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Why Handicap Turf Like You Handicap Dirt?

Class is the most important factor when evaluating a turf horse.

A more obvious sentence has probably never been uttered on the internet. Well, if the importance of class when handicapping turf is so important, then why are most people such terrible turf handicappers?

I think most people are set in their ways. Even if they aren’t, they fail to realize how to make the data truly work for them. A turf race is basically a test of how well a horse can run from the three-eighths pole to the wire. Lure, Wise Dan, Frankel and even Secreatriat all won the same exact way. So, if we can agree that the running of a turf race is much less nuanced than the running of a dirt race, why can’t we handicap dirt races?

I like watching people handicap a card. I never tell them that I’m Jameel from Thoroughbred Analytics because I don’t want to ruin the fun. I want them to handicap like they normally do. After having done this several times, I’ve noticed a few things. First; most handicappers think the pace scenario is equally important in turf as well as dirt. Second; the majority of people think that post position is equally important. Third; the true class of a horse is an afterthought for most handicappers.

Basically, most handicappers don’t switch up their style when going from dirt to turf. They’ll complain about a jockey who rides turf like he does dirt, but they think that it’s okay for them to handicap turf the way they handicap dirt. In a dirt race, a horse can be three lengths better than the competition and lose because of a disadvantageous pace scenario; the same will never be true for turf. I once had an 8-1 shot go ¾ in 1:14.5 in a ten furlong race over a firm turf course and still get gobbled up. It was an aha moment for me to rely on “true class” rather than an advantageous pace scenario.

So, how do I define “true class”? I take the TA Class rating of a horse and times it by two. I then take the TA Speed Rating of that horse and add it all up and divide by three. So, a horse with a class rating of 100.0 and a speed rating of 85.0 would have a “true class” rating of 95.0  ((100+100+85)/3).

Now, do this mean that you pick the horse with the highest true class rating everytime? I would not. However, I would eliminate any horse who’s true class rating isn’t competitve with the top horse’s rating. I would also play close attention to the horse with the top rating, as he will most likely be in the money regardless of the pace scenario.

Here is the important part: In order to get a “true class” rating, the horse needs to have run primarily on the turf and have made a minimum of two starts.

I’ll be handicapping several turf races this weekend and tweeting about horses who’s odds are way higher than their “true-class” would suggest. If you’re on Twitter, feel free to follow along.

Thoroughbred Analytics

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