Handicapping Tip of the Day #58 – The Fewer This The Better

Fewer Negatives the Better

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

By ART PARKER

 

About forty years ago on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I sat in the old grandstand building at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. I was in the area where you had a seat without a table among many other patrons. It was shortly after noon and an older man sat down in the row in front of me and opened his Daily Racing Form to examine the races.

I couldn’t help but notice all of the markings on his Form. What I saw was quite an abundance of checkmarks in red ink. I wasn’t surprised to see notations since I, too, make notes all over my racing material. However, I was amazed at the number of markings this man made.

I couldn’t resist, A few minutes later I excused myself and asked, “Did you get the overweights in the first few races?” He responded negatively and smiled. I seized the opportunity and said, “Wow, that’s a lot of checkmarks you got there.” He laughed and said, “I’ve been doing this ever since my dad brought me to the track a long time ago. It was his way of evaluating things.”

Thank goodness I didn’t need to pry further as he simply explained, “I go through the races early in the morning and, I make a checkmark for every negative on each horse. If a horse has a lot more negatives than his competition then it helps in deciding to throw him out.”

I was staying in New Orleans that night and was planning another trip to Fair Grounds the next day. Later that night in my hotel room I was thinking about what the man had told me. At first, it didn’t seem so ingenious. However, the more I thought about it the more sensible the idea became.

I could have kicked myself for not purchasing Sunday‘s Form before I left the track that afternoon. I dashed out of the room and ran a couple of blocks to a liquor store in the French Quarter to buy Sunday’s Form. I purchased the last one sitting on the counter. Back in my hotel room I stayed up late studying the races and making checkmarks by each horse.

I had a good day the next day at Fair Grounds, and I left New Orleans thinking I made a great discovery. In reality, I just stumbled into a new way to improve my selection process.

Over the next couple of weeks, I thought about the negative notations. I realized the first good thing about doing this was that you had to be prepared before you go to the track. Playing the horses well is hard to do. It is very, very difficult. Could you imagine General George Patton leading his army without a plan and without utilizing as much information as possible? Finding the negatives of every horse requires advance study, and you can’t just show up at the track and expect to do all of that between races.

This practice also helped me understand that the best handicapping process must first separate pretenders from contenders. The best way to zero in on a winner is to dismiss those that simply have very little, or no chance to win, and, therefore, picking winners is as much the art of elimination as it is selection.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 17-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 twice. He cashed on the 2018 NHC Tour with a 19th overall finish. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, 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.

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