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!

Want to Learn More and Improve Your Game?  Read these AGOS Handicapping Tips

How to Find Value: 4 Angles for Horseplayers

by Glen S.  for AGameofSkill.com

Sharp horse players are always looking for value.   Are you? It is tough enough to make money at the races, so betting underlays means you need to pick even more winners. The easiest way to find value is when the wagering consensus on the race, in your perspective, is incorrect.

I find the best way to find value is by uncovering overbet, vulnerable favorites.

Here are a few horse racing angles I always like to watch for to bet against:

-Maidens that finished 2nd and are now dropping a level.

Why would you drop a horse to a lower level when you just beat everyone at a higher level. The only way I may consider betting this horse is if the higher level was really slow time and the trainer knows that he needs to drop

– 28 days of no activity.

When a horse has not raced or worked out in over 28 days, I find this is a bad sign. Why wouldn’t you at least work your horse out if you can’t find a race for him to enter?  At “A” tracks this is a very strong angle, “B and C” tracks the top trainers still get away with it and may even hide a few works from time to time. I still would not make a strong bet on them.

-Dropping a horse after a good performance.

Why drop when the horse is competitive at a higher level while posting strong numbers? Sure the top trainers will run the horse down the others’ throat and you need to be aware of that. The poor trainers are poor oftentimes because they don’t have the stock to win. However, if a drop down off a good performance is trained by a weak (low %) trainer, then the class drop surely means a sore animals.  Small barns don’t have the luxury of “playing poker” like the big outfits, e.g. David Jacobson.

-First time front bandages.

This is strong when a horse was running well and is dropping. Also a horse that has had a good career and not worn them before, especially when the horse will be the favorite.

When these “bet against” angles occur, really take the time to find something to take a shot on. You will get your value. Maybe you will not win, but will feel much better knowing by picking a winner you will be rewarded. A few ways to play the race would be box a few horses in an exacta or take a bunch in a rolling pick three.   Consider even a bet in the win, place or show pool on your choice of the race.

Go find your value, it’s out there.

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Horse Racing Handicapping is a Process

How to invest in horse racing

by Glen S. for Agameofskill.com

Do you have a process in handicapping a race? If you say “NO”, you are already behind the eight ball. If the answer is “YES”, then the next question: is it a successful one that makes you money?

There are many successful ways to process a race. Everyone is a little different in getting the correct result. Here is mine:

Step 1: Check the race distance and conditions. (self explanatory but kind of important) along with the betting options.

Step 2: Scan the entire field first, jockeys, trainers, last race and date, and workouts.

I find it important to get an overall perception of all the horses as a group first. Make some quick notes on each horse. This first scan gives you an idea of the level of competition.

Step 3: Now start to get some race shape of the field.

Find the early pace horses (the ‘need the lead’ ones if there are any in the field), stalker and closers. This part of the process is a absolute must. If there is a lone speed horse in the field that instantly makes that runner a contender

Step 4: Next, start to look at each horse a little more individually.

Confirm running style, and ask the question: is the horse in improving form or declining form? What is the top effort of the horse and can they run that today? I use the “Horse Street Par times” quite regularly, especially on the tracks I play (that is another blog entirely) to give me figures at where they might be throughout the race.  Perform a quick scan of the beyer’s figures simply to see their average level. I do not live or die on these figures.  The main reason for that is because too many people use these ratings and they effect the price (odds of the horses) too much.

Step 5: At this point I will have my contenders and pretenders.  I will view the replays of the contenders for sure, especially if the comments have a trouble line or many have run against each other. Replays are so valuable, because you can spot things that can’t be seen in numbers.

Step 6: By now I will have an idea in the direction I want to bet. If there is a standout in my mind that becomes a win bet.  I may throw a few runners that I like in an exacta box. If I have a top horse or two and then a few at each level then maybe a trifecta wheel comes to mind. I do not restrict myself on the same types of bets in each race. It all depends on what I come up with is how I bet the race; it may also mean passing a race and moving on.  With this type of handicapping process, you can become more successful at the races and enjoy it that much more.

– Of note, the first two steps of the process for myself usually occurs the night before and then I go with step three the next day. For me it really sets myself up for a strong day and clear vision day of racing, and saves a lot of time on race day.

I could write a short novel on the process but I tried to keep it as short and ‘to the point’ as I could. Any comments good or bad are always welcome. I am always willing to learn; everyone should want to improve their process in ‘capping races.

The Docket

A Horseplayer’s Starting and Ending Point

by Art Parker, author of the upcoming 2014 Spring Meet edition of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns

My occasional OTB location is a greyhound track that gradually built something of a customer base of horseplayers via simulcasting. I say occasional because for the last seven to eights years I have pretty much stuck to wagering from home or office with Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW). At first this OTB location offered a couple of lesser named tracks then expanded to four of the same. A couple of years after that, they got tired of listening to some of us experienced horseplayers complain about quality, so they started to simulcast most every horse track especially the top circuits.

One Saturday, about ten years ago, I was sitting at my usual table when a couple of guys came to the table next to me carrying what appeared to be a U-Haul full of programs. There were nine thoroughbred tracks running that afternoon, a couple of harness tracks and about a dozen greyhound tracks. Plus live greyhound races as well. The thoroughbred programs at the OTB were copied past performances sheets from some unknown source stapled together with a cover. The information was not too good and it was very limited. The greyhound programs were of traditional form for that sport. Most of the experienced horseplayers at the time were using either their own Equibase information, the Daily Racing Form or Brisnet information.

When these guys dropped all of the programs on the table they scattered and went everywhere, a few crashed underneath my table and of course I gathered up the AWOL programs and handed them to their rightful owners. The elder fellow, thanked me and then said, “We got so many damn programs we don’t know what to do.” I smiled and casually said, “You must have bought one for every track, for both of you.” He looked at me seriously and said, “That’s exactly what we did. We don’t get to come to the track but every few weeks, and we don’t want to miss anything.”

I quickly prayed for the poor souls sitting next to me.

The youngest said, “We spent over a $100 on programs, but we got them all.” They went on to tell me that they were father-in-law and son-in-law. I was curious and asked who corrupted who when it came to wagering at the track. The father-in-law said, “My son-in-law got me involved in the track and I love it,” as he slapped his son-in-law on the shoulder with love, admiration and pride.

I couldn’t help but think to myself… what a fool this guy was for letting his daughter marrying any idiot that tries to play every horse race and every dog race in an afternoon. You should have seen them-they looked like a pair of 3 year olds with Alzheimer’s attending a Barnum and Bailey Circus. They lost tickets. They lost programs. They looked at the wrong monitors. They bet the right horses at the wrong dog tracks. You name it and they did it. And all of the time they were talking about making money.

I’m just glad I never heard the old question, “Who do you like?” I would have had a nervous breakdown trying to figure out who I could like at 19 different cities across North America.

“A successful horseplayer must have a plan and must keep information for future use. “

That story reminds me of the many times I have written about track and wagering behavior. There is nothing wrong with someone who goes to the track and bets a couple of bucks on every race (at just one or two tracks). Going to the track and playing races can be good recreation and good therapy.

But on the days where making money is important, which should be almost every time you play (if not every time), then trying to do too much will kill you. On my typical day I review the entries and find the tracks that offer several of the type of races I play. Some days I may download information from only two tracks. Other days I may download information from five or six.

Regardless of the number of tracks you try to play, the important thing is to only play races that are comfortable to play, or at least only examine races with which you are comfortable. One of the things I do, which I recommend to anyone especially if you are going to examine more than a few races, is to use a docket. I chose that word because it is a list of those “cases” that must be examined. It is the word used in our judicial system for what comes before the court on a certain day.

I make my docket in chronological order based upon post times. Next to the time I place the track code and race number and a brief note as to the importance, such as “stakes race” or “short field” or “Daily Double possibility.” Any note that may encourage me or discourage me from examining a race based upon time or other impediments. When I first review the docket I eliminate races if I see a time conflict, such as two races going off a few minutes from one another with one appearing less inviting than the other.

When I make my final review I make sure that every race on the docket is a possible race to play. I also make it final in my mind that all of the racing I will consider is within the time frame on the docket. In other words, that’s it. It’s final. This is the job for the day.

The docket is also used for other things such as making trip notes or trainer notes. I go over the docket at the end of the day and, if something needs to be logged into a file, I have it right there. All of this may sound elementary and it is. But it works. A successful horseplayer must have a plan and must keep information for future use. Most of all I have found that using my little docket keeps me focused on the task.

Occasionally my wife will make the sad mistake of walking into my office at home, late on a Saturday morning, and ask me what I am doing. I usually hand her the docket for the day and say nothing. That’s when she says, “Never mind.”

New to Playing the Horses? This is the Easy Way to Start

Wagering Tote self service machine

copyright AGameofSkill.com

By Art Parker, author of the upcoming “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”

For several years my OTB location was a greyhound track.  This was not the best atmosphere for a horse player, sitting among a large number of those that play greyhound races. They think differently than horse players, handicap differently than horseplayers and, to a great extent, wager differently than horse players.

The pari-mutuel system is the same for both greyhound and thoroughbred racing, obviously, but the popularity of wagers differs. At greyhound tracks the quinella is the favorite bet and it seems like most greyhound tracks have a special tote board just for quinella odds. Exactas, trifectas and superfectas are popular at greyhound tracks also but there is little interest in horizontal wagers such as a pick 3, pick 4 or pick 6, which are popular at thoroughbred tracks.  Straight bets, such as win place or show, do not seem to appeal to those that play the greyhound races.

While I was using the greyhound location as my OTB home, I made several friends that played the other quadrupeds faithfully. Most of those tried to take an interest in horse racing since it was available. One of the attractions was the occasional big payout at the horse tracks in the vertical wagers, e.g. trifecta. Obviously one of the biggest factors for larger payouts is the size of the pools. At many greyhound tracks a big trifecta pool may be $8,000; trifecta pools at a thoroughbred track are often 10-20 times that amount, depending on the track. At almost all greyhound tracks fields are limited to 8 runners, and larger fields in a horse race can help trigger a larger payout especially when the longshots come home. The vertical wagers are often astronomical compared to those at a greyhound track.

One of the things that I could never get the greyhound enthusiast to grasp was the importance of betting to win or to win and place. It is deeply rooted with greyhound players to only play exotics wagers. Often I was asked for my favorite horse in a race. After telling my friend who I liked, he would go and throw my choice in an exacta box or trifecta box with a couple of other runners, only to tear the ticket up when his other horses didn’t run. I would often ask, “What happened? My horse won the race.” And then I would hear “Well I didn’t have the others,” or something like that. “Why didn’t you just bet the horse win,” I would ask only to receive crazy looks. I would hear “You can’t make any money,” or “That’s no fun,” or something else senseless.

All of this is one reason why I say, to anyone that is learning to play the horses or wants to learn, when it comes to wagering learn how to bet to win or bet to win and place first. It’s hard enough to pick winners so why make it more difficult on trying to figure out who will be there for second and third, etc.? Besides, if you are going to play any wager at a track you must first have some idea who can win the race, right?

The first advice I give anyone who is new to the game is this: Do not try and get rich in one day. The worst thing that can happen to a “debut” horseplayer is to hit a trifecta or superfecta and go home with $800 in their pocket. That person will be so entrenched on betting the bigger vertical exotics again they will probably send out $2,000 in the next few visits trying to score big again.

Making money at the track is like eating an elephant. You got to take one bite at a time and not try to eat the whole thing.


A Profitable Idea for Trips & Trainers

13 Mistakes Horseplayers Need to Avoid in the New Year

A Method for Attacking Lightly Raced Horses

Interview with George Woolf winner, jockey Mario Pino

A Profitable Idea for Trips and Trainers

Post Parade Gulfstream Park maiden race

STS at Gulfstream Park.
Copyright Agameofskill.com

by Art Parker, author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns

Now is the time of year to pay attention to maidens, particularly what we all call the First Time Starter (FTS). It doesn’t mean you bet on them, necessarily. It is a great time to observe them especially when they become Second Time Starters (STS). The majority of unraced horses are no longer two years old. Those two year olds remind me of human teenagers; young, stupid and unpredictable. The bottom line is that more unraced horses now have enough maturity to start racing and a poor performance is not totally attributable to youth.

The overwhelming majority of those in the FTS category fall into the STS category because only a limited number of horses can win, obviously. But those that move into the STS category often have excuses due to a bad trip in their first race. If you in any way depend upon trip handicapping or believe that horses can have excuses, then these races are the ones where you have pad and pencil ready. For the next few months there will be tons of maiden races that will yield great trip information that is invaluable.

A long time ago a coach told my football team not to underestimate our opponent in the second week of the season. “Most improvement in competitors comes between their first and second games,” he said. I believe it is true in horse racing, or at least the opportunity for the most improvement is between the first and second races of a runner’s career.

If you accept the premise that the second race may demonstrate the best improvement and a horse had a rough trip in his/her first race, then you are well on your way to cashing a ticket. Maybe.

After you made the trip notes and you feel sure that a horse is going to improve then you must look in the other notes to find the icing for the cake. The other notes tell you if the trainer is good with those we call STS, and if they are, what is their normal plan of attack?

Last week I decided to rummage through all of my Keeneland files looking for those trainers good with the STS. The following very recognizable and successful names have enjoyed multiple winners with STS at Keeneland over the last few years: Rusty Arnold, Wayne Catalano, Al Stall, Jr., Eddie Kenneally, Ken McPeek, Graham Motion, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans, Tom Proctor and Mike Stidham. I would be proud to have any of these guys train for me. But most important is understanding how these guys do it. What are the patterns to their winning second time starters?

All but two wins from all of these trainers with STS at Keeneland came after the horse was off for at least 25 days. Many of these did not run after their debut effort for at least 35-40 days. In other words, they did not rush their horses back to the track. I couldn’t help but jump in to my Woodbine file to check out the trainer, who in my opinion, is the best STS trainer in the business-Reade Baker. I noticed the same patience is exercised by Baker.

While each horse may be different, the best trainers regardless of their record with FTS, must obviously take the time to analyze, plan and determine the very best course of action with great patience for STS. An awful lot can be learned from a horse in its first race even if the trip is a clean one.

Now let’s put it all together. A FTS has a difficult trip and you have it noted, waiting for a possible play when he/she comes back. You know it is worth the note because the trainer has a good record with STS. Also, the trainer does not rush his horses. When the day comes you make sure it all adds up. And if it does, well then you have the makings of a good spot play.

And when you cash a ticket after all of this, you realize that the practice of handicapping can be worthwhile…and is a skill-based game.

Winter Horse Racing Tests Your Patience

winter horse racingBy Art Parker

Now is the time of year that will test your patience as a horse player. It’s winter and the next few months are not the best for thoroughbred racing. For those of you that enjoy turf racing, the choices are pretty much limited to Southern California, New Orleans and Florida. For those of you that require a dry track (me included) those days will be less due to the frequent wintry mix that we see on the east coast. The number of stakes races, especially graded events, is less and that makes for fewer days to look forward to for many players. And of course, we have mountains of maiden races for two year olds, which I detest, and that will carry over for a couple of months when those runners turn three in January. I always say that a three year old maiden in January or February is an extended two year old maiden.

Yes, the choices for thoroughbred racing are limited for a while because of many factors. It is truly a time to be patient. Simulcasting has provided us with a luxury for about nine months of the year where you can throw out one track because you don’t like the card and pick several others that are more appealing. That’s not the case in the winter and besides, you still are faced with tons of baby races.

So what do you do? My first suggestion is to require yourself to play only certain types of races where you have historically experienced the most success and the highest comfort level. This is the same advice I give to anyone in summer, except I think it is even more important in the winter months. In the winter, you will have a lower number of races to play that fit your comfort level and it will really test your patience because you will not have as much available action.

What if the day looks bad everywhere in terms of races? Don’t go. Don’t play. Instead you should use that valuable time to study, learn more about the game, etc.  Information on Thoroughbred racing is so widespread now that anyone can access just about anything to read on the subject. If you are like me there are several editions of the Blood Horse (or other publications) sitting around that I did not fully read. I don’t care if a magazine has aged several months, I read it because I know I can still learn something new about this game every day if I try.

Every winter my wife does the same thing. She comes into my office at home and asks me what I am going to do with all of that stuff. There are stacks of past performances, results charts, pace charts, breeding diagrams, magazines, and articles that I printed from the Internet and the list goes on and on. She usually says, “I guess you are going to do another one of your studies with all of this stuff, huh?” I always responded affirmatively. She shakes her head and then asks if it is time for her to make the annual run of the vacuum cleaner in my office. I simply say “don’t disturb anything even my dirt.”

The moral of the story is to use any down time from the track to make your next visit a more successful one. I know many of you need the action all of the time but failing to take time to learn more about racing is a costly error. It takes study and patience to win at this game. And that’s because it is not a game of luck, it is a game of skill.

Keeneland Trainer Book now available for 2013 Fall Meet


– 2013 FALL MEET EDITION – Now available

Winning Patterns on 110 Trainers!  Bonus Handicapping Articles

50 Trainers have accounted for nearly 72% of all Keeneland wins.  It’s time you know how they did it!

Keeneland Fall 2013 meet

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If you handicap the races at Keeneland, then understanding the tendencies of the trainers is paramount to success. Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns for 2013 is based on the extensive database of handicapper and author Art Parker, a regular contributor here on Agameofskill.com. It’s bigger and better than ever with no less than 110 winning trainers profiled!

In this unique trainer guide, Parker analyzes the winning patterns of the most successful horsemen that race at Keeneland. With this data right at your fingertips, you will know the winning tendencies of each and every trainer that has saddled multiple winners at Keenland over the past 7 race meets.


“It’s a wealth of information for horseplayers serious about attacking the Keeneland meets.” – publisher Rich Nilsen

The 2013 Fall Meet Edition of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns” is now available from publisher All Star Press.

We’ve put trainers, Keeneland, and the past 7 meetings together (3 1/2 years) to try and have the best results possible for the upcoming fall meet, 2013. Our focus is on the trainers that do more than show up and win a race. We have detailed the individuals from the last seven meetings that were multiple winning trainers. In other words, a trainer had to collect at least two victories to be recognized.

 Winning Trainers – Last 7 Meets – Alpha Order
 Winning Trainers – Last 7 Meets – By Number of Winners
 Winning Trainers – Last 7 Meets – The Details for Each Winner

Just how good were the multiple winning trainers? Here are a few facts from 2010 – 13 that validate the importance of these successful trainers.

Keeneland held 1,063 thoroughbred races collectively in the seven meets dating back to the spring of 2010.

Trainers winning at least 2 races in these seven seasons totaled 111.

The 111 multiple winners won a total of 960 races collectively or 90.30% of all races.

Of the 111 multiple winners, 50 trainers won at least 5 races.

Those 50 trainers collected a total of 764 wins or 71.8% of all races. 

The details of all the winning trainers and their corresponding victories over the past 7 seasons at Keeneland are presented to handicappers in this book, Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns. A one-of-a-kind publication.

Only $9.97 now through PayPal. One ‘hit” will pay for this book 10x over.  Download it today to any PC or Mobile Device!

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Attention KINDLE users – the book is now available through Amazon for Kindle e-Reader, Tablet or Apps

How Leading Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey Play the Claiming Game

by Art Parker, author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”

In a couple of weeks most horse players taking in the Keeneland meeting will think of August 17, 2013 when they hear the name Ramsey. That was the day that thoroughbred owners and breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey stood high above the world of thoroughbred racing. It was the day they won three Grade 1 races in about one hour. They did this at two of the top venues in racing, Arlington Park and Saratoga Race Course. The Ramseys won the Secretariat Stakes and the Arlington Million in Chicago and the Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Many people were eye witnesses to the feat at those tracks, from all the simulcast parlors and OTB locations in the country and all of those that play the game at home with ADW. But there were more eyes watching as millions of television viewers saw the incredible feat without changing the channel.

Keeneland painter photo by Richard J. Nilsen

copyright AgameofSkill.com

As we move into the Keeneland meeting many will think of the Ramseys as only “big race” people. That, of course, is not true. Anyone waiting for the Ramseys to make an appearance only in the big Keeneland stakes races will miss a ton of action. At the 2013 spring Keeneland meeting, the Ramseys smashed an old record for wins by an owner. And one of the trainers they use (several trainers have the privilege of training for the Kentucky couple) broke the win record for trainers primarily with Ramsey horses. The trainer is Mike Maker.

In the last seven (7) Keeneland meetings Mike Maker leads all trainers with 62 wins. The closest thing to Maker is Ken McPeek with 56 wins and Wesley Ward with 53 wins. The special note on Ward is that 15 of his wins came with debut two year old runners. Ward does some training for the Ramseys and even though he is king of the first time baby starters, Ward has only one (1) victory for the Ramseys in this category. The majority of Ward’s wins for the Ramseys came with horses that shipped in from Florida for the spring meetings.

To show Maker’s strength at Keeneland just look at the mere mortals on the list and the number of victories they have since the beginning of the Spring meeting in 2010.

Mike Maker – 62

Ken McPeek – 56

Wesley Ward – 53

Todd Pletcher – 38

Graham Motion – 36

Bill Mott – 24

Wayne Catalano – 28

Rusty Arnold – 27

The Maker/Ramsey runners that win at Keeneland did not win the race at Saratoga from which they were claimed.

Other training notes related to the Ramseys. Chad Brown, who trained the Ramsey’s Arlington Million and Sword Dancer winners has 14 wins at Keeneland in the same period and two (2) of those have been with Ramsey horses. Wayne Catalano has been to the winner’s circle with 5 Ramsey horses in the same time frame.

But the real man for the Ramseys at Keeneland is Mike Maker. Of Maker’s 62 wins in the time period 32 were Ramsey owned runners, a little more than half. Overall, about 70% of Ramsey winners at Keeneland in the last seven meetings were trained by Mike Maker.

Let’s face it. The Ramsey stable is a big, big name in the business and they do more than just own horses. They are a force in the breeding business. So when one trainer can claim so much of their action at two of the most prestigious race meetings in North America, it signals a great vote of confidence.

When examining Maker wins for the Ramseys at the fall meet, one will notice several horses that won at Keeneland were winners first time after being claimed at Saratoga. The pattern line reads: L-1, C-1, which is first time layoff, first time claim. The timing for such makes perfect sense. The Ramseys claim a horse at Saratoga and it gets a rest of at least 45 days and the benefit of Maker’s training, then they show up at Keeneland and whip the competition. When examining a look at the spring meetings, one will see the same thing for Maker/Ramsey horses except they were coming from either the Fairgrounds or Gulfstream. But the most unlikely thing almost always appeared in the pattern line and that was the words class drop.

Most experienced horseplayers I know get a cold chill when they see a horse coming off a claim and dropping in class. It is normally a bad sign. But what the Maker/Ramsey combo have done is to claim horses at Saratoga and give them a very subtle drop in class; such as a claim for $20,000 and then run them at Keeneland for $16,000, or, claim for $25,000 and run for $20,000. Keeneland’s purses are good and if you have plenty of reasons to believe that you made a good buy, then you can take a drop, collect good purse money with a win and come out fairly good even if someone claims the horse. With Keeneland’s purses a second place finish can often make up the difference between the claiming prices if you lose the horse at the box. The key to remember is that the Maker/Ramsey machine play this game very well. It is advisable to pay particular attention if they get a horse that can fit into a lower price starter allowance race.

So, where does that leave us today with the upcoming Keeneland fall meeting? It is hard to tell how many horses Maker will train for the Ramseys. Maker has recorded a majority of his wins in the spring meetings at Keeneland. But there is another clue regarding this successful combo and I believe it sends a signal of what we may see at Keeneland in October, and we have already seen at Churchill Downs.

At Saratoga this summer the Ramseys claimed 32 horses. It turned out that the claim box sold 261 horses during the Saratoga meeting and the Ramseys were the biggest buyer and accounted for 12.2% of the claims. On all of the claims Mike Maker was listed as the trainer. Every single one. Of course the Ramseys could dump some runners off with other trainers at other locations but it is hard to imagine that they were not loading the guns for Keeneland, and even the new Fall meeting at Churchill Downs. In fact, the combo has already struck with a first time claim from Saratoga at the new September meeting in Louisville.

On September 6, 2013, the first day of the new fall meeting in Louisville, the combo sent out Wild Target in a $30,000 claiming race. The horse was claimed from Eddie Kenneally at Saratoga for $35,000. Wild Target easily whipped the field even after breaking slow. The winner’s share of the race paid $15, 420. The horse was not claimed, but if it had been, the Ramseys would still make a profit.

Here is another view of the Ramsey’s claims at Saratoga:

  1. Of the 32 horses claimed 22 are male and 10 are female. Of the males 16 are geldings, which mean they were claimed to run and make money as soon as possible since they have no breeding value.
  2. Only three (3) horses were claimed for $50,000 or more. Eight (8) were claimed for $35,000, nine (9) were claimed for $25,000, and twelve (12) were claimed for $20,000. The higher priced horses may wind up in allowance or low level stakes competition, and if they are Kentucky breds they can actually be eligible for their share of additional purse money (usually from $7,000-$8,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.
  3. Six (6) horses that were claimed won the race from which they were claimed. Fourteen (14) finished in the money in the race from which they were claimed.
  4. The Maker/Ramsey combo raided some good trainers with multiple claims in a short period of time, such as: Linda Rice (3 claims in 4 days), Rusty Arnold (2 claims in 4 days), Steve Asmussen (2 claims in 2 days) and Jason Servis (2 claims in 4 days).

In the past Maker has taken Ramsey’s Saratoga claims and usually worked them at Churchill’s training track which is listed as Cdt before they run at Keeneland. Also, in the past no Maker/Ramsey runner claimed at Saratoga has won at Saratoga and then won at first asking at Keeneland. The Maker/Ramsey runners that win at Keeneland did not win the race at Saratoga from which they were claimed.

Be sure you look for the names of Maker and Ramsey at the Keeneland meeting. Don’t just think you only see them on TV with big named expensive horses. They are right there with the claimers like everybody else. And, they are very good at the game.


Editor’s Note: The 2013 fall meet edition of Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns is due out soon.

A Method for Attacking Races with Lightly Raced Horses

Handicapper Kelzenberg Tonyby Tony Kelzenberg, aka The Flat Bet Prophet

Not everyone likes betting on lightly raced horses in maidens or allowance races. These types of races have few horses with starts under them (in fact many races are filled with First Time Starters – a.k.a. FTS), and evaluating pedigrees of race horses can confound experienced players, much less the novice fan. Despite these challenges, I can attest I do very well playing lightly raced horses every year. I have a basic method that combines QUANTITATIVE and QUALITATIVE analysis of experienced runners and FTS.


Lightly raced runners – QUANTITATIVE FACTORS
(1) Trainer stats – some trainers are very successful winning with a FTS. Winning trainers will have developed a “winning pattern” to get their horses ready to win.  Most data services in the States will provide this information to punters.  A guideline I use is a trainer that can win with 14% of his FTS is a solid threat to win with a FTS in today’s race.

(2) Pedigree information – I uses Brisnet.com’s Ultimate Past Performances, and they are really effective at identifying which horses have a pedigree to “win early” in their first or second start. Using Brisnet.com’s data I can identify if a sire (father of the runner) and damsire (father of the MOTHER of the runner) both produce 14% winners or more from FTS. The higher a sire’s percentage of winners from FTS, the more likely the combination produces a quick firster. Another stat I look at is the dam (mother of the runner). If a dam has produced 50% or greater 2yo winners from 2yo starters that also implies today’s runner could be quick. Lastly, a good rule of thumb for “win early” breeding is look for a sire and damsire that both had sprinter/miler speed when they raced


(1) Workout Pattern – To me, workout pattern of any lightly-raced runner is the key to determining the type of runner a horse is (early speed, mid-pack, or back marker), and how fit the horse in question really is.  I look at the initial work first, to see if the horse “breezed” well.  Usually a North American-trained horse makes his first breeze at three furlongs.  I want to see a decent time. A good initial breeze would be 36 3/5 or faster, but 37 1/5 would be OK. This demonstrates that the FTS has some talent. Then, the FTS should work every 6 to 7 days, leading up to race day with NO BREAKS in its work tab.  If there is a break in the work tab either the horse may be lacking in fitness or may have had a training mishap.  Lastly, I want to see some 4 furlong works in 48 seconds or faster works mixed in with some 5 furlong works for stamina.  I consider it a strong negative if a horse shows ONLY fast workouts.  Very often, these horses are hard to control and they “pull” against the exercise rider in the mornings, and it is likely they will do the same thing in the afternoons.  Ironically, these types of runners take a lot of public money, because they are “fast!”  But alas, most likely too fast to last, it seems.

There was the workout pattern for a nice 5/1 FTS winner named Anusara who won a $50,000 Maiden Claimer (all horses were up for sale from $45,000 to $50,000) going 1300m in Race 8 on May 19, 2013 at Churchill Downs.  The purse was $25,701 (maiden races where there is no claiming price run for a much higher purse – $50,000).   Anusara won by 5 and ¼ lengths.

Feb 27       3 furlongs   38.0 seconds (first career work)

Mar 7        3f             36.8 sec (Note the quick second breeze)

Mar 17       3f             36.0 sec (even faster)

Mar 26       4f             48.4 sec (very nice)

Apr 8         4f             49.6 sec (stamina work)

Apr 22       5f             62.6 sec (stamina work)

May 1        4f             48.6 sec (work out of the gate)

May 10      4f             48.0 sec (best speed work yet – also out of the gate)

In North America the Form has to include every work for lightly raced horses.  In the “olden days,” the Form only included a horse’s last four works, which would be incomplete, at best.  It is easy to see that reviewing the Anusara’s work pattern, from the START of the workout cycle, indicated she was ready to win and was a must use in the exotics.  5/1 on this kind of horse is OK, but I was able to bet some exotics that hit after Anusara won her race.  I should add that Anusara’s works were not every 6 or 7 days, so this would not be ideal.  Note Anusara was entered against claiming maidens, so it might be inferred that she needed those extra days to recover between works and/or may have some soundness issues.

The same day, I used a three year old filly, a once-raced runner named Intelyhente, who last ran November 24, 2012 at CD on the grass, showing some early dash before being beaten by 12 lengths.  Not a very auspicious debut.  The level was straight maidens – a $50,000 purse.  The pedigree was good for grass (Smart Strike out of a Boundary mare) and the price was right (8/1 on the morning line and 6/1 when she won by going “over the top”).  The race distance was 1800m.  Here was her workout pattern:

Apr 7         4f             50.0 sec (first work back)

Apr 13       4f             49.2 sec (stamina work)

Apr 20       5f             63.4 sec (stamina work)

Apr 27       4f             48.6 sec (speed work)

May 4        4f             48.0 sec (speed work)

May 14      5f             60.2 sec (speed work)

Most of the works were EXACTLY seven days apart, meaning everything was going to plan and she was fit and well.  The speed works put some speed into her.

 (2) Sales Prices – generally yearling sales prices are meaningless in trying to predict success in sprint baby races, so I would submit not using yearling prices as a benchmark. I can recall a 2yo MSW at Saratoga a few years ago where a $50,000 yearling THRASHED a $250,000 yearling. 2 year old buys, on the other hand, are extremely dangerous. Why? Because 2yo buys have another 6 to 8 months to develop, they are thoroughly vetted, and they have to work out under a STOPWATCH. Expensive 2 year old buys ($250,000 and up) almost always can run. Cheaper 2 year old buys ($50,000 to $245,000) often times can be overlooked at the windows and should be considered live animals.

(3) Number of starts – Horses that don’t break their maidens by their third start are huge under performers at the windows. They often tend to lose by narrow margins, so their odds will be low, but it is my experience you are better off with a horse making its first or second start than betting on a potential “career maiden.”