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Having viewed over one million horse races in my 40-year career, there are many handicapping angles that can pinpoint a horse’s upcoming peak performance. All of which when identified and applied at the right time can provide tremendous insight and profit.
As the son of a successful trainer, I had the opportunity to experience many of these angles first hand. Over the next few weeks I will share with you some of the most successful and profitable angles to be used in tandem with your own handicapping regimen.
MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT TO MAIDEN CLAIMING
A drop in class from MSW races to Maiden Claiming races produces one of the most profitable betting scenarios in horse racing even if the horse has shown absolutely nothing in the MSW races. The class drop is often steeper than it looks on paper and because the horse now has some racing experience it has to be given extra consideration. If the horse was close to the pace, went off at odds lower than 10 to 1 or experienced some degree of trouble this will just enhance your selection’s chances.
A horse dropping in class that has also shown speed at the higher class level remains one of the better bets in racing. If the horse was able to stay within 5 lengths of the pace at the first and/or second calls, even if unable to get the lead, presents a profitable angle. Always remember that the cheaper the race the more dangerous the dropping speed will be especially in shorter races and maiden claiming events. The drop in class after facing faster fractions and better horses is often just what the horse needs to find the winner’s circle.
As an update to our last article regarding Maiden Special Weight drop to Maiden Claiming, the angle was successful five times, most notably on September 15th in the 2nd race at Churchill Downs.
The number 3 horse, His Royal Majesty, had been running close to the pace and finishing full of run in Maiden Special Weight races. This specific race was a $30k Maiden Claiming race. With Borel in the irons, His Royal Majesty was sent right to the rail, angled out approaching the final turn and was hand ridden home convincingly.
This race was one of our top plays that day.
If I had to describe our handicapping process, I would have to say that we focus our key factors on the speed of the race…..who’s got it, how many have it and who potentially will be in the lead at the 2nd call.
A horse able to get the lead by itself is an exceptionally good wagering proposition no matter what the class or distance. Simply put, horses with speed win more races than come-from-behind types. While lone speed is more effective in shorter, cheaper races, it is also effective in higher class and route races.
Also, a horse that has been showing speed but has always been under pressure in its previous races can romp when finally able to get the lead by itself.
In our next installment, we will share with you how we find that lone speed and use that angle as one of the cornerstones of our handicapping philosophy.
By: Kenneth Strong
In order to get fit and stay fit for racing, horses have to perform fast work in the morning. While this work is not usually performed at full racing speed, it is faster than a horse’s normal daily maintenance exercises such as jogging and galloping.
Morning workouts are compiled on a daily basis at every track and stored in a database. Then they appear in the racing form, track program, and other racing publications. All workouts at the track are printed in a special section of the racing form on a daily basis. They appear at the bottom of the past performances for each horse on a race day.
Up to six recent works are listed for horses that have raced before, and up to 12 works are shown for first-time starters.
Each different work in the workout line includes the date, track abbreviation, distance of work, track condition, time and ranking of the workout among other works that morning at that track for that distance and surface.
There are also letters accompanying the workout line that explain the work, for example:
“d” work was performed around “dogs” – pylons.
A bullet indicates the fastest work that day at that distance and surface. While workouts may not be as important as some bettors think they are, they do have their place in the handicapper’s arsenal—especially when used in conjunction with self-compiled trainer patterns.
Many trainers follow the same workout patterns when getting a horse ready to perform to the best of its ability. These winning patterns will give you a definite edge on the crowd and can produce dynamite payoffs.
GOOD LUCK…..WATCH THOSE PATTERNS AND STATISTICS!
Understanding Trainer Patterns and Stats
previous articles, we have included the importance of reviewing
trainer patterns and statistics. Trainer patterns are called that for
one reason—trainers follow patterns.
The bottom section of the past performances contains two solid pieces of information—trainer pattern statistics and workouts. You should never bet a race without checking them first.
Trainers establish win percentages and winning patterns throughout their careers that tend to show up year after year. Trainer patterns rarely change once they have been established; yet most trainers will argue that they can’t be read.
They say each horse is an individual and is conditioned differently. However, statistics don’t lie; trainers repeat their patterns, and there are sharp handicappers who bet horses on these patterns alone.
Each set of trainer pattern statistics will show the number of starts of the particular pattern, the win percentage and the return on investment (ROI) based on a $2 wager.
GOOD LUCK…..WATCH THOSE PATTERNS AND STATISTICS!
BLINKERS ON OR OFF
The blinkers on or off angles are generally overrated, but in some situations, especially with young horses, they can be dynamite at exceptional odds. A young horse, that has been looking around in its races, getting left at the gate by not paying attention, that is fearful of competition or that has simply failed to concentrate on the job at hand, can often run with improved focus when blinkers are added for the first time. Often they will show improved speed and carry that speed further.
Conversely, a horse that has been uncompetitive while racing with blinkers on can occasionally improves dramatically when the blinkers are removed. In this case, the horse might be fearful of not being able to see its surroundings and/or competition in a race. Sometimes horses with blinkers on fail to respond in the stretch because they can’t see their rivals – and once blinkers are removed the horse turns into a real battler down the stretch.
While blinkers on or off angles are sometimes desperation moves, the trainer percentages will tell you for sure so look for them at the bottom of the page in the past performances.
GOOD LUCK…WATCH THOSE BLINKERS ON / OFF ANGLES!
Sharp trainers have known for years that running a horse on the turf is a great way to keep a horse with physical problems fit and sound while pointing towards a dirt race. Very few horses are equally effective on both turf and dirt. Sometimes you will see a proven dirt horse that has never been competitive on the turf – in a turf race. The reason is to stay sharp and remain sound while waiting for the perfect spot on the dirt. Turf is physically kinder to most horses with problems. You don’t see the same win percentages or trainer manipulations using the turf-to-dirt angle. The turf to dirt is often more of a desperation move than anything. The trainers who have a clue with regards to the soundness element of the turf to dirt angle, know exactly what they are doing. This is indicated in the trainer percentages, which are found underneath the past performances. Always check the turf to dirt trainer statistics before you bet a race with such types.
GOOD LUCK…..WATCH THOSE SURFACE SWITCHES AND TRAINER STATS!
Horses that show the ability to win off a layoff of four weeks or more will often continue to win off the shelf throughout their careers – especially when conditioned by a trainer who has won with layoff horses in the past. If the horse is coming into the race off a layoff, check the past performances for any signs of a good effort off a layoff.
Layoffs of more than 30 days are indicated by an underline in the past performances. A previous good performance by a horse coming off a layoff is even more powerful when combined with a trainer who wins at a good win percentage with these types.
Always check the trainer pattern percentages found underneath the past performances to see if the trainer has a good percentage with layoff types. Horses are creatures of habit, as are trainers. If they have won off a layoff before – they can do it again.
GOOD LUCK…..WATCH THOSE LAYOFF HORSES AND TRAINERS!
In this installment, we will explore a medication change that can determine a better outing for a horse and result in a winning performance.
LASIX : FIRST AND SECOND TIME
First time Lasix has always been, and continues to be a powerful handicapping angle. LASIX is a diuretic, given to horses suffering from EXERCISE INDUCED PULMONARY HEMORRHAGING (EIPH). In non-medical terms, the horse’s air waves can become filled with blood and hinder its performance as the lungs will not work to their optimum capacity. Lasix will be prescribed to this “bleeder” to help with the horse’s health. NOT ALL RACE TRACKS WILL ALLOW LASIX TO BE GIVEN TO BLEEDERS.
The key to first time Lasix is using it with additional angles, especially trainer patterns. If a trainer has a high win percentage with first time Lasix horses, that horse deserves extra consideration. With the extra lung capacity now unhindered, this horse will ‘wake up’ and show that improved effort.
Should the horse show minimal improvement in this first race, would that mean Lasix does not work effectively? Not necessarily.
An even better, yet trickier angle on its own merit may be second-time Lasix. A positive experience running on Lasix in its first time, even if not visible in the past performances, can trigger an improved effort with Lasix in the 2nd race.
Since this angle maybe overlooked by most bettors, armed with this “inside” information you will get your price.
GOOD LUCK…..WATCH THAT MEDICATION LIST!
December 15, 2017
In this installment, we will explore the changes that can determine a better outing for a horse and result in a winning performance.
While a good rider can’t make a bad horse win, a bad rider can definitely get a good horse beat. If a trainer is making a jockey switch from a mediocre or average rider to a top rider, it deserves special consideration. If the horse has early speed even better –and is dropping in class, it becomes an automatic play.
Trainers put leading riders on their horses for a reason, and top riders tend to ride well-meant horses. Additionally, if the horse is of the cheaper variety and it does win, it can repeat or run well in its next start if the same rider stays aboard. This is an angle not used by many, and it continues to be very effective.
Cheaper horses generally perform at the top of their game for only a very short period of time in their yearly form cycle. If you catch a horse getting good on a rider switch and they are well spotted to take advantage of the same angle in their next start – pay close attention.
Also, pay close attention whenever a horse does something it hasn’t done before. This is especially true with regards to running style, and it works both ways. If a horse that has been showing speed and fading in its races suddenly changes its running style with a good effort from off the pace, the light bulb may have gone on. It now knows what it is supposed to do and is showing a willingness to do that.
Conversely, when a horse that has been plodding along and passing a few horses every race suddenly shows wake up speed to the first or second call of the race, it may be ready to run a big race in its next start. THE RUNNING STYLE CHANGE ANGLE IS OFTEN MISSED OR DISMISSED BY AVERAGE HANDICAPPERS. KEEP THIS IN YOUR TOOLBOX!”
In an earlier article we discussed how LONE SPEED in a race can be a valuable handicapping tool. We also demonstrated how we evaluate those candidates. Now what do you do when there are multiple horses that “qualify” under the criteria we use?
As a review, we look at the horse’s position at the 2nd call (4 furlong time for sprints and 6 furlong time for routes). They must be within 5 lengths of the leader at the 2nd call AND finish within 5 lengths of the winner.
In sprint races having multiple qualifiers allows us then to evaluate the actual times to determine how the race will be run. If there are 5 qualifiers and their 2nd call times are spread out..ie / 45, 46, 46 1/5, 47, 47….then the top figure will probably have an easy time with that lead and be a powerful force to win that race. On the other hand, if the times are very close… then a horse with closing ability will have a greater chance.
In route races, qualifiers that have their 6 furlong times spread out will probably run the entire race that way. Case in point – the recent BREEDERS CUP CLASSIC 2017. The horses that qualified and their 6 furlong times:
As the race played out, the top 3 horses ran around the track together and ended 1-2-3. What was more telling was that ARROGATE’s time was 6 lengths behind GUN RUNNER. Also, GUN RUNNER was not under extreme pressure to get that lead and had plenty left at the end which was a concern for most people….his ability to get the 1 ¼ distance.
Another example comes from a race run in 2009, also run at 1 ¼ mile….the KENTUCKY DERBY. In that race we have multiple qualifiers however they were all spread out. In that race the top 5 qualifiers were:
MINE THAT BIRD / PIONEER OF THE NILE / MUSKET MAN / PAPA CLEM / FRIESAN FIRE
The reason we pick that specific race is because it has become the largest payoff in the history of our company. Not only did we release MINE THAT BIRD as the winner ($103), we released the exacta ($2074) and trifecta ($41,000). What was more amazing is that there were ONLY 4 superfecta tickets and we had 1 of them ($557,000).
So as a review, break the race into early and late….find the qualifiers based on their 2nd call times (adjusting for lengths behind the leader) and evaluate how the race will be run.
BEST OF LUCK
What is the greatest sporting event ? ….. OLYMPICS, WORLD CUP, SUPER BOWL, GAME 7 OF NBA FINALS/STANLEY CUP FINALS/WORLD SERIES ??
Now combine all those events, run it over 2 days, with over 120 multi-million dollar athletes at a beautiful venue featuring turf at the surf. High tension, superior, record breaking performances, excitement and drama…it could only be the BREEDER’S CUP on November 3rd and 4th.
The following information is designed to provide race insights for each of the 13 races.
Let’s first take a look at the location for the Breeder’s Cup. The 34th running will be held for the very first time at Del Mar. About 2 years ago the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club began the reconfiguration of both dirt and turf courses so that each surface could accommodate up to 14 horse fields. The Del Mar turf course generally favors closer types, the turns are a bit tighter which places a premium on turf horses that are nimble with a quick turn of foot. Del Mar will only open about 10 days before the Breeder’s Cup for training purposes, it will be critical to see how horses are training once opened.
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF
1 MILE / TURF
Chad Brown has won 2 of the last 3 editions while Aidan O’Brien has been a no show. European shippers and California-based horses have not performed well. Horses with a sharp late turn of foot fit the winning profile.
1 MILE / DIRT
European shippers have won 8 of last 10. Horses based in California are no shows for this race. Post position will have little consequence on outcome while best running style is mid-pack closer.
This will be one of the smallest fields in some years so post position will not be an issue. There is no bias
The Bob Baffert race highlighted by Arrogate and West Coast with Gun Runner looking to upset. Three of the last 5 winners have gone wire to wire. Promises to be the best race of the year and over the years the average $2 win payout has been $26.67.
WHAT A SPORT !
October 15, 2017
In our previous article, we discussed finding the lone speed in a race and using it as a key component.
We basically break down every race we handicap into 2 sections: The 2nd call time and the final time. This will tell us who IS the speed and who MAINTAINS the speed. For SPRINT races, the 2nd call time is the 4 furlong time and for ROUTE races (up to 9 furlongs), it is the 6 furlong time.
In a SPRINT race for example, we will review each horse’s last race. That race will also have to be a SPRINT race. To qualify, it MUST be within 5 lengths of the leader at the 2nd call and finish within 5 lengths of the winner.
Ex. 23 ⅖ 47 ⅖ 2 10 1 1 hd 1 hd 2 /1 3 /3
The 2 horse in our example broke 10th, rushed up to 1st and was the leader at the 2nd call with a time of 47 and 2 and finished within 5 lengths of the winner.
If our horse was 3rd at the 2nd call and was 3 lengths behind the leader, then his time would be 48 (47 and ⅖ plus 3 lengths or ⅗ of a second).
Please note that this factor alone is not our only criteria, but it is a good evaluator of speed and pace.
reviewing all horses in a race, the fastest time from the last 2nd
call time will be a strong indicator of who will have the lead at the
call in this current race. If I could tell you before a 6 furlong
race who the leader would be at 4 furlongs, would you feel more
confident wagering on that race?
Now let’s take it 1 step further…assume you only have 1 horse that meets the criteria and qualifies as the LONE SPEED. You now have a tremendous wagering opportunity. The event happens more often then you would assume, we probably see it 20-25 times in a week. Good luck finding these gems.
On October 12, at CHARLESTOWN in Race 1, the # 7 horse CHATTER PATTERN met the criteria and was the LONE SPEED at 47 and 2. He broke alertly, gained the lead immediately, had a 2 length lead at the 2nd call which was run in 47 flat. At the top of stretch he opened his lead to 3 lengths and won going away by 4. And the best part, he paid $9.40.
On the same day also at CHARLESTOWN, in the 3rd race VALLEY OF GEMS was the LONE SPEED qualifying at 46 and 4 in his last race. As the gate opened he was hustled to the lead and easily maintained that lead as the 2nd call was run in 47 and 2. Even though his last race was 4 ½ furlongs and this race was 6 furlongs, the lead was maintained as he drifted out. He paid $6.60 to win.
In our next article, we will discuss how to evaluate when there are multiple horses that qualify in a race.