How to Read the program
Find the How to Read the program page early in the Hanover program.
You can see that we have identified all the different pieces of information that go into a charted
program. Find items 20, 21 and 22 on the page. (20 is post position) Each racetrack employs a charter who watches every race and marks down the position of each horse during the race which are the numbers located above 21. These specify the horses position at the quarter pole, half, three quarters, stretch and finish. The next number (23) is the finishing time of the race participant. The winning mile time is located just before the starting position of each horse, or in other words its the final number in the chart above the number 19.
This information is very useful in identifying which horses like to race from the front and which horses tend to finish strongly in their races. This information also identifies the current form of the horse, and whether or not they broke stride, or were interfered with in their last race. (see the list of abbreviations).
Having their last 5 races in the program allows you the handicapper to determine how fast or slow you think they will compete today. Keep in mind that Post position also plays a factor in handicapping including whether a horse performed badly last time, but started from an outside post position and now has a much improved starting position this week. This is the fun part of handicapping for some, as you determine how you think the race will play out, and if you end up being correct, you are rewarded at the windows. Like studying a fellow poker player at the table, handicapping can be an enjoyable activity, however, the best thing about our sport, is you can also enjoy it without handicapping.
Some fans don’t like handicapping, but like to cheer on a particular horse because of its looks, name or colour. Other fans enjoy the excitement of cheering on their favorite horse or driver.
The important thing to remember is about 20c from each bet goes to support the jobs at the track, and the purses, so ITS VERY IMPORTANT that you bet. OMAFRA is talking about matching money made at each track to support racing in the future, so if you want racing to continue in Hanover, it’s your betting dollars that the government will use to determine our future.
North American Racetracks come in different shapes and sizes. Hanover is a half mile track, as is Clinton, Grand River, Flamboro, and Dresden. However, some tracks like Georgian and Rideau are Five-Eights of a mile, and some tracks like Woodbine and Mohawk are seven-eighths of a mile.
This means a horse that races in 1:57 at Mohawk will likely be slower when competing at Georgian, and even slower at Hanover or Clinton because there are more turns in the mile. Every handicapper has his own timing factor for each track, and it’s not and easy thing to identify, but Standardbredcanada.ca has a form called Speed Ratings on their website. Most handicappers would agree that a horse at Hanover will be 3-4 seconds faster at Woodbine and Mohawk, however, trotters tend to be 1-2 seconds faster due to the different gait. This is not an exact science.
A Five-Eights mile horse should be 1 second slower when he competes at a half-mile track, and most half-mile tracks will be within a second of each other. So that means a horse from Georgian racing in 1:59 should be equal to a 1:57 horse at Mohawk and a 2:00 horse at Hanover…or very close to that. (this is not an exact science).
On the How to Read sheet (item 19) identifies the times of the mile for the leading horse, and number 24 identifies the times of the mile for this horse. In Somebeachsomewhere’s case, they are the same times, as Somebeachsomewhere led from start to finish.
This isn’t always the case. Many handicappers look at the last 2 numbers from column 24 to identify which horses in the race have the fastest closing times, and highlight those or circle them, when trying to determine who they think will win. Some handicappers and trainers feel this shows which horse has the most gas in the tank coming home, and could be the ones passing horses down the stretch. Other handicappers like to find horses that race up front, figuring they will be less likely to suffer from interference or the flow of a race. That means they look for the 1st two numbers for the quarter and half mile times, to see which horses leave well. For example….. A good closing Trotter might be faced with interference from another horse who broke in stride ahead of him during the race….while a front runner may not have that problem. You can watch and learn and decide your own method or strategy.
Check out item numbers 10,11 and 12. 10 shows you how the horses fastest lifetime mile, where it was raced, how old he was, how many lifetime wins he has, and how much money he has earned in his career. 11 shows you the last 2 years records. So on this charted horse, Somebeachsomewhere raced 9 times in 2008 and won 8 of those 9 races for just over 1.5 million dollars. In 2007, he raced 6 times and won all 6 races. Some handicappers like to pick horses with a high winning percentage, indicating that these horses are ready to race when they arrive at the track. Some handicappers also tend to shy away from horses who have not won a race in more than 10 or 15 starts. Again it’s all preference and your strategy.
Driver and Trainer Stats
Number 6 gives you important information on the driver, and number 9 gives you important information on the trainer. If you don’t want to decipher all the race information, you can still be successful studying the driver and trainer stats. Paul Macdonell in this scenario drove in 1195 races, winning 141 times, finished 2nd 121 times, and was 3rd, 119 times for a winning percentage of .207.
In this instance, even though there will be drivers with 250 and 300 percent averages, I would still pick Somebeachsomewhere based on his tremendous stats and times.
However, when you have a race with evenly matched horses, picking a hot trainer or driver sometimes works, and can be just as much fun. Sometimes a hot driver or new trainer is all it takes to bring in a horse that has been struggling. Finding one of these situations at 20-1 is a handicappers dream.
There is a saying in horse racing that Class beats Speed. Number 17 and 18 tells us the type of condition the horse was racing in and for how much purse money. Somebeachsomewhere was racing for major dollars including the 1.1 million dollar Metro pace.
However, you may find some successful horses will be moving up to tougher competition and will be competing for more money than their previous races, and some horses will be coming from higher classes and moving down, perhaps because they were finishing out of the money.
There are 3 types of races in Harness Racing. Stakes Racing, Claiming races and Conditioned races. Claiming races are designed for horses of similar value with each other. For example horses competing in 5,000 claimers can be purchased for $5,000 dollars plus allowances depending on the horses age.
So a $10,000 claiming type horse, dropping into a $5,000 claiming race should be competing against easier competition. This is not an exact science. Some handicappers prefer to pick horses that are moving up the ladder and are in good form, over horses moving down in bad form. Maybe the horse is sore, tired or sick. A horse winning at the 5,000 claiming level and now competing against 8,000 claimers could be confident and at the top of his game.
There are many different ways to classify conditioned horses. Sometimes they are classified by age, and most times they are classified by how much or little money they have won in their last 3 to 10 starts.
Non winners of 300 dollars in their last 3 races, are races consisting of horses that haven’t done very well lately. Maybe they were competing against horses that were too tough, or maybe they were interfered with, or made breaks in stride. Maybe they had the winter off, and are just getting back into form.
As I said earlier, like math equations, some handicappers love delving into the numbers, while others can have as much fun picking the name of the horse, or their favorite driver.
By no means are we suggesting there is a right way or a wrong way to bet on the races, but the key is to wager and have fun, as they money wagered on horse racing helps provide both operating and purse money. There are a lot more ways to spend your wagering dollar in today’s world and we are grateful that you have chosen our sport to help with the thousands of jobs that are supported and created through horse racing.
This 4 lesson series is designed to help you understand the program and wagering process and we encourage you to ask questions. The comments contained are those of the author in the hopes of clarifying the program and wagering process for you the customer.
They are not the opinions of Hanover Raceway.
Good Luck and Have Fun.