Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
In recent years, little has changed about horse racing. The basic premise, as it was say 15 years ago, was one horse running faster than several others and someone placing a wager on him.
That’s still the name of the game, but playing the game has changed a bit.
Take trip handicapping. Back in the 1990s a trip handicapper needed a closet to store boxes of VCR tapes and a top-grade cable package.
Nowadays a trip handicapper in New York can follow races in California on a daily and scrutinize them for horses to watch simply by having an online wagering account. Most ADWs offer an extensive array of race replays so that handicappers can watch hundreds of races without adding to the clutter in your home.
Yet as accessible as replays have become these days, what to look for remains unchanged.
The key element in trip handicapping still involves spotting trouble and properly judging it.
For Bob Ehalt's Basics of Trip Handicapping piece, click here.
The mere fact that a horse ran into trouble in a race does not necessarily mean it will run well or better in his next race. A horse who is checked or stopped while finishing seventh might have been fifth with a clean trip. What good is that? Or it may have been tiring when the trouble occurred and would have finished off the board with or without an incident.
What matters most is finding horses that were truly hampered in a race and should rebound next time. For instance, if a horse is shut off at the top of the stretch then regains his best stride in the final furlong and closes quickly it’s usually a positive sign that a horse is in solid form and worth a close look next time when racing luck might even out.
Wide trips could also mask a good performance. A horse that makes a strong wide move has to cover more ground than a horse that hugs the rail and is more likely to tire in the stretch than the runner inside of him due to ground loss. Therefore, a horse who makes a promising middle move, even if it doesn’t pay off in the race, usually reflects an effort that’s better than it looks in terms of where a horse finishes.
There are dozens of other things that can go wrong in a race, and from a betting standpoint the most rewarding prizes are the obscure ones. While the results charts from Equibase usually reflect most of the action in a race, there might be times when your eye spots more trouble than the chartcaller. If you’re right, you can expect a nice payoff.
Let’s face it. If a horse’s result chart and past performances indicate he had trouble in the stretch you’re going to get lower odds than if his comment merely said “tired.”
Overall, the key element to remember in trip handicapping is that what matters most is not what happened in today’s race, but rather what will happen in tomorrow’s. That’s when the real payoff comes for having an astute eye.