midway through a contest, however, Destin was a play against. So was favored Mohaymen. Hindsight is 20/20, but ignoring lone speed on the front end against five rivals is risky whether the horse has zero or 10 wins lifetime. 

Just ask tournament standout Craig Hom, who used Laoban on two of his three entries in last Saturday’s 25K on DerbyWars. The nearly $50 win-place return keyed a first and fifth-place finish for Hom.

Hom revealed that Governor Malibu (9-2) was his top pick, but felt as if he wasn’t going to lose much if he didn’t take one of the top three choices. Even if that meant playing Governor Malibu on just one of his three entries. 

Sure, Hom had flexibility with multiple entries over his rivals that allowed him to take the risk, but his rationale for doing should resonate with all contest players.  Short field, speed and three-fifths of the others outside of Laoban weren’t going to hurt him. 

If you are willing to accept the fact that the “Laoban scenario” won’t happen often then you may position yourself for a big score when it does. So we face a similar situation in today’s Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. Six horses, two standouts and some unlikely winners. The race will sit in nearly the exact same spot in Saturday’s high stakes games as last week. The one thing that could make the race different is the parity in odds. 

Frosted may be every bit of 3-5 in this race and it’s possible that he will add a sequel to his current TVG commercials that we see every five minutes where he is running off the screen in the stretch. Just remember, the pride of Godolphin Stable freaked at one turn, but was just “good” around the two turns he revisits today. 

Regardless of my handicapping theory, I will take great Comfort knowing I won’t make the same mistake twice. And what I don’t take may not hurt me anyhow. 

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