First-Time Starters

Tips for handicapping early-season 2-year-old races.

By Ed Burgart, Los Alamitos Announcer
(The following column is reprinted from the May 2002 edition of The American Quarter Horse Racing Journal. Subscribe online or call 1-800-291-7323.)

Any Quarter Horse handicapper who pays attention to a sire's success with first-time starters shouldn't have been surprised when three of the season's first six 2-year-old races at Los Alamitos were won by Corona Cartel offspring.

In fact, two of the other 10 baby races were won by Royal Quick Dash offspring, and Chicks Beduino sired three of the first 10 winners. When we look back at the top 10 sires which had at least 40 first-out starters in 2001, we note that Corona Cartel, Royal Quick Dash and Chicks Beduino were among the top 10 nationally.

Last year's top 10 sires with first-out starters were (in order of success): Corona Cartel, Streakin La Jolla, Hot Colours, Royal Quick Dash, Lanes Leinster, Holland Ease, Royal Shake Em, First Down Dash, Mr. Eye Opener and Chicks Beduino. Corona Cartel and Royal Shake Em are the babies of the top 10, as both are 1994 foals. The next youngest stallion, Mr Eye Opener, foaled in '90.

But certainly Corona Cartel is the hot topic when handicapping 2-year-old maiden races. The winner of the 1996 Los Alamitos Million Futurity (G1) and earner of $557,142 sired 20 first-out winners from 84 starts last year for a 23.81-percent success rate. Streakin La Jolla, whose offspring are prominent in Louisiana, had eight winners with 42 first-time starters for a 19.05-percent success rate.

Next comes Hot Colours, which had an 18.6-percent win rate with eight victories among his 43 first-out starters. Royal Quick Dash followed with a 16.1-percent win rate, while more than doubling the output of Hot Colours' first-time starters with 118 debut runners.

Lanes Leinster checked in fifth with a 15.91-percent win percentage among his 44 first-out runners. Holland Ease had a productive '01 campaign with his debut runners, as 11 of his 74 first-timers were victorious for a 14.86-percent success rate. Royal Shake Em followed with six winners from 45 first-time starters (13.33 percent).

Next came all-time leading sire First Down Dash (eight victories from 64 first-out runners for a 12.5-percent win rate). Completing last year's top 10 are Mr Eye Opener (11 wins in 91 tries for a 12.09 percentage) and Chicks Beduino, which led the country with the highest number of first-time starters (170), of which 19 were victorious for an 11.18 percentage. Strawfly Special, the sire of reigning world champion Tailor Fit, was second to Chicks Beduino in number of first-out starters with 136. His first-timers won 15 times for an 11.03-percent success rate.

And let's give an honorable mention to Shazoom, a 1993 foal that only sired 12 first-time starters in 2001, but five of them won for an impressive 41.67-percent win rate.

By contrast, sires that had non-productive 2001 campaigns with its first-time starters include Pure D Dash, Special Effort and Ronas Ryon. Pure D Dash, a stakes-winning Dash For Cash stallion whose overall starters have won at a 12-percent clip, only sired one first-out winner from 77 starters (1.3 percent). Special Effort, the 1981 world champion whose 1,189 overall starters have won 14.71 percent of their races, last year sired one winner from 52 first-time starters. Ronas Ryon, whose overall starters have won a respectable 15.47 percent of their outs, had only two first-time winners from 41 starters, a 4.88-percent success rate.

It's important to pay attention to a sire's past success with first-time starters when handicapping early-season 2-year-old races, but don't neglect other handicapping factors such as race experience, workouts and jockey-trainer combinations. Nearly every trainer will agree that a horse with race experience usually has a distinct advantage over first-time starters.

As documented through the American Quarter Horse Racing Association, 6,398 first-time starters competed in 2001, and 509 were victorious for a low 7.95-percent win rate. So, unless the experienced horses in a race have poor form, we can have a difficult time finding first-time starter winners as the year progresses.

But based on last year's statistics, when we find an impressive work tab and a solid jockey-trainer combination with a first-time starter sired by Corona Cartel, Streakin La Jolla and Hot Colours, we certainly can support a debuting runner with confidence.