How to Quickly and Easily Identify the “Sucker” Horse – Part II

by Rich Nilsen

A few weeks ago we took a look at a horse from the barn of Chad Stewart, one of the leading trainers at Tampa Bay Downs. I detailed how this horse was an easy-to-spot “sucker” horse because she had been well bet in each of her three career starts and disappointed each time. The kicker was the second start back when her previous connections dropped her sharply in class into what should have been a winning spot, and she failed to hit the board. Once again, she was well bet and once again, she disappointed, finishing fourth.

Today we are going to look at a horse I spotted at Aqueduct while I was participating in the Horse Player World Series. At first glance, this runner looked like a formidable rival in the short field of five. SALTAMONTES had the following, very attractive attributes:

  • The five year old mare was making her third start off a layoff
  • She was dropping in class into a race with perfect conditions for her lifetime record
  • Trained by the red hot barn of Rudy Rodriguez
  • Tops on several BRIS ratings including Class
  • Getting a major rider switch to Cornelio Velasquez

For these various reasons she was listed as the 2/1 morning line favorite in race 5 at Aqueduct, February 21, 2013. Two of the seven runners had scratched, bringing the field down to five horses, and in essence, making her morning line significantly lower.

However, New York bettors are some of the sharpest around and many were not fooled by this Rudy Rodriguez class dropper.


Aqueduct race horse example

copyright 2013 Equibase and

The mare returned from an eight-month layoff in December, and her first start back in the slop could easily be forgiven. She finished a distant 6th while earning a paltry 74 BRIS Speed Rating. But it was the next race that really held the clue that this New York-bred runner had not recovered from whatever had put her on the shelf in the first place.  Off at odds of just over 2-1, she finished a lackluster 4th in a six-horse field. Her Pace Ratings (84, 90) were significantly lower than in past races, and one could see from her running lines that she had lost her good early speed. Her final figure of 81 in that start was weak. In fact it matched the worst figure she had run in the distant past (back on Dec. 8, 2011).

So, in two starts since the return from the layoff, she had earned 74 and 81 figures, respectively. This was a mare that had cracked low to mid 90’s in three of her six prior starts. So, to say she was off-form since coming off the shelf would be an understatement.

The other red flag was the fact that she only had five total starts in the calendar year 2012. Whenever you see that, you can be assured that the horse has serious physical ailments. Horses don’t make money sitting in the barn and very few stables are charitable organizations.

result chart for Aqueduct

Chart displayed with actual PP running lines.

 Saltamontes had sucker bet written all over her, and at overlaid odds, there is no doubt that many horseplayers took the plunge on the lukewarm second choice. Once again, she failed to show any speed and she finished a terrible 4th, beaten nearly eight lengths.


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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-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 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.


  1. Thanks for the insight.

  2. Barry Reed Mitchell says

    Dude! that is awesome. Intelligent Read.

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