Keep heart out of handicapping

I get e-mails asking why I don’t write more about handicapping. Well, here goes nothing. I’ll build a case why a 1-2 odds favorite is vulnerable this weekend.

Betting on horse racing is a brain game. There’s little room for sentiment. Those who bet with their hearts instead of their heads are in for a rough ride. Star horses that get vastly overbet creates overlaid chances for the rest of us.

On Saturday, Rags to Riches will be a short-priced favorite in the Gazelle at Belmont Park. The popular filly, winner of the Belmont Stakes, figures to pay $3, or less, to win. On paper, she is by far the best filly in the race. But that’s not the whole story.

Rags to Riches trained poorly in July and had another setback in August. This caused her to lose time and miss three races: the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Alabama and the Ruffian. Trainer Todd Pletcher has had her examined, and vets found nothing wrong.

Now comes the Gazelle. Rags to Riches has not raced in 98 days since her Belmont win. She needs the Gazelle to get a prep race in before the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park in six weeks. She will face only four foes. If ever there was a time to try to beat her, Saturday is it.

Two in-form fillies that have a puncher’s chance to upset are Lear’s Princess and Tough Tiz’s Sis. Lear’s Princess ran second in two Grade I stakes, the Alabama and Coaching Club American Oaks. Tough Tiz’s Sis won the Grade II Hollywood Oaks two races ago.

Rags to Riches still might win on her inherent class edge. But many signs point to her needing a race badly to gain conditioning for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. At odds of 1-2 or less, she will be a single on a lot of pick 4 and pick 6 tickets. A potentially dangerous stand.

Making money betting on horses starts with identifying vulnerable, overbet favorites. Then you can find value in overlaid horses, and some will be in the Gazelle on Saturday.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday. He can be reached at

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