• Handicapping Made Easy

    POSTED Sep 21, 2013
    Awhile back I discussed how one could use past odds and purse values to quickly handicap a horse race. Today, I want to expound upon that idea.

    It is little secret that the betting crowd is the best at determining which horses are likely to perform well and, conversely, which horses are likely to perform not-so-well in a particular race. Like most speculative markets, the pari-mutuel market is generally efficient. Anybody who thinks a 30-1 shot wins as often as a 3-1 shot hasn’t gone to the racetrack very much… or has been sniffing too much horse manure.

    Simply put, the odds are meaningful — and not just today’s odds. The odds in a horse’s past races are important too, because, in a very real sense, they reflect the animal’s realistic chance of winning the race(s) in question. What’s more, for those trying to assess a horse’s talent, the odds offer a great way to do so — quickly and efficiently.

    Take, for example, the third race at Belmont Park on Friday, Sept. 20. 

    For a key to the past performances posted below, click HERE.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Without looking at the tote board, class figures or any other traditional gauge of ability, one can see that Shanghai Bobby is the horse to beat. By concentrating on each horse’s last three races and finding its median odds, a picture of the race contention begins to develop:

    3-Shanghai Bobby (1.3)
    2-Dads Caps (1.9)
    4-Purple Egg (2.4)
    1-Slan Abhaile (3.1)
    5-Tenango (3.4)

    Now, let’s throw median purse value* into the mix and see what happens:

    3-Shanghai Bobby ($1 million)
    4-Purple Egg ($85K)
    1-Slan Abhaile ($82K)
    5-Tenango ($82K)
    2-Dads Caps ($62K)

    *Any means of assessing the class of the races can be used; purse values are just easy and straightforward.

    Given this data, it’s pretty easy to see why Shanghai Bobby was made the 3-5 favorite. Not surprisingly, he won and paid $3.20.

    I know what you’re thinking: Sure Derek, finding a 3-5 shot is easy… but it doesn’t pay for a three-day-old hot dog at the concession stand. Can the same kind of analysis ferret out a price horse or two?

    Oh ye of little faith. Let’s take a look at the eighth race on Friday’s card:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Median Odds

    6-Ol Donyo (2.1)
    7-Saturday Nthe Park (2.2)
    5-Girl Code (3.2)
    2-Flash Forward (4.5)
    3-Ruby Lips (8.9)
    4-Toasting (19.1)
    1-Let Me Entertain U (58.3)

    Median Purse Value

    4-Toasting ($300K)
    1-Let Me Entertain U ($250K)
    2-Flash Forward ($100K)
    3-Ruby Lips ($100K)
    5-Girl Code ($85K)
    6-Ol Donyo ($60K)
    7-Saturday Nthe Park ($49K)

    In this case, the picture is not so clear, as the horses with lower median odds have been competing for lesser purses and vice-versa. Hence, I would not take the past odds at face value, but would, instead, add the rankings in each category to see if that helps clear things up:

    6-Ol Donyo (1+6= 7)
    7-Saturday Nthe Park (2+7= 9)
    5-Girl Code (3+5= 8)
    2-Flash Forward (4+3= 7)
    3-Ruby Lips (5+4= 9)
    4-Toasting (6+1= 7)
    1-Let Me Entertain U (7+2= 9)

    It does. Ol Donyo, Flash Forward and Toasting are all tied for the best overall ranking (7) and, thus, using median past odds as the tie-breaker, the former would be the play, with Flash Forward the second choice and Toasting the third selection.

    The race finished 6-2-7, with Ol Donyo paying a generous $16.40 to win and the Ol Donyo-Flash Forward $2 exacta returning $37.40.

    Give this method a try on some races this weekend and see what you think—it’s fun, easy… and, at least on Friday at Belmont Park, profitable.

    Pace Profile Play of the Week

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Both my Pace Profile Report and Win Factor Report list Triple A. Rating as a vulnerable favorite, so I’ll try to beat him in both the win pool and the exotics. The horse I like the most is 4-SAILOR GULLY, a six-year-old gelding making just his second start since Sept. 14, 2011. Races at today’s distance (5 ½ furlongs) at Penn National are typically won by speed horses (surprise, surprise) and Sailor Gully may be the quickest of the quick. The son of Stormy Atlantic earned a -11 early speed ration (ESR) in his comeback race and held on well to finish third — on the turf, a surface that is most kind to horses with a late kick. The 70-day layoff since that race concerns me, but trainer Michael Pappada is top-notch, especially with horses dropping in class off of a good effort (40 percent wins in 15 tries).

    I’m also intrigued by 7-SMALL GIANT, who was claimed back by trainer David Wells for $6,250 after he lost him (via the claim box) for $4,000 to conditioner John Locke on Aug. 1. Small Giant has great tactical speed and has faced — and beaten — tougher in the past.

    Suggested Play(s): EXACTA 4,7 with 1,3,4,7.
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