Stop Reinventing the Wheel

Guy Reading PaperWe all live busy lives and have day jobs and families that need our attention.  If being a licensed engineer has taught me one thing, it is that having and knowing how to use the right references will save you a ton of time.

It was a warm spring day back in 2007 when I took my professional engineer’s exam.  I arrived at the testing location early and started to unpack my references.  I loaded three crates of reference manuals and binders of notes onto a borrowed hand truck to make my way into the testing center.  Since I was taking the Transportation module in the afternoon, not only did I have the most books of anyone that I sat near, I also seemed to have the largest books as well.  There was no way that anyone could have ever remembered the equation and all the adjustment factors for calculating free flow speed on a four lane highway!  This is when knowing how and when to use your references comes in handy.

So what types of references can save you time and brain cells when handicapping?

Sire Data
Just like I couldn’t tell you the adjustment factor for a right shoulder lateral clearance of four feet without looking it up, I also can’t tell you how well first time starters out of Archipenko perform without looking it up.  Brisnet’s Sire Stats is reasonably priced at $39.95.  I used Brisnet’s product for a couple of years before switching over to Progressive Handicapping’s Sire Ratings ($33.95).  

Both publications show the performance of the sire’s offspring over turf, off tracks, synthetic surfaces and with first-time starters.  Though noted differently, both publications have a factor or grade for class of the offspring and what distances the sire’s offspring should excel at.

Also available for $99.95 per year is a report for each race card showing the sire data so you don’t need to look it up.  Progressive Handicapping takes it one step further with their Debut Sire Guide ($29.95) which provides even more detail about 80 sires (with another 37 sires available via an online appendix).  Provided stats in this book are broken down by distance, surface, trainer, class, state bred, two year olds, off tracks, and by owner.

Trainer Data
Most past performances show some trainer statistics, yet Progressive Handicapping again takes this a step further.  Two of their publications Turf Trainer Guide and Debut Trainer Guide are invaluable resources to me.  Much like their Debut Sire Guide, extra detail is paid to 100 trainers in each publication ($29.95 each).  Statistics include wins by distance, surface classification, two-year-olds, owners, jockeys, and by odds.

Track-to-Track Comparisons
Making your own pars is an exhaustive and on-going project.  How much is your time actually worth?  I used to use the simplest comparisons I could find, the American Turf Monthly Track Equalization Chart.  This was easy to use, yet was lacking turf ratings and lumped all distances into sprints, miles and routes. Still, for free product, it was OK.

I got my hands on a copy of Pars Plus from Cynthia Publishing ($129.99) a few years back and immediately stopped using the Equalization Chart.  These pars were broken down by track, distance and class.

But I have recently found par data that left me feeling like a little kid coming down the stairs on Christmas morning!  Dave Schwartz’s HorseStreet Par Times blew my mind ($107.77).  The data is broken down several different ways depending on how you want to use it.  Adjustments are provided for female races, state breads, by age (month of birth), and different levels within the claiming ranks (non-winners of two, non-winners of three, etc.).  Dave also provides a “SRI” or a speed reliability index for each track which gauges how consistent that track runs. 

Meet Data
Once again Progressive Handicapping hits this one of the park with their Handicapper and Blue Chip Trainer Angles publications for specific meets.  The book covers running style and jockey statistics, but also details the key trainers of the meet.  I have purchased this product for several years for Monmouth Park and have downloaded a free copy of both publications for Woodbine.  The Blue Chip Trainer Angles highlights only profitable high percentage and consistent trainer angles.

Obviousy,I have not touched on all the available products in the categories above.  I have found that Progressive Handicapping’s products help to complement my handicapping style.  They may not be for everyone, but I have found that Jim Mazur has been a pleasure to deal with in many e-mail exchanges over the last few years since I first saw him do a race card analysis at Monmouth Park many years ago.  I would love to hear what other products that any of you use.  I am always willing to try something new!

No need to kill yourself trying to remember it all.  Your time is valuable and while you could produce any of the products above, you have to think about how much your time is actually worth.   Is a few hundred dollars a year worth not trying to collect daily data, process it and run reports?   That is time that could be better spent by handicapping!

Ray Wallin
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 Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at

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