Time is on Your Side: 5 Tips for Less Doing, More Handicapping

By Ray Wallin

Recently a reader emailed me a question. Scatterbrained Scott wanted to know how to get more time to handicap and how to use that time efficiently.

This is a problem that I know I lot of part-time horseplayers suffer from. We are trying to juggle our day jobs, handicapping the races and sports, and making sure we devote enough time to our families and loved ones. It can be hard to devote our full attention to handicapping the races with so many other responsibilities in our busy lives, but there are ways you can make the most of your time and be more efficient and effective in your handicapped.

Track your time

I had a friend who played only harness racing who we called Sulky Scott. Scott was a busy guy. He coached his son’s baseball team and spent a lot of time with his wife and his parents who lived nearby. Sulky Scott also had a high-performing pace analysis he used on half- mile tracks, but said he never had enough time do an entire night time card at the tracks he exceled at, like Northfield Park.

One evening over a couple of drinks while simulcasting at the Meadowlands, we talked about his process. Scott admitted that he would set up one race at time, which consisted of entering entry numbers and morning line odds, and then he would start to pick and input running lines into his spreadsheet. This included manually looking up track to track adjustment factors and plugging in beaten lengths and fractional times.

I asked Scott how long it took him to run his analysis on a race. He responded that the thought it was anywhere from five to 15 minutes. Naturally, I pressed him for how it could be such a range and was he even sure. He wasn’t. He never actually took the time to time how long it took him to run his pace numbers from start to finish.

The next week we met up and he had an answer. For a typical eight- horse field it normally took him about six minutes to set up the race, plug in the factors, and review the output.

Now that Sulky Scott knew how long an average race would take him, he could start to block out the hour he needed to look at a 10-race card. Sure, there would be days it took shorter or longer to finish his analysis, but now he could start blocking out the appropriate amount of time to maximize his handicapping for a given race card.

Boil down the process

Sure, Sulky Scott had the process down to about six minutes, but could he do better? I asked him to describe his process. He started telling me about setting up a race, plugging in the fractional times, then sometimes remembering to adjust for the variant when it was over a certain value, and then how his analysis worked. I stopped him when he mentioned that he “sometimes remembered.” When pressed about why he didn’t always remember to perform that step he simply replied that he sometimes forgot it.

Have you ever assembled a piece of IKEA furniture?

The directions are clear and concise. The same should be said about your handicapping process. If you have a sequence or process that is laid out and repetitive you will be efficient in performing it and won’t forget or miss a step. Break it down to the basics and put it in the order that makes the most sense for you to effectively handicap each race.

Create an external brain

Sulky Scott had a par list he referred to every time he needed to adjust a running line. Once he boiled down his process to a checklist, he no longer missed a key step or two. This freed up brain cells to focus on the analysis portion of his handicapping.

By having the process written out as a reference and the data you need for track to track comparisons or even sire and trainer data, frees up your brain to focus on the analysis and review of what the past performances and figures are telling you to do.

Customize to save time

Every time Sulky Scott needed to make a track to track adjustment, he had to look it up on a cheat sheet. Some regular used ones he knew but he would refer to his list to double check that he was correct.

Since he was inputting all this information into Excel, I suggested that he take the time to set up a lookup table that would find and apply the track to track comparisons instead of being manually input. While he wasn’t sure how to set up the logic, I was able to show him and point him to a wealth of online videos and tutorials on how to make it work.

By spending a little time upfront to set up the tables and lookup formulas, he started saving time on each race he was handicapping which allowed him to streamline his handicapping and squeeze a few more races into his daily routine.

Block out time

Scott often tried to handicap before he left the house for work. He would try to carve out time between waking up, making breakfast, preparing for the day, and waking up the kids which meant he as constantly starting and stopping his handicapping on a given race. This made for more time spent on a race than he would have liked to have spent and even forgetting what he had reviewed or thought in some cases.

Once Scott started to block out time to focus on his handicapping, he became much more efficient, and his wagering improved. Being able to focus on a race from start to finish means you won’t miss a step or forget what you had determined to that point.

If you are struggling with your handicapping, there are simple steps you can take to improve your efficiency and become more effective in the time you have. By better managing your time and breaking your process down you can continue to make progress to your dream of making your living playing the races.

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