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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 12:00 AM


By Noel Michaels

A horse’s jockey is one of the most important handicapping elements to consider before horseplayers make their bets. When making selections, the jockey and various jockey moves and switches should always be considered in conjunction with your other handicapping angles to come up with your best possible pick in every race.

Horseplayers must weigh factors such as speed, pace, class, distance, and surface in order to come up with their bets, while also taking into consideration the horse’s trainer, and the horse’s current form and readiness to run its best race. Nevertheless, no matter how well a horse is prepared, and mo matter how well the horse has been spotted for today’s race, once the bell rings and the gates open, it is just the horses and their jockeys who are the only ones that have control over the outcome of the race.

When it comes to which horses to ride on any given day, a jockey often has decisions to make. Much of this process involves the jockey’s agents, who ultimately are responsible for finding the best mounts for their riders in any race. Most of the above-mentioned decision process - the process of jockeys "jockeying" for position aboard the best mounts - goes on behind the scenes before race entries are even taken.

As horseplayers, we generally are not privy to the ins-and-outs of this process and not privy to the information that goes into the decisions about the mounts that the jockeys choose to get aboard. However, just because we do not get to witness the behind-the-scenes moves that go into jockey’s mounts, it doesn’t mean we have to be completely in the dark, either.

Yes, it is always possible to handicap races using the jockeys, based on certain clues that are available to all of us in the past performances if you know the right things to look for.

Of course, you don’t have to be a master handicapper in order to figure out who the top jockeys are at any given track. Both seasoned handicappers and weekend warriors alike are on even footing when it comes to knowing who are the top leading jockeys at every track. However, good handicappers know that you just can’t base your handicapping solely on just simply betting the top jockeys all of the time based strictly on their records or reputations. Even though it is true that the top 10, or 5, or sometimes even 2-3, top jockeys win the majority of races at any given track, can’t make any money just flat-betting jockeys in the long run because the horses ridden by the top 2 or 3 riders at the track are almost always well-bet favorites paying low prices even when they win.

Therefore, you not only need to know who the best jockeys are, but you also must be able to discern when are the best times to bet the best jockeys, and when are the best times to bet against the leading riders in favor of a capable but lower-profile jockey correctly spotted on a legitimate contender with a good chance to cash a ticket at a better price.

Many of the best opportunities to catch various jockeys at value odds aboard well-meant horses involve deciphering which horses will benefit from any number of different jockey moves and switches that are constantly taking place.

These jockey switches, moves, and angles occur so frequently as a matter of fact, that it is possible for you to make your picks almost exclusively based on jockey handicapping, if that is what you choose to focus on. If so, there is enough information you can read right in the past performances based on jockey handicapping for you to bet this way exclusively and make a decent return on investment while picking winners at a higher-than-average percentage.

Here are five of the best jockey handicapping angles that any player can use to cash more winning tickets at the races:

1) A jockey almost always will opt for what he thinks is the better horse or the better trainer when he has a choice of more than one horse to ride in a race. When you see a jockey that has ridden the last race of more than one horse in a race, upgrade the horse the jockey choses to ride, and downgrade the horse the jockey gets off.

Many times the top riders end up with a conflict of two (or more) horses in the same race. When this occurs, the jockey and agent have a decision to make about which horse to ride and which mount to give up. Usually they make the right choice, but not always.

Usually the choice is determined by their assessment of the relative abilities of the two horses in question, but sometimes other factors enter into the decision, such as which trainer he has a better relationship with, or which trainer has the better win percentage, or simply if might even be a case of which trainer the rider was committed to first.

All this leaves the bettor in a situation where he must weigh the various factors, and then make a handicapping judgment in these conflict situations whether they think the jockey accepted his mount based on a loyalty or relationship with a certain trainer, and/or whether they did their best to choose the best horse. Either way, from a horseplayer’s perspective, when a handicapper is on top of jockey conflicts and choices jockeys must make, you can benefit strongly from paying attention to these moves.


2) When you see a top jockey switching off a horse he has ridden in favor of having no mount at all in a race, consider the move to be a double negative, unless the top jockey is being replaced by another of the track’s leading riders or top apprentice. It might mean the horse is not doing well in terms of form, fitness, or soundness.

Rider switches can be most confusing for the betting public, but reading something into these kinds of switches forms the beginning of potentially effective betting angles - the use of jockey moves and switches, both positive and negative, to help you separate pretenders from contenders.

These jockey moves work both ways. If the jockey has failed to have any success aboard a horse after several tries under varying conditions, such as tries at various distances and class levels, a jockey or his agent are likely to tell the trainer that they just can’t get any run out of the horse and take themselves off the horse for future races. This will even happen if the top jockey does not have another mount in the same race.

Conversely, after a few unsuccessful tries with a certain jockey aboard a horse, the trainer usually comes to the same opinion anyway and is also probably thinking of making a rider change. Sometimes this won’t even take two or three or four tries aboard a horse. Sometimes a top jockey and a horse are ready to part ways and make a change right away if the jockey realizes the horse can’t run.


3) When you see a horse dropped in class into a spot where he looks good, the rider move makes all the difference for a handicapper. A horse dropping and switching to a lower-rung journeyman is a red-flag negative. Conversely, when a rider change has been made to one of the best jockeys on the grounds in conjunction with a class drop, this becomes a prime spot to bet.

The class-dropping jockey switch angle also works well in the opposite direction - when a top jockey picks up the mount on a horse that has been struggling at higher levels, usually with lesser jockeys riding. Many jockeys have a very good idea of a horse’s value and at what level they should be able to win.

As such, many times a top jockey will wait to pursue the mount on a horse they think has been racing at a level it can’t win. Remember, whether it’s a cheap claiming race or a stakes, riders only essentially make money when they win and don’t want to waste their time with losing when they don’t have to. A jockey might pass on a mount for a horse that has been beaten repeatedly for $50,000 claiming, but then will be ready to approach a trainer in order to jump on the mount when the horse finally drops-in more realistically for $20,000 claiming.

This is especially true when the race in question is the last race on the card. The top jockey might not want to stick around for a cheap race after the feature, but he very well might be persuaded to ride the late cheap race if he thinks he is assured a reasonably good chance of winning.


4) A jockey switch from an apprentice or journeyman rider to a leading jockey and/or seasoned veteran is a particularly effective positive betting angle when handicapping turf route races.

Trainers moving a horse to the turf will often switch off of an apprentice jockey in favor of a journeyman rider. Most trainers and bug boys will tell you that it is difficult riding on the turf as opposed to the dirt - especially in turf routes. On the turf, certain things become extremely important for jockeys that take a lot of time for most riders to learn, such as pace, precision timing, and saving ground. Many horses win or lose turf routes due to bad or inexperienced rides. That is why handicappers must particularly look for jockey switches in turf routes from inexperienced or lower-rung jockeys to leading riders, because these are the types of races that jockeys and agents will most often approach trainers to pursue new mounts, and when they have the best chance to convince the trainer that their horse can win if they give the top rider a chance at the mount.


5) Anytime you see a top-name or leading rider picking up a mount aboard a horse or a first-time starter from a small barn, you can bet that the horse will have an excellent chance to win.

When it comes to lesser-known or lower-profile trainers, or trainers with small stables, those trainers can seldom get the services of the top-rung jockeys aboard their horses. Riders of that stature have long lists of big-time stables that they ride for, and it is difficult for low-profile trainers to pry them away from these outfits regardless of how good the small stable guy thinks his horse is. This means that the lower-profile trainers will usually jockey for position for the best of the second-tier or journeyman riders at their track most of the time, even with their best horses.

This tip is particularly effective with first-time starters. Leading riders generally do not like to ride first-time starters for any trainer they are not very familiar with, because many first starters are untested and often unpredictable. When you see a leading rider stick out like a sore thumb on a horse like this from a smaller stable, go to the windows and bet on this kind of horse because there’s a good chance there is more to this small-stable runner than meets the eye.

Click here to win with Noel Michaels Racetrack Confidential. The top plays from Belmont and other tracks nationwide.

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