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ITEMS TO CONSIDER WHEN WAGERING
ON QUARTER HORSE RACING
Following are some handicapping factors that can
be used to aid in placing a wager:
Straightaway American Quarter Horse racing is an
all-out burst of speed from the starting gate with
every horse trying to put a head in front at the
finish. There is no time to maneuver for position
or come from behind in the final stretch run as
in Thoroughbred racing. Therefore, the experienced
handicapper can concentrate on speed, class, jockey/trainer
combinations and track conditions without having
to spend time trying to predict how the race will
The American Quarter Horse may be America's most
consistent athlete. In 1993, American Quarter Horse
wagering favorites finished in the money (first,
second or third) 71% of the time, while winning
35%. Those are figures that can't be claimed by
Thoroughbred or Standardbred racing! But that's
not saying American Quarter Horse racing lacks the
excitement of winning long shots. With 39% of the
horses finishing first, second or third going off
with odds of 5-1 or greater, you know the exotic
wagers must have paid some handsome rewards.
The key is knowing how to cash in on those rewards
yourself. But how? The answer is knowledge. If you're
a smart handicapper you'll do your homework by learning
everything you can about the horse, its rider, trainer,
bloodline, competition and even the surface the
horse will run on.
Class is probably the most important factor in handicapping.
Analyze everything you see, hear or read in the
context of class. In the most basic sense, class
refers to the ability to win, produce winners and
develop high quality, competitive races. Class not
only involves racehorses, but sires and dams, owners,
breeders, trainers, jockeys, races and even tracks.
Think of class in terms of levels of excellence
and a competitive edge. Here's an example of class
in a racehorse compared to other athletes. During
the 1987 National Football League strike, many talented
athletes replaced striking players. The replacements
made for some exciting Sunday afternoons. But only
a few of the replacements were able to keep their
jobs when the striking players returned. The reason?
They were simply not up to the superior play of
the regulars. In other words, they were outclassed.
The same can be true of a racehorse. For instance,
a horse that may win with a fast time in claiming
races would probably lose when going against horses
that regularly participate in stakes race competition
with similar race times. Here's how class relates
to a racetrack. A horse with a 96 speed index and
first place finish at Sunland Park is not necessarily
the same as a horse with a 96 speed index and first
place finish at Remington Park. Although both are
two of American Quarter Horse racing's finest racing
facilities, Remington Park emphasizes American Quarter
Horse racing, carries many more graded stakes and
the average purse structure is significantly higher,
thus attracting more of American Quarter Horse racing's
2. Before Race Day Preparations.
In order to evaluate the entrants in any race, you'll
need historical data or past performances, as they
3. Reading between the lines.
The past performance information for each horse
in a race is there in black and white for everyone
wagering on the race to follow. The only way you
can out-handicap the competition is if you can read
between the lines.
4. RACE FREQUENCY.
As many as 10 of a horse's past races are listed
by date beginning with the most recent race. TIP
- Look for excessive or irregular layoffs between
races which could indicate a fitness problem that
could keep the horse from running true to form.
Conversely, look for a history of regular layoffs
with an immediate return to peak form.
5. TRACK CONDITION.
Weather can change a track's condition quickly.
Dirt tracks are rated as follows: ft-fast; sy-sloppy;
m-muddy; gd-good; sl-slow; hy-heavy; fr-frozen.
TIP - Horses that performed well in conditions similar
to today's could have the edge.
There are three types of races in American Quarter
Horse racing: short sprints of 220, 250, 300, 330
and 350 yards; long sprints of 400, 440, 550 and
660 yards; and distance or races around one turn
of 770, 870 and 1,000 yards. TIP - Determine the
horse's suitability to today's distance. A horse
that performs well at short distances could fade
during a longer race. And conversely, a horse that
breaks slowly but performs well in the stretch may
need the extra distance to win. In some cases, American
Quarter Horses, which have not been top performers
at short or long sprints, may become competitive
at 870 yards.
7. TYPES OF RACES.
Maiden, Speed Index, Trial, Claiming, Allowance,
Handicap and Stakes. You'll find a more complete
description later and in the glossary. TIP - Think
of race classifications as levels of the class of
horse they attract with stakes races being the highest
and $2,000 maiden claiming the lowest. The conditions
of a race (non-winners of two, three or four) or
claiming prices ($2,000-$20,000) are significant
differences in the same type of race.
8. POST POSITION.
At certain times or conditions, tracks might have
surfaces which favor the inside, middle or outside
post positions. Most programs list the percentage
of wins from each post position. Some horses also
favor certain post positions. TIP - On races around
the turn, unless a horse has a great deal of early
speed to go to the front and take the inside rail,
an outside post position is definitely a disadvantage.
A fast-breaking horse that usually wins when it
breaks first can have an edge when positioned with
room to run. Look for horses that break well with
a post position between two horses that generally
do not get away fast. In straightaway races, the
one hole is generally a disadvantage, while the
outside might be an advantage.
9. POSITION CALLS.
A horse's position during a race and its lengths
behind the front-runner are generally described
at four locations along the race: the break call
at two strides or ten yards from the starting gate;
the first stretch call at the 1/8 pole or 220 yards
from the finish; the second stretch call at the
1/16 pole or 110 yards from the finish; and at the
finish. TIP - Positioning and ability to make up
ground can reveal a lot about the horse you're evaluating;
his suitability to today's distance; and a pattern
of improvement as the race progresses.
The two types of legally permitted medications are
Bute and Lasix. Bute is an anti-inflammatory drug
used to reduce stiffness. Lasix is a diuretic used
to treat respiratory bleeding some athletes experience.
TIP - If a horse is on the first-time Lasix list
and has shown good early performance in past races
but has faded toward the end, the effects of Lasix
might make a difference in his next race.
The symbol "b" indicates the horse wore
blinkers during a race. TIP - A horse which has
been running erratically and shows to be wearing
blinkers for the first time might be a good wager.
The total amount of weight a horse is required to
carry (including jockey and tack). TIP - In American
Quarter Horse racing, weight is not a major factor
in the shorter races. However, in races of 440 yards
or more, it does have some importance. The horses
with the best performance records may be required
to carry the most weight in an attempt to make a
more even contest. Look for a horse's ability to
carry more weight in his previous races.
13. TIME and INDIVIDUAL TIME.
The time of the race (the winner's time) and the
time of the individual horse are shown in seconds
and hundredths of seconds. TIP - Use best recent
times at today's distance, conditions and racetrack.
Keep the different elements of class in mind while
making your comparisons.
14. SPEED INDEX.
The speed index is an evaluation of a horse's speed
in a race versus the three fastest winning times
for the same distance each year for the previous
three years at the same racetrack. TIP - An average
of best recent speed indexes is a good basis for
comparison. Again, keep the elements of class, wind
and track condition in mind.
At any given track, there is a broad range of talent.
Generally speaking, the best horses will have the
best riders (ones who can be found on the leading
rider list in your program). TIP - Jockey changes
can affect the outcome of a race. For instance,
if you note that a leading jockey has been taken
off his regular mount and switched to another, you
could have a better chance of a winning wager on
his new mount.
As with jockeys, any given track will have a broad
range of trainers, with varying degrees of expertise
and experience. TIP - Pay attention to their winning
percentages, not just their total wins, as a good
trainer with a few horses will never lead the trainer's
list. Try to keep track of a trainer's ability with
different classes or ages of horses. Some trainers
are better with claiming horses, while others concentrate
on stakes performers.
A listing of horse's sire, dam and dam's sire. TIP
- As a general rule, pedigree has a significant
influence on a horse's natural ability to run. Keep
note of the leading sires and dams as well as breeders
and owners when considering class. This is especially
true when handicapping two-year-olds and first-time
18. MONEY LINE.
The number of starts, wins, places (second), shows
(thirds) and purse money won this year and last
year. The lifetime total of wins and in-the-money
(first, seconds and thirds) and lifetime purse money.
TIP - Can be an indication of improvement or deterioration
and class. Compare percentages of wins, in-the-money
or average money earned per start.
GLOSSARY OF KEY TERMS
Blanket Finish - Or photo-finish
in which two or more horses are very close at finish
(one can "Throw a blanket over them").
Very common in American Quarter Horse racing.
Bullring - A racetrack with either
a half-mile or 5/8ths mile oval.
Register of Merit - A Register
of Merit is designed to establish a record of outstanding
performance. There are three Registers of Merit-
one for racing, one for halter and one for performance
events- but not a separate Register of Merit for
each performance event. A horse has received at
least one official Speed Index Rating of 80 or higher
in racing. Qualified horses registered with the
Jockey Club of New York City will be listed and
treated as racing Register of Merit qualifiers for
all purposes except that they shall not receive
a certificate of Register of Merit or year-end awards.
Until 1956 a Grade A was a 75 or better speed index,
1957 to 1975 Grade AA was an 85 or better. From
1976 to 1985 a Register of merit could be earned
by an 80 or better speed index or by earning 10
racing points. From 1986 to present a Register of
Merit could only be earned by a speed index of 80
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