Horseracing Handicapping Longshots Using Trainer Moves
By Bill Peterson
(from 2007) On February 9th in the second race at Tampa Bay Downs, a horse named "Apple Talk," won and paid $87 for every $2 bet to win on this lightly raced four year old. When you're horseracing handicapping, looking for longshots is tough and Apple Talk wasn't giving away any secrets unless you were familiar with the trainer and his moves. Apple Talk was dropping from the Maiden Special Weight ranks to Maiden Claiming. That's supposed to be the biggest class drop in horse racing, but several other horses in the race were also making the same drop and had fared much better in their last race, a race that Apple Talk lost by over 23 lengths!
Looking at Apple Talk's only two prior starts and how he had done so poorly explains why he went off at such long odds. How he managed to stage the upset is not so clear. According to the official track program there were no equipment changes since his last dismal performance. There was a jockey change to an apprentice and subsequently a ten pound weight allowance that certainly didn't hurt. But to make such a big move as Apple Talk did and to win so convincingly at such long odds, one would think something pretty significant had to happen.
A handicapper would see he is listed in the program as a gelding. It wasn't announced that he had been gelded since his last race. Gelding a race horse can make a big difference and I call it the most significant equipment change in racing. I am sure other males would agree with me. I am always looking for it when I am handicapping maiden horse races. However, we have no indication that Apple Talk was recently gelded.
Obviously some people bet on Apple Talk. A look at the pools did indicate some inside money (see True Handicapping for a method to check the pools for inside money), but not a lot as is evidenced by the huge mutuel. Apple Talk appeared to be a sleeper.
So how could you tell that this horse was going to win? Unless you were psychic, you had to know something about the horse and trainer. Did this trainer ever pull this move before? Entering a horse in a long turf race (Apple Talk's first effort was a mile on the turf in MSW ranks) and then in a long race on the dirt (a mile and forty yards in MSW company) is a good way to condition a horse. It doesn't look like he was pushed in either race.
A trainer might see his or her horse just isn't good enough to compete with the MSW horses but put him in for a few conditioning races then drop to a soft spot in the maiden claiming ranks. The only way to know for sure is to know the trainer's habits. The only way to know a trainer's habits is to pay attention and keep notes. Specializing in one or two circuits and keeping good notes can payoff in huge figures. I have to confess, before this race, I didn't know that was one of this trainer's moves, but you can be certain that I know now. Ask yourself this, how many people who saw that race can now tell you who the trainer was and what the move was?
If you are one of the few who remembers or was paying attention, you may be one of the few who cashes a big win ticket on the next maiden he brings along this way. And that is how you handicap longshots in horse racing.
The most consistent horse racing systems have to have the basics and a handicapper must understand the basics. I have been around horse racing for 50 years including as an owner. Without the basics the rest is not going to do any good. If you want to learn how a horse owner and insider finds long shots just go to The Long Shot Rater and get the truth.
To see my workout handicapping method go to The Sharp Shooter Special.
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How To Spot Live Long Shots, the Most Important Factor in Horse Racing Handicapping
Here are a few questions that you may have never asked yourself. Is more money lost betting favorites or long shots? Are you safer betting favorites and trying to isolate a good horse or should you look for the key to spot long shots? Look at it this way, every day favorites disappoint the crowd and only win about a third of the races. If you look at all the money bet on favorites and the smaller amounts on long shots, it looks like favorites actually suck up more money.
Some people try to find vulnerable favorites. It is a popular thought process in horse racing handicapping that if a favorite has never done what is being asked of it, then it is vulnerable. For instance, if it is going a longer distance than it has raced and won at before or racing on a different surface, whether switching from dirt to turf or to a poly track for the first time, then it may not like the change and not be able to live up to the crowd's expectations. There is some wisdom in that line of thought.
Why am I writing about favorites when you thought this article was about long shots? Because the key to finding long shots that can win is finding favorites that do not dominate. So the key to spot long shots is finding a race with soft competition to begin with. The less that is known about a favorite, the better. If there are a lot of questions as to how it will perform on a given surface or distance or even track condition, the better your chances of winning with a long shot.
Now what makes certain long shots good bets? Once again, it may be the unknown factors. Unknown factors are bad indicators for favorites, but good for long shots. I look for a horse that is bred well for whatever is being asked of it. I want a good sire and dam's sire and those handicapping factors are available in the past performances. For instance, if a horse is going on the turf for the first time, I look at the sire stats and dam's sire's stats. You might also check the dam herself. If the dam has other foals that have run and done well on turf that is a great asset.
Now here is the most important part of the puzzle to spot long shots that are good bets and what I consider the most important factor in horse racing handicapping, look for a competent trainer who has trained horses that are doing what you are asking of his or her horse in the race. That is often overlooked. Once again, many of the better past performances will show a trainer's stats with a given condition or move.
If I see a horse that is racing on the grass for the first time and see a trainer with a 20% or higher win average on the turf, I figure that trainer has watched the horse run enough to know whether it has a good turf stride and will handle the surface well. The same is true for changing distance and other factors. The next important factor is the jockey. If there is a decent jockey on the horse I know that it is well meant and not just out for a jog. Good jockeys with winning averages of 15% or more don't waste their time on horses that don't have a chance to score.
Another good place to look for keys to spotting long shots is the workouts. Look for a horse with a good recent work since its last race. There are other ways to spot a good work or even a significant work that the crowd may miss. Pay attention to works.
The last key is the money. If the stable is betting the horse then you know that they are going to give the rider instructions to go for the win. Using a good system like True Handicapping that analyzes the tote board action and the works will pickup some excellent long shots. While the win percentages of your long shot bets will not be as high as the win percentage of favorites, the payoffs are much higher, so the difference is easily offset.
The most consistent horse racing systems have to have the basics and a handicapper must understand the basics. I've been around horse racing for 50 years. Without the basics the rest isn't going to do you any good. If you want to learn how a horse owner and insider handicaps just go to True handicapping and get the truth.
Click Here to learn more about my handicapping systems