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Reevaluating Rules

Posted by on 12/30/2014 6:01:30 PM

As the year winds down, this is as good a time as any to think about some rules of this game and how all of us bettors can take a step back and try to concentrate on making money.

We all have to be honest and look ourselves in the mirror and try to throw out the bad things we do as handicappers and focus on the positives.

All the great handicappers in the world from Pittsburgh Phil to Tom Ainslie adapted, changed and became more proficient.

The first rule many should take to heart is that here are no rules in this game and there are many styles and different ways to skin a cat.

When first learning the dos and don’ts of this game as a youngster, I leaned to favoring class horses, but what I didn’t realize early on is that class is intertwined with form and speed. It’s not just whom you have been facing on the track, but what kind of shape a horse is in at this very moment.

And class is not just about the horse, but it’s about the venue. It would be obvious to most that a runner that has been losing in cheap maiden claiming company on an inferior circuit, would be totally overmatched in a Maiden Special Weight race at a top venue like Keeneland or Saratoga.

But on the other side of the ledger just because a horse drops in class, doesn’t make him the class of the race. If said horse was just running okay at a higher level and now shows up in a much softer spot, it’s possible that he didn’t belong at the higher level at any time and is still just trying to find the proper place where he can be successful.

Fans love to jump on horses that drop in class but it can be a problem. If the horse were doing so good back at the barn, why would the connections risk losing him in a cheap spot?

A true class horse can usually take the heat of a speed duel and still live to tell about it while a horse that lacks class folds his tent when encountering a hot pace or even just an honest pace.

Speed and class are like partner in a marriage, they have to compromise and work together in order to thrive.

Using speed figures is essential to succeed in the long run. But you cannot just take a figure alone or at face value and take it to the bank. There are things that go into a top speed figure that are not easy to see all the time.

What good speed figures can do is identify the contenders and expose the pretenders. Runners that consistently fail to put up solid and steady figures are unreliable on their best day. Bettors have to resist the temptation to just go ‘one-stop’ shopping and fall on the highest speed figure in a race, but look deeper into the event to figure out if a good speed figure was achieved because of a certain bias or a bad figure was accomplished because a runner was running against a speed bias.

This is no black and white and again there are no rules.

One style that has not gone by the way side of the Beta machine or the rotary phone is pace handicapping. This is the first part of the puzzle that has to be unwrapped by handicappers. Projection and visualization is key to putting together in one’s mind what is about to unfold.

Are there a lot of horses that want the lead in this particular race? Or is there one horse that figures to get an easy and uncontested lead? Are there two logical contenders that should be moving late, but one has enough speed to maintain contact early and get first on the deep closer?

These are the things about pace handicapping that makes this style imperative to examine. Once a player can put in his mind a picture of how a race may unfold, he is that much closer to figuring out what will have as the race concludes.

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