Winners at the racetrack come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, yet there are a couple of important areas to focus on.
If you wager on horses either in great form or improving form, in the long run you’ll do better than wagering on horses that you hope will wake up and turn in better performances.
And as much as that might sound like a formula for an array of odds-on choices, there are times when you can reap a great payday if you hop on board at the right moment. A good example of that can be found in Queen Kantharos, who ran in the second race on Jan. 1 at Gulfstream Park.
A newly turned 4-year-old, she headed into the $12,500 maiden claimer with an 0-for-6 record and nothing better than a third-place finish.
In her first four races, she lost by a combined margin of about 111 lengths, which is hardly the kind of horse who merits financial support.
But then in her fifth race, she dropped to an all-time low $10,000 claiming tag and finished third at 16-1 odds, which offered some promise.
Then, in her most start, she returned in another $10,000 claimer and finished fourth at 28-1 odds.
Yet there was something different about that effort.
For the first time in her career, Queen Kantharos showed some early speed. Never closer to the lead than four lengths at any call in her previous races, she was second at the first call, a half-length behind the leader, and the second call, a length behind.
While she faded to fourth, that early speed was a sign of Queen Kantharos taking a step forward, something that was also reflected in her receiving a career-best Beyer Speed Figure.
Off that effort, when she raced three wide from the outside post in a field of seven, there were indications that she might take another step forward from the rail against similar company in the Jan. 1 race.
It certainly wasn’t as obvious a sign of improving form as a horse with a third, second, and first in its last three starts, but in this case, the hints in Queen Kantharos’ form were balanced by her 15-1 odds on the morning line.
At that kind of price, even a small gamble can be rewarded quite richly.
Beyond that, when Queen Kantharos rose to 33-1 odds on the tote board, she became an even more inviting possibility for some sort of wager.
And that possibility did indeed turn into reality as the speed she showed in her previous start came to the fore again as she once again pressed the pace from second. Only this time, accelerated turning for home and drew clear in the stretch.
She crossed the wire 1 ½ lengths ahead and returned $68.40 to win for a $2 wager. She also teamed with the favorite, Dixieland Humor, for a ritzy $286.60 exacta.
All in all, some very nice prices for a horse who fit the important criteria of being in improving form.