Recognizing When to Strike With ‘Horses for Courses’

Studying your program to find horses for courses can pay big dividends. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

Or a favorite racetrack.

It’s a commonly accepted handicapping philosophy that some horses have a favored racetrack where they turn in their best performances.

You just have to look for it.

One of the best times to spot it is at the start of a meet. That’s when a horse’s struggles at a different track will fade away at a generous price and the “horses for courses” angle comes into play.

As an example, let’s look at Fortune’s Fool in the sixth race at Belmont Park on Sept. 15, which closed out the second weekend of the meet.

After finishing second in his career debut at Gulfstream Park, he then finished fourth in a maiden race at Keeneland.

Afterward, he headed to Belmont Park, where he posted his maiden win in a 2 ¼-length victory on May 12. After that, he finished a solid second in a June 23 allowance race at beautiful Belmont.

But after that, when he was shipped to Saratoga for his next start, Fortune’s Fool once again struggled. He faded to sixth and was beaten by 12 lengths.

After that loss at 2-1 odds, he returned to Belmont for the Sept. 15 race.

If you judged him simply by his last race at the Spa, then Fortune’s Fool looked like a horse to ignore.

But if you were mindful of the horses for courses angle, then Fortune’s Fool deserved extra consideration.

He was back at a track where he enjoyed success in the past and perhaps a return to Long Island would help him return to top form.

At a price of 4-1, a substantial improvement over his 2-1 odds in his last trip, it seemed a worthwhile investment.

As it turned out, that hunch was right on target as Fortune’s Fool thrived in his return to Belmont Park. He grabbed the lead at the start and then pulled away in the stretch to win by 3 ¼ lengths.

The payoff was $10.60 for a $2 win bet. Not a bad price for noticing that there are indeed horses for courses.

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