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Lovely Maria’s Delaware Oaks Loss Causes Calamity Payoffs

Lovely Maria’s Delaware Oaks Loss Causes Calamity Payoffs: Lovely Maria frustrated a couple of deep-pocketed show bettors last Saturday when she failed to hit the board in the Delaware Oaks (GIII). Because she was such a heavy favorite in the show pool, which is separate from the win pool, the payoffs for show bets resulted in huge numbers. Show bets on Calamity Kate, Peace and War and Hip Hop N Jazz paid $79.40, $29.40 and $59.40 for each of those three respectively. Meanwhile, show bettors that supported Lovely Maria were left scratching their heads at how the Kentucky Oaks (GI) champion could run so poorly.

A logical person will assume Lovely Maria used this race as a tune-up and will return a winner next time. Until then, beginners can study and use the Delaware Oaks as an example of how to approach races with one star horse and far less popular challengers. Anytime a horse wins the Kentucky Oaks, her fan base grows exponentially, and the pools will reflect that. Not only did she win the Oaks, trainer Larry Jones is a fan-favorite who excels with female horses. He trained 2008 Kentucky Derby (GI) runner-up Eight Belles and 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, among others.

Only the question of whether bridge jumpers would show up remained. Readers might still wonder what makes a bridge jumper in betting. Bridge jumpers throw an extraordinary amount of money into the show pool on the heavy favorite. If a horse attracts over $50k in the show pool, and the others only show a few hundred or remain in the low thousands, that is a bridge-jumping situation.

The term is not taken literally, but the bridge-jumper label suggests the bettor will find a bridge and jump off when the bet fails to pan out. Bettors can play against the bridge jumper with a sound strategy, or they can skip the race. Is it so bad to skip races? Almost no turf writer encourages the practice, and it is puzzling why that strategy is taboo.

Some people like to make show bets on every other horse besides the superstar, and hope the end result gives them a profit. That is not a poor strategy. At least, they went against the heavy favorite and took their chances with something a little more creative. But, think about one constant phenomenon with late closers. They always seem to clunk their way onto the board. On the flip side, speed horses are subject to being caught in unfavorable duels. Why not focus on an overlooked closer with ability in the show pool and use that horse?

In the Delaware Oaks, the right closer turned out to be Hip Hop N Jazz, who “clunked” her way into third with a fine performance after starting the race from behind. To use a different example, when Shared Belief was pulled up in the Charles Town Classic (GII), the defending champion Imperative closed for a second-place finish. He paid $71.20 to show. Closers are not subject to getting caught in a pace duel, which makes them more attractive against the bridge jumper.

For a speed horse, an extremely hot pace will often produce devastating effects and result in a huge-margin loss. Game On Dude proved this in the 2014 San Antonio Stakes (GII), when Blueskiesnrainbows would not let the popular gelding set an easy lead. Consequently, both horses paid the price finishing fifth and sixth. Therefore, when the heavy favorite loves setting the pace, going with a lesser-quality longshot with speed to play against the bridge jumper is often a poor idea. Even in other instances, it just seems safer to go with the horse that will be moving towards the leaders late, not the other way around. The advice is not set in stone, however, as Calamity Kate led from start to finish in her trouncing of the Delaware Oaks field.

Why bet Lovely Maria using a show bet when the expected payoff will result in a 10 or 20 cent profit for every two dollars anyway? Well, there is the mindset that making a gigantic wager on a “sure thing” will result in easy money. Hypothetically, if Lovely Maria hit the board and someone had a $2k show bet on her, the profit would be $100. But, the risk for such a miniscule reward compared to the initial wager makes the play dangerous.

Bridge-jumping scenarios will not always involve a higher-level star. It is just easier to predict the situation because popularity drives down value. Scan through the past performances for any lower-tier racetrack one day and see if there is an even-money shot somewhere in a small field of unlikely upsetters. Bridge jumpers might come and now beginners reading this know how to beat them, or at least break even.

Delaware Park

Delaware Park Paddock by John Wayne via deljocks.com.

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