Handicapping Tip of the Day #58 – The Off the Turf Bomber

Look for These Attributes for an Off-the-turf Winner

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

This is the story of how I gave my buddies a 27-1 winner that won for fun and I think a total of $10 was bet on her.

A few weeks back I picked up my Brisnet Past Performances for the 8th race at Gulfstream Park, an off-the-turf claimer for non-winners of two races lifetime.  First thing I did was look at the MTO (Main Track Only) runner who had drawn into the field and was now the favorite. The four year old filly had so-so early speed and just struck me as a one-paced runner, the type that makes a slow, steady late run that isn’t going to win many races…especially at Gulfstream Park.  She also showed declining speed figures for her 9% trainer.

Immediately, I was interested in who might be able to beat this vulnerable favorite.  The #2, 5, and 12 were all turf runners that had no show little-to-no ability on the main track.  Toss.

That left only the #4, 6, 11, and 13.  The #11 was a terribly slow horse for a bad trainer.  Easy toss.   The #4 had won a maiden $10,000 claimer at Tampa and this was a $25,000 2-life at Gulfstream.   She looked slow and outclassed for this level in South Florida.

That left only two possibilities if I was going to play this race.  The #6 Just A Bit Sassy had run twice on the dirt and had placed twice both times while earning decent figures.  However, she was beaten a total of 18 lengths and had failed to show much early speed.  She was being heavily bet as the second choice and I felt the risk/reward wasn’t there.

#13 Lilo’s Call, on the other hand, had gone wire to wire in her maiden win first time out at Laurel last March.  Off that start she ran a lackluster 6th on the turf (toss).  She was then well beaten in her next two starts in tough allowance races and one of those starts came in the slop.  I only needed to forgive her last start in order to make her a play.

Sometimes you just have to forgive a bad last race for no reason.  Today,  the daughter of Drosselmeyer was making her first start for her new trainer, a low profile but solid 21% trainer John Collins.  She had three solid works for the new barn, a very positive sign that she might revert to her prior good form.  Lilo’s Call was bred to love the distance and dirt, and she was already a proven, front-running winner in a one-turn mile race.  Went I looked at the toteboard on BetPTC.com I couldn’t believe my eyes.  She was 40-1.

I’m a privileged member of the LoneSpeed.com text thread, a select group of really good handicappers.  The small group of six includes superstar handicapper Dylan Donnelly (currently #1 on the NHC Tour) and wanna-be star Justin Dew.

It was 6 minutes to post and I texted my buddies about a longshot that I thought had a big shot.  Radio silence.

They broke from the gate and Lilo’s Call moved up into a perfect stalking position in third, just off the early pace setters.  At the 3/8th pole Miguel Vasquez asked and Lilo responded, cruising to the front.  From there she took command and then proceeded to just run the rest of her rivals off their feet.  She hit the wire 6 3/4 lengths in front.   The MTO favorite plodded along in second.  My phone exploded.

Chart of a longshot off the turf winner

copyright 2020 Equibase.com and Brisnet

The filly paid $57.20 win.  The congrats came in via the text thread, and double NHC qualifer Dew acknowledged that he had a few bucks on her.

Overlays like this aren’t easy to come by.  When you handicap an off the turf race, look for a horse that is proven on the dirt or has an excellent dirt pedigree.  Give the edge to runners with good early speed or strong tactical speed.  Couple that with an angle or two that makes sense, and you have the icing on the cake.   Best of luck!

Handicapping Tip of the Day #58 – The Fewer This The Better

Fewer Negatives the Better

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By ART PARKER

 

About forty years ago on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I sat in the old grandstand building at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. I was in the area where you had a seat without a table among many other patrons. It was shortly after noon and an older man sat down in the row in front of me and opened his Daily Racing Form to examine the races.

I couldn’t help but notice all of the markings on his Form. What I saw was quite an abundance of checkmarks in red ink. I wasn’t surprised to see notations since I, too, make notes all over my racing material. However, I was amazed at the number of markings this man made.

I couldn’t resist, A few minutes later I excused myself and asked, “Did you get the overweights in the first few races?” He responded negatively and smiled. I seized the opportunity and said, “Wow, that’s a lot of checkmarks you got there.” He laughed and said, “I’ve been doing this ever since my dad brought me to the track a long time ago. It was his way of evaluating things.”

Thank goodness I didn’t need to pry further as he simply explained, “I go through the races early in the morning and, I make a checkmark for every negative on each horse. If a horse has a lot more negatives than his competition then it helps in deciding to throw him out.”

I was staying in New Orleans that night and was planning another trip to Fair Grounds the next day. Later that night in my hotel room I was thinking about what the man had told me. At first, it didn’t seem so ingenious. However, the more I thought about it the more sensible the idea became.

I could have kicked myself for not purchasing Sunday‘s Form before I left the track that afternoon. I dashed out of the room and ran a couple of blocks to a liquor store in the French Quarter to buy Sunday’s Form. I purchased the last one sitting on the counter. Back in my hotel room I stayed up late studying the races and making checkmarks by each horse.

I had a good day the next day at Fair Grounds, and I left New Orleans thinking I made a great discovery. In reality, I just stumbled into a new way to improve my selection process.

Over the next couple of weeks, I thought about the negative notations. I realized the first good thing about doing this was that you had to be prepared before you go to the track. Playing the horses well is hard to do. It is very, very difficult. Could you imagine General George Patton leading his army without a plan and without utilizing as much information as possible? Finding the negatives of every horse requires advance study, and you can’t just show up at the track and expect to do all of that between races.

This practice also helped me understand that the best handicapping process must first separate pretenders from contenders. The best way to zero in on a winner is to dismiss those that simply have very little, or no chance to win, and, therefore, picking winners is as much the art of elimination as it is selection.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #54 – Risk Evaluation in Horse Racing

By Art Parker for agameofskill.com

In the financial world the “risk-return tradeoff” states that the potential return rises with an increase in risk. Individuals associate low levels of uncertainty with low potential returns, and high levels of uncertainty or risk with high potential returns. According to the risk-return tradeoff, invested money can render higher profits only if the investor will accept a higher possibility of losses.

What exactly is risk? Risk is the likelihood of an adverse event occurring within an identifiable sector, such as the private sector or government sector. Those who are risk analysts often work with forecasting professionals to minimize future negative unforeseen effects.

Profit Risk Evaluation in Horse RacingLet’s look at what happens when you go to the bank for a loan. The bank asks you to complete the application first. Why? This is the primary method by which the bank can analyze you as a risk. If the application looks good the bank orders a credit report, which is a critical way to evaluate you as a risk. If the bank then lends you the money it will tell you the terms, which is primarily the interest rate and other things. If your interest rate is lower than most, it is because you are a good risk.  If it is higher, then you are riskier to do business with. All of this is done so that the lender can expect a certain return with all risks balanced.

As far as horse racing goes, it would be unwise to select a horse in an upcoming race, regardless of the odds, without considering the risks, or what could happen to prevent the horse from entering the “Winner’s Circle.” Once the risks are analyzed it should be easier to grasp what the return should be.

How many times have we seen the lone speed horse miss the start, get squeezed or have early traffic trouble? If that lone speed horse can’t get the lead and no matter what the odds, all is lost. How many times have we seen the closer from hell become a victim of a slow pace or have traffic trouble and just can’t catch the speed?

It reminds me of a friend of mine, a very good player who loved to analyze pace. If he determined a horse was the lone speed in the race he would then look at those in the adjacent post positions. If those runners next to the lone speed have gate problems then the probability of the lone speed could be compromised. That’s very good risk analysis in our game.

In a recent piece I talked about finding the bargain horse, an effort that requires risk analysis in the overall race evaluation. A horse may be a bargain at 7-1, but if the amount of risk is excessive then 7-1 may not be enough.

Handicapping Tip of the Day # 53 – Try to love them before you bet them

By ART PARKER

It really makes no difference what handicapping method(s) you use to provide answers for who you wager on in horse racing. What’s important is how you use the answers you come up with. If you use a system and your system says bet number five (#5) then it is unwise to go and make the bet without examining the value of your wager.

I had a friend that utilized some sort of pace formula that, by his own admission, won about 30% of the time. I would shake my head at him when he whooped it up when his system horse would win at odds on. I could not get him to understand that you will lose money (even with a nice 30% strike rate) if winning wagers don’t return enough money.

John Templeton, the legendary mutual-fund manager who was a pioneer of international investing and later committed much of his fortune to scientific and religious causes, was known as the “Owl of Wall Street.” He earned a reputation for bargain-minded stock selection that consistently rewarded shareholders in his Templeton Funds family. Templeton’s number one rule was to look for and buy bargains. Learn from your mistakes was another one of his top rules.

If you have ever been to a brokerage firm you have probably seen the board flashing symbols and numbers across. As a stock is traded its most recent price is given. This is really no different than going to the track since the tote board gives you the information to determine what a horse is going for in terms of odds. If you put Templeton’s practice into horse playing the number one rule would be to bet on horses that are better than their odds; in other words look for a bargain.

Some of the best advice I ever received came years ago from one of the best horseplayers I ever knew. He had a great way to explain bargains at the track.  He once said, “If I think a horse should be 2-1 and he is on the board at 5-1, I really like him. If he goes up to 8-1 I really love him.”

Handicapping Tip of the Day #52 – Prepare for the young ‘uns

It is clear to me that more attention should be paid to Biamonte’s two year old debut runners than other first timers.

by Art Parker

Almost all tracks are down. Racing is nearly at a standstill. By this time of year most horseplayers would be researching everything they could find about the Kentucky Derby.

For us that love horse racing the best part of life is the anticipation of normal days ahead, whenever they come. But what do we do until those days arrive? The answer: Prepare for the future, collect and analyze information.

The best horseplayers I have known do not show up at the track, buy past performances and go wager. The best ones spend a great deal of time preparing, and researching, away from the track. There is never enough information for the good horseplayer.

Delaware Park walking ring, horses. June 2013. Photo by Art Parker for AGameofskill.com

copyright Art Parker & AllStarPress.com

Let’s assume that we get back to normal sometime early or mid-summer. That just happens to be the time we start to see an increase in two year old races. In my opinion races for the freshman class is another world entirely. I’ve never played many two year old races and usually avoid them – unless I see something that gives me a clear advantage.

Those that possess credible information on breeding have something of an advantage when playing two year olds. Sires that produce young speed demons are far more likely to win freshman races than those produced by sires known for late maturity and plodders.

In my opinion the most important advantage in handicapping two year olds is knowledge of trainers. Let’s face it. Different trainers excel at different things. Some are masters at a first time layoff. Others are absolute killers when it comes to a first time claim. The same holds true when it comes to winning with two year olds.

What’s important is not the winning percentage of a certain trainer move, solely. What’s also important is how well that trainer succeeds when compared to other moves and how or what does he/she actually do when winning with a move.

A good case in point about two year trainers can be found at Woodbine. Over the last ten years or so Ralph Biamonte, always one of the more successful conditioners in Toronto, has some unique history with his freshmen debut runners. Overall, Biamonte’s debut winner’s account for about 10% of his total wins. The critical piece of information is that Biamonte’s two year debut winners outnumber all other debut winners about 4-1. It is clear to me that more attention should be paid to Biamonte’s two year old debut runners than other first timers.

So what is the tip off? What is the key to these specific runners winning?

Biamonte’s two year old debut winners have their last work from the gate 80% of the time and it is usually a “hot” work. The other noticeable trainer habit is that that last work comes almost always 6-7 days prior to race day.

Naturally there are other things to consider such as the rider. Eurico Da Silva has ridden about one-half of Biamonte’s winners with a long list of riders making up the other 50%. So if DaSilva is on board a two year old debut runner meeting this description my interest escalates.

It is not always possible to do all of the research you wish to, but it is important to do what you can. One little tidbit may reveal a huge probability of success that can bring you a much larger ROI and, if so, it is worth it.

What to do now? Research the past to unlock the future. By the time we are back to normal the babies will be running. If you are going to play them be prepared by researching thoroughly.

More Handicapping Tips from agameofskill.com

Handicapping Tip of the Day #51 – Find One Percent More

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By ART PARKER

If you play this game long enough and if you love it then you will try to figure things a million different ways attempting win. I’ve been playing the horses virtually my entire adult life. I just got my Medicare card in the mail so that will let you know about how long it has been.

Like many of you I have done one study after another, researched no telling how many angles and I have one of the very finest sets of trainer pattern files you have ever seen. Once a month my wife gives me an authoritative lecture on all the stuff in my office in the house. Of course what she really wants to know is when I will dispose of more of the horse racing stuff. I simply say I can‘t get rid of any more right now. When she asks why, I always responded with, “Because there may be another winner somewhere in that stuff.”

I was like everyone else in my early years in racing in that I thought about how to get rich every time I went to the track. I would see a huge Pick Six payout and think I just had to start playing for all of those big jackpots, and I have hit a few in my time. I’m just scared to tally up the losses incurred trying to hit a boxcar payout.

After many years I finally realized that those who hit the big ones and make money in the long run are few and far between. I realized one is better off taking a profit, ever how small, and then achieving the same result the next day.

The difficulty in the “grind it out” approach is that us humans can‘t equate making a weekly profit at the track to getting a weekly paycheck. When we go to work we don’t expect to get rich on Thursday, but we expect that in one afternoon at the track.

I majored in corporate finance in college. I learned all about stocks, bonds, warrants, options, mutual funds, balance sheets, P&L, and all that boring stuff. In that field there is one thing you never forget – the importance of a percentage point; if I had just one percent more return, if cash flow was just one percent better, etc.

Just recently I conducted another study using a few variables regarding speed and class with results below.

 

Win bets only.

Number of races = 526.

Number of winners with method tested = 176.

Winning rate = 33.46 %

Total payoffs = $ 1,080.5

Average payoff = $ 6.14

Total invested at $2 per win ticket = $1,052

Net profit = $ 28.50

Return on investment (ROI) = 2.71 %

 

Many would look at this and see very little money. Well, if you wagered $20.00 per race then your profit would be $ 285.00. Of course, it would still be the same ROI.

Now if the efficiency with this method were increased by only 1% then another five (5) races would be cashed. That would increase the total winnings by $30.70. Again, not much money. But what about ROI? The winnings increase to $59.20 and the ROI increases to 5.62%.

Just think. If you can increase your winning efficiency by just 1%, you would more than double your return on investment.

Does that sound like a good deal?

I believe it would sound good at any business school.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #50 – Just Say No

Eliminate these types of races from your playbook

These races are written for losers and they make for easy losing at the windows.

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By ART PARKER

Like everyone else it took me a while to understand that playing every race is not a good idea. You have to pick your battles. You need to develop expertise and stick to what works best for you.

For me, I strongly prefer dirt sprints. Those at least three years old. On the main track. No maidens. No stakes. That’s my preference.

But there is one of those races I immediately toss out even if it meets the initial qualifications. It is the race you are more likely to see at the cheaper tracks and at the lower claiming levels.

It is the non-winners of two lifetime. I would almost play two-year-olds in April instead of the NW2L. It’s not all races in that class, just those where the field is packed with losers.

I was taking a look at a card recently of one of the cheaper tracks. Eight races were carded that day, three were sprints as I described earlier. The first race I examined looked to be worth closer study. The next one was marginal. The last one was quickly one of those, “Don’t even think about it” races.

This particular NW2L met the perfect description of a race to avoid. There were nine entrants. Three had over 30 lifetime starts. All but one of the others had more than 20 lifetime starts. The horse with the best winning percentage was one for 19. I think the collective field was nine for 193.

These horses haven’t figured it out, or they are in horrible physical condition or have no desire to compete. It could be anything – they just will not run. Yes, one of them will win not because of a solid performance but because the performance of the winner is just not as sorry as the others.

These races are written for losers and they make for easy losing at the windows. When you see these races, just say “No.”

Handicapping Tip of the Day #49 – Why I Passed on $326,599 in Free Money

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

Tuesday night, September 10, 2019, featured a mandatory payout of the Jackpot Pick-5 wager at Prairie Meadows.  This jackpot wager had been building for months and, with closing day on tap, it was time to pay it all out.  This equated to $326,599 in free money in the pool.  Those funds, plus whatever was wagered (minus the 15% takeout), would be distributed to all the winners.

Despite the slow Tuesday of racing, and the fact that Prairie Meadows had recently been hosting quarter horse racing instead of Thoroughbreds, it seemed like everyone knew about it.  Major ADWs were sending out emails.  People were posting all over social media.  It seemed like if you were a horseplayer, especially one who liked horizontal wagers, you were playing it.

I was among them and was planning to participate.  My first concern was the notice that Des Moines, Iowa and the racetrack had been pounded with rain overnight.  How that might affect the track, even though it figured to be dry by post time, was anyone’s guess.

The second and more important issue was the entries.  The fields were large and with not knowing the track very well, that gave me pause.  If I could find one or two standouts, or a couple of races where I could easily narrow the field down to, let’s say, two major players, then this could be an affordable ticket.

However, that was not the case.  I was having trouble narrowing down the contenders in all five races.  Consequently, this sequence looked like it could pay gangbusters.  Of course, that’s the type of Pick-5 I want to be a part of.  I went back through it again, looking to narrow the races down to even 4-5 plays in most races.  I found it very difficult, regardless of the 2.57% edge as indicated by expert Marshall Gramm.*

Pick-5 Cost

A 4 x 4 x 4 x 5  x 5 partwheel is 1,600 combinations.  With the large fields there were 62,370 possible combinations.   At the $.50 base wager, this type of ticket would cost $800.  This was more than I wanted to spend when I wasn’t confident I would hit.  If I was wrong in just one race, I was toast.

The wise decision was to pass despite the six figures of “free” money.   The winning combination ended up returning $1,737.05.  This was a generous payoff considering the results, but it was hardly a life-changing score.

Recognizing when the situation isn’t right for you and passing on the so-called opportunity is very important.  Another big carryover is right around the corner.

Best of luck!

 

*If you want to learn more about the game, follow Marshall’s tweets.

Handicapping Tip of the Day # 48 – A Horse for the Course

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

One of the best ways to find a value play in this game we call horse racing is to find the horse with clouded form.  For whatever reason or reasons, the horse had a legitimate excuse not to run well  in his last start or two.  Finding a legit excuse is not always easy, and the last thing a handicapper should be doing is inventing excuses to justify his or her preference for a horse.

A week ago at Parx Racing (Feb. 19, 2019), the veteran 10 year old runner Bowman’s Beast was returning to Parx off subpar efforts at  both Charles Town and Penn National.  He was well beaten at 3/5 odds last time out at basically the same level as today.  Of course, Charles Town is a step below Parx, so, on the surface, it didn’t look good for the old gelding.

However, there were three good reasons to throw out that dismal 4th place performance.  For starters, that last race was in the mud and Bowman had a career record of 11-1-1-1, showing 8 also-ran efforts.  He was clearly a better horse on fast going.

Also noteworthy was trainer Bernard Dunham’s record with beaten favorites.  According to BRIS data, he was a 57% winner from 7 starters in their subsequent races following a loss as the favorite.

Finally, and most important, Bowman was returning to Parx.   Here were the lifetime, tabulated records in his past performances:

Lifetime: 72-13-8-11, $453,590

Parx: 38-9-4-7, $331,260

Now subtract the two and you have a pretty revealing stat.  At tracks other than Parx, Bowman’s Beast was:

Elsewhere: 34-4-4-4, $122,330

The lifetime record for this 10 year old runner at Parx versus all other tracks was night and day.  Bowman could be expected to improve on the return to Parx, with the return to a fast track for a trainer dynamite with beaten favorites.

The morning line maker at Parx set his odds at 3/1, no doubt because of his familiarity with the Parx horse for the course, but Bowman went off at over 7-1 because of his clouded, recent form.  He cruised to victory, returning a generous $16.60 for his faithful backers.

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #46 – When 4/5 is Value

Handicapping Tip of the Day

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

Day two of the Tampa Bay Downs winter meeting (Nov. 28, 2018) was pretty chalky with lots of favorites winning.  In the 3rd race on Wednesday a second time starter named Russian Roulette was 3/2 on the morning line.  According to the Ultimate PPs, her trainer Monte Thomas was a dismal 4% with second time starters, but he had plenty of ‘live’ runners among them with one-third finishing in the money.   He is also known for being very good with two year olds, in general, another fact offsetting that low win rate. There is a lot of debate over profits and win-rate in horse race betting. Horse racing fans can use the twi-promo-code.com to wager on the horse they prefer regardless of win rate or profits earned.

Russian Roulette looked like a stand-out in this field for several reasons.  First, she was coming off a nose lose in her debut at the same claiming level of maiden $16,000 but that effort came at Gulfstream Park West, a tougher circuit and one that produces a lot of winners at Tampa.  Secondly, she had earned a 70 BRIS Speed Rating in that performance, which was equal to the BRIS Par for the race. BRIS handicapping information can be found here.

Par represents the average speed rating for the winners at this level of competition for the track in question. When handicapping maiden races, it can be a wise decision to compare the Speed Rating Par to the ratings earned by the entries in their recent races.  In doing so, you can sometimes find opportunities like the one presented at Tampa Bay Downs.

Here was Tuesday’s field for race 3 at Tampa:

#1 My Heart Dominus – best figure of 38 in three starts.

#2 Valley Girl – best figure of 62 in three starts.

#3 Russian Roulette – ran a 70 when second in debut.

#4 Quickandwildcoco  – ran a career best 48 five starts back.

#5 Fooli – firster for 3% trainer with debut runners.

#6 Phyliss Driller – 0 for 6 maiden who ran a 71 on the synthetic track at Presque Isle Downs.  Her best sprint figure was a 60 in four attempts.

#7 My Little Rosie – improved to a 26 in her second career start.

Needless to say, this was an awful field.  The only two horses that looked like they had any type of chance against Russian Roulette were #2 Valley Girl and # 6 Phyliss Driller.  The problem with the #6 was two fold – she was a Presser which is the wrong running style in Tampa Bay Downs’ sprints, and her only good race was around two turns.  The #2 had three opportunities to run at or near Par, and she had not been close.  Eight points off Par is significant.

To make matters worse for her competition, Russian Roulette also figured to be the controlling speed in this field, as none had shown any type of early foot to challenge her.

So here you had a horse that was faster than everyone in the field, and the field consisted mostly of proven, bad horses.  She was the controlling speed over a speed favoring oval.  Despite her low maiden claiming class level, this daughter of Soldat deserved to be no higher than 2/5, and 1/5 would not have been unreasonable given her credentials against this field.

To make a profit in this game you have take the opportunities that are presented to you.  4/5 was a gift on Russian Roulette, and she rewarded her supporters with a 16-length drubbing of her six rivals.

copyright 2018 Equibase.com all rights reserved

 

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