SPUR OF THE MOMENT: HANDICAPPING GRADE 1 SEVEN FURLONG RACESBy Dean Arnold December 26th is the traditional opening day at Santa Anita and this Wednesday, the meet starts with a pair of Grade 1 races restricted to three-year-olds: the Malibu Stakes for colts and the La Brea Stakes for fillies. Both $300,000 races have large fields making for great betting opportunities. These two races are unique because they are the last graded stakes restricted to sophomores on the calendar and they are Grade 1 races and have been so for decades — a rare designation for sprints. Races like these fall into a category that spans the sprint and route divisions. In these contests, it is often the route horses that prevail turning back in distance, not the sprinters trying to extend their speed. Top quality horses that race around two turns at distances between a mile-and-a-sixteenth and a mile-and-a-quarter are usually unable to show their best at six furlongs. But at distances from seven furlongs to a mile, the extra conditioning and stamina they possess give them an edge. The tougher the two-turn route race competition that a route horse has faced, the faster the pace pressure they’ve confronted over an extended distance. Route runners with tactical speed may not be as quick in the early stages as a true sprinter, but they possess enough early foot to stay in contact with the sprinters and wait for them to weaken. Late closing stretch runners from route races have the disadvantage of needing to close a great deal of ground versus sprinters just to reach contention. A route runner devoid of any early foot can be considered a non-contender unless it has had previous success in one-turn events. Usually, the only chance for a sprinter to win going beyond six furlongs in G1 races is to get free early and/or set a slow pace. But unless a sole sprinter figures to control the early pace, they are unlikely to hold off a classy route runner. Prestigious one-turn seven furlong or mile races will usually attract enough interest to include flashy sprinters with enticing speed figures, so it’s unlikely that one sprinter will dominate. 2018 examples of this angle are routers Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Promises Fulfilled leaving the Triple Crown trail to win the seven furlong Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga and Audible shortening up from the mile-and-a-quarter Kentucky Derby (G1) to win the seven furlong Cherokee Run at Churchill Downs. Previous examples of great performances by routers in the Malibu (G1) at The Great Race Place include Spectacular Bid (1980) and Ferdinand (1986). Requirements To Play Routers in One-Turn Races: – Added money event/stake races at seven furlongs to one mile around one turn. – Favor route horses that have faced the toughest competition or endured the fastest paces in two-turn route races. – Avoid route runners devoid of any early speed, unless they won a one-turn race in the past. – Avoid races where a sole front-running sprinter projects to get away with an easy lead. Be sure to check out Dean Arnold's handicapping book, A Bettor Way, on sale now through amazon.com and Xlibris Publishing (www.xlibris.com/ABettorWay.html
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