Horse Racing’s Language Lost in Translation

copyright AgameofSkill.com 2016 A while back Amanda Duckworth wrote an excellent piece for ESPN entitled “Word Play” that raised an important issue for those of us in the horse racing industry:

It was at this moment in time last week when I was approached by a woman who was astonished I knew how to read a [sales] catalog page. As the days have passed, I keep returning to our conversation because it highlighted a long standing issue: is horse racing’s vernacular keeping fans away?

Although all sports have their own terminology, horse racing takes things to another level. Take a gander at just a few of these words that a novice might hear on their first trip to the track.

Claiming races

Furlongs

Lasix

“Sheets”

Bug boys

Starter allowance

Maiden Special Weights

7/5 odds

Super Hi-5

Place Pick All

What comes second nature to most of us handicappers is like a foreign language to the overwhelming majority of the public.  I know this isn’t the first time this has been addressed, but it’s an important issue that I truly believe does keep potential fans away.

Maybe every entrant into every racetrack in America should have the opportunity to pick up a flyer that addresses the basic terms used and what they mean.  Education creates fans and we’re not doing nearly enough.

Texas Racing Commission needs to Wake Up

State of TexasOnline wagering is the only growth segment of the horse racing industry.  Most of us with experience within the equine industry understand that. Now, one of the most important states in the nation is trying to do their part to destroy it.

Learn more about the wonderful plans of the Texas Racing Commission.

A Giant in the Racing Industry Passes

We are sad to report that Stanley F. Bergstein, a member of Harness Racing’s Living Hall of Fame and longtime executive vice president of Harness Tracks of America, passed away peacefully at home at 4 a.m. this morning, Nov. 2, 2011. Bergstein held a tremendous passion for making horse racing – both harness and Thoroughbred – a better game.

His presence and his innovations were a dominant force in harness racing for the past half-century.

In the past decade, he has been known for his unwavering quest to restore integrity in harness racing and to eradicate the scourge of illegal drugs that stained the sport’s reputation. While others wavered on the subject of integrity and looked to shrug off the subject, Bergstein was steadfast in his comments. He became harness racing’s “Mr Integrity.”

10 more Stanley Bergsteins, and harness racing would be a vastly different and better industry today. Read more about Stan’s Life.

Pinnacle Race Course closed with little notice outside Michigan

From this newpaper article: “There was absolutely no reason for county officials to believe a new track could sustain itself, let alone become an economic engine. Wayne County would have been better off trying to recruit Amalgamated Spats or the Baltimore Opera Hat Company to western Wayne County for all that it mattered. The reason for this assertion is simple: Horse racing is a dying business.

June 15, 2007, Stockton Record reported: Whatever they expect, it flies in the face of national trends. American horse racing attendance is steadily declining.

Business Week reports on-track gambling fell from $2.9 billion in 1996 to $1.7 billion in 2006 – a 40 percent plunge.”

Read this full story here

Now granted, Detroit is not a thriving area due to extremely high unemployment, but it remains a major city in this country. A brand new track with a beautiful facility should have had a chance of making it.

What is worse is that this new track was so poorly supported within the industry itself, that when it closed, hardly anyone even noticed.

The Top 10 Reasons Handicappers Lose Money

 by Richard Nilsen

 If you have been playing the races this year and are not happy with the results you’ve been getting recently, then it is always a smart idea to take a step back and analyze the situation. What are you doing right, and more importantly, what exactly are you doing wrong?

My father used to remind me that horse racing will teach a person to lose better than any other sport or recreation. Truer words have never been said about this game, because horse racing will often be a real roller-coaster ride. Successful players are able to ride out the bad times in order to reach the “high” moments. Successful players also recognize their faults and consequently make fewer mistakes than their competition. This is a pari-mutuel game, so I am your competition.

 If you are not getting the results you anticipate when you play the horses, chances are that you consistently fall into one or more of the following scenarios:

 1)      You are picking a decent percentage of winners, but your wagering strategies are causing you to lose money. [See reason number five].

 2)      You are betting every single race, instead of looking for prime spot plays. This is the cardinal sin of most bettors. Focus on your best wagers of the day.

 3)      You are employing the same information to handicap that the general public is using. If you are not relying of your own personal notes or a site like Brisnet.com that provides value-added racing information, then you are wagering at a significant disadvantage versus the more sophisticated players.

 4)      You are easily swayed by other people’s input, and therefore, lack conviction in your own selections. This is a game of opinion. Wager on your own.

 5)      You concentrate most of your wagers on low percentage bets. For example, you may be going after too many exotic wagers, such as trifectas and Pick-3’s, that can be both difficult to hit and are based on high takeouts (the amount withheld by the track).

 6)      You look for the quick fix, such as the hot tip from an insider, or the magic formula designed to pick 78-percent winners. No such formula exists, and insider information cannot be relied on over a long-term basis.

 7)      You blame the outcome on an imaginary “fixed” race, instead of looking at the reasons which pointed to the true winner. I highly recommend that you look back over the races you handicapped and dissect the past performances to see why you may have missed the winner(s). All too often, you simply missed an important clue.

 8)      You fail to notice the bias at the track, resulting in wasted money on horses that have the odds stacked against them. Put the percentages in your favor by wagering on horses that fit the profile of the track or the current bias.

9)      You are betting scared money, having no bankroll set aside for horse race betting. You should always have dedicated funds for wagering.

10)  You have no plan or strategy for wagering. You often get in line without knowing your bets, or you jump on your online wagering site with just a few minutes to post and rush your wagers.

Trying to Go Deep?

It is safe to say that most handicappers have committed the mistakes listed above. Of course, the difference lies in who continues to make the same mistakes and who does not. If you feel as though your selections are good, then consider your wagering strategy. Are you swinging for the fences every time, looking to crush the trifecta, meanwhile missing the opportunity for the exacta? Consider knocking your bets down, keying on the Daily Double instead of the Pick-3 or the exacta instead of the trifecta. The inevitable result is that you will cash more tickets and restore your confidence.

 Check the scenarios above which apply to you, then consider the steps you need to take to fix the problems. Doing so, you will place yourself well above the general public, which, we should always remember, is your competition for the wagering dollar. When you minimize the number of mistakes made, your confidence will soar because you will be winning more often. And that is the reason we handicap the horses.

 –          Rich Nilsen is an 8-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship and the only player to finish in the top 10 twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is now founder of AllStarPress.com, an e-book publishing firm, and AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.