Is the form cycle handicap still relevant and useful as a tool for finding good bets?

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Trying to find a good bet in the modern world of horse racing can be difficult even if you are a good handicapper. While you may be able to evaluate the horses in a race by estimating the value in the pools and then getting that value after the bell rings and the final totals are posted, it’s often difficult. Finding a horse that is coming into shape is one way to find a value bet if there are other horses in the race that are attracting bettors due to recent efforts.

Understanding the shape cycle and using it with other factors is a tool that every forecaster should have in the bag of tricks. The fitness cycle is the amount of time it takes for a horse to reach a certain physical condition. There was a time when almost every trainer would start by conditioning a horse and then have him run in various races to condition him to his peak athletic ability. Only then would he or she tell the jockey to go for the win. As evidenced by the many horses that win the dismissal, those days are long gone.

Trainers still use breeds to condition horses and many horses need a breed or two as “tighteners” as they are called, however some trainers have been known to win with a horse on their first try after a layoff. Just remember that even though the conditioner who can win a horse after being rested can win 30% of those races, he or she still loses twice as many races with those horses. The hard part, of course, is knowing when the horse will be sent out and when he will be in the race for exercise.

The toteboard may offer some clues, but since there are a lot of people betting on the pots and some are trying to manipulate those pots, I advise caution when looking at the numbers and that should only be one source of information. Here are three other factors that can help you understand if a horse coming back from a break is a good bet.

First, look at the horse. is he fat Do you have a belly? Or is he sleek, with a well-defined, dappled racing dimple under his fur? Are you alert, so to speak, in the post parade and paddock? Does his ears prick up and does he seem to be anticipating the race? In other words, does he have his mind on the business in question?

Second, has the horse ever won a layoff? Have you shown that he can win without a turnbuckle? Finally, is the coach going up? If the answer to these questions is yes, the horse is a contender; If not, it may as well be a conditioning run.

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