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False Favorites
by Greg Melikov

I'm growing tired of horseplayers looking to beat the favorite in every race whether or not they know if the designation is justified.

It isn't a very clever ploy, because many bettors I've been around haven't been too successful picking long shots in those races.

It makes more sense to handicap and decide which horse deserves to be favored. Consider this: Legitimate favorites win about one-third of the races no
matter the track. Usually you can't bet them straight unless you're willing to wager a bundle.

But there are other ways to collect cash since favorites fail to score, let alone hit the board, two-thirds of the time. I don't know on how many occasions
the people's choice has finished fourth since I began monitoring races decades ago.

Simply, losers often are false favorites created by the track's morning line oddsmaker, then endorsed by the betting public. The morning line isn't set
according to what horse the oddsmaker believes will win -- it reflects what that handicapper sees the bettors favoring.

When the betting public favors the wrong horse, it's partly because many people wager exclusively on a favorite without handicapping the race. That creates
the false favorite, a thoroughbred bet down even though others in the race appear to outclass the horse on form.

In addition, since the track oddsmaker often makes program selections, many novices who watch their purse strings stick with post time favorites. However,
it's more fruitful to handicap on your own and decide which horse deserves the favorite's role.

No matter the odds, you should live by my creed: Bet on horoughbreds who you feel have the best chance of winning and key or use them in exotic wagers.

If your selection differs from the betting public, full speed ahead. If you settle on a horse that's returning to a successful betting condition and
distance enjoyed in the past, go for it.

If the thoroughbred gets a jockey who rode the horse to the winner's circle for the same trainer during the last meeting, that's great.

Look for value odds as much as likely winners. If your pick is not overly backed, that's a big plus.

Say you like a 10-1 shot remember, if you win once in 10 bets you break even. Compare that to the results of wagering on 2-1 horses.

Here are some other angles to consider:

Wager on fast starters when the track is slow, sloppy or muddy because those track conditions favor the pacesetter.

When betting straight, consider wagering to place if the odds are relatively high.

Avoid horses with past class that then lack good workout patterns after an extended layoff. One exception: if the horse has proved successful running fresh.

If the stable, trainer and jockey have poor winning percentages at a meeting, consider that a negative.

Beware of suspicious two-level class drops following a losing streak.

Most of all, horses with poor form who end up favorites should be discarded.

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