Handicappers, It’s Mid-Year Review Time

Handicapping past performances PPs1st Half of the Year is Over

How is the year going?  At the beginning of the year we typically remind readers to take the necessary steps to improve their handicapping and money management.  With six months of 2021 in the books, how would you rate your handicapping thus far?  Are you committing some of the same mistakes you’ve made in the past?  What have you improved upon?

Let’s look back on the New Year resolutions because it’s never too late to right the ship.

“Every horse player needs to know their strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t, you will not know when to take that big shot on a horse or wager.

I find the biggest mistake by horseplayers is playing the same way year after year and not trying to improve their handicapping.  It’s a ‘plan’ doomed to fail.

What have you done lately to improve?

Here are a few things to do more of…” read on

Does the European handicapping system work?

An earnings-based system rather than one based simply on wins alone is a suggestion put forward by more than one industry expert, but the current system of handicapping has been in place for 170 years, introduced by Admiral Rous in 1851. Rous was appointed the first official handicapper in Britain in 1855 and devised the Weight-For-Age scale, which in theory should afford horses of different ages an equal chance of winning.

Tellingly, it says a lot about our sport that he is still remembered anecdotally for the remark, “I have just gone through the next race and have discovered that I have handicapped each horse so well that not one of them can possibly win.”

We could argue that if it isn’t broken, why fix it? Certainly, many trainers have no issue with the system, other than its interpretation by the various official handicappers in relation to their own horse.

“There has to be a process in place, and if we didn’t have handicaps, a lot of horses couldn’t compete and would fall out of training,” says Michael Grassick, CEO Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA). “I personally believe that handicaps serve a purpose. Many do feel that in Ireland the handicapper is too severe. After a period of time horses will run to a certain rating and when they go above that rating, they will no longer be as competitive until returning to that rating. The Irish handicapper is felt to be very slow in moving a horse who has gone up through the handicap back down the ratings; we feel that in the UK horses are lowered a bit quicker. While in the lower grades of 45-60, the horses seem to drop quite quickly and drop through the floor and out of the system…

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.

 

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.   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.

 

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.

How to Improve Your Handicapping in the New Year

by Glen S.

Was 2020 a successful year in your handicapping? If so, great, but why not make it even better. If wasn’t a good year, why do you think that was? Do you know where you struggled the most? Was it playing too many sequence bets or betting under-valued horses?

Every horse player needs to know their strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t, you will not know when to take that big shot on a horse or wager.

I find the biggest mistake by horseplayers is playing the same way year after year and not trying to improve their handicapping.  It’s a ‘plan’ doomed to fail.

What have you done lately to improve?

Here are a few things to do more of in the New Year that will improve your horse racing handicapping:

  • Watch more replays.
  • Be better prepared before the races start.
  • Look at some of the new/old handicapping software out there, e.g. DRF’s Formulator.
  • Be more adaptable to the race.
  • Avoid having the same type of bet for most races.

So many horse players think they are great handicappers.  Why is that? If everyone was so good, more favorites would win and the prices would be lower. Needless to say, that is not the case.

Ask yourself, what would you rate yourself as a horseplayer overall from a scale of 1 to 10 ?

There has been a study in regards to people rating themselves in the field they are in. The study has found that the best of the best in their field rates themselves around a 4.5 out of 10.  Why do you think they rate themselves so low?  It is because they never stop learning. If you rated yourself at 7 or higher, you may want to think again. One of my favorite lines is “What you don’t know, you don’t know?” Think about that line and understand why that is so powerful.

Be better in 2021.  Become a better handicapper.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

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Handicapping Tip of the Day #64 – Red Flags on Rag Tag

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

On a recent Wednesday card at Tampa Bay Downs (Dec. 9, 2020), the 2nd race of the day featured a nice field of maiden special weight runners going 6 1/2 furlongs.  The 3/2 morning line favorite in the race was the Eoin Harty-trained Rag Tag, a three year old who sported good form and superior numbers (speed figures, class ratings, BRIS Prime Power rating, etc.).  The well-bred colt from famed Calumet Farm also was coming in off a solid workout pattern.  What wasn’t there to like?

In Rag Tag’s case, quite a bit.  In his brief, nine-race career the colt had been beaten at short odds SIX times.  Three of those times he was the heavy favorite, as he was expected to be on this sunny Florida afternoon.

The most dangerous ‘Professional Maidens’ for chalk lovers (bettors who like to wager on favorites) are those that have numerous changes applied by their trainer(s) and continue to fail.  Rag Tag was a shining example:

  • He had raced at four different distances, from 4 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.
  • He had tried the dirt, the turf, and the slop.
  • He had been ridden by six different jockeys, including top jocks Luis Saez and John Velasquez, Jr.
  • He had run with blinkers and without blinkers.
  • He had dropped in class and lost.
  • He had attempted five different racetracks.
  • He had never gained ground AND passed a horse in the stretch…ever.
  • Finally, he had raced for three different barns (Pletcher, Sisterson, and Harty)

All this in a 9-race career.  When the morning line favorite has been beaten, especially recently, at short odds, that is the first neon light to the handicapper to dig deeper.  Has this horse been in races where he or she should have won previously and didn’t?  When there is a lot of evidence pointing out that this horse is a hanger and lacks the will to win, it can open up a big opportunity for the horseplayer.  It doesn’t mean you’re going to pick the winner, but it does guarantee that you get extra value on your play(s).

Rag Tag went off at 70 cents on the dollar and was a closing 2nd to the lukewarm 2nd choice, a lightly raced Monmouth Park shipper.  He’ll got into his next race with a record of 10-0-5-1 and he’ll be heavily bet again.

Did you miss this Handicapping Tip of the Day?

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

Horse Racing Tip of the Day – Evaluating Layoff Horses

The Most Common Horse Racing Wagers

Handicapping past performances PPsIf you are new to the sport of horse racing, these are the basic and most common types of horse racing wagers that you can place at the racetrack, OTB, or ADW (online wagering company).

WIN BET
You are picking the horse you think will win the race. If you are correct, you will receive the Win payoff amount.  You can wager on more than one horse in the race to win.

Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

PLACE BET
You are picking the horse(s) you think will run EITHER first or second place in the race. If you are correct, you will receive the Place payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

SHOW BET
You are picking the horse(s) you think will run EITHER first, second OR third. If you are correct, you will receive the Show payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

DAILY DOUBLE BET
Played only on the first and second races of each performance. You must select the horse(s) in each of the two races you think will win. All Daily Double bets must be in before the first race (Leg) runs.
Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

QUINIELA BET
You must pick at least two horses you think will cross the finish line in the top two places. With this type of bet, the horses can finish in either order, and you still have a winning ticket! If you are correct, you will receive the Quiniella payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $1 or 2 per horse combination depending on the track’s rules.

EXACTA BET
With this wager you must pick the first two horses across the finish line in EXACT order. If you are correct, you will receive the Exacta payoff amount.  This is the most popular “exotic” wager in horse racing.
Minimum bet – $1 per horse combination.

TRIFECTA BET
You must pick at least three horses that you think will be the first three across the finish line. If you are correct, you will receive the Trifecta payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $0.50 per horse combination, or more, depending on the track’s rules.

SUPERFECTA BET
You must pick at least four horses you think will be the first four across the finish line. If you are correct, you will receive the Superfecta payoff amount.
Minimum bet – $0.10 per horse combination minimum, or more, and additional amounts must be in multiples of a dime.  Depends on the track’s rules.  Some tracks are $0.50 or $1.00 minimums.  Some Canadian tracks are $0.20 minimums.

Are Kentucky Derby and Oaks Points a Useful Selection Tool?

by Art Parker

In 2013 the criteria for being able to enter the Kentucky Derby was measured by graded stakes earnings accumulated during the career of a three year old. The idea was to award those that performed well in certain races known as “Derby Preps.” These races are the traditional big races in the spring when racing eyes are beginning to envision the first Saturday in May.

While this year has been quite a bit different due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Kentucky Derby points system is still the measurement used to determine who gets into the gate on September 5, the Derby Day of 2020. The actual races may have changed a bit but the point system is still the determinant.

On the Derby Leaderboard the clear favorite for the race, Tiz the Law, has 372 points after embarrassing competition in several outings this year, most notably the Travers, which was his last start.

Churchill Downs Stock UpgradedThe second horse behind the leader is Authentic, one of two Bob Baffert charges. Authentic has 200 points which puts him slightly above half of what the Tiz the Law has accumulated. Comparing the point differential from first to second in prior years tells us that Tiz the Law is in a league of his own – at least based on points. This has been the difference in other years: zero, one, 13, 16, 18, 21, and 30. The number that looks so big, 30, was Derby winner’s California Chrome’s number over Vicar’s in Trouble in 2014. By the way, only one other point’s leader that has won the Derby was in 2013, when Orb romped home on a muddy track.

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Since California Chrome no point’s leader has won the Derby. The winner in 2019, Country House, was 17th in points in a Derby we all wish to forget, except the winner’s connections. In 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify was ninth sporting only his Santa Anita Derby win. In 2017 Always Dreaming was seventh in points. In 2016 Derby winner Nyquist was second in points to eventual great Gun Runner. When American Pharoah won the Triple Crown in 2015 he was fourth on the points list.

Should you select a Derby winner based upon on points? According to this, the answer is no, based on history. However, no other horse has held such a colossal amount of points over the competition.

The points leaderboard for the Kentucky Oaks looks similar. Swiss Skydiver has been on tour winning four major races in four different states. Her point total for the Kentucky Oaks is a whopping 450. In second is Speech with only 160 points. The difference of 290 points is hard to imagine. Like the Derby, let’s look at the point differential between the leader and second place. The only Oaks winner that led in points was Untapable in 2014. The point differential between first and second on the leaderboard has been, zero, zero, 6, 10, 19, 20, and Untapable’s 40.

In 2019 Serengeti Empress won the Oaks and was eighth on the points list. In 2018 Oaks winner Monomy Girl was second on the points list to Midnight Bisou. Abel Tasman won the Oaks in 2017 and was seventh on the points list. In 2016 Cathryn Sophia captured the Oaks while finishing sixth in the points race. Lovely Maria won the 2015 Oaks and was fifth in points. Before Untapable in 2013 Princess of Sylmar finished seventh on the points list and won the Oaks.

Like the points question asked earlier about the Derby, should you select an Oaks winner based upon on points? According to this, the answer is no, based on history. However, just like the point differential in the Derby, no other horse has held such a colossal amount of points over the competition in the Oaks.

A major consideration in the Oaks points this year is Bob Baffert’s filly, Gamine. The superstar is ninth on the points list but has raced in only one race with points – The Acorn at Belmont.

For a final, up to date listing of points for the Derby and the Oaks.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #60 – Watch ‘em and Learn

Watch ‘em and Learn, even If You Don’t Bet ‘em

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By Art Parker

We are hitting that time of year when we see frequent two-year-old races. I don‘t care to play juveniles unless there seems to be something unusual.

For a good example of finding something unusual with a juvenile, I go back to August 2013 at Woodbine. In the first race of the day, a two-year-old debut filly by the name of Unspurned stalked a hot early pace and slipped past in mid-stretch for an impressive victory. The race at 7/8 miles had the following fractions: 22 4/5, 45 3/5, 1:10 3/5, and a final of 1:24 1/5. That seemed to be much better than average for baby fillies that time of year. I made a note about the young filly with the cool name.

The next race told me even more. Just 28 minutes later a field of three-year-old Maiden Special Weights males battle at the same distance, 7/8 miles. The fractions for the sophomore males were: 23 2/5, 46 4/5, 1:12, and a final of 1:25.

This is when Unspurned got my attention.

For the record, Unspurned went on to a very successful career with several stakes victories and ran behind the great filly and future Queen’s Plate winner, Lexie Lou, on a couple of occasions.

The boys in the other race were far from remarkable. The winner was C.C. Mobil, who finished a career with two wins from 46 starts. The second-place horse, Jobber Bill, finished his career with two wins from 34 starts.

One may not play juvenile races, but paying attention to them can be very worthwhile. Not only may one discover a good young ‘un, but it can help sort out some others.

Did you miss this Handicapping Tip of the Day?

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

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #59 – The Off the Turf Bomber

Look for These Attributes for an Off-the-turf Winner

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

This is the story of how I gave my buddies a 27-1 winner that won for fun, and I think they wagered a total of $10 on her.

A few weeks back I picked up my Brisnet Past Performances for the 8th race at Gulfstream Park, an off-the-turf claimer for non-winners of two races lifetime.  First thing I did was look at the MTO (Main Track Only) runner who had drawn into the field and was now the favorite. The four year old filly had so-so early speed and just struck me as a one-paced runner, the type that makes a slow, steady late run that isn’t going to win many races…especially at Gulfstream Park.  She also showed declining speed figures for her 9% trainer.

Immediately, I was interested in who might be able to beat this vulnerable favorite.  The #2, 5, and 12 were all turf runners that had no show little-to-no ability on the main track.  Toss.

That left only the #4, 6, 11, and 13.  The #11 was a terribly slow horse for a bad trainer.  Easy toss.   The #4 had won a maiden $10,000 claimer at Tampa and this was a $25,000 2-life at Gulfstream.   She looked slow and outclassed for this level in South Florida.

That left only two possibilities if I was going to play this race.  The #6 Just A Bit Sassy had run twice on the dirt and had placed twice both times while earning decent figures.  However, she was beaten a total of 18 lengths and had failed to show much early speed.  She was being heavily bet as the second choice and I felt the risk/reward wasn’t there.

#13 Lilo’s Call, on the other hand, had gone wire to wire in her maiden win first time out at Laurel last March.  Off that start she ran a lackluster 6th on the turf (toss).  She was then well beaten in her next two starts in tough allowance races and one of those starts came in the slop.  I only needed to forgive her last start in order to make her a play.

Sometimes you just have to forgive a bad last race for no reason.  Today,  the daughter of Drosselmeyer was making her first start for her new trainer, a low profile but solid 21% trainer John Collins.  She had three solid works for the new barn, a very positive sign that she might revert to her prior good form.  Lilo’s Call was bred to love the distance and dirt, and she was already a proven, front-running winner in a one-turn mile race.  Went I looked at the toteboard on BetPTC.com I couldn’t believe my eyes.  She was 40-1.

I’m a privileged member of the LoneSpeed.com text thread, a select group of really good handicappers.  The small group of six includes superstar handicapper Dylan Donnelly (currently #1 on the NHC Tour) and wanna-be star Justin Dew.

It was 6 minutes to post and I texted my buddies about a longshot that I thought had a big shot.  Radio silence.

They broke from the gate and Lilo’s Call moved up into a perfect stalking position in third, just off the early pace setters.  At the 3/8th pole Miguel Vasquez asked and Lilo responded, cruising to the front.  From there she took command and then proceeded to just run the rest of her rivals off their feet.  She hit the wire 6 3/4 lengths in front.   The MTO favorite plodded along in second.  My phone exploded.

Chart of a longshot off the turf winner

copyright 2020 Equibase.com and Brisnet

The filly paid $57.20 win.  The congrats came in via the text thread, and double NHC qualifer Dew acknowledged that he had a few bucks on her.

Overlays like this aren’t easy to come by.  When you handicap an off the turf race, look for a horse that is proven on the dirt or has an excellent dirt pedigree.  Give the edge to runners with good early speed or strong tactical speed.  Couple that with an angle or two that makes sense, and you have the icing on the cake.   Best of luck!

Handicapping Tip of the Day #57 – Wide with Intent

“Now do you get it?” my friend asked me. “He wasn’t intending to win.”

By ART PARKER

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

One of the things I learned to do years ago with my trip handicapping was to watch for the wide running horse. A buddy of mine that followed a dozen or so trainers told me how some will prep for the winning race by telling the rider to go wide and give the horse a good public workout.

He showed me what he was talking about one day when the replays were on the track monitors about an hour before post time of the first race of the day. As the replay from yesterday’s third race began, he said, “Here it comes. Watch the number two horse.” The gelding broke well and was allowed to gradually fall back near the rear of the field. I saw the horse fall behind by about a dozen lengths. Once the horse was about a dozen lengths behind, it ran even with the field and was wide entering the stretch. He finished about ten lengths behind. “I looked at my buddy and quizzically said, “Okay?”  In other words, “so what?”

Access the Head-On Replay

That is when he told me to watch the head-on replay. There it was on the monitors. After allowing to fall gradually behind, the rider shifted his mount off the inside and was in the middle of the track and drifting wider. There was no need for that – no bias in the surface. Once he was in the clear the rider allowed the horse to keep up but away from traffic and then proceeded to maintain the same wide course in the turn, again for no reason. Once in mid-stretch, the rider asked him for a little more and the horse ran well but finished behind and well beaten.

“Now do you get it?” my friend asked me. “He wasn’t intending to win.” I responded. “But what do I do with this information?” I asked. That was when my buddy pulled out a small notebook and showed me how he recorded the effort with the horses’ names on his list of notes for that specific trainer. He explained to me this trainer would usually give his horses a race after a layoff. “If he (the trainer in question) runs one wide like this it is strictly a prep for the big effort next time out. Be looking for this horse in a couple of weeks in the same class or with a slight drop,” my friend explained.

Of course, I forgot about the lesson I should have learned that day. A couple of weeks later the horse was entered. I passed the race for one reason or another. When the race was official I noticed the winner paid nearly $20.00. About that time I heard a voice ask me, “Did you bet him?” It was my friend who reminded me that I just missed a lucrative opportunity.

From that moment on I have always remembered to make a note of any horse that looked to be running intentionally wide. It’s helped me catch some good winners over the years. Just remember, the head-on replay is what tells the tale.

Did you miss Handicapping Tip #56 – 2nd time starters