Top Contenders for the 2018 Grand National

by Rich Nilsen

The Grand National at Aintree Racecourse is a test of endurance, stamina and class like no other race in the world. Dating back to 1839 in England, the prestigious horse race challenges a large field of runners to contest the hurdles and flats over four grueling miles. The winner of the Grand National on April 14, 2018 will be a true champion, and their name will never be forgotten.


According to America’s Best Racing the Grand National is watched by over 500 million people around the globe, and roughly two-thirds of the adult population in the United Kingdom will have some type of wager on the great race. Like with the Kentucky Derby in the United States, you have to have a rooting interest in this thrilling contest.  Bet £10, get £30 when you bet on Grand National.


Currently three horses are garnering the majority of the action in the future books, led by the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Blaklion.  The winner of the Becher Chase stands at 10-1 in the future betting with most of the international bookmakers but is as high as 12-1 with William Hill.  He has won over this course, demonstrating an important affinity for the track, and he enters off an excellent prep race where he finished second.


The co-favorite in the wagering with Blaklion is Total Recall (Ire). He is also listed at 10-1 but is higher in some spots. The nine-year-old son of Westerner has won three in a row since moving into the barn of W. P. Mullins. He is the hot horse in sharp form.


Steeplechase scene black whiteAt the time of this publication the third choice for the Grand National at 14-1 is The Last Samuri (Ire).  Now ten years old, the gelding will take another crack at the big race.  He was the highweight in last year’s event, packing over 160lbs, but he finished a disappointing 16th.  The Last Samuri hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since 2016, however, and this is a tough spot to get back on the winning track.


A dark horse in the wagering could be the French gelding Alpha Des Obeaux (Fr).  He’s not the most consistent runner but he has been racing regularly and on his best day, he merits a chance for a piece of the Grand National.


When it comes to riders for the great race, look at talented jockeys such as Ruby Walsh, who won his Grand National debut at age 20 back in 2000 aboard Papillon.  Walsh won again in 2005 and has placed in other attempts at Aintree.  Other riders to keep a close eye on include Jason Maguire and Timmy Murphy, both of whom compete for the sharp barn of trainer Donald McCain.


Focus your Grand National wagers on horses between the age of nine and 11.  The youth and experience of seven and eight-year-olds often takes its toll in this race, and the oldest runners (age 12 and beyond) have proven to be a poor investment.  The senior runners may hit the board, but they rarely capture the top prize.


Tune in on April 14th for this amazing race as up to 40 runners will attempt to contest up to 16 fences of varying heights and widths.  There is no race like the Grand National, so sit back, place a wager and best of luck!

The Making of Horse Racing Conference Equestricon II

Tampa Paddock

Up close and personal at Tampa Bay Downs paddock. Copyright AGOS

The Making of Equestricon II

Although he actual trade show will take place on the Monday and Tuesday prior to the championships, Equestricon will have a week-long presence and involvement with the Breeders’ Cup, Sharp noted.

“That’s the kind of energy and excitement we’re hoping to build for Breeders’ Cup week, trying to get fans who are traveling to the Breeders’ Cup to come in early and get to experience Louisville and make a whole week’s vacation out of it.”

Source: The Making of Equestricon II

How Thoroughbred Horse Racing Bets on Science, and Wins

copyright 2016There’s no test to show a one-eyed horse named Patch could make it to this year’s Kentucky Derby . There’s no test for coming up from behind and winning the whole thing, So It Is-style. This story appears in the fall 2017 edition of CNET Magazine.

Source: How horse racing bets on science, and wins

British Horse Racing Targets True Fans Among Younger Players

Ascot racecourse in UKHorse racing in England is on an “upward curve” but faces challenges in keeping both the traditionalists and the younger generation happy, a leading figure in the sport says. Paul Fisher, chief executive of Jockey Club Racecourses, which is responsible for blue riband events such as the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National, said it is… [Read more…]

Handicapping Tip of the Day #43 – Hard Races

by Rich Nilsen

Handicapping tips from

On just a few select days of the year I put out a selection sheet.  It’s a way of producing some revenue for AGOS, helping many of the visitors of this site and doing so in a very affordable fashion.   This past Travers Day (2017) I did an analysis for the full card, all 13 races.  Along with pace scenarios for each race, I provide top selections and a few spot plays, which are my best bets with wagers.  Even though I missed the featured Travers, it was the type of day I would take anytime.  With 6 winners on top from 13 races, along with two out of three Spot Plays (Best Bets) scoring, I was very pleased with the results.

Unfortunately, there was one race in particular, the G1 Ballerina S. that I really messed up on and I was very disappointed in myself.  I always analyze the pace when dissecting a race, and there was clearly a lack of early speed types in this 7 furlong affair.  Given that this was a Grade 1 race for sprinters, the lack of early pace was unusual to say the least.  Races where you can’t really figure out who is going to get the lead are some of the toughest to handicap and find the winner.

I finally came to the conclusion that top gate rider and leading Saratoga jockey Jose Ortiz would put Paulassilverling on the front end, giving her an excellent chance of extending her graded stakes win streak to four races.  But therein lied the rub.  The 5yo mare had run three times this year, since April, and each and every race resulted in a gritty, close win.  She won the G1 Madison by a neck, then followed that up with another neck victory in the G1 Humana Distaff over a sloppy going.  She returned at Saratoga for trainer Chad Brown and gutted out another neck victory in the G2 Honorable Miss.

Brown didn’t work the Ghostzapper mare for 17 days after that win, but gave her two modest half-mile drills in preparation for this race.  Horses are not machines, and Paulassilverling was a prime candidate to regress off three hard races since returning as an older mare. That’s exactly what happened.  Despite a favorable pace scenario, Paulassilverling failed to get the early lead and “came up empty.”  She beat only two horses in the field of seven as the lukewarm favorite of 5/2.  Hard races, especially in succession, take its toll.

After owning horses for 10 years, one of the major things I learned is that horses are way more than the speed ratings, figs and past performances that you see in the ‘Form.’  It helps to look at them as what they are: living, breathing athletes who are affected the same way from competing that other athletes are affected.  When you add that into your handicapping, you improve your game.

Chart 2017 Ballerina Stakes

copyright 2017 Equibase

Show Us The Money? The Plight Of A Simple Pari-Mutuel Wager

Where money goes in horse racing

The modern menu of betting options in North American horse racing has reached dizzying levels. Daily Double, Pick 3, 4, 5, 6, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, Super High Five, Pick 6 jackpots, Grand Slams, Place Pick All. You get the idea.

Source: ‘Show’ Us The Money? The Plight Of A Simple Wager

Beat Saratoga! 8 Tips for Turning a Profit


8 Tips for Turning a Profit!


Download this free guide "Beat Saratoga: 8 Tips for Turning a Profit" and play the 2018 Saratoga meet successfully.  Beating this 40-day meet with so many contentious races is no easy task, even for experienced horseplayers.

13-time NHC Qualifier, 6-time major contest winner and founder Rich Nilsen walks you through the steps required to beat this prestigious race meet.   Content is updated for 2017!

  • Learn what steps it takes to beat this meet successfully
  • Get the scoop on which jockeys and trainers dominate this meet
  • Find out which 'dark horse' jockeys and trainers you need to know about.  These guys bring home the prices!
  • Understand how each of the tracks play and how this affects you as a handicapper

Fill out the short form below to claim your free report "Beat Saratoga!"  You will automatically receive an email with a link to the PDF document that you can download to any device.

The 2017 Travers Stakes Begins in...


Handicapping Tip #39 – Pace Makes the Race

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

On select major days throughout the year, I offer my professional analysis of the big race, e.g. Preakness, and the undercard races at that track.   This past Saturday I did the 14 races on the Pimlico Preakness card, which is always a great day of wagering.  One of the key aspects of my report is the pace scenario analysis for each race.  If you don’t understand the expected pace of the race, it can be very difficult to select the winner or the top finishers.  How the race sets up is critical to predicting the outcome.

In turf sprints I almost always emphasize early speed, especially if it is a 5 furlong grass race.  In analyzing the pace of race #2 on Saturday (May 20, 2017) one horse jumped out to be as the lone speed.  #1A FLIGHT CREW was 20/1 on the morning line, enough to scare off many horseplayers.  After determining that he was probably the early pace setter, I needed to look at the overall early pace to determine if he could “hold on.”  Was there enough other early speed to put pressure on him at some critical early juncture of the race?  I came to the conclusion that the answer was “no.”  It looked like a moderate pace, so now I was very intrigued with this longshot and dug deeper.

Pace makes the race

He was the son of Elusive Quality, who has sired many good horses sprinting on the law, and out of a mare by Danzig (enough said).  The pedigree was certainly there.  This was only the 2nd career grass start for Flight Crew.  In his only other attempt, he pressed a fast pace (+17 +19 on the BRIS Race Shape figures) while going 1 1/16 miles on a good turf course.  Despite that, and breaking from a poor outside post, he still ended up defeating half the field, finishing 5th.   He was trained by 15% local horseman Hugh McMahon.  What else did one need to pull the trigger on a big longshot?

Pace makes the race.  Flight Crew did not get the initial lead but by the time the field hit the far turn of this turf dash, he was in complete control.  At odds of 9-1, he opened up under Katie Davis and kept the field at bay down the lane. Scores like this are very sweet indeed.

Make sure you analyze the pace of every race you wager.  It’s the first step to selecting many winners.

GOT REBATES?  Learn more here

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

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…]