Improve Your Win Percentage
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
us examine the chart of a good priced winner which did not give evidence of
sharp form in its last race.
are the top-two races of a horse that was cleverly prepped by its trainer:
that this horse was beaten 25 lengths last time out and nine lengths in its
previous race. To the casual observer, the horse appears in no way ready to
win a race.
let us look at how the horse was handled by its trainer.
The penultimate race appears to be dull until we see that the horse was
allowed to run in one burst of speed from the half-mile pole to the eighth
pole, making up 6-1/2 lengths on the leader.
“race within a race” shows us that the animal was sharp.
Sharp enough for the trainer? No. Perhaps the boy told him the horse had flattened out.
the trainer next entered his animal in a race of 1-1/4 miles, where he could
employ the race workout and distance-switch angles.
this the time for the horse to try for such a win after its six-furlong speed
the animal received some backing in its next-to-last race, but next time out
it went off at 30-1. After being
close to the pace for half a mile, the horse was allowed to amble along behind
did the trainer achieve? He gave
the horse a workout both for speed and endurance.
Further, by now he has shaken off about 90 percent of the novice
how can we tell if the trainer is really trying in today’s sprint contest?
We get a pretty good tipoff in the fact that he has chosen a race where
he must drop the horse $500 in value. If
he was not going today, he would have waited for a $3,500 or $4,000 race.
This horse won, returning $87.40!
in claiming price do not always signify that a trainer is trying.
But when you get 40-1 odds, you can afford to make a few mistakes. Bear in mind that if you can beat the price, you can beat the
statistics are another factor that so many racing fans fail to use in their
work of making selections. We
wonder, for example, how many of our readers know that slightly more than 50
percent of the races run during the past 20 years were won by horses that
finished in the money in one of their last two starts?
And that when horses that finished fourth, beaten no more than 1-1/2
lengths, are included, the percentage climbs still higher.
Isn’t this fact of racing important to the selector’s work? We think so.
many readers know what percentage of races are won by horses that have
previously won 35% of their starts? We
can tell you it is surprisingly high, although the prices on some of them are
too short for profitable speculation.
is not clear that the beginning selector can acquire valuable knowledge if he
will devote a bit of his spare time to research?
A careful check of a year’s racing papers will add tremendously to
one’s knowledge of racing, and a knowledge of racing is the very foundation
upon which the work of making profitable selections is based.
fact that every racing fan should accept is that:
“Every race a horse runs either contributes to the furtherance of
sharp condition or tends to dull whatever degree of sharpness the horse
enjoyed at that time.” This is
an irrefutable fact, and to ignore it can prove very costly.
is why speed ratings are not always a true indication of the degree
of current sharpness. In some
instances, the speed rating will reveal the sharpest horse in the field; in
other instances it will not.
is so because we must first consider the probable effect of the last race upon
the animal’s condition before we can accurately judge the true value of a
speed rating. Let’s look at an example that will make this clear.
Examine the running line of the two following races:
is clear that Horse B had a very hard race, one in which it was under severe
pressure from the first call to the finish.
Horse A, on the other hand, was never under hard pressure and, as a
result, may improve today, while Horse B will almost certainly tail off.
is it not clear that speed ratings of identical figures can mislead the
selector? The problem becomes
even more complicated when the two races were run over different distances, or
when the two horses earned their respective speed ratings over different
tracks. Speed ratings, which
include the beaten lengths, if any, are a factor that is useable in certain
conditions, but to accept the figures blindly at face value in every instance
is a dangerous procedure.
costly fallacy common to racing fans is what we call the pattern
hangup. For example, last
week the fan backed a horse that ran as follows and won:
23 22 22 21.
Today in the fifth, he finds a horse that ran its last race in an
identical, or nearly identical manner. Therefore,
he reasons that because the horse he bet last week won, the horse should win
loose reasoning is based upon the fact that he does not realize that no two
races are identical in every respect. While
the running lines in the above example may have been
identical, the two animals ran under widely differing conditions.
For one thing, the horse in the fifth today is not meeting the same
horses the winner of last week was meeting.
fallacy among beginners is their belief that claiming prices can be used
effectively as an accurate measuring rod of class.
A claiming price is actually a selling price, that is, the price at
which the horse is offered for sale. Thus,
the best that claiming prices can do is to roughly
divide claiming grades. Therefore,
the price of $3,500 does not actually prove that the horse is of a higher
class than one bearing a $3,000 selling tag.
Class can best be determined through pace, combined with claiming
the limited space of one short article, it is impossible to discuss all the
many and various factors and facts of racing.
We have, however, pointed out some of the more important facts which
one must accept if he logically hopes to produce a respectable winning