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Book Review

Betting Maidens & 2-Year-Olds Analytical Approach to Future Winners
by Dan Illman
DRF Press, 212 pages paperback, February 2005

Without a doubt, one of the most complicated races to handicap is the maiden race. Be they older maidens or precocious juveniles, some swear such races are nearly impossible to decipher. In his first book, Betting Maidens & 2-Year-Olds, New York-based handicapper Dan Illman tackles these races, putting to rest the idea that they are unplayable.

Illman starts off with the most logical angle to use when handicapping first time starters, the pedigree. Compiling race results from 2001-2003, he produces a list of sires whose progeny are most likely to win first time out. Secondly, he lists which trainers send out the most debut winners, drawing from circuits across North America. The first two chapters are invaluable to anyone handicapping a field of first time starters. In a later chapter he elaborates on pedigree further, showing which nicking patterns and which broodmares to look out for.

Getting away from first time starters, he then demonstrates how to pick a winner out of a field of non-winners. Illman shows that many factors need to be taken into account, such as Beyer Speed Figures, physical appearance, pace in the last few starts, and workout patterns. For example, he looks for 5 furlong works as a clue that a horse is ready to fire. Oftentimes just one angle is enough to pinpoint a horse as the one who will break his or her maiden today.

One angle that has fallen out of favor lately is the "key race". Illman found that when a maiden race is split, the faster division is a key race while the slower division is a negative race. Turf racing adds a different dimension to handicapping, especially in the maiden ranks. As he did in the first chapter, but using only first time turf starts, he lists which sires and trainers are most successful.

Closing out the book, Illman shows how to handicap the juvenile races at the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. He demonstrates that the Juvenile and the Juvenile Fillies are different from each other and have to be approached differently. For example the fillies event is the more formful of the two, while longshots are more likely with the males.

This excellent work belongs on the bookshelf of any regular visitor to the racetrack, as maiden races are a frequent occurrence on every race day at every track.

Betting Maidens & 2-Year-Olds has a list price of $14.95 and is available from for $10.17.

Rating:     5/5

Books in the Elements of Handicapping series: