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How to Handicap: Benefitting From a Bad Ride

I’m not one to complain very often about jockey mistakes. A lot can happen during the running of a race and, for the most part, I think the men and women that ride at a professional level do an outstanding job.

But there are exceptions.

One of my biggest pet peeves is tactical errors. Look, it’s one thing to have to check in traffic or swing wide or react to the myriad of other things that can occur during the course of a horse race, but it’s quite another to make a mental error… or two… or three.

Take, for example, the ride on Dance Queen in the fifth race at Delaware Park on Sept. 3:

I don’t know much about jockey Antonio Quiles other than the fact that he is a young guy (21 years old) from Puerto Rico, who rode his first U.S. winner (Lady by Choice) at Laurel Park on March 24. According to Equibase, he has 24 wins from 197 North American mounts — a decent 12 percent win rate — in his short career.

But the ride he gave to Dance Queen — whether following instructions or by his own accord — was simply horrendous. In a 1-mile-and-70-yard turf event, Dance Queen spurted to an 8-length lead at the half-mile mark, while recording an insane -18 early speed ration (ESR).

This would be like running the opening four furlongs of the Kentucky Derby in :44-2/5 — something that has never been done. In fact, the fastest opening half in Derby history (44.86 seconds) was recorded by Songandaprayer in 2001 and he finished 27 lengths behind Monarchos that day.

Frankly, it would be hard enough to win a dirt race after such a taxing opening half mile, but winning a turf race, where the pace is typically softer — next to impossible.

Viewed in this light, it’s clear that Dance Queen’s last race is a complete toss. And, given that, handicappers are left with a decent third-place finish in a dirt race on Aug. 16 to consider when the daughter of To Honor And Serve returned to action in a $5,000 claiming affair contested at a flat mile on the dirt at Laurel Park on Sept. 21, 2018.

To me, she looked like an absolute standout — and she ran like one, winning by 6 ½ lengths after stalking a moderate early pace (-7 ESR).

Sent off as the second choice in the betting, Dance Queen paid $5.60. She was ridden by Weston Hamilton.

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