Common Mistakes to Avoid When Betting on Horse Races

Horse racing is an exciting activity for many, but getting into it without a clear understanding and strategy can lead to unnecessary losses. Here, we’re breaking down the common pitfalls in horse race betting and how you can sidestep them.

Not Understanding the Odds and Probabilities

The foundation of making informed bets lies in understanding odds and probabilities. Studies, like the one by Mukhtar M. Ali in 1977 and further research by Richard H. Thaler and William T. Ziemba in 1988, have highlighted a trend where bettors tend to overvalue longshots and undervalue favorites. This “favorite-longshot bias” leads to suboptimal betting decisions with lower expected returns. Before placing your bets, take a moment to understand how odds reflect probabilities and the expected outcomes of races.

Failing to Analyze Track Conditions

Track conditions play an important role in the outcome of horse races. Marshall Gramm’s 2002 study underscores this point, showing that weather and track surface conditions influence race results. Before betting, always check the weather forecast and understand how different track surfaces can affect the horses’ performance. Ignoring these factors can lead to bets that are less likely to pay off.

Path to Profitability: Off to the racesOverlooking Jockeys’ and Horses’ Performance Records

A jockey’s skill and a horse’s performance history are critical in predicting race outcomes. The British Horseracing Authority’s report points out the influential impact top jockeys have on win rates. Similarly, John M. Gandar’s 2001 research indicates that bettors often overlook the importance of a horse’s past performance. Always review the track records of both the jockeys and horses before placing your bets.

Chasing Losses and Poor Bankroll Management

One of the quickest ways to deplete your betting fund is by chasing losses. Studies by Kelly Busche and W. David Walls in 2000, along with research by Richard H. Thaler and Eric J. Johnson in 1990, show that poor decision-making and the gambler’s fallacy are prevalent among bettors. Managing your bankroll wisely and knowing when to cut your losses are key to staying in the game longer.

Relying Too Heavily on Tips and Hearsay

While tips from experts can be valuable, overrelying on them can lead to making uninformed decisions. Leighton Vaughan Williams and David Paton’s 1997 study found that bettors tend to overreact to publicly available information. It’s essential to use tips as part of a broader analysis rather than the sole basis for your betting decisions.

Profit Risk Evaluation in Horse RacingFailing to Diversify Bets and Manage Risk

Effective risk management involves diversifying your bets. Donald B. Hausch’s 1981 research suggests that spreading your bets across different outcomes can exploit market inefficiencies and lead to positive returns. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; spread your bets to manage risk better.

Taking Advantage of Betting Promotions

One way to maximize your betting strategy is by leveraging promotions and bonuses. Using a promo code for DraftKings, for example, can offer additional value, allowing you to make more informed bets with less risk. Remember, it’s not just about the bets you place but also about how you can use available resources to your advantage.

Points to Keep in Mind

  • Make sure to understand the odds and probabilities before placing your bets.
  • Analyze the track conditions and weather forecast to make informed decisions.
  • Review the performance records of both jockeys and horses before placing your bets.
  • Manage your bankroll wisely and cut your losses when necessary.
  • Use tips as part of a broader analysis rather than the sole basis for your betting decisions.
  • Diversify your bets to manage risk better.
  • Take advantage of betting promotions to maximize your betting strategy.


Betting on horse races can be rewarding if done with the right knowledge and strategies. By avoiding these common mistakes and making informed decisions, you can increase your chances of success. Remember, betting should be enjoyable, and with careful planning and discipline, it can also be profitable.

Handicapping Hour for Oaklawn Park with FREE Pace Chart

Guest Richard Nilsen of

I had the pleasure of joining my friends Mark and Steve Simonvic on their weekly Oaklawn Handicapping Hour to discuss the Saturday card in Hot Springs, AR for Saturday, February 17, 2024. We go over the full 10-race card at Oaklawn as well as discuss this weekend’s Tampa Bay Downs and Hawthorne Racecourse handicapping tournaments.  Below is a complimentary pace chart to see how the races are forecasted to set up on Saturday.

Fast track expected.

Saturday’s free pace chart for Oaklawn horse races:

Race 1 Expected Pace Leaders Stalkers Mid-Pack Closers Unknown
6.00 Furlongs / Dirt Modest 3 5-2 4-6-8 7-1
Race 2
6.00 Furlongs / Dirt Honest/Fast 1-2 6-3 9-7-5 4 8
Race 3
8.50 Furlongs / Dirt Honest 2-5-4 1-6 3-8-7
Race 4
6.00 Furlongs / Dirt Modest *3 8-10-2 9-5-6-1 4-7
Race 5
6.00 Furlongs / Dirt Fast 1 4-2 5-3-8 6-7
Race 6
8 Furlongs / Dirt Honest/Fast 9 4-8-10 5-1-2-7 6-1A-3
Race 7
6.00 Furlongs / Dirt Unknown 6 9-7 5-4-1 2-3-8
Race 8
6.00 Furlongs / Dirt Modest 1 8-3-2 4-9-7-5 6-10-11
Race 9
6.00 Furlongs / Dirt Honest 3-1 6-8 5-2-4 7
Race 10
9.00 Furlongs / Dirt Fast 4-9 3-7 8-10-5-1 2-6


Did you miss these Handicapping Tips of the Day?

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

Horse Racing Tip of the Day – Evaluating Layoff Horses

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

Computer Assisted Wagering in Horse Racing: A Comprehensive Guide

By Al Hudson

Horse racing has been one of the most popular sports across the globe for several decades, and millions of people enjoy betting on horses every year. In recent years, computer-assisted wagering has gained significant popularity among enthusiasts worldwide. Let’s take a look at what computer-assisted wagering is, how it works, and its affect on the state of the game.

What is Computer-Assisted Wagering in Horse Racing?

Computer-assisted wagering is the use of computer algorithms to help bet on horses in a race. This approach helps bettors analyze statistics, race history, and other relevant data when developing a prediction model for a race’s outcome. The use of machine learning algorithms has made this practice more accurate and reliable in recent years.

Some of the biggest bettors in the country (also known as whales or CAW players) are employing computer algorithms to do their handicapping and compile their bets. Many everyday horseplayers and smaller bettors also use computer programs to handicap but not at the same level of the CAW players.

How It Works

Computer-assisted wagering works by using algorithms designed to sort through a vast amount of data that can influence the outcome of a race. These algorithms can analyze variables such as the horses’ performances in previous races, their speed ratings, jockey statistics, and current conditions of the racetrack. This analysis can lead to the identification of variables that correlate with the winning pattern and help develop prediction models.

Typically, these algorithms work by passing data through a series of filters and analysis tools, identifying patterns and trends that may affect the outcome of a particular race. Once these patterns have been identified, the system can compile a list of horses expected to perform well and generate a betting selection and a complex set of wagers, some of which are based on the live odds of the runners.  When overlays are discovered, the CAW players pound those combinations, oftentimes in the final seconds of wagering.

Goals of Computer-Assisted Wagering

The main goal of computer-assisted wagering is to help increase the chances of winning a bet, thus maximizing profit margins for the user. With proper data analysis and prediction models in place, bettors can select horses that they believe have a higher chance of winning, leading to more significant profits in the long run.

CAW players need only to break even to ensure themselves a small fortune in the form of rebates earned.  These players receive the highest rebates from their respective ADW (Advance Deposit Wagering companies), and thus are incentivized to produce large handles in terms of bets throughout the year.

The Advantages of Computer-Assisted Wagering in Horse Racing

Computer-assisted wagering in horse racing comes with various advantages. Firstly, it enables a bettor to analyze vast amounts of data within a short period of time. This is because computer programs are equipped to process large sets of data in fractions of a second. With this, a bettor can easily identify patterns and make betting decisions based on statistical data.

Secondly, computer-assisted wagering eliminates the element of emotional attachment in betting decisions. Bettors often lose bets due to biased decisions based on their perception of horses, jockeys or trainers. However, with computer-assisted wagering, betting decisions are based on data analysis, resulting in less biased decisions.

Lastly, computer-assisted wagering provides bettors with diverse betting options. This is because computer programs analyze horses’ data and come up with various betting combinations, unlike traditional betting methods that offer limited options.

Utilizing powerful algorithms, machine learning, and predictive analytics, computer-assisted wagering has allowed bettors to analyze vast amounts of data and make more informed decisions than ever before. CAW players process and analyze data at a scale that was previously unimaginable. These bettors consider a wealth of variables, from track conditions and weather patterns to jockey and horse performance, all with a level of accuracy that was previously unattainable.

But it’s not just the sheer volume of data that makes computer-assisted wagering so powerful. The technology’s ability to spot trends and identify patterns means that even the most complex variables can be taken into account when making a bet. They can then evaluate the live odds and place a large volume of bets in the final seconds of wagering.

The problem is that these benefits are only enjoyed by a select few whales within the game of horse racing.

The Fallout

The whales generate their many wagers for each race and then feed those bets through the Tote system in the final minutes (sometimes seconds) before the race goes off.

As the three major Tote companies in horse racing have failed to update their technology over the years, it takes way too long to process these wagers. Consequently, odds drops happen after the race goes off, and in some cases, after the race is over.

“To use a Bronx expression, I would have to be a schmuck to continue to bet as in days of yore in the face of the CAW issue (among others) and my parents did not raise a schmuck.” ~ longtime player Richard Resnick is a letter to TDN about CAW play.

There are examples of this happening every day at tracks around the country.  It doesn’t take long to scroll through ‘racing twitter’ to find someone who is complaining about getting screwed on an odds drop. Worse yet, if you are Win bettor, it doesn’t take long for an odds drop to affect you directly.

Loyal Louie paid $8.80 to win.

This has been going on a long time. Loyal Louie was in front and reaching the wire at odds of 6-1 in the opener at Gulfstream last year. However, when the race was  official, his odds dropped to 3.40-1, or $8.80 to win instead of over $14.

One of the most glaring examples came in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile which was won by Chez Pierre (Fr) on April 14, 2023. Going into the gate at 23-1, the five-year-old gelding hit the wire in front by a large margin.  To the dismay of his many backers, his odds were now 9-1, an incredible odds drop of over 60 percent.

Can you imagine putting in an order to purchase Apple stock at $100 per share only to pay $160 and receive far fewer shares than expected?  The outrage is understandable.


The ADWs accepting these last second bets are owned by some of the biggest racetrack names in the country, and thus, have no motivation to restrict their best players.

It is hard enough for the average Joe horseplayer to survive in this sport of gambling.  These days, they have to do it while never knowing what type of price their horse will be until after the race is over.

CAW play is here to stay, but the industry better find a solution to the problem affecting their regular patrons.  How many times will a racing fan get ‘screwed’ before they look to alternative forms of wagering.  If you bet on the Kansas City Chiefs to win or cover a game, you know exactly what risk/return you have on the line.  That type of betting is looking very attractive right now.

Did You Read These Gems?

Question and Answers with top Tampa Bay Downs Jockey

Bad Beats or Something Else?

Handicapping Tip of the Day #64

Overflow Field for the Big Data Derby

Horse Racing NFT-game OHRAC: Own, Manage And WinA total of 106 submissions were received for the inaugural Big Data Derby, a competition requiring entrants to provide a machine-learning model to analyze all manner of data regarding horseracing tactics, strategies and path efficiencies.

Sponsored by the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) in partnership with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Equibase, The Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA), the Big Data Derby launched with a goal of better understanding the vast data set at hand to racing organizations, and to potentially develop new ways of racing and training in a highly traditional industry.

“Our main objective with this competition was to see if qualified data scientists could utilize horse-tracking data to improve the sport’s collective knowledge in key areas such as equine welfare and performance,” said NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum.

The Big Data Derby offers a total of $50,000 in prize money with $20,000 awarded to the winner and $10,000 each to the next three placings. The competition is held on Kaggle, a global data science platform with over 500,000 active users where participants compete by using machine learning to solve problems ranging from the trivial to the extremely complex.

A total of 9,349 potential competitors accessed the competition’s four data files providing NYRA racing data from 2019 along with in-race horse tracking information. A wide and varied range of submissions offered models that shed light on injury prevention, jockey decision making metrics, race tactics, track bias and more. An open notebook of user-created content and data can be viewed at:

“The response in both participants and submissions highlights the interest in alternative data sets and bodes well for potential future applications. We are very much looking forward to the results of the competition,” said Joe Longo, NYRA’s General Manager of Content Services.

A judging committee will score the submissions based on four categories – Innovation [25 points], Relevance [30 points], Competence [25 points] and Presentation [20 points]. Winners will be announced in early December.

Source: NYRA

Complimentary Pace Report for Opening Day at Kentucky Downs

Predicting the pace of the race is a critical aspect of successful handicapping.  Today, I present a pace chart which breaks down where each runner is expected to be during the running of the race – on opening day at Kentucky Downs.

Obviously, starting breaks and jockey tendencies/decisions play a major role in how the race plays out.  But put the percentages in your favor BEFORE the race by anticipating how the race will be run.  From there, you can decide which runners may benefit and which may be compromised.  It can often be the deciding factor between choosing your preferred horse in the race.


Sunday, 9/5/2021
Kentucky Downs
Race 1 Expected Pace Leaders Stalkers Mid-Pack Closers Unknown/FTS
12.0 Furlongs / Turf Slow 7 3-5-9 2-8-6-4 10-1
Race 2
6.50 Furlongs / Turf Unknown 2 12-14-16 11-4-13-8 1-3-5-6-7-9-10-15
Race 3
8 Furlongs / Turf Very Fast 3-6-5 8-14-7 12-1-2-10 4-11-9-15-16-13
Race 4
8 Furlongs / Turf Modest 6-7 4-9 5-1-10-8 3 2-1A
Race 5
6.50 Furlongs / Turf Honest 3 9-4-11 13-14-1-10 8-7-6-2-12-5
Race 6
8 Furlongs / Turf Slow 4 6-10-2 7-3-9-8 1-5
Race 7
6.50 Furlongs / Turf Honest *14 5-12-13 7-11-15-10 8-2-3-9-16-1-6 4
Race 8
6.50 Furlongs / Turf Unknown 6 13-3-7 14-12-8-1 2-4-5-9-10-11-15
Race 9
10.50 Furlongs / Turf Slow 6-7-5 1-4 8-3-2 9
Race 10
10.50 Furlongs / Turf Honest/Fast 8 4-1-9 12-7-11-3 6-2-5-10
Race 11
6.50 Furlongs / Turf Honest/Fast 10 14-15-13 3-11-5-9 12-1-2-6-8-16-4 7

Horse Country Kentucky – Now Booking for Coolmore at Ashford Stud

copyright DarbyAmerica

Dates for Coolmore at Ashford Stud are now available through October 2021!  Please know effective July 1, select stallions including American Pharoah and Justify, will not be on the tours as they prepare for shuttling to Australia. Curious about shuttling? We share a little more below…

In the Southern Hemisphere, the breeding season runs August – December…so while we are winding down breeding in Kentucky, it is getting started for them. Many of our Kentucky stallions participate in a practice called shuttling, conducting their breeding duties in the Southern Hemisphere.

Luckily, these guys are used to traveling (they did it a lot in their racing days!), they have travel buddies (most have dedicated staff with them wherever they go!), and they’ll be back! Our member locations will still be offering fantastic experiences, but we understand that there may be interest in particular horses on tours. While we can’t ever guarantee a horse on a particular tour, we do like to share the info about shuttling as some of these guys leave the country!

We keep you up to date as the stallions return late this year/early next year.

Source: Horse Country Kentucky

A Poker Champion’s Knack for Knowing

Poker Pro Vanessa Russo

Poker Pro Vanessa Russo

Making the Best Decisions

In poker, the way we used to delineate players who relied on their intuition was to call them “feel players.” This could range from amateurs who knew nothing about strategy to highly decorated players like Phil Hellmuth. Most players start out with some basic strategy combined with gut instinct. As they move up the ranks, their strategy continues to improve and they tend to rely less on feel. They have default hands they specifically open from each position. They develop strategies for certain board textures and learn how to categorize hands that need to be played a certain way. Eventually, at the highest stakes, they may even develop a strategy derived from running millions of simulations on a computer. This process is vital and necessary to becoming a top poker player.

But if everyone is using the same tools, what separates the best from the fifth best? Or twentieth best? Is it superior reasoning ability? Is it a better handle on their emotions? Is it just running more simulations or ‘working harder?’ Amongst the ultra-elite, what makes the difference?

Fedor Holz was the best tournament poker player I’ve ever played with. I have no doubt he would’ve continued to dominate the high-stakes scene had he retired to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. What made Fedor special was…

Continue Reading Here

3 Handicapping Factors to Look at When a New Race Meet Opens


A new racing meet starting up adds an extra dimension to handicapping these races.  Do some research, be prepared and you will be ahead of the curve. Here are a few things to look for in the first week of racing at a new meet:

Let’s begin with the trainers:
-Understand the difference between the local trainers and the trainers that ship from track to track
-Sometimes the local horses are returning off longer layoffs and may need a start or two
-The trainers that move from track to track usually have a plan and that is “win early”
-Find those hot trainers quickly because after a week or so, everyone else jumps on board

Preview of Ohio racing’s Belterra Park meet in April.

Here is where you take advantage of the public that doesn’t follow or do the research early. After about a month the trainer stats will have the shipped in trainers with a great record and the locals not so good. But remember, the win early trainers had that as their goal, whereas the locals are in for the long haul.  In other words, be patient.  The local trainers will win their fair share of races.

Understanding where the horses are coming from
-It takes a bit of experience but ask around or even reply to this blog and I will help you out. What I mean by this, the level of
competition varies greatly from the A, B and C tracks in North America. Get to know them.  What tracks produce winners at this meet, and which ones don’t?
-For example a horse coming from Santa Anita and now racing at Fonner park, will not look good on form. But what to
look for is, did the horse show speed. The speed horses from top track are far better bets than the plodders that just
ran at the back. Big difference from a horse showing lots of early speed and finishing last than a local plodder that passes one or
two late.

Get detailed meet statistics on any track with Equibase

Last tip, know the horse
-Is the horse ready to run today, e.g. many works coming in?
-Is the horse at the right distance or does this look like a prep for a later race?
-Is this the right surface for the horse in question?

After you have done your above research and made your notes, you still need to look at the race shape to see how the race sets up.  This requires a little more work, but it certainly can pay off in the end.

Good racing

Horse Racing Bets and Wager Types

DelMar how to place a wager

copyright Del Mar

Wagering is what drives the sport of horse racing. The thrill you get when your horse hits the finish line in front is second to none. Let’s take a look at the most popular horse racing wagers, in very basic details, for you to begin to learn and experience that thrill firsthand.


Straight Horse Racing Bets

Win Wager

The easiest wager one can place on horse racing is the win bet and, thanks to its simplicity, it is the most popular among horse racing fans. Wager on a horse to Win.  If he or she wins the race, you collect the payoff based on a $2 win mutual.  When you wager on a 2-1 winner, for example, you receive the base wager ($2) times the odds (2) for $4.00 plus the original wager back for a total of $6.00.  Your profit, in this case, is $4.00.

It’s that simple.  The hard part, of course, is uncovering the horse that will win.


Place and Show Wagers

The place bet is wagering on a horse to finish no worse than second, and the show bet is wagering on a horse to finish no worse than third.  There is often confusion among newbies, believing that a horse must finish third in order to cash on the show bet.  Many a ticket has been discarded because of that mistake.

In Europe most of the ‘show’ wagering is actually referred to as ‘place’ betting.


Exotic Horse Racing Bets

 Daily Double

This is the simplest type of exotic wager, and probably the oldest.  The Daily Double is combining the winners of two consecutive races.  If your wager includes both winners, you cash.  The base wager is either $1.00 or $2.00 depending on the host track.

What are the tax rules involving horse racing wagers?  Learn more about how the IRS now treats big winnings on the horse races.

Exacta / Perfecta

The exacta is picking the exact order of the top two finishers in a race.  You can play the exact straight or you can box the wager, so that if theexacta horse racing basics horses finish in any order, one-two, then you cash.  You can include as many horses as you wish in your exacta box, but the cost of the wager goes up exponentially and your chances of turning a profit diminish greatly. The base exacta wager is usually $1.00.

In Canada the exacta wager is referred to as the perfecta.



The trifecta is picking the exact order of the top three finishers in a race.  You can play the trifecta straight or you can box the wager.   The advantage of the ‘box’ is that if the horses finish in any order, one-two-three, then you cash.  You can include as many horses as you wish in your trifecta box, but the cost of the wager goes up exponentially.  The base wager is usually either $0.50 or $1.00.



The Superfecta is picking the exact order of the top four finishers in a race.  You can play this quad bet straight or you can box the wager, so that if the horses finish in any order, one-two-three-four, then you cash.  Like the exacta and trifecta, you can include as many horses as you wish in your superfecta box, but the cost of the wager goes up exponentially.  At many tracks throughout the country, the base minimum wager is only $0.10 and that makes the bet affordable for the recreational horseplayer.

The industry has added a lot of new bets over the past few years, and we’ll take a look at them in an upcoming primer.

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, 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

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