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Book Review

Go for the Green
Turf Racing Made Easy
by Bill Heller
from DRF Press, 151 pages softcover
(Daily Racing Form Elements of Handicapping, Book 4)

With the vast majority of North American races conducted on dirt tracks, dirt racing's nuances and angles have been well-studied and published. However, many races, especially higher-class allowances and graded stakes, are run over turf courses. The different surface and how horses handle it can bring about some overlays on the toteboard. This why Eclipse Award-winning writer Bill Heller calls the turf course "The Final Frontier of Handicapping", the last place a handicapper can look to generate an edge. In his new book, Go For The Green, Heller helps new and long-time horseplayers to take advantage of turf races as a way to increase profits at the track. Residing near Saratoga Race Course, a track with two turf courses, and thus many turf races, he was able to determine over time which angles are worth consideration in the handicapping process. In each case he gives one or two solid examples that demonstrate where the angle proved to be profitable, mostly in New York races, the circuit he specializes in.

Most handicappers understand the role of breeding when it comes to turf horses. Heller puts this into practice in a very convenient way - in the book is a list of 800 dams of turf graded stakes winners on turf since 1996, and shows that if you see an offspring of one of them making its first start on turf, he or she is often an overlay and demands attention. He also touches on the sire influence, listing stallions by progeny winning percentage and explaining how to use the Tomlinson figures that now appear in the Daily Racing Form.

Also well known is the fact that not every jockey and trainer is as successful on dirt as he or she is on the turf. With this in mind, the handicapper needs to look for positive and negative jockey or trainer switches. He conveniently includes a list of the top jockeys in North America and what their winning percentages are on the grass and on the dirt, so you can easily see which riders you want aboard your horse. For trainers, he includes two lists, one a list of trainers' winning percentages for first time turfers, and the other a list of trainers' winning percentages overall in turf races. This information is not readily available elsewhere and would definitely be a powerful tool to have on hand when betting on the turf.

Horses often have trouble on turf when it comes up yielding or soft, and because of the sharp turns the quality of the trip is crucial to the outcome of a race. With wide trips in mind, Heller writes, "At every racetrack in North America, there is a line of demarcation separating the poor post positions from the nearly impossible," and goes on to list these for several major American tracks. As for rain-soaked courses, Heller points out that unlike on the main tracks, the turf conditions are not consistent everywhere. A "yielding" course at one facility might be called "soft" or "good" elsewhere, which means you are compelled to compare a horse's performance over wet-turf conditions at the same track only.

Heller set out to demonstrate how turf racing is the "final frontier" and he did an admirable job doing so. This is an excellent book for racing fans that wager on turf races across the country either live or via simulcast. Both new and long-time racegoers will be fascinated by the many useful and potentially profitable betting angles Heller has compiled for his readers.

Go for the Green has a list price of $14.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $10.47. This is the fourth book in DRF's Elements of Handicapping series. The first three are Speed to Spare by Joe Cardello, Off the Charts by Nick Borg and Handicapping Contest Handbook by Noel Michaels.

Rating:     4/5

Books in the Elements of Handicapping series:

Other books by Bill Heller:

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