Steve Moody: Handicapper

Louisville native Steve Moody picked his first Derby winner at age nine "when the name Kauai King sounded good to me" and made his first visit to a racetrack at 17 and bet on two winners that first day, made $40, and was "hooked on the game thereafter."

After attending the University of Kentucky, Steve taught school for six years and ran a small business before returning to Lexington in 1991 to produce the "Kentucky Handicapper's Sheet for Bloodstock Research."

As a handicapper who primarily focuses on the Kentucky racing scene, Moody shares his knowledge of the Kentucky racing circuit and offers tips for handicapping horses in the eight Breeders' Cup races to be run next Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Poteau, OK:
Is it difficult to handicap horses that just do what they need to win? I know the great Affirmed preferred to pull ahead then ease up a little but not let anyone pass him. Is it possible that Lava Man might be a horse that runs only as hard as needed?, and if so could he pull off a shocker next week and win a big race out of California or is Bernardini just too much horse

It is difficult to handicap horses that tend to "cheat" or do just enough to win, but at some point handicappers have to quantify what they've seen in previous races with some sort or measurement, i.e. Speed figures. You then have to compare one horse at his best or an average of his best races to another.

Chicago, IL:
Dream Race: Ghostzapper vs. Bernardini. Which one does Castellano ride?

Tough question, but what's the old saying, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?" - Ghostzapper

Asheville, NC:
I've started to think that the two horses I'm most excited about for the Derby aren't even in the Juvenile. Tiz Wonderful and Nobiz Like Shobiz. I'm sure there are others that will come to my attention, but am I missing something with the group actually going to the post on Saturday? I've heard about Skip Code and want his sire to get a big one, but I've never seen him run.

Well, if history has anything to say about it the Derby will be won by a horse that doesn't win the Juvenile. Tiz Wonderful really looked good Sunday winning the Iroquois and obviously liked the surface at Churchill Downs. He certainly could be any kind. Nobiz Like Shobiz came up just in the Champagne, his first try vs. winners and should benefit from the experience. Barclay Tagg has a Kentucky Derby win to his credit as well.

Ann Arbor, MI:
Mauralakana? Am I crazy? I've been trying all week to find a reason she can't win. She's run gamely close to Karen's Caper and Vacare -- both of whom would be among the top choices here -- yet her morning line odds are 30-1, and I imagine she will go off near those odds. Am I missing something here?

Crazy? No. A bit ambitious? Probably. She couldn't handle Germance in the French Oaks and has never faced anywhere close to the competition she'll catch Saturday with the likes of Ouija Board and Satwa as well as Wait a While.

Chicago, IL:
Steve, I really like Octave to win the Juv Fillies. The horse is training like a monster, and I like the fact that she is a Pletcher horse going from a sprint to a route. Your thoughts on her.

She was on the fringe for me. She is coming off a career-best effort in the Matron. I love sprinters stretching out for the first time as you do and she certainly has a lot of upside, but she's likely to face plenty of pressure on the front end from Appealing Zophie and Lilly Carson, who looks to be in the race now.

Lexington, KY:
This is Randy from Lexington. What is your opinion of Balletto in the Distaff? Also, I am at a total loss to find a horse to like in the Juvenile Fillies race. You like anyone?

I think Balletto has a big shot in the Distaff. She's been knocking at the door against Fleet Indian in those short fields, but might be able to turn the tables Saturday with the pace scenario slanted to her liking. In addition, she'll likely have the jump on a deep closer like Pine Island. If I were making my pick for the Juvenile Fillies would be Dreaming of Anna or Cash Included.

Kingston, Jamaica: 
How good is Wait a While? I think the races she won are against ordinary fillies.

She's had a sensational year and is unbeaten on turf, but I don't think she's as good as Ouija Board or Satwa Queen.

Louisville, KY:
Steve, you pay the general admission price to get in on Sat. and buy a round of beers, what would be your best advice to get your money back at the windows and play for fun after that? And if you were appointed czar of racing, what would you do to hook the younger generation on the handicapping process? It seems the video of the race that Keeneland started is dead on to what they've grown up with. Thanks for your time.

If I were at the track with a group of friends, I'd look to pool some money together to play the Pick-4's, Pick-3's and maybe a superfecta or two. I realize those are high risk, high reward bets, so to counter that you might put up $20 each into a show parlay.

I think Keeneland's new Trackus program has a lot of possibility. From a handicapping standpoint, I think downloadable PP's that offer links to video replays would appeal to the younger set. Simply highlight a particular race on the PP's loaded in your computer, PDA, or Blackberry and the video starts to play.

Bowmanville, ON: 
I have always followed the result of the Goodwood Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita with great interest after the 1996 winner of that race - Alphabet Soup - gave me my biggest betting thrill ever in the Classic at Woodbine. What do you think of the chances of the first two home in that race this year -- Lava Man and Brother Derek -- for Saturday's Classic?

I've never been a Brother Derek fan, but Lava Man is certainly a great story. Unbeaten this year, this former claimer is having a dream season, but as good as he's been on the west coast, he's going to have to step it up Saturday in my opinion to handle Invasor and Bernardini.

Matawan, NJ:
Do you question the horses coming off Polytrack due to the ground they are running on, or do you think that the group that prepped at Keeneland might be a little below top notch?

I'm not opposed to horses that raced or prepped on Polytrack as long as they have raced or worked at some point at Churchill Downs.

Winooski, VT:
Hi Steve, thanks for taking the time to talk w/ us. Right now, what long shots are poised to hit the board on Sat? Also, what are your thoughts on Premium Tap in the Classic?

I loved Premium Tap in the Ky. Cup Classic, but unfortunately he got a terrible ride from Kent Desormeaux. Winning Saturday, however, would require a career effort

Marco Island, FL:
Perfect Drift and Lava Man - two mystery horses I cannot get a handle on. Lava Man shows great form in California but seems to have trouble when he leaves the state. Perfect Drift loves Churchill Downs, but his form is questionable. I’m tempted to throw Lava Man out completely and use Perfect Drift in all combinations. Also intrigued by this red hot jockey/agent combo and their choice of Perfect Drift here. Any thoughts?

Lave Man has a good chance to get a minor share and a slight chance to win in my opinion. Perfect Drift does love Churchill Downs, but doesn't love to win and just isn't good enough at this stage of his career, jockey notwithstanding.

Altoona, IA:
Do you think that there will be enough pace to run at in the Distaff for Lemons Forever since she has had prior success at Churchill Downs, or do you think she even has a shot at all? Tyler-20

There should be plenty of pace in the Distaff, but I don't see Lemons Forever repeating the last-to-first effort she gave in the Kentucky Oaks.

Newport Beach, CA:
The Sprint seems to be as difficult a race as I have seen. Do you think Henny Hughes can pull it off or do you like someone else?

The sprint is probably the most contentious race on the card. Henny Hughes will be the favorite, but is a bet against at real short odds. Bordonaro rates a long look and with all the gas in this race, a late runner like Siren Lure looks like a good fit.

Saginaw, MI:
How do you rate Germance in the F&M Turf?

She was a bit disappointing at Keeneland has her work cut out for her Saturday against older fillies and mares.

Bloomfield, KY:
Lawyer Ron runs in the Classic with the following angles: positive trainer switch, positive jockey switch, third off the layoff, and comes in off of a strong Super Derby performance (a la Alysheba, Sunday Silence, Concern, Tiznow, Seeking the Gold, etc). Pletcher has tried to teach him to rate. Does Lawyer Ron have a chance to upend Bernardini at 20-1 or so?

Lawyer Ron has turned in two strong efforts since returning from knee surgery, the best of his career. He will have to move forward significantly off those, however, to handle Bernardini or Invasor.

Saddle Brook, NJ:
Hello Steve I always look for a horse who is about to run his best race rather than one who already has. Which horses do you think are about to run their best on Breeders Cup Day ? Your Opinion Thanks

Balletto in the Distaff comes to mind as well as Attila's Storm in the Sprint.

Bridgetown, Barbados: 
Steve. If you were putting together a Pick 6 for BC day, what races would you be keying on to single. Thanks

The Filly & Mare Turf with Ouija Board would be my first and likely only single. Everybody will be singling Bernardini, but I thing Invasor is just as good. If I had to make two singles, I'd probably take a stand with Balletto in the Distaff.

Toronto, ON:
Why do you think Bernardini is working much slower then usual leading up to this race?

I don't know if I'd be overly concerned about his works at this point. He's never been speed demon by any means in the mornings and his work just before the Jockey Club Gold Cup was slow as well.

Mars, PA:
Does history tell us anything about horses that have had success at Churchill and then ran in the Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs? Thanks

The Churchill surface is a little bit quirky and I always give horses with local success a second look. Similarly, those that have not run well there in the past can be discounted, e.g. Skip Away didn't like the Churchill surface when he ran in the Ky. Derby and was nowhere to be found as the 9-5 favorite in the 1998 Classic.

Miami, FL:
Is Pomeroy a trick (up the track at single-digit odds ) or a treat ( a 16,17,18 dollar winner )?

Neither, I tend to think his odds will be in the low double digits and he'll likely wind up battling to complete the Superfecta.

Manhattan, NY:
This year's Juvenile is shaping up as one of the better betting races on the card, what three horses would you box?

Scat Daddy and Circular Quay are the two I like best with several battling for that third spot.

Brooklyn, NY:
Noticed that a couple entrants in the Turf have excellent records on the Churchill turf course - Silverfoot is 4-4 and Rush Bay is 4:3-1. Both should be big prices. What's your opinion for either of them to crack the tri/super or possibly even upset?

Don't see either one winning, but getting a piece is a possibility.

Teaneck, NJ:
What do you think of the Zayat Stables entry in the Juvenile -- Malt Magic and Got the Last Laugh?

Both come off disappointing outings and you have to think they can bounce back. They have to be considered in what looks like a wide open race.

Springfield, MO:
What's the scoop with Too Much Bling? Haven't seen any recent works... When's he shipping to KY

He's won off a layoff before and Baffert figures to have him ready. His tactical speed gives him an outside chance.

Hattiesburg, MS:
Steve I don't think enough was made of Bel Air Beauty's win in the Alcibiades. The fact the conservative Frankie Brothers even ran her, a maiden, in that race to me, speaks volumes about what he thinks of her. What kind of price will she be on Saturday? What do you think of her chances?

I picked her third the first time I handicapped the race and she is returning to her home base even though her races have been on Polytrack. I look for her to be in the 10 to 12-1 range.

Philadelphia, PA:
Hi Steve, can you give some wagering advice to someone who usually has a very limited bankroll (under $50) to spend on Breeders' Cup day? Thanks!

It's nearly impossible to cover the super exotics with a limited bankroll, so I would try to find the 2 or 3 horses you like best and bet them to win. Bet some small Exactas with your best picks. An exacta that pays $80 guarantees you a nice return for the day and one that pays $200 or $300 is not that hard to find.

Lansdowne, PA:
I like Round Pond's ability, heart and her trainer but given her well documented recent foot problems, at what odds would the rewards of playing her in The Distaff outweigh the risks?

Given the depth in the Distaff, I'd say double digits is a must, maybe 12 or 15-1.

Lexington, KY:
On BC day with so many betting choices (ex,tri,pick3 etc) that payoff higher than normal do you have any personal advice on what to concentrate on?

Personally, I like Pick-3's and Pick'4's, but don't forget to bet any top picks that are a square price to win and if you've got the bankroll, key those top choices in Exactas, Tris or Super's.

Westwood, NJ:
How does the scratch of Commentator and the likely withdrawal of Dubai Escapade enhance the chances of Too Much Bling and the other pressers of Bordonaro in the Sprint?

Bordonaro looks to be the speed of the speed and his chances are much better in my mind with the confirmed scratch of Commentator and the possible scratch of Dubai Escapade. Too Much Bling and the other pressers will have to get someone else to do the dirty work.

Saratoga Springs, NY:
Steve would you be kind enough to comment on Premium Tap and how troubled a trip his last prep race was?

Kent Desormeaux made a very poor decision and Premium Tap's trip was about as bad as it gets. That said, he'll still need a huge effort to handle Bernardini or Invasor on Saturday.

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