Spotting False Favorites in Horse Racing

EZ Horse Betting is all about picking winners. This sometimes means looking past the favorite in a race to find a betting selection. Not all favorites are winners. In fact, favorites only win one out of every three races. If you only bet favorites, you will lose two-thirds of the time. A key to successful horse betting at an online racebook is learning how to spot false favorites.

What is a False Favorite in Horse Racing?

The favorite in a horse race is the horse with the best odds. There are two types of favorites. The morning line favorite is the horse the track handicapper thinks will win the race. This horse is assigned starting odds according to its perceived talent. The post time favorite is the horse the betting public thinks will win the race. This horse may or may not also be the morning line favorite. In either case, these horses have been designated as a favorite in the court of public opinion.

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Sometimes the track handicapper gets it wrong. Sometimes the betting public gets it wrong. Many times they both get it wrong. A false favorite is one that has been incorrectly identified as the superior horse in a race.

How does this happen? For starters, the track handicapper and betting public are humans capable of error. They make mistakes just like you do in your own handicapping. The track handicapper gets more of a pass where this is concerned. When you consider that a track handicapper must make the morning line for each race it is amazing that they get it right so often. The betting public gets to pick and choose which races they handicap. When this group of people gets it wrong, the reason is usually lazy handicapping.

How the Betting Public Creates a False Favorite

There can be many reasons which contribute to the lazy handicapping methods of the betting public. Sometimes, multiple reasons combine to influence the perception of bettors. Here are just a few ways the betting public creates a false favorite:

  • Bettors tend to prefer the horses on their own racing circuit. They know the trainers and jockeys, too. This can prevent them from paying attention to a talented horse that has shipped in from another racing circuit.
  • On the opposite side, bettors at small tracks can become overly impressed with horses that ship in from a major horse racing track. This is especially true in the case of bull ring tracks like Delta Downs in Louisiana.
  • Bettors tend to give to much credit to talented horses that are coming back from a layoff. Sometimes horses need one or two races to re-establish their prior form.
  • Bettors have been trained to give some handicapping factors more weight than others. These factors can include strong recent performances and class drops. Neither of these is a guarantee that a horse will win today.
  • Sometimes a legitimate favorite is beaten by a horse that has had the benefit of illicit drugs. Unfortunately, this is not something bettors can really know.
  • Bettors will tend to bet on hot jockeys and or trainers. If a trainer won four races on yesterday’s card, the bettors think he will duplicate that feat today. This does not always happen. The same can be said for jockeys. Jockeys go through hot and cold streaks depending on the horses they ride.
  • They make bets on the horse with the best recent speed rating with no regard for other factors. A horse is not guaranteed to replicate a speed rating today or any other day.

Of all the reasons listed, the last one is the most useful in spotting false favorites.

Using Speed Ratings to Spot False Favorites

Speed figures are one of the greatest handicapping achievements. There can be no doubt about that. They literally changed the game when they were first introduced. Back then, only a few handicappers had access to them and those handicappers had a legitimate edge.

Then, something happened. Andrew Beyer sold his famous speed figures to the Daily Racing Form. Every handicapper in the world now had access to these figures. Here is the problem with that. Before their publication, speed figures were made by many handicappers for their own purposes. They knew how to use them, and they knew how to evaluate what a speed figure really means.

Let’s take an example. The invention of the stethoscope made it possible for anyone to listen to the beat of the human heart. Furthermore, anyone today can purchase a stethoscope of their own. When they were first introduced, these medical instruments were only accessible to medical professionals. Now, does owning a stethoscope make one able to diagnose ailments? No. The tool is only a means to an end, something that clarifies a bigger picture. Physicians are trained to listen for certain things. They use the tool to help them on a larger scale.

The same can be said for horse racing speed figures. Just having them does not make you a great handicapper. Knowing how to use them is what makes you proficient at analyzing a horse’s true speed and ability.

Normalizing Speed Ratings in Horse Racing

Speed ratings, when normalized, can be used to spot false favorites. Normalizing is the process of adjusting speed ratings for a variety of factors. When Beyer sold his speed figures to the Daily Racing Form, the idea was to present a single number that reflects a horse’s speed. Beyer and his team contend that the numbers are reflective of all surfaces and all distances. They claim that the figures are already normalized.

This may or may not be the case. Speed rating are determined by evaluating how far off the track record a horse ran in its previous race. So, if a horse ran an 88 speed figure in his last out at a specific track, this number is based on the track record at that distance. This does not mean that the horse would run the same speed figure at the same distance on another track. To account for this, Beyer included the use of track variants to normalize the figures.

The astute handicapper will normalize figures on their own. This is often called making a track variant. The process is somewhat detailed, but it can yield amazing results when done with care. Once you have had a little practice, you will be able to create your own track variants with ease for any race track in America.

Making Normalizations of Speed Figures

You should know up front that normalizing speed figures can be a daunting process. It requires you to obtain some charts and records, and the process is time consuming. The rewards can be great, however, when you carry out the process with the right diligence.

The first step to making your normalizations will be to compile track records from all of the tracks that are represented at your preferred track. This means from any track that often ships horse to your circuit. This is simper than it might sound. If you most often bet Belmont Park in New York, you will see shippers from other New York tracks as well as from tracks in nearby states.

You can obtain the track records for different distances by checking the Daily Racing Form. This publication will occasionally print track record charts. It is also possible to use a source like Brisnet for your information. In either case, expect to pay for the service. The fee will be nominal.

Obtain a notebook and make a chart of all the tracks where horses on your circuit have raced in the past. You can find this information in a horse’s past performances. You will want to note the track record for each distance. Now, you will average the time for all the tracks and list this at the top. Below that you will list the normalization for individual tracks. Let’s look at an example.

The track you play most often is Louisiana Downs. This track regularly receives shippers from Delta Downs, Evangeline Downs, Fair Grounds, and Oaklawn Park. Your first step will be to get the track record for each distance at all of these tracks. When you have that, list the tracks and the appropriate times. Add the times to together and average them. Remember to list the times as a whole number and add fifths of a second. So, if a track record is 1:21.4, you will write that as 121.4.

So, let’s say that you average the times of these five tracks and come up with 121.4. The next step is to look at the track record for each individual track and determine whether it is above or below average. You will write the difference in a single number. Let’s say that Oaklawn Park’s track record at a distance is 122.4. That means it is one second slower than the average, so you will assign Oaklawn -1 in your notebook.

On race day at Louisiana Downs, or your preferred track, you will then add or subtract the number in your notebook from a horse’s speed figure. If Horse A last earned a 78 figure but the race was ran at Oaklawn Park, that figure becomes a 77 based on the previous example. Use your normalizations to customize all speed figures in this way.

This process is not easy by any means, but practice will make you better at it. Less time will be required to generate the normalizations. Finally, you will have a powerful edge over other bettors.

Using Normalizations to Spot False Favorites

Many false favorites appear each day at racetracks all over America. Many false favorites will have the best speed figure in a race. You can spot these false favorites by using your normalizations to see if they really have the best figure, or if another horse has them beat.

Suppose Horse A we mentioned has been made the favorite with a speed figure of 78. You know from your normalizations that the figure should actually be 77. Horse B has a speed figure of 76 listed in the program, but your notes reveal that this figure should actually be a 79. You have now identified a contender who might be a better choice and more deserving of a bet. Horse A could be a false favorite.

As the bets on a favorite increase, its odds go down. The odds on all other horses then go up in response. This is when you can get a good price on an overlooked horse.

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