A Lesson in Patience-Part 1
Much has been written over the years by famous, and not so famous horseplayers who make a serious living playing the horses, about the importance of money management, or as I like to refer to it, patient handicapping. Simply put, patient handicapping is looking for that perfect situation whereby you handicap a race better than others, however, sometimes a perfect situation could and probably does take a lot of waiting-hence the patience.
Now believe me, the most difficult thing for recreational horseplayers to do, is to pass a race. After all, you are not really out at the track to watch horses run around in circles, mind you it is a beautiful sight. Still it is participating that gives us that ultimate high, especially if a trip to the track is perhaps a once or twice a week affair. To pass a race, takes strength, and the realization that you are exchanging a one or two minute high, for a healthier bank account. Remember, patience is a virtue, and he who practices a patient approach to playing the horses shall reap the rewards at the end of the season.
How do we find that perfect betting race? Actually, with the introduction of simulcast wagering and combination cards featuring Thoroughbreds from one track, and harness from another, the importance of practicing patient handicapping has reached epic proportions. Nobody in their right mind can successfully handicap five or more tracks a day, or at least every race they offer. They can try, however, chances are that by the end of the day they will be so fatigued that the last race will become nothing more but a handicapping blur, or a last chance effort at getting even for the day. But the sharp investor, notice I said investor because you should approach your handicapping decisions as if it is a business, can pass on certain races until that perfect betting situation exists. And a patient approach leads to a clearer mind come the end of the racing day.
What constitutes a passed race? To each his own, as it comes down to an exercise of what class of animal you have previously handicapped successfully, however, to me, the key ingredient here is doing your homework the night before. You wouldn’t buy a new car before test-driving it, so why would you try to handicap races without some prior studying of the Daily Racing Form? I personally like to buy the Form the day before however I must admit that I certainly miss the old days where buying a Racing Form on Thursday night for a Saturday card of racing giving me almost two whole days of handicapping was the norm. From there, I go thorough the exercise of attempting to find that perfect betting situation by following these simple steps:
Size of field; if the race that I am looking at has six or less entries, then it is automatically a pass, as chances are my selection will not conform to the 3 to 1 theory (to be explained later). In my opinion, a small field does not lend itself to giving you value for your investment. Also, chances are a small field of six could be made up of animals of the same quality that constantly beat one another week to week, or one particular horse just lays over the rest of the field in class, and on paper looks like a 2 to 5 favorite at best.
Recent form; by quickly scanning the past performances I can eliminate any horse who has not been raced or shown a serious workout for the past 21 days. By serious workout I mean one of three furlongs or more handily. Although it can be argued that a horse has not raced for over three weeks because there wasn’t a class for him, a short two-furlong breezing work in my opinion does not necessarily constitute a totally sound horse.
Jockey and trainer patterns; like any athletes, jockeys are subject to slumps. Again by quickly scanning the past performance lines in the Racing Form, I will eliminate any horse that is not being handled by a jockey that has won with at least 10 percent of his or her rides at the current meet. Sure, once in awhile jockeys with a small win percentage do win a race, however, by eliminating them in the initial handicapping steps, I am putting the odds in my favor. Remember, we are passing races for good reasons as we look for that perfect betting situation to arise.
As for trainer patterns, again I look at the trainer summary line provided in the Racing Form. Like their jockey counterparts, trainers too have good and bad streaks, however, good, successful trainers perennially average around 15 percent winners. In attempting to locate that perfect betting situation, this is what we want to concentrate on, trainers who win with over 15 percent of their starters. These people are serious, and they are the ones that I want to put my money on. I should point out, that while I am scanning the trainer’s summaries, I do make careful notations of horses that have been claimed in their most recent start. At every race track, there are trainers who while continuing to win on a regular 15 percent basis, are doing so while making a living claiming horses, stepping them up a class, and winning first start out. Make some mental notes of who these trainers are on your racing circuit.
Class; hone in on horses that have shown that they are competitive racing in today’s class, at today’s distance, carrying today’s weight. This competitive race may have been the horse’s last, or perhaps its second last start, but the key here is that he or she has shown an ability to compete successfully at today’s standards. By compete we mean any horse that has either won or finished within three lengths, racing at today’s classification. Don’t be afraid to go back to three races ago in order to find a key race especially if the horse in question was a victim of poor racing luck in either or both of his last two races, a victim of a poor track surface, or poor post position. Providing that the horse has raced or had a quality workout in the past 21 days, he just might become that perfect betting situation today.
This ends our primary handicapping where we have separated contenders from
Pretenders with the assistance of the information available in the Daily Racing Form. The balance of our homework will take place at the track, or at the off track betting parlor on race day.
The Racer’s Edge
A Handicapping Primer by Larry Simpson, Publisher, PONIES 24-7