Handicapping 101 – A Six-Step Process

It doesn't matter how skilled you are, it is a good idea to go back to basics when learning about this difficult, but sometimes frustrating, mental stimulation known as handicapping.

Every handicapper is different, but each one should be considered before placing a bet. These elements are listed in order of their importance to the overall equation.

  1. FORM: Horses are the most important thing. The first task when attacking a race, is to eliminate runners that don’t look fit. This can be done by either recent racing or by doing a series of exercises that indicate the horse is ready to work. The best indicator of fitness is a competitive race in recent weeks, with the required a.m. maintenance for horses that have raced more than two weeks back. Horses who haven't raced for 30+ days or more should show ample evidence of their fitness, have a track record of winning races and have had a lot of workouts. This group should not be considered further, as it will limit the focus of the handicapper on the real contenders. If a horse doesn't appear capable of running well in today's conditions, it doesn't matter how they have performed in the past. However, it is important to not draw an x through longshots who come off poor lines.

  2. ABILITY: How fast are the horses remaining in the field on their best day? This is the next question that needs to be answered. In this age of performance ratings and speed figures, there are many ways to assess talent. It doesn't matter if you use Today's Racing Digest's FIRE Numbers or Final Time ratings, my Fast Figs and Beyer Ratings, Barry Meadow's Master Win Ratings, or your own sheets. However, you must be consistent. It is important to know two things about the horse. What is the horse capable of doing? Eliminating horses who are not within three lengths from the top three contenders can be done.

  3. CLASS: This part is tricky because horses can change and regress rapidly in year-round racing. Trainers attempt to squeeze races out horses that need rest, and track veterinarians provide legal medication. Sometimes, horses that are outclassed will be eliminated in Step 2. However, horses who have excelled in class due to their efforts should be examined. When trying to move up to a more difficult level, horses that were able to race against bad rivals or had easy pace pictures should be treated with suspicion. The best class jumpers are those who have dropped in class, tailed off and appear to have regained form. Many players overlook past class, which is a huge handicapping advantage.

  4. RACE CONDITIONS: Is the horse comfortable on today's surface? Does he like today's distance? Horses that are fit and in good condition and have the ability and class to win are often beaten in races not suitable for them. Some horses can move between sprints or routes, while others struggle to do so. Be certain that your horse can handle the conditions today before you abandon a competitor in the race.

  5. CONNECTIONS: It is important to consider the human side of the equation. Although a good rider and a skilled trainer cannot win on a poor horse, it is possible to eliminate the bad horses by this point. A bad jock or a difficult trainer can make good horses lose. This is where the record will help you. You should eliminate horse's that have been trained or ridden in low-percentage stables, jocks, or other individuals. Take a hard look at the short-priced horses that have been saddled or trained by people who are stuck in a slump (consult the Digest's "Cold Trainer's List"). Trainers and riders can also go through slumps like professional athletes in any sport. They lose more than they think. It's the truth.

  6. BREEDING: A horse with a poor pedigree can be difficult to analyze. First-time starters are bred for speed, while those who are bred to go longer have the best sprint speed. Sprinters who want to run long. The move to turf is happening for dirt types. Only breed a horse if it has passed the first five steps. Always get the best value when betting on a horse "on the come", and be open to taking a bet against (or passing the race) if the favorite is not proven in today's circumstances, regardless of their pedigree. It doesn't matter if they are bred to do it.

These six steps should have removed all the pretenders, and reduced the field to the top contenders. You should demand more value for a race that is more contentious than it appears on paper. In a field of ten horses, it is not logical to support the favorite when five other horses could also win. You can create an odds line to help you determine which horses are true overlays.

It's then a matter for you to buy low and sell high. A Handicapping Tool - The Money Line