Horse racing, like any outdoor sport, is subject to the vagaries of the weather. Therefore, sooner or later, you are going to be faced with the choice between playing the races on an off track or not playing the races because the surface is rated as muddy, sloppy, or good. Many handicapping gurus suggest passing on anything but a fast track. That’s not bad advice, but what if all the tracks you usually handicap are wet?
Some people like to use the old adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
That may apply to an off track that Mother Nature has presented to you. How do you handicap an off track? First of all, just as you use past performances to evaluate the runners in a race, you can use past performances to evaluate the track. If you have a favorite race track that you want to handicap often then I advise you to pay attention to it when it is off and make some notes to yourself. Each race track has its own peculiarities and characteristics and that means you can use them to your advantage.
First of all, look for a bias. When it is rated as sloppy, for instance, does it favor a particular running style? Do front runners win more often on a sloppy surface? When it is muddy, do horses win from off the pace by closing down the center of the track? Is the rail dead when the water runs toward the inside of the track? All these characteristics and many others may be found and used to your advantage when you find a runner who will benefit from the bias.
The next useful tips concern the horses. First of all, look through your past performances for any horse who has run over the surface in its present condition. If the track is labeled muddy and you see that one of the runners has won on the track when it was muddy, that means it may benefit from the mud. Be careful when you see a horse that is shipping in that has won in the mud at another track.
Believe it or not, all muddy tracks are not the same. The same is true of tracks rated as sloppy. That is because of the consistency of the various surface. Some are stickier than others when they are muddy because they have more clay. Some, like Belmont Park, is very sandy. Keeping a list of the sires whose progeny have won at your favorite track when the going was off, will give you one more tool to beat the races with advanced horse racing handicapping that most of the other horse players won’t have at their disposal.