Daily Racing Form Gambling Tips: Course, Track Conditions and Tomlinson Ratings
If you like to gamble from home on US Thoroughbred horse races, you are in luck. With the information included in the current “Daily Racing Form” (DRF), you can make well-informed bets without ever having to go to the track.
This means that you can get in on the action at Santa Anita and Aqueduct on the same day–and you don’t even have to stream the race live. The DRF has a lot of data, so here are some tips for looking at three elements–course, track conditions and Tomlinson Ratings–to make the most educated bets possible and take advantage of any free bets your bookmaker is offering.
Why the Course Is Important
The first thing you’ll see in the upper right corner for every race is a drawing of the course. The track venue is important. Why?
Some horses only seem to run well at their “home” track. Ship them even a short distance, and their performance deteriorates. Sometimes horses just don’t like to travel, while others get weirded out by new visual landmarks, louder crowds, etc. It’s always good to see either a horse that’s performed well at the same venue as where it’s racing that day or a horse that shows good finishes at a number of different tracks.
To find what tracks the horse has raced at, scan the far left side of the horse’s form under past performances. Next to each date, you’ll see a number (the race number the horse ran in) followed by an abbreviation for the track name. The DRF has a chart that gives the full track name for each abbreviation.
What Track Conditions Mean
Next to the track abbreviation in the past performances section, you’ll see another important abbreviation for that race’s track conditions. This is followed by the race distance and a capital letter “T” if the race was run on turf (grass) versus dirt (or synthetic/polytrack). If a horse has raced in Europe or many other regions, it was likely on a turf track.
Dirt track conditions in the US are rated as one of the following: fast, wet-fast, good, sloppy, muddy, slow, heavy and frozen. Turf track ratings are: hard, firm, good, yielding, soft or heavy.
How Track Conditions Affect Performance
In general, horses prefer one type of track over another, so a horse that likes running in the slop may not be the best on a dry track and vice versa. This is sometimes attributable to the horse’s pedigree (what kinds of tracks the parents favored), as well as the horse’s individual personality. It is also influenced by the horse’s training conditions and how adept its jockey has been at finessing difficult tracks.
Some horses don’t like having “kickback” in their faces–sand, dirt, water or grass kicked upped by horses in front of them. This can make them drop back to avoid being splashed, or it can be a motivation to take them around or through the pack to the lead.
Also, track conditions affect the amount of energy used and impact received on each stride. Wetter tracks require more stamina and strength (think about trying to run in deep mud), while dryer tracks can be hard on impact, which some horses don’t like.
How to Read Track Conditions on the DRF
As you scan down the list of a horse’s past performances, look to see what kind of conditions the horse raced well under. The horse’s final finish for each race can be found in the middle of the past performances, to the left of the jockey’s name in the seventh column of numbers after the name of the race.
What you want to do is match up strong finishes with a certain type of track condition. Has the horse consistently finished in the top three or four on a wet track? If your track is wet on the day of your race, it ups the odds that your horse will do well. However, if it’s raining and your horse has only finished well on dry days, you might do better putting your money elsewhere. If you’re not sure how a horse will perform, that might be a place to put one of your free bets to good use–nothing ventured, right?
How to Interpret Tomlinson Ratings for Smarter Bets
For more sophisticated analysis of how a horse responds to track conditions, the DRF offers what are known as Tomlinson Ratings, which offer an educated prediction about how well horses will run on different surfaces. These ratings can be particularly helpful if you’re betting a horse with a very short history of prior races, which doesn’t leave you much to go on.
Tomlinson Ratings rate horses on how well they are expected to run on both wet tracks and on turf tracks–surfaces that are considered more unique or challenging to most US racers. They are located on the form in the upper right corner beneath the race course drawing. One says “Wet,” and the other says “Turf,” with a number in parentheses beside each. These numbers are the Tomlinson Ratings.
A turf rating of over 280 and a mud rating of over 320 mean that the horse is worth considering on these surfaces or conditions. It also pays to look at the Tomlinson Ratings for other horses in the same race. What’s even more important than the rating itself is the margin of difference between the other horses in the race.
Assessing horses for gambling, especially from a distance, can be a bit complicated, but when you break down each piece of information on the form, you make a more educated wager. Try these tips next time you get free bets to play with, and you may be racking up the winnings sooner than you thought.