When 63-1 first-time starter McGregor Lake won race 5 at Santa Anita on Saturday, a turf sprint, were players surprised? Not those who took note of the gelding’s Tomlinson figure of 376 in the Daily Racing Form. The what? The sophomore had the third-highest Tomlinson in the 14-horse field.

And what about the horse who finished second –Grazed at 7-2? Certainly no surprise there because the gray gelding’s Tomlinson rating of 431 dominated the field.

And the third-place finish of the colt, Highplainsdrifter, at 20-1 seemed in order, too, because the colt’s Tomlinson of 353 was fourth highest in the field.

So when the $1 triactor of horses with odds of 63-1, 7-2 and 20-1 paid $5,800, were Tomlinson-figure watchers shocked? Not at all. They saw it coming. The top three finishers had the third-highest, highest and fourth-highest Tomlinson figures. Nothing startling there — except the prices.

Did you capitalize? After all, playing those horses wasn’t a stretch if you consult Tomlinson figures when you’re handicapping a field with horses that are new or fairly new to turf racing. Wouldn’t you think that it’s a mandatory tool — especially with lots of baby racing on the turf coming our way?

L. Tomlinson — which, by the way, wasn’t his real name – has passed on, but horseplayers will be forever indebted to him for coming up with a way to turn turf breeding into a number. He did it for mud racing as well. No greater racing guru than speed-figure originator Andy Beyer was initially skeptical of Tomlinson ratings but ultimately came around to make this statement in a column in the Washington Post: “The method, which is geared strictly to races on turf or muddy tracks, frequently points toward longshots that conventional handicapping techniques overlook.”

Don’t we love that word “longshots” and especially “frequently?” We live for longshots and you don’t get much better than the 63-1 winner Saturday at Santa Anita.

By the way, Tomlinson is the nom de plume of Art Kaufman who adopted that nickname because he was a vice-president of a Wall Street firm and didn’t want to have his real name associated with horse racing. But if you want to be a show-off and call his figures “Kaufman figures” instead, who’s going to object?

If you’re new to Tomlinson figures, where do you find them in the Daily Racing Form? In the top right corner of past performance stats for each horse. You’ll see numbers in brackets for Wet, Synth, Turf and Dst T. Use the number next to Dst T. That’s the turf breeding rating for the horse at that particular race distance.

As a long-time user of Tomlinson figures, I can make this promise: you’ll be swept off your feet by the high exotic payoffs from time to time just by boxing the highest Tomlinson figure horses. I’m talking thousands of dollars for a 20-cent superfecta box costing you pocket change. But, more realistically, here are the best ways to capitalize:

  • When making horizontal exotic bets such as pick-4s and pick-5s, add two or three highest Tomlinson horses to the leg with maiden first-time starters
  • Wheel the highest Tomlinson horse in exactors for first and second. A $1 exactor at Santa Anita with the highest Tomlinson horse finishing second paid $473
  • Play a three- or four-horse exactor box with the highest Tomlinson horses
  • Take a triactor or superfecta flyer. You won’t hit often but when you do, you’ll be thinking about an expensive way to celebrate. A 20-cent superfecta in that race at Santa Anita paid almost $6,000 and you could have played it this way: By wheeling the horse with the highest Tomlinson first and second with the next-highest Tomlinsons with “all” on the bottom.

So now that you’re considering turf Tomlinsons, you know where to find the MUD Tomlinson rating – which is situated in the top right corner, too. Look there when a track is “off.”

Will “rule” horses rule tonight at Assiniboia Downs?

With Assiniboia Downs and its million-dollar handle pretty much owning North American Thoroughbred racing on Monday nights and your knowing that I’m a “rule” handicapper, here are a couple of races tonight where rules rule. They’re actually the first two legs of the pick-4 which typically has a handle in the $90,000 range: Race 4 is a maiden claiming race which means you look for horses that have shown early pace in higher class Msw (maiden special weight) races. The best fit is #4 Celebration Dance at 8-5.

And race 5 is a 7-furlong event where the rule says to look for specialists at the distance. #4 C C’s Kitten has the highest 7-furlong Equibase speed number (77) with a morning-line of 7-2. You may wish to consider adding 10-1 longshot #6 G’s Turn underneath in a superfecta since he has a 73 E speed at the distance. Incidentally, this rule picked the first leg of the pick-5 leading to the Belmont Stakes on Saturday and led to the co-host of my betting group at ASD winning the biggest payoff of his life, a $25K pick-5 at Woodbine some time ago.

Good luck tonight!