I have a friend who handicaps by meditating. Honest! She’s into Zen and living in the Now, whatever the heck that means. I haven’t figured out how to live in the Past or the Future, myself, so I don’t see how you can do anything BUT live in the Now. So what does this have to do with handicapping, you’re probably wondering?
Now, is really important to dogs and horses when you’re looking at their form. While statistics can be helpful, there’s one thing you have to keep in mind when you’re looking at stats. What really matters isn’t what a contender has done over its career, although it’s nice to know that. What matters is what a dog or horse has done recently, which is likely to tell you what they’ll do in the race you’d like to make some money on.
You can find statistics for almost anything on the track web sites or on the net. Sometimes, nowadays, there are so many stats that I get lost trying to figure out which ones matter. I can find a chart that will tell me the winning percentage for every position in every type of race at Palm Beach for all of the past year, for instance, but will that really help me now?
What if last month was particularly rainy or very dry? Any handicapper knows that weather affects the track. So, maybe it would be a better idea when I handicap today’s race, to look back a couple of weeks or a month, instead of back to January when the weather was very different in Palm Beach from how it is today in September.
Dogs age. So do horses. Knowing that a greyhound’s best time was just under the track record two years ago, doesn’t tell us how fast the older dog will be today. The same goes for harness horses who had a 156.4 when they were 4 yrs old at Harrington. If they’re 7 and they’re running at Scarborough Downs today, the old Harrington information is pretty much irrelevant.
The message I’m getting at here is that stats and information are good things, but you have to lean more heavily on the most recent info. I look back a couple of weeks with dogs and no more than a month for harness horses, when I’m looking at form. Thoroughbreds, with their layoffs, are harder to handicap, but I still give more weight to their last 35 days of racing. I may not know how to live in the Now, but I do know how to handicap to make money now and that’s what counts.