Horse Racing Handicapping

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Sucker Bets

One of our long time DAILY Southern California Horses To Watch clients recently emailed our office asking me or any staff member to expound upon our most favorite “sucker bets”.

Fools And Their Betting Apps

Some people would define the sucker bet as one where you are deliberately giving the advantage to the bookmaker. An example would be the modern trend for cashing out your bet. There are plenty of bookies who offer cash out. In fact, all the biggest horse racing betting sites have it these days, even via their mobile apps. But why would they do this? Simply because in doing so they are offering you a second bet with an even bigger overround. So effectively they are making their profit margin twice in the same market.

Anyway I digress, because although cash out is a bugbear of mine, it's not what I want to discuss today. It's sucker bets in general that I want to rant about right now.

What Are They?

A “sucker bet” here is defined as a wager that has virtually no chance of success, even though it may appear to be the “lock of the century”!

I liked this query so much that I decided to tackle the request myself.

With close to 50 years of wagering under my belt, I feel that I’m surely an authority on topic of “sucker bets”.  I know, I’ve made enough of them!!!

In fact, I’ve probably made some that you aren’t aware of or haven’t yet encountered.

Try these on for size.


How many times have you seen a claimer finish a close 2nd or 3rd at a lower level and because of this close finish, is jumped up a step or two in class?

For example suppose a 25K claimer finished 2nd, beaten a length.  The obvious thing to do is to run the horse back for 25K when in top condition and hope for the best.  But all too often, the losing 25K horse is stepped up to the next claiming level of 32K.

Why is this done?

For only one reason----the trainer or owner doesn’t want to lose the horse via the claim box by running him back at 25K when it is obvious that he’s in “shape”.  What they are saying to other claiming trainers is “If you want my horse, you’re going to pay a $7,000 premium”.

Knowledgeable claiming trainers immediately back off knowing that they’d have to be brain dead to pay 32K for a horse that at best is only worth 25K.  Of course a clueless trainer might overspend for this 25K horse and pay 32K, but the horse most likely will never see the winner’s circle after a 32K race.

Moving from the backstretch mentality to the front apron mentality, a novice handicapper seeing this step up thinks that because he finished close up at 25K, he might be good enough to handle 32K stock.

He ain’t and he won’t----unless he catches a 32K field with all 25K horses.  I wouldn’t hold my breath for that scenario to develop.

Stay off this “sucker” bet and save yourself countless losing win wagers!


I love to bet against this trainer “move”.

In a game where most competent conditioners are continually looking to upgrade their barns with better stock, scarce as that stock might be, why would a trainer “drop” a horse off a win?

To other good claiming trainers, the drop screams “damaged goods”!

No trainer in his or her right mind would take a racing-sound winning 50K claimer and drop it a step to 40K.  If the horse was “right” he would be stepped up off his 50K win to the next level of 62.5K, not dropped to 40K!

Yet to some unsuspecting handicappers, it looks like manna from heaven.  Their flawed thinking is that if he can win for 50K, he’ll pulverize them for 40K and win by as many as he wants.

Most often he won’t.

The horse has a “hole” in him some where and that’s why the drop off the win comes about.

Trainers aren’t philanthropists, they’re businessmen! 

And the good claiming trainers never give anything away--------never!!!


Every single day we encounter a situation where a “top” jockey has his choice of 2 or 3 mounts in an upcoming race because he rode every one of them in their last starts.

How “telling” is it when he “sticks” on one horse rather than another?

About as “telling” as you can get!

The antiquated thinking that jockeys purposely give up obvious winners to ride losers for one or more of their top barns just to “keep” their top barns happy is total nonsense.

Those altruistic days are long gone and have been for some time.

Like good trainers, top jockeys are also good businessmen.  They very rarely “sit” on losers in a race where they can also ride the winner.

Winners are hard enough to come by---why hand one to another jockey?

So when you’re confronted with this exact situation, always favor the horse that the top rider selects.

Once in a great while he or his agent will make a mistake but in the long run, the horse they select in multiple selection situations will end up in the winner’s circle umpteen times more!