Working With Firsters
First-time starters tend to give handicappers a severe case of the ‘willies’. Many players choose the easy way out and simply pass races dominated by newcomers while others allow themselves to be touted on debut types featuring flashy works, expensive sales numbers or blueblood pedigrees, generally at short prices.
The first approach gives them no chance to cash in on the many firsters that win (often easily) at inflated mutuels while the latter path consistently leads to torn up tickets at less than 2/1. It’s a ‘damned if you, damned if you don’t’ situation for the typical bettor.
So, you may ask, how should a value-oriented handicapper attempt to cash in on this sometimes lucrative maiden market? The significant factors are: (1) Pedigree (2) Works (3) Connections (4) Intent (5) Value.
Pedigree is the most important since statistics indicate that certain bloodlines produce more winning firsters than the norm, yet it’s the most overlooked part of the equation. Works that are solid, but somewhat subtle, are preferred to a string of rapid bullets that jump off the page and deflate the price. Successful connections are significant since honing an unraced maiden requires skill simply not possessed by many card-carrying trainers who somehow managed to get a license. Again, a low-profile, but winning, barn is more favorable than the press-heavy stables that maintain residence at the top of the standings on a meet-in-meet-out basis. However, even these outfits will send out winning rookies at nice odds on occasion. Intent is a very gray area but the one factor that seems to hold up nicely is the presence of Lasix. Firsters that open at short prices (less than 4/1) on the morning line are generally no secret and are far more likely to be overbet than underbet and playing firsters at less than 5/1 will generally produce a long-term loss.
Personally, I use the following list of sires as an index to pedigree power and, generally, eliminate firsters by all studs that do not appear. It’s a list that may not be conclusive but it contains a group of 60 producers that commonly have starters in California and allows the player to make quick eliminations in this area. Here it is:
A.P. INDY AFTERNOON DEELITES ALNAAB ALOHA PROSPECTOR AMERICAN CHANCE BASKET WEAVE BEAU GENIUS BEAUTIFUL CROWN BELONG TO ME BENTON CREEK BOSTON HARBOR BOUNDARY BROAD BRUSH CAPOTE CARSON CITY CORONADO’S QUEST CORSLEW COUNTRY LIGHT CRAFTY PROSPECTOR DEERHOUND DEHERE DEVIL HIS DUE DEVIL’S BAG DIXIELAND BAND DONERAILE COURT EDITOR’S NOTE EL PRADO FOR REALLY FOREST WILDCAT FREE AT LAST FRENCH DEPUTY GAME PLAN GENTLEMEN GILDED TIME GLITTERMAN GRINDSTONE GULCH HALF TERM HENNESSY HE’S TOPS HOLLYWOOD REPORTER HONOUR AND GLORY IDE IN EXCESS INDIAN CHARLIE IRON CAT KINGMAMBO KNIGHT IN SAVANNAH KRIS S. LANGFUHR LITE THE FUSE LOST SOLDIER LOUIS QUATORZE MEADOWLAKE MONTBROOK MOUNTAIN CAT MR PURPLE MUD ROUTE NOT TRICKY OLD STORIES OUR EMBLEM PARANOIDE PEMBROKE PERFECT MANDATE PERSONABLE JOE PETERSBURG PETIONVILLE PIONEERING POLISH NUMBERS PULPIT RAHY RED ROAR RUBIANO SALT LAKE SEATTLE SLEET SEEKING THE GOLD SILVER GHOST SIPHON SMART STRIKE SNOWBOUND SOCIETY MAX STORM BOOT STORM CAT SUPREMO SYNASTRY TABASCO CAT TALE OF THE CAT THEATRICAL THUNDER GULCH TWO PUNCH UNBRIDLED’S SONG UNUSUAL HEAT VYING VICTOR WESTERN FAME WILD GOLD WITH APPROVAL YOU AND I
From this point, I require the potential contender to meet at least two of the following three qualfications: (1) Debuts on Lasix (2) Has at least one exceptional work (3) Hails from a winning barn. Before backing this firster, it must open at 4/1 or higher on the program and go off at 5/1 or higher at post time.