How Dessert Can Help Handicappers Overcome Obstacles


Everyone loves dessert, especially when it’s the kind that can help you grow your bankroll and not your waistline.

Even seasoned handicappers who are making a living playing the races have periodic handicapping obstacles they need to overcome. Regardless of the problem, there is a strategy to overcome these obstacles and keep your betting in the black: D.E.S.S.E.R.T.

D – Determine

Determine your obstacles. Identify them. List them out.

What is the most troubling to you and your handicapping right now?

Prioritize them either by how much they are impacting your handicapping or how easily you think it will be to overcome.

Recently, I determined one obstacle to my software. It would get hung up and spit out errors when a pace line from Century Downs was selected. Century Downs only started running thoroughbred races in late 2017, with 16 racing dates, and 21 racing dates in 2018. I noticed some horses running at Turf Paradise lately with several Century Downs running lines, which has forced me to figure out what the track adjustment factor should be for this track.

E – Evaluate

Evaluate the obstacles.

How is this obstacle affecting your handicapping? Is it affecting only one factor or is it affecting your entire process?

In the case of my software not having Century Downs, it was affecting my pace projections and pace-based speed figures. Yet, my angle plays and form factors were not effected since they are not based on track-to-track time adjustments.

S – Strategize

What is your plan to overcome this obstacle? Is the obstacle a complex problem that can be broken down into several smaller problems to tackle?

Going back to my obstacle or analyzing running lines from Century Downs, my plan was to collect data (call times by distance) and develop a reasonable value to use until I bought my yearly updated par times. For a temporary fix, an average of the applicable call times that I use should be sufficient.

S – Seek

Seek resources anywhere you can.

You may need to buy some data, such as data on sires and trainers or par times. Maybe you need to download a lot of charts from Daily Racing Form or Equibase?

In my case, I downloaded all the charts from 2018 for Century Downs to start my analysis.

E – Engage Help

Talk to someone who is an expert or at least knowledgeable on the subject. Post in an online forum or group such as Talking Handicapping with Dave Schwartz or Buy a book on the subject. Ask Rail Guy! Well, maybe skip that last suggestion!

I discussed track-to-track adjustments with Dave Schwartz and he gave me some excellent starting points.

R – Record Results

Based on the changes you have made, keep records to see if what you have done is working.

When establishing track-to-track adjustments, you need to see if your newly crafted adjustment factor is giving the horses from that track either an advantage or disadvantage. Are these horses winning when your adjustments suggest that they shouldn’t be, or vice versa?

T – Tinker

Tinker with your results until you find the right solution. I don’t know too many handicappers that can make changes in one shot without needing to go back and recalibrate the factors.

In the case of my Century Downs track-to-track adjustment, I had to look harder at the class of the races I was using to create the adjustment versus the races they were showing up in at the Turf Paradise meet. I had to play a bit with the class structure to hone in on what the right value was to use.

Overcoming obstacles, both big and small, can give you an edge over other handicappers. Realize that it is a work in progress and you may need to attack it more than once to get it right.

Horse racing is an evolving sport. The game is constantly changing through breeding, conditions of races, and training styles. So, whether it is a track-to-track adjustment or an angle or figure that doesn’t seem to be working any more, be ready to face and overcome new obstacles with some “dessert”.

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