Investing at the Racetrack Revisited

InvestingRacetrack1Several years ago, I revisited and revamped the work of one of my early handicapping heroes, William L. Scott. And the results were… well, awful. However, I still believe that Scott’s seminal work, Investing at the Racetrack, is worth studying.

In fact, in today’s column, I will show you how the application of one of Scott’s basic principles coupled with my pace figures — or any pace figures, really — can produce stellar results.

But, first, some background:

In the winter of 1996, I quit my job as a bank teller to become a professional gambler. I had $674 to my name, rent to pay and a baby on the way… OK, OK, I’m kidding about the baby, but you get the picture. On the surface, things looked bleak. Yet, I’d never been happier in my life, because, for the first time, I had decided to pursue a career I was passionate about.

And for three glorious weeks I beat the game like the New York Giants beat the Washington Redskins last weekend. By restricting my wagering to horses with superior relative turn times that were going to post at odds of less than 3-1 (a concept I borrowed from Scott), I turned Gulfstream Park into my own personal ATM machine.

After cashing on a horse named Fuzzy Risque (for the second time) in the third race on Feb. 22, 1996, my record at the Hallandale, Florida track stood at 15 winners from 20 selections, an astounding 75 percent success rate.

I won’t bore you with all the details of my professional gambling demise — suffice it to say it involved a lost wagering voucher and a car accident — what’s important is everything I learned from the experience. For example: How pace figures, along with Scott’s basic tenet of restricting one’s wagering to the top three betting choices, can be used to turn a profit at the races, even in the new millennium.

To demonstrate, let’s take a look at my database consisting of over 75,000 races. To make it easier for those who don’t have the luxury of watching races all day, we’ll concentrate on the top three morning line favorites, instead of the actual pari-mutuel favorites.

First, some baseline numbers:

Top 3 Morning Line Favorites

Number: 191,591
Won (rate): 46,127 (24.1%)
Win ROI: -19.45%

Now, let’s add a few rules — one in the spirit of Scott and two others that I’ve found to be effective in other instances:

1) The horse must have earned a late speed ration (LSR) of zero or greater in its last race, which must be the best such figure in today’s field. (Using the best Brisnet late pace rating or other similar pace figures would probably work too.)

2) Horse must’ve won at least 25 percent of its starts over the past two years.

3) The animal in question must have started at least 10 times over the past two years.

Number: 580
Won (rate): 212 (36.6%)
Win ROI: +8.08%

Obviously, the number of betting opportunities is reduced significantly, but an eight percent return on investment is nothing to sneeze at.

What all this tells us, of course, is how important a horse’s finishing kick can be, particularly if the horse is one of the favorites. And it’s one of the reasons I’m always cynical of horses that continually record poor LSRs.


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