Separating Contenders

You handicap a race using your favorite, most successful method and logic to scrutinize a given field and after careful consideration and weighing of all the facts and angles, you decide this race will be won by one of three horses. Considering there are 12 horses entering the starting gate, knocking this field down to only three real, possible winners, while tossing out 75% is a pretty good start, but you’re still a ways off as to selecting just who will win.

Separating contenders is a challenge every handicapper faces. It doesn’t matter what level your game is at, it’s still the biggest challenge a handicapper faces and if you’re going to be a successful handicapper you must figure out how to separate contenders. You need to be able to judge each horse’s talents and abilities as well as needing the insight to weigh each horse’s weaknesses. And of course, these abilities and weaknesses must be compared on the grand scale to be able to arrive at a confident selection for this race and every race.

I thought this would be a great time to discuss separating contenders since this year’s Breeders’ Cup races are about to unfold. I can’t think of a tougher or more perfect example of a handicapper’s nightmare as to trying to separate contenders in a Breeders’ Cup event. In every BC event there are always several horses that can win. The talent and abilities are just amazing and there are always several over the top, gifted horses entered in each race. So how do we separate these over the top, gifted horses?

Whichever method one chooses to handicap, hopefully this method has a way of rating each horse’s abilities in some way. Pace, speed, final time, class, consistency, current condition, turn times, finish fractions, par methods, speed figs, Beyer, Ragozin, etc, whichever method one chooses to use, perhaps before going to the betting windows consider how the race is going to be run. Many times, accurately reading how the race scenario is going to unfold can help separate contenders.

For instance, is there an abundance of early speed signed on which will push the early pace to be very fast, making it very difficult for an early speedster to last, therefore giving advantage to a stalker or late finisher?

Perhaps the pace scenario figures to be advantageous to a stalker since this scenario figures to have two, clear early speed rivals directly in front of him that figure to battle it out early, pushing each other into a quick pace, setting themselves up to weaken in the late stages while the rest of the field is bearing down.

On the other hand, maybe there are only two horses quick enough to get to the front, getting themselves in perfect running position while also getting away with a soft early pace, which figures to help each having more energy for their stretch runs.

I find that in many of these hotly contested Breeders’ Cup races, many times the best horses don’t always win but rather the horses that get the best trips succeed more often. Successfully reading and understanding how the race is going to unfold can lead to many more lucrative wagers. Further, understanding how the race is going to be run could also save you money by investing less dollars when finding that a horse is at too great a disadvantage within a given race scenario to wager into. And perhaps just as well, a horse might have a bigger advantage than first thought within today’s race scenario and looks to be even more profitable in this spot. In closing, carefully assessing the race scenario can and will lead to many more fruitful investments at the track and can also keep you out of a disadvantageous scheme.