Handicapping logic dictates that in any given race, you need to
analyze the entrants in comparison to one another. But sometimes it is easier
to stick with a horse you know than to try and figure out the particulars of a
It is often hard to stick with a single horse
through thick and thin and expect to make money at the windows. If the horse
strings together a win streak, it will generally offer dwindling odds. And if
the horse is inconsistent, it is hard to lose, wait for weeks, and bet the
horse again. But if you can catch a predictable over-achiever early on in his
or her career, you have a pattern that you can follow for a horse’s entire
Beyond the obvious phenoms like Zenyatta,
Cigar, or Personal Ensign, there is another group of rare horses that win
frequently enough to beg serious attention. When well placed at competitive
levels, a seasoned racehorse can string together a high percentage of wins. Any
horse that can manage to win one out of five starts (20%) is a consistent sort.
The rare competitor that can win one out of three starts (33%) deserves
exceptional status. Plus their two losing efforts (on average) can mask their
ability to win and result in higher-than-deserved odds.
No doubt it is very difficult to measure a horse’s
will to win. But for wagering purposes, consistent victory is preferable to
consistently finishing close to the winner. It is almost irrelevant how poorly
a horse runs when losing as long as it can return to the winners circle over a
sizable number of outings. A good benchmark is at least eight outings over a
one-year period. However, this is not a rule etched in stone. Many horses are
able to consistently win over a lengthy career despite racing infrequently.
And the question of value is sure to arise
when planning to invest in horses that make a habit of winning. A horse that
wins one race in three must average a $6.00 win mutuel just to break even.
The betting public usually prefers to play
runners from top connections. Good recent form or not, certain horses are
ignored by the betting public simply because today’s contenders look stronger
in comparison. Nevertheless, horses that know how to find the winners circle
often out-gain seemingly speedier opponents. Remember, price horses can come in
many forms. Some win off layoffs over and over again. Others race often and
manage to be in contention every time, even when they appear overmatched. Find
a horse that can consistently outperform its longshot odds, and you can
consistently set up worthwhile exotic opportunities as well as value plays in
the win pool.
Just as important as spotting overachievers,
it is critical to play against underachievers. This column has previously
written at length about avoiding horses that are chronic losers. These horses
are among the most tempting yet least profitable plays at the track. Many
racehorses tend to ‘hang’, meaning they do not pass rivals in the stretch and
run second or third over and over again. So despite having the fitness to
finish close to the winner, such horses are a group to bet against with
enthusiasm. Another plus is these money-burners are particularly enticing to
speed figure handicappers, who are enchanted by their never-ending series of
competitive figs. Such runners are all
too often over-bet in relation to their infrequent visits to the winner’s
circle. This angle allows the handicapper to back competitors with confidence. Gutsy
frequent winners are exactly the kind of athlete that chronic losers just don’t
Requirements For Sticking With An
The horse has
won 1/3 or more of his or her starts in the last two years.
– The horse has
started at least eight times per year, or demonstrated ability to consistently
win, even with an abbreviated racing schedule.
– Factor in the
odds and actual chance of winning. Some horses that fit this angle are often
heavy favorites, which narrows the expected profit margin.
– Give extra
credit if the race favorite is a chronic loser that will not outcompete a
Be sure to
check out Dean Arnold’s handicapping book, A Bettor Way, on sale now through Amazon.