How to Quickly and Easily Identify the “Sucker” Horse

by Rich Nilsen

Trainer Chad Stewart has been on a tear since the Tampa Bay Downs meeting opened in early December, scoring with 35 percent of his starters, 8 winners in total. Every horse of his has to be seriously considered. At first glance it looked he might add to that impressive win total with Misidentified in the finale (race 10) on Wednesday, January 9.

The Singletary mare was making her second start off a layoff, had a race over the track, and was getting a switch to 15% rider Jose Garcia. She came up solid on the class and speed figures and was a competitive 3rd on the BRIS Prime Power Rating. Best of all, based on her debut, it looked like she could sit a good trip in this weak field of $8,000 maiden claiming runners.

Racehorse sucker horse

copyright 2013 Equibase and Bloodstock Research Information Services.


But then the “quick-and-easy sucker horse identifier” caught my eye. Misidentified had been well bet in all three career starts. Certainly nothing wrong with that, right? Some horseplayers love to see horses that regularly take action. The problem for this five-year-old mare was that she had not once been competitive in any of those starts. The kicker was the second career start when her connections gave her a huge drop in class from maiden special weights company at Golden Gate to a low-level maiden claimer at the Iowa racetrack. Off at odds of just under 3-1, she had trouble at the start and then was quickly pulled up. If that wasn’t a red flag enough, she was then given a long layoff during the heart of the racing season.

When she returned this December at Tampa Bay Downs, she was making her first start for a red-hot barn, was placed in a logical spot, and was well bet accordingly. She never lifted a hoof.

So despite her competitive numbers, the impressive trainer stats, and the various angles she had going for her, Misidentified was clearly a sucker horse.

Off at odds of 4-1 on Wednesday, she attended the pace and then called it a day when the real running started. She narrowly won the photo for 4th while well beaten behind a trio of horses who were a combined 0 for 30 lifetime.

Identifying low-priced sucker horses can be as easy as just looking back within the recent starts and spotting horses that should have run well in a given spot and failed to do so. When you see a runner that meets that criteria in 2-3 consecutive starts, at low odds, chances are you’ve found a horse that will once again disappoint. That’s almost as good as finding a winner.

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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. Well said Rich, I was always taught to be suspect of horses dropping class, especially dropping class, changing trainers and moving tracks. One of my handicapping mentors said ” let em run in the money a couple times at the new class, then you can get on em” .

  2. scott sklamba says

    the horse that stands out in 7th race at big A on 01-30-13 has this sort of look, the #8; hasn’t really shown much in two md. $50,000- but the trainer’
    and jockey stats do look impressive; i initially thought that the wizard would make this horse his best wager of the day but maybe not?

  3. Kevin Geary says

    Rich great article. Congrats on coming in the money at the world series. I played there too. I came in 133rd. First 2 days were tough but had a monster day 3 where I made a run but came up just short. I am a teacher but love handicapping and horse racing so If you are ever looking for someone to write articles or work part time for the website, I would be interested. Thanks Kevin

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