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 Tips #11 – It’s Your Money

Handicapping Tip of the Day  by Art Parker

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

My wife is a retired school teacher. Many times I’ve heard her say that a child must be prepared to go to school before they can perform well in school. That is particularly true with the little ones going to school for the first time. The preparedness factor is key in playing the horses, regardless of the length of your playing tenure. If you’re not prepared to go to the track and to play then you will immediately be at a disadvantage.

Whatever you do to be prepared you should do every time. Do you run into the track, grab a Form, and hastily play a few races? Do you follow the routine of your buddies at the track or do you do your own thing? Whatever you do that brings the most success is what you need to do all the time, and then you refine your routine. If you must have a red pen or a highlighter to make notes then use one. If you need a magnifying glass to make sure you properly see the fine print in the past performances then use one. Don’t worry about what others think, it’s your money.

Handicapping Tips # 9 – Bet Against this Type of Favorite

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com



Handicapping Tips # 9 – Bet against the favorite who draws a difficult post

Determining which public choices (a.k.a. favorites) are good bet-againsts on any given card can be a major key to a horseplayer’s success.  One of the best and easiest ways to do this is to look through the entries at your track and determine which of the favorite may be severely hampered for the post position.  If you know your track well, then you know which post positions are a disadvantage.  It may be the inside posts in a turf sprint, or the outside posts in a two turn race that feature a short run into the first turn.  Use this knowledge to your advantage.

A good example of this came on Wednesday, April 8 at Keeneland.  #11 Genre was dropping out of graded stakes company for trainer Todd Pletcher, getting blinkers on, and looked to have this field ‘over a barrel.’  However, her outside draw with the quick run into the first turn at Keeneland was a reason to look to beat this 3yo filly.  Although she secured the early lead around that turn and into the backstretch, she was used up doing so and had no answer for the late run of the winner, #6 Ahh Chocolate.  All of the Pick-3 wagers involving this race paid extremely well.

Did you miss?  This is Why You “Need to Consider the Favorite”

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.

Handicapping Tip #7