Handicapping Tip of the Day #61 – The Extended Layoff Horse

The Best Way to Discern If a Layoff Horse is Ready

By Art Parker for agameofskill.com

 

I call it the extended layoff. That’s when a horse has been away from the track for at least six months. When examining a race these horses present a problem in the selection process. Are they fit and ready to run? Why did they go on the shelf?

Derby144 workout Justify at Santa AnitaThe questions can go on forever. What about the horse than won its last race and then is nowhere to be seen for six months or more? It doesn’t make any sense. Why would you take a horse out of action if he is doing well? Did something go wrong with the horse? Those that were running well and then sidelined are even harder to figure.

A longtime ago a friend of mine told me that no matter what the reason a horse is sidelined for a half-year or longer makes no difference. What one needs to know is if the horse is ready to run now. That’s the real question.

Long Workouts or Bust

Over the years I concluded after much observation that the only way to have confidence in an extended layoff, other than the trainer be successful at long layoffs, is to demand a string of workouts that are long. I define long as five furlongs our longer. In some case good trainers will build their horse up from three furlongs to a half mile and then to five furlongs as race time nears. The question one must ask is, “Has the horse been on a planned return with a series of workouts, preferably long morning drills?”

If the answer to that question is yes then one needs to pay attention to that race entrant.

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 # 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 #33 – Horse Racing’s Biggest Drop

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

Dropping in class? Are you sure? There are many ways to try and determine if a horse is dropping in class. There is one way, in a given set of every day circumstances, to determine a class drop. And, make no mistake about it. It is the biggest drop in racing. Years ago one of my mentors told me to do one thing first when look at maiden claiming races. Find any horse that is dropping out of maiden special weights into a maiden claimer race.

Few horses that win stakes races or multiple allowance races begin their careers by winning their first race in a maiden claimer. Horses that run for the bigger money later on usually start where the purses are higher and that is not in the maiden claiming ranks. The most inviting class dropper is the one that ran in maiden special weights a few times, showed some talent such as some early speed or the ability to stay in contention, but now drops down for some class relief.   The maiden special weights to maiden claiming move is the most potent class drop in horse racing.   It is one of the easiest ways to find a way, sometimes at remarkably good prices.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #28 – Who Can Win the KY Derby?

2013 KY Derby contender Verrazanoby Art Parker

In the last several decades over 80% of the Derby winners finished either first or second in one of the following major prep races: Spiral Stakes, Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes.

On occasion there will be exceptions to this rule but it is hard to ignore the Derby results these races have posted.

There are a couple of reasons for these races being so important to the Derby. First, most of these races serve as the last “big prep” before the Derby and almost all serious contenders will run in one of these, plus the purses of these races are very appealing. Secondly, the cream of the crop shows up at these races, which are generally held four to five weeks before the Derby making these races the best indicator of current form.

It’s unlikely the winner on the first Saturday in May will exit a race other than one these major preps.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #27 – Watch KY Derby Preps Closely

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Art Parker

There are many ways to handicap any race and the Kentucky Derby is no exception. One of those ways is called “trip handicapping” and all too often it is very revealing. When it comes to finding a Derby horse you may wish to review all of the prep races for the last couple of months. Naturally one thing you should look for in a prep race is a good excuse why a certain horse did not win or get close to winner. Looking for horses that were forced to slow down or simply had to wait forever to find racing room may provide some insight into the Derby. Whatever you do when reviewing taped races is to notice the start. Knowing which horses that may have trouble at the gate can give you a good idea about who will have position early.

 

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #23 – Watch for this Sneaky Trainer Move

Up in class, distance switch

by Art Parker

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

I know you have seen it so you should remember it. A horse comes off a layoff and runs opposite of its historical successful distances. The horse gets trounced in his return to battle but then shows up a short time later for another race. But this time the horse goes back to its successful distance and goes up in class. For most players this move is a world of trouble simply because of the increase in class.

When you are confronted with this, take the time to view the replay of the return race. Did it look like the horse was intentionally wide in the trip? Was the horse gunned to the front when it is not usually a speed horse? If something doesn’t look right it may be that the trainer was using the return race to tighten up the horse. The trainer may know his horse is close to being ready and just needed to get a race in his charge. One key is the short turn around. If a trainer thought his horse wasn’t ready after a return race then why hurry it back to the track?

Other things to look for in this situation is a positive jockey change or a change in equipment. Catching a good trainer with a slick move is hard to do. Remember, suspicion will not work for you unless…you are suspicious.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #18 – From Where are They Running?

by Art Parker

Break from Gate Editorial_659x378

Before you handicap a race do you ever ask yourself where they will run the race at that specific track? If you play the same track all of the time then you know where a six furlong race starts and finishes. And you probably know the configuration of all races at your home track. But in the days of simulcasting and playing on computers many players have failed to familiarize themselves with the configurations of all races at all the tracks they play. Some players may bet a horse that starts on the far outside, and that is not necessarily bad. But when that race starts extremely close to the first turn it is a big problem for those on the far outside.

Great historical races have funny nuances. The Arlington Million at Arlington and The Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont both start on the turn. Some turf races at Santa Anita actually cross the main dirt track just before the stretch. The more tracks you play the more local knowledge is required. Take the time to know where they will run it before you bet it.