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Horse Race Handicapping - Picking Longshots

By: Rich Dudka

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A big part of the fun of going to the horse races is picking the winners. The exhilaration of rooting for the horse that wins combined with the ego boost of seeing how much a winning ticket is worth works well to put steam in a bettor's stride. If the payout to the winning bettors turns out to be a large sum of money, then that is even better. Longtime horse race handicappers continually search for ways to find winning longshots, because even though the favorite wins one-third of the time, betting on them takes very little skill and they do not pay well when they do win. If picking longshots sounds appealing, try looking for these opportunities.

The Hidden Entry
Usually when a trainer enters more than one horse in a race, the race track makes them one betting interest, known as coupling. That means that a bet on the number 1 is actually a bet on the 1 and the 1a. That situation often lowers the odds because bettors get two chances to win for the price of one. Sometimes, though, trainers are allowed to enter more than one horse in a race without the race track coupling them in the betting. This is called a hidden entry, and it provides handicappers looking for a longshot an opportunity. Quite often the higher odds horse of a hidden entry actually ends up the winner. Savvy handicappers watch for this situation and make sure to bet the higher odds horse, especially in Maisen Special Weight and Stakes races.

The Short Field Longshot
Sometimes a race fails to attract very many entries and ends up with only five horses. In this case the sharp bettors look to back the longest shot on the board because it only has to beat four other horses or even fewer if the field is shorter. Stay away from this strategy if the race has six or more entries. This play works best with Stakes races.

Trainer Moves
Horse racing publications provide more than just the horses' performances in past races. They also provide the trainers' performance statistics for the moves they are making in the upcoming race. If the horse is running on turf for the first time, or if it is wearing blinkers for the first time, or any other of about twenty trainer angles are apparent, then the publication provides information about how those moves have worked for the trainer in the past. Longtime handicappers look for a high winning percentage (over thirty works well) combined with a long history of the trainer making the move.

Picking winners is fun, but picking winning longshots is even more fun. If your day at the races has become a losing streak, try one of the above plays and your luck just might change.

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Rich Dudka has played the ponies for over twenty-five years and now provides his insights at and

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