Watching Race Replays
Seeing a race with your own eyes can uncover useful information
Level: Intermediate
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

The past performance doesn’t tell the whole story. Sure, it provides a lot of data, and perhaps even too much at times, but some things just can’t be conveyed in a PP. Luckily, there are other ways to derive usable information about a horse’s previous performances.

One of those ways is to watch replays. Why should you consider watching replays? Because the trip notes in the past performance can only give you a tiny bit of insight into how the horse raced, if it had a troubled trip, etc. The trip notes are line to the far right that uses approximately twenty characters max, and you thought Twitter was prohibitive!

There’s also the race chart, which is the origin for the trip notes and which provides more detailed information about how the race unfolded (we’ll cover charts later). Seeing the race with your own eyes, however, can help you better evaluate the performance, which can ultimately help you make more informed decisions.

In his book Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century, Steve Davidowitz titled the chapter that includes watching replays “The Best Handicapping Tools Ever Invented.” He says specifically of watching replays:

With just a little effort, recreational players can move their game sharply forward by discreetly acquiring real knowledge.

I use replays extensively to spot hidden abilities or potential not visible in live performances.

Not sure how to get started? If you don’t watch a lot of racing, starting with our post on How to Watch a Race is a good idea, but after that here are a few things to look for:

The Start of the Race
Plenty of things can go wrong during the start of a race. The horse can hesitate, get bumped around, break in the air or just plain stumble out of the gate. Sometimes a bad break can take a horse out of the race, but other times it doesn’t. Watching the replay can help determine if a bad break is a cause for a sub-par performance or not. Did the horse still have a shot but not get the job done? Did it work even harder than it would have with a good break, which could mean it took too much out of the horse for the next start? Head-on replays are particularly helpful when investigating the start of the race.

Wide Trips
Trip notes are usually very good at noting when a horse was wide and by how much. When you watch the race, you can also tell if the horse was full of run and just couldn’t get there because it went wide. On the other hand, did the horse only mildly rally and probably wouldn’t have gotten there anyway?

The Easy Trip
Sometimes a horse might look like a monster on paper when in reality it just had an easy trip. Did it get a dream pace scenario and the perfect position? Was it challenged at all? Sometimes what can seem like a dominating win was as much a product of the perfect trip as of talent.

Pilot Error
Those who played Lookin’ at Lucky in the 2010 Preakness no doubt heavily factored “pilot error” in his previous races. Does the jockey put the horse in a bad position and get it stuck in traffic? Does the jockey hold back a front-runner too much, therefore using energy it could have used in the stretch on fighting the jock? There’s a lot to be gleaned from how a jock rides a horse. Does he/she keep the horse on a loose reign? When does the jockey ask his mount for run?

All of these subtleties and more can help you uncover a great value or a play against. Replays are also handy when trying to get up to speed on a particular track. You can confirm or deny apparent biases and get a better feel for the local jocks (who’s good out of the gate, who’s good on front-runners or closers, etc).

Where to Watch
You have a number of options when it comes to watching replays. Tracks often have a replay center where you can search for races by track and date for free. These races will be from the day before and earlier so don’t run down to the replay center and expect to see a race you missed while you were getting a hot dog! Online wagering accounts, such TwinSpires, offers account holders replays that are searchable by date. You can also access replays as a part of the day’s program in the wagering interface.

There are a number of free and paid options for watching replays as well. Most track websites offer free replays. In some cases you’ll need to register and others you will not. Some tracks also utilize YouTube to house replays. Del Mar, Emerald Downs, Hollywood Park, Keeneland, NYRA (Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga) and Woodbine also make good use of YouTube. Also active on YouTube are the Breeders’ Cup and Trakus. Blood-Horse also has an extensive and useful results and replay section that also provides information such as connections, full order of finish and pedigree information., which provides many tracks with free replays, also offers paid subscriptions to individuals.

And finally, one of the best resources for learning how to make the most of watching replays is the Trips and Traps show produced by NYRA and freely available on YouTube. The series description sums it up better than I can:

(Trips and Traps is) an insider’s look at horses to watch or watch out for. Join hosts Andy Serling and Eric Donovan as they scrutinize race replays for information that’s not in the past performances, and show you how to use it to your advantage.

Even if you don’t follow the New York racing circuit, it’s invaluable to see how these formidable trip-cappers analyze replays. See for yourself!

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