Identifying Key Handicapping Angles

Eclipse Sportswire

When it comes to handicapping angles, it’s the more the merrier.

If you can find a horse who blends a couple – or more – important changes, you might have uncovered a horse poised for a solid effort.

For an example, we’ll use Lady Ninja in the fourth race at Del Mar on Aug. 30.

She was coming into the starter allowance sprint off a solid second at the same level, which was her first race against winners. Only this time, she was turning back from one mile to six furlongs, the same distance she covered in her maiden victory two starts back.

The turnback alone was intriguing, but there was more.

That last race came on turf. Now trainer Michael McCarthy was moving the 3-year-old filly back to dirt, putting her on the main track, the surface she handled in her maiden win.

While a turnback and a switch from turf to dirt are notable changes on their own, when they happen at the same time it gives off the impression that a trainer is leaving nothing to chance while trying to get a win for that runner.

In this case, the turnback and the change in surface from turf to dirt were signs that the horse’s connections were trying to coax a performance out of Lady Ninja that would rival her 2 3/4-length victory in a $75,000 maiden claimer at Santa Anita on July 4.

And it worked quite well.

Like her last race, Lady Ninja pressed the early pace and forged to a narrow lead. Only this time, at six furlongs on a dirt track, she did not weaken. She held on to post a half-length victory and returned $6 to her backers as the 2-1 favorite.

Two changes, in this case, were simply too much for her rivals.

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