Overcoming Yourself

A Plan for a Day at the Horse Races

by Rich Nilsen

You’ve arrived at the feature race, and you’re down $180 for the day. Mentally, you are frustrated from having played every race on the card, losing two costly photo finishes, and having wagered on a “too good to be true” favorite who still hasn’t finished. You’ve narrowed the feature race down to two solid horses, but lack of conviction and failure to have a positive mindset is playing havoc on your decision making.

Lookin’ Good is the favorite at 2-to-1, and Darkened Form is an enticing wager at 6-to-1. In a moment of indecision, you glance at the past performances again in hopes of finally separating the two selections. Noticing the company line from three races back, you see that Lookin’ Good defeated Darkened Form by five widening lengths. You quickly scan your eyes to the closest monitor to see that there’s only two minutes to post, meanwhile, failing to notice that Darkened Form fell on his face at the start of that particular race. The rushed decision is finalized. Your remaining $20 is played as $10 to win on Lookin’ Good and a $10 straight exacta Lookin’ Good over Darkened Form.

horses racingYou return to your seat with zero minutes to post, grasping the tickets in your hands and praying for your luck to turn around. Darkened Form breaks to a clean lead as Lookin’ Good gets shuffled back into fifth. Your second selection continues on an uncontested lead while Lookin’ Good begins to weave his way through traffic. The favorite gets stopped behind a wall of horses as Darkened Form leads the field to the top of the stretch. You realized that your worst nightmare is coming true, as the 6-1 shot opens an insurmountable lead past the eighth pole. The favorite finally gets clear and closes with a tremendous rush. The rally falls a length short of Darkened Form, who scores at juicy dds.

You wanted to stay for the last race on the card, but you’re tapped out. On your way out, you see from the monitors that Darkened Form returned $15.40 to win and the “reverse” exacta returned $42.20. Then you recall what your good friend, a disciple of proper money management, would have done in this scenario. He would have used the $20 as follows: wager $10 to win on the longer priced horse, and box a $5 exacta with the two runners. Such a bet would have returned $182.50, covering your losses for the day.

This scenario is repeated numerous times a day at every betting facility in the country and every online wagering platform. The bettor encounters a race in which he or she does not know what they will do. This is the root of many handicappers’ problems. When a betting situation occurs, they either do not know what to do, or they let recent failures dictate their wager. The result is usually devastating to the struggling horseplayer.

Do you know what you would do in a particular situation? Having a betting plan puts you far ahead of the general public. Many handicappers do not think that they have a problem with betting scenarios, but they will end up wagering on similar situations completely different.

The wagering menu available may also dictate their bets. What normally would be a win and exacta box bet becomes a trifecta bet with the “chance” at a bigger payoff. The win and exacta are forgotten. The top selection wins but the other plays fail to complete the trifecta.

Does any of this sound familiar? How often has it occurred to you that the way you bet caused you to lose the race? Every handicapper has made this mistake. Some just continue to make it everyday.

For players who feel a change is required, let’s go through the steps required to become a better bettor.

 

STEP ONE: Determine Your Level of Risk – Exactly what kind of bettor are you? Are you a $2 win bettor, a $50 win bettor, a $100 multi-race exotics player, or a combination? Know what you are and stick to it.

STEP TWO: Build a Bankroll – The answer to the first step determines the size of your bankroll. The amount you wager on a daily basis, e.g. $200, should be about 5% of your bankroll, which, in this example, would be $4,000.

STEP THREE: Discipline – Avoid spreading your daily bankroll across 10 races. Spot playing does not have to mean one bet per week. Spot playing can be $200 wagered, in aggregate, on your two or three best races of the day.

STEP FOUR: Conviction – If you have to spread your bets too thin, a common occurrence for many at the track, then the wager is not worth making. Conviction results in smart bets with the prospect of a profitable return.

STEP FIVE: Strategy – The theme of this article. You need to predetermine the type of bets you will make depending on the scenario. Nothing needs to be written in stone, but guidelines do need to be decided upon beforehand.

If you have a solid selection in the second race, are you going to play the daily double and for how much? How much will you wager on your second race selection? If there are two horses you figure can run second to your top selection, how will you play the exacta? Of course, there are hundreds of scenarios, depending on your selections and the types of wagers offered. Make a conscious decision to predetermine the type of bets you will make. Be consistent and good luck!

 

  • Rich Nilsen is the founder of AGameofSkill.com. He will be making his 14th trip to the NHC next month.

Beat Saratoga! 8 Tips for Turning a Profit

copyright AGameofSkill.com

8 Tips for Turning a Profit!

COMING LATER IN 2018

Download this free guide "Beat Saratoga: 8 Tips for Turning a Profit" and play the 2018 Saratoga meet successfully.  Beating this 40-day meet with so many contentious races is no easy task, even for experienced horseplayers.

13-time NHC Qualifier, 6-time major contest winner and AGameofSkill.com founder Rich Nilsen walks you through the steps required to beat this prestigious race meet.   Content is updated for 2017!

  • Learn what steps it takes to beat this meet successfully
  • Get the scoop on which jockeys and trainers dominate this meet
  • Find out which 'dark horse' jockeys and trainers you need to know about.  These guys bring home the prices!
  • Understand how each of the tracks play and how this affects you as a handicapper

Fill out the short form below to claim your free report "Beat Saratoga!"  You will automatically receive an email with a link to the PDF document that you can download to any device.

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Handicapping Tip #39 – Pace Makes the Race

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

On select major days throughout the year, I offer my professional analysis of the big race, e.g. Preakness, and the undercard races at that track.   This past Saturday I did the 14 races on the Pimlico Preakness card, which is always a great day of wagering.  One of the key aspects of my report is the pace scenario analysis for each race.  If you don’t understand the expected pace of the race, it can be very difficult to select the winner or the top finishers.  How the race sets up is critical to predicting the outcome.

In turf sprints I almost always emphasize early speed, especially if it is a 5 furlong grass race.  In analyzing the pace of race #2 on Saturday (May 20, 2017) one horse jumped out to be as the lone speed.  #1A FLIGHT CREW was 20/1 on the morning line, enough to scare off many horseplayers.  After determining that he was probably the early pace setter, I needed to look at the overall early pace to determine if he could “hold on.”  Was there enough other early speed to put pressure on him at some critical early juncture of the race?  I came to the conclusion that the answer was “no.”  It looked like a moderate pace, so now I was very intrigued with this longshot and dug deeper.

Pace makes the race

He was the son of Elusive Quality, who has sired many good horses sprinting on the law, and out of a mare by Danzig (enough said).  The pedigree was certainly there.  This was only the 2nd career grass start for Flight Crew.  In his only other attempt, he pressed a fast pace (+17 +19 on the BRIS Race Shape figures) while going 1 1/16 miles on a good turf course.  Despite that, and breaking from a poor outside post, he still ended up defeating half the field, finishing 5th.   He was trained by 15% local horseman Hugh McMahon.  What else did one need to pull the trigger on a big longshot?

Pace makes the race.  Flight Crew did not get the initial lead but by the time the field hit the far turn of this turf dash, he was in complete control.  At odds of 9-1, he opened up under Katie Davis and kept the field at bay down the lane. Scores like this are very sweet indeed.

Make sure you analyze the pace of every race you wager.  It’s the first step to selecting many winners.

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Crush Keeneland with the Best Trainer Pattern Book

Rich Nilsen 13x NHC Qualifier

One score will more than pay for this book.  Our AGOS contributer Art Parker has a one-of-kind database on all the Keeneland trainers.  No one understands how these horsemen win better that Art. This year's guide is better than ever and now in a more user-friendly format.  It's a wealth of information for players wanting to attack the upcoming Keeneland meets.

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Over 50 Trainers covered with a detailed summary of how they win!

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Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns bookHow do they win? What handicapping patterns do they use?

How do they work their horses prior to victory?

Do they bring home horses at a price?

Do they score off the layoff?

What owners & jockeys do they team up with?

and much more.

Author and Agameofskill.com contributor Art Parker has taken a hard look into his comprehensive personal database to uncover the trainers that win the majority of races at the meet – the 51 Kings of Keeneland – with a close look at how they accomplish this.

This one-of-a-kind handicapping book includes three bonus handicapping articles written by veteran turf writers Art Parker and Rich Nilsen

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Tips For Handicapping Horse Races of Odd Distances

Guest Post for AGameofSkill.com

There are no real standard distances in horse racing other than the classic races and the classic distances. While many tracks offer 6 furlong events, there are many that also card everything from 4 1/2 furlong events to 1 and 3/8 mile races and everything in between.

It can get confusing and, despite the advent of speed figures and the use of track variants to help in comparing racing times, there is still some confusion and some inequities. I don’t trust speed figures for races under 5 1/2 furlongs because I have found that at the shorter distances, speed figures have a tendency to jump up and appear as though a horse was really much faster than it really was.

Mountaineer racetrack

Beware the bush track horse’s speed figures

A horse that has been racing in 5 furlong races may post speed figures of 100 while switching to 6 furlong events will have it posting nothing higher than a 90. I’ve seen this pattern over and over. Therefore I am very careful about comparing speed figures when horses are going from races of less than 5 1/2 furlongs. The same is true of races over 1 1/4 miles, they just don’t seem to compare well.

While many of the larger tracks shy away from races of odd distances, the smaller ones seem to embrace them. One pattern I have seen repeated is that a horse will ship into a larger track from a bush track. That horse has been racing at the odd distances and seems to have speed figures that make it a contender, but when the gate opens it trails the field, unable to keep up.

It isn’t long before that runner is back at the bush track, seemingly burning up the course. The problem isn’t just that the competition was tougher, it is that the horse never really was as good as its speed figures made it appear to be. On the other hand, look out for horses that do specialize at the odd distances. There are some horses that seem to prefer races of five furlongs or seven furlongs who regularly fail at the more prevalent distance of six furlongs.

If a trainer seems determined to get a horse in a race of 5 furlongs or seven furlongs and seems to wait for those opportunities, it may be that he or she realizes the horse has a penchant for those distances and will excel at them while failing at the commonly-run six furlongs, even if it is in with a softer field. Horses, like people, have their quirks and preferring a particular distance to race is one of them.

The most consistent horse racing systems have to have the basics and a handicapper must understand the basics. I have been around horse racing for 50 years including as an owner. Without the basics the rest is not going to do any good. If you want to learn how a horse owner and insider handicaps just go to Matchbook and get the truth. Also, for the latest horse racing odds, visit Matchbook.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #35 – Start at the Start

by Art Parker

Saratoga starting gate

Good horseplayers investigate troubled trips when trying to determine the truth about a horse’s past. The best way to do this is by watching video tape replays. The best place to start watching and begin your analysis of a troubled trip is the start of a race. The first three seconds of a race can mean everything. A horse may be prohibited from his usual running style. A slight squeeze at the start can cost three-four lengths. Trouble can be found at any point in a race, but more trouble occurs at the start than anywhere else. And, when you view the start of a race try to get a view from every angle possible.

Related Article:

Racing’s Most Important Moment is When the Gate Opens – great insight on this topic

Handicapping Tip of the Day #23 – Watch for this Sneaky Trainer Move

Up in class, distance switch

by Art Parker

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

I know you have seen it so you should remember it. A horse comes off a layoff and runs opposite of its historical successful distances. The horse gets trounced in his return to battle but then shows up a short time later for another race. But this time the horse goes back to its successful distance and goes up in class. For most players this move is a world of trouble simply because of the increase in class.

When you are confronted with this, take the time to view the replay of the return race. Did it look like the horse was intentionally wide in the trip? Was the horse gunned to the front when it is not usually a speed horse? If something doesn’t look right it may be that the trainer was using the return race to tighten up the horse. The trainer may know his horse is close to being ready and just needed to get a race in his charge. One key is the short turn around. If a trainer thought his horse wasn’t ready after a return race then why hurry it back to the track?

Other things to look for in this situation is a positive jockey change or a change in equipment. Catching a good trainer with a slick move is hard to do. Remember, suspicion will not work for you unless…you are suspicious.

How to Find Value: 4 Angles for Horseplayers

by Glen S.  for AGameofSkill.com

Sharp horse players are always looking for value.   Are you? It is tough enough to make money at the races, so betting underlays means you need to pick even more winners. The easiest way to find value is when the wagering consensus on the race, in your perspective, is incorrect.

I find the best way to find value is by uncovering overbet, vulnerable favorites.

Here are a few horse racing angles I always like to watch for to bet against:

-Maidens that finished 2nd and are now dropping a level.

Why would you drop a horse to a lower level when you just beat everyone at a higher level. The only way I may consider betting this horse is if the higher level was really slow time and the trainer knows that he needs to drop

– 28 days of no activity.

When a horse has not raced or worked out in over 28 days, I find this is a bad sign. Why wouldn’t you at least work your horse out if you can’t find a race for him to enter?  At “A” tracks this is a very strong angle, “B and C” tracks the top trainers still get away with it and may even hide a few works from time to time. I still would not make a strong bet on them.

-Dropping a horse after a good performance.

Why drop when the horse is competitive at a higher level while posting strong numbers? Sure the top trainers will run the horse down the others’ throat and you need to be aware of that. The poor trainers are poor oftentimes because they don’t have the stock to win. However, if a drop down off a good performance is trained by a weak (low %) trainer, then the class drop surely means a sore animals.  Small barns don’t have the luxury of “playing poker” like the big outfits, e.g. David Jacobson.

-First time front bandages.

This is strong when a horse was running well and is dropping. Also a horse that has had a good career and not worn them before, especially when the horse will be the favorite.

When these “bet against” angles occur, really take the time to find something to take a shot on. You will get your value. Maybe you will not win, but will feel much better knowing by picking a winner you will be rewarded. A few ways to play the race would be box a few horses in an exacta or take a bunch in a rolling pick three.   Consider even a bet in the win, place or show pool on your choice of the race.

Go find your value, it’s out there.

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Click here for a custom rebate schedule and special BC signup offer

Horse Racing Handicapping is a Process

How to invest in horse racing

by Glen S. for Agameofskill.com

Do you have a process in handicapping a race? If you say “NO”, you are already behind the eight ball. If the answer is “YES”, then the next question: is it a successful one that makes you money?

There are many successful ways to process a race. Everyone is a little different in getting the correct result. Here is mine:

Step 1: Check the race distance and conditions. (self explanatory but kind of important) along with the betting options.

Step 2: Scan the entire field first, jockeys, trainers, last race and date, and workouts.

I find it important to get an overall perception of all the horses as a group first. Make some quick notes on each horse. This first scan gives you an idea of the level of competition.

Step 3: Now start to get some race shape of the field.

Find the early pace horses (the ‘need the lead’ ones if there are any in the field), stalker and closers. This part of the process is a absolute must. If there is a lone speed horse in the field that instantly makes that runner a contender

Step 4: Next, start to look at each horse a little more individually.

Confirm running style, and ask the question: is the horse in improving form or declining form? What is the top effort of the horse and can they run that today? I use the “Horse Street Par times” quite regularly, especially on the tracks I play (that is another blog entirely) to give me figures at where they might be throughout the race.  Perform a quick scan of the beyer’s figures simply to see their average level. I do not live or die on these figures.  The main reason for that is because too many people use these ratings and they effect the price (odds of the horses) too much.

Step 5: At this point I will have my contenders and pretenders.  I will view the replays of the contenders for sure, especially if the comments have a trouble line or many have run against each other. Replays are so valuable, because you can spot things that can’t be seen in numbers.

Step 6: By now I will have an idea in the direction I want to bet. If there is a standout in my mind that becomes a win bet.  I may throw a few runners that I like in an exacta box. If I have a top horse or two and then a few at each level then maybe a trifecta wheel comes to mind. I do not restrict myself on the same types of bets in each race. It all depends on what I come up with is how I bet the race; it may also mean passing a race and moving on.  With this type of handicapping process, you can become more successful at the races and enjoy it that much more.

– Of note, the first two steps of the process for myself usually occurs the night before and then I go with step three the next day. For me it really sets myself up for a strong day and clear vision day of racing, and saves a lot of time on race day.

I could write a short novel on the process but I tried to keep it as short and ‘to the point’ as I could. Any comments good or bad are always welcome. I am always willing to learn; everyone should want to improve their process in ‘capping races.

The Docket

A Horseplayer’s Starting and Ending Point

by Art Parker, author of the upcoming 2014 Spring Meet edition of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns

My occasional OTB location is a greyhound track that gradually built something of a customer base of horseplayers via simulcasting. I say occasional because for the last seven to eights years I have pretty much stuck to wagering from home or office with Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW). At first this OTB location offered a couple of lesser named tracks then expanded to four of the same. A couple of years after that, they got tired of listening to some of us experienced horseplayers complain about quality, so they started to simulcast most every horse track especially the top circuits.

One Saturday, about ten years ago, I was sitting at my usual table when a couple of guys came to the table next to me carrying what appeared to be a U-Haul full of programs. There were nine thoroughbred tracks running that afternoon, a couple of harness tracks and about a dozen greyhound tracks. Plus live greyhound races as well. The thoroughbred programs at the OTB were copied past performances sheets from some unknown source stapled together with a cover. The information was not too good and it was very limited. The greyhound programs were of traditional form for that sport. Most of the experienced horseplayers at the time were using either their own Equibase information, the Daily Racing Form or Brisnet information.

When these guys dropped all of the programs on the table they scattered and went everywhere, a few crashed underneath my table and of course I gathered up the AWOL programs and handed them to their rightful owners. The elder fellow, thanked me and then said, “We got so many damn programs we don’t know what to do.” I smiled and casually said, “You must have bought one for every track, for both of you.” He looked at me seriously and said, “That’s exactly what we did. We don’t get to come to the track but every few weeks, and we don’t want to miss anything.”

I quickly prayed for the poor souls sitting next to me.

The youngest said, “We spent over a $100 on programs, but we got them all.” They went on to tell me that they were father-in-law and son-in-law. I was curious and asked who corrupted who when it came to wagering at the track. The father-in-law said, “My son-in-law got me involved in the track and I love it,” as he slapped his son-in-law on the shoulder with love, admiration and pride.

I couldn’t help but think to myself… what a fool this guy was for letting his daughter marrying any idiot that tries to play every horse race and every dog race in an afternoon. You should have seen them-they looked like a pair of 3 year olds with Alzheimer’s attending a Barnum and Bailey Circus. They lost tickets. They lost programs. They looked at the wrong monitors. They bet the right horses at the wrong dog tracks. You name it and they did it. And all of the time they were talking about making money.

I’m just glad I never heard the old question, “Who do you like?” I would have had a nervous breakdown trying to figure out who I could like at 19 different cities across North America.

“A successful horseplayer must have a plan and must keep information for future use. “

That story reminds me of the many times I have written about track and wagering behavior. There is nothing wrong with someone who goes to the track and bets a couple of bucks on every race (at just one or two tracks). Going to the track and playing races can be good recreation and good therapy.

But on the days where making money is important, which should be almost every time you play (if not every time), then trying to do too much will kill you. On my typical day I review the entries and find the tracks that offer several of the type of races I play. Some days I may download information from only two tracks. Other days I may download information from five or six.

Regardless of the number of tracks you try to play, the important thing is to only play races that are comfortable to play, or at least only examine races with which you are comfortable. One of the things I do, which I recommend to anyone especially if you are going to examine more than a few races, is to use a docket. I chose that word because it is a list of those “cases” that must be examined. It is the word used in our judicial system for what comes before the court on a certain day.

I make my docket in chronological order based upon post times. Next to the time I place the track code and race number and a brief note as to the importance, such as “stakes race” or “short field” or “Daily Double possibility.” Any note that may encourage me or discourage me from examining a race based upon time or other impediments. When I first review the docket I eliminate races if I see a time conflict, such as two races going off a few minutes from one another with one appearing less inviting than the other.

When I make my final review I make sure that every race on the docket is a possible race to play. I also make it final in my mind that all of the racing I will consider is within the time frame on the docket. In other words, that’s it. It’s final. This is the job for the day.

The docket is also used for other things such as making trip notes or trainer notes. I go over the docket at the end of the day and, if something needs to be logged into a file, I have it right there. All of this may sound elementary and it is. But it works. A successful horseplayer must have a plan and must keep information for future use. Most of all I have found that using my little docket keeps me focused on the task.

Occasionally my wife will make the sad mistake of walking into my office at home, late on a Saturday morning, and ask me what I am doing. I usually hand her the docket for the day and say nothing. That’s when she says, “Never mind.”