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Japan Dirt Cup

While the defection of Belmont and Travers winner Summer Bird has certainly lessened the American interest in the Japan Dirt Cup there will still be some great betting opportunities tonight at Hanshin. A field of sixteen is set to go to post tonight with a fairly even distribution of horses that want to lead, stalk, and close, which should ensure an exceptionally competitive affair.

Expected Pace Scenario

Early Speed – Makoto Sparviero (JPN), Espoir City (JPN), Suni, Tizway

Stalkers – Wonder Speed (JPN), Vermilion (JPN), Success Brocken (JPN), Golden Ticket (JPN), Admire Subaru (JPN), Wonder Acute (JPN)

Mid-pack/Closers – Bonneville Record (JPN), Daisho Jet (JPN), La Verita, Marbutsu Lead (JPN), Silk Mobius (JPN), Meisho Tokon (JPN)

If the only remaining American horse, Tizway, is to win the Japan Dirt Cup he's going to have to do a lot of dirty work on the front end where he'll likely have company in the form of Suni, Makoto Sparviero and Espoir City. With four potential early speed horses in the field the pace scenario looks to set up perfectly for an off-the-pace runner like Vermillion (2007 Japan Dirt Cup winners), Meisho Tokon (2008 Japan Dirt Cup runner-up), or Success Brocken (2009 February Stakes winners). Suni, a sprinter that is stretching out to a mile and a quarter, should be the early leader.

Vermillion is in excellent from following consecutive wins in the JBC Classic and the Teio Sho, and should be one of the betting favorites but I'm leaning a different direction for this race. Wonder Acute has won three in a row and is an impressive 4-3-0-0 at Hanshin Racecourse including the G3-Sirius Stakes in early October. An in-form "horse for course"? That's an angle I just can't get away from.

I have no idea what the odds on Wonder Acute will be since I can't find a single morning line on any of the Japan racing websites…at least one that I can read. So we'll wait for the pools to open up this evening to determine whether Wonder Acute will be a good play or not. I'd love to see something around 8/1 to 10/1…anything less than that, considering the how big and deep this field is, probably won't interest me.

Superfecta Strategy

Because of the deep and competitive nature of Japanese racing, combined with the relative anonymity of most of the runners to North American horseplayers, there exists great opportunities to cash big bets in the superfecta pools. There is a betting strategy that many North American followers of Japan racing like to use on these days that cuts the cost of a superfecta ticket while still providing adequate coverage.

The essential mechanics of the bet would work like this:

  1. Build a normal trifecta bet in whatever manner you think gives you a good shot at hitting it.
  2. Single the longest price on the board in the fourth position on the ticket.

Here's the thought behind this strategy: Many, many times the superfecta on Japanese races in the North American pools will pay to "ALL" in the fourth position. Why? Because usually there are huge fields and the American bettors really can't sort one longshot from the other. When you combine that with the fact that the pools are relatively small (and every combination is not in play) you get a situation where many times there isn't one player that picked all four runners in the Super. By playing the longest shot on the board in the fourth position, and by singling that horse in that position, you dramatically cut the cost of your superfecta ticket AND you'll get paid if an "ALL" situation arises. If one of the favorites comes in 4th your ticket will probably end up in the trash. But if any of the longshots get up for that last position you have a chance to cash even though you didn't have that horse on your ticket provided that nobody else had that horse either.

UPDATED 10:25 PM:

Wonder Acute is sitting at 7/1 in the current North American pools...that's right about where I wanted to see him. I'm interested to see if that holds over the next five to ten minutes. Vermillion is holding around 7/2 while Tizway has been pounded to 9/5...eh, I don't know about that.

UPDATED 10:35 PM:

Just want to clarify my comment on the 9/5 odds for Tizway: it's not that I don't think this horse can win, I'm sure he's talented enough, but I just couldn't bet him at 9/5 or 2/1, or anything under 5/1. I think that is terrible value in a field of 16 horses especially when this 9/5 shot has traveled half-way across the world to compete at a track he's never raced over before and he's a horse that likes to be near the lead and the pace should be hot. His odds right now just don't represent anything close to good value and his profile doesn't scream "favorite".

UPDATED 11:02 PM:

Where the heck was Suni in that pace scenario? Good lord...you've got a front running sprinter stretching out, which usually means he'll be up setting the pace, and instead he ends up suffuled far back in the early going. Espoir City, without a contentious pace, just steamrolled the field and easily won the 2009 Japan Dirt Cup. Wonder Acute was hung wide early, made a middle move but never threatened the runaway winner. If I caught the call correctly, Suni finished dead last.

Tizway proved to be an awful bet at the 3/1 odds he went off at finishing well back. After pressing the early fractions, the American colt was done before they even started rolling towards the judge and was no where near the front when it was all said and done.