What are the factors that help you handicap a harness race? Whether the race is on a half mile track or a longer track, the horses almost always race a mile, but post position may play a major role in how well the horse gets out and paces or trots.
Therefore, knowing the advantage or disadvantage of each post position at the track you are playing is critical. While a horse with early speed often has a huge advantage from an inside post on a half mile track, that advantage may actually be non-existent on a longer track.
As you look at the driver, class, and speed of the horse, always bear in mind where it will be starting from and factor that into how the race will play out, the pace scenario. On the other hand, it is possible to over handicap the race. Just because a horse is a hard closer, it doesn’t mean that it will sit back and wait until the end of the race before making a move. Smart and talented drivers will size up the race and may decide that the best strategy is to make and early move. Then the driver may gun a horse that usually closes to the front and try to grab a rail seat toward the front of the pack.
Remember, while Standardbred harness horses often have a favored running style, many are versatile enough to show early or late speed. In the hands of a good driver, such a horse can often show two brushes (bursts of speed). Therefore, don’t try to handicap the race and think that the pace scenario you see developing is a certainty. It is more important to handicap the horse’s speed figures and class and to note those that have shown a good brush in one of their latest races. That, of course, leads us to the question of speed.
Unless you’ve seen a horse’s last races, you may not fully understand the trip that the horse had and therefore you may not know about any trouble encountered or the fact that it drafted along in a pocket trip and got an unusually soft ride. That is why I recommend using an average speed that is adjusted for post position.
I also compare speed to the class of the race. If a horse managed to pace well at the highest class of any horse in the race, it should be an obvious favorite, unless it has a bad post or a driver with such a low winning average that you know he or she will find a way to lose.
Post position, driver, speed, and class, these are the major factors and should be well understood. If you want to make a profit betting on harness races, you’ll also have to shop for value in the pools. While win is my personal favorite, it is possible to find good bets in the show and place pools.
A good horse that is hampered by a bad post may be overlooked by the crowd. While its chances of winning may be slim, these horses often do manage to run in the money and pay well in the second or third spot.