Selecting Steeplechase Contenders

Spur of the Moment Comments Off on Selecting Steeplechase Contenders

By Dean Arnold

When playing the steeplechase races in Ireland or the UK on TVG, look beyond picking a single winner and instead, try to ferret out the contenders.

It takes a lot longer to analyze a field of 24 runners than it does to study a typical American field of five to ten runners. Jumping obstacles only makes it more difficult to pick winners. So here’s the big adjustment in thinking that you have to make in order to play steeplechase races with large fields:

Don’t try to pick the winner. Just isolate the ones that you believe will make it to the final stretch drive with a chance to win.

Here’s how the prototypical 24-horse hurdle race in the UK is run:

24 horses embark on a two-lap race around a mile-and-a-half course with ten jumps. The field starts like a peloton in the Tour de France, all in a group, setting an ordinary pace. During the first lap, a horse here and there will stumble or leave the course, leaving 18 or so horses in the peloton as they head for the second and final lap. In lap two, the peloton shrinks steadily as jockeys will leave the course rather than continue jumping with a dangerously tired mount. With half a lap to go, a core group of six to ten horses will have left the rest of the field behind.

With a quarter of a mile remaining and two jumps to go, usually only two to five runners are contenders. The rest are either too far back to be a factor or have pulled up entirely. These two to five horses are the ones that have survived this far and are still in position to have a chance to win. It’s very difficult to predict which of these remaining competitors will ultimately prevail.  But identifying which runners will survive to be a part of this final assault is the key to cashing tickets on these hurdle events.

Here are the keys to picking these finalists:

– Identify runners with the most in-the-money finishes - Look beyond wins.
– Find horses that usually finish the race. The ones that frequently pulled up, were eased, left the course or fell are unlikely again to make it to the final contender stage.
– Avoid horses that take huge rises in class or pick up huge weight increases. Horses stepping way up in class or carrying a much greater weight assignment are candidates to succumb to the day’s demands.

This is the one type of racing where it really pays off to pick the consistent campaigner that may not be a standout, but usually hangs in there for a piece of the purse. Stick to these runners and you’ll cash more than your fair share of steeplechase tickets.

Requirements to Spot Steeplechase Contenders:

– Bet the runners with the most in-the-money finishes - Consistent performance is key.
– Avoid horses showing frequent past performance comments like pulled up, eased, left the course or fell. Instead, look for the horses that usually finish the race.
– Ignore horses stepping way up in class, or picking up a significant weight increase (over five pounds). Either variable is likely to wear the horse down during the race, leaving it out of position or tired in the stretch, and unable to fire when it matters.

Be sure to check out Dean Arnold's handicapping book, A Bettor Way, on sale now through Amazon.


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