Handicapping Tip of the Day # 48 – A Horse for the Course

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

One of the best ways to find a value play in this game we call horse racing is to find the horse with clouded form.  For whatever reason or reasons, the horse had a legitimate excuse not to run well  in his last start or two.  Finding a legit excuse is not always easy, and the last thing a handicapper should be doing is inventing excuses to justify his or her preference for a horse.

A week ago at Parx Racing (Feb. 19, 2019), the veteran 10 year old runner Bowman’s Beast was returning to Parx off subpar efforts at  both Charles Town and Penn National.  He was well beaten at 3/5 odds last time out at basically the same level as today.  Of course, Charles Town is a step below Parx, so, on the surface, it didn’t look good for the old gelding.

However, there were three good reasons to throw out that dismal 4th place performance.  For starters, that last race was in the mud and Bowman had a career record of 11-1-1-1, showing 8 also-ran efforts.  He was clearly a better horse on fast going.

Also noteworthy was trainer Bernard Dunham’s record with beaten favorites.  According to BRIS data, he was a 57% winner from 7 starters in their subsequent races following a loss as the favorite.

Finally, and most important, Bowman was returning to Parx.   Here were the lifetime, tabulated records in his past performances:

Lifetime: 72-13-8-11, $453,590

Parx: 38-9-4-7, $331,260

Now subtract the two and you have a pretty revealing stat.  At tracks other than Parx, Bowman’s Beast was:

Elsewhere: 34-4-4-4, $122,330

The lifetime record for this 10 year old runner at Parx versus all other tracks was night and day.  Bowman could be expected to improve on the return to Parx, with the return to a fast track for a trainer dynamite with beaten favorites.

The morning line maker at Parx set his odds at 3/1, no doubt because of his familiarity with the Parx horse for the course, but Bowman went off at over 7-1 because of his clouded, recent form.  He cruised to victory, returning a generous $16.60 for his faithful backers.

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #47 – 5 Ways to Conserve Wagering Funds

Handicapping Tip of the Day

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

One of the biggest challenges horse players face is the ability to manage their money and wager properly without losing focus.  Fail in any aspect of money management and the result is typically disastrous.  This year’s Cheltenham festival offers for new customers will keep you from failing to manage your funds correctly. Here are a few quick tips that will help you stay on track by conserving your wagering funds and not wasting bets on races you shouldn’t be playing.

  1. Stay Disciplined – Start with a defined bankroll for a set period of time and refuse to add to it.  ATMs and deposit options are out of the question.  Treat that money like an investment fund and work with it to turn a profit.  Have a game plan to start and stay disciplined in your wagering.
  2. Pick Your Spots – It’s alright to play every race if you have a small ‘Action Bankroll’ available.  You can use that to make bare minimum wagers if you lack discipline and absolutely have to have some action on a race.  However, the most important thing is to spot play and hammer those races accordingly.  Keep in mind that it’s simply impossible to have a good or strong opinion on every race. You have to pick your spots.
  3. Avoid Playing Out of Proportion – If your spot-play type of wager is $50 on a race, don’t play $200 on a race because you really love it for whatever reason.  Keep your best bet plays in proportion to one another, otherwise you risk damaging your bankroll and possibly even going on tilt.
  4. Choose Your Races Wisely – play to your strengths.  If conditioned claimers are not your thing, then avoid them at all costs.  If you excel at maiden turf races, then be sure to start with those races when you begin your handicapping for the day.  Choose your races wisely and your bankroll will be rewarded for it.
  5. Variance Happens – Understand that you’re not going to win every race, and worse yet, losing streaks are part of the game.  One of the best horseplayers in the country that I know has a stop limit.  If he loses a set amount of money, he stops for the day.  It’s a simple rule and he sticks to it, no matter what.  If it’s a good enough rule for a guy who successfully puts millions through the pari-mutuel windows every year, then it’s good enough for us.

Have You Missed These Handicapping Gems?

When 4/5 Odds is Value

The ‘For Sale’ Racehorse

Don’t Overlook Hard Races

 

Understanding Claiming Prices in Horse Racing

and Why Numbers Can Be Deceiving

As much as numbers don’t lie, they can confuse you.

In claiming races, numbers like 12,500 can have different meanings. Sometimes, horses who run for the same $12,500 claiming price at different tracks can face different levels of competition.

At Aqueduct, for example, a horse racing in a $12,500 claimer is probably facing some of the weakest horses on the grounds. Meanwhile, at Finger Lakes, with a much lower ceiling for claimers, some useful horses could be running for that tag.

And sometimes, $12,500 claiming tags can have different meanings at the same track or circuit…

Basic Horse Racing Bets

Not surprisingly, betting 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. Below, we take a look at the most popular horse racing wagers, in the most basic of 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. Handicapping past performances PPsWager on a horse to Win.  If he or she wins the race, you collect the payoff based on a $2 win mutual.  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.

 

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.

 

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 the 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.

 

Trifecta

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, so 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.

 

Superfecta

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.

 

Miss These Gems?

Learn more about horse racing with AGOS Horse Racing 101 articles

Handicapping Tip of the Day #46 – When 4/5 is Value

Handicapping Tip of the Day

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

Day two of the Tampa Bay Downs winter meeting (Nov. 28, 2018) was pretty chalky with lots of favorites winning.  In the 3rd race on Wednesday a second time starter named Russian Roulette was 3/2 on the morning line.  According to the Ultimate PPs, her trainer Monte Thomas was a dismal 4% with second time starters, but he had plenty of ‘live’ runners among them with one-third finishing in the money.   He is also known for being very good with two year olds, in general, another fact offsetting that low win rate. There is a lot of debate over profits and win-rate in horse race betting. Horse racing fans can use the twi-promo-code.com to wager on the horse they prefer regardless of win rate or profits earned.

Russian Roulette looked like a stand-out in this field for several reasons.  First, she was coming off a nose lose in her debut at the same claiming level of maiden $16,000 but that effort came at Gulfstream Park West, a tougher circuit and one that produces a lot of winners at Tampa.  Secondly, she had earned a 70 BRIS Speed Rating in that performance, which was equal to the BRIS Par for the race. BRIS handicapping information can be found here.

Par represents the average speed rating for the winners at this level of competition for the track in question. When handicapping maiden races, it can be a wise decision to compare the Speed Rating Par to the ratings earned by the entries in their recent races.  In doing so, you can sometimes find opportunities like the one presented at Tampa Bay Downs.

Here was Tuesday’s field for race 3 at Tampa:

#1 My Heart Dominus – best figure of 38 in three starts.

#2 Valley Girl – best figure of 62 in three starts.

#3 Russian Roulette – ran a 70 when second in debut.

#4 Quickandwildcoco  – ran a career best 48 five starts back.

#5 Fooli – firster for 3% trainer with debut runners.

#6 Phyliss Driller – 0 for 6 maiden who ran a 71 on the synthetic track at Presque Isle Downs.  Her best sprint figure was a 60 in four attempts.

#7 My Little Rosie – improved to a 26 in her second career start.

Needless to say, this was an awful field.  The only two horses that looked like they had any type of chance against Russian Roulette were #2 Valley Girl and # 6 Phyliss Driller.  The problem with the #6 was two fold – she was a Presser which is the wrong running style in Tampa Bay Downs’ sprints, and her only good race was around two turns.  The #2 had three opportunities to run at or near Par, and she had not been close.  Eight points off Par is significant.

To make matters worse for her competition, Russian Roulette also figured to be the controlling speed in this field, as none had shown any type of early foot to challenge her.

So here you had a horse that was faster than everyone in the field, and the field consisted mostly of proven, bad horses.  She was the controlling speed over a speed favoring oval.  Despite her low maiden claiming class level, this daughter of Soldat deserved to be no higher than 2/5, and 1/5 would not have been unreasonable given her credentials against this field.

To make a profit in this game you have take the opportunities that are presented to you.  4/5 was a gift on Russian Roulette, and she rewarded her supporters with a 16-length drubbing of her six rivals.

copyright 2018 Equibase.com all rights reserved

 

Have You Seen Our Other Handicapping Tips?

Equestricon Ticket Construction Panel

AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen participated in one of the handicapping panels at the recently concluded 2018 Equestricon conference in Louisville, KY.  Unfortunately, this panel was not videoed, but another one was – the panel on ticket construction.

The following links to the wagering ticket construction panel that was on day 2 of the 2018 Equestricon Conference.  Included on this panel was my friend Mike Maloney, one of the best horseplayers and bettors in the country.

Lessons from the 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs

By Lenny Moon (reprinted with permission)

The handicapping process does not end when the bets are made; it ends by reviewing the results of the races that were bet and analyzing the handicapping process to determine if anything was missed. After taking a day to recover, I looked back at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup results and came up with the top four things to take away from the last Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

#4 Some Breeders’ Cup Results are Impossible to Explain

Every horseplayer has watched or bet a race that was won by a horse that appeared to have no chance of winning. The horse may have appeared to be too slow, was running at the wrong distance or had not run well in months or years. The horse triggers large payouts and causes great frustration. After reviewing the past performances nothing points to the horse as a winner. The result is still implausible but that is perfectly acceptable. Horse races are run by living breathing animals and ridden and trained by humans. The horses are not machines and the jockeys and trainers are imperfect so it is inevitable that from time to time a race will produce an un-explainable result. This scenario occurred not once but twice on Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

The first impossible to come up with horse was Afleet Again in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. Afleet Again was the least likely winner of the Breeders’ Cup Marathon after a subpar 2011 that saw him go winless in eight starts including two losses in allowance races. Afleet Again was also unproven at the distance and based on speed figures was the slowest horse in the race. Despite all of these negative factors Afleet Again won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon by a comfortable 2 ¼ lengths at odds of 41 /1.

The second improbable winner was Court Vision in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Court Vision was the least likely winner in the Breeders’ Cup Mile after a lackluster 2011 season.  Similar to Afleet Again Court Vision was winless in 2011 and based on speed figures was the slowest horse in the race. Court Vision was coming off a mediocre seventh place finish in the Woodbine Mile yet he managed to blow past three-time defending champion Goldikova and hold off Turallure (winner of the aforementioned Woodbine Mile) to post the biggest upset in the twenty seven year history of the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Even after the race was run it was impossible to make a case for Court Vision.

After reviewing the past performance of each horse and knowing they had won their respective races I still could not find a reason to bet either one of them but guess what? That was perfectly fine.

 

#3 – Look for the “Horse for the Course Angle” in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Some horses prefer one track over all others or in extreme cases only run well at one particular track. These horses are often referred to as a “horse for the course.” This angle plays out everyday at tracks across the country.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint was won by Regally Ready, a Churchill Downs “horse for the course,” who was two for two in turf sprints at Churchill Downs prior to the race. The “Horse for Course Angle” has become a potent handicapping factor for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprints as it has produced all four winners of the race [through 2011]. Chamberlain Bridge won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint after compiling a record of three wins and a second from four turf sprints at Churchill Downs. California Flag won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course and had previously won two of four starts over the course. Desert Code, who I mentioned in my post about multi-ticket betting strategy, won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on the same downhill turf course and had won three of five turf sprints at Santa Anita.

The Breeders’ Cup returns to Santa Anita in 2012 and once again the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint will be run on the unique downhill turf course. The downhill turf course is notorious for producing “horse for the course” winners so it will pay to give special consideration to horses that have won or performed well over the course in the past.

 

#2 – Favor the “Turn-back Angle” in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Betting a horse “turning-back” in distance is one of the oldest angles in the book. To fit the angle a horse simply needs to be running in a race at a shorter distance than its previous race. The most common example is a horse going from a route to a sprint, such as from 1 1/16 miles to seven furlongs, but the angle also works for horses “turning-back” in distance from a route to a shorter route .

breeders cup 2010

copyright AGameofSkill.com

Caleb’s Posse, Shackleford and Tres Borrachos completed the trifecta in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile this year. All three fit the “tum-back angle.” Caleb’s Posse and Shackleford were exiting the 1 1/16 miles Indiana Derby and Tres Borrachos prepped for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood.

The “Turn-back Angle” has become quite possibly the most important handicapping factor for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile as it has produced the winner of all five runnings of the race [through 2011]. Dakota Phone won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood. Furthest Land won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after prepping in the 1 1/8 miles Kentucky Cup Classic. Albertus Maximus won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood. Corinthian won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after competing in the 1 1/8 miles Woodward. One day a horse may win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in a sprint race but until the trend is reversed it pays to give preference to horses “turning-back” in distance.

 

#1 – Favorites Need Not Be Avoided

Favorites in horse racing are normally associated with unexciting payoffs, however when combined with a few upsets they can produce massive payouts. The six Breeders’ Cup races on Friday (2011) made up the Pick 6. Three of those races were won by the post time favorite (Secret Circle in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff), the other three were won by 6/1 Stephanie’s Kitten (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf), 20/1 Musical Romance (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint) and 27/1 Perfect Shirl (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf) resulting in a Pick 6 payout of $444, 571. The last four Breeders’ Cup races made up the Pick 4. Two favorites (My Miss Aurelia and Royal Delta) combined with the aforementioned 20/1 Musical Romance and 27/1 Perfect Shirl produced a Pick 4 payout of $23,428 . In both sequences favorites won half of the races which proved that it is not necessary to beat the favorite in every race to win a substantial amount of money.

 

Final Thoughts about Breeders’ Cup 2011

Although these points relate directly to the Breeders’ Cup each can be applied to everyday handicapping. The most important lesson however is that just like horses are not machines handicappers should not bet like machines. Automatic bets should not be placed on horses that meet the criteria outlined above; they should be one factor to consider in the handicapping process. Sound handicapping involves evaluating all of the available information and using that information to bet the horse that figures to win the race at hand.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #45 – Clearance Sale

Handicapping Tip of the Day for AGOS Visitors

by Rich Nilsen

I wrote an article roughly 20 years ago for Brisnet about the “For Sale” runner.  This is a horse entered for a claiming tag that makes absolutely zero economical sense.  The horse is damaged goods and the entry into the lower-level claiming race is like flashing neon lights “Sale!” Punters and horse racing fans can use the William hill grand national betting offer for 2019 and look for these types of “for sale” horses before this year’s event.

Sadly, recurring events are still happening from time to time in horse racing to this day.  A case in point was Monday, August 20 at Saratoga.  Note that in this article I will not hide the names of the guilty.

A runner named King Kranz was entered for the bottom of the barrel claiming tag of $12,500.  The 5yo son of Munnings was a former stakes winner and in only 19 career starts, he had earned an amazing $412,630.  It was only this past April at Aqueduct when he scored in a “three other than” optional $80,000 claimer for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.  After a subpar 5th place finish in a stakes event at Belmont in May, King Kranz was back in a similar optional claimer on July 7, this time for $62,500.

For Sale King Kranz

His sharp spring form and back class was too much to resist for high percentage trainer Danny Gargan and R A Hill Stables.  They put up the money and submitted the claim form.  When King Kranz finished 7th, beaten over 15 lengths, he was now their horse… and their problem.

King Kranz would work out twice for his new connections prior to his first start for the new barn, and one of those works was a half mile in a pedestrian 53.4.  This is hardly fast enough to be given an official clocking by the New York clockers.

Then came the clearance sale.  Gargan, a 23% first-off the claim trainer, entered his new runner for $12,500 on Monday, $50,000 less than the purchase price six weeks ago.  This race featured a total purse of $25,000.  If a horse wins, the owners will “clear” about half the purse; so, in this case, approximately $12,500.  If the horse is claimed, they also receive the claiming price; which in this case was another $12,500.  Does any of this make sense?

Off at odds of 8/5, King Kranz made a gallant effort to the top of the stretch in the 6 furlong affair before calling it a day.  In the final 1/8th of a mile he was literally galloped down the stretch by leading jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.   He was eventually eased and the margin of defeat in the 5-horse field listed at 28 lengths.

He was claimed by low percentage trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #44 – Millions of Ways to Lose a Horse Race

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

It’s sobering, but true.  There are so many ways to lose a horse race, but, it seems, only a few ways to win.  Saturday, June 9 was on the radar for the entire horse racing community, and many outside it, for the prospect of Justify becoming the 13th Triple Crown winner.  There is little doubt that 53 year old Mike Smith had been thinking about it for the three weeks since Justify had captured the Preakness Stakes. In fact, it was reported on NBC that Smith had turned down all types of engagements leading up to the Belmont Stakes, spending a lot of time in the gym and staying strictly focused on preparing for the most important mount of his life.

Unfortunately for me, and several of my friends, Mike Smith also had the mount on my best bet of the day, a horse that would go off at 30-1.  This was a runner that was in the race right before the Belmont Stakes, the G1 Manhattan Handicap going 10 furlongs on the grass.  What follows in my write-up on the top choice at 15/1 on the morning line in my Belmont Stakes card analysis:

Pace Analysis: One Go All Go and Beach Patrol will ensure a quick pace in this 10 furlong turf route. 

Spot Play Selection: # 11 MANITOULIN (20/1) had a difficult trip off the bench last time out and can move forward in a big way on the stretch out to 10 furlongs.  He was a 16-1 value play winner for us last year on this sheet, and we’re going back to the well with this son of Grade 1 winner Soaring Softly.  Look for Mike Smith to sit this longshot in a good tactical position in mid pack and make a run for the lead turning for home.

While Manitoulin was taking the scenic route right from the beginning by staying to the outside 6 wide on the first turn, Edgar Prado was tucking his mount (#13) into the two path.  Manitoulin continued on the far outside the entire backstretch while Prado’s mount was riding the hedge.  Smith made a run for the lead at the top of the stretch but by then his mount has expended an incredible amount of wasted energy.  Despite that he battles gamely and loses by less than a length as Spring Quality comes storming on the outside to get up for the win.

It was a crushing blow 60 minutes before the Triple Crown attempt by Justify, and this loss cost me multiple big scores on the day.

We’ve all been the beneficiaries of bad trips by horses that should have won, but how often do we take notice of that? Let’s say you loved Spring Quality.  Do you really think you would be saying after the race, “boy, I got lucky. If Manitoulin had any type of reasonable trip, he would have won.”  Of course not.  You would patting yourself on the back for coming up with a really nice longshot winner.  It’s human nature to overlook the fortunate ways we benefited from a win, but instead dwell on the terrible losses and how unlucky we were.  It’s important to keep things in perspective.

I’ll put Manitoulin in my horses to watch list and hope to be more fortunate next time around.

Take Advantage of the AGOS Free Resources:

AGOS Horses to Watch

 

Battle of the KY Derby Sires

by Justin Dew

In the red corner, standing 16.1 hands, a son of Johannesburg and the winner of the 2007 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, the now deceased Scat Daddy.

In the blue corner, standing a number of hands that I wasn’t able to confirm on Wikipedia, a son of Smart Strike, the winner of lots of huge races and two-time Horse of the Year, the amazing Curlin.

Scat Daddy via Coolmore

At Churchill Downs next month, the ‘Battle of the Sires’ will captivate horse racing fans around the world as the main event on a day that also includes an undercard event known at the Kentucky Derby.

Punching it out for Scat Daddy:

Justify– The Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated in three lifetime starts. Has run faster than any of his prospective Derby opponents.

Mendelssohn– The UAE Derby winner. A half-brother to the great Beholder. Expected to be among the top three favorites in the Derby wagering.

Flameaway– Your Sam F. Davis Stakes winner and Blue Grass Stakes runner-up. A hard-trier who fires every time.

Combatant- Consistent runner for Steve Asmussen picked up minor checks in both Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes.

Curlin via Lanes End

Representing Curlin:

Good Magic– Your 2017 Champion Two-Year Old. Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes.

Vino Rosso– Trained and ridden by last year’s Derby winning team of Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez. Winner of the Wood Memorial.

Solomini– From the owner and trainer who brought us American Pharaoh, he is a recent bridesmaid on the Derby Trail.

Am I a pedigree expert? No, I am not. Thank you for asking. But in a battle of attrition like the Kentucky Derby, which sire do YOU think has the best chance of seeing his offspring, either from the farm or from Horsey Heaven, win the roses?

My money is on Curlin. And in the Kentucky Derby, my money will be on his kids. In one form or another.