Psychologist Ellen Langer coined the term “illusion of control” for events that we think we have more influence over than we actually do. As horseplayers, we feel we have some sort of control of the events of every horse race that we play. Even with the intense training in optimal blackjack strategy and counting cards from my Uncle Dutch, I could never control the value of the next card. I could only make an educated decision based on the information on hand. This begs the question: how much of our destiny or profit do we actually control when playing the races?
The Amount Wagered
We are in control of the dollar volume that we push through the windows based on our available bankroll. No one but ourselves is responsible for the money that we play on each race. No outside source is dictating whether we bet $2 or $200 on a play.
The Type of Wager
We are in control of the type of wager that we are playing. As a winning horseplayer, you should know what works for you and what doesn’t, which can be learned via record-keeping.
The Type of Races You Wager On
As I have discussed before, you should know what type of races you excel at. Some horseplayers do better with turf races than with dirt races. Other horseplayers excel with maidens while others do their best with graded stakes events. Only you know what kind of races you are most comfortable and profitable playing. By keeping records, you will be able to see where your strengths lie.
There are a lot of things that you can’t control.
No matter how diligent you are in determining potential pace scenarios, there is always an allotted percentage for chaos. In a previous article How Identifying Multiple Pace Scenarios Made Me a Better Horseplayer, I discussed how I always allow a probability of 10-15 percent to be “chaos,” or an indefinable pace scenario. This may include the horse unseating the rider early, an incident as a result of horses breaking down during the course of a race or a troubled trip that impedes your critical pace horse from creating or impacting the pace as you predicted.
Did the jockey on your presumed front runner hold the horse back and not let it get the lead? Did the jockey on your presumed closer or presser take the horse to the lead? Is the trainer using today’s race as a public workout or a prep race for a future race? Is that horse that has shown nothing in any of its running lines running like Secretariat today right out of the gate? Does the horse feel like running today? Has your high profile horse been sick? There are too many intangibles to quantify that can disrupt how you see the pace of a race playing out.
Regardless of how diligent you are in your handicapping, horses are people too. Past performances are not a guarantee of future performance. This is a fact that we, as horseplayers, have to be mindful of as we apply spot plays and angles to our daily handicapping. At best we can only control how we react to the data presented to us for each race that we choose to play.