06/28/2017 4:38PM

Giwner: A 2-year-old betting guide

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During the heart of stakes season from June through November, the amount of time available for handicapping-based columns is somewhat slim. That said, with first-time starters popping up everywhere, this seemed like the perfect time to touch on some secrets to wagering on 2-year-olds.

Watch the qualifiers

Nothing is better than getting out to the track in the morning to watch these inexperienced youngsters get first-hand training, but if you can’t make it to the track, try watching the baby races on your computer. While not all tracks make these races available, some do, and you can have a distinct advantage if you take the time to watch. Hoosier Park and Mohawk deserves huge kudos for offering Hi-Definition quality replays. The Meadowlands also supplies free qualifying replays, though the quality makes it difficult to make a clear determination of which horses look good and which don’t. But if you watch the qualifiers live the feed is much better.

What are you looking for when watching?

I’m seeking out a horse that finishes up the mile nicely and isn’t being asked too hard in the process. These horses don’t have to finish first, they just need to show the desire to pass others and behave. I’m also a big fan of a horse that can take some air on the outside and still stick with the leaders or maybe even pass them. This shows some maturity and a desire to compete despite a more adverse trip.

Study the pedigree

While I’ll be the first to admit that just because a horse’s full brother was a champion that doesn’t mean he’ll set the world afire, there are certain trends in maternal lines that are worth considering. Just like in any sport when dealing with statistics, it is all about sample size. If a mare has produced four foals and three have achieved great success, I’m more likely to pay attention than if she has produced 10 foals with two strong performers.

While you can find these statistics on the USTA’s Pathway, a cheaper option, at least for The Meadowlands, is to check out the program comments by David Brower, as he typically will mention tidbits in his analysis. My analysis also tends to have some breeding information which could point you to a winner.

Avoid the traps

You will find horses that sold for a ton of money as yearlings that go off as heavy favorites and don’t perform up to par. Too often people are lazy and see a $300,000 auction price tag and just assume greatness. Yes, some of these horses will be great, but more will go off as odds-on choices and flop than will win.

Expect the unexpected

Two-year-old races are infamous for conservative drives. You’ll often see a horse that in theory should be much the best but they are driven so patiently that they only close late for second or third. This is where either watching the qualifiers or studying the charted lines can lend a major hand. If the horse shows early speed in the morning, they are more likely to be aggressive in the pari-mutuel races. If they pulled in the second or third quarter in a qualifier, they are more likely to make moves during a betting race.

You must take chances

There are going to be price horses that can win given the right circumstance in almost every 2-year-old race filled with mostly first-time starters. Especially in a trot race, don’t be afraid to completely toss out the favorite and go for a big payday. You only need one favorite to misbehave and it will be worth your while.

Finally, if you want some pedigree notes and my selections for Friday's 2-year-old races at The Meadowlands, you can find it here as part of our Harness Plus package.