Because the best jockeys generally ride more than one horse and usually will have the choice to ride the horse that the jockey and his or her agent thinks has the best chance of winning, it can help to identify the best jockeys and see if they choose a particular horse in a race. If a specific race has more than one horse that a top jockey typically rides, the jockey generally will choose the horse that he or she considers most likely to be the top finisher. A truly elite jockey will win consistently due to the ability to know the horses being ridden and choose the one that has the greatest potential for winning. If a bettor has a favored horse that a top jockey normally rides but that jockey chooses to ride a different mount in the same race, the horse not being ridden likely is the weaker of the two and should be avoided.
About horse racing handicapping
Whether betting at the track, at an off-track betting joint, online or at a race and sportsbook in Nevada or Atlantic City, the way wagers are laid always is the same. Most places offer options for bettors that range from standard betting windows manned by ticket writers, using automated betting kiosks, betting online or possibly using a handheld device. In Nevada, many race books and sportsbooks now have betting apps for smartphones and tablet devices that enable people to wager from a pool of money deposited earlier, and many race tracks and other betting facilities have online websites where bettors can deposit funds and wager their money on tracks across the country. For beginning bettors of horse racing, it is best to avoid the betting kiosks and electronic devices until gaining a firm understanding of the various betting types.
When laying a simple straight bet on a horse to win, place or show, every race book in the nation and online handles the wager in the same way, so bettors must state the wager in the proper order. The first thing the race book needs to know is the venue followed by the specific race, amount being wagered, the number assigned to the horse in that race and the type of bet. If you want to bet $5 on the number five horse to win the third race at Hollywood Park in California, you need to tell the ticket writer: “Hollywood Park; third race; $5 on horse number five to win.”
The ticket writer will write up the bet, take your money and return any change due. While still at the window, quickly look over the ticket to ensure the bet is what you want and then wait for the race to begin. If laying an exacta or trifecta bet, the wager mostly is laid the same way, only the horse numbers must be stated in the order of finish unless doing a box exacta or trifecta, in which case the order of finish does not matter. A $5 exacta on the same race with horse number seven chosen to finish second to horse number five would be stated as: Hollywood Park, third race, $5 on horses five and seven, exacta.
Whenever approaching a betting window and especially when it’s close to post time, bettors have to know what they are doing, lay their bets quickly and accurately and then move on so the next person can lay his or her bets. Nothing will anger other bettors more than having someone taking up a lot of time asking silly questions, looking for betting advice from the ticket writer and handicapping at the window. Bets need to be laid as fast as possible and tickets checked for accuracy before leaving the window, and the entire time spent at the betting window should not be more than about 30 seconds and less if possible. If betting only one race, it should not take more than about 15 seconds to lay a wager and get out of the way. The longer it takes to lay a bet, the greater the possibility that the racing odds might change due to betting action and the angrier others waiting in line will become.
During relatively inactive periods when there are few if any bettors at windows and there are ample open windows, bettors have the opportunity to ask the ticket writers questions about how to lay exotic bets and other wagers. If the ticket writer is friendly and not busy, he or she generally won’t mind sharing some betting information, especially if it means more efficient wagering and more money coming in afterward. If another bettor steps in line behind you, it’s time to end the conversation and move away so that the next person can lay a bet and the race track or race book can take in as much cash as possible. Getting to know more skilled and experienced handicappers also can help provide insights into betting methods and help to advance the knowledge and handicapping skills of beginning race bettors.
Handicapping horses requires knowing how they tend to run during a race and what to expect from them compared to others in the field. Some horses run at top speed all the time and may or may not have the stamina to finish strongly. Some horses typically will stay in reach of frontrunners until near the end of the race while others might lag far behind, saving energy for a hard charge during the final leg. When aware of how a horse runs, a handicapper has a greater probability of picking one or more horses that will enable them to cash winning tickets. How a horse runs also is affected by the jockey and strategy being employed by the trainer to give the horse the best chance at winning. But horses still are willful animals and like other animals will exhibit particular traits, running styles included. The influence of training and how the jockey handles the horse during the race have significant impacts, but the horse’s running style always will be a large factor in race results.
A horse that likes to be at or near the front of the pack and often times competes for the lead early in a race is known as a “front-runner.” Front-runners typically start out very strong and can finish strongly if they are in excellent shape, and tracking their recent workouts and race results can help to determine if they are in good physical condition or might be recovering from an injury and be out of shape. Front-runners typically do best in races where they are the only front-runners and can get out to a large early lead and finish well ahead of the pack. When challenged by other front-runners, the horses might push themselves too hard and fade at the end when they tire out. Shorter races can prove beneficial to front-runners, but when in excellent shape, they can do well in longer events, too.
Usually behind the front-runners early in the race are the “stalkers,” which are horses that pace themselves early on but stay within reach of the front-runners. When the front-runners tire, the stalkers often times have enough energy to make a late hard charge for the win. Stalkers and front-runners both can be strong runners and could push themselves too hard through the early and middles stages of a big race. When that happens, both types of horses can tire at the end, although if a stalker is in good condition and has saved some energy for the final leg, a hard charge could propel the horse to a win. If there are too many stalkers, it is possible for the horse to get boxed in by others and likely will wind up finishing out of the money. Stalkers tend to do well in medium to long races where front-runners are more likely to tire.
When it comes to creating greater competition among race horses and to make the outcomes more predictable, particularly in lower levels of horse racing, many tracks will “handicap” a horse by making it carry a heavier weight to slow it down some and help to make the field more competitive. The race secretary at a host track will go over the field and assess the capabilities of each horse and then decide how much extra weight it must carry as a handicap. The stronger and faster a horse is, the more weight it will have to carry with many tracks limiting the total to 130 pounds. The additional weight carried is called an “impost” and includes the weight of the jockey and saddle as well as the additional amount of weight needed to reach the impost mark. To add weight, lead weights carried in pocketed saddle pads generally are used The race secretary assesses a horse’s size, age and racing history among other factors when determining the handicap weight.
Because of how fast a horse matures physically, weights are necessary to allow younger, weaker horses to compete against their slightly older, stronger and faster counterparts. When a horse reaches two years of age, it has reached about 95 percent of its peak growth and strength. But it will be fully mature physically when it is at the end of its second year, which means horses that are closer to three years of age generally are stronger and faster than horses that are six to 12 months younger. Because age plays such a large factor in how well younger horses run, thoroughbred horse races will use a mostly standardized “Weight for Age” scale. The scale was created in England during the 1860s and takes into account a horse’s exact age, gender, race distance and the month of the year when determining how much of an impost to place on horses. The longer the race distance, the more of a natural handicap younger horses have due to their younger, less developed bodies.