Overcoming Bad Post Positions in Greyhound and Horse Races

Don’t you hate it when you find a good bet and it’s in a bad post position? For instance, you see a puppy from a litter that you’ve been watching and winning with, but he’s in the 6 box and he runs the rail. Or you’re at a half-mile harness track and you handicap to find the best horse and it’s in the 8 post. Or you’re playing Saratoga thoroughbreds and there’s a horse in an inside post in a turf sprint. Should you play these bets, knowing that the odds are against them?

Well, you could skip races where your pick is in an unfavorable post position. Or, if you’re like me, you could take a closer look and see what they have going for them to overcome it. The first thing I look for in greyhounds is their record in that box, or the box to the outside of it. Or, if it’s the 6 box, I look to see how they did in the 7 box. I don’t look at how they did in the 8 box, because that gives them the advantage of not having another dog to the outside of them.

If the dog I like, who’s in the 6 box today, did well from that box or the 7 box, AND if it has good early speed, I give it another look. If it’s a puppy with only a couple of races, that’s about all I can go on, except to see if it had trouble-free races so far. If it got into a lot of trouble in previous races from more advantageous positions, then I give it a miss in today’s race. If it’s an older dog with a good racing record – 30% for wins and over half the time in the quiniela – I usually play it.

With harness races on half-mile tracks, post position is really important. It takes a very good driver and horse to overcome the bias that the inside horses have. (On longer tracks,  7/8ths and a mile, post position bias sometimes shifts to the mid track horses and almost disappears at some mile long tracks.) So, if my standardbred pick is in the 6 post, I look at the driver’s win percentage. If it’s 15 percent or more and the trainer has a good win percentage and the horse has won or placed from an outside post before, I play it.

With thoroughbreds at Saratoga, I don’t play the 1 post in turf sprints. Period. I’ve looked at the stats and they just don’t come in. However, if there’s a horse I like in the 2 or 3 post, once again, I go by the jockey’s stats. If he wins at least 15% of the time, I consider him a contender, but I still have to look at the horse’s stats and its early speed. If it doesn’t have any, I don’t play it. What I like to see in these inside posts is a horse that gets out well and runs in a middle lane, on or near the lead, and who has some closing kick as well.

If it has John Velasquez, one of the Ortizes or Javier Castellano on it, that doesn’t hurt. If it’s trained by Pletcher or Chad Brown or one of the other trainers who’s at the top of the Saratoga stats, that doesn’t hurt either. And if the horse has won at Saratoga before, I definitely consider it, because Saratoga is a unique track where the best horses are the ones who’ve proved that they can handle its quirks.

One of the few upsides of bad post position is that you can get some good prices on runners who are in bad posts, if the crowd realizes that the post positions are bad ones. You rarely see a horse go off at less than 5-2 in the 1 post in turf sprints at Saratoga, for instance. And the 8 horses at half-mile tracks don’t usually take a lot of betting action.

So, use your judgment and the other stats to decide whether a runner can overcome a poor post position and you might find yourself cashing a nice ticket on a contender that had what it takes to beat the odds.

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Winning At the Dog Track With A Clue

This week at the track, I was standing in line ready to place a bet. The guy in front of me, who’d been reading his program while we stood there waiting, plunked his program down on the counter, ran his fingers over the dogs’ lines and said to the clerk,

“So who do you like to win this?”

The tote just said, “I’m sorry, sir, I can’t advise you.”

“That’s too bad,” the guy said, “Because I don’t have a clue.”

And he stood there reading his program until the tote told him he had to bet because there were other people behind him. He moved his head up and down, his eyes scanning the page and then he made three or four tri-key and tri-wheel bets. By that time, I think he’d raised the blood pressure of everyone in line and the tote’s too. But I didn’t mind.

I always feel better when I know that I’m betting against people who don’t have a clue and won’t do anything about getting one. These are the people who don’t get a program until they get to the track, about ten minutes before the first race goes off or even after it’s gone off.

They’re the people who don’t make up their mind what they’re going to bet until they’re standing in line or even up at the window. Then they make a spur of the moment decision based on a quick look for the dog with the early speed or the one who has the most First To Turns or one who is “due” because it hasn’t won for a few races.

Some of them could probably be good handicappers if they settled down and got there early and went over the program in more depth. Sometimes they remind me of one of my kids who has ADHD. When he’s doing his homework, he skims right over it, missing half the facts, because he wants to get it over with quickly so he can do something fun. He doesn’t do very well on tests, even though he’s a smart kid who would like to get better grades. Sometimes, he even asks me for answers so he won’t have to look them up. (I don’t give them to him, but he keeps trying.)

The bettors who skim their programs really fast, so they can get to the fun part – winning – are like my kid. They want the prize without the fight. They want someone to give them the answers. They want to skip right over the boring handicapping part and get to the winning part. And that’s why they never get there. It’s like thinking you can get to college without getting good grades in high school.

Don’t be clueless. Get your program early. Go over it in as much depth as you can. Keep records so you’ll know whether what you’re doing is working or not. Don’t ask other people for picks. That’s as bad as using the tip sheets that everyone and his brother is using.

Most of all, please, please don’t get in line while you’re still deciding what to bet. If you can’t decide in time to bet without handicapping in line, you should lay off the race and spend the time handicapping the rest of the program so that you do better on those races.

Get a clue or better yet several clues. Handicapping greyhound races is like solving a crossword puzzle or a math problem. The more clues you have, the more likely it is that you’ll solve it and win at the track. Get all the information you need to crack the code at the dog track.

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