The Horse Race Insider is a privately owned magazine. All copyrights reserved. “Bet with your head, not over it.”

The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Keith Pettyjohn — Before we close the books on this year’s Kentucky Oaks and Derby, let’s take a closer look at the lessons that as horseplayer’s we should have learned.

First, let’s look at the numbers for the 3-5 favorite, Gamine. Many of the HRI Faithful will recall a piece I wrote here on August 12 [see archives]

We talked about Gamine running a faster time than Serengeti Empress yet earning a lower Class-Based Performance Rating. Gamine earned a 96 for her effort in winning the Grade 1 Test Stakes; Serengeti Empress earned a 101 for her Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes score.

Now let’s contrast what each horse earned for their last efforts this past weekend. As we know, Gamine took the lead in the Grade 1 Oaks but faded to finish third.

Gamine’s Class-Based Performance Rating was a 98, right in-line with her previous effort of 96 in the Test, actually even a slight move forward.

Serengeti Empress was just nipped at the wire in the Derby City Distaff and earned a 101, exactly what she earned previously in the Ballerina. Let’s look at a second Oaks runner, Swiss Skydiver.

Prior to the Oaks, she ran in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga last month, earned a 100 Class-Based Performance Figure for the effort.

Swiss Skydiver was a good second behind rapidly developing Shedaresthedevil, beaten by one and a half lengths, again earning a 100 rating.

These are text book examples showing how Class-Based Performance Ratings are very solid.

Those of us who utilize information provided by HRI and at can enjoy an advantage over those who use speed and pace figures alone. Class Figures add needed perspective to race clockings.

Armed with Class knowledge, there’s no way bettors ever should have taken such a short price on Gamine.

In full disclosure, I did not arrive on Shedaresthedevil as being the winner, although there’s something to be said about a horse whose numbers are improving and fits the Horse for Course angle and is now 3 for 3 at Churchill Downs.

As for the boys in the 146th renewal of the Derby, let’s begin with a look at second favorite and fourth place finisher, Honor A.P.  HAP won the Santa Anita Derby on June 6th and earned a Class-Based Performance Rating of a 101.

In his next start, the Shared Belief at Del Mar, he finished second to Thousand Words, beaten three parts of a length and matching his SA Derby Rating of 101.

In the Derby, Honor A.P. finished five lengths back and earned a figure of 100. All his figures are solid and right in-line with each other.

Let’s move on 3-5 favorite, Tiz The Law. He earned a Class-Based Performance Rating of 104 winning the Grade 1 Travers Stakes on August 8th.

In the Derby, he finished second by a length and a quarter, earning a Performance Rating of 106, in-line and even slightly better than his Travers. He truly was gallant in defeat.

Finally, a review of Derby-winning Authentic: In each of his Graded Stakes Races when he was able to make the lead and set his own pace, he was able to move his Class-Based Performance ratings forward by sizable margins.

In the Grade 3 Sham in January he earned a 86, then a 97 in the Grade 2 San Felipe in March, and a Figure of 100 for the G1 Haskell Stakes in July.

Last Saturday, Authentic earned a Class-Based Performance Rating of 108 winning Derby-146.

Of note, I draw your attention to his last four Derby workouts. On August 13th, he worked a bullet 1:12 3/5 going six panels. Then came another six furlongs six days later, the fastest of three that day.

Six days after that, in preparation for a distance he had never won, Bob Baffert sent him one mile, reminiscent of the legendary Charlie Whittingham.

And, finally, just six days later, Baffert fired another bullet work going three-quarters of a mile, thus assuring that his horse would not come up short in the biggest race of his life. It was a brilliant blend of speed and stamina.

I went through this exercise of showing the numbers and breaking them down to say that there was no way bettors should have taken such a short price on either the Oaks or Derby favorite. They clearly were underlays.

Gamine was a 3-5 favorite despite not possessing the best Class-Based figures in the field. Had he won, Tiz The Law would have paid $3.40 straight. Yet he paid that exact amount for place, and a generous $3.20 to show.

If ever there ever was money laying in the street waiting for horseplayers to go pick it up, it was evident in the place and show pools, which often get swept up in the excitement of betting on a Derby winner. 

So remember this the next time that we are faced with big fields, vulnerable favorites and potential overlays in all pools, Let’s, myself included, do a better job of paying closer attention to the Class-Based Performance Figures, finding value in each race, and get rewarded when we’re right.

The parimutuel examples above were opportunities we let slip though our fingers. There’s was money to be made betting these races. Those who made some money betting could have, with proper focus, made more.

“MAKING THE GRADE” Graded Stakes AUG 31 — SEP 5

A+ : Kentucky Derby, Woodward Handicap, Turf Classic Stakes
A : Alysheba Stakes, Derby City Distaff  Distaff Turf Mile, Jim Dandy, Kentucky Oaks, Turf Sprint Stakes, Jim Dandy Stakes  A- : American Turf Stakes, Glens Falls, La Troienne, Red Bank B+ : Eighth Belles, John C Mabee, Pat Day Mile, Smile Sprint, Vigil Stakes B : Edgewood Stakes, Prioress Stakes C : Iroquois Stakes C- : Pocahontas Stakes

Class-Based Performance Figures:

Authentic-108, Digital Age-107, Global Campaign-105, Beau Recall-103, Shesharesthedevil-103, By My Standards-102, Diamond Oops-102, Analyze It-101, Bell’s The One-101, Monomoy Girl-101, Mystic Guide-97, Civil Union-96, Fancy Liquor-96, Rushie-95, Cool Arrow-94, Pink Lloyd-94, Raymundo’s Secret-94, Frank’s Rockette-92, Sharing-89, Sittin On Go-82, Girl Daddy-77

Facebook Share
Twitter Share
LinkedIn Share

⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

10 Responses

  1. Good stuff – and i did recall the discussion after Gamine & Empress last ran; it kept me off Gamine on Friday (though not on the winner).

    It is interesting to read that Tiz’ Derby grades out as well as it does. This should further calm any criticism of Franco, if any still does exist. He was just beaten by the horse that was better that day.

    1. Thank You
      And Keeping money “off” of the wrong horse is a bit of a win in itself.

      A couple of other things to think about when looking at how strong the figures came back for the derby:
      1) These horses are now 4 months older than they would have been if this race was in early May
      2) Baffert put one helluva work tab up under Authentic

  2. Keith, I very much enjoy reading your class based valuations and now they indeed will be considered a value added component of the handicapping process. Never quite sure how to value class previously. Always knew it was there and considered class, but kind of guessed on how to factor it in. What a refreshing new view now added to the HRI artistic template. I’ll next sign up for your free account access as there are so many great class based races ahead. Especially when considering the top echeleon rated three year olds joining the dance with the elders. Always treasured watching Wajima taking on Forego for example. The fall is racing at the highest level, before so many talented runners take their exit for the breeding sheds and the cycle repeats itself.

    1. Thanks McD

      Class was always a tricky component for me as well. We see it, we know its there, but I’m a numbers guy. What da heck am I going to do with? Well I accepted Mr. Fotias’ challenge back in 2012 to come up with a way to translate the class of a race into a number and to measure it’s impact on a race. I will say that it truly wasn’t easy. It took 6 years of burning the midnight oils to develop an algorithm, beta-test it and to fine tune it.

      And give John the credit for having the vision of partnering together to bring this information to the HRI Faithful. It was his “reaching out” that made this happen

  3. Correct on all counts, Doc. And I too remember the Keith piece, preferred ‘Skydiver’– but was too chicken to back a slower but projected forward filly at a price. Making rookie mistakes at my age unforgivable.

    1. Mistakes?
      Well that’s a funny thing about this game, it does not matter what your age is. As I look back at this Derby several things REALLY jump out at me. Several I mentioned in the piece

      1) Tiz The Law would have paid $3.40 to win if he would have won. Yet he paid $3.40 to place and an extremely generous $3.20 to show. These two pools were HUGE value plays. It’s amazing that there wasn’t more “Bridge Jumping” going here on Tiz.

      2) I did well in the win pool and got almost 20-1 in the exacta pool. But I didn’t go deep enough in the trifecta or use more horses on the third line of my supers (I had all in fourth). This could have taken a GOOD day and made it into a GREAT day…WEEK…even MONTH….with just a little better analysis and ticket construction.

      3) Ticket Construction….and sometimes playing too small of a ticket……are two areas that I can truly get better at

  4. J & K, I will never forget the experience of betting on a 3:1 WAYA over a 1:5 odds on, and feeling Dumber than Dumb on watching and winning the wager. I saw the pool disparity at 1 minute to post. Too late to run for the windows. I collected $8 and some change, but the place wager returned $56 and change. After that, I have always watched the board with odds on, and often times will wager on the second and third choices for second hoping the odds on runs out. I have even cashed on a field with only five runners. Not often, but when it happens, make the wager.

  5. I have a friend that plays out at Lone Star Park, he’s constantly watching the place and show pools at a dozen tracks just looking “Bridge Jumpers” and big pool disparities so that he can take a stance against them. He has cashed $100 place and show bets for a $2 bet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *