Now that you have crossed the line between a beginning horseplayer and an experienced horseplayer, there are certain things you can do to get yourself to the next level. It’s not a secret that most people plays the horses to make a profit. That’s certainly true for those of us who play the horses on a frequent basis. The information provided be low is designed to help you sharpen your skills as a handicapper. With discipline and focus, you can be one of the 5% of all handicappers who make a profit playing the horses year after year. You might even get proficient enough to join handicapping tournaments with a reasonable chance of winning.
Dissecting the Form
As an experienced handicapper, you have no doubt learned the importance of using a Daily Racing Form or Form Guide. In many cases, history tells us much about what’s going to happen in the future. Novice handicappers tend to read the form by simply focusing on a horse’s most recent running lines and betting on the horses that have had the best results over the last two or three races. That’s not good enough if a handicapper wants to make profits over the long haul.
Recent form tells a story, but not the whole story. Horses are fickle animals. They can change form in a hurry. The good news is they usually give indications somethings changing. Here’s a few things that might indicate form change is on the horizon. Remember, we are talking about form that might get better or worse.
- If a horse with dull form suddenly shows a very good workout, you need to pay attention.
- Some horses lose confidence after a few losses. Astute trainers will drop them in class if they believe it might serve as a wakeup call. Knowing trainer trends can be very useful here.
- If a trainer is dropping a horse below a prior claiming price, beware. The trainer is most likely looking to lose the horse, and no one wants to give up a horse that’s capable of winning races.
- You’ll want to pay special attention to horses with speed figure that are gradually increasing or decreasing. Most horses don’t change form overnight. Horses with ascending speed figures make good bets when in against horses with descending or flat speed figures. Likewise, you’ll want to avoid betting on horses with descending speed figures, that is unless they have a huge figure advantage over the rest of the field. Even then, you’ll want to be cautious.
- Horses coming off long layoffs have no form. You should avoid them unless they have a solid history of running well of layoffs, combined with a trainer who is proficient at getting horses ready to run off the bench.
- Sudden rider changes can be a sign of things to come. Most top trainers have a “go to” jockey. You need to familiarize yourself with these relationships. The Daily Racing Form actually provides relevant stats below each horse. If a barn’s top jock jumps aboard one of its horses, you should give that horse extra attention, especially if it looks like the jock had choices. Likewise, you need to proceed with caution when the barn’s jock jumps ship.
Off Form Handicapping
As an experienced handicapper, you should be aware that some handicapping angles are not addressed in the racing form. Here’s some off-racing form information that warrants consideration.
- Track bias is a big issue in horse racing. Due to a variety of factors, it’s nearly impossible for track maintenance crews to provide fair race tracks on a daily basis. As a handicapper, you should pay close attention to how early races are being run. If horses with a certain running style or placed on a certain part of the track seem to be enjoying some benefit, there could be a track bias in play. That information should be considered as you handicap races later on the card.
- Smart money is usually big money. You need to pay extra attention to horses whose odds don’t seem to match their current form. Astute horseplayers and insiders tend to bet late as to disguise their confidence.
- You have to look at the horses in the saddling area and on the track. There are physical and emotional characteristics that can be used to determine the horse’s mental state. Give extra points to horses that have shiny coats, ears pricked and seemingly dancing on their toes. Avoid horses with their heads down, droopy ears, excessive sweat (foam) around the neckline and between the legs ones that are and difficult to handle prior to entering the starting gate. These horses tend to use up energy and fall flat during the race.
Combined with what you have already learned as a handicapper, the information above gives you plenty of angles to use as you hone in on a winner. If you don’t get enough information to clearly point out a winner, you should simply pass that race. There is no law that says you have to have action on every race. Finally, you need to be a student at all times. Awareness is the key to becoming the best handicapper you can be.