If you’ve been handicapping for any length of time, you probably have what I call a “toolbox” of handicapping methods. I have one for the dogs, one for harness horse racing and one for the thoroughbreds. While some of the methods work for only one sport, some of them work for most of them.
For instance, in maiden races at the dogs or horses, speed is probably my most important handicapping tool. And for each of the three sports that I play – dogs, harness and flats – I use what I think are the best speed figures. We all have our favorite sources for programs and past performances. Many people like the Daily Racing Form or Brisnet or the track program. But whatever program we use, it has speed figures and they’re very important in maiden races.
Of course, that’s not the only factor I use to handicap maiden races. Pedigree, trainer and jockey or driver are big factors too. But have you ever noticed that different factors seem to matter more on different programs? I have. It’s like my friend, Bill Peterson, says. “Everything works some of the time. The trick is figuring out what’s working this time.”
Well, one way to figure that out is to keep your biggest bets for dogs or horses that are at the top of the list for most of your factors. For instance, if I find a dog that has the best speed in its last race, a trainer who has a better than average win percent, a post position that it does well in and that has a good win percentage at the track, I’m going to put more money on that dog than I would on a dog that has a really good speed rating, but doesn’t have as many other factors.
My theory is that if everything works some of the time, I’m more likely to hit something if I bet on dogs or horses that have more than one thing going for them. That way, if one of the factors doesn’t matter in that race, there are several others that might. If speed doesn’t determine the winner – if another dog wakes up and finds another gear, for instance – then maybe post position will overcome that speed and my dog will still win.
I hate to bet on dogs that only have one thing going for them. A lot of big favorites are the crowd’s pick because they look really good in one area. They’re much faster than the other dogs, or they have a lot more class than the other dogs. They may win, but they may just fizzle when their one big advantage turns out to be not quite enough to win the race.
This method works well with exotic bets too. When I handicap a race and end up with just three or four runners who have something going for them, I know that I have a race that’s worth investing a good sum of money in. Not so when I handicap a race and find that almost every runner has something going for it, but none of them have more to recommend them than the others. These are good races to pass, or to bet win bets only in.