How to Handicap a Horse

This weekend, Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack will host the Canadian Internationals, a prelude to next month’s Breeders’ Cup in Southern California’s Santa Anita Park, where thoroughbreds will compete for US $25.5 million. And that’s just the purse: With a little know-how, you too can snag a chunk of change yourself. We talked with Trot magazine editor Darryl Kaplan for tips on how to handicap the ponies like a pro.

The Bible
The Daily Racing Form is the handicapper’s bible. Too bad it reads like an algebra textbook. (Visit here for a great tutorial.) Until you master the Form, stick to these basic principles.

The Beyer Speed Figure is your best tool: the higher the number, the faster the horse.

Figure out when your horse performs best. Front runners like early leads; closers come from behind. Or will slow and steady win the race?

Check a horse’s lifetime record; look for recent streaks, or notable performances in certain conditions, at certain distances.

Before the race, visit the paddock. Look for a horse that’s on his toes, but beware the horse with a swishy tail; it may be agitated.

The top 20 percent of jockeys (and trainers) win about 80 percent of all races. Good people can make a long shot pay.

Track the up-to-the-minute odds on the tote boards: Do you want to bet with or against the masses?

Or, Trust Your Gut
Nothing’s more exhilarating – or risky – than ignoring this article and betting on a long shot you just have a feeling about.

Image courtesy of Jeff Kubina on Flickr.

This is a test