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Handicapping & Wagering Guide

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When and How Much to Bet

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When and How Much to Bet

When I first started betting on thoroughbreds I tried to bet every race because I loved the action and thought there had to be a way to be successful - there was only one problem, I was losing money.  I tried tricks like wheeling my top two favorites over my top 5 contenders and my top 5 contenders over my top 2 favorites (ie. 1,2/1,2,3,4,5 and 1,2,3,4,5/1,2).  I tried win betting in all the races, then win betting coupled with exactas.  I was looking for some formula that would work for betting every race.  There was only one problem - I was still losing money!  I never really had a good feel about certain races and was floundering in a hopeless cycle of 2 steps forward and 3 steps back.  It took me nearly a year, but after keeping accurate stats and reading books by Steve Davidowitz, Andy Beyer and Steven Crist I began to get a much better handle on betting.  I took their ideas and concepts and formed them with what my stats were telling me on where I was successful in picking winners.

The key to being successful at the track is knowing which races to put your money into and when to show restraint and
just enjoy watching the races.  After I finish handicapping a race I delegate it with one of four ranks:  Weak, Action, Play, Prime.  When you first start handicapping you'll want bet every race and that is not a bad thing, though I would suggest not doing it with real money.  You have to get an idea of what you are good at handicapping.  You need to keep good records.  Pretty soon you'll find out that you might be good at finding races where a horse figures to be the lone speed, 6 furlong races on the dirt or maybe you realize you know something about 1 mile dirt races at Delaware Park.  It will take you a little while to be able to accurately label your races as Weak, Action, Play or Prime, but with practice this will greatly help you be successful.  The dollar amounts of each bet ranking are based on my daily budget.  If your daily budget amount is more then you can adjust accordingly.  Also, I broke the bet rankings out a little further than some do.  You can go with less ratings if you like.  In the following sections I'll go over each ranking in detail. 

These are races where I don't think I have a good handle on what is going to happen.  Usually when I label as Weak I have a hard time eliminating horses who are going to finish outside of the money and which horses have a shot at winning.  With races labeled as weak I usually bet between $0 and $5.  The majority of the time I'll skip them if I can, but if I need some action maybe I'll place a win bet on my chosen winner, a reasonable longshot or a couple of $2 exactas.  From my statistics I know I have a very low percentage of winning these bets.

These races are above a Weak status, but not good enough for a Play or Prime bet.  Maybe I like a reasonable longshot or I have good feeling about about the 1,3/1,3 exacta box.  Sometimes I'll play exacta's like 1/2,3,4 or 1,2/1,2,3.  It just depends on what my handicapping tells me.  I usually reserve $8 - $10 dollars for Action bets.  My statistics tell me that I don't win a lot of  Action bets.  But I leave them as Action bet because I enjoy betting and I may have a better opinion on the winner or exacta than a Weak bet.  Also, I like putting $2 on a live longshot in Action bets, it still give me the joy of playing without much risk.  Sometimes if I have several Play or Prime bets on card I will not play the Action bets.

Play bets give me a nice median between Action and Prime.  To rank this bet I feel like my horse or horses have a good to excellent shot at winning, but don't feel confident enough for a Prime bet.  Maybe it is a new track I am betting and I am unsure of how it plays, I could be on a losing streak or for various reasons I do not what to invest the money of a Prime bet.  I allocate $15 to $35 for Play bets.  The amount I bet varies depending on how I feel I need to play the race effectively.  I will usually find between 3-5 Play bets on a card.

Prime bets are reserved for when I feel my horse or horses have an excellent chance of winning.  On Prime bets I like to think the horse could run backwards, go to the barn eat a tub of feed, then come back fall down and still win the race.  Now that is not to say it will be a blow out race, but more that I have a good handle on how the race will be run.  I usually allocate $40-$60 dollars for Prime bets.  The amount I spend is based on what I feel like it will take to adequately bet the race or based on the amount of daily budget I have remaining.  It is rare that I find more than one Prime bet on any card, if any at all.

Another question I have people ask is, I take $20 to $30 to the track per day, how should I bet?
That is a fairly small bank roll to play an entire card.  I would suggest not betting on any Weak or Action bets.  Look for your best Play/Prime bets and try to build your bankroll on these.  Also, because you should win a high percentage of Play/Prime bets, I would only bet to win, unless you have a really strong opinion on a straight exacta or there are only 2 horses who could run second.  In which case you could wheel your winner over those two (ie. 1/2,3).

What about multi-race betting?
As I handicap each race I make notes on how I think this race might be bet, if at all.  Once I finish all the races I list each race along with it's ranking.  For mult-race betting I look for a couple of Play/Prime bets together.  So for instance if I am going to play a Pick 3 I am looking for a group of races that would look like this: 
Action, Play, Play
Play, Action, Play

Play, Play, Action
Play, Play, Play

Usually, I like to have 1 Action race in each Pick 3 because it makes it a little harder to hit and a Play, Play, Play sequence maybe easily hit by those including just the odds on favorites.  Also, another sequence I look for is a Play/Prime where I feel I can single along with 2 Action bets where I will have to go a little deeper.  This is a little tougher to hit, but the payoffs maybe much greater.

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