The following is a very simple approach, but I am putting it out here to demonstrate just how important it is to use a methodical approach, a system if you will, for betting horses and handicapping horse races. Many people spend hours poring over a racing program or playing with complicated software to find the winner of the race or races they intend to play. The challenge of finding a winner in this intellectual sport of handicapping can be fun and entertaining, but let me let you in on a little secret. While it is important to have fun while playing the races, it is just as important to make a profit or at least break even so you can afford to keep on playing the races.

So with the profit angle in mind, and it should always be somewhere in your mind, even if neatly tucked away in the back while you’re busy having fun, let’s look at a slightly different way of finding the winner. Here is how you find the real winner of the race. Soon after the race is over, look at the short line of people who are cashing tickets on the race. The winner is somewhere in the line. Notice that I didn’t say all the people who were cashing tickets were winners? Want to know why? If you are a professional handicapper or gambler, you already know why, don’t you?

The reason all the people cashing tickets aren’t winners is because some of them spent too much for their bets or didn’t manage their money wisely. Now please read this carefully, and think about what I am writing. The winner is the one who makes a profit off his or her bet by finding profitable bets. Most professional handicappers don’t look for winners, they look for good bets, and there is a world of difference. While many people are good at picking winners, the pros are good at picking winners that pay enough so that in the long run, they are profitable bets. In other words, professional handicappers are good at betting horses and handicapping horse races.

The purpose of the following exercise, horse racing system, is to get you thinking in terms of the odds and merits of each horse in the race. Please try it on paper a few times and have fun with it. This is not meant to be a big money maker, but just a way to start the process of “money handicapping.” I advise you to use it on races with older horses with plenty of starts, maiden races should be avoided for this exercise.

Before we go any farther, let’s subtract 20%, the average track takeout, or vig, from 100 so we end up with 80.

Let’s start with the size of the field. Divide 80 by the size of the field to determine what each factor will be worth. For instance, if there are 8 horses in the race, 80 divided by 8 equals 10. Now convert the answer to percentages, so 10 is 10%. Each factor is now worth 10%. We’ll call it a “unit.”

Now let’s list the factors…

1. Class

Determine the class horse in the race by one of the two following methods,

a. if the horse has had at least 5 races for the year, then divide the horse’s total winnings for the year by the number of races it has run.

b. if the horse hasn’t had five races for the current year, then divide its total earnings by total number of starts.

The horse with the highest average winnings per start is the class horse.

2. Consistency

Determine consistency by diving the total number of starts by the number of wins.

3. Jockey

Determine the best jockey by his or her winning percentage

4. Trainer

Determine the best trainer by his or her winning percentage

5. Speed

If speed ratings are available, the highest speed rating within the last 60 days is the best or, if speed ratings aren’t available, the fastest time at the distance and surface (6f on dirt, etc.)

6. last speed

Highest speed rating or fastest time in last race.

Now go through your list of runners and after determining the above factors for each runner, assign percentages as follows…

1. each factor is worth one unit so the horse with the highest class earns 10%. The same is true for each of the other factors. Therefore, it is possible for a horse who has all the above factors to earn 80%, but very rare that any horse would qualify for all factors.

Now let’s talk about money and fair bets. Once you have assigned a percentage to each horse, you will see that some have a higher percentage than others. It is time to convert those percentages into fair bets or odds.

Odds are determined by converting the percentage into a fraction and then comparing it to the table below. A horse with 50% for instance (what a lot of people would consider a sure thing) would be 1/2. That means the horse would be expected to win half the time. So looking at the table we see that a bet that would pay more than $4.00 (for every $2 bet on the horse) would be a profitable bet.

Percentages fair odds

80% 2-5

70% 3-5

60% 4-5

50% 1-1

40% 8-5

30% 2-1

20% 4-1

10% 9-1

A horse that had 30% would be roughly 1/3.33 (round to the nearest whole number so 3.33 becomes 3) meaning it would win about a third of the time. Looking at the table we see a horse that can win a third of the time (30%) is worth a bet if it pays more than $6 for every $2 bet on it.

The next step is to watch the odds and when there are two minutes or less left on the clock, place a bet on a horse only if it shows it will show a profit if it wins.

Now here is a tip for betting on horses. Most pros won’t take a short price on a horse no matter how good it looks. I personally recommend you never place a bet on any horse that is going off at less than 2-1. Long experience has shown me that it just isn’t profitable despite what figures on paper show. As we all know, just because something looks good on paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work in real life.

Try this little system out for fun and then use the same approach with a more accurate system for handicapping horse races and you will soon be a true winner.