Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 3: Blinkers

June 14th, 2018

Researching Trainer Angles in Tack and Gear

Question: What do American Pharoah, Justify, Arrogate, Bayern, Dortmund, West Coast, Mastery, and Dream Tree all have in common?

Answer: They all won Grade 1 races for Hall of Fame trainer , and furthermore, they all won their second career starts while racing without blinkers for the first time.

Handicapping races using trainer angles has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to online tools such as DRF Formulator and STATS Race Lens, which offer bettors the ability to search through history using a wide variety of criteria to identify situations in which certain trainers excel. You’ll often hear of angles like “blinkers on” or “blinkers off”—in other words, how well does a certain trainer perform when making equipment changes involving blinkers?

The most basic angles involving blinkers simply tally up a trainer’s win percentage when adding or removing blinkers, along with the return on investment (ROI) for every $2 win bet. But dig a little deeper, and you can discover even more powerful angles that can significantly aid your handicapping.

For example, over the last five years, Bob Baffert has won at a solid 29% rate when removing blinkers from his horses, generating a modest $1.28 ROI that indicates how heavily his horses are typically bet. This in and of itself is not a particularly valuable angle, but if Baffert debuts a horse with blinkers and then removes them for the second start, watch out! Baffert doesn’t make the move all that often, but over the last five years, this angle has produced 13 winners from 28 starters (46% wins!) with a much-improved $1.80 ROI.

And if Baffert chooses to remove the blinkers following a winning debut, then you really need to pay attention. Over the last five years, that angle has gone 6-for-8 (75%) with a $2.18 ROI, and those six winners all went on to prevail at the graded stakes level, led by , Bayern, Dortmund, Mastery, and Dream Tree.

As you can see, these two “blinkers off” angles have produced some of the best horses that Baffert has trained in recent years, including two Triple Crown winners. So the next time you see this angle come up, it might very well be a sign that Baffert has another future star in his barn!