Mastering The Fundamentals Of Handicapping

The person who wants to be successful betting on horse racing has a large mountain to climb. The mountain is not an obstacle that cannot be overcome, but doing so requires the bettor to master the fundamentals of handicapping. Knowledge of the basic principles are important to everyone that bets at an online racebook or at a live race track. Let’s look closer at how learning the handicapping fundamentals will improve your chances to win.

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Why Handicapping Fundamentals Are Important

Horse racing is a gambling game that evolves as bettors become more informed. Those who bet also have access to more information as the years pass. All this means that the horse bettor, the betting public as it is collectively called, gets smarter with each season of horse racing.

It is common to see new handicapping approaches being touted every year. Some people sell their handicapping system as the latest and greatest development in horse betting. Sometimes the systems even work for a little while, but pretty soon the public catches on and the new techniques are absorbed by the general betting public.

Here’s an example of how this works. Let’s say that Bob the Bettor has discovered that horses always run slower when they are racing for the second time in ten days. Over time he tests out his theory and it hold up season after season. Bob has an edge, and he cashes many winning tickets. Then Bob tells someone else about the fact he has discovered. They then tell two more people, and so it goes. Pretty soon everyone knows. Bob no longer has an edge.

This very thing happened to Andrew Beyer in the 70s when he was developing his speed figures. At the time he was the only one doing it, and the only one with real access to his figures. The advantage this gave him was enormous. Soon, the Daily Racing Form came calling and made Beyer an offer to buy his figures. They began including them in each edition of the form. Now every bettor that buys the publication has access to the same speed figures. The edge that they once provided is not as great today.

The reason that handicapping fundamentals are important is because they remain useful to the bettor year after year. They never lose their value. A handicapping angle may eventually stop working well, but the fundamentals are always going to increase the chances of the horse bettor.

What Are The Four Fundamentals of Handicapping?

We can break down four important concepts that form fundamentals of handicapping. These are things that you should look for in every race. You need to understand the fundamentals and how they are applied to picking winners at the track.

Speed is still a big consideration in handicapping horses, even though the Beyer Speed Figures no longer give the edge that they used to. What is important is that you have some way of comparing the speed of one horse in a race against another to have a general idea of which is fastest. After all, all races are essentially about speed.

What you will soon learn is that there are horses in every race that have no business being there. They simply are not as fast as their rivals, nor will they ever be. When you learn to recognize these horses you can eliminate them immediately. How you evaluate speed is up to you. You can look at the fractional times of horse races, or you can look at finish times. You can compare the Beyer numbers. Just accustom yourself to some evaluation of speed.

Another fundamental of handicapping horses is form. You must be able to evaluate the overall health and wellness of every horse in a race. This is one of the easier things to determine. You can get a good understanding of the health of a horse by looking at its recent performances.

Horses that have been finishing near the back of the pack in multiple races may be suffering from some type of lameness. They may not be fit enough to run the distance they are being asked to run. The bottom line is that you have no reason to suspect they will improve until they show you improvement is possible. Horses that are struggling in recent races are best eliminated from consideration.

On the other side of the coin you will see horses in a race that have steadily been improving their game. They are running in the top three and getting closer to a win. This is a sign of robust good health and fitness. You can certainly feel more comfortable about betting a horse of this nature.

A third fundamental of handicapping is class. Class refers to the levels of racing which are presented on any race card. There are races for claiming horses, stakes horses, and allowance horses. Classes are used to insure that horses of similar ability run against one another and are not overmatched. The problem happens when a trainer insists on entering his horse in races where he does not belong.

This is often observed in races for maidens, or horses that have not won a race. The trainer believes his horse is talented and enters the horse in a Maiden Special Weight, or Maiden Allowance, race. The horse is beaten handily. The logical step would be to drop the horse in class to a Maiden Claiming event, but some owners and trainers are stubborn. They refuse to make the drop and keep getting beaten in the higher classes.

Each racing circuit has a hierarchy of classes that you should be familiar with. You need to know which horses on the racing circuit belong in which classes. Once again you will be able to eliminate any horse that is not running at the proper level of competition.

We saved the handicapping fundamental of pace for the last on our list. We did that because pace, in our opinion, is the most difficult fundamental to get a handle on. It involves how a race is run and which horses are expected to be in which positions throughout the contest. If you are a beginning handicapper, we advise you to content yourself with identifying three classes of runners:

  • Front runner
  • Pace presser or stalker
  • Closer

When you know the running styles of each horse in a race you will have a better idea of how the race is going to shake out. The front runner will go to the lead. The pace presser will run just off the leaders near mid pack. The closer will come from the rear of the pack at the end and try to catch the leaders. Each running style can be effective when used properly under the right conditions.

How does an understanding of pace help you? Let’s say that you have found a horse race where there are four horses which like to run on the front. These horses may perhaps engage in a speed duel for the lead which tires out all of them. You also notice that there is only one deep closer in the race. The chances of this horse have just improved because the projected pace of the race is in its favor.

It takes time to master the fundamentals of handicapping. One of the best ways that you can practice is to create an account with an online racebook. You can make paper picks before you begin to bet real money and evaluate your own handicapping skills. Check out Betamerica, Bovada or Twinspires.

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