Refine Your Handicapping Like This

This is a guest post from well-known horse racing handicapper Bill Peterson, used with his permission, of course.

Wading through the pile of horse racing handicapping factors and the information available for each race is a monumental task. That being said, you really need to refine the information you use to form an opinion. It’s not enough to see that the trainer has a 20% win average. You have to ask yourself, where did those wins come from? If the trainer has a 20% win average overall, but a 25% win average with horses entered in dirt sprints, it means little to you if the race you’re handicapping is a turf route.

When researching the trainer of the horse look at the number of races that trainer has entered and see if the conditioner has a preference. There are some trainers who are well known for their prowess as a grass trainer but who struggle with horses racing on dirt. The same is true when it comes to the age of the horse. Some are very good at preparing young horses and bringing youngsters to the races ready to run, but those same trainers struggle to win with older horses.

While it matters whether there seems to be a pattern you must also consider how many opportunities the conditioner has with each kind of race. If the venues where the trainer keeps horses have a lot of grass races then he may seek horses that race well on turf and owners who have such horses. If the trainer races in the North during the colder months it’s obvious that there won’t be many opportunities to race on the grass.

Fillies are perhaps the most difficult race horses to manage because their mental and emotional state is changeable. They easily become discouraged in a race and will sometimes go from running well in one race to sulking in the next. That’s the reason some trainers are better than others with young female horses.

It takes a special trainer to keep a peaceful and settled atmosphere in the barn and during training in order to instill calmness and a sense of purpose in young female horses. Check the stats on wins with two year olds and three year olds and also ascertain how well the trainer does with fillies and mares. When you handicap take nothing for granted and don’t accept trainer or jockey stats unless they relate specifically to the gender and age of the horses in the race as well as the distance and surface of the race.


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Saratoga and Del Mar Free Picks

Nothing says summer to a handicapper like reading that Saratoga and Del Mar are opening. This year, Del Mar started yesterday, Wednesday July 19th. Saratoga starts this Friday. I like handicapping both of them, because they have the best horses, jockeys, and trainers in the US and from all over the world. Saratoga, especially, has the best turf racing of the turf season, I think. The large fields make for some large payoffs. There’s a reason that Saratoga is called “The Graveyard of Favorites” and I’m a longshot player. (Be aware, however that, overall, favorites win quite often at Saratoga. Maiden and stakes races have a high percentage of winning favorites.)

Del Mar is more laid back than Saratoga, starting with the video of the beach across the highway that shows up on the simulcast feed. Dogs fetch frisbees and people with boogie boards catch a wave or lounge on beach towels. It’s a completely different vibe from any other track and it has some world class racing too.

Both of these tracks have relatively short seasons and horses ship in from all over the place, which makes it hard to handicap the races. For this reason, I’m glad that both tracks have handicappers who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise, sometimes for free. I read the free pick pages at these tracks, not just to find likely horses to play that day. I also read them to get nuggets of information that I store away for future reference.

If you’d like to gain some knowledge about these summer venues, here are links to free picks at Del Mar . Some of the handicappers give out a full card of picks and some have a free pick to interest you in their paid picks.

For Saratoga, there are individual handicappers on different sites who provide free and paid picks. You might want to start with the NYRA site, which is the official Saratoga portal. When you’ve watched Talking Horses and read the Timeform USA picks, you might want to head on over to Kevin Cox’s website for some free information and picks. He lives “within a stone’s throw” of the Spa, as he puts it, and he knows a lot about the behind the scenes happenings that the average bettor just isn’t privy to.

One of my favorite Saratoga handicappers is Saratoga Phil. He’s come up with quite a few longshot picks that hit the board over the time that I’ve followed him, and specializes in NY tracks. His picks are free and he obviously posts them because he loves the tracks and the sport of handicapping.

One of these days I’d like to visit both of these tracks. Until that happens, I’ll enjoy watching the surf at Del Mar and the turf at Saratoga, especially if a few of my longshot plays come in.

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