Riders Up!

by Ed Meyer

posted on December 10, 2009 in General Discussion, Handicapping | No Comments >>

Before every race, the horses saddle in the paddock. The 95-lb athletes are some of the toughest in sports. For the longest time, I have wondered about the importance of riders. Do they make the big difference, or are they just along for the ride?

Early in my years of handicapping, I was always of the opinion that they made all of the difference. But, as I have come along these many years, my thoughts may have changed; changed to be on guard for certain moves or changes.

Here are some of the things that I look for when assessing the riders in the saddle:

  • I look for top-notch stables who employ a top shelf jockey. I have watched as the money is too good. There is no second chance at many levels. Look for those riders who rank with a 20% or better on the year, and especially at the meet. Add in the facts of how riders do with a particular trainer. Every good team that stays together, wins in the long run. Racing is no different, and they look at the energy they bring to the table.
  • Another tidbit is watching big name riders pick up a mount for a low rated stable. This can be the work of an agent, and they can be excellent handicappers. This pays off in the long run. If you look at the year stats, runners that are low on the totem pole, with a top rated boot, usually pay near and above the $20 range. The agent has done his homework, and this is a great opportunity to pick it up and cash it in. Keep an eye peeled for this move. They usually had a bug rider or apprentice last time out, and today they have a top three standing rider in the saddle. Here is a sweet price play…..
  • I like when top riders stay aboard. When they have a first time starter that ran down the road poorly, and hang on and comeback, now that is one worth watching. Loyalty does exist in the game, but it usually has limits. Watch for this move as well.

Overall, the rider plays a crucial role after all is said and done. My handicapping has taken a hard look at this move, but others still dismiss the rider and just roll the dice. I like to employ the handicapping angles I have learned over the years. When watching riders, you have to put the time in. If you watch, I think you will see the payoffs come back. Just use these angles with your data and watch your ITM % skyrocket.