4 Keys to Handicapping Efficiently

By Ray Wallin

People want to have it all. They want a good paying job, but that often comes with longer hours and work creeping into their home life. They want to be a good parent, but they end up coaching kid’s sports all year long.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Green / Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia

They want to have good friendships, but that will be a couple of nights when they are not on the soccer field out being social. They want to be a good spouse and know they need to make time for watching another rom-com or shopping for the perfect throw pillow one weekend.

Couple in taking the dog for a walk or for the half-an-hour walk around in the backyard, and that doesn’t leave you much time for handicapping, does it?

Successful horseplayers use their time efficiently. They make their living playing the races by being disciplined and having the right mindset. When I asked a few of my part-time professional horseplayer friends how they managed to have a life and be successful at the track, they offered up the following keys.

1. Create A “Will Not Do” List

Cutting out non-essential activities is as important as selecting what are your priorities. In fact, the Latin root of the word decide is actually “to cut off.”

You know how this story ends, but I’ll tell it to you anyway.

It is mid-August and tomorrow is going to be a gorgeous sunny Friday. You tell yourself that it is the perfect day to spend at Monmouth Park. It is early enough in the day that you can handicap that nine-race card without any trouble.

Your boss is out, you don’t have much going on at the office, and you just finished your breakfast. With 30 hours until post time, there is no way that you can’t get this card handicapped.

You start to handicap the first race so you can get a jump on knocking this card out, after all it is Thursday and you might like to hit Happy Hour with your coworkers. You finish the first race and decide you’ll check-in on social media.

Before you know it, you have spent an hour arguing both sides of what color some dress appears to be. You take a couple of business calls and refocus on some funny cat videos your friends posted.

Finally you click out of Facebook, only to find that it is lunchtime. The boss is away and your coworkers want to take that long lunch you guys always talk about. What the heck, you still have over 24 hours until post time.

Two and a half hours later you return from lunch. You check your email and voicemails, responding to what you need to right away. Out comes your past performances for the second race. You plod through a couple of races before the end of the work day, but it is off to Happy Hour.

You finally get home in time to have dinner, talk to your spouse for a few, and check to see how Junior’s day at school went. Maybe you shouldn’t have had that third beer, you are beat. You figure you can knock out the last three or four races before bed, but by now you aren’t thinking so clearly, are you?

You’ll go to bed with the last couple of races unhandicapped or you’ll do a half-assed job of it.

What is the lesson here? When you are serious about your handicapping you need to make a “will not do” list. If you are going to get that card handicapped, you’ll need to avoid the unnecessary distractions. Skip getting sucked into social media for hours.

Skip that l-o-n-g lunch you weren’t planning on. Avoid clouding your judgment with too many Happy Hour specials, even if that cheapskate in your office is finally offering to buy a round. Set your priorities and decide what is on your agenda to be able to handicap effectively.

2. Play To Your Strengths

It takes you an average of 15 minutes to handicap a race. You know that after work you have Junior’s winter concert. Even if you plow through dinner like you’ve never seen food before and set a land-speed record driving home, you have at best an hour and a half for handicapping. The card you want to look at features 12 great races. What are you going to do?

Triage the race card. Focus first on the races where you know you have the best opportunities to win or at least select contenders. You may do better on turf than the dirt or crush maiden races while spinning your wheels on allowance races.

Regardless, you have a finite amount of time so you should focus on the races that play to your handicapping strengths first. If time permits, you can go back and do the rest of the card.

3. Be The Early Bird

Time. No one is creating more of it or putting more of it in your day. The only way to have more hours in the day is to get up a little earlier. Most successful horseplayers I know get up early and start handicapping while their mind is the sharpest in the morning hours.

Sure you could stay up later, but how clear is your mind after a day of work, stress, commuting, and reading Junior the riot act for something he said at school?

4. Adjust Your Sails

Every successful handicapper I know is always trying to improve their game. They are honing old angles or tweaking their figures. They are tracking their accuracy in assessing pace scenarios.

By tracking the results of your handicapping you can see what is working and what is not working. Horse racing is an evolving game and what works one year may not be as successful the following year.

Record keeping and analyzing the results is key to keeping your handicapping relevant to the game of today.

Regardless if you play the races daily or a couple of days a week, the most important thing you can do is be efficient. By being disciplined, knowing what works for you, creating more time, and keeping your handicapping relevant you will be profitable.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out other articles at our horse racing news section!

Ray Wallin
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.

Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.

Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.

Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at ray.wallin@live.com.