Everyone quickly understands the basics of sports gambling, because its as simple as the sports themselves. Horse racing, on the other hand, is a more difficult form of gambling to approach successfully. While there are some similarities between sports gambling and horse handicapping, success in one by no means assures even competency in the other. CBS Sports icon Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder was by all accounts a first rate sports handicapper, but downright awful at forecasting horse races.
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Were not going to suggest that the information here even scratches the surface of what you need to know to become a serious horse handicapper. There are countless books, DVDs and other media that you should check out if this is your goal. If youre interested in simply knowing the basics so that you can enjoy a day at the track, here are some basic concepts of horse handicapping:
Do your reading:
When you arrive at the horse track you should purchase a copy of the Daily Racing Form (DRF for short) and the track program. The DRF is basically the ‘bible’ of horse race handicapping, and offers morning line odds, horse, trainer, jockey statistics and information on each race at every major track across the country. The track program offers similar information for that individual venue, often in more ‘user friendly’ form.
You’re playing against other bettors, not the racetrack: A big difference between sports wagering and horse betting is the function of ‘the house’. In horse racing, you’re not playing against the track–instead, you’re betting against the other patrons. The track simply serves as a ‘banker’, accepting money and paying bets. For this service, they take a percentage of the money bet on each race (called the ‘takeout’). The odds on a horse aren’t set by the track, but rather by the amount of money bet on each entry.
So where do the odds in the newspaper or program come from? The so-called morning odds are basically educated guesses as to where the wagering will go. Its roughly analogous to overnight lines in sports gambling. They can be helpful as a guideline, but may or may not be indicative as to how the actual wagering will go.
There are so many different approaches to handicapping horse races that its difficult to even know where to start. Some handicappers emphasize past performance data. Others factor in the results of recent workouts, while others prefer a visual examination of the horses in the paddock.
Once a handicapper gets an idea what will happen in the race, he has to factor the available odds into the proposition. A favorite may be an unattractive wagering prospect due to a prohibitively high price, while a long shot may be a good wagering value based on a high potential payback. It all boils down to wagering value, which is simply a matter of doing a math. Teaching the youth of America solid math skills is crucial for no other reason than to help them gamble effectively and profitably.
Horses and Trainers:
Some handicappers place a great deal of importance on the horses breeding lineage”the quality of his parents and grandparents “as an indication to his performance potential. This may be particularly important early in a horses career, but after a half dozen or so races what hes done on the track becomes more important than his pedigree. Trainers, like Bob Baffertt, can also be an important consideration much in the same way that coaching can play an important role in sports wagering.
In the simplest terms, jockeys are independent contractors and thus to make money they need to do well. In theory, a jockey wants to get on the best horse possible in each race to maximize his chances of winning. That also results in sort of a chicken and the egg conundrum”are the horses winning because the best jockeys are aboard, or are the best jockeys merely adept at getting on the best horses? Most serious horse players look to the jockey as a secondary consideration. Its sort of a situation where a good jockey cant win with a bad horse, but a bad jockey can cause a good horse not to win.
Find your own style, and maintain discipline: Basically, there’s not a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to handicap a horse race. Figure out what works for you, and develop and refine your own methodology. As in any form of gambling, don’t bet more than you can afford to lose and in particular when you’re starting out there’s no reason to be making big wagers. If you want to learn more, there’s a number of good internet resources including the Daily Racing Form website.
Ross Everett is a staff handicapper for Sports-1 and an authority on horse race and CFL football betting . He’s a well known and widely published expert on sports handicapping theory, as well as financial investment strategy. He contributes to a number of websites providing insight on how to bet on CFL football, MMA and boxing.