Morning Line Madness



I stopped by the race book for a cold beer and a couple races. – This can be the best part of the day, as you’ve enjoyed the live racing action and it’s time to kick back and enjoy a few races. – I was approached by an older fan who asked me “who makes the morning line ?” – When I answered I know the guy pretty well, he said it gives him a good place to start handicapping. – “Thank you, my friend. That was exactly what I was shooting for.”


I’ve been reading some articles on the morning line. – “Is it worth reading ? – Or is it something of value ?” – I have been making the morning line for three years and take pleasure in my work. Handicapping claimers can be challenging, and you have to keep up on races that are recent. The big name runners hold their form longer, and the claiming game is touch and go at best. – Condition claimers may hold their form for a couple of races at best, and mid-level claimers and allowance horses tend to keep in shape a bit longer. If they aren’t doing well, they can always take a step down the ladder. – I’ve always used the morning line as a tool to begin my handicapping. They are the track handicappers, and why wouldn’t you use their work as a starting point ? – I’m not saying it’s an all-out handicapping contest, but anytime someone breaks down the races and comes up with an idea of how the race shapes up, maybe it is worth looking at before you start. – Here is a glimpse into the process that goes into my morning line.


* First, I glance over the field and refer back to notes I keep about the local runners. – From there, I get an idea of the players and the process begins. – A key thought to keep in mind, the morning line is an estimation of how the public will wager and how the odds will shape up when the race begins. – These are not my actual selections of who I would possibly wager.

* There is a point system that is used. – Some think it is a random assigning of odds, but not the case. You begin with 100, now add in the win-place-show take out ( I use 18%). We now have 118 points. – For each horse, they are assigned 1 point for each runner in the field and if there is an entry, they only receive one point, not two. If there is a ten horse field for example, the total number of points is: 100+18% take out = 118, and now add one point per horse. – The total should be 128 for this race.  – I like to give myself a 3-4 point range to ensure the race is “balanced” if the odds assigned are between 124-125.

* I go back and watch replays for out of town runners, and local horses who had a troubled trip. – If there are any questions about runners, I always go back and watch their last effort.

* Items I watch for: sharp workouts, out of town outfits shipping in, rider changes, new claims for a red-hot barn, cutting back in distance, dropping in class, hot apprentice riders picking up mounts for big trainers. – Add in any equipment changes, and first time geldings, and you have plenty to keep your eyes peeled before handicapping.

* I begin by looking for the runners who don’t fit as well (or will have big odds) and go from there. If I’m in doubt, go back to the workouts. The connections and how they’re doing, and if needed, go back and watch the last race replay if possible. – From there I take a look at the main players. Who has good current form ? – Who is in the hands of a top rider or red-hot barn ? – Are runners getting a class change or distance or surface switch ? – Keep a close eye on runners coming in from bigger tracks or making a surface change such as all-weather to dirt. – Are there any trainers who do well with first time starters ? Turf runners ? Fresh off the claim ? Equipment changes ? Changing distance from the last race. – All of these go into the “handicapping” of the race to get a feel for what handicappers will be looking for and how they will be wagering.

* Just a glimpse into the points used. – If a horse is (2-1), they will have a 33 point assignment. – Take the (2-1) and add 1 point for 3. Now, divide 100 by 3 to get 33.3. – The point value is 33. – If  a runner is (5-2) for example: Divide 5 by 2 = 2.5, now add 1 = 3.5. – Divide 100 by 3.5 = 28.57. – The point value is 28.

* I like to look ahead for weather, and the possibility of a race coming off the turf. – This is kept as a side note to keep in mind for off-track runners who may benefit from the slop or muddy track.

* Keep in mind the human connections and what their barn does well. – Babies ? First time runners ? New claims. – Is the jockey an apprentice ? Are they a 5 lb. or 7 lb. “bug” rider ? – What are the stats for the rider / trainer at the meet, the year, on the turf, sprinting, going from a route to a sprint. – I like to take all of these factors into play because I want the players to have a good idea coming in before they start their own handicapping.


Once the tote windows open, it’s all up to the public money to determine the odds. The morning line is just a starting point. It gives the handicapper a gauge of the race and runners entered. – If a morning line odds maker takes their job seriously, it can usually take an hour or more with a regular nine race card. If there is a stake, I like to watch replays on all if possible and get familiar with out-of-town runners. – The process is always enjoyable for me. I have spoken with some odds-makers and after time they felt it was the least part of the job. If you would have told me I had the opportunity as a young handicapper to create the morning line. I would have thought I won the lottery ! – Just keep in mind it is a starting point. – If time allows, try and create your own line. This will allow you to find fair odds and what you would accept as a good wagering prospect. – Best of luck, and always remember; “bet with your head and not over it.”