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 #34 – the Usain Bolt Lesson

Usain Bolt lessonHandicapping Tip of the Day – the Usain Bolt Lesson

by Rich Nilsen

Once again champion sprinter from Jamaica, Usain Bolt, dazzled the world with his brilliant sprinter performances.  Two Olympic Games back, he became the first sprinter in history to win gold in both the Men’s 100 meter and 200 meter races.  He did it again in London in 2012, and then he repeated the feat last week in the 2016 Rio Games.  Bolt competed in nine events over the three Olympic games, all at distances for him of 200 meters or less, and he won all nine.  For those wondering, 100 meters is equivalent to 109.36 yards.

So what lesson could Bolt give to a horse racing handicapper?  Well, it came out recently that Bolt, the fastest sprinter in the world, had never run one mile. Huh?

It’s hard enough to beat this game without making wagers with a low probability of success.

Time Story: Bolt Has Never Run a Mile

It’s hard to believe but true.  Usain Bolt has never done the thing that most American high school kids have had to do at some point in their lives. His agent, Ricky Simms, confirmed this amazing fact in a statement to the New Yorker publication.

So why would Bolt never run a mile?  Simply because it would not benefit him.  His game is all about those fast-twitch muscles involved in short-distance racing – his strength.  Usain Bolt has stuck to his strengths, not deviating away from what he does best, and the results have paid off in spades.

As handicappers we are often tempted to tackle challenges where we do not excel.  Of course there is nothing wrong with trying to improve your overall game, but too often players can get sucked into playing races, tracks or wager types, e.g. Pick 6s, where they simply are out of their element.  It’s hard enough to beat this game without making wagers with a low probability of success.  Review your recent wagering actions and determine if the Usain Bolt lesson applies to you.  I bet for many reading this, that it does.

https://youtu.be/93dC0o2aHto

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #25 – Eyes Right

The Most Underrated Number in the PPs

By Art Parker

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

Those that have any military experience and have spent time at “drill” are familiar with a command given during a specific ceremony. During a parade when passing the reviewing stand (or something similar) the command of “Eyes right” is given so that the marching troops will momentarily look at those doing the review, usually a dignitary or high ranking officer.

West point marchers When handicapping races you need to do “Eyes right.”  In fact, eyes all the way to right. What is way over there? The number of horses in a race that is printed as a past performance. For example, when you read a specific running line, from left to right, a great deal of information is gathered, such as class, date of race, track, points of call, fractions, speed figure, etc. At the end of the running line you will see a final number and that states the number of horses in that race. This information can be critical.

Let’s say a horse shows a win in his last race at a $25,000 claiming level and he led the race at every call. Today he runs for the same price and his last race looks so impressive it easy to envision the horse as an easy winner at the same class. But upon further examination your eyes go right and see that the final number is 4. That means the field only had 4 runners and the winner only had to beat 3 others. An easy win, especially if the limited numbers of competitors had suspect class, or what if the winner was the only one with any early speed.

Another reason for “Eyes right” is that the larger the field the higher the probability of traffic trouble, especially in the turns. So often it is said the best horse in the Kentucky Derby doesn’t win, and I promise you traffic trouble is the number one reason why. If you look at a past performance line of any Derby you will see a big number to the far right. Pay close attention to the number in a field – command your eyes to go all the way to the right when handicapping.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #24 – Claiming Jail

Handicapping Tip of the Day – Understanding the Claiming Business

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By Art Parker

The most common race in North America is the claiming race. Without these horses we call “claimers” most every track could not fill a race card. Probably 80 percent of all our races are claiming events, whereby an entrant can be ‘claimed’ from the race for the stated purchase price by a party eligible to make a claim. The idea of claiming is to provide parity. If you own a horse that is truly worth $50,000 then you will think long and hard about entering that horse in a claiming race of only $25,000. The drop in in claiming price may make for an easy score with purse money but you may also lose an asset for a fraction of its value. One must understand the business of horse racing before they can understand the world of claiming races.

One of the most important things to remember about claiming races is the ‘jail time.’ While the rules vary from state to state, a claimed horse cannot run for the same or lesser claiming value within 30 days after being claimed. This is called “in jail” because the horse cannot run for a lower price until that horse is out of jail. In some states the horse cannot be removed from the state during the jail time, and in some states, the horse cannot run anywhere else until the end of the meeting. To be proficient at handicapping claiming races one needs to be up to date on the various rules in the various states.

When handicapping claiming races it is well worth the time to look at the horses from a business standpoint and play the game as an owner or trainer. Profitable revelations will often come to light when a business examination is made of the entrants in a claiming race.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #20 – Resolve to Do This in the New Year

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By Rich Nilsen

Maybe you had a great year wagering, or more likely, it didn’t go as well as expected.  Of course, everyone is making some type of resolution for the New Year, and handicappers should do the same.  Now is the time to sit back and reflect.   Think about the many, daily or weekly decisions you made that cost you dearly at the pari-mutuel windows.

If there is one thing you must do as the New Year begins, it is this: Have a plan.  Make plans to be a more successful player, and be very specific in doing so.  What is that going to take?  Maybe it is focusing on only one or two tracks instead of betting everything under the sun.  Maybe it is picking your spots better on any given day.  Maybe it is putting your day’s bankroll into one wager, e.g. a Pick-3 or Win bet, instead of spreading it out throughout the day. Or maybe you are playing without any type of significant rebate.

Of course, you have to weigh these decisions with the enjoyment aspect of the game.  Unless you’re a professional horse player or an aspiring pro, you may not expect to win over the course of a year.  Maybe you’re just happy to have action.  Regardless of your situation, you can resolve to do better – much better in the New Year.  Think about it.

Best of luck!

 

Handicapping Tips # 6 – Be Mentally Strong

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

Handicapping Tip of the Day # 6  — Sept. 24, 2014

Horseplayers know all too well that the game has ups and downs.  One bad decision can cost you big time, but worst yet, the outcome of that decision can lead to more bad decisions.  An example would be a player who decides to chase his losses but when he or she should just accept that today was losing day.   Tomorrow there are plenty of races to possibly play and invest your time and money.  Don’t let the outcome of one race (one bad play), one steward’s decision, one bad ride dictate the rest of your day.  Be mentally strong by thinking long term instead of in the moment.

This video went viral this week, and you’ll see why after watching this kid’s post-game inspirational speech.  I may have to watch this again before I compete in the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) this coming January!  Good stuff:

 

Handicapping Tips #5 – Do This With Your Bankroll

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

Handicapping Tip of the Day – Budget Your Wagering Dollars

One of the most important aspects of the game for horseplayers is to wager with money that they are comfortable losing.  Sure, no one wants to or plans to lose money when they play the horses, but you also don’t want to be risking the rent money, either.  Regardless, you should have a separate budget for investing in horse racing.  By keeping wagering dollars apart from your personal funds, you can avoid any confusion…and most importantly, any problems.

The additional benefit of having a separate fund for wagering is that you can then budget from within that pool of funds.  Ideally, you should never risk more than five percent of your dollar wagering budget in any one race.  Wagering on horses can oftentimes be a streaky proposition.  By budgeting your dollars appropriately and professionally, you can withstand a losing streak.  When you have the money situation under control, your chances for success rise dramatically.

Handicapping Tips #3 – Every Runner Has This

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

Handicapping Tip of the Day #3 – July 14, 2014

Every race horse has  one particular distance that they excel the best at, and the handicapper is wise to look at every runner in a race to determine if today’s distance meets that preference.   Even the champion runners have preferred distances, but what separates many of them is that they can carry their game across a variety of distances and, sometimes, even surfaces.  Secretariat, and more recently American Pharoah, are classic examples of horses with this rare trait.

Many average horses, e.g. claimers, can perform well at multiple distances but they are always at their best at a short range of distances; for example, 5 1/2 furlongs to 6 furlongs.  Constantly be on the lookout for a horse that is switching back to his or her preferred distance after attempting something outside their scope in their previous start or two.

Read Tip # 2

Read Tip # 1

Handicapping Tips #2 – July 11, 2014

Agameofskill.com

AgameofSkill.com Handicapping Tip of the Day #2

Some jockeys will have an excellent rapport with certain horses.  You’ll oftentimes see a jockey who wins or finishes in the money (top 3) every time he gets aboard a particular horse; whereas that particular horse has less success when other riders are in the irons. Maybe it’s their “hands,” the way they get the horse to relax, or they just know how to ride the horse given the horse’s respective running style, but we don’t really need to know the reason.

Always be on the lookout for a jockey switch to a “winning” rider for this horse.  It can result in big improvement off the horse’s recent form.

Handicapping Tips #1 -The Drop

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

AGameofSkill.com Handicapping Tip of the Day – July 7, 2014

Class drops in horse racing are situations where a horse has been facing tougher competition and now is dropping into “softer” company.  The most potent of all class drops is the maiden special weights to maiden claiming move.  In maiden special weight races horses can not be “claimed” or purchased for any price.   Whereas in the maiden claiming races, horses are entered for a specific claiming price.  Every horse in the race is for sale as a pre-determined price.  The drop is most powerful when the claiming price of today’s race is $40,000 or less.   The lower price, the softer the competition.  Handicappers will often see remarkable turn-arounds, such as a horse defeated 15 lengths or more in a maiden special weights who returns to win when dropped into the maiden claiming races where the competition is significantly softer.

One caveat that handicappers should be aware of with this handicapping tip is the state-bred maiden special weights drop into open maiden claimers, where horses from any state can run in.   In many cases, this is not much class relief for the horse in question and will not result in a huge turnaround.

– Rich Nilsen