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Jan 24, 2014

Improve Your Win Percentage

By: Ray Taulbot

Most men capable of thinking will agree that ignorance is the most costly element in human existence.  Under certain cirucmstances it may even cost a man his life.  Since this truth does not submit to argument, it is clear that no matter what type of work we do, it is of vital importance that we know what we are doing; and that we do it well.

Handicapping–that is, the making of good racing selections — is not a science nor in the strict meaning of the term an art.  Handicapping is a trade.

Surely no one will argue against the fact that one must learn a given trade before he can logically hope to practice it effectively.  Certainly, the reader would not assume that he can become a master plumber by merely reading a few articles or books on that subject.

Reading and studying do, of course, constitute the starting point in the mastery of any trade.  This is so because one must first acquire a broad knowledge of the basic principles of a trade or profession before he can effectively undertake a study of the finer details and their proper application to the work involved.

In addition to reading and studying, there is a third step — practice, which in our trade is equivalent to serving an apprenticeship in the manual trades.  One cannot become a journeyman without first serving an apprenticeship.  No more can one become a master handicapper without serving a period of practice work.

In the manual trades, the apprenticeship is served under the guidance of the journeyman.  Unfortunately, in our trade, few beginners have an opportunity to serve their period of training under the supervision of an expert.

The beginning selector frequently finds himself struggling with what appear to be insoluble problems, when in reality these problems could be solved easily, if one had a reasonable knowledge of the facts of racing.

Our prupose this month is to briefly discuss some of these facts and persuade the reader that he must accept them before he can solve his problems.  First, horse racing is a business, not a sport.  Most men who own and race horses do so for the purpose of making money.  Therefore, the first fact one should accept is that every man with a fit horse in a race wants the purse money, and he is going to try to get it.  No trainer in his right mind ever purposely wastes a sharp horse.  He can’t afford to if he wants to remain in business.

If one can’t bring himself to accept this fact, then he is in poor position to make effective selections.  The very fact that he may suspect a sharp horse is not going to try will trip him up so frequently that he will be hard put to make his selections break-even.

The trainer, so to speak, is the middleman in racing.  With few exceptions, his livelihood depends upon winning purse money.  Never forget that a trainer can be fired if he fails to produce.

A second fact that should never be overlooked is that all horses do not respond to identical methods of training.  Thus, we encounter different methods of procedure which we sometimes call racing angles.  Therefore, one must familiarize oneself with what a trainer has done in the recent past and what he is doing today.  And more important–why he is doing it.

We believe every reader will agree that he could improve his winning margin if he knew that every selection he backs is a fit horse well-meant and properly placed.  In many instances, this information is available to the selector who knows his trade.

Let’s look briefly at a type of move which tells us what the trainer is up to.  A horse turns in a fair effort over the six-furlong distance.  Next start, the trainer enters this horse in a route race and gives it an easy conditioning race.  Today, he has again entered this animal in a sprint race.

What does this trainer move tell a selector?  It tells him that after the horse turned in a fair sprint effort its trainer decided it needed more stamina.  Therefore, he entered it in a route race in order to leg his horse up a bit.  Today, he has entered the horse in a sprint race, which means he believes his horse is now ready, and he is going to try.  If the horse is a figure contender, the selector knows it is a real threat — it figures well, and the trainer has practically told us he is going to crack down.

This also applies to many other angles or other types of trainer moves.  The selector who knows little or nothing about training methods is unable to get the message the trainer has broadcast by how he places his horse.

There are three kinds of racing angles that help the selector in his work:  Trainer angles, performance angles and a combination of the two. Trainer angles reveal the method the conditioner has employed to get his horse ready for the race. Performance angles reveal the condition of the horse through the manner in which it has recently performed.  When we have both trainer and performance angles, we have a strong combination angle.

A third fact that should be remembered and accepted is a two-part fact:  1)  Sharp condition contributes more toward a winning effort than any other single factor.  2)  There is no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing.  Any horse in the field may win or lose.  This fact, if remembered, should prevent the common mistake of going overboard on a horse that looks like an extra good selection.  In short, it is bad business to bet two dollars on one selection and ten dollars on another.  The player’s wager should be the same amount for each selection.  Otherwise, one too frequently sees the two-dollar bet result in a winner and the ten-dollar wager in a loser.  Don’t whipsaw yourself by underbetting one selection and overbetting another.

For some reason, we have found it most difficult to persuade some racing fans to accept the above facts.  Yet, one must accept them if he wishes to avoid beating himself.

When the effectiveness of sharp current condition is mentioned many fans ask:  “What about horses that win when there was no evidence in their chart to indicte sharpness?”  The answer to this question is not as obscure as some may believe.

First, let’s look at the cardinal fact–the horse won, therefore, it ran faster than any other horse in the field; so it was fit and ready.  And now to the key question:  Was there any evidence that the trainer believed his horse was fit and ready despite its poor public form?

No one can answer that question, of course, unless he is familiar with all of the good trainer angles.  We can tell you, however, that in many instances such angles are present, and if you knew about them, you could pick up many an extra good priced winner.  As we said in the beginning–ignorance can be costly.



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