Anatomy of a Longshot
I'd like to start with a disclaimer. There is a bit of humblebrag to this article. (Maybe just a brag without the humble). Those that know me know I'm not a flag waver. I'm going to make an exception here.
On my 4/5/20 Oaklawn Park analysis report, I had #8 Shashashakemeup on top in the final race. He was 30-1 on the morning line. He ended up going off at 49-1 and won.
It isn't often you can have a positive opinion on a 50-1 shot. They are that price for a reason. In this case there was much to like if you were forgiving of his last few starts. That is the key really. Allow yourself to be forgiving and it will open the door to more longshots. My approach is to try to find excuses for poor efforts on longer priced runners but be more demanding and less forgiving on shorter prices.
A Little Background
Horse racing has been in my blood since I was 17 years old. I went to the track for the first time in 1986 and caught the "bug" immediately. I spent the next several years reading loads of material on the subject of handicapping. I read Andy Beyer to Steve Davidowitz and everything in between. The relationship between mining for hidden data and applying the process of predictive analysis was something that really appealed to me.
Over the next 30+ years I've handicapped more races than I care to admit. There is one irrefutable truth in this game. No matter what kind of streak you are on you'll peak at picking around 30% of the races correctly. The key is to make the 30% count.
I've had my opinions in the public domain since 1999. I started Track Phantom in 2012 and posted thousands of full card reports over the years. I have a few goals relating to the handicapping reports:
1. Be unpredictable.
2. Create something sharp handicappers would want.
3. Make it easy to read and understand.
4. Provide something unique.
I normally spend around two hours per card and sometimes longer depending on the number of races and complexity. It's not easy to invest the time since I have a full-time job outside of horse racing. But I vowed to never put something out that wasn't heavily researched (even if the results don't always make that point obvious). The recent isolation created by the Coronavirus pandemic has given me plenty of time to indulge in the handicapping process.
Shashashakemeup was an outsider in a very strong optional claimer in the 9th race at Oaklawn Park. The race was headlined by Ginobili trained by Richard Baltas. He was last seen running second to the highly touted, undefeated Bob Baffert colt, Nadal. He would end up going off at 4-5 in this race and finish a non-threatening 5th.
There were a few things that caught my eye with Shashashakemeup. First, I always look for horses making changes especially if it is for a trainer who is known to spring upsets. This one last ran at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf at Fair Grounds and was off slow from an inside post. That is a tough thing to overcome for a runner cutting back from long distance races.
He had split the field in the G3 Lecomte. That was a legitimate run against some of the better three-year olds. He pressed a fast pace from the 12 post and hung in for much of the race.
The only fast track sprint this one had was in the debut when he crushed a MSW field at Churchill Downs. While the Oaklawn Park track would come up wet, I always assume a poor effort on something other than fast or firm is the result of the horse not wanting THAT surface. Many assume anything wet is the same. I don't. I think some horses will like a certain surface with give in the ground and then dislike a similar surface in another race. In other words, the ground they travel on is different from race to race even at the same track.
Finally, there is one thing we know about Keith Desormeaux. He loves to beat high priced horses with those he picked up on the cheap. I might normally be discouraged by the $45,000 price tag this one brought at the 2018 October OBS sale. But Desormeaux has a knack of turning this kind of inexpensive horse into a top class runner. He paid just $110,000 for Exaggerator (winner of the 2016 Santa Anita Derby and 3rd in the 2016 Kentucky Derby) and $17,000 for Texas Red (winner of the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile).
OK, lets add a dose of reality here. A lot of luck goes into tagging a 50-1 winner. We all are touched with good luck from time to time. But, as they say: Luck is the residue of design. Or, maybe more appropriately in this case: Luck never gives, it only lends.