Speed figures are important and a great aid in handicapping horse races. But there are times when you have to go beyond speed figures, and look at other factors. One thing that stands out above all others as a handicapping factor is whether or not a horse has competed at today’s level and was competitive.
You just can’t hide success, but as amazing as it may sound, many people will deny it exists or completely overlook it. When I am trying to decide which runners are the real contenders in a race, I look at what they have accomplished recently and also who they have run against.
If you follow a track for a while bazinga you get an idea of some of the horse’s abilities. For instance, if you know that horse A beat horse B in three races in the past, you’ve got a pretty good idea of who the better horse is. Things may change that situation sometimes, such as an injury or going sour on racing, but overall, on horse has proven itself to be the better horse.
In other situations, you can just look at the class level a horse has run at and know that it is competitive with today’s runners no matter how they may rate in the speed fig column. Here is an example of a horse with mediocre speed figures but a definite contender against horses with higher speed figs…
In the first race at Golden Gate Fields on November 19th, 2008, the Thisonesforbart, a five year old mare, was racing for the claiming price of $5,000. She had raced at that level in her two previous races and managed to run within 2 1/2 lengths or better of the winner in each outing. Her efforts earned her a 3rd place finish in the second race back and a 2nd place finish in her most recent effort. Adding Thisonesforbart’s speed figures in those two races and comparing the total to every other horse in today’s race found that she had the slowest average time.
Of the field of seven, it appeared that Thisonesforbart was the slowest horse. The public bought into that theory and she went off at 22-1. La Misteriosa did win the race with Russell Baze up in the irons and paid $5.40 for the win. Since Russell Baze is so good at what he does, it is hard to get a good price on anything he rides, but the exacta with Thisonesforbart in second place paid $31.90 for every dollar wagered. That was a great return for a horse who had shown that she could compete at that level and show up in the exacta.
This was so obvious I couldn’t believe it happened despite watching the same scenario play out for years. The horse was only being asked to do what she had already proven she could do and yet she went off as a long shot. Thisonesforbart paid $14.60 for the place ticket and $7.40 for the show. The point is, don’t be fooled by speed figures and look beyond them when doing your handicapping. It is hard to find a value play based on speed figures, but in the right situation, when going against the crowd and speed figures, you can make some very nice plays.
Bill Peterson is a former horse race owner and professional handicapper. He comes from a horse race handicapping family and as he puts it, “Horse Racing is in my blood.” To see all Bill’s horse racing material go to http://williewins.homestead.com/handicappingstore.html – Bill’s handicapping store. 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 handicaps just go