Moving On Up

Translating past-performance lines into valuable present fitness has often been clouded by a class factor.

Many handicappers I know will forgive a horse’s poor past performances if the horse is currently dropping to a lower level. In fact, these handicappers add strength to a horse’s forecast for success per its drop down.

If a horse is coming into a non-winners of $1,000 from a few failures in non-winners of $2,500, that horse will be considered a major threat to the current field. This is usually evident in the morning line and the wagering come time for the event. As well, if a horse is dropping into a n/w $1,000 from successive failures in n/w $1,200, n/w $1,500, n/w $1,750, it is common for handicappers to forecast an even stronger effort from the horse.

Certainly, circumstances may find such horses in favor, but a more productive betting strategy is to weigh the potency of recent performances from those in the field that are either stepping up or have been earning well in the current class. The reason is simple. Such horses are fit and in shape (as far as we can interpret using the naked eye and past-performance lines) and they will, more often than not, offer better odds.

A wonderful wagering situation may await when the consistent recent races of a horse competing at a common level with horses dropping, meet. The drop-down horses will be gifted by their backers with heavy play, while horses with definite proof of recent ability to race well will be dismissed, many of them going off as high-odds second, third and fourth choices and maybe, on occasion, even fifth or lower on the betting ladder.

On the best occasions of this circumstance, a horse coming off of a win in a lower class that steps up into a new class (offering a higher claiming price or forced to race with higher earning conditions) will present an atypical win price for a horse showing the best of performances—a win—in its most recent start.

A great pari-mutuels handicapper who made a lot of money wagering against horses dropping in class hammered this gem into my head—“You always want to bet on a horse on its way up, not on its way down.”

The best part of this is that you receive an “edge” that is obvious and let’s face it, most wagering edges that are worth their weight in wagering are not obvious. In this case, everyone handicapping can see the evidence in the past performances, so there is no information about performances that is not in print. But many times, as I previously reported, the public does not respect good current form over what it feels is strength through experience with better horses, even when that experience has resulted in losses.

Going against your foes—the public—in this specific situation has been remarkably successful on its own as a profitable path.

by Frank Cotolo

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