By Ray Wallin
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson – the entrepreneur, the investor, the author, the philanthropist. He has a net worth of about $4.1 billion. He has been very successful in that little venture known as the Virgin Group starting with music, an airline, and space travel in the not-so-distant future.
So how can Richard Branson make you a better handicapper?
He isn’t going to give you a couple of million because he likes hanging out with you at the track. Yet like most folks that are successful in business and life, he is disciplined, has good habits, and a positive philosophy.
Here are five ways Sir Richard can make you a better handicapper:
#1 Takes Notes on Everything
How many times have you had a great idea while you are in the middle of driving to work or up on the ladder cleaning your gutters? How many of those great ideas did you actually remember a few minutes later?
I am guessing not that many.
Branson writes everything down. He writes the idea down the minute it comes to him and doesn’t count on remembering it later. It’s a rare occasion that he doesn’t have a notebook with him.
So the next time you are chatting with Rail Guy before the second race and have a brilliant idea for an angle, write it down. I can bet you won’t remember that great idea by post time!
#2 He Listens
Branson has a reputation of listening to everyone talking about anything. “Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak,” he once posted on LinkedIn. He is an active listener. When people talk, he listens. He uses what he hears to help improve himself, his businesses, and the world.
Have you ever found yourself next to the old-timer at the track who won’t stop talking? Instead of dismissing him as a kook, listen to what he is telling you. This guy has been hanging around the track since the morning workouts and has a different perspective about how the track is running today.
The same holds true for handicapping books and articles. Read and absorb as much as you can. I believe that there is at least one great nugget of information that can be found in every handicapping book if you approach them with an open mind. In my case, Michael Pizzolla’s Handicapping Magic wasn’t on my list to read but ended up improving my approach to pace handicapping.
So next time you are hanging around the old-timers in the Monmouth Park grandstand or see a handicapping book on eBay that you haven’t read, don’t pass up the opportunity to listen (or read) and learn.
#3 Mistakes Are Part of the Game
You have gotten to the final leg of your Pick 4. You have three entries of the seven-horse field covered and you are feeling pretty good about your chances of cashing this one. You check the will pays and while you are pulling for the best paying horse to win, you will be happy to walk out of the track today with cash in your pocket.
As the horses break from the gate your feelings change. Where did that four horse come from? How is he on the lead uncontested? He can’t last out there by himself, right?
As he draws away in the stretch your winning day turns into a losing one. You do a post-mortem of the final race only to realize that you missed that the four was the lone frontrunner in the race but had a series of turf routes that masked his dirt sprint ability.
We all make mistakes.
Did you know that in 1994 Branson launched Virgin Cola? Did you ever hear of this beverage?
I doubt it. It was a major flop for Branson, but one of his former employees at Virgin Cola, Richard Reed, used the experience to launch a successful smoothie company.
It is how you react and respond that matters the most. You have to be able to take steps to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again. It could be as simple as following a checklist when handicapping that reminds you to look at various factors, including back running styles.
Regardless of your result today, it will make you a better handicapper in the long run.
#4 Have a Positive Mindset
When I was gracing the second floor of the old Meadowlands grandstand in my younger days there was Downer Del. Del owned a printing company and often made it to the track in time to start simulcasting the California tracks around the third race a couple hours before live racing. There were only a handful of us there that early, but Downer Del was one of the most vocal. He’d go place his bets on Santa Anita or Golden Gate and come back towards us and say “here are more losers for today.” Invariably he would lose and then say “see I told you.”
Your attitude before the races start will impact how confidently you wager on your best opportunities. If you have doubt about how your contenders will do, why are you placing the bet in the first place?
When you arrive at the track what is your attitude? What do you say to yourself? Do you say “I am going to win today,” or do you say “I can let myself lose $100 today?”
Whether you are like Downer Del or you have $100 burning a hole in your pocket that you are looking to lose, you won’t do well. You need to come to the track not thinking about how much you are going to lose or how bad your bets are going to do. You need to think about how your best contenders and plays will do and how you will play smart and confident to make that happen.
Perhaps you should follow Branson’s lead and do self-affirmations. They are proven to improve decision-making and reduce stress.
#5 Schedule Your To-Do List
At any track you will encounter Every-Race Eddie. He is playing every race on the card and about a dozen other tracks. He is struggling to get his bets in and handicap every race. Sometimes he misses a couple of races and like Perfect Pete, he would have won that race on that amazing fifth-off-of-layoff when turning back in distance today with a new jockey angle.
Every-Race Eddie is a hot mess. It doesn’t need to be this way.
Scheduling your time forces you to realize how much time you actually have and how long it takes to do things. Branson schedules his time and prioritizes the most critical items. Your approach to handicapping and horseplaying should be the same.
Do your homework before you get to the track. If you are crunched for time between coaching junior’s soccer team and your day job, triage the race card you want to look at to you focus on the best betting opportunities.
Like I yell out to the kids on junior’s soccer team every practice and game, “have a plan!”
Sir Richard Branson didn’t become successful overnight. He worked at it. You can be a successful handicapper and horseplayer, too, if you work at it. Through discipline and the right outlook maybe you will soon be making your living playing the races.
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 email@example.com.