Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review – HANDICAPPING TIPS


Every once in a while, I like to take a break from giving out the Weekly Awards to address some fans who might not be as knowledgeable about the sport as those who follow the racing action night after night. Harness racing can be a somewhat complicated sport to those who aren’t familiar with the lingo, especially for those who want to do some betting but might not know what to look for on the program.
With that in mind, I thought I’d take this week to offer some handicapping tips for those who might want to get a little more intricate than playing names or lucky numbers. The programs are filled with information for a reason. If you know how to parse through that information, you can have a bit of a competitive advantage when you step up to the windows.
One of my jobs each night is to make the morning line odds. Those odds are not necessarily a reflection of whom I think is going to win the race. Instead, they reflect how I expect the betting to go. When you consider that betting favorites usually win a higher percentage of races than the selections of even the best handicappers, it’s a good idea to follow the money when you try and choose your horses.
With that in mind, take a look at the past performance lines and see how what the odds were in the past for a particular horse. If it has been heavily bet in the past and you’ve got some middling odds on it for the current race, it might be time to pounce. By contrast, a horse that hasn’t got a lot of play in the past might not be worth considering until a little public favor gets thrown behind it.
A lot of people like to concentrate on the records of drivers when they choose their horses. This is a wise strategy, but it’s also nice to know how the drivers are performing on a particular night. Just like other athletes, drivers have hot streaks. So it’s nice to know if a driver has ripped off a couple of wins in a row or has maybe three or four victories in a night.
Riding such a hot streak can lead to a lucrative evening. When you’re at the track, keep your eye on the message board and listen closely to our TV personnel and yours truly for the information on which drivers have the hot hands on that evening.
Many handicappers get caught up in the times that a horse paces or trots as the end-all, be-all factor in a race. While times should always be considered, bettors should also be aware of how a race might play out.
For example, if past performance lines show only one horse who likes to leave for the early lead, that particular horse might be one to consider, simply because it might be able to dictate the early pace to its liking. If, by contrast, there are several horses who like to fly out to the early lead, it might be time to look at a horse that gets off slowly and likes to come from behind late. Such horses often provide some of the juiciest long shots available to bettors.
Horses are like people in that it often takes them a while to adjust to change. In the case of a harness racing horse, changes can take place if a horse ships from one track to another. Claimers often face change when they switch between owners. Certain horses may get changes in medication or equipment from their handlers in an attempt to improve performance.
Whenever you have a horse that goes through one of these changes, it’s often wise to lay off it for the first week after the change takes place. On the other hand, a horse that is racing the second of third time after one of these changes is often due for a spike in performance. When you combine that with other factors such as improved post position and improved drivers, you could have a live long shot on your hands.
A lot of people like to play exotic bets like exactas and trifectas in an effort to win a lot of money with a small wager. They often instinctively put the best horses in the race into their exotic wagers. But what often happens in a race is that the top horses beat each other up. One might win, but the others who battled early might fall off late and out of the money.
Since that is the case, watch out for certain horses that might not have a real good chance to win but could pick up the minor awards in the race. Such horses might not have the power to win, but, by saving ground and backing off of speed duels among the favorites, can fill out the back ends of exactas and trifectas at solid prices.
These are just a few tips that most veteran handicappers know well but might not be as obvious to a casual or even a first-time bettor. The next time you’re at the track, you’ll hopefully use a few of these tips on your way to a great profit.
That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at