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Handicappers want to make their own picks—not have them handed to them.
Have you ever bought a handicapper’s picks at the track? One of those sheets they sell at a booth right near the entrance? Or maybe found a service online, or even a “free picks” site? Then there’s always the famous “radio plays” from any of the broadcast or internet radio shows.
I’ve even been a part of a service where a handicapper sent me a list of numbers to bet, such as 5/3,4,9. I’ve had some good days using those services; I’ve also had some really frustrating days watching the handicapper’s “best bet” come home gasping in 4th.
It’s also frustrating to wonder what you’re supposed to do with these picks. They give you a list of names or numbers, but they don’t really give you a strategy of what to do with them. Do I just bet the top choice to win? Do I use them all in a $64 pick-3? That’s kind of expensive. If the favorites come in, I won’t even get my money back.
How good a bet is his best bet? Is he so good that you’re sure he’ll at least show? Can I put a few hundred on his 8-1 “best bet” to show? ‘Cuz I’ve done that before, and watched them run around at the back of the pack.
If his top choice is a short priced favorite in a short field, can I single him in the exotics? ‘Cuz I’ve done that, and watched the 4th choice nail it at the wire. I guess I just didn’t use his “best bets” to my best advantage. I guess that’s my bad.
But even on those days when I’ve used someone else’s handicapping to select winners, it hasn’t been that satisfying. I can honestly say, that (while the cash felt good in my pocket) I’ve actually been more gratified watching my own selection exceed his odds and get up to place or show, than having a handicapper’s short-priced pick win.
It’s not that I’m opposed to suggestion, but I like it to at least be informed consent. I mean, if you’re just going to trust someone else to take charge of growing your money, you’d be better off putting it in a mutual fund, right?
Ultimately, if you rely on others to make your selections for you, you end up spending energy not on handicapping the horses, but on handicapping the handicappers. Can you say “missing the point.”
Thoroughbred Analytics (TA) does rank horses based on its proprietary computer model, and I suppose you could just go to the track and keep laying a couple bucks on the top selection, and you might well have an okay day at the track. I just don’t know any horseplayers who would find that satisfying. As a friend of mine says about betting systems: “You still have to handicap.”
In my opinion, the best use of TA (both financially and in satisfaction of enjoying a race) is to either confirm a selection you have already handicapped, or to open your eyes to the potential of an under-the-radar horse. Perhaps the running line in the pp’s gave you nothing, and TA gave the horse a high ranking. I don’t know if I’d blindly throw a bunch of Benjamins at him, but I would go to the race chart of his last race or to the video replay to see if there was something you’ve overlooked. You can’t always bet a horse based on the finish position of his last race.
Was he taken out of the race at the start? Did he break slow? Did he get squeezed or bumped coming out of the gate? (This is particularly significant for front-running types.)
Did he tire on a hot pace? Was he forced wide entering the turn? Was he boxed in on the rail and couldn’t get clear coming into the stretch?
Was he “between horses?” This is a completely subjective and seemingly innocuous phrase (and it can mean nothing), but it can indicate a claustrophobic trip which could affect a runner. That horse could greatly improve with a move to a better post. The only way to really know is to watch with your own eyes.
Whatever your conclusion, the satisfaction in racing comes from “solving the puzzle.” TA’s predictors can give you a pick, but their real force comes in helping you handicap, and in adding confidence to the picks you’ve made on your own—the real reason you come to the track in the first place.
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