By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
Roy Steele, a member of the Horse Racing Radio Network’s Eclipse Award broadcasting team and the “brains” at horsewhispererusa.com has a mantra: “Follow the money.”
The pari-mutuel system exposes heavy wagering on any entrant, but even a tick or two of variation from a competent morning line or betting line can indicate that, “somebody knows something.”
Form reversals usually happen due to a horse’s improved physical condition. Throat surgeries, resolved joint issues, arthritis relief and even gelding can make huge differences in performance, and other than gelding, most of this information is not available to the general public.
Loose-lipped owners, trainers, jocks and their agents, privy to this insider info, often cause leaks and listeners bet accordingly, causing the drop in odds. These opportunities come a long once or twice a fortnight. Players should always be on the lookout for unusual betting action.
There is also another way to, “Follow the money.”
Horses that are backed down to favoritism usually have something on the ball. When a horse is consistently the favorite, they are probably pretty special, at least at their level.
“The public” is an excellent handicapper, picking roughly 33% winners, year in and year out – no easy task. This group is also unusually fickle – fair-weather friends so to speak. If they back a horse and lose, they will jump ship like rats on a sinking ship.
As you handicap, look for the “favorite” symbol in a horse’s past performances. It will give you an idea where a horse fits class-wise, what distance they prefer and what surface they relish. It will also give you a clue as to how well the trainer spots his charges and provide a general consensus as to how highly regarded the horse is by the bettors.
Also pay attention to horses that have gone off as the favorite multiple times in their chart. This is a very good harbinger of success when a horse is changing circuits.
A big score at Santa Anita sticks out in my mind.
A gelding that had been running at the old Centennial Park in Colorado shipped down to Santa Anita for a race. My brother Bob and I both noticed that he was the favorite in most of his starts at the Denver track. He was obviously one of the best horses on the grounds there.
He fit the Santa Anita race distance-wise. He had good speed ratings and had worked well over the track. We made a major wager on him and were rewarded with an $80 mutuel.
Betting situations similar to this come along more frequently than you think – Finger Lakes shippers to Belmont and Saratoga, Tampa Bay shippers to Keeneland and Turf Paradise shippers to Del Mar have been doing better than expected by most handicappers.
Next time you are at the track, think of Roy Steele, sitting cross-legged, wrapped in blood orange cloth, rocking back and forth and uttering, “Follow the money. Follow the money. Follow the money.”
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