Harness Handicapping - Winning Consistently

Eb Netr

July 3rd, 2013

Consistency is a very important handicapping factor. Give me a consistent plodder any day, over a brilliant but erratic speedster, that posts a 92 speed figure in one race and a 78 in its next race. With erratic horses, you don't know which horse you're going to get in any particular race. Maybe it will be the brilliant speed horse, but it could just as well be the horse that never really gets going and posts a much lower speed figure than it did in its last race.

Consistent horses, on the other hand, may not dazzle anyone with their gate speed or close 5 positions in the stretch. But if they consistently leave with the first tier, stay close and then close a couple of positions in the stretch, assuming that they're at the right class level, they'll hit the board often enough to make you - and their connections - money.

Bettors aren't impressed by consistent horses though, unless they consistently win by a good margin. There aren't too many horses that do that, except in the highest classes, and they're unlikely to pay very much, since anyone can see how good they are.

But what about a horse that finishes in the money in almost all of its races, as long as they're within a range of class ratings? There are several of them on my personal "horses to watch" list. They're horses, for instance, who are in the money often enough to produce a positive ROI, as long as the race class rating is within their ability level. For instance, there's a mare at Balmoral that can almost always hit the exacta as long as she's in a good post position and is no higher than a 72 class rating on the program I use.

She runs a few races and wins or hits the exacta and then rises until she's over her head in class - say a 74 or 76 - loses, and then she drops down again and hits the board. I know not to play her when she's at a level where she'll probably lose. She's 6, so she's pretty much settled at where she'll be for a while, as far as class and speed go. With a little luck, and some good horses to put with her, I'll be able to hit some nice exactas with her for a long time.

If you'd like to make a steady income from the harness track, the best way to do it is with horses like this, not with big longshots that come in once in a while, pay big bucks, and then don't come in for a long time. Find some horses that you can see are in the money on a regular basis. Look at what the class ratings and speed ratings are when they win or place. Look at which post positions they do well from.

When all of these things are optimum, play them to win and place and in exactas with other horses that you've handicapped that look like they can hit the board. Sometimes, you can find a race where there are only 5 or 6 horses and an exacta wheel with your consistent horse makes sense. You might even want to key it over two or three other horses in the trifecta. Of course, it all depends on the odds and what kind of payoff you think you'll get for exotics.

Build up a list of these horses and adjust it as the horses go in and out of form. Watch for them to come back after time off and find out if their trainers do well with horses coming off a layoff or not. Be cautious and don't bet the farm on them until you get a feel for how to do this. Then, watch your bankroll get bigger as consistency pays off at the harness track, week after week.