Handicapping Tip of the Day #34 – the Usain Bolt Lesson

Usain Bolt lessonHandicapping Tip of the Day – the Usain Bolt Lesson

by Rich Nilsen

Once again champion sprinter from Jamaica, Usain Bolt, dazzled the world with his brilliant sprinter performances.  Two Olympic Games back, he became the first sprinter in history to win gold in both the Men’s 100 meter and 200 meter races.  He did it again in London in 2012, and then he repeated the feat in the 2016 Rio Games.  Bolt competed in nine events over the three Olympic games, all at distances for him of 200 meters or less, and he won all nine.  For those wondering, 100 meters is equivalent to 109.36 yards.

So what lesson could Bolt give to a horse racing handicapper?  Well, it came out recently that Bolt, the fastest sprinter in the world, had never run one mile. Huh?

It’s hard enough to beat this game without making wagers with a low probability of success.

Time Story: Bolt Has Never Run a Mile

It’s hard to believe but true.  Usain Bolt has never done the thing that most American high school kids have had to do at some point in their lives. His agent, Ricky Simms, confirmed this amazing fact in a statement to the New Yorker publication.

So why would Bolt never run a mile?  Simply because it would not benefit him.  His game is all about those fast-twitch muscles involved in short-distance racing – his strength.  Usain Bolt has stuck to his strengths, not deviating away from what he does best, and the results have paid off in spades.

As handicappers we are often tempted to tackle challenges where we do not excel.  Of course there is nothing wrong with trying to improve your overall game, but too often players can get sucked into playing races, tracks or wager types, e.g. Pick 6s, where they simply are out of their element.  It’s hard enough to beat this game without making wagers with a low probability of success.  Review your recent wagering actions and determine if the Usain Bolt lesson applies to you.  I bet for many reading this, that it does


What Do I Do Best?


I’ve read about everything, created many ways to pick winners most of which failed miserably, tried to master most any handicapping situation, created several simple computer programs dealing with pace and speed and a million other things trying to be a successful horse player. And all of that was in the first five years I played the game.

Over the last twenty five years I have gradually improved by following a single philosophy of doing what I do best. Not that it makes any difference to you, but my “practice” pretty much limits my record keeping to the ongoing examination of trainers’ behavior. Sure, I do a little study and research on some other topics because I have a general interest in the sport and (obviously) publish information. But when it comes to records, studies and research, I pretty much stick to tracking trainers. Why? Because, that is what I do best.

Most of you probably don’t do a lot in the area of records, studies and research. Most of you play the races and scratch your head on an ongoing basis. You do not have to maintain and manage a lot of data unless you want to. But one thing you should do is identify what you do best when it comes to horse racing.

For years I played most every race that came along and that, as we know, is a big mistake. I then took a while to figure out that the way to profits is to find a good deal on the tote board. But I was still missing something and it took me a great amount of time to figure it out. It finally hit me one day that certain races may not be my cup of tea. I began a serious examination of myself for several months. The answer came to me when I combined my track record with my comfort levels.

The answer for me was simple. I needed to play sprint races and avoid others. I was better at selecting contenders and winners in sprint races than any other type of race. And to be specific, I was much better with races for winners (non-maiden) races. Route races and turf races were out. Even turf races that were sprints were a no-no for me. I didn’t have to worry about turf breeding. The primary breeding factor of concern was off track breeding and that only applied on certain days. Runners had to go only one turn and that eliminated much uncertainty. Pace was a little easier to figure in my head if I dealt with sprints. For me, I found what I did best and that was betting on sprint races.

The next time you find yourself scratching your head over the races ask yourself what you do best. Start trying to figure it out. It may take a while and you may have to keep some records. But it is worthwhile. Once you figure it out you will not only enjoy the races more, you will probably have a few extra bucks in your pocket.

— Art Parker is the author of the powerful new handicapping guide “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns – 2012 Spring Meet Edition.” Available for only $9.95 this e-book covers the 79 trainers who won 2 or more races over the past four race meets at Keeneland.