Jul 01, 2005
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
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
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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