The Racer’s Edge
A Handicapping Primer by Larry Simpson, Publisher, PONIES 24-7
GIVE YOURSELF AN INSTANT ADVANTAGE BY ADVANCE HANDICAPPING
“I just loved that three horse. He couldn’t lose! I wheeled it on the exactor! I told you he was going to win!”
The Infamous Words Of Mr. Expert Handicapper! You know the type! Usually they have an opinion on everything and make sure that you and the racing fans at the other end of the track hear them!
I guess you could say that I come from the ‘old school’ of horse race handicapping, that is ‘silence is golden’, or better still, ‘that’s great that you loved the three horse, now show me your tickets!’ The latter statement usually is the great equalizer in the fine art of handicapping. Kind of the ‘cream rising to the top’ scenario!
I have noticed recently that the colony of ‘Mr. Experts’ is on the rise! Simply put, the louder you scream for the ‘ three horse’, the faster he is going to race. Or, the more people you can ‘ annoy’ with your so-called expert opinions, the better handicapper you become – WRONG!
With the above being said, I felt that it was time to climb upon my soapbox and preach the fine art of handicapping, only the silent variety. Unfortunately though, it is just the nature of the beast that accounts for everyone having an opinion, and human nature dictating how loud ones opinion becomes.
Simply stated-there is really nothing you can do about it! Or is there?
Smart and successful handicappers who continue to show a profit in the books at year end do so by giving themselves that extra edge of handicapping before they get to the track, by doing their homework! It is only to your advantage to get an early start on your handicapping for the next days cards, especially nowadays with the extra betting opportunities being offered through the business of simulcasting. This, and arriving at the track and actually having particular races narrowed down to two or three contenders, is a sure way of dealing with the verbal annoyance of ‘Leather Lunged Louie’. As well, by narrowing down your handicapping to a few contenders in a race, one can take a more relaxed and systematic approach to handicapping. That is, taking your contenders and evaluating them through pre race inspection, how the track has been playing so far if it a later race, or track bias and finally, there’s that word again – VALUE! Do they meet our long time value criteria of odds of 3-1 or better?
Handicapping the night before or ‘homework’, besides giving one the luxury of preparing it in a quiet setting in ones home, has other advantages as well. The ‘quiet time’ at home may be used to re-evaluate the previous day’s cards, or if you are a serious weekend player, looking back at the previous weeks action, and most importantly, your betting action or profile! Use the time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you found over the past week that you placed 30 wagers, check and see where your actual handicapping strengths lie. You may notice that you are cashing an extremely high amount of wagers on Maiden races, and a low percentage on Stakes races. Speaking from the heart on this subject, I noticed over time that I was cashing a large percentage of turf races, any course and any distance, it really didn’t matter. Now when I pre-handicap the next day’s card, I focus heavily on turf races. Kind of a time management function where I have decided to spend up to say 80 per cent of my pre handicapping ‘quiet time’ directed primarily on turf races, especially those at the beginning of the year where you have a potpourri of first time starters. This chap was impeccable at selecting two-year-olds. He doesn’t play the horses any more though, and its not because he made his fortune handicapping. No, he was a typical regular, who couldn’t recognize that he had a betting edge over the other patrons on the turf. It was bad enough that he wouldn’t do any pre handicapping, rather he was of the ‘mold’ that would rush in five minutes before the first race post time and make his bet. Instead what made it even worse was the fact that he would attempt to select the winners of the other nine races of the ten race card (this was before the days of simulcasting where the only product available was the live one on track). So instead of allocating 80 per cent, or even 50 or 60 per cent to his betting strength of the Maiden Two Year Old Race, my buddy would bet the same amount on the other nine races as he would on his actual strength. Big mistake and a common mistake made by many! It basically answers the question of why he doesn’t ‘play’ anymore. My friend was foolish on several accounts. Not only did he not have any time management when it came to handicapping, but he possessed an edge over all the other handicappers at the track, and he didn’t take advantage of it. Just imagine what he would be like this day and age when he had four or five tracks to play!
Speaking of multiple racing content available to modern day handicappers, one successful way of staying abreast of horses who look ‘live’ and they are sitting on a ‘big’ race, is to go to our ‘Horses To Watch List’ found on this web site. What you will find is a list of live horses that look ready to win, in either their first start back, or perhaps second. It can also serve as part of your pre-handicapping at home regime.
Pre-handicapping at home can also help you look at track biases that have been in play over the past few weeks and how they maybe affected a certain horse that is entered tomorrow. Maybe he or she was a beaten favourite and got defeated in his last start simply because they weren’t able to ‘bust the bias’. Spend some time too and look at the comment lines for each of tomorrow’s entrant. Perhaps a horse that is making its second lifetime start tomorrow raced two or three, or even four wide in its first lifetime start. Little things like this can be picked up when you are handicapping in advance, and not rushing into the track ten minutes before the start of the first race and making your decision then.
Handicapping is an art, or can be considered science. Tell me, when an artist is painting, do they produce their work of art on the side of a road – a four lane or eight lane highway with cars and transport trucks ‘whipping’ by every one or two seconds? Or instead, do they paint what they believe to be a masterpiece in a quiet studio, perhaps with some soft subdued music playing in the background? If you said the latter, go to the front of the class! If you wish to be successful at the racetrack as a handicapper, even if it is only of a recreational variety, it is essential that you pre-handicap at home, in a quiet atmosphere. As I stated earlier, any handicapping that you do the ‘day of’ at the track itself, should be of a fine-tuning variety-paddock or pre-race inspection, searching for value, etc.
With the dawn of our new PONIES 24-7 digital publication and our supporting web site, we can help to put you on course to becoming a better handicapper and improve your bottom line? Start by setting some time aside and doing your pre-handicapping in the comfort of your living room. You might even consider a subscription to your local television racing channel, as besides adding to the entertainment value, watching the races when you can’t be at the track, can provide some excellent forms of valuable handicapping information as well. Watching replays of the previous day’s races is just one thing that comes to mind.
We (present day handicappers) are very lucky and in a more advantageous position than our forefathers were. High tech has allowed us to remain current with racing even if we can’t make it to the track on a regular basis. Technology has given us all of the tools, now we just need to be able to use them properly.
And some more words of advice – when you do get to the track the next day ignore ‘Leather Lunged Louie’! You’ll be glad you did!!