1. #1
    str
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    Horse Racing questions and answers

    If anyone has any questions they would like to ask , I will do my best to answer them. While some answers might require opinion, I hope to answer as many as I can from a purely factual standpoint.
    My time line of experience is from 1972-2001. From a hot walker to a trainer of a large stable, I saw and learned many things and will gladly share any knowledge I can with you.
    Feel free to post any questions .
    Best of Luck.
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  2. #2
    goblue24
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    Hey,

    I have a few questions I would like to ask but will do so one at a time to let you answer them all.

    My first question is what factors do you consider when handicapping a race? I know there are many different angles you can take when handicapping a horse race, but I am curious to see what some long time vets consider when selecting their favorites.

    Currently, I try and look at the speed figures to eliminate the slowest horses first and then from there I try to see what their recent form has been. i.e. have they performed well in recent races, were they one of the top horses in their recent works, have their speed numbers and results improved recently, etc.

    After those two factors I look to see which horse the best jockeys in the race are riding and make my selections from there.

    I am sure I am not doing a thorough job and would love to hear what parts of the past performances I'm overlooking/neglecting that will help my handicapping abilities.

    Thanks for taking questions. This should be helpful.

  3. #3
    str
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    First of all , do remember that I was a professional trainer and not a professional gambler but with that said, let me try to help.
    You stated that you look at speed figures first. I rarely if ever look at them at all.
    To get a full explanation of that , go to a thread from 4/25/11 named "Assigning numbers when gauging a horses performance". Follow all of my comments and that should answer that.
    Performed well lately was next. Will get to that in a minute.
    Workouts were next. I will cut and paste from a PM that someone sent me as to why the average handicapper should not pay ANY attention to them.( My opinion).
    Best jockeys: Let's start there. Instead of trying to bet on the best jockeys I might suggest finding the jockeys that you do not want to bet on. So start off that way.
    It is great to play a race with the leading rider but chances are you are playing a horse that has less betting value than he/she should because of that. Many riders have the ability to win so try and find the guys that hit consistently under 8 or 9% winners and ride there share of live horses and maybe avoid them if possible . Can not always blame the rider but every track has under rated and over rated riders. Also, some riders have a particular strength or weakness. That is, excellent turf rider or very good speed rider or good closing rider, always goes wide rider, etc. If the riders strength fits the horse you like , you might have an edge . If a very good speed rider is riding a dead closer, that is not so good. This is easier said than done but if you follow a certain track consistently, the information is there to be learned. Remember, knowledge is power. The game is pari mutual so yes the house takes it's cut but you are playing against the other players. Work to know more than they do.( Also, try to avoid the higher takeout pools.They vary from track to track so find a track that is not killing you . This information is always on the program or racing form, usually before the first race).
    Horses that performed well lately also lead to favorites. Sometimes that is fine but everyone sees that.
    So try this approach:
    First of all, READ AND UNDERSTAND THE CONDITIONS of the race.This is so important ! Is it an open claimer , nw/2, nw/3, nw/ last 6 months. Condition allowance, starter handicap, etc. For more clarity, go to the racing secretary's office at your track and ask someone for a current condition book.They are free and probably sitting out for trainers to pick up. They come out every 2-3 weeks. This book will tell you what races are scheduled for days to come. You will start to understand how the races are written.
    Once you have read the conditions , go through the race without throwing anyone out and get an overview . Then, go through a second time and try to split the race in to categories. Pure speed , position horses( lay 3rd-5th) and closers.
    Now you have a sense of how the race might shape up. One pure speed and 7 closers has me liking the pure speed already and I am just getting started. ( Remember, pace makes the race. This years Derby was so slow for the first 3/4s that Dialed In had no chance to catch up. He actually ran quite well if you look at the charts and calculate his last 1/2 mile. A half in 46 and 3/4s in 1:10 and change or 1:11 and he is right there). Five pure speeds and I am liking the other 2 or 3 in all probability. Once you have done that, you can try to determine by post position the probable position of each horse. Knowing that a horse needs to be at least a length and a half faster if he is outside to be able to drop over in front of an inside speed horse allows you to project the positions on the track each might be in when dealing with the turns.
    With the race now set up, look at each horses ability . Keep in mind however that the horse that went wire to wire last time might be a monster or might have benefited from a race that was void of any other speed, thus making him look better than he actually was. Your "performed well lately" comment needs more insight to be sure that there was not a reason other than the horses raw ability that led to his good performance. This is why following the same track is beneficial as compared to trying to chase multiple tracks.
    When you have the race projected out , it should become clearer as to who might get a good or bad trip. That , along with a horses ability will allow you to start taking stands against some horses.
    So before we get any more technical , I would like you to try that approach. Give it some time and see if that does not help you find solid plays. If anything , it will allow you to feel as though you have a basic understanding of what the jocks and trainers are trying to accomplish.
    Lastly, WATCH THE REPLAYS!. There is much to learn from them . I will also post a PM about that when I find it.
    Hope that helps get you started.

  4. #4
    str
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    Hi STR,

    My first curiosity is the terms in the program. Terms such as finished strong are obvious, but there are less obvious ones when reading the chart callers comments from the last race. How do you interpret those comments, and what is considered good and bad from their last run?

    Also, workouts. They are obviously important, but could you explain them from a significance standpoint? Also, what is the best way to read and gain information from the last workout chart?

    Thanks!

  5. #5
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by str View Post
    Hi STR,

    My first curiosity is the terms in the program. Terms such as finished strong are obvious, but there are less obvious ones when reading the chart callers comments from the last race. How do you interpret those comments, and what is considered good and bad from their last run?

    Also, workouts. They are obviously important, but could you explain them from a significance standpoint? Also, what is the best way to read and gain information from the last workout chart?

    Thanks!
    Hi Abe,
    The first thing to remember about chart callers is that they are all individuals that might very well see things differently.One guy might say "ridden out" the next guy "hand ridden" and so on.If there is one track in particular or should I say one circuit( by that I mean in for instance in Maryland,Laurel and Pimlico would be done by the same guy) getting to know what he sees is important.If you have access to replays , take the time to watch some and see what the chart caller saw . That might help bring clarity to his meaning.Like umpires strike zones, there is no exact to it. Some calls will be more accurate than others.It is hard to rate the calls in order of winning dominance but the best calls are probably, Easily, In hand,as the rider pleased,much the best,handily,etc.They are obviously top notch comments.Ridden out is also very solid.Some horses need a rider to stay active on them or they will tend to loaf ,ease up or lose interest.This usually means that the stick was put away and the horse won fairly easily.Driving is winning with the jock having to work to do so.Hung, means that the horse had the momentum to win but eased up and did not finish like he or she should have.That can be problematic if the horse has a habit of finishing 2nd .Blinkers on will hopefully fix that but not necessarily.Bad comments are faded,stopped,bore in or bore out(erratic running), and a host of others.If there was no apparent reason to stop or fade,well that is not good.However,if replays can show a reason why, then the set up of the next race might be more to the horses liking. There are too many others to list but if you have some that you don't understand ,let me know.
    3/8s and 1/2 mile works are primarily sharpeners.They are used mostly to put a horse on there toes 2-4 days before a race.5/8 and further works are conditioning workouts to get or keep the horse fit.The trainer probably feels as though the horse needs that length of work to be able to get the distance they are shooting for. The problem with depending on workouts of say 5/8s is this. If they went 22.2,45.2,100.2., that means they went the last 1/8 in 15.That is not good at all.But if they went 24,47.2,100.2 that means they finished up in 13. That is very solid.It is a 10 length difference from the 1/8th pole home between the two finishes but the time is the same.You also do not know if they were in company or by themselves.With all these unknowns, it is best to not acknowledge the workout as anything from a handicapping standpoint.Don't pay much attention to them.When I try to figure out a race I pretty much ignore them.
    And because of my answer, you are wondering about 1st time starters.Simple . Don't bet them. Only possible exception is if the sire and more importantly the Dam throw a lot of 1st time winners.Also, the trainer might be very good with firsters.Maybe take a flier on one once in a blue moon but if you always throw them out you will be right 90+% of the time.Most times the Pletchers of the world are bet down too much anyway.Remember, Secretariat got beat in his first start.
    Reading charts is a great way to learn.If you take your time, the chart should allow you to reconstruct the race in your mind or on paper.You can see the way the race took shape and if a horse got a perfect trip .Like layed 3rd by himself behind a fast dual in front and was never bothered by another horse,simply waited and moved past the front 2 when they tired out or if a horse was pinned down inside and overcame much traffic and still finished strong . Any horse can win with a perfect trip.It's the ones that overcome adversity and run well that make for solid play backs in there next race.
    Again, if you have access to replays ,you will see more and more each time you watch them.That is one of the best tools you can get.
    Hope this helped.Let me know if you have any other questions.

    str

  6. #6
    goblue24
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    Quote Originally Posted by str View Post
    Can not always blame the rider but every track has under rated and over rated riders. Also, some riders have a particular strength or weakness. That is, excellent turf rider or very good speed rider or good closing rider, always goes wide rider, etc. If the riders strength fits the horse you like , you might have an edge . If a very good speed rider is riding a dead closer, that is not so good. This is easier said than done but if you follow a certain track consistently, the information is there to be learned. Remember, knowledge is power. The game is pari mutual so yes the house takes it's cut but you are playing against the other players. Work to know more than they do.

    Thanks for your detailed response. I will certainly try your suggestion of trying to determine the set up of the race and see which horse has a shot if it plays out that way.

    You mentioned trying to find a rider/horse combination where the jockey's strengths match the horse's strengths such as good turf jockey with a good turf horse. Is there a way to find out what "type" of jockey someone is? Can this info be found in the DRF PPs? Or, do I just need to get familiar with the jockeys at a specific track and learn their tendencies? I'm sorry if this info is readily available in the PPs, I do not have one in front of me to look at.

    I also have another question. I know you mentioned your experience comes more from being a trainer than a bettor, but you might have some insight into this or maybe someone else could chime in. I was wondering if there is a preferred betting strategy to playing the horses? The best way for me to pose this question is in terms of sports betting. It is well known that if you are going to bet on sports it is recommended to only bet on games straight up and to stay away from parlays and teasers. Over the long haul you cannot beat sports betting if you only play parlays. Does this translate to horse racing as well? Should I only be betting one horse to win or win/place each race and not even bothering with the exactas, daily doubles, pick 3s, etc.? Or could someone who only bets exactas win over the long run as well?

    Thanks again for your response.

  7. #7
    gtkid911
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    As a trainer have you ever raced a horse that you know had no chance at winning? How difficult is the claiming game?

  8. #8
    gman2114
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    Can a horse read a race program?

  9. #9
    str
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    Learning the riders strengths and weaknesses is not in the form. You will not learn this over night but it does exist.( not with all riders but definitely some). Probably a turf /dirt break down of riders but I don't read the form like I used too, so I am not sure. Jockeys do not like people talking about that and I can not blame them but it is what it is. I know I had certain strengths and weaknesses as a trainer and I did not like being told that either but in some cases, it was true. However, if your conclusion is incorrect, it will cost you mightily so don't jump to them. I used to ride certain riders on certain style horses. A lot of trainers do this. Also, don't get wrapped up in that angle if you play at a major track with a large handle. This would pertain more too Md. or Phila. Park (Parx) or lesser but rarely Belmont, Saratoga, Gulfstream and those tracks.
    As to how to bet a lot depends on the pools and takeouts. I always liked playing a horse to win and or an exacta box when purely handicapping. Only some circumstances call for triples and supers with the massive takeout that applies. Daily Doubles and pick 3s can be fine but if the track has a low handle it is probably not worth it. However , there are reasons for all of these from time to time. The price of the horse you play will also be reason to use an exotic or not. An awful lot of scenarios can exist so there is no clear answer but if a horse is a nice price and wins and all you have is losing exactas or tri's and pick 3s you will probably want too kill yourself so make sure your reason for playing makes sense. If in doubt, play to win. I do not care for place or show. (my opinion) .

  10. #10
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by gtkid911 View Post
    As a trainer have you ever raced a horse that you know had no chance at winning? How difficult is the claiming game?
    The only reason I can think of that would be a 0% chance of winning would be if a horse simply is not fit enough to win. That would have to be a horse that has not run in maybe a year or more. Even then , they certainly can win but every now and then you get a horse that just will not work fast enough in the morning to get the lung capacity up to where it needs to be to win. Galloping a horse to get fit only goes so far. In these cases, seeing the horse carrying a lot of extra weight in the post parade is a clear sign. If they are fat , they will rarely be able to run well enough too win. But if you meant did I ever try to not win a race the answer is NO! At Charlestown , many trainers run there horses fit. A great angle there is to bet a horse 3rd time off an extended layoff.Especially if the trainer only has a few horses. It is simple economics.It costs money per day to train a horse up to a race. Ronnie Brown, Runco, Walters etc. can do this . But some of the old timers there can not. They will run 4 1/2 for fitness . Are they trying to win? Probably. But after 2 starts they can run that distance no problem.Pay attention to that . It will happen.

    The claiming game was my strength . It is very hard but I loved it. Leatherbury , Dutrow, and Tammaro were masters at it in Maryland when I was learning and when I competed against them. Not so much Bud Delp. Don't get me wrong , he was a brilliant horseman and the job he did with Spectacular Bid was tremendous but when I started out , he was predictable with his placement of claimers and I had plenty of success cherry picking him in the claim box. He let me know about it too.Those 4 guys were as good as claiming trainers get!

  11. #11
    jw
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    Quote Originally Posted by str View Post
    Learning the riders strengths and weaknesses is not in the form. You will not learn this over night but it does exist.( not with all riders but definitely some). Probably a turf /dirt break down of riders but I don't read the form like I used too, so I am not sure.
    Sorry, don't want to take-over the thread its got a lot of good reading in it already - however the Brisnet Ultimate PP's do give some info on riders strengths .. example ...



    Here you can see Katie Reynolds has a 6% strike rate at Charles Town - however when riding "P" type horses - her strike rate jumps to 18% .. so she hits @ three times the rate when on "P" horses ... of course more info is needed - but as a basic tool to weed out trends .. the info is out there ...

    :0)

  12. #12
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by jw View Post
    Sorry, don't want to take-over the thread its got a lot of good reading in it already - however the Brisnet Ultimate PP's do give some info on riders strengths .. example ...



    Here you can see Katie Reynolds has a 6% strike rate at Charles Town - however when riding "P" type horses - her strike rate jumps to 18% .. so she hits @ three times the rate when on "P" horses ... of course more info is needed - but as a basic tool to weed out trends .. the info is out there ...

    :0)
    Thanks JW.
    Having left the game in 2001 I do not know about all the updated information available.This is exactly what I am talking about.
    Thanks again.

  13. #13
    JakeLc
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    Not to hijack your thread but there is a lot of stuff out there. In my database I can probably query around 300 factors in various combinations, some more relevant than others, tied into a specific jockey. Want to know how Channing Hill does in 6 furlong races where the run up is 35 feet or less...that can be queried etc.

  14. #14
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeLc View Post
    Not to hijack your thread but there is a lot of stuff out there. In my database I can probably query around 300 factors in various combinations, some more relevant than others, tied into a specific jockey. Want to know how Channing Hill does in 6 furlong races where the run up is 35 feet or less...that can be queried etc.
    Not hijacking at all. My expertise as to the betting end is limited and outdated . It is the training end that I am best suited. I certainly expect plenty of betting questions and some of those I am not best suited for especially with the newer information that did not exist unless you created it yourself back in the day.
    I have to think that people get confused as to why a trainer might do or not do things and why a horse did or did not do certain things.Understanding that pace is so important, etc.
    Thanks for the help.
    Last edited by str; 05-09-11 at 05:56 PM.

  15. #15
    str
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    Just read where the head of Team Valor said on national T.V. that trainers lied to him all the time. But when pressed as to if he meant Pletcher or Catalano he said "no not them".
    Sounds like he got caught up in the moment too me. That was a terrible accusation he went with at exactly the wrong time.
    As for Graham Motion , I can say without hesitation that he is one of the nicest guys I have ever met in my life. We shared a barn for a couple of years at Laurel and I could not be happier for him and his wife. A very solid horseman and I feel privileged to have gotten to know him. Good for him!

  16. #16
    JakeLc
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    From what I've heard about G Motion he sounds like the complete antithesis to Catalano

  17. #17
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeLc View Post
    From what I've heard about G Motion he sounds like the complete antithesis to Catalano
    Do not know anything about Catalano. Graham came up under Johnathan Shepard. He trains with a European flair . Never wanting to put speed in his horses but teaching them to relax. He was Bernie Bond's asst trainer in Md.When Bernie passed away Graham got his start.

  18. #18
    JakeLc
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    I was speaking to their personalities as opposed to their training methods. G Motion seems dignified, reserved etc. Catalano loves to "hold court" in the racing office. It's loud and it's definitely not G-rated. If there are any kids around, cover their ears.

  19. #19
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeLc View Post
    I was speaking to their personalities as opposed to their training methods. G Motion seems dignified, reserved etc. Catalano loves to "hold court" in the racing office. It's loud and it's definitely not G-rated. If there are any kids around, cover their ears.
    Yes. Graham is. Sounds like Catalano is today's version of Johnny Campo . LOL.

  20. #20
    JakeLc
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    Speaking of Campo , a few days ago I watched the CBS broadcast of the '73 Belmont again on Youtube and they had a short paddock interview with him.

  21. #21
    str
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    Campo claimed a horse off of me (25-30k) might have been 20k named Needachant back in 1981. The horse was a white eyed you no what.( meaning he was a bit goofy.Horses with white eyes are known to be that way .) Anyway, Needachant hated being in the gate any more than necessary. Must have schooled him a hundred times .He was not that bad in a race but was worse in the morning if you tried to get him over his fear. After Campo got him he was not doing so well . Because Campo's barn was loaded with nice horses, Needachant was nothing to him. Campo decides to use Needachant as a rabbit in a gate workout for Pleasant Colony before the Gold Cup .( Today's version is the B.C. Classic). Needachant proceeds to break in at the start and step all over Pleasant Colony. I think he grabbed his tendon. Next thing I know, Pleasant Colony is retired to stud.
    Being from Md. I did not know this until after it happened. Would have warned him not to do that if I could of. I guess fate is a bitch sometimes.
    Last edited by str; 05-10-11 at 06:37 PM.

  22. #22
    AbeFroman
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    Glad some others are able to benefit from STR's knowledge, guys if you have questions he has most of the answers, I assure you!

    I'd love for you to elaborate some more on the condition book, and what it means when you hear "a race was written for that horse" etc.

    STR, I'm not sure how much time you have, but here is Penn National (only because it's my home track) condition book for May 2-May 28. http://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbH...0502-20110528D

    Is there any way you can use that to explain your point more? Thanks in advance!

  23. #23
    AbeFroman
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    This may also help as well: http://battagliaspicks.com/class2.htm

  24. #24
    sports28
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    Hey I just recently got into horse racing and would like to know more about it..

    I am looking for a site that gives a lot of horse racing information on the horses stats. If you know any that would be great. Also what do you recommend to bet..Just win or exacts boxes tri boxes etc..Thanks

  25. #25
    goblue24
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    What sort of stats are you looking for? The past performances publications give good stats that you can use to handicap a race. Here is the link to the Daily Racing Form's Past Performance publication for the Kentucky Derby that Mr. Exacta posted on this board that you can look at to see what information is included in these forms:

    http://myweb.cableone.net/sterbat/PPs/CDx050711pp.pdf

    There are other companies that provide similar publications as well. Brisnet.com is one and I believe Equibase provides some form of past performance publication but I am not sure as I have never really checked that out. You can go to DRF.com to learn what all the info in the past performance means and how you can use it to handicap a race. Hope this is the type of info you were looking for.

  26. #26
    Dark Horse
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    Str, thanks for sharing. Great to hear about his stuff straight from the trainer's mouth.

    I've ran a 'few' times into a horse that looked great, only to find out too late that the trainer was using the race as exercise, because the horse's next race was the real deal. Is there a way to weed out these type of efforts, and (probably not) is there a way to know the horse's next planned race? Thanks.

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  27. #27
    shari91
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    What an excellent thread! Thank you for starting this str. Once I'm done with my mod shift I'm coming straight back here to re-read each post more closely.

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  28. #28
    sports28
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    Quote Originally Posted by goblue24 View Post
    What sort of stats are you looking for? The past performances publications give good stats that you can use to handicap a race. Here is the link to the Daily Racing Form's Past Performance publication for the Kentucky Derby that Mr. Exacta posted on this board that you can look at to see what information is included in these forms:

    http://myweb.cableone.net/sterbat/PPs/CDx050711pp.pdf

    There are other companies that provide similar publications as well. Brisnet.com is one and I believe Equibase provides some form of past performance publication but I am not sure as I have never really checked that out. You can go to DRF.com to learn what all the info in the past performance means and how you can use it to handicap a race. Hope this is the type of info you were looking for.
    Thanks..Ill check it out

  29. #29
    JakeLc
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    I don't know to what extent you're currently involved in racing, but do you miss the backside? There are days I really really miss it.

  30. #30
    zebra58
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    very interesting thread

  31. #31
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbeFroman View Post
    Glad some others are able to benefit from STR's knowledge, guys if you have questions he has most of the answers, I assure you!

    I'd love for you to elaborate some more on the condition book, and what it means when you hear "a race was written for that horse" etc.

    STR, I'm not sure how much time you have, but here is Penn National (only because it's my home track) condition book for May 2-May 28. http://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbH...0502-20110528D

    Is there any way you can use that to explain your point more? Thanks in advance!
    Abe,
    what you have a link for is the index pages within the condition book. Next time you go to Penn. Nat. ask a guard or whoever where the Racing Secretary's office is. Walk inside like you own the joint.Perfectly fine. Ask someone at the desk for the current condition book and the next one if it is out yet.That will give you much more clarity . Once you have it, let me know and I will show you how to read it through this thread.

  32. #32
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbeFroman View Post
    This may also help as well: http://battagliaspicks.com/class2.htm
    He is trying too be helpful but do not use his advise as law. Depending on the drop down for instance, it totally depends on who is doing it and why. WAY to technical at this stage!! It will only confuse you. O.K. to read but not O.K. to think it is gospel.I will help out with that later after you understand why the condition book .Kind of like taking 3rd year Latin and you have not taken the 1st or 2nd year yet. O.K.?

  33. #33
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by sports28 View Post
    Hey I just recently got into horse racing and would like to know more about it..

    I am looking for a site that gives a lot of horse racing information on the horses stats. If you know any that would be great. Also what do you recommend to bet..Just win or exacts boxes tri boxes etc..Thanks
    This is where I might be behind in the times. There is soooo much info out there today that did not exist 10 years ago that I do not want to tell you the wrong thing. To my knowledge DRF.com ( Daily Racing Form) is still the leader in info. But be aware that their is SO much for you to learn and so many variables involved that if you bet more than 2.00 dollars a race at this point , I would say you are crazy. Probably best served to watch as many races as possible and just start to get a feel for the game.
    So, with that said, please do me 2 favors.
    1st. READ THE CHARTS of the races you watch the next day and review what you think you saw.
    2nd. Learn to watch replays of every race you witness. Both angles. Even if you do not know what you are watching yet, you will see things along the way and become a better handicapper for it.
    Most handicappers are only as good as there routine. Make sure that yours is better than the guys you are playing against , namely all the other bettors out there.
    Keep me posted.

  34. #34
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Horse View Post
    Str, thanks for sharing. Great to hear about his stuff straight from the trainer's mouth.

    I've ran a 'few' times into a horse that looked great, only to find out too late that the trainer was using the race as exercise, because the horse's next race was the real deal. Is there a way to weed out these type of efforts, and (probably not) is there a way to know the horse's next planned race? Thanks.
    Honestly I think this might happen to some degree in harness racing, but I do not know for sure, but if it is happening anywhere in flat racing other than some rinky dink track as small and backwards as Charlestown at least and probably less than that , I would be stunned. For a trainer to say something like that at let's say Pimlico , Del. Park , Parx. is simply unheard of. In my time it did not exist. If you could give me more info as to who would do this or where the race took place I could better speak too it. Please let me know.

  35. #35
    str
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    Quote Originally Posted by shari91 View Post
    What an excellent thread! Thank you for starting this str. Once I'm done with my mod shift I'm coming straight back here to re-read each post more closely.
    Thanks Shari. Just trying to help people to better understand a complex game.

    In this thread I promise there will be none of this within my answers.

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