Handicappers, It’s Mid-Year Review Time

Handicapping past performances PPs1st Half of the Year is Over

How is the year going?  At the beginning of the year we typically remind readers to take the necessary steps to improve their handicapping and money management.  With six months of 2021 in the books, how would you rate your handicapping thus far?  Are you committing some of the same mistakes you’ve made in the past?  What have you improved upon?

Let’s look back on the New Year resolutions because it’s never too late to right the ship.

“Every horse player needs to know their strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t, you will not know when to take that big shot on a horse or wager.

I find the biggest mistake by horseplayers is playing the same way year after year and not trying to improve their handicapping.  It’s a ‘plan’ doomed to fail.

What have you done lately to improve?

Here are a few things to do more of…” read on

Lessons from the First Big Online Tournament of the Year

By Rich Nilsen

The first big online handicapping tournament of the year was held over the weekend of Jan. 9-10 at horsetourneys.com, and I was fortunate enough to win into this $1,500 buy-in event via an initial $28 feeder.  It was also the same weekend at the local Tampa Bay Downs handicapping contest, so plenty of work was required to prepare for both events.

The Flo-Cal Faceoff, the Players Championship (April 2-3) and the Spa & Surf Showdown (August 14-15) comprise the new 2021 Tourney Triple series at HorseTourneys which features additional bonuses and prizes if you do well over the three contests.  The Flo-Cal closed on the morning of January 9th with a staggering purse of $570,373 based on 429 entries and a top prize set at $205,019.  The contest was comprised of full-card mandatory races at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita on both Saturday and Sunday, so this was going to be a long weekend.

On day one I got off to a very good start in the Flo-Cal Faceoff by hitting five winners from the first nine races at Gulfstream Park.  The problem was that I missed the big longshot that came in early in the day ($37.00 to win, $17 to place) and that missed $54 in bankroll was going to be difficult to overcome.

Unfortunately, I did not fare nearly as well at Santa Anita, so most of my Saturday bankroll came from South Florida.  I ended the day with over $97, an admirable score that was within ‘shouting’ distance, but that only put me in the top 25% of the field.  The lucrative prize structure was paying down to the top 28 players at the conclusion of the weekend.

Day Two of Flo-Cal

I decided I was going to swing for the fences on Sunday.  ‘Grinding it out’ seemed like a difficult strategy to make up the $60-90 deficit.  Hindsight is 20/20 and that proved to be a mistake on a day where shorter price horses were consistently winning throughout the afternoon.  The first longshot of the day wouldn’t come in until nearly 4pm when Weisser scored in Gulfstream Park’s 8th race, paying $27.80, $11.80.  I did not have him, and the situation was looking bleak.

However, I am not one to give up, knowing that in the span of just one-two races, a tournament player can make up huge strides on the leaderboard.  In the very next race at Gulfstream Park (race 9), I eyed a runner that was trying the turf for the first time.  The Munnings filly had won two of her three starts when sprinting and she had good tactical, early speed.  She looked like the type of filly that could win going 5 furlongs on the grass.  She was a juicy 17-1 and I knew if I could get this horse home, I was back in the top 50 of the standings.  I would then have a chance for some nice prize money if I could finish the day strong.

Choose Joy, my bomber, tracked closely in third and was loaded turning for home.  She surged in the final strides at the leader, but the front runner who had been off since June fought back and held on by a diminishing nose.  I got a $15.00 place payoff but missed out on an additional $36 for the win.  Numerous players had the 14-1 winner, and, instead of sitting on the first page of the leaderboard,  I was now sitting in around 170th  and the light at the end of the tunnel was very dim.

It wasn’t too long before the final race of the long weekend was upon us.  Sitting in about 140th and being only $20 out of the top 100, I had to decide if I was going to shoot for the top 100 to earn some points in this Triple Tourney event, or if hitting a bomb could move me into the top 28 of the cash prize winners.

In the field of 11 there were only three cappers and a 17-1 shot on the board.   The math told me I was blocked.  There was simply no way that I was going to pass over 100 players no matter what horse won.  It made more sense to find a horse I really liked at good odds.  [In the end my calculations were correct and even if I had hit the final contest race winner, I would have only ended up about 40th… but I digress.]

Not that I was considering the favorites, but the shorter priced horses in the field did not strike fear into anyone.  #11 Miss Dracarys had only raced one time.  She was let off at odds of 23-1 in her debut, indicating that she wasn’t exactly ‘well meant’ by her connections.  Despite that, she won, but now she was being asked to transfer that form on the other side of the country – not an easy task for a young horse.

So, I was on the lookout for a runner that had a strong chance of winning and represented some value.  I needed at least 6-1 odds to secure a top 100 finish, but of course, the higher the odds the better.

Santa Anita race favorites

#10 Empire House was starting for the dangerous Jonathan Wong outfit, but this runner had never attempted the turf.  She was getting first time Lasix and had a pedigree to handle the surface switch.  She made sense at odds of 9-1, but #4 Magical Thought was even more appealing.  Starting for trainer Peter Miller, arguably the best turf sprint trainer in California, this horse was dropping out of a graded stakes race and was cutting back from one mile to a preferred sprint distance.  She was also 9-1 and just the odds I needed to pass a lot of players on the leaderboard.

The Pivotal Question

When I first handicapped the race, it didn’t take my long to pass right over the #1 horse.  Having seen Mountaineers shippers lose at an extraordinarily high rate over the years, I didn’t care for the cheap maiden graduate to move to Santa Anita and win.  Although she had won by a large margin (over a bad field) she had “lugged out” in the lane, another negative note.  Two races back this horse had lost at Belterra Park.  Win at Santa Anita…are you kidding me?  Next.

Now, my Dad, who taught me how to handicap, would not have been so rash.  He would have looked at this odd shipper and asked himself the question, “What is this horse doing in this race?”  And that is the question that would have led to the correct answer.  He was here to win.

Santa Anita race 9 winner

The Mountaineer shipper had moved into one of the top barns in Southern California, that of John Sadler.  He had given the filly a long string of workouts, fairly consistent and dating back to at least early October.  She showed two bullet works in early October and a sharp 47.3 drill, sixth best of 52 at the distance on October 17.

Sadler was putting up one of the top jockeys in Southern California, Umberto Rispoli.  Rispoli is one of the best on the grass and also one of the best out of the gate.  This horse had flashed very quick early speed in her two races, and that is one of the main assets you typically want in a 6 furlong turf horse.

Why in the world would a top California barn obtain a lowly maiden winner from West Virginia?  By the stallion Cinco Charlie and out of a modest winner, the filly didn’t have much of a pedigree.  However, they clearly saw something in this runner and felt that she could fit a certain profile out West.  The connections were right, and they were handsomely rewarded.

The Final Race Result

With dusk falling over the stunning San Gabriel Mountains, Five Pics Please cruised to the front right out of the gate and ran the field off their feet.  At odds of 29-1 she easily held on for the shocking score in the $63,000 race.  She stopped the timer in a swift 1:08.91.

By not closely analyzing Five Pics Please and failing to ask the obvious question that my father would have asked, I missed out on a big longshot winner.  The Flo-Cal Faceoff champ turned out to be Alan Levitt, a 12-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship.  Back in 2012 he compiled a $195.20 bankroll en route to a 7th place overall finish in Las Vegas.  With one race to go Levitt was sitting in 19th place in the Flo-Cal Faceoff, and he wisely pulled the trigger on the Mountaineer bomber.  He catapulted past the 18 players in front of him and took down the lucrative six-figure cash prize.

The Final Race Result winner Santa Anita

copyright 2021 Equibase.com

Did you miss these Handicapping Tips of the Day?

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Horse Racing Tip of the Day – Evaluating Layoff Horses

Horse Racing Tip of the Day – Red Flags on this Big Favorite

How to Improve Your Handicapping in the New Year

by Glen S.

Was 2020 a successful year in your handicapping? If so, great, but why not make it even better. If wasn’t a good year, why do you think that was? Do you know where you struggled the most? Was it playing too many sequence bets or betting under-valued horses?

Every horse player needs to know their strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t, you will not know when to take that big shot on a horse or wager.

I find the biggest mistake by horseplayers is playing the same way year after year and not trying to improve their handicapping.  It’s a ‘plan’ doomed to fail.

What have you done lately to improve?

Here are a few things to do more of in the New Year that will improve your horse racing handicapping:

  • Watch more replays.
  • Be better prepared before the races start.
  • Look at some of the new/old handicapping software out there, e.g. DRF’s Formulator.
  • Be more adaptable to the race.
  • Avoid having the same type of bet for most races.

So many horse players think they are great handicappers.  Why is that? If everyone was so good, more favorites would win and the prices would be lower. Needless to say, that is not the case.

Ask yourself, what would you rate yourself as a horseplayer overall from a scale of 1 to 10 ?

There has been a study in regards to people rating themselves in the field they are in. The study has found that the best of the best in their field rates themselves around a 4.5 out of 10.  Why do you think they rate themselves so low?  It is because they never stop learning. If you rated yourself at 7 or higher, you may want to think again. One of my favorite lines is “What you don’t know, you don’t know?” Think about that line and understand why that is so powerful.

Be better in 2021.  Become a better handicapper.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

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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

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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Gambling Executive discusses the best horse racing betting strategies to improve your chances

Regardless of whether you’re new to sports wagering or are already a betting ace, there is always room for improvement. A small number of sports bettors just engage in horse gambling during the Triple Crown races; however, the amount of cash bet on horse races every year indicates there are “regulars” who wager races all year. Regardless of whether you are an inconsistent bettor making a bet from an online platform or an enthusiastic bettor appearing at the circuit regularly, everyone can profit by some type of wagering advice. Adam Bjorn, a gambling executive with extensive knowledge of all types of betting activity, provides tips that are sure to help any gambler improve their efforts.

With different games, numerous bettors will depend on the eye test when making bets. These bettors contend they have seen groups play ordinarily and can, in this way, foresee the results of their next games. States Bjorn, “In horse racing, seeing each pony’s earlier races is almost inconceivable. There are an excessive number of horses in an excessive number of tracks to be able to contrast all of them around the nation. As a result, the race program ought to be seen as a bettor’s Holy Grail and the source of all applicable data.”

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.

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.

Did you miss this Handicapping Tip of the Day?

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

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #59 – The Off the Turf Bomber

Look for These Attributes for an Off-the-turf Winner

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

This is the story of how I gave my buddies a 27-1 winner that won for fun, and I think they wagered a total of $10 on her.

A few weeks back I picked up my Brisnet Past Performances for the 8th race at Gulfstream Park, an off-the-turf claimer for non-winners of two races lifetime.  First thing I did was look at the MTO (Main Track Only) runner who had drawn into the field and was now the favorite. The four year old filly had so-so early speed and just struck me as a one-paced runner, the type that makes a slow, steady late run that isn’t going to win many races…especially at Gulfstream Park.  She also showed declining speed figures for her 9% trainer.

Immediately, I was interested in who might be able to beat this vulnerable favorite.  The #2, 5, and 12 were all turf runners that had no show little-to-no ability on the main track.  Toss.

That left only the #4, 6, 11, and 13.  The #11 was a terribly slow horse for a bad trainer.  Easy toss.   The #4 had won a maiden $10,000 claimer at Tampa and this was a $25,000 2-life at Gulfstream.   She looked slow and outclassed for this level in South Florida.

That left only two possibilities if I was going to play this race.  The #6 Just A Bit Sassy had run twice on the dirt and had placed twice both times while earning decent figures.  However, she was beaten a total of 18 lengths and had failed to show much early speed.  She was being heavily bet as the second choice and I felt the risk/reward wasn’t there.

#13 Lilo’s Call, on the other hand, had gone wire to wire in her maiden win first time out at Laurel last March.  Off that start she ran a lackluster 6th on the turf (toss).  She was then well beaten in her next two starts in tough allowance races and one of those starts came in the slop.  I only needed to forgive her last start in order to make her a play.

Sometimes you just have to forgive a bad last race for no reason.  Today,  the daughter of Drosselmeyer was making her first start for her new trainer, a low profile but solid 21% trainer John Collins.  She had three solid works for the new barn, a very positive sign that she might revert to her prior good form.  Lilo’s Call was bred to love the distance and dirt, and she was already a proven, front-running winner in a one-turn mile race.  Went I looked at the toteboard on BetPTC.com I couldn’t believe my eyes.  She was 40-1.

I’m a privileged member of the LoneSpeed.com text thread, a select group of really good handicappers.  The small group of six includes superstar handicapper Dylan Donnelly (currently #1 on the NHC Tour) and wanna-be star Justin Dew.

It was 6 minutes to post and I texted my buddies about a longshot that I thought had a big shot.  Radio silence.

They broke from the gate and Lilo’s Call moved up into a perfect stalking position in third, just off the early pace setters.  At the 3/8th pole Miguel Vasquez asked and Lilo responded, cruising to the front.  From there she took command and then proceeded to just run the rest of her rivals off their feet.  She hit the wire 6 3/4 lengths in front.   The MTO favorite plodded along in second.  My phone exploded.

Chart of a longshot off the turf winner

copyright 2020 Equibase.com and Brisnet

The filly paid $57.20 win.  The congrats came in via the text thread, and double NHC qualifer Dew acknowledged that he had a few bucks on her.

Overlays like this aren’t easy to come by.  When you handicap an off the turf race, look for a horse that is proven on the dirt or has an excellent dirt pedigree.  Give the edge to runners with good early speed or strong tactical speed.  Couple that with an angle or two that makes sense, and you have the icing on the cake.   Best of luck!