How to Handicap International Races with Michael The Champ Beychok
by MICHAEL "The Champ" BEYCHOK
I’m on the first leg of a 20-hour trip to the United Arab Emirates to watch the richest race in the world, the $10-million Dubai World Cup.
I’ve never been to Dubai for the races, but I’ve always looked forward to its carnival of racing each spring to see the best horses in the world compete against each other. In addition to the big race this year, I’m interested in whether a UAE Derby winner finally shows enough stuff to merit a chance in the Kentucky Derby.
Anyway, it’s a long trip, and I’m using most of it to prepare for the TwinSpires.com Players Pool on Saturday’s races. Here is my approach to handicapping world-class international racing, which requires deciphering the form of horses from different continents. Sure, racing from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe is a regular part of the wagering menu at TwinSpires.com, but the element of mixing those circuits makes the handicapping puzzle all the more complicated.
So where do I start? With the Brisnet.com Past Performances, which are free for all international racing, including Dubai. While Brisnet.com’s international PPs do not include the “Ultimate” information found in those PPs on the international horses, they do help answer several important questions.
1. Has a horse shipped and run well before?
a. X Y Jet, for example, will be a heavy favorite in the $2-million Golden Shaheen six-furlong spring, but he’s a risk at a short price given his lack of shipping experience. California Chrome and Frosted, by contrast, have shipped and won, including into Dubai. Pay close attention to horses who have shipped to different tracks and performed well.
2. What quality fields has this horse faced?
a. Another element I look closely at when deciphering the form of international stars is company running lines, and by that I mean simply who have you beaten and got beaten by recently. Now, I’m not suggesting this is an easy task since most of the horses are not instantly recognizable to American punters, but with careful study we can usually find a gem of a running line that points to an in-form horse ready to run in Meydan. It’s not as easy as spotting a class drop or company lines in American races, but it can lead to a better understanding of the relative talent level a horse possesses versus his/her opponents on World Cup Day.
3. Does this horse pass the eye test?
a. This is where I put the PPs aside and experience these horses for myself. That can be more easily said than done with international races since replays are not as readily available on TwinSpiresTV as they are for domestic races, but it’s usually worth the effort.
b. I have a theory that Speed Ratings matter less with better horses. E.g., I can see with my own eyes that Kentucky Derby winners California Chrome or American Pharoah—while not running what speed handicappers would call the “fastest” figures—were something special. Similarly, looking at Frosted’s last race or the race of UAE Derby contender Lani two back showed me that these horses have that special eye catching move and despite not knowing how their times stack up or who they were running against it sure did look fast. Take a close look at the turf races from horses shipping in, and I guarantee you will find something that catches your eye and warrants a bet.
So that’s how I’m spending my 20-hour journey to Dubai in the hopes of spending Saturday night spending the money I’ve won.
Michael Beychok won the 2012 National Handicapping Championhip after qualifying via TwinSpires.com He is a regular TwinSpires.com players' pool participant and a member of the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters Association. Follow him on Twitter @BeychokRacing