BOTTOM LEVEL TURF CLAIMING RACES AT MAJOR VENUES

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Be mindful of the difference between lowest-level claiming prices of dirt and turf races at major racing venues, since this difference can disclose huge class edges in mediocre fields. Sunshine and warmth in Southern California and Florida this time of year offers plenty of turf events at all sorts of distances and class conditions. To capitalize, some handicappers will be students of grass versus dirt pedigree. Others will attempt to apply mathematical gymnastics to turn dirt speed figures into turf projections. However, the alert player can often spot horses that truly stand out without resorting to such intense studies, especially in bottom-level turf claiming events. Nearly every track that offers regular turf racing excludes the lowest levels of claiming and maiden claiming ranks. As a result, the cheapest levels of turf racing will often be two to three times more than the lowest-level claiming price of the dirt races at the same track. NYRA doesn’t typically card turf claiming races below $30,000, even though the dirt races go as low as $20,000 at Saratoga, $14,000 at Belmont, and even $8,000 in the winter at Aqueduct. In Southern California, the turf ladder hits the bottom rung at $25,000, despite $6,250 claiming races on the dirt. The bottom-level turf races are therefore often filled with dirt horses ‘stepping up’ from a much lower claiming price and are rarely good bets. As a result, a legitimate $35,000 turf claimer finds these events to be easy pickings. Also keep in mind that an apparently small class drop from $50,000 claiming price to $35,000 may result in facing a field made up of much weaker competition. Dropping down in search of the appropriate level, the turf specialist often goes from being hopelessly outrun to standout by moving only one rung down the class ladder. But be wary of the class change when these overmatched main track claimers return to lower priced dirt races. When the cheap claiming runner gives up on the turf and returns to the dirt, a steep price drop can almost always be anticipated. For example, the horse used to be an $8,000 dirt runner. Its trainer wanted to try turf and was forced to enter at the $30,000 claiming level to face the weakest turf competition. After running hopelessly at $30,000 two or three times, the horse is ready to switch back to dirt, so a drop to $10,000 or $12,000 claiming level may seem like a big class drop. Don’t be fooled – the horse holds little to no class advantage over the competition. Such a runner is unlikely to win until it returns to the $8,000 level again. Requirements to Take Advantage of Bottom-Level Turf Claiming Races At Major Venues: – Play turf claimers dropping from a mid-claiming level to the bottom-level turf claiming price. – Know what the lowest-level turf claiming price is at the major venues, and roughly compare bottom-level turf to bottom-level dirt regardless of the claiming price on paper. – If a low-level dirt claimer tried a higher priced turf event, a drop back to its prior dirt price is not a true class drop. This kind of horse may draw betting action, so anticipate playing against in its dirt return. Be sure to check out Dean Arnold's handicapping book, A Bettor Way, on sale now through Amazon and Xlibris Publishing (www.xlibris.com/ABettorWay.html) and most major online book sellers.

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