Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
As with any activity that involves gambling, there are tons of people and services looking for your dollars in exchange for the information that’s supposed to lead you to handicapping glory.
For new fans starting out in the game of horse racing, the almost endless amount of handicapping data can seem daunting. Programs, forms, workout information, track stats, pedigree data, race replays, and trainer patterns (just to name a few) present an endless stream of possible information.
So where does a new player start amidst the vast array of handicapping information at their disposal?
Similar to figuring out the types of races and bets are best suited to your game, determining the information you need for your handicapping is unique to each player.
At a minimum, however, new players should start with a program or traditional set of past performances. The program isn’t a bad place to start, but given the abbreviated nature of the data, new players will want to graduate to a full set of past performances fairly quickly.
When just starting out in this game, the type of racing form you choose to use really doesn’t matter. Eventually, after your handicapping skills develop and your own style matures, the brand name and the extra bells and whistles of the past-performance data will be more important. But at the beginning, you just need to get used to the feel and the makeup of the past-performance information and then hone in on the pieces of information that require deeper investigation.
Every form will give you the standard 10 or so past-performance lines, some kind of speed figure, workout information, lifetime records and earnings, simple pedigree highlights, and basic jockey and trainer data. But each of those categories is just the tip of a huge iceberg of handicapping information just waiting for you to immerse yourself in.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about developing your own handicapping style through diligent tracking of your bets and an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. This understanding will also lead you to the gaps in your knowledge and analysis. If those maiden special weight races with tons of first-time starters are giving you fits, then perhaps you need to be looking deeper into workouts, trainer patterns and sire stats. If you having difficulty accurately judging pace in dirt sprints, maybe you need to delve into the world of pace figures or track trends and statistics.
The key point with respect to handicapping data and information is that you don’t need everything - you simply need whatever bits of the picture are required to fill complete the puzzle. There are tons of ways to spend your dollars with respect to handicapping information, so it’s important to make sure it’s the data you need, not the data someone says you can’t win without.
One of the great selling points of playing the horses is this: handicapping is a very personal endeavor; you’ll rarely, if ever, find someone that looks at the exact same information in the exact same way as you. There is no “magic book” that provides the answers to all of handicapping mysteries. It’s up to the player to determine the information he or she needs to succeed.