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Winter Racing

With the conclusion of the Breeders' Cup at the end of October, I enter into the vast wasteland of the horse racing season known as "how many days until Gulfstream and Santa Anita open". At one time I really enjoyed playing the Churchill Downs fall meet, but the absurd dispute between Twin Spires and the Kentucky Horsemen has pretty much put any chance of that to rest. (Horse racing must be the only industry where those inside think it's better to restrict content in order to grow the sport...but that's a whole other post!)

In order to fill the Churchill Downs void I've been scouting out a few tracks to play over the next few weeks. Fair Grounds opens in New Orleans this Friday, which provides a decent track to play along with Hollywood, Aqueduct and maybe Hawthorne. I've never had much success playing Calder, but they seem to have some nice full fields for their turf races this winter, so maybe a few spot plays will go in their direction.

If I really want to play some low-level claimers I could throw a few bucks down I-5 to Portland Meadows.

-The opening day card at the Fair Grounds includes well-known, but often troubled, jockey Pat Valenzuela. A regular in SoCal for years, P-Val will now try his craft in New Orleans.

And if Friday's card is any indication, Fair Grounds could be in for a big meet in terms of full fields. The opening ten races drew 112 entries, or 11.2 runners per race.

-One of my favorite tracks, Tampa Bay Downs, will open up on December 13th. I've had a fair amount of success playing the Maiden Special Weight turf races at this track in the past, mainly due to the overlays that one can find on many of the first time starters, or first time turf runners.

-When I'm not handicapping some winter tracks I'm will be working on a little side project that I started a few weeks ago. The project involves looking at jockeys over an extended period to determine the impact, if any, they have on the success of the horses that they ride.

Everyone knows that there's a difference between a great jockey like Jerry Baily and a 10-pound apprentice. The project I am undertaking is an attempt to quantify what the impact of a particular jockey riding a specific horse, or a horse within a specific odds rang. What I hope to have at the end of all of this is a numerical rating for jockeys at a specific track that rates their success, or lack there of. For example, if we are looking at Emerald Downs, and over a three-year period favorites win 33% of the races, yet Jockey X only won 15% of his races when riding the favorite, we can come to some conclusions regarding Jockey X's impact on the horses he rides. The goal of this project is to formulate a rating to represent that impact.