They say everybody has to start somewhere and the same is true of young race horses who are starting a career in racing. The problem for bettors who want to wager on races with horses who have never raced before, known as “first time starters, or (FTS),” is that it is hard to assess their ability and therefore would be punters don’t know whether to bet on them or against them.
Some handicapping gurus advise you to skip any race with an FTS. However you may miss a lot of races that way, especially in the spring when the maidens are flooding the scene. You may also miss some good bets that way. Here are a few tips for betting on maiden races and evaluating horses who have never competed.
First of all, most maiden races are about speed. Do your best to compare the speed ratings of horses who have at least one race. Be aware that for many trainers the first race is just practice and the runner may not have been pushed in its first race, in fact, the jockey may not have tried to win the race because the trainer wanted the youngster to just get some experience and make it around the track in one piece.
So for a horse with just one race, expect an improvement in the next race, especially if it is dropping slightly in class. After you’ve evaluated the experienced runners look for any who have shown a lot more speed than the others. That horse is obviously the one most of the crowd will bet on and should be the favorite in the race.
Now look at the FTS horses and see if any have breeding that indicates a win in the first race. That means a sire known for precocious foals. Any sire whose progeny win at a 16% rate on their first try is considered a sire of precocious foals and the horse should be considered a contender. Trainers sometimes have a record of winning with FTS horses as well so check the stats on each conditioner and determine if he or she likes to win with FTS horses.
Now it’s time to look at the workouts that the runners have shown. FTS horses should have a string of workouts leading up to the races that are evenly spaced, at least one a week, though every five days is better, that show the horse is being conditioned. Only one or two workouts is suspicious unless you know the horse has been training off track at a private farm.
Once you’ve evaluated the runners and have determined which ones are contenders based on those who’ve shown speed and those who have the connections or breeding it is time to do your final assessment and that involves looking at the horses. A well conditioned horse has a muscled haunch with a well defined racing dimple that shows it is in shape. The racing dimple is the deep groove that runs down the big muscle on a horse’s haunch.
A first time starter should not be too nervous or sweating profusely. If it is, pass on that one. If there are too many FTS you may want to pass the race. Look at the odds board and see if any of the FTS horses are being bet down. Odds of 5-1 or less on an FTS may indicate that it is well thought of by the backside denizens and that could mean it has been training well and they think its ready to win. Watch the money in a maiden race and you’ll often find the winner. Favorites often win those “baby” races as they are sometimes called because raw speed is hard to hide and that’s what dominates when the runners are short on experience and just want to run.
If your calculations agree with the odds board and you think there is value in a bet, don’t be afraid to put a flutter on a runner to win as long as you remember that betting on horse races is risky business and you should never eager more than you can afford to lose. Enjoy your days at the races.