A Common Mistake to AvoidWritten by Jon Stettin
One of the most common mistakes I see handicappers make is assuming a horse will run similar or even exactly how they ran in their last start.
Horses are not machines, and they don’t run the same every time they race. All too often people look at the past performances or the replay of a horse's last start and conclude that’s what they will see again.
I will be the first to agree horses, in general, are more consistent today than in the past. I believe drugs, legal and otherwise are a large part of that but even given that they don’t repeat every performance.
Handicapping comes down to predictably and being to see in advance what will or at least will likely happen. If it was as easy as looking at the entrants' last race we would all win a lot more often.
Pace changes. Class changes. Competition changes. Conditions change. Distances change. Trips change. All these factors and more dictate how a race will be run and the probable outcome, and ultimately the final outcome.
I like to look for and recognize patterns. Horses have form cycles and often repeat patterns especially under similar circumstances. Some horses go forward with a race under their belt. Some regress. They do however usually remain consistent in that nuance.
Recognizing these nuances and patterns can lead to winning. There are many of them but let’s stick with this one for now. You see a horse who shows that they regress in their second start off a lay-off. They ran good off the lay-off so bettors will clock to them thinking that they will improve off a race they needed. Will they? Their pattern says no, and you only have to look slightly deeper to flush that out. Let everyone else bet the horse off the good race. I suggest finding a horse that has a pattern suggesting a forward move, not a regression.
A horse who regresses can still win, but odds are they won’t.
Finding patterns that are just below the obvious surface can be very rewarding. It only takes a little more effort and once you know what you are looking for, many just jump out at you the same way the horse with the best last race jumps out at the novice.
Staying with the same angle of second off the lay-off, sometimes it may not steer you to a particular horse to bet, but a horse to bet against. This is just as valuable to me, more so if it is a short-priced horse. If you are like me and look to bet horses moving forward, you almost always will pass a horse in a second off the lay-off situation who shows they regress in that spot. There will be times when that horse is the favorite or a short price.
It’s a good way to get a leg up on the masses. Yes, masses. Believe it or not, there are way more people who bet horses to buck their proven patterns than to run true to them. That is a stone-cold edge for us. I suggest using it.