There are hundreds of ways to handicap the races, and looking at the past performances can be very overwhelming. Several angles can be successful when handicapping, but we’ve found that some angles are better than others. After years of experience, we’ve honed in on the most successful ones, and we’ve learned the hard way at times on some angles that don’t work quite as well. Here are the Top 10 Wagering Angles we look for when opening up the past performances:
1. The Trainer
The most important aspect in all of racing is the trainer. Not all trainers know what they are doing, and even the ones that do are better at certain things than others. Understanding trainers’ tendencies and what they are good at is the biggest key in racing. Studying trainer stats, either within the racing form or on Equibase, is just as important as studying the stats on the horse itself.
2. Speed Figures
It sounds simple, but horses with the highest speed figures usually win the race. With so many different speed figures available (i.e. Equibase, TimeFormUS, Beyer, Bris, Trackmaster), it’s hard to know which method is best. A case can be made for each of them, but our advice is to pick the one that you like best and stay with it. Using speed figures, you can quickly and easily decide who to throw out and who has a legitimate chance of winning.
3. Jockey/Trainer Change
When a jockey chooses one horse over another, it’s a great sign that the horse which the jockey chose is the one to bet. All jockeys have agents and it’s the agent’s job to know which horses are doing the best coming into the race. The best jockey will often have the best agent, and they end up being right more often than not. Trainer changes are also a big factor. If a horse runs for a poor trainer, gets claimed, and is now running for a good trainer, its performance is going to improve. The “first off the claim” angle is one of the best plays in racing. Once again, it goes back to factor number one on the list: KNOW THE TRAINER.
4. Dropping from Maiden Special Weight to Maiden Claiming
A Maiden Special Weight is usually one of the toughest races to win, no matter what track you are betting. Those races have the “best of the best” horses that have not yet won a race. Every great stakes horse begins its career in these races. When a horse drops from the Maiden Special Weight level to a Maiden Claiming entry, it’s the biggest class drop in racing. Maiden Claiming races are much easier, and even if a horse has run poorly in a Maiden Special Weight, it will improve greatly in a Maiden Claiming.
5. Surface changes: Turf to Dirt OR Dirt to Turf
Some horses like turf. Some horses like dirt. It’s just that simple, and sometimes, for whatever reason, they don’t run on their preferred surface. If a turf horse begins its career on dirt and struggles, don’t be afraid to bet that horse when it tries the turf for the first time. The same can go the other way for horses trying dirt for the first time after running poorly on the turf. Surface matters!
6. Distance changes: Sprint to Route OR Route to Sprint
Just like surface changes, distance changes are a major factor. Some horses like to run shorter races, while some like longer races. Never be afraid to bet a horse running long for the first time, and never be afraid to bet a horse shortening up in distance, either. Personally, my favorite angle is the cut back in distance. Many times, a horse will run a route race to get some fitness, then cut back in distance and fly around the track without getting tired because it’s been running longer races.
7. Horses for Courses
You must remember that horses are not machines. Like humans, they have personalities, and each horse is a little different. Some horses perform much better at certain tracks over others. Sometimes they like the surroundings of a certain place, or they like the actual surface of the track where they’re stabled. Horses are quirky animals, and their attitudes affect their performance tremendously.
8. First-time Gelding
This can be described as the “ultimate equipment change.” Horses are gelded to help with their focus – sometimes, a non-gelded horse has other things on his mind besides racing. Gelding a horse has a tendency to calm him down, making him easier to train and handle in the mornings. These factors often lead to an improved performance on race day. First-time geldings are notated in any racing form.
9. Lone Speed
This is one of the most commonly-played angles and tends to work more often than not. If a race has only one horse that likes to go to the lead, then that horse can get very comfortable on the front end without facing much pace pressure. It also allows the jockey to go slower than normal up front, saving energy for the horse and unleashing in the stretch.
10. Second or Third Race Off Layoff
This is fairly logical. If a horse is running for the first time off of a long layoff, chances are that he/she will not be ready to run its best race. Many times, the horse will run so poorly that it will be big odds next time out, and that is where you can jump on board and hit a big price. Different trainers have different styles of getting a horse ready to fire off of a layoff, but for the most part, the second or third race off of a layoff is when the horse will run its best.