Handicapping Tip of the Day #38 – Does the Favorite Make Sense?

by Rich Nilsen

Claiming races have often been compared to poker games.  The crafty trainers are making moves and hoping that their competition guesses wrong.  Recently at Laurel Park, red hot trainer Linda Rice (43% winner on the meet) had the overwhelming favorite Cheering On Al.  On the surface and with a cursory glance, the four-year-old filly look near unbeatable.  She had been very competitive at claiming levels more than three times the price of today’s race.  But therein lied the rub.  Why in the world was she in for only a nickel ($5,000) given her recent form?  Also, why had she not run back within two or three weeks off the claim?

Laurel past performances PPs

copyright 2017 Equibase and Brisnet.com

Her last race gave a clue as to why.  Bet down to odds of 7/5 she failed to hit the board, fading quickly in the final 1/16th of a mile.  Still, the fourth place finish beaten just over four lengths was a performance that should crush today’s competition.  Right? That disappointing race, however, came for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who is difficult to claim off of, and she had been shelved since the race in late December.  Red flags were popping up.

Does the betting favorite make sense?  If you had just claimed this filly, would run her in this spot?  You would only do so if her soundness was less than 100 percentage, and you were not happy with your $16,000 purchase.  That apparently was the case in this spot, as the connections were willing to unload her for $5,000.  She was a sucker bet at odds of 0.60 to 1, and she ran accordingly.

These opportunities don’t come along every day but they do appear frequently enough.  I just happened to be on 5-1 shot Weatherurnot, who looked like a winner in deep stretch, only to be nailed by a big longshot with improving form.

Laurel race chart

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #16 – Favorites to Play Against

4 Times to Play Against the Favorite

by Glen S.

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

Everyone loves to pick a longshot or tout a big price, but when is the time to actually bet on the longshot? I would base a longshot on the price of the horse that it will pay when he wins. A longshot is not a horse with a morning line of 10-1 that goes off at 2-1. Clearly the line maker made an error and I wouldn’t consider that a longshot.

Finding a longshot can start with the expected favorite in the race. We know the favorites win around 35% of the time and sometimes you look at the favorite and need to realize there is very little chance he gets beat.

Here are a few times to try and beat the public choice

  • The horse is trying something different, such as stretching out in distance, moving to the turf, trying an off track, etc.
    The runner is coming off a month or longer with no activity, e.g. workout.
    The favorite is dropping in class off a good effort, for example, a second place finish in a higher class maiden race.
    The race shape is against him, for example, a-need-the-lead horse with lots of other speed in the race.

 

Handicapping Tips # 7 – Consider the Favorite

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

The wagering public’s choice has been victorious at tracks across the nation  at a fairly consistent 32% win rate over the years. However, over the past decade or so I noticed that this rate continued to creep up. Smaller fields and a more informed public have certainly played a significant role in this increase. The bottom line is that the widely used 32% win rate for favorites is inaccurate by as much as 10% (35 vs 32 percent).

Below are the average win rates for the betting favorite, on average, at racetracks all over the country:

  • Favorites Win 35% of the time
  • Favorites Place (run 1st or 2nd) 55% of the time
  • Favorites Show (run 1st, 2nd or 3rd) 69% of the time

Consider these numbers the next time you play the races.   For example, if you are playing a trifecta wager, (selecting the top 3 finishers in order), is it a wise idea to just toss the favorite with no regard to the percentages? Considering that the typical favorite hits the board (show) nearly 70% of the time, the answer in most cases would be a resounding “No!”  You need to have a solid reason to toss the favorite.

The public choice, in most horse races, stands an excellent chance of finishing in the money. For that reason, I will often “use” the public choice in my wagers – somewhere – even if I am betting against him. It’s not just an insurance play. It’s playing the percentages.  If you throw out the favorite from a trifecta for no good reason, as in our example here, you’ll be wrong nearly 70 percent of the time.

How Well do Horse Racing Favorites Perform?

by Rich Nilsen

The wagering public has been pretty amazing over the years. Historically, the betting choice, a.k.a. the favorite, has hit the Winner’s Circle at tracks all over the country at a fairly consistent 32% success rate. However, over the past decade or so I noticed that this rate continued to creep up. No doubt, smaller fields have played a significant role in this increase. The bottom line is that the widely used 32% win rate for favorites is inaccurate by as much as 10% (35 vs 32 percent).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am the first guy who will be quick to bet against the favorite. In fact, that is what I am looking to do every time I handicap a race.

Here are the average win rates for the wagering public’s favorite, on average, at racetracks across the nation:

Favorites Win 35% of the time

Favorites Place (run 1st or 2nd) 55% of the time

Favorites Show (run 1st, 2nd or 3rd) 69% of the time

Consider these numbers the next time you place a horse racing wager! If you are playing a trifecta wager, for example, where you have to pick the top 3 finishers in order, is it wise to just toss the favorite with no regard to the percentages? Considering that the typical favorite hits the board (show) nearly 70% of the time, the answer in most cases may be a resounding “no!”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am the first guy who will be quick to bet against the favorite. In fact, that is what I am looking to do every time I handicap a race. However, I like to think that I am not stupid (no witty comments please). I realize that the favorite in most races stands an excellent chance of hitting the board. For that reason, I will often “use” the public choice in my wagers – somewhere – even if I am betting against him. It’s not just an insurance play. It’s playing the percentages, and as a “numbers” guy, that is what I am about.

A good example is the trifecta wager. Let’s say you don’t like the favorite. You are playing against him to win. However, realizing this horse could very well “hit the board” the wise thing is to include him underneath in the trifecta bet.

This is a prime reason why “boxing” horses in a trifecta is usually not a good idea. If you don’t like the favorite to win, then don’t use him in a box, where, in essence, you are including him in the win hole of the trifecta wager. Otherwise, you would not be playing against him.

Post Parade Gulfstream Park maiden race

Copyright Agameofskill.com

This year’s Donn Handicap [2012] was an excellent betting race, a great event to wager on the trifecta if you had an opinion. My top two choices in this field were Trickmeister and Hymn Book. I did not particularly care for Preakness winner Shackleford, but I realized that he could certainly be in the money, especially if he got loose on the lead.

With a full, competitive field of stakes runners, this was just the type of situation where you would hate to be right about one of your top choices (marked as A, B runners) but miss the trifecta because you tossed the favorite.

Hymn Book (A) and Trickmeister (B) were both square prices at 6-1 and 4-1, respectively. My (C) and (D) horses were Mission Impazible and Flat Out.

In this race I honestly felt any of the 11 runners could run third. When you are presented with a race like this, it is imperative to use the “ALL” button in the third slot. The approach with this type of race is to key around your top choices, and play a partwheel similar to the one presented below:

A, B with

A, B, C, D with

ALL

Total cost for this Trifecta: $108 based on a $2 base wager. The trifecta is calculated as follows: 2 horses x 3 horses (four minus one) x remaining horses, which in this case is 9 (11 minus two). Players with a larger bankroll could then reverse the 2nd and 3rd slot of the Trifecta for $1 for an additional $54 bet:

A, B with

ALL with

A, B, C, D

The idea behind the second ticket would be a form of protection in the event a longshot – or, even the favorite – got up for the Place spot.

Alhough the favorite, Shackleford, failed to hit the board in the Donn Handicap, I was protected with this wager in the event he did [provided, of course, that he didn’t win].

Hymn Book (6/1) defeated Mission Impazible (8/1) in a real thriller, as Redeemed (8/1) finished third. The $2 trifecta payoff returned a lucrative $1,296. Even if Shackleford had finished in the money, the trifecta still would have been a nice payoff because of the competitive nature of the field.

Imagine if my top two choices, Hymn Book and Trickmeister, had run one-two and Shackleford had ruined my trifecta? If I absolutely hated the favorite and completely tossed him from the wager, that would be a different story. But that wasn’t the case here. Shackleford was the deserving [lukewarm] favorite in this field. That didn’t mean I had to like him.

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