Photo courtesy NYRA/Coglinese Photos
Finding something to like in a 36-1 shot is usually a futile task.
Royal Blessing was an exception to that theory.
Coming into the first race at Belmont Park on May 27, Royal Blessing was one of the long shots in a field of 10 for a New York State-bred allowance race on the turf that kicked off the Memorial Day card in Elmont, N.Y.
There surely were reasons to ignore him. He had not raced since July 14, and beyond that nearly 10-month layoff, he was pulled up and vanned off in that start.
In the interim, Royal Blessing switched trainers, going from the barn of Linda Rice to Tom Albertrani.
So far it sounds like your typical 36-1 shot, right?
Now let’s dig deeper into Royal Blessing’s past performances.
One of the things that stood out was the gaps between his races. After his debut in a New York State-bred maiden race on Aug. 20, 2011 – when he was sixth, beaten 4 ½ lengths – he did not return until nine months later, on May 26, 2012, when he won by a neck.
After that, he took about six weeks off, and ran in the July 14 allowance race in which he was pulled up.
As evidenced by his May 26, 2012 race, Royal Blessing was certainly capable of winning off a layoff.
Another factor that made him intriguing was his odds in those three starts. He was 3-1 in his debut and 9-2 in his next two starts.
Putting it all together, Royal Blessing may not be the most durable of runners and something surely went wrong in his last race. But the fact that he returned in an allowance race instead of a claimer was evidence that the issue may have been resolved. In addition, a horse that had never been higher than 9-2 was now 36-1 while coming off a layoff that was hardly unusual for him.
Had Royal Blessing been 9-2 for his comeback race on May 27, he would have offered no value. An $11 return for hoping that all was well with him was far too paltry. But 36-1? The price was definitely right to take a gamble and include Royal Blessing in your wagers.
Those that did had a memorable start to their Memorial Day at Belmont Park as Royal Blessing won by a neck, paying $74.50 to win and keying an $817 exacta with a 10-1 shot that finished second.
THE LESSON: Finding things to like in a long shot can often be the proverbial wild goose chase, but scratching away at the surface of a horse’s past performances can sometimes uncover beneficial nuggets of information. In this case, taking 36-1 odds that a horse could win again off a layoff was a very wise move.