A Dozen Playable Betting Angles

There’s tons of betting angles handicappers use to dope out a race. If you’re going through a rough patch betting the races, sometimes it makes sense to simplify your wagering and key in on a few simple angles. Here’s 12 tried and true betting angles I’ve used, but there’s tons more out there. Find out what works best for you.

1) 2nd or 3rd start off a layoff: Horses usually improve in their 2nd or 3rd start off a layoff (60 days or longer unraced). Alternatively, horses coming off very long layoffs (6 months or so) may not run to their normal form in the first race back.

2) Workouts: Look at workout times in relation to other horses working at the same distance. A horse’s relative ranking is more useful than the actual times as track conditions vary from day to day. Bullets (best time of the day at a certain distance) are a good sign and several bullet works indicate the horse is primed. Seeing that a horse was 1st fastest out of 5 is not as helpful a data point as seeing the 2nd fastest of 48. Location of the workout should also be considered; meaning bullet works at Penn National are usually less impressive than the 3rd fastest of 48 at Saratoga or Belmont.

 3) Changes in form: When a horse with consistent form improves suddenly, try to figure what caused the turn around. It could be a change in track surface, race distance, equipment (blinkers, shoes), etc. There’s usually an explanation and if you identify the cause, you can determine if the current race conditions will help or hurt the horse’s chances. For example, if a horse dramatically improved routing vs. sprinting and the next race is a route, you can assume the improved form will continue. On the other hand, if this is a sprint, a return to previous form is likely.

4) Horse for the course: Some horses, for whatever reason, run well at certain tracks. We’ve seen horses go 2 for 30 lifetime but were 2 for 2 at one specific track. Why? They may like the track’s surface, configuration, or even the general environment makes them feel more comfortable. Horse can be quirky and sometimes it’s hard to pin down exactly why they may like, or hate, certain tracks. Regardless, an exceptionally good record at a specific track should not be discounted.

5) Long-distance shippers bringing the jock: It’s a good sign when a horse ships in from far away and the regular jockey makes the trip as well. We’re not talking about shipping from Laurel to Philly Park. We’re talking about a trip requiring an airline ticket and a hotel. The longer the trip, the better I like the horse’s chances. For instance, if a horse ships from the UK and the Euro-based jockey comes along too; well that’s a long flight and the jock will be losing several mounts back home. You know they’re not traveling that far to pick-up $75 for running fifth.

6) First time Lasix: Handicappers believe horses improve noticeably when given lasix, a legal anti-bleeding medication, for the first time. You’ll usually see an “L” inside a dark circle in the program to indicate first time lasix. Almost all U.S.-based horses run on lasix, so this angle applies more to foreign shippers or lightly-raced horses. This isn’t a betting angle I live or die by, but many handicappers swear by its effectiveness.

7) Equipment changes: Example of equipment changes are things such as shoe changes or adding blinkers. Factoring in shoe changes is useful because a horse may not have handled the track well in previous races, but adding mud caulks may improve their performance by several lengths. Adding or removing blinkers usually changes a horse’s running style, too. For example, adding blinkers generally causes horses to show more early speed. In a race without horses that like to run on the lead, a horse adding blinkers has a shot of getting out front early and leading wire to wire.

8 ) Jockey switches off a winner: Let’s say a talented jockey rode a horse to victory in its previous race but decides to ride another horse instead. You must assume the jock, for whatever reason, thinks the new mount has a better chance. Maybe the jock has ridden both horses in morning workouts and knows which one is training well or has information indicating which mount has a better shot.

9) Conditional Trainer stats: We’re not talking stats for overall trainer wins but more detailed stats such as % of wins w/ first time starters, 2nd time starters, first time sprinters, turf to dirt, dirt to turf, sprinting to routing, off the claim, etc., etc. There’s nuggets of gold buried in these stats; get to know them and use them to your advantage.

10) Steady improvement: Say you notice that a particular horse gets better each race. The horse may be losing, but there’s consistent improvement. This is a especially good angle to play on younger horses as they continue to mature, add muscle, and grow into their frame. If you figure another step forward puts them in contention you may get a nice price.

11) Lone Speed: Pace handicappers love to find a race filled with stalkers and deep closers with one horse that likes to run on the lead. This is an especially good play if that horse is riding a losing streak or looks overmatched on paper. If they get left alone on the lead, setting modest fractions, they’ll be hard to catch in the stretch. Checkout today’s 8th race at Gulfstream – #8 DON CAVALLO was 15-1 on the morning line, but was the only entry with early speed. He faced a tough allowance field chock full of stakes winners, but he galloped out front on the lead and fought off rallying horses to win easily.

12) Calder shippers! I don’t play Calder much, however, shippers from Calder always seem to give a good account of themselves and outrun their odds. One theory is that Calder’s dirt track is deep and tiring on horses so when Calder horses ship to other tracks they have a conditioning advantage over their rivals. Even if speed figures indicate they’re over-matched, Calder shippers have a tendency to surprise when shipping to other tracks.

With only 3 minutes to post and money burning a hole in your pocket, these angles can be the difference between a smart play and a hopeless stab. Good luck!


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9 Responses to A Dozen Playable Betting Angles

  1. Nice article especially since I scanned yesterdays PP’s and saw Don Cavallo was lone speed with great workouts – and cashed out big time! The proof is in the pudding!

  2. Steve – Good stuff.
    I’m in favor of single-factor handicapping.

    re: workouts:
    Look at workout times in relation to other horses working at the same distance.
    Not only that…
    I’ve learned to compare the recent works of the horse to the previous times accomplished by the same horse at that distance/surface. It can reveal a bit more about the conditioning process when taken in context of the horse’s form cycle.

    Also, a out of the clouds closer with 35 4/5 breeze at Charles Town just has to be given a chance to hit the board at a price. Where did all that speed come from? Throw out the on-paper form as “something’s up”.

    Lots of good angles here that may be the key to unlocking a good wager. Using the right tools at the right time is what handicapping’s all about.

  3. Dylan J. says:

    Steve, these are all solid angles. One of my favorites is 2nd time turf and in particular 2nd time Suffolk turf. Its a really funky turf course and you get some nice prices on logical horses.

  4. GIZZIE says:

    some very good advice. Am a great believer on stickers on sloppy and muddy but an awful lot of tracks keep us in the dark. New York banned caulks May 1st 2009. Santa Anita took down their SHOE BOARD years ago. We ought
    to get together and demand they let us know.

  5. Steve says:

    Hey John, glad to hear you cashed on DON CAVALLO. For the same reasons (+ Castellano & Attfield), I singled him on top of the ex, tri, and super and went deep underneatch hoping to catch some bombs. DC won easily, but it would’ve been even better if GUYS REWARD finsihed off the board.

  6. Steve says:

    Thanks, believe your comment about using the “right tools at the right time” is key. You deserve kudos for your post on Equisbase’s new “stats central” a few weeks back.Very helpful info in there.

    “2nd time turf” is not one i’ve used before, in terms for looking for dramatic improvement on the grass next time out. In general, I avoid 1st time turf, unless there’s turf form in the pedigree. But now that you mentioned it, I’ll keep an eye out – Thanks for the local Suf angle.

    Great to hear from you. “Mud Caulks on” at AQU used to be a great angle. You could almost blindly bet a horse with caulks and get a winner at a price. Players should demand tracks make shoe info available – the “whales” usually know from local connections at the track, but not a weekend warrior like myself unless its posted. Maybe HANA can work this issue into their boycott.

  7. Steve – I just saw an article in the Times Union that was asking if handicapping classes existed. In my comments I recommended your article Dozen Playable Betting angles and posted a link for it , it was the perfect information the person was seeking. Just an FYI …

  8. Steve says:

    Thanks John, much appreciated!

  9. I’ll expound further on “angles” in the future as writing about handicapping is much needed in the blogosphere.

    At one point I was all about “angles”, but once I learned
    how each individual trainer handles their horses these angles became far more reliable.

    re: Calder shippers.
    Right now Marty Wolfson and David Fawkes often hit the board at at price when shipping out of Calder.
    These two are among the best shipping trainers in the game. That doesn’t mean all Calder shippers are potent. It’s just the subsets that make a lasting impression.

    Catch ya later and enjoy the big game.

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