Book Review: Ainslie’s Complete Guide
Third Edition, 1986, Simon and Schuster
By Jessica Chapel, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

There are more modern introductions to handicapping (see “Handicapping 101: A Horse Racing Primer” by Brad Free, or “Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century,” by Steve Davidowitz), but there are none more welcoming than Ainslie’s Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing by Tom Ainslie, the pseudonym under which the late journalist Richard Carter wrote about horse racing.

Originally published in 1968 and last revised in 1986, Ainslie’s eponymous classic handbook — the inspiration for hundreds of handicapping books since it first appeared — covers the fundamentals of handicapping in a straightforward and lively manner, with chapters dedicated to the essentials of class, pass, and pedigree, as well as such topics as “the jockey factor,” trainer intentions, and “finding the beatable race.”

But what sets Ainslie’s guide apart — and ensures its relevance even decades later — isn’t merely the depth of the information imparted. It’s the structure of the book, which leads readers from the basics of visiting the track and understanding odds to the complexities of devising an individual approach to playing. Step by step, a genial teacher throughout, Ainslie takes aspiring horseplayers through all the factors that go into forming a bettable opinion and assures them that it is possible not only to understand the races, but to beat the races.

“I can state with the certainty of long experience that anyone who combines intelligence, patience, and self-control with a distaste for gambling and a readiness to study the game can make racing the most lucrative of hobbies,” Ainslie wrote in the introduction to another of his many books on racing, “The Complete Horseplayer.” That message is not so baldly stated in “Ainslie’s Complete Guide,” but it suffuses every word. Ainslie is methodical and intellectual in his approach, and he encourages those qualities in his readers, equipping them with all the tools they’ll need to begin handicapping for pleasure and profit.

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