Harness Handicapping: Claim To Fame

April 24th, 2013

I admit it. I'm a sucker for longshots and angles. While I try to rein myself in and stick to what I know works best, sometimes I just can't help but take a chance on a horse that's at long odds. I do have my standards though. If I play a horse, it has to be for a reason, not just because I have a hunch or hope it comes in or because its name is the same as my mother's. (You'd be surprised how many harness horses are named Mollie.)

Lately though, I've been hitting some very nice payoffs on longshots and I think it's because I've been keeping better track of who's hot and who's not at claiming and some other angles. For instance, Ron Burke rules at The Meadows. He's way in front of other trainers when it comes to almost everything.

Horses moving up, moving down, coming back from layoffs, off the claim... Ron has plenty of them winning. But if you played every one of his horses, you'd lose money, unless you only played horses coming off the claim. If you did that, you'd make more than a 10% ROI, which is more than you'd get from a bank.

Of course, that would mean that you'd have to keep track of every horse he claims and play it when it runs for the first time after he claimed it. I do look at the Meadows program every day and scan it for horses that Burke is running off the claim. If they have a good driver, most likely Dave Palone, and the odds aren't ridiculous, I'll play them. Very often, they win. He has a 35% win rate with them right now.

Burke is good off the claim at Harrah's and Hoosier also. However, one of my favorite claiming trainers seems to only show up at Buffalo. J D Perrin wins about a third of the time with claimers and has a three digit ROI with them. If one of his claims has a decent driver, I jump on it and sometimes get pretty good odds.

Some other trainers who don't owe me anything for wins off claims are Joseph Karrat at the Meadowlands and Dylan Davis at the Meadowlands and Pocono. I don't know exactly what their strike rates are, but when they put a good driver on a horse they've just claimed, and it's in a good post, it comes in.

I don't just look for angles. I still handicap every program the way I always have. I look for horses with good trainers and drivers, in good post positions, running at a class level they can handle, in form or improving. I stick with tracks I know and keep an eye on the weather and the odds board.

But I have to admit that it's a lot more exciting to hit a big payoff on a horse that I played because of an angle, than it is to pick a horse that was 5/2 in the morning line and went off at 4-5. Don't get me wrong. If the 4-5 horse is the logical choice to bet, I bet it or pass the race and look for a better play. The 4-5 horses are the bread and butter for most horseplayers, with good reason. The angles and longshots are more like an occasional treat, but boy are they sweet when they come in.