Harness Racing Handicapping – Don’t Get Lost In the Details


There’s a lot of information to consider when you handicap a harness program. We all have our different techniques, but we probably all look at some of the same things. Speed, times – both final and fractional, post position, driver and trainer stats, class of the race and of the horses in the race, equipment being added or taken away. There’s a lot to cover.

Then, after you’ve sorted all that out, there are other things. I was looking at a Pocono program the other day. In one of the races, there were a lot of things going on. Driver changes, some of which made sense and some of which didn’t. Two horses coming from qualifying races because they shipped in from other tracks.

There was one horse that had all 60′s for class ratings, but had suddenly popped an 81 two races back and I couldn’t figure out a reason for it. The track wasn’t sloppy; it was fast in that race. There was no reason for it that I could see, unless it was just a mistake on the chart writer’s part.

There were good horses in bad post positions and bad horses in good post positions. The 2-1 morning line favorite was a horse that rarely won, but placed about half the time. And it was in a lousy post position on the outside, where it hadn’t shown anything in the races I could see.

I wondered if maybe it had won a race from the outside and thought about looking it up, but then I came to my senses. I realized that there was just too many variables in this race. I also realized that I was wasting my time trying to handicap it, instead of passing it by and going on to another race that I could handicap.

It’s easy to get bogged down when you’re handicapping. Until you really look at a race, you can’t tell if it’s one you want to play or not. On the other hand, there are some races that you can just scan, and know that they’re races you should skip. For instance, races that have more than one or two first time starters or horses coming from qualifying races, are ones that I’ve learned to skip.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ignored a first time starter or qualifier  only to have them nip my horse at the wire. I’ll sometimes take a chance if there’s only one in a race. But more than that makes the race unplayable, as far as I’m concerned. I only have so much time and energy, so I save it for the races I really think I can make money on.

Of course, some of us are better than others at figuring out variables. For instance, you may know that a certain trainer has a very good record with first time starters, or that he can get a horse ready to win with just a qualifier. If that’s the case, you could handicap a race that I – without that knowledge – couldn’t.

If you follow individual horses, drivers or trainers, you might be able to handicap a race, because of your faith in them, although that’s never worked for me. I guess the bottom line is that we all have our strengths and weaknesses, when it comes to handicapping. My strength doesn’t happen to be figuring out races with too many variables. For me, they’re like jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces. I stick with the puzzles that have all the pieces, because I can solve them enough of the time to make a profit.


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Do Favorites Or Longshots Win More Often At the Dog Track?


At the dog track, favorites win about 30% of their races. That sounds pretty good, but studies show that they pay poorly, so they only pay back about 84 cents of each dollar you bet on them to win over time. This is NOT the way to win at the dog track, is it?

On the other hand, if you bet only longshots, you’ll lose even more money. They only pay about 70 cents out of the dollar you bet on them to win. Obviously, betting only longshots or only favorites is a losing proposition. This is why 90% of the people who bet on dog races lose.

So, what do the other 10% do differently that makes them winners? Well, they probably have a pretty good handicapping system, for one thing. One that takes many factors into consideration instead of just betting the odds on the toteboard.

Also, they don’t bet with the crowd on favorites or against the crowd on longshots. They bet on what THEY think will come in, no matter what the odds are on the dog. (Except in some rare cases when they know the dog won’t pay off if it comes in because it’s at such low odds.)

Dogs don’t come in because the crowd likes them. Dogs come in because they’re better than the other dogs they’re racing against. Many times, the crowd notices only some of the factors that affect how the race is run and give that factor too much significance.

For instance, many times the favorite is a dog with early speed. Early speed is good, but it takes more than that to win a race. If the dog fades or another dog is a great closer, early speed can get lost in the dust. That’s why the ten percent of the crowd who win go past looking for early speed and look for the other factors that tell them what to bet on.

Remember, beyond whether a dog is a favorite or a longshot, you have to have a betting strategy and good handicapping skills to make money on either type of bet. Just betting favorites or just betting longshots doesn’t pay off over the long haul. You have to bet the dog, not the odds.

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