Handicapping Tip of the Day #22 – The MTO

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Art Parker

Always take special note when you see the words “Main Track Only” next to the name of an entrant. This positioning is the action of the trainer and it simply means that if the race is taken off the turf then the horse is eligible to run in the field. If the race remains on the turf then the horse will be a scratch. There are several interpretations of this move but what you need to closely examine is the condition of the horse and the conditions of the race. If the horse appears to be in good shape and if the horse fits the conditions well, then pay closer attention.

Oftentimes this means that the trainer knows he has a runner ready to roll and this was the best race he could find. If things do not make sense, such as the runner has a terrible main track record or usually competes at a lower level, then the horse is probably in the race for a workout. Always give MTOs a closer look.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #21 – The Right Track Surface?

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By Art Parker

Are you sure of the surface of the upcoming race? A player must pay close attention to all races carded for the turf because sometimes one or more of the grass races will be moved to the main track. Races are taken off the turf for several reasons, usually due to excessive moisture on the course. A change of surface can affect everything when it comes to the handicapping process. All changes are usually announced several times and posted on the tote board and monitors. Yet many players see the word TURF in the conditions and they forget that things may have changed. Not all turf races are taken off the turf and this makes things more complicated.   For example, just this past weekend a race was taken off the turf at Gulfstream Park with only three minutes to post.  If a track has three races carded for the turf it may not change the surface on all of the turf races. This is when alertness is the best handicapping tool you have.

The Fork in the Road

Horseplayer’s Decision Time

by Rich Nilsen

When we arrive at the fork in the road, which path we choose plays a major role in our future success as horseplayers. Each time we come to the split, the decision we make reaffirms the type of bettor we have become, be it good or bad. Fortunately, it is never too late to take the right path, just harder. One of those forks in the road, for me, came two decades ago at Churchill Downs.

SINAN CIERO deserved to be the public choice in the last race of the day at Churchill Downs on June 5, 1996. Winner of his only start while earning an “off the chart” Speed Rating (99) for a first time starter, Sinan Ciero appeared to have tremendous potential. This was a well-bred horse by a top young sire and out of a good producing mare who had already thrown a turf winner.  He had the looks of a future stakes horse.

On the BRIS Ultimate Past Performances, the favorite’s pedigree stats read as follows:

SIRE: 21% turf, 27% 1st Turf, 6.2 AWD (Average Winning Distance)

DAM: 1 turf winner, 9 starters, 6 winners [at the time of the race]

Sinan Ciero was making his first start on the grass, a surface he was obviously bred for, and he was stretching out to one mile. With an outstanding figure earned in his six-furlong maiden win and sporting two workouts over the Churchill lawn, Sinan Ciero seemed more than capable of winning this race.

Most within the wagering public seemed to see the same thing because Sinan Ciero was being bet down below even-money in this field. On the surface, this race appeared fairly weak, so he looked formidable at 4-5. The chink in the armor, of course, was that this was an inexperienced horse trying a new surface and two turns for the first time. No big deal, right?

In the field of twelve, only one other runner, MAJESTIC RANSOM, had the type of pedigree stats that screamed “I want turf, please!” Making his grass debut, Majestic Ransom had the following turf pedigree:

SIRE: 24% turf, 21% 1st Turf, 7.3 AWD

DAM: 1 turf winner, 5 starters, 5 winners  [at the time of the race]

Horse racing PPs

copyright Brisnet.com

Exiting a win in a conditioned $25,000 claimer, Majestic Ransom did not have the “future stakes horse” look that the favorite had, but he was in sharp form and bred just as well for the lawn. Majestic Ransom had run a 92 Speed Rating in his recent win and also had won a Maiden Special Weight race two back, running a 91 fig in the mud. It was worth noting that Majestic Ransom’s sire, Red Ransom, had a much higher AWD than Dayjur, indicating that the stretch out in distance should be easier for him than for the favorite.

Majestic Ransom opened at 8-1, which was slightly below his 10-1 morning line.  Shortly after the post parade, the odds on Majestic Ransom began to drift up as Sinan Ciero continued to hover around 4-5.

What’s a horseplayer to do? This race was the classic example of the dilemma that handicappers face on a regular basis. All horseplayers at one time or another have fallen into the trap of assuming a horse will win just because he is a prohibitive favorite.

“Well, he looks like a future superstar,” they think to themselves, “and someone is betting him heavy, so he’s probably unbeatable. I’ll key him on top in the exotics.  I’ll key him in the Pick-4.”

With experience, many handicappers are able to overcome that detrimental thinking and take advantage of opportunities like the one that was presented in this race.

When it came to pedigree for the turf, there was not much separating Sinan Ciero from Majestic Ransom. However, the same could not be said for the pari-mutuel odds.  As the horses were nearing the gate, the former was 4-5 and the latter was 13-1. The decision was easy. Take the high road and bet Majestic Ransom.

The astute horseplayers who strayed from the masses were well rewarded on this day. As the latches sprung open, Majestic Ransom pounced to the early lead, while Sinan Ciero broke sluggishly and went wide in his first race around two turns.  The favorite was finished after six furlongs, but Majestic Ransom cruised home easily by three lengths. He topped an unbelievable $41,141.50 superfecta while returning $28.60, $12.40 and $9.00 across the board.

Making the decision to key on a horse such as Majestic Ransom instead of Sinan Ciero is the difference between being a winning horseplayer and a losing one.  It takes conviction and experience. It is important to remember that no one makes money doing the same thing that everyone else is doing. The Majestic Ransoms will not win all the time, but they will be victorious often enough to make it worthwhile in the long run.

When you come to the fork in the road with two horses of similar credentials but vastly different odds, take the less crowded highway. When you reach your destination, the payoff is always more rewarding.

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