Searching for Angles When Handicapping Horse Racing


Basic horse race handicapping is fairly simple. Most people start out liking a name in the program or recognizing a top jockey or trainer. If they happen to hit on a winner, the desire to watch the races and play more often grows. New fans can quickly pick up the basics by learning to read the past performances, studying the track they are going to play and deciding what type of wagers to make. Additionally, learning to go beyond the basic bet types and developing a full understanding of how to bet on horse racing from a Boxed Trifecta to a Pick Six bet helps improve a bettors odds of winning.

It is common knowledge that when gambling there are losses to go along with the wins. When analyzing a race, information may pop out from the past performances that hints that the 6-1 long shot just might be able to beat the 2-1 favorite. These are what experienced handicappers refer to as angles. Once a nice score is made when betting an angle, it is tough not to look for that same situation in the next race. While nerves of steel and a lot of luck play a big role in winning at the races, the odds can be nudged in a bettor’s favor by using one or more of these various angles.

Simple angles are those easily seen with just a quick glance at the past performance sheet.

  • Jockeys and trainers have hot and cold streaks. It is never a bad bet to support either one that is on a solid win streak. Do be aware that the beginning of a race meet may change that status in quick fashion.
  • Take a quick peek at the leading trainers and riders from the last season at that particular track. This can give insight as to who points their horses towards that venue and what jockeys have had success on the turf or dirt.
  • Those trainers who are based at the track sometimes hold an edge over people and horses shipping in. Jockeys can also benefit from the home court advantage.

Angles with a bit sharper radius take a little more work and delving deeper into those past performances.

  • Horses turning back in distance or freshened. Successful sprinters are worth consideration even if coming off a layoff or break from racing.
  • Watch for good jockeys who travel for something other than a stakes race. They all travel for the big money, but most do not like to venture far from home for the lower level races. If you see a horse that attracts the services of a good jockey in that situation, it is a good bet they have a shot in the race.
  • Horses that are being protected by their connections. It may not have run well in the last few races, but instead of dropping it into the claiming ranks the trainer has the horse entered where it is not for sale. Likewise, freshly claimed horses that are being moved up and protected may signify that the trainer thinks very highly of the horse even if the running lines say it is not ready for stiffer competition.
  • The old bad trip angle is often a reliable one. Taking note of a horse that got blocked, stopped or broke slowly from the gate may give insight that other bettors will ignore when it runs again.

The toughest angles can be worth the extra research. It is time consuming to go through multiple running lines or watch video replays, but the horses fitting these scenarios need to get a second look.

  • Discovering a horse that runs well fresh. Meaning it wins off of a break or at the very least hit the board. While many times a hiatus from the track can signify a horse that may need a race before performing at its best, there are those that come out firing off a rest.
  • There can only be one winner in each race. First time starters that ran well without getting a paycheck are worth a good hard look. Most of the time improvement is seen in second time starts, and the proverbial light bulb goes on. Watching races is crucial with this angle to determine if the horse was interested in running or not.
  • Look for back class. This is especially pertinent in turf races. Horses train in cycles. Most horses cannot run consistently at the highest level. Watch for turf horses that are running at a lower level, but have prior starts including stakes wins or placements. Running against tougher horses in past races can also give a horse and those that back it the edge.

Cashing that winning ticket is the ultimate goal for every horseplayer. The knowledge that you saw something in a replay or past performance that the majority of the other players missed is an especially sweet feeling. Learn and use the basic skills of every successful horseplayer, but do not ignore the angles. After all, you never know when your guardian angel of the turf will reveal something about a horse that no one else notices.

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