Horse Racing Handicapping Maiden Races and First Time Starters


Horse Racing Handicapping Maiden Races and First Time Starters

Many people who handicap horse races and bet on them don’t like to play maiden races.  They feel that the runners are unknown quantities and therefore too difficult to evaluate.  While there is some truth to the fact that young horses have yet to prove themselves on the track, it is also true that what you see is what you get with maidens.

First time starters, runners who have never competed before, are the biggest problem.  Some people try to get a handle on how good they might be by looking at the sire and dam.  Certain sires are known for producing colts and fillies that win first time out, called precocious by fans of sire stats.  Sire statistics can also produce some information about how far a horse might be able to carry its speed as well as which surface it may prefer to run on.

Predicting precociousness is helped somewhat by morning works, or workouts, that show a young runner’s ability.  A good four furlong work showed a horse that is fit and ready to race. Combined with a pedigree that suggests the ability to win at first asking, good workouts often account for low mutuels.  This is especially true if the rest of the field shows no real stand out horses who appear poised to win.

This all depends upon the trainer, of course, and whether he or she wants the horse to win on its first try.  Some conditioners like to bring their young charges along slowly, allowing them to get some experience in the non-winners ranks before graduating and taking on tougher foes.  That is where a look at trainer statistics can come in handy.  If a trainer has shown a willingness to win with a youngster on its first try, and seems to have a horse bred for such a feat, then it may well be that the horse will be asked for a win by the rider.  Of course, if that is the case, you’ll expect to see the trainer’s favorite rider in the irons.

Obviously, all this is confirmed by looking at the record and statistics.  The only problem is that we still haven’t seen the horse in a real race.  On the other hand, looking at the rest of the field again may reveal one or more runners who have been racing for a while, perhaps with two or more races behind them, who seem to be slowly improving.  The problem with maiden horses is that they are still maturing and growing.  The rate of improvement may change dramatically from month to month, sometimes helped by a change in equipment or medication by a wise trainer.

I can’t say I’ve never bet a first timer, but I have to say that over time, I’ve grown very leery of it.  I have been disappointed too many times.  We’ve all read the stories of well bred horses who were sold for exorbitant amounts and seemed to show so much promise, only to never win a race or only be able to compete at the bottom of the claiming ranks.  Many of these youngsters were bet heavily on their debuts.

On the other hand, they were often beaten by a horse who had several races and therefore, more experience and was able to capitalize on that fact.  Therefore, before betting a first time starter, give the horse dropping from maiden special weight races into maiden claiming races a second look and don’t forget the horses who have been competing for a while and getting tougher and wiser.  They are often the best bet.

If you want to learn how a horse owner and insider handicaps just go to and get the truth. Bill Peterson is a former horse race owner and professional handicapper. To see all Bill’s horse racing material go to Horse Racing Handicapping, Bill’s handicapping store.

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