By Ray Wallin
At some point in your life I’m sure you have all heard the proverb, “you reap what you sow.” I know I heard it endlessly from my grandmother when I was growing up. I bet she never thought that it would relate to horse racing.
In life, the consequence of bad actions will be worse while the consequence of good actions will be better. At the track, poorly selected bets or poor money management will leave you broke and smart wagers and good money management will have you smiling at the end of the day.
Have you ever seen Two-Minute Tony at the track? He is the guy who looks at the track program for two minutes or less before he decides what wagers he is going to place on the next race. How much handicapping can you actually do in two minutes? If there are 12 entries in a race that is a whopping 10 seconds or less spend on each horse.
You know how Two-Minute Tony’s story ends. He missed that last race. Where did that five horse come from? How could he miss that he was the lone early speed horse? How could he know that Journeyman Joe was going to take the mount for the win today? His bankroll evaporates like a wet footprint on a concrete sidewalk on a sunny July day.
So how can we REAP the rewards at the track?
You need to take your time to read the past performances.
You need to read and understand the race conditions. Not all claiming or allowance races are created equal. Racing secretaries have had to get craftier in writing conditions to fill races and offer competitive race cards.
There are more conditions offered now than there were 20 years ago. Allowance optional claimers and maiden optional claiming races were unheard of in the past but are now commonplace. Even the conditions of claiming races have gotten more expansive. What used to be a non-winners of a number of races in a time period now has alternate conditions prefaced with an “or.” This may also include non-winners of a number of races lifetime and in some cases may also be a restriction on age when three-year-olds are racing against older horses.
You need to examine the past performances and information for each horse.
Running lines, jockey, trainer information, sire/dam, and workouts are all important depending on the type of race.
The last running line may not be the most representative of the horse’s ability. The horse may have had several troubled trips that are masking his form. The horse may be a good dirt sprinter that was asked to try two turns over the turf or stepped up too high in class. You need to be able to figure how the pace of the race is going to set up by looking at running styles, fractions, and performance.
If it is a maiden race you need to examine the connections of the horse closely. Does this trainer win with first time starters or 2-year-olds? How does the sire’s progeny perform in this situation? Which jockey has the mount here and how does he do with the less experienced horses?
Once you have examined each of the horses individually, it is time to assess how all the horses compare to one another.
How do the running styles of the other horses in the field impact each other? Is there only one early speed horse in the field? Does he have a pace advantage? Does this race appear to set up for early speed or a closer? Who is the critical pace horse?
Which horse has the biggest class edge given the race conditions? Are there any horses with back class that could run back to that form today?
After assessing the horses against each other, who has an edge? Who meets any of your spot play angles? Who are your contenders?
Now it’s time to put it all together. You have read, examined, and assessed the race. It is time to decide whether you are going to play or pass.
How confident do you feel in your contenders? Are you at least 90 percent confident in your picks? How are you thinking about playing your picks? What are the value odds you have assigned if you are thinking a win bet? How deep do you have to go for a horizontal wager such as a Pick 3 or Pick 4? Do you have clear cut horses for second or third place for an exacta or trifecta? Do you see something in the paddock that changes your mind?
It’s all up to you now. If the bet makes sense you play it, if not you pass. Sounds simple enough, right?
Can you make your living playing the races? Can you at least turn a profit at the track? You’ll never know if you don’t take your time. Do your homework the night before and get ready to REAP big profits this year.
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 www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.