Handicapping Tip #39 – Pace Makes the Race

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

On select major days throughout the year, I offer my professional analysis of the big race, e.g. Preakness, and the undercard races at that track.   This past Saturday I did the 14 races on the Pimlico Preakness card, which is always a great day of wagering.  One of the key aspects of my report is the pace scenario analysis for each race.  If you don’t understand the expected pace of the race, it can be very difficult to select the winner or the top finishers.  How the race sets up is critical to predicting the outcome.

In turf sprints I almost always emphasize early speed, especially if it is a 5 furlong grass race.  In analyzing the pace of race #2 on Saturday (May 20, 2017) one horse jumped out to be as the lone speed.  #1A FLIGHT CREW was 20/1 on the morning line, enough to scare off many horseplayers.  After determining that he was probably the early pace setter, I needed to look at the overall early pace to determine if he could “hold on.”  Was there enough other early speed to put pressure on him at some critical early juncture of the race?  I came to the conclusion that the answer was “no.”  It looked like a moderate pace, so now I was very intrigued with this longshot and dug deeper.

Pace makes the race

He was the son of Elusive Quality, who has sired many good horses sprinting on the law, and out of a mare by Danzig (enough said).  The pedigree was certainly there.  This was only the 2nd career grass start for Flight Crew.  In his only other attempt, he pressed a fast pace (+17 +19 on the BRIS Race Shape figures) while going 1 1/16 miles on a good turf course.  Despite that, and breaking from a poor outside post, he still ended up defeating half the field, finishing 5th.   He was trained by 15% local horseman Hugh McMahon.  What else did one need to pull the trigger on a big longshot?

Pace makes the race.  Flight Crew did not get the initial lead but by the time the field hit the far turn of this turf dash, he was in complete control.  At odds of 9-1, he opened up under Katie Davis and kept the field at bay down the lane. Scores like this are very sweet indeed.

Make sure you analyze the pace of every race you wager.  It’s the first step to selecting many winners.

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 #30 – Conviction

Buddies Brad & Howard at the 2015 NHC

Buddies Brad & Howard at the 2015 NHC

  Know When to Turn Off Your Track Buddies

By Art Parker & Rich Nilsen

One of the great things about going to the track is developing friendships. It’s great to have a group of guys that sit around the table and discuss racing and enjoy the company of one another. But there needs to be a time when you tune out your buddies, especially if they begin to spew an abundance of analysis. One thing about playing the horses – it is your pocketbook that will either swell or diminish when you go the track. Therefore, it is best to depend solely upon your judgment and what is revealed by your own study.

The same goes for the ‘talking heads’ on TVG.  Take what they say with a grain of salt.  Now if they interview a trainer and that person gives some revealing information about their runners, then that is a different story.   But don’t let who TVG Analyst #5 likes in the 7th at Belmont sway your opinion on that race.   Stand firm in your convictions.

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.

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 Tip of the Day #13 – Hometown Handicapping

Handicapping Tip of the Day – November 6, 2015

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

When simulcasting wagering really took off in the late 1980s into early ’90s, the game of horse racing betting changed dramatically.  Today, younger horseplayers have no idea what it was like in the past when one had no other choice than to focus on just their home track.  With the exception of major events like the Kentucky Derby, wagering on other tracks was not an option.

King's Swan claimer

Former claimer King Swan, copyright Agameofskill.com

There was a lot to be said for the time when a handicapper could only play his hometown track.  You were forced to know the trainer and jockey colony inside and out.  You even knew the horses by name, what their abilities were and in what type of races they fit.  I would watch the  Harvey Pack show many nights with my father after coming home from school and taking a break from homework.  Oftentimes I could pick the winner just by looking at the entries they would flash on the screen prior to showing the race replay. “Well, King’s Swan should handle that field,” I would state, and all too often that’s exactly what would happen. Good luck doing that today in the age of simulcast wagering.  Many horseplayers are all over the map, trying to conquer tracks from coast to coast.  Consequently, they are not as familiar with the trainers  and jockeys or how the track plays at particular distances and surfaces.

If you’re not getting the results you want, take a step back and look at how many tracks and races you are playing each week.  It might be time to focus on your hometown product.

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Handicapping Tips #10 – Know This Before You Make Your 1st Bet of the Day

Handicapping Tip of the Day

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

 

Before you make a single wager on the day, you should know one thing.  What is your bankroll for the day’s wagering, and how much are you going to allot to ‘action’ bets?  For many players, it’s 100-percent action bets, and that is perfectly fine if that is your desired experience.  For others, they have a serious plan for turning a profit, and to do so, you have to have seriously good money management.  Many professional players will not have any ‘action’ bets simply because they don’t need the action, and having a small amount of money on a winner doesn’t do anything for them.

The important thing is that you know what your wagering plan is for the day.  Give that some thought before you place your first wager.