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Aug 15, 2008

Betting Trainer Angle

By: Ray Taulbot

Many players believe that horse trainers are crooks. Instead of making their selections on the basis of sound handicapping and logic, they work with a presumptive idea that there is skullduggery in every race.

We have never experienced any difficulty in persuading racing fans that many trainers are clever manipulators. However, in those instances where racegoers believe something is being done to the detriment of the horse’s chances, we have found it difficult to convince them that the trainer may have a complex, but previously successful, angle in mind.

For instance, most racing fans believe that when a trainer raises his horse in claiming price, his action means that he is not sending the horse out to win, much less planning to back its chances with his own money.

Many trainers find it necessary to supplement their incomes from their training efforts by backing their horses under certain conditions. In short, they find themselves in need of added income, and while most trainers are not what can properly be termed big bettors, many of them do profit substantially from their wagering activities.

In order to do this, they must get good odds. This is necessary because every trainer knows there are no surethings, and consequently, they will surely lose some of their investments.

To offset these inevitable losses, odds become of great importance to the betting horseman. Few trainers, no matter how confident they may feel about the success of a given horse, will lay their own money on the line at odds of less than 4-1.

Thus, they have only two choices: (1) To crack down even when it appears that their horse is not yet ready for a good race. (2) To step up a clearly sharp horse in claiming price and thereby try to increase its odds.

Trainers are realists of the first order, and when they risk their own money, most of them prefer to confine their wagers to animals they know are razor sharp. And no man can be positive about the condition of his horse unless it has turned in a recent race that clearly reveals its sharpness.

While it is possible now and then to get a good price on a sharp horse when it is entered for the same price at which it was entered last start, trainers know that this does not occur often enough to warrant their waiting for such slots.

So in an effort to get acceptable odds on a sharp horse, one of their most common practices is to step the horse up a bit in claiming price following a good effort last start.

As a general rule, the factor which permits one to distinguish between a sharp horse that has been stepped up for further conditioning, and one that is well-meant and is being stepped up in order to increase its odds, is the date of the most recent race.

If a horse turned in a good race, say, 20 days ago and is entered today for a price higher than its entered price in its last race, it frequently means that the trainer is giving the horse a conditioning race. This applies especially to horses of the middle and lower claiming grades.

But when a horse that turned in a good race within the past 15 days is stepped up in claiming price, not more than 20 percent above its entered price last start, this usually means the sharp horse is well-meant and the trainer is after a price.

One should never lose sight of two facts: (1) Claiming prices are not a clear-cut measure of class. (2) A sharp horse of a lower grade can, and frequently does, defeat higher-class animals that are lacking in current sharpness.

To put it briefly, current condition is the one factor which accounts for more winners than any other single factor.

Those of you who like moderately good prices, and who would like to have your money riding on animals whose trainers may be backing them today, will be well-advised to rid yourselves of the idea that a step-up in claiming price is always strong evidence that the horse is not well-meant, or that it is positively outclassed.

Sometimes one will find two or more horses in a race that turned in a good race last start, all of which are being stepped up today in claiming price. When this occurs, the importance of the date of the last race must be kept in mind. This is the factor which reveals the trainer’s intention. If the horse’s race was more than 15 days ago, it is not a good risk. And in most instances the horse that has raced the most recently is the correct choice.

The cream of the crop are sharp horses whose last race was run within the past eight days. Such animals are almost always well-meant.

But here, again, one must use common sense. A difference of only one day between the date of the last race is, in some instances, offset by a clear-cut basic class advantage.

Under such circumstances a horse that raced last, say, 10 days ago may be the right choice over a horse that raced nine days back. The spread of one day is not alone sufficient basis for blindly going to the horse that has started most recently.

We are aware that these exceptions can become a bit puzzling at times. Nevertheless, they exist and must be mentioned if one is to derive full benefit from the following angle.

The basis of this angle is a step-up in claiming price following a good race last start. But this does not mean that every horse that is stepped up in claiming price today is worthy of consideration.

For example, a horse that was claimed last start is not acceptable for consideration because at most tracks a claimed horse must be entered for a tag 25 percent higher than the price at which it was claimed for a period of 30 days following the date of claim. Therefore, its step-up in price was not voluntary but was forced upon the new trainer.

Likewise, a horse that has not raced very recently is not a sound selection when moving up in claiming price because its lack of recent racing activity deprives us of any certainty regarding its current physical condition.

The following rules will guide you when making use of this trainer-betting angle:

1. Consider only those horses that are moving up in claiming price today.

2. Eliminate any horse that qualifies on Rule 1 if it was claimed last start.

3. Eliminate any horse that has not started within 15 days at the circuit where it is running today.

4. Eliminate any remaining horse that won both of his last two starts.

5. Finally, eliminate any contender that is entered to go more than one furlong farther, or one furlong less, than the distance it ran last start.

6. After making the above eliminations, any remaining contender that finished in the money and within five lengths of the winner last start is a final contender, provided it is not moving up more than 20 percent in claiming price today. If a horse was entered for less than $5,000 last start, it is considered a contender, provided it is not moving up more than $1,000 today; and if entered for less than $3,000 last start, it is considered a contender, provided it is not moving up more than $500 today.

7. The playable selection from among the contenders is the horse that has started most recently. If two horses have raced on the same date, choose the one going off at the highest odds today.

Life’s Dance g.7 1 1/16 miles $6,000

30Dec99 1 Lrl fst 1 1/8 Clm 5000 2no

9Dec99 2 Lrl fst 1 1/8 Clm 5000 210

11Nov99 5 Lrl fst 1 1/16 Clm 5000 36¾

For a perfect example look at the second race at Laurel on January 14, 2000 which was at 1 1/16 miles. The past performances of Life’s Dance are shown with all matters pertinent to the selection rules.

The gelding had finished second in his top race, 15 days ago and was moving up from $5,000 to $6,000 today. His switch from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/16 miles was less than one furlong. The only other money finisher in today’s race was dropping in class, leaving Life’s Dance as the only qualifier.

He won by 3½ lengths and returned $12.20 to win.

This angle produces a good percentage of winners at profitable odds. However, we suggest passing any race where the final selection is held at odds of less than 4-1. This suggestion is based on the fact that one needs good prices in order to develop a really worthwhile profit.

Now and then you may find a horse that finished fourth last start, defeated by less than two lengths. Such a horse can be played, provided it is the only qualified horse in the field.

This angle can prove highly profitable for the man who sticks to the qualifying rules.

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