Handicapping For Free: Stakes Races

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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.

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Handicapping for Free: International Racing Information

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I love the USA, but I’m always open to new wagering opportunities, no matter what country I find them in. That’s why I was so chuffed to find out that I can play international races legally in the US. Because using offshore ADW’s is illegal, the only way you can play races from other countries is to use an ADW based in the US.

What’s really nice is that one of them, TwinSpires, offers free pp’s and other handicapping helpers for international races. One of the things I like about the Australian races is that I can win money while I’m sleeping and even play Wednesday’s races while it’s Tuesday here, because Australia is a day ahead of us.

True, it gets confusing sometimes, which is why it’s important when playing international races to pay close attention to the names of the entries to make sure you have the right race date. So, where can you get these pp’s? Well, they’re free on TwinSpires.

After you log into TwinSpires, just click on handicapping and scroll down to International Racing. Then click on International PP’s and you’ll see a long list of free pp’s for the current day and future. AUS (Australia), UK (Britain), IRE (Ireland), NZ (New Zealand), SWE (Sweden), SAF (South Africa) and MEX (Mexico) are all there with the dates that they’ll be running.

You do have to be aware of the time differences between the US and other countries, but they’re listed on the wagering page at TS.  Some countries list the time of the race instead of the number. For instance, the first race will be listed as “the 1:35 at Aintree”, rather than Race 1 in results and entries.

Most of the international races are thoroughbred races, although the UK, Ireland and a few other countries have races with hurdles or jumps, like the National Hunt in the UK. You can still handicap them, but it’s trickier. On the other hand, I enjoy watching the hurdle and steeplechase races, because they’re longer and more exciting and depend more on strategy and timing than speed.

Sweden has harness racing and it’s not anything at all like what we’re used to here. The start is like a cross between synchronized swimming and a mob of shoppers when the doors open at Walmart on Black Friday. Don’t ask me how they know when to start and, apparently, some of them don’t know either, because there is very often more than one restart until they get it right. Interesting and entertaining to watch though and there are free selections for the Swedish races in the International Racing section at TwinSpires.

So, if you’d like a change from the NYRA and West Coast tracks in the US, get yourself a free pp and some free handicapping info at TwinSpires and give it a whirl. Many foreign tracks accept $1 bets, so you can have a lot of fun for chump change. I find that watching and playing races from different countries actually sharpens my handicapping skills. I guess it’s true that “a change is as good as a rest” when it comes to handicapping success.

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