Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 1

March 28th, 2018

Trainer Stats and Records in Horse Racing

Handicapping horse races involves many factors, and among the most popular (and lucrative) is analyzing the records of trainers to identify the areas where they excel.

For examples, some trainers—such as the two-time Eclipse Award winner —have an outstanding reputation for training turf horses. Others, such as the Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, are known for their skill at training dirt horses.

One of my favorite angles involves horses that are running for the first time. Some trainers, such as the two-time Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher, win at a very high percentage with debut runners, while other trainers tend to use a horse’s first start as something of a training race, helping to build their fitness and experience.

A great example is trainer William “Buff” Bradley, best known for his fantastic work with the durable Grade 1 winners Brass Hat, Groupie Doll, and Divisidero. Bradley doesn’t win very often with first-time starters, but when one of his debut runners shows signs of talent in their first start, it can be a sign of good things to come.

A noteworthy example occurred on February 11th, 2018, when Bradley sent out the first-time starter Divine Queen in a maiden claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs. Unfortunately, Divine Queen lost all chance at the start when she broke slowly and spotted the field about four lengths out of the starting gate, but despite this obstacle she persevered resolutely through the remainder of the race and passed more than half the field to finish fourth, beaten less than seven lengths.

Under the circumstances, that was a promising debut, and a month later Divine Queen returned to action in a maiden special weight at Tampa Bay Downs. Bettors that saw her debut and believed Bradley would have her ready for a sharper run in her second start had no need to get too creative with their bets, as the rise in class meant that Divine Queen was an overlooked longshot at odds of 61.60-1.

Not surprisingly, Divine Queen showed improvement in her second start, breaking alertly to take the lead before hanging on in the homestretch to win by a head. Every $2 win bet returned an impressive $125.20, and bettors bold enough to box Divine Queen in the exacta with favored Alberobello—coincidentally, a first-time starter trained by Todd Pletcher—were rewarded with a payoff of $460.80 for every $2 ticket.

Stay tuned to the TwinSpires How to Bet page for more insights into trainer angles during the coming weeks!