Racing Scoreboard

One thing that you will learn as you handicap horse races is that you need some kind of systematic method to succeed. Just reading past performances and trying to pick a winner or exotic bet is a good way to waste a lot of money and wind up pretty confused. In the process of learning how to handicap horse races I tried that method and quickly lost a lot of money.

Start by thinking of the race as a contest between the horses. Probability is really the chance of one horse beating the others. Compare them one horse at a time starting with the two fastest horses. There are many ways to handicap a horse race but if you start with the basics you'll have an idea of how good each horse may be. For instance, the average speed at the distance is a good indicator of how one horse stacks up against the rest.

Therefore, start with class and determine which horse has been in the toughest races. The better the competition, the higher the purse, as a general rule. Just reading the purse values in the runner's last races isn't enough because you also need to know how well each horse ran. For instance, if horse A. wins a $5,000 claiming race and horse B. runs dead last in a $7,500 race, which one is really the classier horse? Probably the better of the two is horse A. Horse A. also earned more money in that race and that's the key, so divide the total amount of money each horse has earned by the number of races it ran. Now you have a dollar figure that represents class for each runner. Make a list of the horses from best to worst and give a point for the best, two points for second best, etc. right from the classiest to the horse with the least class.

The reason for that is that the horse that is most likely has been bet down below fair value. That means another horse is probably going off at generous odds so that if it does win, you will make a profit on it. Let's say that the favorite in the race is really the best looking horse and deserves to be the favorite. Let's say that you think it has a 35% chance of winning. But it is going off at 1-1, even money! It is a lousy bet because it will only win about one in three races with a payoff so small, it won't even cover your bets.

One method that you can use to quickly handicap a race is to break it down to three factors, speed, class, and jockey. Creating a hierarchy, a list of horses starting with the best and going to the worst in each category and then assigning a number for each position is one way to find horses that have an edge. It won't tell you how many times the horse with the best score would win if they raced against each other ten times, but it will tell you which one might win most often.