Understanding Track Bias In Horse Racing

Every race track that hosts thoroughbred horse racing is different. No two racing strips will play the same way on the same day. That is one of the things that makes handicapping and EZ Horse Betting such a fun and challenging endeavor. To pick winners with consistency you must learn how to determine if a track favors certain types of running styles. This is called track bias, and understanding it will increase your profits at an online racebook.

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The Basics of a Horse Racing Track

Horse racing tracks have many things in common. In most cases all of them are shaped like an oval. They are typically banked slightly to the outside. Race tracks also have rails on the inside and outside, and there are markers which alert the jockeys in a race to how far they have raced and how must distance is left to complete. This is where much of the similarity between race tracks comes to an end.

The composition of a racing surface is where tracks tend to differ. Some race tracks use a lot of sandy loam for cushion. This is how Belmont Park in New York was given the name Big Sandy. Other tracks use other mixtures of dirt. There are even synthetic race tracks in horse racing which use silica and other materials. The difference in composition and other factors can ultimately combine to produce a track bias.

What is a Track Bias?

A bias on a race track is a condition which causes the track to favor one type of horse over another. Some horses like to run on the front end. These are speed horses. Other horses prefer to stalk the pack and make a closing run. These are pace pressers. Finally, the deep closer likes to trail the pack throughout while conserving its energy for the final run to the finish line. When a track bias exists the unique abilities of a horse can be flattered or compromised.

It would be fair to say that most race tracks work hard to prevent a bias from emerging. At other tracks the presence of a bias is almost a daily affair. Saratoga in New York, often called the Graveyard of Favorites, is known for a wicked track bias that can literally change from one race to another. No one can precisely explain why these biases happen or exactly what causes them, but they can be a nightmare for the handicapper.

Imagine spending all night handicapping a race and finding a sure winner that likes to come from the middle of the pack. You wake up early the next day and eagerly log into your online racebook account to make a bet on this sure winner at odds of 5-1. The race is about to begin and you are excited. You watch with confidence as your horse breaks well from the gate and settles comfortably mid-pack behind a 30-1 speed ball who has bounded to an easy lead as expected. There is no way that the speed horse will be able to maintain his blistering pace, and your horse will be there to pick up the pieces.

But then your joy turns to dismay. The horse on the front is not slowing down. You watch in horror as your chosen horse tries and fails to catch the speed demon, finishing second by a nose. There goes $100 of your bankroll down the drain. You can only scratch your head and wonder if somehow the races were fixed. For days you will struggle with how you could have made such a handicapping error.

But if you had taken the time to watch the races from yesterday before you met you would have noticed that speed horses were hanging on to win more than their fair share. If you had been paying attention you would have noticed that the 3-1 favorite in the race before yours also failed to catch a fast horse on the front end. The track bias has reared its ugly head once again.

How Important is Track Bias in Horse Racing?

Surely this kind of bias cannot be that important to the outcome of races on a daily basis, right? Perhaps it could be an anomaly or an exception to the rule. If one could learn to spot the rare occurrence then maybe a profit could be made. Well, the truth is that it happens more often than enough to be considered greater than an exception to the rule. Track biases are the rule.

A track bias is such an important factor that Andrew Beyer himself incorporated the concept into the creation of his speed figures. The Beyer Figures take into account how tracks can vary from day to day. Track bias is so important that there are handicappers who use it as their exclusive angle. They have studied the races on a particular circuit in such detail that they can make bets without any additional information than the existence of a bias. Beyer himself did this for one whole season in Maryland, betting horses with early speed who had a position on the rail. This angle was good enough to make him a sizable profit with no other handicapping required.

Handicapping is an art as much as it is a skill. The more information you have the better off your handicapping will be. We aren’t suggesting that you only use track bias to handicap, but we are saying that it should be considered along with other handicapping factors.

How A Track Bias is Created

There are many ways that a horse racing track bias can be created. It can happen after a heavy rain or a prolonged dry period. It can happen when a track is not maintained properly. And we’d be lying if we didn’t say that a track bias can be manufactured to suit the tastes of the racing secretary. The last probably doesn’t happen as often as you would think, but it does happen.

For many years the racing fans at Louisiana Downs have noticed that the track suddenly seems to speed up during the week preceding the Super Derby. This is the track’s marquee race and some have speculated that the track likes to post fast racing times on that day to assert the importance and quality of the event. At least one rider has taken advantage of that bias. Calvin Borel rode Free Spirit’s Joy to a Super Derby win in 1991 when no one gave the horse a chance. He did it by taking advantage of a bias that favored horses with early speed which were racing in a certain path.

Tracks are harrowed between each race. This means that a tractor comes around with a huge rake-like device to smooth the dirt that was dislodged during the previous event. The track is then leveled off for the next race. When this happens some parts of the track may become shallower or deeper. A track that is shallow may be faster, while one that is deeper could cause horses to labor more heavily. A deep track could be very detrimental to a horse that is stalking the pack as it will be more apt to tire them out.

Learning How to Recognize Track Bias

The only reliable way to recognize that a bias exists is to make a consistent study of the results at your preferred racing circuit. You will need charts that present the results from several months of racing. Many bettors keep these charts each year so that they can refer to them later on. The good thing is that signing up for an account with an online racebook will usually get you access to free racing charts and past performances. Otherwise you will need to purchase them from a third-party.

The simple way to look for a bias is to go through and identify running styles that were compromised or flattered by the racing strip. To do this you will first need to assess the running style of the winning horse and its competitors. Mark on your chart which horses prefer to run on the front and which prefer to stalk. There is no need for the beginner to identify deep closers. These horses are rare and do not win their fair share of races anyway.

You will then look for patterns to emerge. Were horses with early speed winning a lot of races? Were horses racing in the outside post positions winning at a good clip? There is no limit to the information you can glean from a track bias. You want to make sure you keep detailed notes so that you can refer to them when you handicap.

Using Track Bias to Win at Online Horse Betting

Once you have collected data and entered it in your notebook, it is time to put that data to work. If you have noted a pattern the only thing you must do is recognize when the pattern has a potential to unfold. Here’s an example.

Your notes have revealed that a track bias exists which favors horses that stalk from three or four lengths off the pace. What you will be looking for in your handicapping is a horse with this particular running style that is competing against horses with other running preferences. In other words, if a race has three speed horses, two closers, and the one lone stalker you may have found a bet. Because this horse is the only one in the race which has a running style which fits the bias, it may win with ease.

Granted, these opportunities are not always easy to find. They do not happen every day. But when they do happen it is usually profitable. A horse that runs with the bias may be a large price at the betting windows. It is not uncommon for these horses to enter a race at 10-1 or better.

Finally, remember that a track bias is still not enough to compensate for an overall lack of talent. If a horse is simply not good enough to win, no track bias will probably make a difference. You want to be betting only on horses that have shown some level of talent in the past.

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