Cashing a Nice Profit by Following the Claiming Game

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Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

The old adage about a bad penny always turning up has an opposite meaning in the claiming game.

When a horse re-appears in the barn of a trainer well-versed in the claiming game, it’s generally a positive sign.

Think about it.

When a trainer exposes a horse for a certain claiming price there’s no way of telling why it happened. Was it a move based on the horse being in sharp form and seeking a winning level? Or was it a belief that the horse’s value was diminishing and the stable was hoping to lose it via claim?

Yet when a stable decides to re-claim a horse, there’s a clear message.

The trainer and owner already know about a horse’s idiosyncrasies and its physical condition – and most of all, how fast or slow it is – so when they decide to bring the horse back into their barn it’s a very positive statement.

Vincento, a 6-year-old gelding, illustrates this point. The New York State-bred was racing for trainer Rudy Rodriguez and owner Vincent Scuderi when he was dropped into a $40,000 claiming race earlier this year on Jan. 26. He finished third but was claimed by trainer Linda Rice for $40,000.

Rice gave him about two months off and then ran him for the same $40,000 tag and picked up a win. It was a nice return on the investment, but Rodriguez and Scuderi dropped a claim slip and re-acquired Vincento.

Back in his old stall, Vincento failed to win in three starts in allowance company, running on turf in one start and stumbling and losing his rider in another. But when he dropped back into the $40,000 claiming level, he posted a 2 ½-length victory – and Rice once again claimed him.

Rice had to see things to like in Vincento during her time with him, otherwise she would not have convinced one of her owners to spend $40,000 on him.

What happened next was also telling. Instead of chasing another claiming win and risk losing him, she entered Vincento in an allowance race at Saratoga on July 11.

The message here was that Rice knew Rodriguez might take Vincento back and she wanted to keep him. Making matters even more intriguing was that he was 10.40-1 on the toteboard. If you buy into the “Graveyard of Favorites” notion about the Spa, those odds were hard to resist on a horse who seemed to have a stamp of approval from its trainer.

And so, in the third race of the 2019 meet at Saratoga, a double-digit winner crossed the finish line when Vincento scored, paying $22.80.

He also showed that in the claiming game there are indeed times, when contrary to the famous saying, you can indeed go back home again.

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