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.

 

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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.

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.

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!”

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.

Superfecta Strategies for the Kentucky Derby

The goal between now and Derby Day is to figure out how to maximize my coverage and opportunity based on the opinions I will have developed on the 20 Derby entrants.

by Justin Dew

Favorites have won the last five Kentucky Derby. In 2016, the top four betting choices ran 1-2-3-4 in order. As a bettor who likes to use the Derby as an opportunity at a life-changing score (or at least a year-making score), an edition dominated by low odds horses usually means a bad day for me. But that doesn’t have to be the case, and to my credit I feel I have learned from past mistakes.

Take 2004, for example. Smarty Jones and Lion Heart were the top two betting choices in the Kentucky Derby, and they ran 1-2 in order of favoritism. Imperialism finished 3rd at a modest 10-1. But the fourth-place finisher, Limehouse, helped to light up the tote board by contributing to a $41,000 (for $2) superfecta at odds of 41-1. The trifecta only paid $987. So let’s say you liked the two favorites to run 1-2, and then used every horse that was under 20-1 the 3rd spot, with all in 4th. As a $2 play, that’s $380 and a return of over $41,000…..with the two favorites running 1-2 in order!

Easy game, right?

Not so fast. Last year, I liked Always Dreaming as a top win candidate, but wouldn’t have had Battle of Midway or Lookin at Lee even WITH the ALL button (joke). In 2013, Orb was my top pick, and I used runner-up Golden Soul on all tickets, but didn’t match them up with the rest of the superfecta.

Thus, one of my goals for this year is to make sure I am in a position to cash a big ticket if I am right about the most likely winner and also right about a longshot who runs big. And I need to do it economically. But at the same time, how many horses can I confidently eliminate from superfecta consideration? Six? Seven? Can I trim down my selections near the top of the ticket and allow myself to use the ALL button? Do I need to just single my top pick in the 1st spot in lieu of a win bet on him, and then spread heavily underneath?

Maybe I’m looking at something like 1x13x12x11 at a cost of $1,716 (that’s one horse keyed on top over the other 13 in spots 2-4). If one of the seven horses that I eliminate from superfecta consideration runs 4th, then I guess I can just accept the fact that I didn’t deserve to cash. Or maybe the thing to do is play my top two in 1st and demand that one of my top five or six longshots runs somewhere in the 2nd and 3rd spots, with the other logical horses in there as well. So, something like this:

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top six longshots
3rd: Top seven overall (including the top two)
4th: Top seven plus top six longshots

So that’s 2x6x6x10, for a cost of $720. And then I play it with longshots only in 2nd and 3rd at a cost of $600, followed by using the top seven in 2nd with just the longshots in 3rd for another $720.

So overall, I would spend more on the superfecta that way, but I’d have my top two on top instead of just a single horse. And in exchange for having that extra coverage on top, I must have at least one of my longshots run 2nd or 3rd, with a big payday coming my way if I’m right about the winner and the non-super-contenders, AND I get more than one one my longshots in the 2-4 spots.

With the 1x13x12x11 approach, I could easily envision a scenario where I hit the superfecta but lose money. See: 2016. But with the “demand a longshot” approach, my top pick could win, spots 2-3 could be filled by logical horses, one of my longshots could run 4th, and I lose. Again, that’s the price (in this example) of using two horses on top.

Or…maybe I try this…..

Use my top two in first, trim it down to three longshots, and leverage the ALL button.

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top three longshots
3rd: Top seven overall
4th: ALL

That would run me $612, plus another $612 when I move the longshots into 3rd and the top seven into 2nd, plus another $510 when I play it this way….

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top three longshots
3rd: Top six longshots
4th: ALL

The $510 play gives me a big score if my longshots run 2nd and 3rd, with some extra coverage in 3rd.

I am not after bragging rights. And having been very lucky in recent years to cash some very large tickets at the track, I am not excited by the prospect of winning a few thousand dollars on Derby Day. Apologies if anyone doesn’t like the way that sounds. But I don’t want to see another $75,000 superfecta pass me by.  I feel like I need to be willing to spend the money to hit it.

handicappers Dew Justin Rich Nilsen

Justin Dew (Left) and AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen (Right)

The goal between now and Derby Day is to figure out how to maximize my coverage and opportunity based on the opinions I will have developed on the 20 Derby entrants. And I am willing to use all or most of my bankroll to take a swing at that payday. Because if someone guaranteed me I could double my bankroll on the Kentucky Derby, I wouldn’t sign up.

Now, if my Derby bankroll is $2,000, and the horse I like is 12-1, maybe the thing to do is abandon the entire approach that I just spent the last hour writing about and simply bet to win.

I have a lot of thinking to do.

You’ve made it to the betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what?

You’ve made it to the actual betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what? Here are some thoughts and things to keep in mind for novices and very beginning race fans.

Source: You’ve made it to the betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what?