Improve Your Handicapping in 30 Days

Everywhere you look there is a challenge for you to participate in. You can get happy in 30 days, you can eat healthy for 30 days, you can draw a picture for 30 days — you can even get a better butt in 30 days.

Last year I accepted the 22 push-up challenge for Veteran Suicide Awareness and posted the video proof of myself doing my 22 push-ups for 22 days on Facebook. While some folks were quick to comment on my (lack of) form, others were supportive and helped spread the word regarding Veteran Suicide. The end result was both being able to do 22 good push-ups by the end of the challenge and getting several of my friends involved to help spread the word and support the cause.

While challenges like these help to raise awareness through social media, they can also have a monetary impact on certain causes. In the case of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, they saw a significant increase in donations as a result, which helped lead to the discovery of a new ALS gene.

This got me to thinking: Why not do a 30-day challenge for handicappers?

So here is what I propose — no physical exertion, getting wet, or donations required. Instead, look at one race a day for 30 days and, when performing your post-mortem analysis of the race, log the reasons and factors that made the winner victorious.

Below is a list of ideas of what to look for, but you should try to brainstorm every factor that you think may have affected the horse’s winning effort today.

Horse-Specific Factors to Look for:

  • Excuses in previous races that may have masked the horse’s form.
  • Is the horse coming off of a layoff? Is the horse second or third off of a layoff?
  • How many days since horse’s last race?
  • Is the horse stretching out or turning back in distance?
  • Is the horse trying a different surface or moving back to a surface it has had success over?
  • Is the horse moving up or dropping in class?
  • Was there a jockey change – good, bad or indifferent?
  • Was there a trainer change – either privately or via a recent claim?
  • How has the horse performed in its career, at this distance, over this surface or at this track? Does it have a winning percentage of greater than 10% in all these categories?
  • Does horse’s previous running lines show more quality starts or excusable races than bad races?

Factors Relating to the Entire Field:

  • Did the horse have a pace advantage in the most probable pace scenario?
  • Was the horse the Critical Pace Horse?
  • Did the horse have a class advantage?
  • How did the horse fit the conditions of today’s race?
  • How did the horse’s best recent speed figures in applicable races compare to the other entrants.

I have found that by tracking the races in an Excel spreadsheet will give you the ability to sort the information later and see what factors stick out. After a month of collecting data, you will start to see trends and commonalities between the winners.

Another interesting twist on this challenge is to scan the results for horses that won at odds of 5-1 or higher or 10-1 or higher and perform the same analysis. You can also look at a specific type of race each day as well — based on class, surface, or distance. If you are continually getting beaten in maiden claiming races, then this is a great way to see what is important in those races.

The point of this challenge is to force you to take a step back and find positive influences and factors that you may have overlooked. You will be surprised at how some factors that you may take for granted are performing.

Think of this as a chance to make a donation to yourself through the winning tickets you will cash, rather than leaving your money at the track.

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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