What Makes Horses
Win Races?

There are literally dozens of reasons why horses win races. Some results are obvious to many while some leave most players scratching their heads in disbelief.

A longshot winner could be the result of something as simple as a horse preferring a particular surface, such as grass or "off-going."

In the case of most valuepayoffs, howver, it is most likely due to a certain "move" a horse had made in one or more of his last few outings.

In reality there are a lot of primaryfactors that contribute strongly toa horse's success on a given day, but in my opinion if we focus on 3 of them, we can get more than our share of valuepayoffs.

First of all, why do you think so many favorites LOSE? Since the advent of speed figures, namely the Beyer speed figures that are published in the Daily Racing Form, the percentage of winning favorites has increased from around 32% to about 35%.

That still translates into 65 losing favorites out of every 100 races! And we can be quite certain that a good number of these favorites had the best last-out speed figure. So why do they lose so often? The answer can be stated in two words...pace shape.

If a horse has the wrong running style for the pace shape of the race in which it is competing, its chances are compromised; often, enough to cause it to lose the race.


Here's an example. Let's say we're looking at a 6F race at Aqueduct and we know that such races tend to favor early speed types. As a matter of fact, 6F races anywhere normally tend to favor early speed types.

At least they favor horses who normally run within a few lengths of the lead during the first 2 quarters of the race.

Now let's say that we have a favorite in our example race going from the 8-hole, and that he has a strong edge in last-out speed figures.

Our post-time favorite is a presser, or a horse that likes to run anywhere from 3 to 5 lengths off the lead during the first half mile of the race before coming on in the stretch.

In many scenarios, this horse would have a good chance for the win, especially if he is in form, as shown by his past performances and speed figures.

This horse has just run a Beyer speed figure of 86, which is short of his lifetime number of 95 and the way he ran his last race, along with the fact that his previous few Beyers were in the same neighborhood, would lead us to believe that he could certainly move forward and not react to or "bounce" from his last effort.


Now let's examine the hypothetical field. It's a field of 9 with the following running styles from top to bottom, and as stated, our favorite is a P runner, going from the 8-hole:

EP, P, EP, P, S, P, S, P, P.

This is a pace shape of EP-EP and a race shape of honest. But as can be seen, there are only 2 early types versus 7 late.

As a rule of thumb, the category with the fewer number, either early or late, tends to have the pace advantage. So in this case with only 2 out of 9 being early, the 1-horse and the 3-horse would normally havethe best chance to win this race, based solely on its pace shape.

Let's say the 1-horse, at 6-1 has a definite early advantage over the 3-horse, not to mention the rest of the field.

Even though he has not gone wire-to-wire lately, he does so today, and the strong-looking favorite #8 is only able to get the place money with a late run at odds of 6-5.

This scenario plays out at tracksall over North America, if not daily then multiple times per week.


So the first of the Big 3 handicapping factors I consider to be most important is Pace Shape. The second is what I have tabbed "Moves-Within-a-Race." These are moves that a horse usually makes in his last outing, but they could goback as far as his 3rd race prior.

Occasionally a horse will make a "move" and then find himself in a situation in which he cannot fire in his nextouting, such as an off track or unfavorable pace shape.

In such cases, he may simply run aneven race and finish off the board,only to "fire" in his next tryfrom the energy-producing move he had made in his prior effort.

Yes, I said energy-producing move,and I would guess you have neverheard that term used before.It's my belief that horses deriveenergy from "moves-within-a-race".Energy that can immediately transform them from also-rans intostrong next-out performers, oftenat great value.

Strong examples of such being the2 whopping longshot winners I speakof and offer past performances foron the home page of this website.

Moves can occur either by happenstance or they can be orchestrated by the trainer and jockey, the latter of which happens more often than many players think.

The distinct and separate moves I look for and which are described and illustrated in detail in my book, "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level", are the Profile play, the Wide Out play, the WIR move, the SRE move, the T/M play, the Pattern playand the Double Play.


Three of these moves result in a poor speed figure and as such nearly always guarantee an overlay payoff when they win because theyoften lose ground from the top of the stretch to the finish.

To get a better idea of the chances of any of these plays, it's always wise to examine the pace shape andrunning styles of the race in which they will be running.


The 3rd and final handicapping focusarea I stress is "Internal Fractions Comparison", and like the other 2, this can point out hidden advantages that result in overlay payoffs.

Anyone interested in this indispensableand key area of handicapping may want to read the unfinished addendum to my book that partially covers this subject (for sprints only).

To view and/or print this addendum,the finished product of which is included in "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level", you may Click Here


I don't know if you fall into this category, but when I'm at the track I hear players all the time talking about how there are so few good plays to befound anymore.

They say that since the arrival of speed figures and computer handicapping programs, there are too many savvy players around.

I'm here to tell you...not so. All youhave to do is check the results at thetrack of your choice and you'll see a parade of value winners.

Although some of these winners are a result of factors we can't really zeroin on, such as primed and ready first-time starters, horses ready to popoff a long layoff, horses going on the turf for the first time with no apparentgrass breeding, etc., we certainly canget our share of the 65% of non-favoriteswho romp home value winners.

Especially if we exercise patience and discipline and wait for the match ups in which we can get a bead on all the entries.

All we have to do is understand the key reasons why horses win races and then locate the value plays; the playsthat are virtually "invisible" to ourcompetition.


To read about all the features andbenefits of "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level",which describes in detail why horses winraces, pleaseClick Here




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