Negative Handicapping: Eliminating Losers Wednesday at Indiana Grand

Chris Adams

Horse racing can be a difficult game. It is far easier to pick out horses that can’t win than picking the one that will. That’s where negative handicapping comes in.

The purpose of this approach to handicapping the race is to find the horses that have reasons to lose the race and get rid of them. This is in stark contrast to many players who spend all of their attention on which horse will win.

Not only does this process make it easier to zero in on which horse can win, but it can also be extremely helpful in helping to identify bad favorites.

Handicapping Material

In order to use this method a player will need access to data that they can use to find some of these negative characteristics. There are a plethora of different companies that offer various handicapping products, including many of the online wagering platforms.

For this piece I used the free data from the Twinspires wagering platform. This can be found in the blue toolbar at the top of the race menu if you have an account. All of the data on this menu is scraped from the Brisnet past performances.

Players who are more adept at reading the form can purchase Brisnet past performances through Twinspires and get reimbursed if they bet the cost of the product on the track they selected. This means that the player basically gets past performances for free.

Although I use Brisnet for my negative handicapping, many of the online wagering platforms offer their own free data and past performance rebates. As a player you should always use the product you find most helpful and tweak the system to maximize the information you have.

Negative Handicapping

Once you have selected your data it is time to start eliminating horses. Each of these criteria have been established based on watching thousands of races and reflect on what made losing horses vulnerable.

You may note that the process of negative handicapping is much harsher on horses at the top of the odds board. As a horseplayer, you can get away with riskier horses when the price compensates you for being wrong more often.

Negative Handicapping Factor #1: Human Connections

This is always a hot topic of debate among horse players. Do the humans matter? While many will say it doesn’t, the odds board will tell us otherwise.

The top connections at a track will get pounded on the odds board. Inversely, a poor trainer with a live mount may sit chilly.

Jockeys and trainers make money when they win. I want to be on side of jockey and trainers who can at least show the ability to get to the winners circle. For this reason, I give a strike to any horse who has a jockey or trainer below 10% in the win column.

Negative Handicapping Factor #2: Speed

Fast horses win and slow horses lose. It seems simple enough. For this negative handicapping step a player gives a strike to any horse who has not run within 5 points of the best “Best Speed” rating in the race.

Some horses may not have a “Best Speed” rating because they have not yet run at the distance or surface. When negative handicapping assume that a horse can do it until they prove they cannot. Horses without data in a specific category should not receive a strike.

Negative Handicapping Factor #3: Days Off

There are very few trainers who can get horses firing after long layoffs. Horses taking time off either turning out for the winter, went off form, or were injured. It is best to let these horses beat you.

Give a strike to a horse that has had 3 months or more since its last race.

Negative Handicapping Factor #4: Class

Brisnet has created a metric called Prime Power. Studies have shown this to be one of the most effective power ratings on the market for picking winners with horses in the top 4 winning nearly 80% of races.

For this negative handicapping factor, look at the difference in Prime Power between the top rated horse and the 5th rated horse. If the difference is less than 6 points it may suggest the race is wide open.

In this case, give a strike to the 3 horses at the shortest odds.

Negative Handicapping Factor #5: Pace

Pace looks at the inner dynamics of the race. How fast was each part of the race run. When looking at pace, I use different metrics for different race types. These distinctions are based on the general race flows of each of the types.

Horses will receive a strike if they are not within 5 points of the top rated pace number based on the race type.

  • Dirt races less than a mile or turf races at 6 furlongs or less I use the early pace 1 rating.
  • Dirt races longer than a mile I use the early pace 2 rating
  • Turf races longer than 6 furlongs I use the late pace rating.

Make It Your Own

Each handicapper has pet angles and factors that they view as more or less important. As you develop these ideas, add them in. The strikes above are based on data that is fairly basic and free to all users.

However, when deep diving into a race I will often include strikes for other pet angles such as losing positions in the stretch, finishing out of the money in the last 3 races, and not having a race or 3 workouts in the last 30 days.

Remember the goal of the process is to indicate horses that have reasons to lose the race so that winners are easier to find.

Putting Negative Handicapping to Use

As you use the system more you will find different ways that you can use it.

Often with really low level claimers and maidens, I will only handicap the race based on the number of strikes. This is due to the fact that these horses can have great fluctuation in their ability.

Inversely, top level allowance and stakes races often produce more formful results. To account for this I will use the Prime Power rating as an ability figure and deduct 2 points for each strike a horse earns. If a horse earns 3 or more strike I will penalize them an extra 2 points.

From there I will use the horses with the best adjusted Prime Power rating.

Negative Handicapping Indiana Grand Wednesday

Featured Race

The featured race is the Brickyard Stakes for 75k. The race will be run at 6 furlongs on dirt. In order to be entered horses must be Indiana breds.

Human Connections

All jockeys and trainers in the race have greater than 10% in the win column at the current meet

Speed

Horse #1 Double Tuff has run a 99 speed figure at 6 furlongs. #2 Jova (95), #10 Mr Manning (97), and #11 Chipofftheoldblock (95) have all run within 5 of this number. The remaining horses (#3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #,8, and #9) would all receive 1 strike.

Days Off

#5 Two Last Words last raced in November of 2020. He has been away from the races for 224 days. Two Last Words receives a strike. All other horses in the race have run within the last month.

Class

The top Prime Power in the race is #1 Double Tuff at 136. The fifth rated horse is #4 Flowerpecker at 124. With a difference of 12 between the 1st and 5th rated horses, it suggests that the Prime Power rating could be fairly accurate.

No horses receive strikes.

Pace

The best early speed 1 rating belongs to #9 Rock N June Bug (95). Only horses #4 Flowerpecker (92), #5 Two Last Words (91), and #7 Maters N Taters (91) are within 5 points of the number. All other horses in the race (#1, #2, #3, #6, #8, #10, and #11) would receive a strike.

Final Ratings

Final ratings for stakes races are Prime Power minus 2 points per strike and a two point penalty for having 3 or more strikes.

  1. Double Tuff: 136 (1 strike)= 134
  2. Jova: 124 (1 strike)= 122
  3. Music to My Ears: 122 (2 strikes)=118
  4. Flowerpecker: 124 (1 strike)= 122
  5. Two Last Words: 119 (2 strikes)=115
  6. Oscar P Q : 119 (2 strikes)= 114
  7. Maters N Taters: 122 (1 strike)= 120
  8. Max Express: 120 (2 strikes)= 116
  9. Rock N June Bug: 125 (1 strike)= 123
  10. Mr Manning: 126 (1 strike)= 124
  11. Chipofftheoldblock: 132 (1 strike)= 130

Picks

#1 Double Tuff-#11 Chipoftheoldblock-#10 Mr Manning-#9 Rock N June Bug

Full Card Selections

The selections below are for Wednesday, June 30 and were formulated using the negative handicapping process. First Post is 2:25 pm ET.

Understanding the Picks

  • *= Best Bet
  • (LS)=Live longshot

Expert Selections

  1. 4-3-1-5
  2. 6-2-5-8
  3. 5-6-4-1
  4. 6 (LS)-1-3-4
  5. 3 (LS)-2-9-6
  6. 10*-2-3-11
  7. 9-1 -5-6
  8. 1-11-10 (LS)-9
  9. 11-8-4(LS)-10

Betting News will continue to provide coverage of summer racing from around the country including selections and analysis from Indiana Grand, Saratoga, and much more.

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