The Key to Picking Longshot Winners

R B Wild Promise

R B Wild Promise in the Mahoning Valley winner’s circle (photo via ESPN)

If there’s one thing that gets my pulse racing more than anything else it’s watching a horse I wagered on win at juicy odds.

Some bettors — just a handful judging by the price — probably experienced heart palpitations following the seventh race at Mahoning Valley on Dec. 28, 2015. A four-year-old gelding named R B Wild Promise won that $5,000 conditioned claiming event and paid an astounding $415.20, the highest $2 win payoff ever recorded at the Austintown, Ohio track.

Among those holding winning tickets on the four-year-old son of D’Wildcat was Gwen Crosser, the gelding’s 23-year-old owner/trainer.

Crosser bet the princely sum of $5 and collected $1,352.50.

“The last time I went to cash a ticket, they asked for my ID because they didn’t believe I was old enough,” she said.

Yeah, that happens to me a lot too… oh, who am I kidding? Nine times out of 10 the teller needs to use visual aids so that I don’t get confused and start ranting about how much easier things were “back in my day.”

Of course, whenever a horse like R B Wild Promise lights up the tote board, it inevitably provokes the kind of introspection among horse players usually reserved for church confessionals or the “Steve Wilkos Show.” The Daily Racing Form is examined and re-examined like a treasure map, as players search for clues to the shocking result.

The problem is, too often, this post-race handicapping focuses on how a longshot winner was missed and why, in retrospect, it was the best horse in the race… only, in most cases, it wasn’t the best horse in the race.

As I have stated — some might say ad nauseam — before: pari-mutuel pools are generally efficient. Horses like R B Wild Promise are not 206-1 as the result of a collective brain fart on behalf of the betting crowd. Hence, the question is not whether a longshot contender is the best horse in the race, but, rather, whether or not it is fairly priced.

In the case of R B Wild Promise on Dec. 28, I think the answer to that question was an emphatic “no.”

In terms of current and overall speed, Crosser’s stable star ranked in the middle of the pack.


His late speed rations (LSRs), my own measurement of late energy disbursement, likewise placed R B Wild Promise in mid-pack.


Now, granted, middle of the road speed ratings and LSRs do not make a horse a mortal lock to win, but they don’t exactly make an animal 206-1 either — and that is the pertinent point here.

When assessing the merits of any horse, even a great champion like Justify, price matters.

My Win Factor Report (a computerized fair odds line) had R B Wild Promise tabbed at 27-1. This equates to about a 3.6 percent chance of winning — not the best in the field, mind you, that honor belonged to Northern Fox, who had a 45 percent chance of visiting the winner’s circle according to my WFR.

R B Wild Promise

The difference is — and I cannot emphasize this point enough — Northern Fox went to post at 6-5, matching his fair odds; R B Wild Promise was nearly 10 times his fair odds.


This is what value betting is all about… and it is how one tabs a 206-1 winner.

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