Last summer I traveled halfway around the world and discovered one of the eternal verities.
It was at a dog track on the island of Macao that I realized the university of this truth: When there is a short run to the first turn, bet on inside post positions.
In a race of any sort that starts near a turn, entrants in outside post positions are forced to run wide, lose ground and spot many lengths to their rivals on the inside.
The principle applied effectively to the whippets at the Macao Candrome, but it has an even more effective use closer to home. The most extreme short-run-to-the-first-turn situation I have ever seen arises occasionally at Hialeah.
For some inexplicable reason, Hialeah occasionally schedules 1 1/16 mile races on its 1 1/8-mile track, which means that the starting gate must be positioned right at the turn. Horses who break from inside posts and have enough speed to get a good early position win them all. Horses breaking from outside posts usually wind up in the parking lot.
One of the five largest bets of my life, two have been on superior horses who drew inside posts in 1 1/16-mile races at Hialeah. Today there is another one. Starbinia would be the horse to beat in the seventh race under any position at a 1 1/16-mile he should be just about unbeatable. Nevertheless, he will not be the favorite.
Starbinia has run decently (though not overpoweringly) to finish second and third in a pair of seven-furlong allowance races here. His trainer, Lou Rondinello; conditions all his horses to go a distance, so Starbina should perform well at the longer route.
The race is sure to develop perfectly for Starbinia. The horse in post No. 1 is a faint-hearted speedball. He will go to the lead, enabling jockey Angel Cordero Jr. to drop over to the rail with Starbinia, save ground, and get into a good position to make a winning move.
What makes this race so attractive as a betting proposition is the presence of a colt named Prince Valiant, an impeccably bred runner from the Greentree Stable. He impressed observers here when he closed like a rocket to win a seven-furlong maiden race. On the basis of that performance, he is the Daily Racing Form's best bet of the day. He will be a heavy favorite.
I think he is an overrated bum. On the day that Prince Valant won, the inside part of the Hialeah track was a bog. While all his rivals were foundering there, Prince Valiant won, the middle of the track and rallied in the firmer footing. But his time was still dismal. He ran little faster than the $7,000 claiming horses did the same afternoon.
Today Prince Valiant will have a tougher trip. Breaking from outside Starbinia, apprentice jockey Mike Gonzalez is not going to be able to get to the rail on the first turn. And if Gonzalez attempts to make a big, wide rally as he did the last time, he is not going to get far. Such stretch-runners have had no success at Hialeah in the last few days. Starbinia ought to win from here to Macao.