Betting Stakes And Handicap Races

Smarty Jones (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Smarty Jones (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

My favorite races to wager on are Stakes and Handicap Races, such as the Travers Stakes at Saratoga and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, both taking place this weekend. In races of this caliber, there is invariably one horse in each race that is over-hyped, and the general betting public jumps on board like lemmings.

In the case of the Travers Stakes, this year, every writer in the country mentions Orb, Verrazano, and Palace Malice in the same sentence as if these were the only three horses competing for the $1 million dollar purse. Just as lemmings are noted for their periodic mass migrations that sometimes result in mass drownings, the attention of the betting public will focus on those three horses, and the six remaining contestants will be ignored by most.

In this particular race, that may be an honest assessment of the horses involved, but in many Stakes and Handicap races, ignoring the lesser-hyped horses can be detrimental to your bottom line. Remember when Smarty Jones was considered a “sure thing” in the Belmont Stakes in 2004? The horse lost as the one-to-five favorite to Birdstone, a horse that paid $74.00 to win. How about Fusaichi Pegasus in the 2000 Preakness Stakes. He finished second as the one-to-five favorite, losing to Red Bullet, who paid $14.40.

Those are just two examples of races where horses were hyped by writers and network commentators because they looked unbeatable on paper. Yet they both went home losers on the days in question.

I do not have the time or the inclination to do the research, but if I did I am confident I could find dozens of Stakes races this year in which one horse was hyped as “the horse to beat,” and in the end that horse was beaten.Horse_50x50

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