By Ray Wallin
Jack Welch is one of the most successful and influential business executives in American history. Whether you are a weekend horseplayer or you make your living playing the races, you can use some of this leadership rules to increase your profitability at the track.
As CEO of General Electric, Welch increased their market value from $12 billion in 1981 to $410 billion when he retired in 2001. In his retirement he would go on to write the best-selling management book “Winning,” which has some great insights into successful business practices which translate well to the track.
#1 Upgrade the team
Jack Welch would constantly look to upgrade his team. He would fire the bottom 10% of performers and reward the top 20% handsomely. He used every encounter with his staff to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.
While horseplayers are usually an “army of one,” you can upgrade your team. Invest in par times and proven sire data annually to make your homegrown pace figures more accurate. Constantly evaluate the angles and figures you use to see what is still working well and what angles are underperforming. Eliminate those underperformers from your handicapping toolbox.
Once you have removed the underperforming angles and you are winning, you will build confidence in your contenders and plays.
#2 Live and breathe your vision
On any sunny summer afternoon at Monmouth Park you are bound to encounter our good friend Rail Guy hanging around the paddock. Rail Guy dreams of “being da sharpest bettor dere is at da track and makin’ da best pace figure of any one out dere.”
While our friend Rail Guy does pick his share of winners, he still doesn’t turn a good profit at the track. It is one thing to say you want to the best bettor or make the best pace figures at the track, it is another thing to do it.
Winners not only have the vision of accomplishing something, the live it, breathe it, and make it happen. Our friend Rail Guy does go back after the races and analyze fractions and pace impacts. He doesn’t go back and look at the trips each entrant has had to see what excuse he can make for them and how that may impact assessing them in their next start.
Winners have a vision, make a plan of action, not inaction.
#3 Make unpopular decisions
After handicapping a race that looks like a good betting opportunity you land on a contender that has a morning line of 10-1. You check to see what Track Handicapper Tommy has picked or see what your track buddy Chalky Charlie has picked. Neither of them has your contender anywhere on their radar. You check the local newspaper and even the guys who churn out their public picks don’t have your horse in the mix. You go back to your handicapping and start to second guess yourself and look towards one of the more favored horses and decide to that you must be wrong. You end up changing your pace scenario and rationale for picking who you did to conform with what everyone else is saying.
Does this sound familiar?
I know a lot of handicappers that are guilty of this mindset. Winners make the unpopular decisions. Winners go with their gut and go against the betting public.
#4 Push and probe
After a race is over, do you look back over your handicapping and try to figure out what went right or wrong, or do you accept the results for what they are? Worse yet, do you make excuses for what happened in the race? Did you blame the jockey for a bad ride or using your horse too hard too early on the front end?
Winners probe their own decisions and push with curiosity. They ask themselves so many questions about what could happen in a race that they could be described as skeptical of themselves.
Winners don’t stop at asking themselves questions, they answer their questions by taking actions. If you can poke holes in your projected strong early speed dominated pace scenario, do you consider what other pace scenarios are possible? Do you adjust your contenders for the race to allow for an alternate horse or pace scenario to have a reasonable likelihood of winning? Do you restructure your bets to allow for secondary pace scenarios to hedge your primary pace scenario?
#5 Have candor with yourself
I am sure you have heard someone, maybe even yourself, being too entirely easy on themselves during a bad day at the track. Excuses like “we just got beat today” or “why do I always miss that lone early speed horse.”
While I am not suggesting that you should beat yourself up over every race that doesn’t go your way, you need to have the hard conversation with yourself as to why you didn’t win that race. “I missed the lone early speed horse this race, how can I make sure that I don’t do that again next time?”
It isn’t enough to have that hard conversation with yourself, you need to turn that conversation into action. Take notes. Tweak your approach to each race and your handicapping checklist.
Winners have the tough conversations and adapt.
You have heard the adage “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” While you may be treating your day of betting as another day at the office, you need to still have fun while playing the races. When you have a good day at the track or tweak your homegrown pace figure and it gives you noticeable edge on the next race card, be sure to celebrate those wins. Take the time to feel proud of beating the game that day and look forward to the next card you will handicap.
Winners celebrate their victories.
Most of us won’t have a net worth of a multi-millionaire like Jack Welch when we retire. Yet by following some of his rules of leadership you will find yourself making a better profit at the track and “winning,” too.