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Book Review

Crushing the Cup 2017
by Jim Mazur and Peter Mallett
from Progressive Handicapping Inc., 134 pages paperback

This year, Jim Mazur and Peter Mallett's legendary Crushing The Cup celebrates its 26th year in print. In this, the flagship product of Progressive Handicapping Inc., this entertaining team compiles all sorts of statistics from past Breeders' Cups in order to come up with a winning profile for the World Championship races, which will be celebrating their 34th renewal on November 3 and 4. The racing fan, whether a casual bettor or somebody who bets with both fists, will be fascinated with the highly statistical approach. The two experts look beyond the obvious, leaving no stone unturned in their search for an edge that can lead to the elusive "crush".

Mazur and Mallett take very different approaches to handicapping, but share a common objective of "crushing" a few races rather than grinding out a profit on winning more races at short odds. Mazur is the pragmatic number-cruncher/bean-counter in Miami, FL who takes the "Moneyball" approach (risk a little to win a lot), while north of the border, Mallett of BC, Canada uses hunches and observations, to attack the game with his "left brain" instead. If the pair come up with the same horse, it's usually a good sign. The first chapter is a detailed narrative of last year's Championship weekend, held at Santa Anita, listing what their selections had been and how they came up with them, what bets were placed, and how much money was won or lost. For example, Juvenile Turf winner Oscar Performance was all but dismissed by Mazur's team but Mallett decided to use him, and in the Juvenile Fillies, the first two finishers were both dismissed as "pretenders". By showing every bet placed and every race result, it becomes clear that no system is perfect, there is no sure thing in racing, but more importantly, the way to profitability as a bettor isn't hitting every race (which likely involve many favorites hitting the board), but nailing a few key races with long odds horses and boxcar exotic payouts. Mazur and Mallett definitely swing for the fences, especially in multi-race bets such as the Pick 3 and Pick 6, and last year, Mazur's cartel of players at Mohegan Sun Casino hit the Six for $292,423.30 (had favorite California Chrome held off Arrogate to win the Classic, they would have still won just over $138,000). You can watch a video of the celebration here.

After several years seeing a very small rotation of tracks (Santa Anita and Churchill with a one-off at Keeneland), finally the Championships make their way to a new host, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego County, California. Since the Crushing approach relies so heavily on statistics, this year they don't have the benefit of many years at the same track. In a way this is like the Keeneland edition, with a totally clean slate. Mazur and Mallett don't see it that way, however. This year, for certain factors they are betting (literally and figuratively) that Del Mar is Santa Anita South. The rationale is sound; Del Mar is just 100 miles south of Santa Anita, the racing surfaces are identically prepared (El Segundo sand track and Bermuda turf course), and horses shipping in from Belmont Park (a vastly different facility and climate) will have the same disadvantages. They will use some Santa Anita Breeders' Cup statistics for their angles, but have to make adjustments for changes in race distance, and the fact that Del Mar has the shortest homestretch of any BC host track at just 919 feet (compared with 990 at Santa Anita and 1234.5 at Churchill), a design that generally favors speed. Del Mar has a shorter stretch than Santa Anita because it has wider turns.

Each of the 13 World Championship races is featured in its own chapter, beginning with a chart listing past winners (Santa Anita only for the original 7 races), the winning trainer and jockey, the running style used, age, post position, win and exacta payoffs, and winning Beyer. You can already see some trends unfolding, and in the pages that follow, those trends and others are examined in great detail. Some races feature more winning favorites, some favor a specific runstyle (wire, stalk, or rally), and some see most of its winners coming from a certain prep race. Each chapter concludes with the Daily Racing Form past performances of the last few winners (omitting Santa Anita races run on all-weather in 2008 and 2009), again giving the reader a chance to look for trends that may reappear this year. Also included (on Page 92) is a username and password used to access the book's appendix in PDF format, which includes additional data left off the print edition for space considerations. It is worth noting here the distance changes. The Turf Sprint cuts back to 5 furlongs like at Churchill Downs, and the Filly and Mare Turf will run at a totally new distance, 1 1/8 miles out of the infield chute, its shortest edition ever (Keeneland ran it at 1 3/16 mile, while traditionally it is run at either 1 1/4 or 1 3/8). Mallett points out that 1 1/8 miles is not a common race distance in Europe.

To accompany Crushing the Cup, Progressive Handicapping releases The Crushing Zone one week before Championship Friday. This newsletter-sized publication of about 30 pages length sorts the pre-entrants for each race into the three categories of Contenders, Gray Zone, and Pretenders. The Zone is updated daily through Saturday morning based on any changes such as post positions, late scratches, good or bad morning workouts, jockey changes, and weather. Mallett will be at Del Mar starting Monday October 30 to report on the morning workouts and track maintenance "tricks" for the benefit of the Crushing Zone, while Mazur camps out at Mohegan Sun Racebook for Progressive Handicapping's Breeders' Cup Bash. Note that the website's ordering system was revamped last year and you have to register to order anything.

Crushing The Cup 2017 is an excellent publication for anybody wanting to bet the tough Breeders' Cup races on November 3 and 4, or for newer horseplayers wanting to learn more about the use of angles and biases when selecting their horses, on Cup day and otherwise. Mazur and Mallett have done their homework through a quarter century of experience, and the fruit of their labor is yours for just $29.95. From their Breeders' Cup experience they have expanded their operations and also publish similar statistical analyses for the Triple Crown and for major circuits in North America.

Crushing The Cup 2017 has a cover price of $29.95 and is available from Progressive Handicapping Inc. in your choice of hardcopy or PDF download. There are package deals available which include combinations of some or all of their Breeders' Cup products, or you can join Mazur at the Mohegan Sun Breeders' Cup Bash (tickets are $99.95) and invest in his Pick Six cartel. Will lightning strike twice?

Rating:     5/5

Review: Using Impact Values To Select Breeders' Cup Winners - By Stanley Caris. An alternative system of Breeders' Cup bet selection, using impact values for various angles compiled from past results.

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