Book Review: Betting Thoroughbreds
For the 21st Century
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Steve Davidowitz Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century might not be the most entertaining handicapping book, but it is definitely one of the most useful and, arguably, the most essential book for horseplayers both old and new. If anyone ever taught a class in handicapping, Betting Thoroughbreds would top the list of required reading and be the book that motivated students would keep on their reference shelf long after the class ended.

In our HRF Index of Top 5 Handicapping Books, Betting Thoroughbreds ranked number one. In submitting their top five, voters used adjectives like “holistic,” “definitive,” “sensible,” “methodical,” and “comprehensive” in describing Davidowitz’s work. The book covers handicapping with a broad brush, giving players a solid foundation on which to develop their own opinions. Betting Thoroughbreds is not about a system for success; instead it’s about an approach to handicapping the races. As Davidowitz writes towards the end of the book:

There is no magic formula to win at this game, but there is an edge to be gleaned through diligence, patience, and the willingness to check things out for yourself.

Since the first edition in 1977, Betting Thoroughbreds has maintained its preeminence in handicapping circles. One of the primary reasons is that it has been revised twice; the latest edition was published in 2009. Racing has changed a great deal since 1977 and Betting Thoroughbreds has changed with it. The latest edition, Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century, includes information about synthetic surfaces and exotic wagering, topics that have come to the forefront of racing in recent years that weren’t mentioned in the first edition of the book.

However, neither racing nor the book has changed entirely, and many of the key concepts of the original edition remain relevant and have been left untouched by the author. From an historical perspective, it’s fascinating to see how certain angles on playing the races have withstood the test of time.

For the brand new horseplayer, Betting Thoroughbreds might be a bit intimidating, but if you have a willingness to learn, it will become an important resource that you will revisit as your skill level advances. Mr. Davidowitz’s work holds the well-deserved top spot in Hello Race Fans list of the best handicapping books.

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  • Steve Davidowitz

    I truly appreciate the strong recommendation for my book “Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21St Century” in its current, contemporary version. I wrote it to serve exactly the purpose you suggest here—to help players of all levels of skill and experience to advance their games and to appreciate the best gambling-game-sport ever invented.
    Anyone who buys the book can contact me with questions via E-mail. (

    For players and casual fans who want inside info and background stories on the best horses, trainers, jockeys, racetracks and racing events of the past 50 years or so, as well as the ‘not so best things’ I would suggest checking out “The Best and Worst of Thoroughbred Racing,” which I wrote from personal experiences and lots of research in 2008. This book has some handicapping ideas in it as relates to the way great trainers work, but it is not a handicapping book., it is a book designed to bring to life what has happened in the sport during my lifetime. It is filled with anecdotal stories and perasonal rankings

    Another recommended source for people who want to learn more about the game is the invaluable 1200 page “American Racing Manual,” that has been published each spring by Daily Racing Form for more than a century.
    Each new ARM covers the previous year’s major events, championship horses, tracks, jockeys and trainers and provides dozens of past performance examples, track diagrams, speed records, lifetime records and the top three finishers and clockings for all Graded Stakes in America and Canada, as well as plenty of similar listings for the best races throughout the world.

    Regards and Happy Holidays to all horseplayers, past, persent and future.
    Steve Davidowitz

  • Thanks for stopping by Steve and very generous of you to leave your contact information for fans/players!

    While we haven’t done a full review yet, we did include The Best and Worst in our History Reading List:

    The American Racing Manual is a great recommendation too. The older editions with essays by Charles Hatton are a fantastic “Window into a golden age” as Ryan Goldberg put it:

    One can occasionally find the older editions on eBay or second hand on Amazon.

    Happy holidays to you and here’s to a fun and prosperous 2014!

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