When I handicap ordinary races, such as reclaim races and subsidy races, I often look for horses that are not in the race to win. By observing the runs the horse has run, a handicap can often detect the horse that is training or exercising. Trainers regularly use racing to condition their horses and work to improve their racing ability by working on their bad habits.
For example, if a horse has been stubborn in racing and refuses to slow down, a trainer may place a strong, armed rider on the horse with express instructions to slow down and accelerate it. Sometimes you will see the rider back up the rhythm of these horses. Fighting often takes the horse out of the race. What may at first appear to be a jockey “launching” a race is actually just a jockey following instructions to teach the horse a racing lesson.
There are trainers who condition their horses by competing with them. The horse may be coming back from a break and in need of some “tensioners” as they are called upon to regain that fire and muscle tone needed to win races. However, in a major betting race, you will rarely see a horse race for training or conditioning. Most of the horses in a betting race are in it to win it. That means you should take each one seriously, even if it seems like they don’t match.
If the trainer is a good trainer who knows his business, he will only put a horse in a race because he knows he has a chance. If a horse is properly bred for distance and surface and appears to be improving, a trainer may enter the corridor over his head because he suspects that the horse has a great run in him. There have been some notable upsets at Grade 1 races. There have even been upsets at each of the Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
While anything is possible on any horse, the Triple Crown and Breeder’s Cup races are logical places to look for a risky bet. Horses at odds with a good trainer and rider is a reasonable proposition in a Grade 1 race, especially if you have another reason to endorse such a horse. If the price is right, don’t be afraid to bet against the favorite with a long shot that can upset the field.