Items To Consider When Wagering On A Horse

Below are some simple tactics which may be helpful to a new horse bettor:

1. Fitness

Before a horse can be considered, it should be determined that he is physically fit enough to be at or near his best. Athletes become fit via two avenues, competition and training. Examine the dates of prior last races, found at the far left of the past performance line. The more recent races he has, the more certain of his fitness.

If he has been away from the races for two months or more, examine morning training workouts shown underneath the last past performance line. The longer the layoff, the more difficult the comeback. Make a final determination and if deemed fit, go to the next variable. If not, eliminate.

2. Horse Racing Class

Class in Thoroughbred racing can be defined by saying that class is the quality of competition a horse can compete favorably against. Look at the prior conditions under which the horse has raced. Regardless of any other variable, a horse cannot be expected to win without having shown a past ability to do so against similar competition. If he has not shown the past ability, he can be considered a throw-out, unless he is rapidly improving and won his last race with enough authority to move up in class against tougher competition. If he is fit and can compete against the competition, move to the next variable.

3. Distance

Through either breeding, conformation, running style, or training techniques, horses generally do better at certain distances. Few are versatile enough to handle short and long races effectively. If he is a proven competitor at today’s distance, continue to consider him, and eliminate him if he has had numerous opportunities without success.

4. Post Position

The Post Position Draw, a random drawing done after entries for a race are taken, can often turn a potential winner into a dead loser, and vice-versa! Track biases exist at many tracks, favoring inside or outside post positions. As a general rule, far outside posts in bulky fields in sprints (10 or more) can prove more challenging. The two inside posts in big fields can also be detrimental. Early speed is preferable for both inside and outside posts because without it, outside horses lose ground and inside ones get trapped. A horse’s running style and the post position are directly correlated. In longer, two-turn-races, inside posts are almost always preferred. The shorter the two-turn race, the more it favors inside. If it can be determined that the post will not be a detriment, move on. But a horse can be thrown out if it is determined his chances will be badly compromised by post position.

5. Running Style

Horses generally settle into a certain style of running, broken down into three categories: pace-setter or front runner, horses who run in the lead or who are never further back than two lengths; stalker, horses who are never further back from the lead than 4 lengths; and closer or rally types, horses who are never closer than five lengths from the pace. Horses have been known to change styles, but the vast majority have consistent styles. True front runners always try for the lead when possible. Front runners are most effective when unchallenged early. The easier they are able to get a clear lead, the better the chances. Prefer front runners when there are few, if any, potential challengers or if a pronounced track bias favoring early speed exists. Otherwise, look more favorably upon those that can stalk or rally.

A stalker rarely makes the lead, and seldom possesses a big late kick. They have the speed to stay close and pass tiring front runners, and can hold off the big closers that lag well behind. Stalkers can make the lead if no front runners are in the race. Prefer stalkers when numerous front runners are present, and without the presence of a strong and fit rally or closer horse.

Closers are best when an abundance of early speed exists and are often victimized when a front runner is loose on the lead. Playing closers is more precarious than horses with speed as they can run into traffic problems. And, statistics show that horses closer to the lead win the majority of races. However, under certain circumstances, closers are a very positive choice.

6. Trainer

Give careful consideration to the trainer, who is like the coach. Trainers have a big job and must have a wealth of knowledge about a large number of facets of training a horse to race. They must not only be good horsemen, they must have excellent organizational skills in order to coordinate the efforts of an entire stable. Statistics point out the top trainers at the track and a handicapper that pays attention to the trainers of every horse in every race will soon have a good working knowledge of which ones are acceptable when making a final decision. If the trainer meets the handicapper’s standards, he can move on to the next variable. But an elimination can be made if you feel the competence of the conditioner is in question.

7. Jockey

The role of the jockey is often understated. Checking out statistics at most tracks, a small percentage of riders win the great majority of the races. It takes a great deal of skill to ride a horse in a race. Jockeys must possess good riding techniques, have strength, intelligence, good judgment and timing and have an ability to communicate with the horse. Some jockeys are far more proficient than others. When making a final decision, be sure the horse you select has an acceptable rider. When eliminating horses in fields with numerous contenders, you may be able to eliminate a horse because of the rider alone.

7. Present Form

When making a final selection it is important to determine that the horse is in good present form. Examining the finishes of his most recent races tells you if he is racing well and competitively. Statistics prove that horses that have recently won or have been reasonably close, win the majority of races. Often horses that have NOT been close to winning of late are dropped in class and can still be considered viable choices. However, be careful not to give too much consideration to horses that are dropping down after showing no life at all as they may have lost their will to compete. When making a final decision, it is a wise practice to play horses with good present form and eliminate those that are obviously off form.

8. Consistency

Before considering a horse a top contender, examine his record for the year and his lifetime record. A handicapper should look for horses that are more likely to run well than NOT. If they have finished in the money 50% of the time, they can be deemed consistent. Many horses with poor consistency records cannot be heavily relied upon to run well after a good effort the time before. A handicapper should demand consistency before making a horse a serious contender.

9. Weight

Some handicappers use the weight carried by a horse as a critical factor. This is a controversial variable among astute handicappers.

If you decide to use weight as a handicapping variable, it would seem wise to consider it more important as the length of the race increases. It may also be prudent not to consider weight a factor unless it involves at least a difference of ten pounds or more. You may also want to use weight if comparing horses in the same race if there is a significant switch in weights, like one horse taking off ten pounds coming out of a race against a rival who may be adding ten pounds. Generally, weight may play a lesser role than many have believed and without knowing each horse’s capacity to carry weight, it may be impossible to use effectively.

10. Horse Racing Speed Figures

Various speed figures (Beyers is the most common) have been compiled in recent years. These figures basically assign a number to each race run by a horse. Beyer numbers, for instance, are based almost exclusively by running times in conjunction with track conditions.

The number certainly reduces a horse’s past performance to just digits and can be used to quickly identify the contenders. However, as speed figure producers suggest, the handicapper is implored to use other handicapping techniques to be used in conjunction with the number.

The numbers, if used, should be used more as a guide. Generally speaking, use speed figures as one of the many available handicapping tools.

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