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.

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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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