Winning Horse Racing Handicapping Angles

Horse Racing Tips – Winning Horse Racing Handicapping Angles – Part 1
By Kenneth Strong of

The horse racing tips and handicapping angles below should be checked every time you handicap a race. What you’re looking for is an edge on handicappers and bettors who fail to go beyond basic handicapping.

While some of your competition in the betting pools will rely only on betting tips, touts, house numbers and the like, preferring to perform no handicapping at all before they make a bet, you can be sure that anyone who is more than just a casual punter will use factors such as class, current form, Beyer Speed Figures and trainer patterns to separate the contenders from the non-contenders.

But the aforementioned factors are rarely good enough to smoke out a winner at a nice price these days. If the winner is obvious after basic handicapping has been performed, the odds will reflect that, and generally make the horse an underlay or poor betting proposition.

A search through the past performances for the handicapping angles below should be incorporated into your handicapping regimen on a regular basis until it becomes second nature to you. These simple angles can be valuable in tough races in which it is difficult to separate the contenders from the non-contenders. If you happen to find two or more angles applying to the same horse you may have found yourself an excellent bet.

And occasionally – a horse will jump off the page at you and scream - Bet Me!

No kidding.

Winning Horse Racing Handicapping Angles – Part 1

Handicapping Angle #1 - Maiden Special Weight to Maiden Claiming

A drop in class from Maiden Special Weight races to Maiden Claiming races produces one of the most profitable betting scenarios in horse racing, even if the horse has shown absolutely nothing in the Maiden Special Weight races. If the horse was close to the pace, went off at odds lower than 10-1 or experienced some degree of trouble in its Maiden Special Weight races, it should be given even more consideration. Regardless, because the class drop is often steeper than it looks on paper, and because the horse now has some racing experience, it has to be given extra consideration. Surprisingly, these droppers often go off at excellent odds.

Handicapping Angle #2 – Dropping Speed

A horse dropping in class, that has also shown speed at the higher class level, can be one of the best bets in racing. Even if unable to get the lead at the higher class level, if the horse was able to stay within three lengths of the pace at the first and/or second calls of the race, it can be a major contender on the class drop. And the cheaper the race, the more dangerous the dropping speed will be. While early speed is always an advantage, it tends to be much more powerful in the cheaper, shorter races, especially maiden claiming races. The drop in class after facing faster fractions and better horses is often just what the horse needs to find the winner’s circle. If the horse has been showing speed and stopping badly in all its races, the class drop might not be enough, but these kind can and do come back to win every day at good odds.

Handicapping Angle #3 – Lone Speed

A horse able to get the lead by itself is an exceptionally good bet no matter what the class or distance. Horses with speed simply win more races than come-from-behind types, much more than their share. While lone speed is more effective in shorter cheaper races, it is also effective in higher class races and route races. Horses coming from behind are always at a disadvantage behind a lone speed horses able to relax on the lead. Even with the introduction of synthetic racing surfaces, which so far have tended to favor closers, a lone speed horse still has an advantage and should be bet at the right price. A horse that has been showing speed but that has always been under pressure in its previous races can romp when finally able to get the lead by itself. Not always – but enough times at good odds to make it worth betting.

Handicapping Angle #4 – Jockey Switches

While a good rider can’t make a bad horse win, a bad rider can definitely get a good horse beat. If a trainer is making a jockey switch from a mediocre or average rider to a top rider it deserves special consideration. If the horse has early speed even better - and if it is dropping in class it becomes an almost automatic play. Trainers put leading riders on their horses for a reason, and top riders tend to ride well meant horses. Additionally, if the horse is of the cheaper variety and it does win, it can often repeat or run well in its next start if the same rider stays aboard. This is an angle not used by many, and it continues to be very effective. Cheaper horses generally perform at the top of their game for only a very short period of time in their yearly form cycle. If you catch a horse getting good on a rider switch (or even another angle like surface switch, blinkers on or off, distance switch etc.) and they are well spotted to take advantage of the same angle in their next start – pay close attention. Obviously, a combination of multiple repeating angles will make the horses an even better proposition.

Handicapping Angle #5 – Running Style Changes

Whenever a horse does something it hasn’t done before you have to take a serious look at its past performances. This is especially true with regards to running style and it works both ways. If a horse has that has been showing speed and fading in its races suddenly changes its running style with a good effort from off the pace the light bulb may have gone on. It now knows what it is supposed to do (get to the wire ahead of the other horses) and is showing a willingness to do that. Conversely, when a horse that has been plodding along and passing a few horses every race suddenly shows wake up speed to the first (and hopefully second) call of a race, it may also be ready to run a big race in its next start. The running style change angle is often missed or dismissed by average handicappers but you should definitely keep it in your toolbox.

There are numerous handicapping angles in horse racing, all of which can lead to profits when identified and applied at the right time. In part two of our series on horse racing handicapping angles we will be covering First and Second Time Lasix, Layoff Horses, Blinker Changes, Turf to Dirt Surface Switches and Trouble Lines.

The above handicapping angles will start you on the road to becoming a more intelligent handicapper and more importantly, a profitable bettor. We’ll have numerous additional angles, insights, tricks and betting tips you’ll want to memorize and incorporate into your handicapping arsenal on your way to becoming a successful player.

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Related: Part II of this Article