Homeracing

Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 2

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 24th, 2018

The history of horse racing is filled with rags-to-riches stories of horses rising from humble beginnings to enjoy success at the highest levels of the sport.

Legendary Hall of Fame inductees such as Lava Man and Stymie have taken the “claim-to-fame” route, rising from the ranks of claiming races to win some of the biggest races in the country. Finding a horse with the ability to make that jump in class is easier said than done, but some trainers excel at this challenge, with one of the most successful being Mike Maker.

In recent years, Maker has earned a reputation for his fantastic work in claiming horses and turning them into graded stakes winners, often by stretching them out in distance. The transformation usually isn’t immediate—Maker takes his time, allowing his horses to advance up the class ladder bit by bit as they gain confidence—but the end results are undeniable. One of Maker’s first graded stakes winner was Furthest Land, a horse that Maker claimed for $35,000 in October 2008. A year later, Furthest Land upset the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) at odds of 21-1.

In the years since then, Maker has continued to turn claimers into graded stakes winners with astonishing frequency. Al’s Gal, Bigger Picture, Da Big Hoss, Dark Cove, Greengrassofyoming, S’maverlous, Taghleeb—all of these and more have established Maker as one of racing’s preeminent claim-to-fame trainers.

In many cases, by the time Maker’s horses step up into graded stakes company, it’s already clear that their careers are on the rise, resulting in short prices on the tote board. But once in a while, Maker is able to sneak a promising horse in under the radar, and handicappers with knowledge of Maker’s success can be handsomely rewarded.

In October 2015, Maker claimed a horse named Oscar Nominated out of a $75,000 maiden claiming race at Belmont Park. The well-bred son of Kitten’s Joy seemed destined for success on turf and synthetic tracks, and indeed, a few months later Maker sent out Oscar Nominated to win the Black Gold Stakes on turf at Fair Grounds.

What followed was a tremendous betting opportunity. Five weeks later, Oscar Nominated made his graded stakes debut in the Spiral Stakes (gr. III) over the Polytrack course at Turfway Park, a race in which several of the betting favorites were either coming off poor efforts or were seemingly better-suited to racing on dirt.

Against a large and seemingly wide-open field, Oscar Nominated was allowed to start at odds of 23-1, a huge overlay considering his last-out stakes win and Maker’s record with similar horses. Suffice to say, the claim-to-fame angle worked again as Oscar Nominated rallied to a narrow victory, paying $49.20 for every $2 win bet.

In a future article, we’ll take a look at how exotic players could have combined utilized another simple strategy to cash the superfecta in the 2016 Spiral Stakes, a wager that returned more than $13,000!
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