Five Tips for Handicapping Juvenile Races

June 21st, 2023

Two-year-old races are a polarizing figure to many handicappers – some adore them while others will avoid them as much as possible. It is difficult to gauge what a debuting runner will do, and it’s also hard to know how much an inexperienced horse will move forward or backward. Personally, I have had a good measure of success over the years with these types of races, and below are a handful of things that I put at the center of my handicapping for juvenile events.

Sales Price

I will never solely base my wager on the ticket price of a particular horse, but I have used it as a successful tool on countless occasions in the past, especially with first-time starters. While there is no set formula to my method, I will give a very long look to any horse that sells in excess of 10x the sire’s stud fee. If that auction purchase comes in the form of a weanling or yearling, I could only imagine that the youngster was a standout physically. And if the sale occurs during a two-year-old-in-training event, then my instinct tells me that the individual was an excellent mover while likely displaying speed.


Utilizing the Ultimate Past Performances offered by, handicappers have access to a sire’s first-out win percentage, a dam’s production with previous foals including juvenile winners, etc. And, in my very humble opinion, the tendencies of the mare’s previous foals are the most important nugget of information to use for me. I put a major focus on the female side of the family.

Human Connections

Certain conditioners are simply more effective than others with youngsters. They often have them cranked up from the get-go, while other trainers will take more time in developing their ‘babies.’ When you see names like Wesley Ward, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Brad Cox, etc. with two-year-old starters, it is wise to take a long look at the horses that they are saddling. This is not to say that other conditioners are not worth wagering on in juvenile events by any means, but the numbers don’t lie.


In general, I feel that early speed is paramount in two-year-old races, especially in the sprint contests. Young and inexperienced horses are not accustomed to passing runners as well as they might be if they have more seasoning. Every race will not yield a wire-to-wire winner, of course, but being involved early on is an important trait that I will look for with the youngsters.

Follow the money

There aren’t as many secrets on the backside with primed two-year-old runners as there were in the past. Juveniles that take a lot of early money, especially at a big morning-line price, are often a telling sign that he/she has flashed considerable potential on at least one occasion during training. I suggest watching the tote board in these types of races.