Are you having a hard time trying to pick enough winners to make a profit handicapping horse races? If the answer is yes, rest assured, you’re not alone. Betting on horses to make a profit is one of the toughest things most people will ever attempt. Knowing why it is so difficult to come out ahead may help you to succeed.
First of all, there are a few facts you should face and own up to before you set your sights on being a handicapper. It is brutally difficult to consistently make money and therefore you should never risk money you can’t afford to lose. Taking your life’s savings to work a horse racing system is a bad idea. Use money that you can afford to lose without compromising your future or security.
Secondly, know what you’re up against and go into it with your eyes open. You should know the amount that you are paying for the privilege of betting. How much is the vig and breakage? They are the amounts the track takes out of the pools before the winners get paid. The higher the vig the harder you have to work to just break even.
This is a game where you bet with dollars, but in the final analysis you win nickels and dimes. I mean that the profit margin is often a few percentage points so for every dollar wagered, at the end of the year, you’ve made a small percentage. Put $100,000 through the windows and get back $110,000. It’s that kind of game.
Horse racing is a global, multi-million dollar industry. There’s flash, there’s glamour, there’s lots of money being thrown around. Modern Thoroughbred racing has been nicknamed “The Sport of Kings.”
But what about the horses? Putting aside for the moment the negative effects horse racing has on growth and development, the race itself can be a dangerous undertaking for both jockey and horse. During a race, a stumble that would otherwise not be cause for alarm can quickly become a deadly situation. Horses running at full tilt in close quarters with blinders on are unable to react to the misstep of another horse and get out of the way. A jockey, thrown from his horse in such a situation, faces being trampled and seriously injured or even killed.
Also, remember that horses are prey animals, and as such they run first and think about it later. If a horse spooks and tries to break away and leave the track, the jockey may have no control over what direction the animal chooses to run, even if it’s back toward a pack of oncoming horses. Just getting a horse to enter the starting gate and overcome its fear of being unable to flee while trapped in tight quarters can be a challenge. Some horses have to be blindfolded and led to the gate in chains!
However, the negative impacts of racing begin long before a horse ever enters the starting gate at the track. Take Barbaro, the beautiful Thoroughbred who made headlines in 2005. He won the Kentucky Derby that year, then two weeks later shattered his leg during the Preakness. It took two years, many painful surgeries, long bouts of laminitis, and lots of suffering for both owner and horse before it was finally acknowledged that Barbaro was not going to get better. He was euthanized on January 29, 2007. The worst part of it is, Barbaro did not have to die. Even though Barbaro’s injury occurred during a race, and it was labeled a “freak accident,” there are those who theorize that the conditions that led up to his susceptibility to that injury started long before that day.
Obviously, in the above example, you didn’t risk it all on one bet, but every bet you make does count and the amount of risk in each bet should be offset with a higher probability or gain. The problem is that nothing is static in horse racing handicapping and the system that works today won’t work tomorrow. There is no handicapping system on the planet that works all the time.
Does that mean that the answer is to bet on horse races without a system? Absolutely not. It means that you as the horse player must learn when to use a system and when to switch to something else. That zigging and zagging, as I call it, is one of the most difficult things to master. You must also learn how to manage your money properly and that opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms.
Gambling and money management do not seem to be compatible. You may call it managed risk or anything you like but the fact of the matter is that the same personality traits and characteristics that make you take chances do not usually lead to being a bean counter. On the other hand, without good money management skills, no horse player can make a long term profit.
There are times when you must handicap like a cowboy and bet like an accountant and other times when you must handicap like an accountant and bet like a cowboy. It is another example of a zig zag course through the minefield of human decision making. Learn how to make the right choices between betting and handicapping styles as well as the system you use and you might beat the horse racing game. You’ll find, as you get deeper into the whole intellectual sport, that the biggest problem is managing yourself and making the right choices.