Harness Handicapping: Best Bets and Handicapping Shortcuts

Eb Netr

April 10th, 2013

Sometimes, I don't have time to handicap a program the way that I usually do. At other times, I don't feel like it. I just want to grab a program, sit down at my laptop and play some races without spending an hour or so handicapping. When I get into one of these moods, I look for my "best bets", angles that pay off and are easy to find on the program.

One of my favorite angles is a horse that can get out early and can also close. There are some other considerations, but when I see one of these horses, I almost always know that I have a good win or exotic bet. If you use the Trackmaster harness program, these horses are very easy to spot. Just look at the bottom of the program page, where it lists the "Early Speed" and "Hard Closer" horse. If they're the same horse, you have your play - if - and it's a big if, it fits three other filters.

It has to be within the top three for speed, and for time in its last race. And it has to have a driver with at least 10% for wins. If you find a horse like that, you've found a horse that has a lot going for it. They're not always the favorite either. I've had them win at double digit odds on more than one occasion. This little angle works well at half mile tracks and also at Balmoral and Cal Expo, where closers do better than early speed in most races.

Another quickie angle that I use when I'm not up for a lot of handicapping is a very good driver - 20% wins or more - with only one or two drives on a program. When a driver shows up for one or two drives, I figure he's pretty sure he can win. Sure, once in a while he may just be doing his regular trainer a favor. But most of the time, he's looking for a win.

An example of this happened last Sunday at Dover. Ben Stafford Jr, who has over 20% for wins, had one drive, Maximum Terror, #7 in the 5th race. He was driving for his father, so it might have been just a favor. My intuition told me it wasn't though, and when the odds at two minutes before the race were at 5-1, I took a chance and played Maximum Terror to win and place a few times. I was glad I had when Stafford drove the horse to a win and I collected a nice little piece of change.

I've used this angle on tracks in Maine when a top driver shows up on the card at Bangor or Scarborough, when I know he could have had drives at one of the Canadian tracks where he drives most of the time. He almost never disappoints me. The top drivers win a big percentage of the races, so when one of them shows up for one or two drives, you know they plan to make it count.

It's always better to handicap a program in depth, if you can. But when you can't, and you still want to play some races, it's nice to have these two little shortcuts to help you cash some tickets.