It’s always a good exercise to look at longshot winners and see what you may have missed.
I decided to analyze every double-digit winner at the NHC this year to see what I missed, and what I did right. This is the biggest money contest of the year, so it makes sense to study up for future contests. These lessons can also apply to any mythical WP tourney, if you are seeking out prices.
Here are the 25 horses to hit at 10-1 or higher at the NHC 2019. (M) means it was a mandatory race.
FG 9 – Unk’s Red Man 40-1
GG 2 – Indian Head Nickle 15-1 [Maiden]
GP 7 – Be Gone Daddy 11-1
SA 5 – Forestation 20-1
TAM 4 -M- Wicked Boy 15-1 (turf)
TAM 8 – Over to You 12-1 (turf)
FG 4 – C Islandsurprise 12-1
GP 5 – Mega Fortune 41-1 (turf) [Maiden]
GP 7 – Papa Y 58-1 [Maiden]
GP 8 – Trilby 12-1 (turf)
LRL 5 – Lordhavemercy 41-1 [Maiden]
LRL 9 – Mortal Storm 13-1 [Maiden]
OAK 2 – Shakedown 18-1
OAK 4 – Joy in the Journey 33-1 [Maiden]
OAK 8 -M- Paintergone 27-1
OAK 9 – Raphael 38-1 [Maiden]
SA 6 – Hero for Hire 12-1
SA 7 – True Valour 11-1 (turf)
SA 9 -M- Platinum Warrior 16-1 (turf)
TAM 3 – Call Me Handsome 10-1
TAM 7 – Zorb 11-1 [Maiden]
TAM 12 – Funny Questions 10-1 (turf)
Day 3 (only contest races)
FG 3 – Reaffirmed 31-1 [Maiden]
GG 8 -M- I Love Romance 12-1
OAK 8 -M- Heavy Roller 12-1
Here’s race 1 of 25. This was a mandatory and one I hit. WICKED BOY was classic 3rd off layoff, and had back numbers that were competitive on turf. I should have circled the 69 Beyer here.
Theme: 3rd off layoff, improving young 4YO.
2 of 25 is INDIAN HEAD NICKLE. I didn’t see this one coming, but it makes some sense. Showed speed first time going 2 turns, earning highest Beyer. Took a little time off and while doing that logged two bullets. Then wired the GG 2nd at 15-1. Feel like I should have seen this, but it was 6-1 ML in a 6-horse field, and in the tumult of races, sometimes you just have to write PASS and leave them alone. Raise your hand if you played this one!
Theme: Layoff, improving young 4YO, showed speed first time routing on the dirt, improved 2 turns, potential wire job.
3 of 25 is BE GONE DADDY. This was a tough one for me to have. The 6-5 favorite Vincero looked like a Navarro you didn’t want to mess with. BE GONE showed a perky work prior to two races before. Matched top on Sheets so was eligible to move forward. If they did it again I would still pass.
Theme: Improving young 4YO.
4 of 25 is FORESTATION in SA 5th. 5-horse field, 8-1 ML. You write PASS and move on. But this one drifted to 20-1! Showed speed and won first time 2 turns. Notice (not circled since I saw only after screenshot), got a 5lb weight break. Not going to beat myself up over this one.
Theme: Weight matters, improved 2-turns, showed speed first-time routing, hot trainer, potential wire job.
5 of 25: UNK’S RED MAN at FG 9th was brutal! We pass the race because it’s ugly and 7 horses. But @truxtonstables (Marshall Gramm, 9th and 48th place finisher) hit. Hope he shares why he played it. Here’s my analysis: horse hated slop (0-0-0/12 in slop), and 2 races off layoff were slop. This is fast track 3rd off layoff. Had back numbers saying competitive. Was 40-1. I’m not a religious man, but GOOD GOD. Note horse hit for same trainer at 40-1 in 2017.
Theme: 3rd off layoff, back numbers, fast track form, potential wire job.
According to Marshall Gramm: “The 2 sts at EvD were sneaky good from a pace standpoint (see Scott’s pace figs or @timeformus). He figured to get the lead in this spot. In a 7 horse field he could even get loose as jocks on the favs might ignore him a hopeless. 3rd off the layoff. And speed was carrying at FG. Furthermore, he was going to be a giant price. Thus spooked me – he was 62/1 last out and over 70/1 in his 3 sts in the spring at EvD. But I thought he was so insane a play that no one else would have him. Turns out @BlinkersOn22 (Matt Vagvolgyy, 3rd in the NHC) also used him.”
6 of 25: OVER TO YOU won TAM 8th at 12-1. Horse was no faster than others, but was coming off a win, and was not much slower than others. Young 4YOs often keep on improving. There’s that theme again. This horse had the 10-post and carried highest weight. I would have never had her. But she was 5/5 in the money on TAM turf.
Theme: Improving young 4YO.
7 of 25 brings us to day 2 of NHC. C ISLAND SURPRISE had back numbers and was 3rd off a solid layoff. This horse was crushable, but it was a 6-horse field and he was 8-1 ML so I ignored the race. Lesson: Keep an eye on all odds if possible.
Theme: 3rd off layoff, back numbers.
8 of 25 is MEGA FORTUNE, who won at 41-1 first time turf. I could barely see it on breeding, but there was a snappy work on turf, and DRF Works gave it a B and noted that he jumped on the green. Lot of players including Littlemore had this one. With a lot of first-time turfers in this race, there were a lot of directions. This was the right one.
Theme: Good works, notable improvement turf works.
9 of 25 is PAPA Y at 58-1!!! First, a terrible field, so anything was possible. Look at that fast gate work Nov 2. Then in his next race he runs near the lead against a big closer bias, those numbers provided by Racing Flow. This is one I really regret not nailing. Chris Fallica played the horse and said this: “I had this one and can echo it being an awful field with a very beatable favorite. Thought he would make the lead and trainer had some positive angles to work with as well.”
Theme: Picked up works, ran against bias previous race, layoff.
10 of 25 is… TRILBY from GP at 12-1. He is also an improving young 4YO. Look at his fastest work Dec 27, then trouble both races after that. He also matched his top on the Sheets which is always actionable. Will tally the “improving young 4YO” angle when finished.
Theme: Improving young 4YO, trouble last two races, picked up works.
11 of 25 is LORDHAVEMERCY as a FTS who won at 41-1! I chose to ignore Laurel but that was a mistake. Horse was working fine, trainer had won off layoffs indicating he could hit with first-timer. And I just noticed, was 3/4 ITM at the meet.
Theme: Solid works, trainer knocking on door.
12 of 25 is MORTAL STORM who won at LRL at 13-1. Horse almost won debut at 53-1 despite breaking slow. Previous 3 races were mud, turf, turf. Fast track today. Trainer had two 2nds out of 4 races this meet.
Theme: Adverse conditions several races.
13 of 25 is SHAKEDOWN from Oak 2nd. He won at 18-1 off a 5-month freshening as… a young 4YO! Had back numbers as a young 3YO, so if he could improve… (no I did not have him, I get another longshot who ran up the track).
Theme: Layoff, improving young 4YO.
14 of 25 JOY IN THE JOURNEY was a 33-1 first-timer in OAK 4th. Solid gate work as young 3YO and now is… a young 4YO! Trainer runs rarely but can hit. Positive ROI with jock.
Theme: First time starter, solid works.
15 of 25 is PAINTERGONE, 27-1, in a mandy at OAK. Won debut at 33-1 under Borel, super sharp works, ran strong number as 3YO. Any improvement as 5YO made him contender. Lots of people had this as it was a mandy, but a goody! This one got me close to final cut but didn’t quite make it.
Theme: Layoff, back numbers, solid works.
16 of 25 is RAPHAEL at 38-1 at OAK! Lots had this, and I should have too. Just missed it with other contenders. Look at that sharp gate work just before the race. And Zito was 1/2 at the meet. Showed speed debut, then was against speed flow in 2nd race. Also a young 4YO!
Theme: Layoff, young 4YO, solid works, against flow previous race, “warm” trainer.
17 of 25 is HERO FOR HIRE, 12-1 at SA. Main angle is carrying only 112 lbs vs others carrying 119-124. Figs were competitive and had trouble in last race. Weight matters when it’s that much!
Theme: Trouble last, low weight.
18 of 25 is TRUE VALOUR, who won at 11-1 at SA. I played last minute this watching the horse drift to 11-1. Figs were same as others, just an overlay. 2nd off layoff, solid comeback race, and won a G3 as a 4YO.
Theme: Second off layoff, simple overlay.
19 of 25 is PLATINUM WARRIOR at 16-1 in a mandy at SA. Crazy race with lots of bombs. This one had won a G3 at the distance in Europe with this same jockey, had competitive figs, and was… an improving young 4YO! Also sharpest 6F work since arriving in US.
Theme: Improving young 4YO, solid works.
20 of 25 is CALL ME HANDSOME, 10-1 at TAM. Similar past figs as the rest of field, was 3rd off layoff, and showed speed in both those races. I almost played this one, but the sloppy field scared me off, and it was early in the day.
Theme: 3rd off layoff.
21 of 25 is ZORB, an 11-1 first-timer at TAM. I usually like a faster gate work, but at least his was a bullet, and the trainer was 9/20 in the exacta at the meet! This was a tough race though with lots of possibilities, and was pure guess-work, IMO. Still, this would have been a good guess 🙂
Theme: First-time starter, solid works, hot trainer.
22 of 25 is the last double-digit winner of day 2 (in order of my list, not actual races). FUNNY QUESTIONS won at 10-1 at Tampa. He was 5-1 ML, and I wrote “watch for value” but just missed watching the odds. He was 2nd off a layoff, and had perkiest works since 2017 before the layoff race.
Theme: 2nd off layoff, solid works.
23 of 25 brings out day 3 value. REAFFIRMED won FG 3rd at 31-1. Solid gate works, trainer had won with one FTS, and was 9% lifetime, per Thorograph. There was just nothing wrong with this horse, and bug rider had raced 6 times for trainer. Helped me get 3rd in the conso tourney.
Theme: First-time starter, steady works, low weight.
24 of 25 is I LOVE ROMANCE from a Final Table race. There was a fave that was clearly faster… but what if they ran an off race? This one was 3/last 4, carrying 5 less lbs than fave. Trainer 29%. 2nd off short layoff, and… an improving young 4YO! Ballsy pick by winner of NHC.
Theme: 2nd off layoff, hot trainer, improving young 4YO.
25 of 25 was my play of the day, real-money crush. HEAVY ROLLER, 12-1, 2nd off layoff, back numbers, SIZZLE works, and fave was a 1-turn horse. More a Sheet play than anything so I include it. Circling back to a top of 1.5. Looks like he may have run new top with 7L win.
Theme: Solid works.
Here is a tally of themes for double-digit scores at the 2019 NHC:
Solid workouts: 12
Improving young 4YO: 9
1st off layoff: 5
3rd off layoff: 4
2nd off layoff: 3
First-time starter: 3
Hot trainer: 3
Carried less weight: 3
Back numbers: 3
Potential to wire: 3
Showed speed first time route: 2
Improved first-time route: 2
Trouble past races: 2
Trainer knocking on door: 2
Ran against flow/bias last race: 2
Adverse conditions previous race: 1
There are other themes. I never look at class, but a bunch of these were going down in class. There may be other commonalities you may see. If so, please feel free to tweet @CarsoniPH.
Now, may we learn to spot these horses in the Horseplayer World Series Mar 28!
Scott Carson is the founder of Public Handicapper.com — the longest running handicapping contest on the internet, since 1999. He finished 6th in the 2018 NHC, and 12th in the 2018 Horseplayer World Series. He is currently trying his hand as a professional horseplayer.