Handicapping Tip of the Day #56 – Assessing Second Timers with Changes and Trainers

Handicapper Art ParkerBy ART PARKER

If horseplayers wager on maiden races often they are faced with a tough assessment. A second-time starter that failed to graduate in ts debut offers a unique challenge to the horseplayer. There are many reasons why this situation is a challenge. Therefore, it makes sense to first find and assess any changes made for the runner’s second outing.

Even good trainers search for the right mix for a horse. What is the best distance, best equipment, best rider, best surface, etc.? This is one reason so many trainers rarely win a debut race – they are searching for answers. This is one reason I generally do not play maiden races. I really need to spot changes and answer the question of “What’s going on here?”

The 2020 Belmont Stakes will be run in June.

If I analyze a maiden race and see a field full of horses that have run five, six times or more I usually cease and move on. I look at those races like I do the horrible non-winners of two lifetime with a field of horses that can’t get to the next level and have the record to prove it. Playing the races is tough enough without having to find the best of a bad bunch. On the other hand, I generally avoid a race with debut runners simply because too many questions cannot be answered.

Changes and Trainers

So what is attention-getting in a maiden second timer?

I look for a troubled first journey, on paper, and then pull up the replay to see for myself. Watching a trip, especially on rookie runner, can tell one quite a bit.

horse racing blinkersI look for a change of equipment, especially blinkers going on. If a trainer adds blinkers to a horse it is because the horse didn’t pay attention, didn’t get into the race early enough, didn’t run straight or other reasons. When I see a blinker change on a second-timer it tells me that the connections are paying close attention to their horse. My interest elevates when I see a sizzling workout after the debut race with a blinker change.

Was the horse heavily bet in the debut? If so, then that tells me something didn’t go as planned or he was just beaten by a better horse(s). If not bet heavily it suggests that the connections may not have been expecting too much.

Of course one looks at a jockey change. If the trainer goes from an occasional rider to the stable’s money man, then that is viewed as a major plus.

Distance changes, surface changes, and medication changes tell a huge story especially if the breeding suggests it to be a smart move.

Last but not least, and probably most important, is trainer habit and history. What the trainer does well is critical. When I find a change in a second timer, I try to discover if it is a proven, successful move for this conditioner.

When examining a second-time starter first look for a change. Remember having knowledge of a trainer helps to answer any questions regarding changes.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 17-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He cashed on the 2018 NHC Tour with a 19th overall finish. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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