Handicapping Tip of the Day #38 – Does the Favorite Make Sense?

by Rich Nilsen

Claiming races have often been compared to poker games.  The crafty trainers are making moves and hoping that their competition guesses wrong.  Recently at Laurel Park, red hot trainer Linda Rice (43% winner on the meet) had the overwhelming favorite Cheering On Al.  On the surface and with a cursory glance, the four-year-old filly look near unbeatable.  She had been very competitive at claiming levels more than three times the price of today’s race.  But therein lied the rub.  Why in the world was she in for only a nickel ($5,000) given her recent form?  Also, why had she not run back within two or three weeks off the claim?

Laurel past performances PPs

copyright 2017 Equibase and Brisnet.com

Her last race gave a clue as to why.  Bet down to odds of 7/5 she failed to hit the board, fading quickly in the final 1/16th of a mile.  Still, the fourth place finish beaten just over four lengths was a performance that should crush today’s competition.  Right? That disappointing race, however, came for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who is difficult to claim off of, and she had been shelved since the race in late December.  Red flags were popping up.

Does the betting favorite make sense?  If you had just claimed this filly, would run her in this spot?  You would only do so if her soundness was less than 100 percentage, and you were not happy with your $16,000 purchase.  That apparently was the case in this spot, as the connections were willing to unload her for $5,000.  She was a sucker bet at odds of 0.60 to 1, and she ran accordingly.

These opportunities don’t come along every day but they do appear frequently enough.  I just happened to be on 5-1 shot Weatherurnot, who looked like a winner in deep stretch, only to be nailed by a big longshot with improving form.

Laurel race chart

 

Show Wagering: A Horse Racing History

Somehow, in horse racing, the show still goes on

by John Cherwa for the LA Times

LOS ANGELES — Even the smartest people sometimes get their wisdom from strange places. Take Jon White, a horse racing encyclopedia who doubles as the morning-line oddsmaker at Santa Anita.

White cites a 1975 television episode of the “The Odd Couple,” a show based on a Neil Simon play about a sportswriter/gambler named Oscar and his… [Read more…]

Handicapping Tip of the Day #37 – Never Be Afraid of this Type of Favorite

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

There is one particular type of favorite that the experienced horseplayer should never fear.   I’m talking about the type of public choice, especially a maiden, who always runs well enough to get bet next time out.  His or her past performances always look like a horse in sharp form, with strong speed figures, and running lines that include a lot of 1-2-3s.  But what is always in common is a lot of “two’s” and “three’s” at the finish position.  This is the type of runner that lacks the will to win.  The horse is talented.  The  horse has speed.  The horse runs good enough to nearly get his picture taken, but the horse doesn’t want to “go on” and win the race.

A recent race at Finger Lakes was a perfect example of a money-burning maiden that fit this bill.  November 15, 2016 at Finger Lakes featured the heavy favorite Hazen’s Notch.  The New York-bred of D’Funnybone was seven-for-seven in the money racing at distances from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 mile and 70 yards and over tracks labeled fast, good and sloppy.

The versatile gelding was coming off another ‘good’ effort, a 2nd place finish at 3-1 odds at the maiden special weights level only 14 days prior. But look closer and this horse was life and death to hang on for second while drubbed 8 lengths by another rival.  In only one of his last five races had this horse gained ground in the stretch. In all but one of his seven career races he went off at odds of 3-1 or lower.  He was expected to win nearly every one of these races by many handicappers and had failed.

On this day Hazen’s Notch was odds-on during most of the wagering before finally settling at 1.05 to 1 at post time.  He finished third, beaten only two necks for all the money, behind $18.40 winner Winlocs Utopia.

The chart caller’s comments read:  Hazen’s Notch was well placed along the two path, angled out in the lane, gained some and hung.

false favorite

 

Exacta Strategies – Thinking Outside the Box

by Lenny Moon

Reprinted with permission

The Exacta is many horseplayers first taste of exotic wagering.

In horse racing the Exacta requires the bettor to correctly select the first two finishers in a race.

There are many ways to play the Exacta but most horseplayers are taught to play the Exacta in the most inefficient way, thus foregoing the opportunity to maximize their returns.

I was guilty of falling into the trap because it was the way everyone played the Exacta, in fact it was the way the racing program suggested to play.

Lucky for you I am here to teach you how to maximize your returns when betting the Exacta but before we get to that let’s take a few minutes to discuss the wrong ways and why they should be avoided.

Exacta Box

The most common way to bet the Exacta is by boxing two or more horses.  This is the strategy referred to earlier.

Boxing your horses means they can come in any order so long as they finish first and second.

At first glance, and to a novice, this might look like a great strategy because it provides a little cushion in case you are not perfect in your handicapping.

exacta horse racing basicsWhat it also does is minimize returns because you are giving each combination an equal chance of winning.

While there may be a rare occasion when you think two horses have an equal chance of winning or running second that should be the exception not the rule.

Betting an Exacta Box is not only inefficient it can also be costly depending on the number of horses you use.

A two horse Exacta Box costs $2 (2 x 1 = 2) for each $1 bet, a three horse Exacta Box costs $6 (3 x 2 = 6) for each $1 bet, a four horse Exacta Box costs $12 (4 x 3 = 12) for each $1 bet and so on.

It may seem like a good way to bet but the cost and the likely return suggests otherwise.

For example suppose you bet a three horse Exacta Box for $1.  Your investment would be $6.

If two of your horses are favorites and run one-two you might make a few dollars or depending on how much was bet on the combination you could conceivably lose money.

The only benefit of boxing an Exacta is it will produce a higher win rate, meaning you will cash more tickets.  In return, however, you will be minimizing your profits.

The most efficient way to bet the Exacta is by weighting each combination.

Exacta Wheel

The second most common way to bet the Exacta is a wheel.

An Exacta Wheel involves picking one horse to win and “wheeling” it with the rest of the field.

If your horse wins you win the Exacta but again you are not maximizing your returns.

You are actually putting yourself in a position that adds more luck to the equation then necessary.

Basically you are hoping your horse wins the race and the longest shot runs second.

Unfortunately there is a much better chance one of the logical contenders will fill out the Exacta.  That result will produce a much lower payout than if the longest shot ran second.

Let’s say you find one horse you really like to win but you cannot figure out who will run second.  The best option would be to bet the horse to Win and forego the Exacta.

The more likely decision will be wheeling your horse in the Exacta and praying for a long shot to come in second.

If the race had ten horses the Exacta wheel would cost $9 (1 x 9 = 9) for each $1 bet.

In a ten horse field the Exacta will usually pay more than $9 for a $1 bet so if your horse wins you will most likely make a profit but at what cost?

Let’s say your horse is 3/1 and wins.  You bet a $1 Exacta Wheel which costs $9.

A logical horse runs second and the Exacta returns $20 for a $1 bet.

You excitedly make your way to the betting window to collect your $11 profit.

What you fail to realize is you left money on the table.

Had you bet that same $9 on your horse to Win you would have won $36 (9 x 3 + 9 = 36) for a profit of $27 (36 – 9 = 27).

The Win bet would have made you a profit of $27 while the Exacta only netted you $11.

There will be instances when a long shot finishes second and the Exacta returns more than the Win bet but more often than not one of the favorites will run second thus reducing the return.

Exacta Part Wheel

The Exacta Part Wheel is a step in the right direction.

This bet involves wheeling your horse over a few other horses.

This is a much better strategy than wheeling the entire field second because it costs less.

In the same example from the previous section let’s say you decide three horses can run second behind your top pick.  A $1 Exacta Part Wheel would cost $3 (1 x 3 = 3) for each $1 bet.

Now you have shifted the odds in your favor.

The $3 Win bet would only return $12 (3 x 3 + 3 = 12).

The Exacta would return $20 for each $1 bet resulting in a profit of $17 (20 – 3 = 17).

In this scenario the Exacta returned $5 more than the Win bet for each $1 bet.

A more effective way to play the Exacta Part Wheel is to bet more than a dollar on the combinations.

I used this strategy on Belmont day in the Easy Goer Stakes.

I thought the favorite, Teeth of the Dog, was the most likely winner.  He went to post at odds of 2/1, not very appealing for a Win bet.

I decided there were two horses that were most likely to finish second, Skyring (6/1) and Fast Falcon (27/1).

I gave both horses the same chance of running second so I bet a $5 Exacta Part Wheel with Teeth of the Dog over Skyring and Fast Falcon.

As expected Teeth of the Dog outclassed the field and won 3 3/4 lengths.

Skyring faded to last in the stretch but long shot Fast Falcon closed stoutly and just got up for second. The $5 Exacta returned $418.75.

The $10 Win bet on 2/1 Teeth of the Dog would have returned a measly $30.50.

In this situation the Exacta Part Wheel provided the maximum return.  It also showed that you can make money betting favorites, if you do it the right way.

Weighted Exacta

The most efficient way to bet the Exacta is by weighting each combination.

In the previous example had I thought Fast Falcon was more likely to run second I could have spent the same $10 by betting a $7 Exacta of Teeth of the Dog over Fast Falcon and a $3 Exacta of Teeth of the Dog over Skyring.

Weighting your Exacta combinations is the best way to maximize your returns long term.

Instead of being lazy and boxing your horses or wheeling them you should take a few minutes to think about what chance each horse has of winning and/or running second and then bet accordingly.

An alternate example of the Weighted Exacta would be if you like two horses that you think will run first and second.

Let’s say the first horse is twice as likely to win as the second.  For the same $10 you could bet a $7 Exacta with first horse over the second horse and a $3 combination reversing it.

If your horses run one-two you win and if you are correct that the first horse is more likely to win then you will be rewarded accordingly with a better return.

Final Thoughts

The Exacta is a great way to make money betting on horses.

Unfortunately most horseplayers are taught to bet the Exacta inefficiently by either Boxing it or Wheeling their horse.

Smart horseplayers, which includes you since you just read this, will instead bet Exacta Part Wheels or Weighted Exacta’s.

The former group may cash more tickets but the latter group will make larger profits.  To recap here are the important points to remember:

  • Boxing an Exacta is both lazy and inefficient
  • Betting an Exacta Wheel is injecting more luck into the equation
  • Betting an Exacta Part Wheel is a step in the right direction
  • Weighting an Exacta is the most efficient way to bet the Exacta and will produce the greatest returns long term
  • The Exacta is sometimes a better alternative than a Win bet, especially if you like the favorite
  • A Win Bet is sometimes the better choice, particularly in cases when you have no opinion on who will finish second

I hope this helps you make more money betting the Exacta, it has done so for me.

If you have others ways of betting the Exacta please share them in the comments below.

If you found this post to be helpful please share it using the social media buttons below, and if you haven’t already done so, join the AGameofSkill.com monthly newsletter by leaving your email address in the form below.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #34 – the Usain Bolt Lesson

Usain Bolt lessonHandicapping Tip of the Day – the Usain Bolt Lesson

by Rich Nilsen

Once again champion sprinter from Jamaica, Usain Bolt, dazzled the world with his brilliant sprinter performances.  Two Olympic Games back, he became the first sprinter in history to win gold in both the Men’s 100 meter and 200 meter races.  He did it again in London in 2012, and then he repeated the feat last week in the 2016 Rio Games.  Bolt competed in nine events over the three Olympic games, all at distances for him of 200 meters or less, and he won all nine.  For those wondering, 100 meters is equivalent to 109.36 yards.

So what lesson could Bolt give to a horse racing handicapper?  Well, it came out recently that Bolt, the fastest sprinter in the world, had never run one mile. Huh?

It’s hard enough to beat this game without making wagers with a low probability of success.

Time Story: Bolt Has Never Run a Mile

It’s hard to believe but true.  Usain Bolt has never done the thing that most American high school kids have had to do at some point in their lives. His agent, Ricky Simms, confirmed this amazing fact in a statement to the New Yorker publication.

So why would Bolt never run a mile?  Simply because it would not benefit him.  His game is all about those fast-twitch muscles involved in short-distance racing – his strength.  Usain Bolt has stuck to his strengths, not deviating away from what he does best, and the results have paid off in spades.

As handicappers we are often tempted to tackle challenges where we do not excel.  Of course there is nothing wrong with trying to improve your overall game, but too often players can get sucked into playing races, tracks or wager types, e.g. Pick 6s, where they simply are out of their element.  It’s hard enough to beat this game without making wagers with a low probability of success.  Review your recent wagering actions and determine if the Usain Bolt lesson applies to you.  I bet for many reading this, that it does.

https://youtu.be/93dC0o2aHto

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #33 – Horse Racing’s Biggest Drop

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

Dropping in class? Are you sure? There are many ways to try and determine if a horse is dropping in class. There is one way, in a given set of every day circumstances, to determine a class drop. And, make no mistake about it. It is the biggest drop in racing. Years ago one of my mentors told me to do one thing first when look at maiden claiming races. Find any horse that is dropping out of maiden special weights into a maiden claimer race.

Few horses that win stakes races or multiple allowance races begin their careers by winning their first race in a maiden claimer. Horses that run for the bigger money later on usually start where the purses are higher and that is not in the maiden claiming ranks. The most inviting class dropper is the one that ran in maiden special weights a few times, showed some talent such as some early speed or the ability to stay in contention, but now drops down for some class relief.   The maiden special weights to maiden claiming move is the most potent class drop in horse racing.   It is one of the easiest ways to find a way, sometimes at remarkably good prices.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #32 – Just Like Baseball

Baseball and bat_promo_smaller by Art Parker

In baseball one is considered a good hitter with a .300 plus average, which means hitting safely in on or about 1/3 of the player’s official at bats. In horse racing we know, since it has been true for years and years, that the favorite wins about 1/3 of the races. But what about the horseplayer? Every player should strive to maintain a high average and a 1/3 strike rate with winners is actually good. Therefore it gets down to price odds. If you can select winners at about a 1/3 clip and you do not always bet the favorites then you have a chance at making money. Just like good hitters in baseball, the favorites fail 2/3 of the time and that should tell you that playing favorites is not a winning proposition.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #31 – Pretenders and contenders

 

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Art Parker

Most people believe that playing the horses is simply the act of picking winners. But before one can “select” a winner, the first logical step is to “de-select” those that can’t win. In other words, the most important process in handicapping a race is to separate the pretenders from contenders. There are many different ways to do this; speed figures, class, current form, etc., but one needs to find the method that works for them. Once the field is narrowed down, the handicapping task becomes easier. After all, it is much simpler to select a winner from just a few than to select one from a large field.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #30 – Conviction

Buddies Brad & Howard at the 2015 NHC

Buddies Brad & Howard at the 2015 NHC

  Know When to Turn Off Your Track Buddies

By Art Parker & Rich Nilsen

One of the great things about going to the track is developing friendships. It’s great to have a group of guys that sit around the table and discuss racing and enjoy the company of one another. But there needs to be a time when you tune out your buddies, especially if they begin to spew an abundance of analysis. One thing about playing the horses – it is your pocketbook that will either swell or diminish when you go the track. Therefore, it is best to depend solely upon your judgment and what is revealed by your own study.

The same goes for the ‘talking heads’ on TVG.  Take what they say with a grain of salt.  Now if they interview a trainer and that person gives some revealing information about their runners, then that is a different story.   But don’t let who TVG Analyst #5 likes in the 7th at Belmont sway your opinion on that race.   Stand firm in your convictions.

OptixGRID: A Fully Integrative Past-Performance Platform

Part III of The Future of Handicapping (OptixEQ)

While OptixNOTES can be viewed in a standalone format, you can also view the OptixNOTES information as part of a more detailed past-performance platform in OptixGRID, which also includes plenty of other proprietary data fields as well as traditional past-performance information (like odds, finish position, fractional times, etc.). OptixGRID also includes a unique speed-figure rating called OptixFIG, which helps players assess whether a horse is even fast enough to be competitive in a given race.

To help you process the information available in OptixGRID, the OptixEQ team has made this past-performance matrix fully interactive; in other words, players can sort and filter the data however they’d like. For instance, if you just want to see a horse’s turf races, you could easily filter the surface column to show only the turf races. Let’s say you wanted to view the field in order of the fastest OptixFIGs, then you would simply sort the OptixFIG column in descending order. No other past-performance platform has the functionality to manipulate the data in such a unique and personal way.

The OptixGRID looks like an expanded version of the OptixNOTES platform, including all of the traditional past-performance data as well as several proprietary fields unique to OptixEQ. To learn more about OptixGRID, you can view the instructional video and documentation here: https://www.optixeq.com/?products=optixgrid#doc.

 

OptixFIGs

As part of its integrative platform, the OptixEQ product includes its own proprietary speed figures along with its past-performances in OptixGRID. We thought it would be interesting to show you a list of the OptixFIGs for this year’s Kentucky Derby prep races as a point of reference.

OptixEQ-KYDerbyprepsv2

Is It Worth It?

As you can see, OptixEQ has all of the traditional handicapping elements covered in its fully integrative platform, but it puts a new spin on how players can analyze and interpret a race. Who has time to spend hours poring over raw data in an old-school past-performance product when you can get the same information—and so much more—distilled for you in an easily accessible and visual way?

Once you start using OptixEQ, you will never want to handicap a horse race in the traditional way again. The information here is too good and too valuable that you’ll feel the need to use it on a daily basis. Whether you’re an avid cash player who plays multiple tracks or a contest player who has to handicap fifteen mandatory races, you’ll find that the information available in OptixEQ will give you an edge over the competition—and it will save you so much mental energy that you will find yourself making better decisions and wagering much more smartly and efficiently throughout the day.

And the best part is: OptixEQ is eminently affordable. Daily packages start from as low as $10 a day, while a full monthly package (which includes OptixPLOT, OptixNOTES, and OptixGRID for all available tracks) only costs $180 (which is essentially just $6 a day). There are way more expensive products on the market—and none of them deliver what OptixEQ can in terms of sheer data, handicapping proficiency, and racing analytics.

Simply put, OptixEQ is the future of handicapping.

Did you miss Part I?

Did you miss Part II?