Handicapping Tip of the Day #19 – Some Longshot Identifiers

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Glen S.

A time to use a horse as a longshot is when a horse in question has the potential to improve.  Here are a few scenarios for horseplayers to look for:

– horse has only one start and is eligible to improve in a big way.
– runner had a troubled trip that affected his outcome and disguised his true form.
– horse is trying something new that there is a sign that it could be successful, e.g. trainer angles, pedigree.
– the race shape sets up for him – lone speed in a paceless race or a closer with lots of other speed in the race.

You may ask yourself, how can in both the above situations have the same situation and one time you bet the horse and the other you do not bet the horse. It is simple; it is all about value compared to the horse’s chance to win. A horse that is at 20-1 but has enough angles to take a shot, then you only need to hit these types a few times to be profitable.  A horse at 1-1 but only has about a 30-percent chance to win, then in the long run you lose betting these types.

Understanding when a longshot can win and when the favorite is going to win really helps you out as to when to take a shot. Taking a longshot in every race and saying you never bet favorites instantly reduces your chance to make money at the races.  Accept that favorites do win, but when you find a chance to beat one, be ready and make it count.

How I Nailed a 22-1 Longshot at Saratoga

By Dan Costanza

What happens when you pair some solid handicapping fundamentals and a little bit of luck? You get a 22/1 winner at the Spa that pays $46. A rarity for sure, but my longest price in recent memory was helped by a bit of my own misjudgment.

When looking through the past performances to make my selections on Monday at Saratoga, race 8 was one of the four races I had selected to make plays on. This was a longer-than-usual maiden race at a 1 1/8 miles and it gave me a chance to look deep into the race, beyond just where these horses finished in previous races.

Let me step back to my thoughts when I dived into this race. A quick look through the past performance and I see that this race does not have much early pace, and a speed duel doesn’t seem likely. There are two horses at short odds both of whom are deep closers. With the lack of early speed, I look deeper to try and get on a price that might be getting overlooked. I immediately focus my attention on the #2, Tiz Yankee, who is the 9/5 morning line favorite, and Grandpa Len, who at 12/1 seems worth analyzing as the race could set up nicely for him. I assume that Grandpa Len is going to be on the lead early because of the lack of early speed in this race. After looking at Tiz Yankee, his race over this distance back in April caused me to subtract him from the equation because of his early running and faltering late in that race. With no interest in playing a 9/5 horse anyway, I focus on Grandpa Len and see if I can make a case for a play on him.

PPs of winner at Saratoga July 23 2012




A quick look at the start of Grandpa Len’s career and I like what I see. In his debut, he finished 4th, beaten 9 lengths, to Currency Swap, who was 6 lengths ahead of the 2nd place finisher. Currency Swap went on to win the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes after that maiden victory. Next time out for Grandpa Len, he clashed with another classy horse in El Padrino who was on the Derby trail for much of last year. He finished 3rd in this race, and just over a length back from El Padrino who came home 2nd. His 3rd time out, Grandpa Len is pegged as a favorite, but faces another tough one in eventual stakes competitor News Pending. Once again it isn’t in Grandpa’s cards and he finished 4th, only beaten 1 3/4 lengths in a race which News Pending finished 2nd.

The next few races he has legitimate excuses. Grandpa Len tried the turf next and was not successful at all on that surface, so I am not counting that against him. Then he goes on a 5 month layoff and comes back in a sprint where he is not a factor. Again, not counting this against him. Then he has a race which really makes me think he can be a winner today. He is entered in a 1 1/8 miles race and while it is over a muddy track, he leads nearly the entire way and stays on to finish 2nd. This makes me think that he can certainly get this distance, and if he is on the lead or near it, he can stay there if it isn’t very fast. After this race, for whatever reason, they decide to try him on the turf two more times, both of which I am not counting against him for the race today since it is on the main track. So with this information in mind, I settle comfortably and confidently on Grandpa Len. I know that 12/1 will probably go up, so even if he doesn’t wire this field, I am thinking I will still get some nice prices if he hits the board.

Well to my surprise the race begins and Grandpa Len is not leading this field early on as I anticipated. He is actually forced 4 or 5 wide going in to the first turn. Despite this, he is forwardly placed and sitting just a few lengths back while Tiz Yankee is leading them around at a snail’s pace. When the half mile goes up and they are still crawling around, I know my horse has a chance because he hasn’t used much energy yet and is just a few lengths off the lead. Tiz Yankee on the lead was not what I had handicapped, and is still at the front and has me worried that he would be the one wiring this field with such a slow pace [instead of my longshot].

At the far turn though, Grandpa Len picks it up and with a fantastic move by Cornelio Velasquez, is now right in the thick of things turning for home. Instead of swinging 5 or 6 wide and circling the field, Cornelio sees an opening and cuts Grandpa Len around the turn and towards the inside. This is a move that in my opinion won the race as it saved a lot of ground and strides, while leaving less work to be done to collar the leader. As expected, the deep closers are nowhere to be seen and it is actually Grandpa Len who is charging home and passing Tiz Yankee to come home a 22/1 winner.

While I may have overlooked the early speed of Tiz Yankee and his ability to slow things down, I found the positives of in this live longshot. I believed I was getting a great value for a horse who had faced some top class runners in the past and would benefit from both the lack of early speed and surplus of late runners. The result was a juicy payoff at the Spa!


About the Author

I am 25, from New Jersey, lived there my entire life but now currently living in the United Kingdom. Have loved and played sports my entire life and love handicapping horses and sports.