If a race is wide open, don’t dismiss out-of-state shippers

April 3rd, 2024

When handicapping day-to-day races at your favorite track, it’s easy to get caught up in comparing the local runners in any given field, since they’ll often be exiting similar races and may have even run against each other in the past. It feels like it should be relatively straightforward to analyze the form lines and determine the most likely winner.

But it’s important not to overlook new faces in the entries. A horse shipping in from a different track or state can be inadvertently underestimated in your quest to rank the local runners, but sometimes the newcomer winds up being superior to all the locals.

There were a couple of examples at Turfway Park in Kentucky on March 30, 2024. Race 3 was a $16,000 claimer for older horses sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta. Seven of the eight entrants had experience running at Turfway, and five of those seven were exiting Turfway races. Their form lines were solid for the most part, and it could have been easy to overlook Silent Sunday, the only runner without experience at Turfway.

But Silent Sunday had been facing tougher competition in California, and his 3-1-2-0 record on Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields suggested he would be a good fit for Turfway. Despite his appealing credentials, Silent Sunday started as the 7-1 fifth choice, and every $20 win bet returned $174 after he rallied boldly to win by a half-length.

Race 8 produced a similar outcome. The contest in question was a $30,000 maiden claimer for three-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs on Tapeta. Determining the key contenders in the 11-horse field wasn’t easy; the Turfway locals didn’t appear particularly inspiring, four first-time starters looked like a mixed bag of medium to large longshots, and two of the three out-of-state shippers appeared too slow to challenge.

In contrast, New York raider Mitole Magic was the fastest filly in the field from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective, having posted a 78 when third in a six-furlong turf maiden special weight at Aqueduct the previous November. While bettors focused on Turfway local She’s Always Rosie, who was dropping in class out of two six-furlong maiden special weights, Mitole Magic started at 5-1 and paid $134.20 for every $20 win bet when she rallied from off the pace to win by one length.

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to split evenly matched local runners in a competitive field, ask yourself if you’ve overlooked any out-of-shippers with the credentials to challenge. They can win at nice prices and render the relative ranking of local runners irrelevant.