Recommendations from a Crash Course
By Ray Paulick, The Paulick Report Publisher
I had to take a crash course in Horse Racing 101 when I had the opportunity to become a ghostwriter for the late Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder, an oddsmaker and gambler who had a syndicated newspaper column in the 1970s and was a well-known prognosticator on CBS Sports’ NFL coverage (until he was fired for an insensitive racial remark late in his career).
I did a few things that really jump-started my knowledge and enjoyment of the game.
First, I went out and got a copy of Ainslie’s Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing (by the late Tom Ainslie, whose real name was Dick Carter. It’s a great introduction to handicapping and how to read the Daily Racing Form. There have been many changes in the data and information available to fans since the book was first published, but many of the principles discussed in that book are just as valid today as they were when it was written. Bill Finley’s ESPN.com tribute to Dick Carter explains why.
The second thing I did was to focus on one racing circuit and really study those races. That meant taping race replay telecasts (before DVR’s or Tivo there were video cassette recorders) and spend a couple of hours a day watching them. I would pay extra attention to the start of each race, watching how every horse came out of the starting gate and positioned himself early in a race. (The rewind button got worn out quickly!)
By not just focusing on the horses on the front end or on the horse I may have picked to win (I was a handicapper for eight years at the Daily Racing Form), I quickly discovered how many minor incidents occurred in a day’s races that could make a significant difference in a horse’s finishing position. By studying the races, I also learned the different styles of jockeys and which type of horses fit them best (those with early speed, those who closed from off the pace, etc.).
Finally, if you’re at the track, spend some time in the saddling areas and walking ring, studying the demeanor and temperament of horses, along with their physical condition.They are, after all, athletes. Some of them look as nervous as a high school freshman on the first day of school, while others have a confident, superior look. Some have coats that glow with good health, while others are dull. Some horses are listless and others are on their toes and ready to go.
It doesn’t hurt to take notes on your program. If you get to the races often enough, you’ll see the same horses on multiple occasions, and you can compare or remember how their condition or temperament may have changed from one race to another.
Follow these steps and maybe you’ll get lucky and have one of those “ah ha” moments that lead to a confident bet and a significant payoff.