Handicapping Tip #29 – The Quarter Pole in Horse Racing

The big red and white pole at Churchill Downs

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Art Parker

There two critical points in the running of the Kentucky Derby: the start and the quarter pole. Located at the very top of the stretch at Churchill Downs is the quarter pole, meaning it is a quarter of a mile to the finish line from that point. The race does not end there but one should always view the race, in some ways, as if it does stop at the quarter pole. Why? Because if a horse cannot gain position by the time he hits the quarter pole his chances of winning the roses are greatly diminished.

All too often we hear the talk of distance runners that will close with all the extra ground in the Derby, but that really doesn’t happen much. Those that are on or near the lead at the top of the stretch have the best opportunity to win the Derby. So when you handicap the Kentucky Derby, ask yourself the question, “Who can win the race, without emptying the tank, if the race were only one mile?”

Handicapping Tip of the Day #28 – Who Can Win the KY Derby?

2013 KY Derby contender Verrazanoby Art Parker

In the last several decades over 80% of the Derby winners finished either first or second in one of the following major prep races: Spiral Stakes, Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes.

On occasion there will be exceptions to this rule but it is hard to ignore the Derby results these races have posted.

There are a couple of reasons for these races being so important to the Derby. First, most of these races serve as the last “big prep” before the Derby and almost all serious contenders will run in one of these, plus the purses of these races are very appealing. Secondly, the cream of the crop shows up at these races, which are generally held four to five weeks before the Derby making these races the best indicator of current form.

It’s unlikely the winner on the first Saturday in May will exit a race other than one these major preps.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #27 – Watch KY Derby Preps Closely

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Art Parker

There are many ways to handicap any race and the Kentucky Derby is no exception. One of those ways is called “trip handicapping” and all too often it is very revealing. When it comes to finding a Derby horse you may wish to review all of the prep races for the last couple of months. Naturally one thing you should look for in a prep race is a good excuse why a certain horse did not win or get close to winner. Looking for horses that were forced to slow down or simply had to wait forever to find racing room may provide some insight into the Derby. Whatever you do when reviewing taped races is to notice the start. Knowing which horses that may have trouble at the gate can give you a good idea about who will have position early.

 

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #26 – Recency & Claimers

Recency

by Art Parker, author of Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

When I was first learning to play the horses many decades ago, I was taught by a good friend to always consider recency. Something that is generally true with claiming horses, more so than allowance or stakes runners, is the need to have a recent race. My friend used a cut off of 45 DSLR (days since last race) for a claiming horse. Oddly enough, that eventually turned out to be the generally accepted time for a horse to be unraced and, hence, considered a “first time layoff” runner.

I pass on these types of claiming horses, who lack recent action, unless the runner goes for a trainer with a scorching hot first layoff record, which is another reason to keep good trainer records. To be successful at betting claimers it is important to distinguish between who “needs a race” and who is fit.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #23 – Watch for this Sneaky Trainer Move

Up in class, distance switch

by Art Parker

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

I know you have seen it so you should remember it. A horse comes off a layoff and runs opposite of its historical successful distances. The horse gets trounced in his return to battle but then shows up a short time later for another race. But this time the horse goes back to its successful distance and goes up in class. For most players this move is a world of trouble simply because of the increase in class.

When you are confronted with this, take the time to view the replay of the return race. Did it look like the horse was intentionally wide in the trip? Was the horse gunned to the front when it is not usually a speed horse? If something doesn’t look right it may be that the trainer was using the return race to tighten up the horse. The trainer may know his horse is close to being ready and just needed to get a race in his charge. One key is the short turn around. If a trainer thought his horse wasn’t ready after a return race then why hurry it back to the track?

Other things to look for in this situation is a positive jockey change or a change in equipment. Catching a good trainer with a slick move is hard to do. Remember, suspicion will not work for you unless…you are suspicious.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #25 – Eyes Right

The Most Underrated Number in the PPs

By Art Parker

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

Those that have any military experience and have spent time at “drill” are familiar with a command given during a specific ceremony. During a parade when passing the reviewing stand (or something similar) the command of “Eyes right” is given so that the marching troops will momentarily look at those doing the review, usually a dignitary or high ranking officer.

West point marchers When handicapping races you need to do “Eyes right.”  In fact, eyes all the way to right. What is way over there? The number of horses in a race that is printed as a past performance. For example, when you read a specific running line, from left to right, a great deal of information is gathered, such as class, date of race, track, points of call, fractions, speed figure, etc. At the end of the running line you will see a final number and that states the number of horses in that race. This information can be critical.

Let’s say a horse shows a win in his last race at a $25,000 claiming level and he led the race at every call. Today he runs for the same price and his last race looks so impressive it easy to envision the horse as an easy winner at the same class. But upon further examination your eyes go right and see that the final number is 4. That means the field only had 4 runners and the winner only had to beat 3 others. An easy win, especially if the limited numbers of competitors had suspect class, or what if the winner was the only one with any early speed.

Another reason for “Eyes right” is that the larger the field the higher the probability of traffic trouble, especially in the turns. So often it is said the best horse in the Kentucky Derby doesn’t win, and I promise you traffic trouble is the number one reason why. If you look at a past performance line of any Derby you will see a big number to the far right. Pay close attention to the number in a field – command your eyes to go all the way to the right when handicapping.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #24 – Claiming Jail

Handicapping Tip of the Day – Understanding the Claiming Business

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By Art Parker

The most common race in North America is the claiming race. Without these horses we call “claimers” most every track could not fill a race card. Probably 80 percent of all our races are claiming events, whereby an entrant can be ‘claimed’ from the race for the stated purchase price by a party eligible to make a claim. The idea of claiming is to provide parity. If you own a horse that is truly worth $50,000 then you will think long and hard about entering that horse in a claiming race of only $25,000. The drop in in claiming price may make for an easy score with purse money but you may also lose an asset for a fraction of its value. One must understand the business of horse racing before they can understand the world of claiming races.

One of the most important things to remember about claiming races is the ‘jail time.’ While the rules vary from state to state, a claimed horse cannot run for the same or lesser claiming value within 30 days after being claimed. This is called “in jail” because the horse cannot run for a lower price until that horse is out of jail. In some states the horse cannot be removed from the state during the jail time, and in some states, the horse cannot run anywhere else until the end of the meeting. To be proficient at handicapping claiming races one needs to be up to date on the various rules in the various states.

When handicapping claiming races it is well worth the time to look at the horses from a business standpoint and play the game as an owner or trainer. Profitable revelations will often come to light when a business examination is made of the entrants in a claiming race.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #22 – The MTO

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Art Parker

Always take special note when you see the words “Main Track Only” next to the name of an entrant. This positioning is the action of the trainer and it simply means that if the race is taken off the turf then the horse is eligible to run in the field. If the race remains on the turf then the horse will be a scratch. There are several interpretations of this move but what you need to closely examine is the condition of the horse and the conditions of the race. If the horse appears to be in good shape and if the horse fits the conditions well, then pay closer attention.

Oftentimes this means that the trainer knows he has a runner ready to roll and this was the best race he could find. If things do not make sense, such as the runner has a terrible main track record or usually competes at a lower level, then the horse is probably in the race for a workout. Always give MTOs a closer look.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #19 – Some Longshot Identifiers

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Glen S.

A time to use a horse as a longshot is when a horse in question has the potential to improve.  Here are a few scenarios for horseplayers to look for:

– horse has only one start and is eligible to improve in a big way.
– runner had a troubled trip that affected his outcome and disguised his true form.
– horse is trying something new that there is a sign that it could be successful, e.g. trainer angles, pedigree.
– the race shape sets up for him – lone speed in a paceless race or a closer with lots of other speed in the race.

You may ask yourself, how can in both the above situations have the same situation and one time you bet the horse and the other you do not bet the horse. It is simple; it is all about value compared to the horse’s chance to win. A horse that is at 20-1 but has enough angles to take a shot, then you only need to hit these types a few times to be profitable.  A horse at 1-1 but only has about a 30-percent chance to win, then in the long run you lose betting these types.

Understanding when a longshot can win and when the favorite is going to win really helps you out as to when to take a shot. Taking a longshot in every race and saying you never bet favorites instantly reduces your chance to make money at the races.  Accept that favorites do win, but when you find a chance to beat one, be ready and make it count.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #21 – The Right Track Surface?

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By Art Parker

Are you sure of the surface of the upcoming race? A player must pay close attention to all races carded for the turf because sometimes one or more of the grass races will be moved to the main track. Races are taken off the turf for several reasons, usually due to excessive moisture on the course. A change of surface can affect everything when it comes to the handicapping process. All changes are usually announced several times and posted on the tote board and monitors. Yet many players see the word TURF in the conditions and they forget that things may have changed. Not all turf races are taken off the turf and this makes things more complicated.   For example, just this past weekend a race was taken off the turf at Gulfstream Park with only three minutes to post.  If a track has three races carded for the turf it may not change the surface on all of the turf races. This is when alertness is the best handicapping tool you have.