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Hot tips

With so many horse players having gone zero for the Triple Crown series, perhaps it's time to refigure the way to best handicap a horse race.

Opinion without good picks is nonsense.

First off, the Beyer numbers -- many look at these figures as a substitute for solid thought and good logic. It isn't a bad line of reasoning: Let somebody far smarter than I am pick a winner. But the Beyer numbers aren't intended to be a pick-all, the cure-all. The Beyer number is a handicapping tool, far more valuable than a simple speed rating based on a percent of the track record. But any power rating number will carry you only so far in a gamble -- to the edge of a decision. Those playing the highest Beyer numbers in the Triple Crown races are wondering what just ran over them. Again. The ability to reason, to solve a puzzle amid all the clues and rascals, is what consistent winners have in common.

Certain Beyer numbers seem to be slightly inflated upon occasion.

Those are:

Mud Beyers: Water changes everything.
Fake dirt Beyers: Eliminating fake dirt to real dirt stars can be fun.
Short-field Beyers: Winning off the pace versus four means little.

Consistently great Beyer figures are:

- Numbers that indicate marked improvement.
- Cheap-horse Beyer numbers.

Here's a decent way to handicap a race: Look for the fewest number of predictors for a loss.

In the Belmont Stakes, Dullahan had numerous go-against angles: Never won on the dirt. A work that was too fast. A late running style. I'll Have Another was debatable before the scratch: No official works after two grueling races, too much jogging. Paynter was improving wildly and faced no lead speed. The two knocks on Union Rags had been minimized before the race -- it now had a jockey who knew the territory, and a field too uncompetitive to cause much trouble.

Seven to one on the top two (an exacta box), without the favorite, probably should have paid a little more but who's complaining all that much.

Here's a handicapping thought that can frequently pay off, primarily in the boondocks.

Lots of times you catch horses that ran together four or five races back, finished a length or so apart, and now go off at vastly different odds, seemingly because horse players are in a hurry. Last week I found two horses that were a length apart three races back. In the meanwhile the one that had been a length behind had caught a lousy post and rotten weather. It went off at 16-1. The other horse was off two meaningless thirds and was the favorite at 2-1. The 16-1 horse caught a simple trip and went around the field like a freight train passing some hobos and put up a $148 exacta.

If a person will go out there and get an attention span this summer, it could open up lots of treasures.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.