5 New Year's resolutions for horse players to consider

January 02, 2019 04:31pm
Horse racing tickets
Photo: Robert Duyos
For horse players, the new year offers the opportunity to start over and commit to some new rules in order to improve. It also gives another chance to stick to old rules, which is sometimes difficult given the emotion involved in betting on horses. Mistakes happen. 

Only skilled players profit over the long term in this difficult game, but everyone can take steps toward that goal by tweaking a few losing habits over time.

In any case, here are five rules this player plans to follow in 2019. 

1. Bet more on fewer races

One common mistake is attempting almost every race on the card. For those who attend live races, it is especially difficult to pass a bad race because it becomes harder to sit for four or five hours without betting. "Action" wagers are hard to avoid. 

Even racing analysts on television do not hold a strong opinion every race. Onscreen personalities need to give picks for the entire card as part of the job, but they are not going to bet all of those selections.

A stronger strategy is to wait for races with a vulnerable favorite, or one the public overvalues to an unusual extent. If playing horizontal wagers, then those tickets can structure around that one interesting race with a bad favorite, or the bettor can lay it on with a big vertical wager. By waiting, the player can strike one race with more money, rather than spread out those dollars over the card. That will result in higher profit. 

Also, if an interesting race on the card does not exist, then there is nothing wrong with waiting to find a strong opinion on another day. There is always another card.

2. Bet more stakes races

Stakes races are fun on their own to watch, even without betting. For example, many people are excited to view the Kentucky Derby every year without wagering a single dollar. But a normal graded stakes race is easier to wager on for at least a few reasons.

Because horse racing fans watch stakes for fun, most of the time-consuming video work is already done. The handicapping process can turn to focusing on more specific incidents in the replay, rather than waiting for something unusual to show in the race.

A second reason to favor stakes races is form. Horses display more consistent patterns in stakes races, likely because most of them are healthier and in top shape.

Public emotion is the third reason to play stakes races. With famous horses comes fan attachment, making an underlay more likely because people like to bet familiarity.

3. Bet fewer claiming races

In contrast to stakes races, the form in cheap claiming races is too inconsistent. Less people play racetracks such as Mountaineer and Penn National for this reason.

With claiming races, it is not unusual to see a horse lose by 20 lengths and then win next out. When a “miracle” trainer claims a bad horse, then it becomes even more confusing because it forces the player to consider a horse with bad form.

For this reason, claiming races raise the importance of physical handicapping, which is especially difficult when viewing the races over the simulcast feed.

At times, claiming races will surround a graded stakes race, and that is unfortunate because people are more likely to attempt an all-stakes horizontal wager.

4. Use the A-B-C-X method more often

What is the A-B-C-X method? It is a system for horizontal wagers that emphasizes the A horses, while devaluing the B and C categories. The ticket is broken up into multiple tickets in order to favor the As. Some combinations might not win, though.

For example, a pick 3 that goes C-C-C will not result in a winning ticket under the A-B-C-X method. But an A-A-C pick 3 ticket might score a winning ticket because the C is paired with two As. It makes sense because a sequence is unlikely to go in straight Cs, or only Bs and Cs. In all likelihood, at least one A is going to win in the sequence.

By making the As more important, the player could save money, and use the saved money to play the top “A only” ticket multiple times, resulting in a bigger payoff. 

The majority of bettors stick to the “caveman” method and play every horse in their pick 3, pick 4 or pick 5 for the exact same amount, thereby weighing all of them the same. But the method is flawed because not every horse used has the same chance to win.

If that is confusing, try DRF Ticketmaker and see what it comes up with.  

5. Move on from lost bets

Everyone who has played horse racing knows how difficult it is to keep emotions in check. A lost bet may result in an irrational plan to make it all up in the next race, rather than waiting for the right race and plotting a detailed strategy to profit. 

Everyone loses in this game. Even the great Andy Beyer detailed in Picking Winners how several of his trips to the racetracks resulted in heavy losses back in the day.

If a bet loses, take a walk or do another activity. There is nothing worse than gambling with a hot head and losing more money, resulting in more emotional responses.

Here is another tip: if playing the following day, make a list of planned wagers. Sometimes it is easier to stay disciplined if there is a set strategy in place for the card, with planned tickets constructed beforehand. It will help to write those plans down, and use stipulations such as, “If this bet loses, then do not play this next race” or, “If this bet wins, then keep going with this amount” as checkpoints to not waste too much money.

Letting go of lost bets and moving on is important. Otherwise a player could go down a dark path trying to win the money back. Again: Everyone loses in horse betting at some point. 


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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