Tick, Tick, Tick: 8 Timely Tricks to Help Manage Your Handicapping

By Ray Wallin

Equally as important as money management at the track is time management for folks who make their living playing the races. If you don’t manage your money, you won’t have a bankroll. If you don’t manage your time you will miss great betting opportunities.

Recently a reader reached out to me for advice on how to get their handicapping done in time for the races. On-The-Clock Ollie struggles with getting his handicapping done before the next day’s races. He admitted to me that nothing is worse than going through the results the next day and seeing that he missed a horse exiting a key race or that as a handicapper that looks for early speed advantages, he sees a horse that wires the field.

Saratoga Race Course - US Racing Photo

Saratoga Race Course – US Racing Photo

Good news Ollie, there are a few tricks to help you effectively manage your handicapping time and still allow you to do your results the next day and to take your trip notes.

1. Create time blocks

I know a professional handicapper that primarily only plays NYRA tracks. He does well with Aqueduct and Belmont, but crushes Saratoga. The detail my friend Saratoga Sam goes into in his handicapping is phenomenal. He saves and analyzes charts. He takes trip notes. He keeps his own statistics like my late Uncle Dutch used to.

How does he still have time to handicap the races and churn a healthy profit every summer?

Sam blocks out his time every day of the week. He shared with me his typical week once. He has each day planned around the live racing cards. From the time he wakes up in the morning until the time he goes to bed at night, he has a plan. His typical day starts off with doing results from the night before. He focuses on replays, trip notes, and logging his bets. If he doesn’t have time to process results on every race, angle horse, or his figures, he will save those until a day the track is dark to catch up on. Once he hits a certain time, he gets the early scratches and changes, making adjustments to his handicapping for the day. He plays the races in person so he can see the horses, and after the race day is over, he handicaps the next day’s card until it is almost bed time.

While Sam’s level of dedication to detail is more than many of us have time to commit, yet it keeps him on schedule and he is always ready for the next day’s live racing.

2. Include buffer time in your schedule

Sam’s schedule was pretty tight, yet he aware that things don’t always go as planned. He built in some swing time around the end of the race card in case he got caught up talking to one of the horsemen or decided to stop and have a nice steak dinner after a big win. Other times, life happens. You may need to wait for the plumber to show up to fix that leaky sink or talk to dear old Aunt Edna on her 95th birthday.

Don’t stress yourself out with a day scheduled down to the minute.

3. You can’t work all day

Even Sam figures in some leisure time during his busy Saratoga schedule. It may be fishing for a few hours on a dark day or watching a show to break up the morning while he is doing results. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, right?

4. Set up a routine and stick to it

You’ve heard me say this many times before. If you have a routine or checklist approach to your results or handicapping it will help you be productive. You will know exactly what to do since you look at factors of a race in the same order every time and it will ensure that you don’t miss the obvious lone early speed horse that you sometimes forget to look for.

5. Multi-tasking doesn’t work

Have you ever owned an all-in-one fax, copier, and scanner combo printer? It may have done it all, but did it do any of them well?

The same holds true for you. You can’t do results while watching the races. You can’t handicap while trying to watch the tote board or see the horses in the paddock. If you do, some part of your game will suffer.

Do one thing at a time.

6. Break down tasks

Unlike Saratoga Sam, I work for a living. I try to squeeze my results work in before I go to work. Some days I can, other days I can’t. If I know I don’t have enough time to do all my results, I break them down into manageable chunks to deal with.

Instead of logging every aspect going race by race, I will attack a category at a time. I will first log some pace data that I am collecting on every race. Second, I will track key races and trip notes. Next I will log my wagers and race-by-race contenders and confidence. I track the results of all my home-grown figures next. Then I will assess the favorite’s performance in each race. Lastly, I will go race by race and log the results of specific angles I am tracking.

I keep the results above in six separate results files. When I know I am short on time, I will do one or two of the files completely before moving on to try the next set of results. This way I have manageable chunks of data to process and can do so when I have smaller amounts of free time later in the day.

7. Automate what you can

I love data files and being able to import them into Excel. It saves me a ton of time creating all my figures and looking for my angle plays. The best part is that if you want to change how a figure is computed, you can change the template and go back to old files to see what the impact is.

Likewise, buying par times instead of creating them yourself is a huge time saver. Let someone else do all the dirty work, this frees up your time to handicap the races.

While data files may cost you a buck a card and par times can be expensive, how much is your time worth in the long run doing longer manual calculations and tracking fractional times at several different tracks?

8. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

If you know you spend about 10 minutes per race and that you have an hour to handicap a 12-race card, will you get to look at every race at the level that makes you feel confident at the betting windows?

Probably not.

If you have been tracking your performance you will know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Maybe you are a better dirt handicapper than turf handicapper. Maybe you do better in allowance and stakes races than claimers and maidens. Regardless, triage the race card and play to your strengths and where your best better opportunities lie. If you have time left over, you can go back and attack that 14 horse field of two-year-old first time starters.

They say time is money. To be successful at the track you need to manage both effectively. What are some of your time management techniques?

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