Handicapping Tip of the Day #64 – Red Flags on Rag Tag

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

On a recent Wednesday card at Tampa Bay Downs (Dec. 9, 2020), the 2nd race of the day featured a nice field of maiden special weight runners going 6 1/2 furlongs.  The 3/2 morning line favorite in the race was the Eoin Harty-trained Rag Tag, a three year old who sported good form and superior numbers (speed figures, class ratings, BRIS Prime Power rating, etc.).  The well-bred colt from famed Calumet Farm also was coming in off a solid workout pattern.  What wasn’t there to like?

In Rag Tag’s case, quite a bit.  In his brief, nine-race career the colt had been beaten at short odds SIX times.  Three of those times he was the heavy favorite, as he was expected to be on this sunny Florida afternoon.

The most dangerous ‘Professional Maidens’ for chalk lovers (bettors who like to wager on favorites) are those that have numerous changes applied by their trainer(s) and continue to fail.  Rag Tag was a shining example:

  • He had raced at four different distances, from 4 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.
  • He had tried the dirt, the turf, and the slop.
  • He had been ridden by six different jockeys, including top jocks Luis Saez and John Velasquez, Jr.
  • He had run with blinkers and without blinkers.
  • He had dropped in class and lost.
  • He had attempted five different racetracks.
  • He had never gained ground AND passed a horse in the stretch…ever.
  • Finally, he had raced for three different barns (Pletcher, Sisterson, and Harty)

All this in a 9-race career.  When the morning line favorite has been beaten, especially recently, at short odds, that is the first neon light to the handicapper to dig deeper.  Has this horse been in races where he or she should have won previously and didn’t?  When there is a lot of evidence pointing out that this horse is a hanger and lacks the will to win, it can open up a big opportunity for the horseplayer.  It doesn’t mean you’re going to pick the winner, but it does guarantee that you get extra value on your play(s).

Rag Tag went off at 70 cents on the dollar and was a closing 2nd to the lukewarm 2nd choice, a lightly raced Monmouth Park shipper.  He’ll got into his next race with a record of 10-0-5-1 and he’ll be heavily bet again.

Did you miss this Handicapping Tip of the Day?

Horse Racing Tip of the Day – the Fewer this the better…

Horse Racing Tip of the Day – Evaluating Layoff Horses

Best Way to Win a Horse Race? Mathematicians may have the answer

The best way to win a horse race? Mathematicians may have the answerAttention racehorse jockeys: Start fast, but save enough energy for a final kick. That’s the ideal strategy to win short-distance horse races, according to the first mathematical model to calculate how horses use up energy in races. The researchers say the approach could be used to identify customized pacing plans that, in theory, would optimize individual horses’ chances of winning.

Every racehorse has different capabilities. Like humans, some excel at sprinting, whereas others are marathoners. Figuring out which is which, and how to pace them, can be the difference between faltering in the final furlough and taking home the Kentucky Derby’s $1.3 million winner’s payout. Jockeys and trainers have traditionally relied on centuries of experience, data from previous races, and intuition to plan their races.

Amandine Aftalion, a mathematician at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris, thought she could add to that. Since 2013, she has been analyzing the performances of world champion runners like sprinter Usain Bolt. She’s found that short-distance runners tend to win when they start strong and gradually slow down toward the finish line. But in medium-distance races, such as the 1600-meter, runners perform …

A Brief History of Horse Racing at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds

The Most Common Horse Racing Wagers

Handicapping past performances PPsIf you are new to the sport of horse racing, these are the basic and most common types of horse racing wagers that you can place at the racetrack, OTB, or ADW (online wagering company).

WIN BET
You are picking the horse you think will win the race. If you are correct, you will receive the Win payoff amount.  You can wager on more than one horse in the race to win.

Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

PLACE BET
You are picking the horse(s) you think will run EITHER first or second place in the race. If you are correct, you will receive the Place payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

SHOW BET
You are picking the horse(s) you think will run EITHER first, second OR third. If you are correct, you will receive the Show payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

DAILY DOUBLE BET
Played only on the first and second races of each performance. You must select the horse(s) in each of the two races you think will win. All Daily Double bets must be in before the first race (Leg) runs.
Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

QUINIELA BET
You must pick at least two horses you think will cross the finish line in the top two places. With this type of bet, the horses can finish in either order, and you still have a winning ticket! If you are correct, you will receive the Quiniella payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

EXACTA BET
With this wager you must pick the first two horses across the finish line in EXACT order. If you are correct, you will receive the Exacta payoff amount.  This is the most popular “exotic” wager in horse racing.
Minimum bet – $1 per horse combination.

TRIFECTA BET
You must pick at least three horses that you think will be the first three across the finish line. If you are correct, you will receive the Trifecta payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $0.50 per horse combination, or more, depending on the track’s rules.

SUPERFECTA BET
You must pick at least four horses you think will be the first four across the finish line. If you are correct, you will receive the Superfecta payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $0.10 per horse combination minimum, or more, and additional amounts must be in multiples of a dime.  Depends on the track’s rules.  Some tracks are $0.50 or $1.00 minimums.  Some Canadian tracks are $0.20 minimums.

Handicapping Tip of the Day # 63 – What makes a strong play?

Profit Risk Evaluation in Horse Racingby Glen S.

My recent blogs have talked about preparing for betting.  Today’s is all about taking advantage of the prep work that you have done.

You have watched the replays, you have handicapped the race card. At this point you should have a good feeling of the races to take a shot at or pass. One other thing to check would be are there any carryovers and, if so, what type of carryovers. Understand the difference between a good carryover and a jackpot carryover. which are more common nowadays.  A good carryover will be paid out that day.

My recommendation if it is a good carryover, start there with those races. Dead money always is in favor of the horseplayer, don’t miss out, but make sure you like the sequence.

Next step start with your strongest races you like, maybe a replay horse or a race with very few unknowns and then build around that race. If I am playing sequence bets, I need to have at least half of the races I like quite a bit. This doesn’t mean I have keys in every race, but does mean I have the max horses in the race I need.

If the bookends of your strongest race are terrible, then it might just be an individual race bet. If the carryover is big enough in the sequence, I will take a small chance and play the sequence.

What makes a strong play?

Here are a few key points I look for to give myself an advantage over the wagering public:
-Understanding race shape.  Fast pace?  Slow pace?
-A good replay that others might have missed.
-Vulnerable favorite that you think will get beat, but the public doesn’t and over bets that horse.
-Very few unknowns in the race, e.g. first time starters.

Always try and find that value, whether it is there because of a carryover, vulnerable favorite or your horse is paying higher than you thought.

Good luck and good racing.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #62 – What Is Your Betting Strategy?

by Glen S.

Picking winners doesn’t always mean you are making money at the horse races.  Successful betting strategies usually does though.

Let’s begin by realizing that every horse race is a little different. Why is that?  Well, there are  underlays, overlays, big or small fields, where the race is in the race card, etc. If you are a bettor that wagers the same way and amount in each race, then you are behind the eight ball right way. STOP THAT!

Your need to adjust your wagering according to the race in question and how confident you are on the race. How and what should we do?

Here are some do’s and don’t; hopefully you are on more of the do’s.
-Don’t bet the same amount on each race, as there is no way you like each race equally.
-Do step up a little more when you have a strong play, and step down when there are to many unknowns.
-Don’t be one of those people that tell me they never bet favorites.  Favorites win around 35% of the time.
-If you avoid favorites you have already lost on over one-third of the races. Favorites have value at times, too.
-Do understand when to box horses and when to make it a wheel.
-You should figure out the percentage of your opinion on the horses in question; if equal, box, if different wheel.
-Don’t be that lazy handicapper that plays the caveman ticket in pick 4s or pick 5s.
-Oftentimes you need to play multiple tickets – that saves you money and takes advantage of your handicapping ability.

Read Handicapping Tip #16 – 4 Times to Play Against the Favorite!

Here are a few other handicapping tips to set you up for success
-Do take advantage of all the new and improved handicapping tools out there to help you pick more winners.
-Don’t be that handicapper that thinks they know it all and has bet the same way they have for the past 20 years.
-Do the research and pick your spots and make yourself some money at the races.

Comments are always welcome as I want to get better each day as well.

Next Week: Part 2 of Betting strategies, sequence bets,

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Got Questions about Horse Racing?

Q: Now that Swiss Skydiver has shown she can beat the colts, I think it’s time for her connections to run her in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. What do you think?

A: Beating the boys in the Preakness Stakes is one thing, but beating them in the $6 million Classic is quite another. In the 36 previous runnings, Zenyatta (2009) is the only female to win the race in one of the most thrilling moments in Santa Anita’s history.

Swiss Skydiver’s connections have indicated they favor the Breeders’ Cup Distaff over the Classic, and that’s the way I’d go if she was my filly. But consider this: If she runs in the Classic and wins, she’s hands down the Horse of the Year. There’s not even a debate…

Are Kentucky Derby and Oaks Points a Useful Selection Tool?

by Art Parker

In 2013 the criteria for being able to enter the Kentucky Derby was measured by graded stakes earnings accumulated during the career of a three year old. The idea was to award those that performed well in certain races known as “Derby Preps.” These races are the traditional big races in the spring when racing eyes are beginning to envision the first Saturday in May.

While this year has been quite a bit different due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Kentucky Derby points system is still the measurement used to determine who gets into the gate on September 5, the Derby Day of 2020. The actual races may have changed a bit but the point system is still the determinant.

On the Derby Leaderboard the clear favorite for the race, Tiz the Law, has 372 points after embarrassing competition in several outings this year, most notably the Travers, which was his last start.

Churchill Downs Stock UpgradedThe second horse behind the leader is Authentic, one of two Bob Baffert charges. Authentic has 200 points which puts him slightly above half of what the Tiz the Law has accumulated. Comparing the point differential from first to second in prior years tells us that Tiz the Law is in a league of his own – at least based on points. This has been the difference in other years: zero, one, 13, 16, 18, 21, and 30. The number that looks so big, 30, was Derby winner’s California Chrome’s number over Vicar’s in Trouble in 2014. By the way, only one other point’s leader that has won the Derby was in 2013, when Orb romped home on a muddy track.

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Since California Chrome no point’s leader has won the Derby. The winner in 2019, Country House, was 17th in points in a Derby we all wish to forget, except the winner’s connections. In 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify was ninth sporting only his Santa Anita Derby win. In 2017 Always Dreaming was seventh in points. In 2016 Derby winner Nyquist was second in points to eventual great Gun Runner. When American Pharoah won the Triple Crown in 2015 he was fourth on the points list.

Should you select a Derby winner based upon on points? According to this, the answer is no, based on history. However, no other horse has held such a colossal amount of points over the competition.

The points leaderboard for the Kentucky Oaks looks similar. Swiss Skydiver has been on tour winning four major races in four different states. Her point total for the Kentucky Oaks is a whopping 450. In second is Speech with only 160 points. The difference of 290 points is hard to imagine. Like the Derby, let’s look at the point differential between the leader and second place. The only Oaks winner that led in points was Untapable in 2014. The point differential between first and second on the leaderboard has been, zero, zero, 6, 10, 19, 20, and Untapable’s 40.

In 2019 Serengeti Empress won the Oaks and was eighth on the points list. In 2018 Oaks winner Monomy Girl was second on the points list to Midnight Bisou. Abel Tasman won the Oaks in 2017 and was seventh on the points list. In 2016 Cathryn Sophia captured the Oaks while finishing sixth in the points race. Lovely Maria won the 2015 Oaks and was fifth in points. Before Untapable in 2013 Princess of Sylmar finished seventh on the points list and won the Oaks.

Like the points question asked earlier about the Derby, should you select an Oaks winner based upon on points? According to this, the answer is no, based on history. However, just like the point differential in the Derby, no other horse has held such a colossal amount of points over the competition in the Oaks.

A major consideration in the Oaks points this year is Bob Baffert’s filly, Gamine. The superstar is ninth on the points list but has raced in only one race with points – The Acorn at Belmont.

For a final, up to date listing of points for the Derby and the Oaks.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #61 – The Extended Layoff Horse

The Best Way to Discern If a Layoff Horse is Ready

By Art Parker for agameofskill.com

 

I call it the extended layoff. That’s when a horse has been away from the track for at least six months. When examining a race these horses present a problem in the selection process. Are they fit and ready to run? Why did they go on the shelf?

Derby144 workout Justify at Santa AnitaThe questions can go on forever. What about the horse than won its last race and then is nowhere to be seen for six months or more? It doesn’t make any sense. Why would you take a horse out of action if he is doing well? Did something go wrong with the horse? Those that were running well and then sidelined are even harder to figure.

A longtime ago a friend of mine told me that no matter what the reason a horse is sidelined for a half-year or longer makes no difference. What one needs to know is if the horse is ready to run now. That’s the real question.

Long Workouts or Bust

Over the years I concluded after much observation that the only way to have confidence in an extended layoff, other than the trainer be successful at long layoffs, is to demand a string of workouts that are long. I define long as five furlongs our longer. In some case good trainers will build their horse up from three furlongs to a half mile and then to five furlongs as race time nears. The question one must ask is, “Has the horse been on a planned return with a series of workouts, preferably long morning drills?”

If the answer to that question is yes then one needs to pay attention to that race entrant.

Ellis Park’s 2-year old program continuing to produce winners

Ellis Park’s 2-year old program continuing to produce winnersHENDERSON, KY. (WFIE) – Ellis Park’s 2-year-old program has gone from being one of racing’s best-kept secrets to becoming common knowledge as a launching pad for stakes horses. Less heralded, but extremely productive, is the Riverside Downs training center right across the Ohio River in Henderson.

The latest poster child: Stonestreet Stable’s Hopeful Princess, winner of the first 2-year-old race in Kentucky this year and in her next start third in Saratoga’s opening-day feature Thursday, the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes.

Where to watch the horse races in Saratoga Springs, NY

Ellis Park mainstay John Hancock partnered with breeder Jackie Huckaby to race Hopeful Princess after the $27,000 high bid on the filly at Keeneland’s September yearling sale last year failed to reach Huckaby’s minimum sales price. Hancock then brought in Imaginary Stable’s John Guarnere as another owner in January…  more about Ellis Park’s 2-year old program:

Handicapping Tip of the Day #60 – Watch ‘em and Learn

Watch ‘em and Learn, even If You Don’t Bet ‘em

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By Art Parker

We are hitting that time of year when we see frequent two-year-old races. I don‘t care to play juveniles unless there seems to be something unusual.

For a good example of finding something unusual with a juvenile, I go back to August 2013 at Woodbine. In the first race of the day, a two-year-old debut filly by the name of Unspurned stalked a hot early pace and slipped past in mid-stretch for an impressive victory. The race at 7/8 miles had the following fractions: 22 4/5, 45 3/5, 1:10 3/5, and a final of 1:24 1/5. That seemed to be much better than average for baby fillies that time of year. I made a note about the young filly with the cool name.

The next race told me even more. Just 28 minutes later a field of three-year-old Maiden Special Weights males battle at the same distance, 7/8 miles. The fractions for the sophomore males were: 23 2/5, 46 4/5, 1:12, and a final of 1:25.

This is when Unspurned got my attention.

For the record, Unspurned went on to a very successful career with several stakes victories and ran behind the great filly and future Queen’s Plate winner, Lexie Lou, on a couple of occasions.

The boys in the other race were far from remarkable. The winner was C.C. Mobil, who finished a career with two wins from 46 starts. The second-place horse, Jobber Bill, finished his career with two wins from 34 starts.

One may not play juvenile races, but paying attention to them can be very worthwhile. Not only may one discover a good young ‘un, but it can help sort out some others.

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Horse Racing Tip of the Day – the Fewer this the better…