What’s Your Handicapping Routine?

By Art Parker

A routine is a regular course of procedure or a habitual or mechanical performance prior to an act. It’s what you do before you do something you are planning to do.

copyright Karlien Du plessis – Dreamtime

Take a look at golfers, preferably professionals. Before striking a 190-yard approach shot, they find all of the recorded markers to gauge the distance. They determine the wind. The figure out where they want the ball to land on the green. They select a club. They stand behind the ball and envision a shot. They address the ball and waggle the club, then become still and finally, commence the back swing and execute the shot. Whether it’s putting or driving, good golfers will do almost the exact same thing every time. It’s a routine.

Baseball is our national pastime but it is truly a routine game and more so than others. In addition to the usual action between the pitcher and catcher almost all plays are routine and repeated with unusually high frequency. Ground balls are hit to the infield. The infielder bends down with feet in position, catches the ball, the feet make the proper adjustments while the arm goes back and there is the throw to first base. Baseball teams take “infield” before the game just to establish the same routine. My favorite player is Derek Jeter (of my beloved Yankees) and there is no telling how many ground balls he has scooped up and subsequently thrown to first base in his life. I’m sure he will tell you that you can never repeat that routine enough. Mastering baseball routines (and good pitching) is the difference between a championship team and a team at the bottom of the standings.

So, you’re a horseplayer. What is your routine?

Most horseplayers do not have a routine or they do something based upon superstition. And most horseplayers lose money. If you know a very good horseplayer ask them about their routine, and I feel confident they can tell you exactly what they do every day they go to the track with specific details before they place their wagers.

I’ve known many good players over the years and all of them have a routine on days they play the game. Yes, they all differ, but all of them are habitual acts where the goal is to obtain what they believe to be critical information. In other words good horse players are investigators and they stick to their guns when it comes to finding evidence, and they will do this before they analyze a race and make a bet.

It is safe to say that good and bad players first take note of the weather, track condition and scratches. Then comes the time I believe that the men are separated from the boys. The good players start gathering other information instead analyzing races. One of the most critical pieces of information is the entry sheet and the scratch board. On the entry sheet you find the horses entered in alphabetical order, as well as the trainers and jockeys. If you are a careful student and you have made notes on troubled trips and maintain any trainer notes, then the entry sheet is a quick tip off to what may be in store for the races that day. The trainers list and jockeys list give you a quick view of what may be abnormal. Is a particular trainer listed that doesn’t normally run his stable at your track? What about the jockey who is rarely seen at this track? Why are they here? The most important question when you see unusual names is, “How many races are they participating in?”

Usually found on the entry list is the scratch board. This is a critical catalog of information. Who was scratched by the vet, and when? Is the horse taking a drop in class after the vet’s scratch? Best beware. And then a trainer may have scratched out of a race a week ago and his horse is entered in a noticeable higher class today. Better take a look if the trainer’s confidence is high.

Of course the conditions of each race need to be reviewed. I rarely play anything but sprints on the dirt so I place question marks by any race other than those races. I know where to spend the majority of my time.

There are many things a player can do to develop a routine prior to analyzing individual races and making wagers. Develop a routine that you are comfortable with and that gives you confidence. Make sure you take the time to gather the information you need to be successful and don’t just jump in the water. Some days, the water may be too cold.

Handicapper Art ParkerArt Parker is the author of “KEENELAND WINNING TRAINER PATTERNS” which has just been release for the 2013 Spring Meet. Over 100 trainers with two or more winners since 2010 are profiled in this book. Available for instant download.