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Pedigree Handicapping
By Lauren Stich
DRF Press, November 2004, 203 pages paperback

Over the last two years, DRF Press has been releasing a series of handicapping books under the "Elements of Handicapping" banner. Written primarily for novice to intermediate horseplayers, they have covered a number of topics with their in-house expert in that field. In the latest installment of this series, DRF's pedigree expert Lauren Stich releases her first book, Pedigree Handicapping.

Of all the factors used to handicap a horse race, pedigree by far is the most intriguing to the novice horseplayer. Accustomed to comparing numbers, be they raw times, speed figures, finish positions, or beaten lengths, suddenly the handicapper is comparing names. In the first two chapters, Stich demystifies this area of handicapping, and demonstrates how just knowing a few key sires can put you ahead of the game, especially for such conditions as 2-year-old first time starters or maiden races on the turf, where the usual numerical data used in traditional selection methods is lacking or absent. Using some examples, she includes the past performances for the horses in the race, explains why on pedigree alone one horse should be favored over another, and then using the result chart shows that pedigree-based techniques can steer the bettor away from false favorites and instead to middle or long odds horses. She also drives home the point that class comes from the female line, while preferred distance and surface come from the male line, a theme that repeats itself throughout.

The next two chapters constitute an excellent reference tool, which makes the book invaluable. In Chapter 3 she gives a complete list of the 2004 and 2005 freshman sires, explaining why she feels a certain sire is likely to be successful. Using the sire's own pedigree and to some extent his performance on the track, she details what kind of offspring he might have, be they precocious 2-year-olds, classic contenders, or turf marathoners. Then, in Chapter 4 she tackles the turf angle, listing sires which may not at first glance be turf sires but upon more detailed investigation of that sire's pedigree and the performance of his offspring, is determined to pass on an affinity for the grass. She refers to this as the hidden turf factor, a powerful angle given that the sire may have been a dirt sprinting specialist when he raced.

In the final three chapters, she demonstrates how to use your new found knowledge of pedigree handicapping, in the three situations where the techniques are called on the most: the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders' Cup, and handicapping tournaments. The Derby has been and always will be the most over-analyzed race in the world, but Stich shows how, over the last few years, simple use of pedigree angles point you at the contenders and away from the pretenders. In the Breeders' Cup, pedigree handicapping works its magic in the juvenile races. She uses the 2001 Juvenile as an example of a heavy favorite, Officer, not bred for the distance while European shipper Johannesburg, despite having never run on dirt nor past 6 furlongs, was perfectly bred for 1 1/16 miles. Finally, handicapping contests put a premium on picking middle to long odds horses to win and again, pedigree analysis directs the player away from the obvious "numbers" horses which will be at short odds.

Stich does an admirable job introducing the novice handicapper to the art and science of pedigree handicapping. The reader need only find a maiden race full of first time starters, or a race where most of the field is trying turf for the first time, to immediately put her theories into practice. The lists of freshman sires and hidden turf sires can be referred to again and again, hopefully leading to some decent payoffs. This is clearly an excellent work, perfect for any racing fan who is developing their personal handicapping strategy and need a leg up on how to incorporate pedigree analysis.

Pedigree Handicapping has a list price of $14.950 and is available from Amazon.com for only $10.17.

Rating:     5/5

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