How to Decide When a Horse is Ready to Win
Handicapping “angles” are a dime a dozen, but in many instances simple concepts prove to be the most effective tools for the horse player searching for a solid bet. In this piece, we will discuss two basic angles that can help beginning players spot a sharp runner.
Handicapping Horses' Past Performance
The first angle involves a horse that has been running well in defeat in two consecutive starts. Let’s say the horse finishes third, beaten just a nose at the $40,000 claiming level and returns three weeks later to finish second against the same type of company. If the horse was ridden by the same jockey in both starts, and if the jockey opts to ride the horse again the next start at an equal or lesser competition, this type of runner usually makes an excellent bet. When jockeys become more familiar with a horse’s tendencies and choose to stick with that horse after consecutive defeats, it usually correlates to a successful effort.
Determing fitness and readiness in a horse
The next angle involves the use of layoff lines. In The Daily Racing Form and most track programs, a solid line separating a horse’s past performances indicates that the horse has been inactive or rested for a period of at least 30 days. Of course, this can also be checked simply by glancing at the dates of each race the horse has run. Horses rarely win coming off long layoffs (longer than 180 days) unless they simply that much more talented than the rest of the field. Conversely, a horse that is making its second or third start following a long period of inactivity is often said to be peaking and ready to fire its best effort due to the added fitness.
When to bet against a horse
Talented runners returning from long layoffs sometimes go to post at very short odds. These runners are excellent bet-against types. Additionally, runners performing poorly following a period of inactivity should be tabbed for marked improvement in their next couple of starts. These types of horses can be valuable bets as they are occasionally dismissed for their poor effort despite the obvious and valid excuse.
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