8 Strategies and Tips to Help Your Bottom Line – Part I

By Ross Gallo

I’m not going to show you how to pick, or even give out, winners for you in this article.  There are numerous outlets you can turn to if you need help with that, including computer programs, books by experts, sheets, seminars, workout gurus, tout services, etc.  It’s an inexact science and there’s more than one way to arrive at the finish line first.  Personally, I use the DRF and watch replays ad nauseum.  Old school, a dying breed, but it works for me.  I’ve had three losing years out of thirty plus, so I’m staying the course.  However, I have been at this a long time, long enough to have learned a few things along the way, major and minor, that should help you by the end of the year when you’re adding up those bet and collects.

Picking winners is important, but I would argue, not THE most important aspect of our game.  I know some truly great handicappers who can never win in the long run, because after the picking is over, they have no clue what they’re doing.  I’ll take the average handicapper who knows how to bet, every day.  Of course it’s nice to be a great handicapper AND know what you’re doing.  Not saying that’s me, just saying, it’s a good thing.

Look for Value.  This is really the cornerstone of my approach.  My way is not for everyone, as I play almost exclusively what I hope are live longshots.  Thus, my strike rate can be very low.  The idea is not quantity of cashing but rather quality.  Too many people feel that they need to be cashing tickets all the time.  I’ve cashed races that have wiped out months of losses, or made my entire year.  But, even if your approach is more mainstream than mine, you should still be looking for value.  If you love a horse you thought was going to be 4-1 and he’s 8-5, don’t be afraid to pass.  Maybe you’ve been waiting all day to play a cold exacta you just knew was going to be worth $50 and, instead, it’s paying $25.  Don’t bet!  Stay away from underlays, they’ll kill you.  Value, value, value.

Patience.  The most important, and probably most difficult thing to practice, that you need to succeed is ‘patience.’  There is an old saying:  “You can beat a race, but you can’t beat the races.”  Truer words were never spoken.  I’ll give you two scenarios of impatience, which are killers, that I have been guilty of in the past.  Maybe they will sound familiar to you too.

Scenario One:  You love a horse in the 9th race, your absolute bet of the day.  You start off just sitting, watching, but you’re glancing at the PP’s and you see a horse you think is worth a small bet.  You lose, and there goes some bankroll.  Now you’re looking a little harder, trying to find something to get that money back.  A few races and bets later, your bankroll has dwindled.  Your best bet is coming up and you don’t have enough money left to make the entire wager you wanted to make.  Best bet wins, you cash minimally or even more severely, not at all.  Opportunity lost.

Scenario Two:  You love a horse in the 2nd race and nothing else for the rest of the day.  You bet him hard and right, he wins and your wallet is fat!  You start thinking, “This could be my day.  I’m on fire, everything I pick will win.  I could make life-changing money today.”  You stick around, start playing too many races at too many tracks; and when the dust settles, you’ve lost most or even all of that big score.  Ouch!  It can be hard to sit on your hands, especially when you’re losing.  But sometimes you need to walk away, take your lumps, go back and do the work for tomorrow or the next time you’re going to be gambling.  If you’re going to lose, lose on races you have conviction about, using whatever methods you employ that have shown results before.

Don’t “steam” bet after doing some Evelyn Wood speed handicapping.  Patience is a tough virtue to achieve anywhere.  In traffic, at the bank, in line at the grocery store, with your wife/girlfriend.  But an absolute must at the track (or in front of your computer).

“I’ll take the average handicapper who knows how to bet, every day.”

copyright AGameofSkill.com

Nothing like Saratoga racing in the summer

Play to “Win.”  The oldest wager there is, and in this day of nearly limitless exotics, an often forgotten one.  I’ll give you an example of a story (or similar) that I’ve heard too many times to count over the years.  “Hey, how’s it going today?”  “Oh man, bad.  I loved that 6 horse in the 7th, the one that paid $26.  Had him tied up in Pick 3’s and 4’s, played him in exactas with the two favorites the 2,8.  The 8 got nipped for second on the wire, I blow the exacta, and the Pick 3 and 4.  Didn’t cash a dime!”  That is tragic, truly.

Let’s say you’ve come up with a 10-1 shot that you’re going to bet $200 on.  You’ve decided to get involved in a few of the exotics.  I would suggest the first thing you do is bet $50 win.  It’s not that hard to cut your exotic wagers by 25%, and if by chance you end up missing with the rest, you still cash the race for $550.  He wins and you hit the exotic, you’re flush with cash!  Even with odds of 3-1 or 4-1, playing to win isn’t a bad move.  Unless you like cold exactas or have value elsewhere in a horizontal bet, it can be tough to turn short priced horses into greater value.  Take the pure 3 times or 4 times your investment.


Ross Gallo continues offering his wisdom from 30 years of handicapping with the remaining five steps for improving your bottom line.  Look for it Tuesday on AGameofSkill.com

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.


  1. I am looking forward to get more information from Russ. Very good web site.
    Yesterday I got dq on a big longshot but that’s the game sometimes.

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