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Blog - GAMBLING

Photos courtesy Eclipse Sportswire

As much as it was won by a heavy favorite who was nearly 10 lengths ahead at the finish, the $1 million Haskell Invitational offered a somewhat subtle handicapping lesson.

The race featured two top contenders in a horse who was second in the Belmont Stakes and won the Preakness in his two most recent starts and a horse who was 14th in the Kentucky Derby in his lone Triple Crown appearance.

On that information alone, it would seem that Oxbow, the Preakness victor, should have been favored over Verrazano, the Derby also-ran.

But in the end, it was Verrazano who went off a 6-5 favorite and posted the largest winning margin in the history of the mile and an eighth Haskell – albeit an injury to Oxbow made things easier for him.

Why?

Because Oxbow was being asked to play Verrazano’s game.

OXBOW AT THE BEGINNING OF THE HASKELL

Oxbow Inside

Had the Haskell been a mile and a quarter race, like the upcoming Travers, Oxbow might have been the favorite. In three races at distances beyond 1 1/8 miles, Oxbow was sixth in the Derby (finishing well ahead of Verrazano), won the Preakness and was second in the Belmont.

He clearly has plenty of stamina.

Yet in races at 1 1/8 miles or less, Oxbow had won only 2 of 9 starts.

Verrazano, meanwhile, was undefeated in five starts at 1 1/8 miles or less. As questionable as he still might be at a classic 10-furlong distance, Verrazano was the better fit at nine furlongs.

Plus, while Oxbow was making his first start since a grueling Triple Crown campaign, Verrazano had prepped for the Haskell by turning in a sensational effort at Monmouth as he captured the Pegasus by 9 ¼ lengths on June 16.

Putting it all together, while Oxbow may have enjoyed a class edge, it was Verrazano who had the conditions – namely the distance and experience over the racetrack – in his favor.

Everyone else had to play his game, and the payoff for knowing that may have been a paltry $4.20 at the betting windows on Haskell Day, but could be much more lucrative in similar circumstances down the road.

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

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