Catching My Eye: Two Angles to find prices at Fair Grounds, Part One

December 13th, 2022

Four weeks in at Fair Grounds, I am finding two handicapping angles that have been key for finding price horses. I’ll give them to you one at a time. First up: turf form on the dirt.

With turf racing suspended though the end of the month, there are runners entering on the dirt that are giving handicappers reason to pause and often pass. Will they run as well? Is this the plan, or do they simply need to run a race and dirt will do for now? Questions like these keep money away from these runners and have been creating overlays.

When handicapping a runner who has recent turf form but is entered on the dirt, what’s the obvious question we all ask? Will that form translate? The answer so far at Fair Grounds is yes. But more importantly, these runners are not getting bet.

I wrote about it in my Fair Grounds meet preview. The other two turf courses on the circuit, Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs, are both cut short and play similar to dirt, meaning you can give recent races over those courses more weight than you would if a turf runner was coming in from Colonial Downs.

Using these runners from the circuit and from other turf courses has accounted for a lot of the big prices coming in at Fair Grounds. Whether on top or underneath, here are the horses from the last two weeks. A few details will hopefully help you spot similar runners going forward before they pop at a price.

Two winners from last week

On Friday, Dec. 9, it was Budro Talking winning Race 7 at 7.20-1 (sent off as the fourth betting choice). In his last 14 races, he’d only had two starts over a dirt track, and he finished over 26 lengths back. The rest had been turf, and that’s where his wins and in-the-money runs had been coming.

On Friday, Dec. 9, on the dirt track, Budro Talking put daylight between him and the field winning from off the pace on a track that had otherwise favored rail runners all day. Budro Talking paid generously in the win, place, and show pools — $16.40, $9.60, and $5.60.

He was part of a $90-1 exacta and $448-1 trifecta.

The tickets who used him in the Pick 5 sequence were rewarded with $10,203-1.

No one hit the Pick 6.

On Sunday, Dec. 11, Smarty Alex showed the dirt runners how it’s done, taking home the third race at 6.40-1. The fourth choice in the win pools had made one start on a dirt track at Fair Grounds last meet, but had the fastest speed figures and most consistent form. Big-time overlay in the win and exacta pools, with payouts of $14.80, $5.40, $4.20, and a $32.70-1 exacta.

If you used the second favorite in the previous race and bet Smarty Alex, you were rewarded with a $68.40-1 Daily Double. How about them green apples?

One runner who came through underneath

How do you use the even-money favorite on top to score a $351-1 trifecta? You use Okudah underneath. At 13.7-1, the fifth choice in the win pools in Race 5 on Sunday, Dec. 11, looked strong toward the front throughout but couldn’t get the win. He had been running on turf, and backers shied away from even using him underneath.

Two from Thursday, Dec. 8

The only strong figure we’d seen from Cadillac Ridge, the second longest price on the board in Race 4, had come two back on the grass at Louisiana Downs. Turf runner, right? Rey Gutierrez didn't think so, taking this one to the lead and getting nosed out for second. The exacta paid $164-1, the trifecta $1,090- 1.

Two-time turf winner Sikum had made two dirt starts in 10 career races, both resulting in speed figures half as big as the ones he’d been running on the turf at Louisiana Downs over the summer. At 17.10-1, he broke sharp and chased the even-money favorite all the way around the track. Payouts were $29-1 for the exacta and $184-1 for the trifecta.

If this trend remains present in the markets moving forward, don’t be afraid to use those turf-form horses on top or underneath, according to your discretion. In fact, until we start seeing otherwise, races with these runners are the ones where I’ll be taking my biggest swings.