Some of the most exciting races and those with the biggest purses are stakes races. Whether you play greyhounds, harness or thoroughbreds, you might want to think about following the stakes schedule for your favorite sports. That way, you can play the best horses and dogs in the best races.
Some people think that stakes races are a waste of time, because the big favorites are big favorites for a reason and win and don’t pay anything. Not so, says the handicapper who had Princess of Sylmar when she won the 2013 Kentucky Oaks at odds of 38.80 to 1. And since I had her in a double with Orb in the Kentucky Derby, I also got an additional payoff of $621 and change.
If I recall, I played her because of the pace of the race and the track conditions, which made her a better bet than the “lead pipe cinch”, Dreaming Of Julia at 1.50-1 odds, that everyone knew was going to win. And this is how you can benefit from playing stakes races. Find a race with a big favorite that shouldn’t be a big favorite in that particular race, even though it’s a very good entry.
So, where can you find stakes schedules, free pp’s and stakes information? For thoroughbreds, Equibase is a good place to start. On their front page, they have a list of today’s stakes races. Click on a stakes race and you’ll go to the entries for that race. When you get there, click on “Entries Plus” and you’ll get more handicapping information.
At Entries Plus, there’s also the option to click on “Off To The Races”, which is has selections and suggestions for bets for each race on the card where the stakes race is taking place. At the top of each race, there’s a “fun” bet based on a hunch factor, like a horse that’s the only grey in the race or the horse that has won the most races.
Underneath the “hunch bet”, you’ll find their selections and how they think you should bet them. Like any other free selections, there are days when you get what you pay for here. But a lot of the time, when it comes to stakes races, they do pretty well. Or you can rely on your own handicapping with the help of Entries Plus or your own favorite handicapping tool.
For harness, Trackmaster has a section where they offer free pp’s from a list of harness tracks for stakes and feature races. They call it Strategic Wagering and it’s part of the USTA and Trackmaster’s efforts to get more people interested in harness racing by giving them the information they need to hit exotics, such as Pick 4′s, Pick 5′s and Pick 6′s.
For each of that day’s featured tracks, they offer all the pp’s in the Pick 4, Pick 5 or Pick 6 series, which are often anchored it with a stakes or feature race. Free harness pp’s aren’t as easy to get as free thoroughbred pp’s are, so this is a good chance to do some handicapping without spending a dime on programs.
For greyhounds, a sport where programs are always free, Greyhound News is the place to go for stakes race info, both future and for that day. There are often links to articles about the stakes, especially if they’re part of a series, which is often the case in dog racing. Jeff Prince always writes about stakes races at Palm Beach and so does Gary Dura when Dubuque is running.
I like to play thoroughbred and harness stakes races because the same horses, trainers and jockeys or drivers participate in the big races. I can follow them easily, because they’re in the news on all the major racing sites. If you haven’t paid attention to the stakes races because you think you can’t make money on them, remember Princess of Sylmar’s upset victory last year. You can bet your bottom dollar that there will be more than one similar upset this year, and you can have a ticket on it if you take advantage of the free stakes handicapping info mentioned above.Share