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Oct 30, 2009

Are The Odds On Your Side?

By: Ray Taulbot

Every racing fan of any real experience knows that the prices their winners pay is of vital importance to their financial success. However, various handicapping writers have caused some confusion on this subject. A few authors have suggested that one should confine their wagers to horses that go postward at no less than 8-1; others have argued that the smart player never backs a horse that is held at odds of more than 4-1. Therefore, some racing fans are confused as to just what they should do about price.

The perfect selection method, of course, is one that produces a good percentage of winners at moderate prices, but which also points out a winner now and then at really high odds. It isn"t easy to find this happy combination.

It"s obvious that every horseplayer needs a high-priced winner now and then in order to help offset the losses incurred during a given period. The need for an occasional longshot winner is obvious because no matter how good their selection method is, or how efficient they may be as a selector, nearly all horseplayers will always back more losers than winners.

So it is clear that you can"t earn a steady profit if all of your winners are low-odds horsesóat least on a flat bet basis, and progression wagering can prove highly dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced operator.

The advice that one should stick to selections that go postward at 8-1 or more is mathematically sound, but such a demand limits a player"s wagering action severely. Further, such a requirement will usually result in a long string of consecutive losses, two facts which the average racing fan dislikes.

So is there a truly satisfactory answer to the price problem? We believe there is, but it involves the use of two methods for making a selection.

A brief example will serve to make this point clear. Suppose that your present method had been found to be entirely sound, but the prices paid by the winners are a bit on the low side as compared to the winning percentage.

Under such circumstances, the method will show a small profit. However, in order to earn an adequate return for your effort it is necessary to increase the amount of each wager to a level which may demand more capital than you have available. For instance, if the method shows a yearly net profit of $3,500 on a flat $10.00 wager, one would have to back each selection with a $30.00 wager in order to bring the yearly net up to a worthwhile figure.

The alternative to this scenario is to employ a longshot method in conjunction with one"s regular method of making selections. We"ll be emphasizing two criteria: 1) Make the odds demand for the longshot method 14-1 or more, which will rule out many of the plays the method would normally point out; 2) Find a system, if possible, that will point only a few plays each week at any one track. The latter will prove difficult to accomplish. Hence the odds demand of 14-1 or more is the more logical choice. The angle we"ll examine this month has served us nicely and should prove of help to you.

Several years ago, we noted that some horses that won and paid $30.00 and more followed a distinct odds pattern. We also noticed that most of these horses had moved up in class or claiming price last time out. On the day when we first noticed these factors, there were three high-priced winners at two different tracks. In every instance, the three horses won and paid $30.00 or more. This triggered our curiosity to the point where we could not resist checking back to see whether the same situation have prevailed in the past.

We soon discovered that the same thing had been happening with reasonable frequency in the recent past. But we noticed that when the odds today were less than 10-1, most of the qualified horses finished up the track.

This called for an examination of results charts and past performances for the previous year, and again we found the same pattern repeating itself. This convinced us that some trainers make a practice of raising a horse in class or claiming price one race before they intended to crack down.

We are not prepared to say why trainers sometimes do this; however, it appears to be done in the interest of improving the horse"s odds in its next start. This assumption is based on the fact that too frequently when such horses were held at moderate odds they failed to run in a successful or impressive race.

During the survey period, we watched the class factor to the extent of noting whether or not the horse was dropping in class or claiming price today. We found that in most instances the horse dropped in class or claiming price today. However, in some instances the horse went back for its trying effort at the same price for which it was entered last start, and in a few instances and under peculiar conditions a few of the winners went up in class again today.

This latter situation occurred usually in starter allowance and starter handicap races, where the events were conditioned for horses that had previously been entered for a claiming price. Technically, such horses were moving up from a claiming event into either an allowance or handicap race. In reality, the field was made up of nothing but claiming platers of a given grade.

However, we decided to confine our selections to qualified horses that were not moving up in class again today, accepting only those horses that were re-entered for a price identical to their last entered price and those that were dropping down today. This has caused us to miss some good longshots. Therefore, it is a question you should decide for yourself after making a check of no less than three months.

We have never set an exact rule about the odds between the next-to-last race and the most recent race. It is next to impossible to do so effectively, because when one compares the odds at which a horse was held in its next-to-last race with the odds at which it was held last time out, the figures are relative. For example a horse that was held at even money in its next-to-last race and at odds of 10-1 last time out represents an increase in odds of nine points.

Another horse that went off at 14-1 in its next-to-last race and 28-1 last time out represents and increase of 14 points. In the first example the horse"s odds last time out were 10 times as great as the odds in its next-to-last race, while in the latter example the odds were only twice as much.

Since we demand odds of 14-1 or more today, we do not believe that the exact ratio of the odds in the next-to-last and most recent races should be restricted to any specific figure.

Following are the selection rules to qualify a longshot selection.

1. The horse must have moved up in claiming price $1,000 or more last start if entered in a claiming race, or one full grade or more if it was entered in a non-claiming race in its next-to-last race.

2. The horse must have started at a major track within the past 30 days, and its last race must have been run over a major track if it is running today over a major course.

3. The horse must have finished in the money in its next-to-last race, or it must have been running first, second or third at the stretch call in its next-to-last race, being no more than 3 lengths off the leader at that point.

4. The horse"s odds in its most recent race must have been 10-1 or more and they must be at least two times higher than the horse"s odds in its next-to-last race.

5. The horse must not be moving up in class or claiming price today. It must be entered for the same class or at a lower class than its entered class last time out.

The odds today must be 14-1 or higher.

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