One of my favorite horse racing angles seems to defy logic. In the world of betting on horse races and finding value in your wagers, however, you’ll find that if something is logical and seems to make a lot of sense, it is usually over bet. When something is over bet, it means that the crowd has latched onto some piece of conventional wisdom and hammered so that even if the horse wins, it is a lousy bet over the long run.
An example of one of these horse racing “isms” that everybody and his brother seems to know is “Lone Early Speed in the Race.” I’ll bet that as soon as you read that phrase you knew exactly what I was talking about. It is one of those situations handicappers look for where only one horse has early speed and will easily make the top and win the race. Everybody knows about it and when it occurs, it is usually bet down below fair value odds.
Fair value odds simply means that if you bet a horse under those conditions at those odds ten times you will lose money in the long run. Let’s say you spend $10 per race for a total of $100, but the payoffs are so low that you only take back $90, you’ve lost money despite cashing tickets. That is an example of a horse below fair value odds.
Sometimes you have to either sit a race out or go against the wisdom of the crowd. Cases where you sit races out are typically where you don’t have a strong opinion about a horse and therefore don’t want to risk money on any of the runners. Here is a bit of conventional horse racing handicapping wisdom that is still good no matter how many people know it, call it a principle of wagering. If you don’t have a strong opinion about a race, don’t bet the race.
One bit of conventional wisdom that you can cash in on if you have the courage to go against the crowd and what seems to be common sense is the horse who faded in a race that is shorter than today’s event. An example would be a horse who took the lead at the half mile marker in a $5,000 claiming event at six furlongs who is now in a $5,000 claiming datos de Americana race at a mile. Obviously, if he couldn’t go three quarters of a mile without fading he certainly won’t be able to get a mile, right? Well maybe, but not necessarily.
The problem is pace and how he handled it in the last race and what the pace of the race may be today. If this is a horse that needs to settle and run off the pace and gradually make his move he may have expended too much energy in the earlier stages of that sprint and consequently burned himself out. In a longer race where the pace may actually be slower and he may have time to get his stride and run his own race, that fader may actually hold on.
Many people will be shaking their heads after the race when that type of horse wins, but if you’ve looked at the pace and determined the horse was used hard in the early part of that race and therefore compromised his chances of winning, you’ll be heading for the windows to cash your ticket. Don’t just assume that a horse that faded in its last race can’t go a longer distance and be competitive. Always look at the pace scenario of the race that any horse faded in and then make your decision about its chances today, no matter what the distance.