01/01/2014 10:51AM

Bob Pandolfo: The simple spot play system

Northfield Park should see increased purses with the addition of casino revenue.

Here is a simple spot play system that you can use on any size track.

Rule 1: The horse must be dropping in class. This can be a claiming/condition drop or a horse staying in the same or similar class but shipping from a tougher track to a weaker circuit. Basically, we're looking for horses that have been facing tougher in recent starts, especially in the horse's last race.

Rule 2: On half mile tracks the horse must have post 1 through 5. On five eighth tracks, the horse must have post 1 through 7. On two-turn tracks like one mile or seventh eighth tracks, the horse must have post 1 through 8.

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Rule 3: Using each horses’ last three starts, the best recent final time or speed figure must be within three-fifths of a second to the fastest recent final time or speed figure in the race. To use this rule, simply look at the last three starts and circle the best time, then take the fastest of those times and write it at the top of the page. This is the "par" for the race. Say that time is 1:55. For a horse to qualify as a contender, it has to have at least a 1:55 3/5 or better time in its last three starts.

Rule 4: The horse must have either set the pace or went first over in one of its last two starts. A horse that quarter-moves to the lead or brushed to the lead at the half or three quarters qualifies. The theory here is that horses that have speed win more often than closers. And horses that are raced aggressively are usually in some sort of reliable form.

Rule 5: On half mile tracks the horse must be at least 7-2 odds with two minutes to post. On five eighth tracks, the horse must be at least 4-1 odds. On all other tracks (two turn tracks) the horse must be at least 9-2 odds.

That's it! Five rules!

There are going to be a lot of horses that are easy to eliminate. For instance, on half mile tracks, horses 6, 7 and 8 are eliminated. Any horse that is not dropping in class is eliminated. All five of these rules have automatic eliminations built into them. Consequently, in some races you'll only have one or two contenders, and they will be contenders that are not the favorites.

I know some people are not going to want to bet a horse that doesn't have a leading driver. I purposely left this type of distinction out because it would eliminate too many longshots. This type of restrictive spot play system will pick horses at high odds. It also eliminates several risky bets automatically. For instance, betting outside posts on half mile tracks means ripping up tickets. That problem is eliminated here. Betting favorites may seem like fun when you hit a few in a row, but in the long run it just erodes the bankroll. With this method, you can't bet a favorite.

A set a rules, as structured in this spot play system, forces a handicapper to narrow his focus. You can actually take these five rules and apply them to your own handicapping. For example, you can handicap as you normally do and then use the rules to whittle down your final contenders.


I was thinking about some things I want to write about in the New Year. I haven't covered the Pick 5. Yonkers Raceway and the Meadowlands offer a 50 cent pick 5. This can be a good value bet and if the track doesn't have a consolation, you can take the whole pool with a 50 cent wager. I'll examine the Pick 5 more closely in an upcoming column.

I'm also going to talk to some people in the industry about the exotic bets that have lower base wagers. Besides the 50 cent Pick 5, some tracks now offer 20 cent Pick 4 wagers and 10 cent superfectas. These lower base bets are becoming increasingly popular. Are they good for the sport? Are they good for bettors? I'll examine these questions in detail from different perspectives.

Half-mile track handicapping: Although the industry trend has shown that bettors prefer the two turn tracks, I'll have an in-depth column on handicapping half mile tracks. I've written about this before but this time I'm going to concentrate on Northfield Park, which will soon see higher purses due to the new Hard Rock Casino that just opened. Will the Home of the Flying Turns make a comeback?


If you have anything you'd like to see covered, my contact info is at the bottom of this column. I’m always looking for things to write about and feedback from readers really helps.

There are a couple of interviews I have in mind. One of them is with an industry insider who also races horses.

I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. And for stricken harness driver Anthony Coletta, we haven't forgotten you. I interviewed Anthony for a column a few years ago. I found him to be a smart and friendly young man. Someday I hope to interview him again.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, his free picks at handicapping.ustrotting.com/pandycapping.cfm or write to Bob Pandolfo, 3386 Creek Road, Northampton, PA 18067.