The best method for handicapping claiming races is different than the way you handicap other races. That’s because claiming races are different from stakes races of even allowance races or handicaps. Because a horse can be taken from a trainer and owner in a claiming race, there is more at stake and also greater possibilities for profit.
It seems that the higher purses of stakes races and allowance races offer more opportunity for profit, but that isn’t necessarily the case if you consider the initial investment and also the possibility of trainer involvement. While a good conditioner is important to the success of any horse in any kind of race, in claiming races, the trainer is the single most important factor.
There are many horse trainers who make a living claiming and winning at the bottom rungs of the ladder at some race tracks. They have mastered the art of improving a runner and in the bottom claiming ranks, there’s often the most room for improvement. Therefore, figuring out what the trainer is doing with a horse and whether or not he or she will be successful at it will lead to many winners.
The horse racing news is filled with the stories and exploits of the top horses. Graded stakes races fill the news. The feature race of the day at most race tracks usually isn’t a claiming race. The reason is that the high priced races have horses that are clearly talented and running at the top of their form, while the low priced horses found in the other races are of dubious class and ability.
The reason for that is often that they just aren’t as talented as the other horses and also, sometimes, that they have physical problems that keep them from racing at their best. You may also include trainer ineptness in the list of reasons why some horses fail in those races. The cheaper the horse, the less likely that a top flight trainer will be conditioning it. While the trainer may be at fault for the horse’s poor record, another trainer may claim the horse and almost instantly improve its performance.
That’s why some of the best long shots win those cheap races. On paper, the horse appears to be slow and incapable of winning when the problem is really the person who is in charge of conditioning it and finding the right races for it. When the horse changes barns it is put in the hands of a competent trainer and improves dramatically. The bettors still expect it to perform poorly because they don’t know that the trainer has figured out what the horse needed to feel better and race faster.
Therefore, bet the horse that looks the best on paper in the big races, but pay more attention to the trainers as the purses go down. At the bottom level, it’s about the people and what they can do to make money for themselves and the owners.