The Daily Racing Blog had a wonderful weekend in Saratoga. Two days spent with the girlfriend and her family yielded not only a great experience in town and at the track, but we managed to pad the bankroll a little bit as well.
On Sunday DRB spent a few races with some not-so-regular track goers. It was a pleasure watching their joy and excitement as the horses thundered down the home-stretch. DRB tendered tutorial services to one eager-to-learn gentleman who dove into the racing program with voracity as he tried to decipher all the numbers, and learn more about the horses.
So here’s a bit of a primer for Bill G. and the rest.
The art of handicapping is a satisfying intellectual pastime, a pursuit that is an end in itself for many horse racing fans. It serves a singular function for the game’s pragmatists; to increase personal wealth by maximizing the worth of one’s opinion, and wallet. It is how horse-players keep score.
Picking Winners (unlike random casino games) and knowing when and how to bet them is, like poker, a learned skill based on analysis of predictive data: The element of speed, for instance, the time it takes horses to run from gate to wire, is absolute. Easily quantifiable, speed is vital to the success of horses and gamblers alike.
But we handicappers do not live on speed figures alone. The surface over which a horses race, its ability to excel on grass or dirt, wet tracks or dry, is another known commodity that serves as a functional predictor. Breeding and confirmation, from the size of a horse’s heart and hoof and its lung capacity, relate to its propensity for success under stressful circumstances.
Other notable handicapping principles include trainer tendencies, the equine coaches known to the community for their talents and shortcomings alike. The relative abilities of the game’s most recognizable horsemen- jockeys, the most under-appreciated athletes in sports. Successful riders are more pilot than passenger; they are the architects of victory.
How a contest develops, or race shape, is the variable of study for visual handicappers with an eye for dissecting how a horse’s journey ultimately effects its performance and the overall result. Class, a concept not simply defined but demonstrably recognizable, refers to the animal’s ability to reveal grace, tractability, economy of motion and courage under pressure.
And, of course, racing luck, a truly random event and why they call it gambling.
Whether a well heeled professional or weekend warrior, the successful practitioner need only collect readily available data and assess those elements that reveal the most likely outcome.
But this knowledge has no use in and of itself. It must be coupled with knowing when and how to bet. We learn from sports that Winning is not brain surgery but a matter of execution. Bettors cannot succeed without execution but they cannot execute without a sensible game plan befitting their bankroll and temperament.
Racing resumes Wednesday at The Spa.