By Ray Wallin
Everyone wants to be a success. Whether it’s at home with their family, at work, or at the track, there are definite “do’s” and “don’ts” that will either help or hinder your efforts.
In 1908 a young journalist by the name of Napoleon Hill would interview the great industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The aging industrialist would challenge the young unknown writer to interview other wealthy people in a quest to discover the formula for success. He would end up interviewing over 500 self-made millionaires. Hill would go on to pen the classics self-help books “The Law of Success” and “Think and Grow Rich.” These books would go on to help countless people become successful.
Many of the principles of success that he discovered can help you at the track. Here are five to get started.
What are you here for? Are you here to make a small profit or are you working towards making your living playing the races?
In my many nights of hanging out on the second floor of the old Meadowlands grandstand there were many horseplayers that lacked a purpose. I can remember one conversation I had with the Marine over and over. He would come in and throw money on every track that was running. Naturally, he would complain every night that he was losing. One night I asked him what was his purpose in betting the races. He chuckled and said, “to win money,” in a very sarcastic tone.
“Of course, but how are you going to do that?” I responded.
“By winning more races,” he quipped back at me to which I gave the same response as before. He could not answer how he was going to win more races since he didn’t have a plan on how to do that. After staring at me for about a minute, he shrugged his shoulders with a look of defeat.
I explained to the Marine that he needed to have a plan. Have a plan for the races you are going to handicap and play. Have a plan for how you are going to manage your bankroll. Have a plan for how you are going to improve your handicapping and make better wagering decisions. Work towards those goals and incrementally you will get better and turn a profit.
Everything you do in life needs a purpose otherwise you will never achieve anything. Be definitive in what you are looking to do and accomplish. Determine the steps and path you need to take to achieve your plan.
Do you want to know how the Marine picked his horses is most races? He picked them by post position based on the distance of the race. Charles Town race four is at four and a half furlongs? Play the five. Santa Anita is going six and a half furlongs? Play the three. Want to play the exacta? Take that horse over the first, second, and fourth favorites unless that horse was one of them.
The Marine had a very simple way of picking his plays. Many folks at the track don’t take it much further. They are using the top speed figure, best last finish, or top jockey. All are obvious signs that the horse may have an edge given recent performances, but we all know these are losing angles in the long run.
When you handicap a race are you simply using the best speed figure or power rating to make your choice? Do you do any sort of deep dive into pedigree or the trainer’s abilities? What are you doing that sets you apart from other handicappers? What gives you an edge? Are you watching replays and making trip notes? Are you tracking factors that aren’t given in the past performances? Are you doing a deep dive into pace to determine how the race sets up or are you taking the track handicapper’s word for it?
The Marine is a good example of someone that had very little self-discipline. He was throwing good money after bad night after night. He would play any track that was running. It didn’t matter if it was thoroughbreds, quarter horses, or harness racing. He’d play the first race that we as the track for and simulcast a couple more between live races. Some bets would be small, others would be large. The Marine had no control over what he was looking to play. He would see a monitor that said there were five minutes to post and he would start thinking about a bet.
Any successful handicapper knows that you have to have the discipline to play only the races you feel comfortable about. You can’t be enticed into a sucker bet because you like the way the odds are moving on a horse that wasn’t a play after you did your homework. You need to stick to the opportunities that you came to play and not chase races where you are not confident.
Our friend the Marine would be all over the place each night. He would bet the live racing from the Meadowlands, the late races from Golden Gate, a couple at Balmoral, and he couldn’t wait until the Australian racing started.
As a result of playing every track that was running you could imagine that he wasn’t doing a good job at any one of them. Like my old printer that also was a scanner and a fax machine, it did it all, but none of it well.
Narrow down what you are looking at so you do a good job on one or two tracks, not five or six in one night. With races going off every couple of minutes, how can you check the will pays on the exotics and see the horses in the paddock or post parade?
Ask one hundred handicappers how they manage their bankroll and you will get one hundred different answers. I’ve beaten this horse to death in the past, but it is true. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to help you manage your bankroll. Every handicapper bets differently and needs to track those wagers and types to see what works and what doesn’t. Only then can you start to assign either a fixed amount or percentage of your bankroll based on your confidence and the type of wager.
Likewise, as I discussed in a previous article, you need to also manage your time. I use the 10-minute rule. If after 10 minutes of handicapping a race I don’t have a good feel for it or can’t confidently select my contenders, it is time to move on to a better opportunity. After all, time is money.
We all want to be successful in life. There is no reason that you can have success at home, at work, and at the races. By applying some principles that have stood the test of time from the late Napoleon Hill, you can find yourself in the black this year at the races.
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.
Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.
Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.
Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.