Okay, maybe it's not "free", but it sure feels like it.
An odd little phenomenon occured at Gulfstream Park yesterday and it's something that occurred a couple of weeks ago, as well. There were two races on Saturday run on the "outer" turf course, in other words, with the rail up at 108 feet. You'll see the rail in many different positions throughout the meet but it's when it gets out to around 80 feet or more that you really have to take note.
In the fourth race, a 1 1/16 mile $30k claimer, the 6-It's Not For Love grabbed an easy early lead, led by 4 lengths after six furlongs, and cruised to win at odds of 11/1. In the past performances it was pretty clear that a) this was a race without a lot of pace, and that b) the 6 absolutely wanted the lead.
In the tenth race, the Sunshine Millions Turf at a mile and an eighth, the 11 horse, Jet Propulsion, easily broke on top and had the lead by six lengths after a half mile. He went on to win by two lengths at odds of 3/1. Once again, in the past performances in was clear that there was a lack of pace and that Jet Propulsion was it. (I'll also add that Julien Leparoux was riding Jet Propulsion and that kid knows how to win on the lawn.)
After the first race, when I got beat by the horse on the lead, I was cursing the other jockeys for letting It's Not For Love have an easy lead when the turf course had a rail at 108 feet. After the second race, I was counting my money and thanking the other jockeys for not having learned their lesson from the fourth race.
The only conclusion that I can draw from these recent events is that the jockeys either don't know or don't care that speed is killing when the rail in at 80 to 108 feet. I would think that they all know that, but if they did how in the world do they let quality animals grab an early lead? It's Not For Love is one thing - he was 11/1 and I could see the jocks thinking "this horse can't make it all the way." But that line of thinking doesn't apply to Jet Propulsion, a horse that absolutely had the ability to go gate to wire (and had done so on many occasions). And let me say this, I think that 3/1 odds on Jet Propulsion in that spot was just tremendous value. I had him pegged at around 9/5 to 7/5 on my line given his quality and the way the race looked to set-up for him.
Gulfstream isn't the only track where this occurs, I saw it happen at Churchill this past summer and it can happen at any track where the temporary rail is placed well out into the course. Sure, the early speed isn't going to win every single time under those conditions, especially if you run into a race where there are several horses that really do want to be in front early. But at the same time, it's not a hard angle to apply: simply watch the rail settings, grab a form, and figure out if this is a race that features some lone speed, no matter what the price.
My homework assignment for the rest of the Gulfstream meet is fairly easy: I'm going to be paying particular attention to the rail placement on the turf course from everyday here on out. Anything at 80 feet or more, along with firm course conditions, and I'm going to run to the windows to bet any lone speed that I can find.