Playing a longshot takes a mixture of trust and a hunch.
In most cases, there are more reasons to stay away from these horses than to bet them, so you have to have some faith in your instincts that there are valid reasons for a horse to do an about-face and turn in a surprisingly strong effort.
A good example can be found in the second race at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 15, a $35,000 claiming race held on the turf at five furlongs.
Silver Tunes was listed at 12-1 odds in the morning line after finishing fifth, 14 ¼ lengths behind, in a optional allowance race in which horses could run for a $75,000 claiming tag or the allowance condition.
It was a weak effort, but there were indeed reasons to believe she could turn it around in her next start.
For one, she was dropping into a claimer, taking a major class drop.
Only once before had she raced in a straight claimer. It was a maiden $25,000 claimer on Sept. 12 and she won by a little less than a length.
The other big change involved the rider. In her last start, she was ridden by Alberto Burgos, a 10-pound apprentice with only handful of wins in his fledgling career.
Now Silver Tunes had the services of Luis Saez, one of the country’s top jockeys who in the two previous meets at Gulfstream won 271 races.
That’s a major change and one that bodes well for an improved performance.
So, putting together the class drop and the jockey switch, there was reason enough to believe that Silver Tunes would outrun her odds, which were 12.30-1 at post time in a field of seven.
If you had faith, and liked the idea of getting 12-1 odds to finance playing Santa Claus to family and friends in the coming weeks, then Silver Tunes was an inviting play.
If you backed her, you had to like what you saw as Silver Tunes grabbed the early lead and never looked back.
She crossed the line in front by 1 ¼ lengths and paid $26.60 to win for a $2 bet, a nice reward for seeing some signs of a form reversal and having enough faith to back your opinions with a few dollars – or more.