Race Choices: Narrowing Your Focus


Photos by Eclipse Sportswire

If we were to compare the major differences between following and playing the horses as opposed to other sports, one major factor that stands out is the incredible number of races run during a calendar year and the fact that the sport has very little in the way of an offseason.

According to The Jockey Club’s Online Fact Book, there were 45,000 races run in the United States during the 2012 calendar year, yielding an average of 126 races run a day across the country. That’s a lot of action to be had for those of us who like to make bets.

With so many races occurring throughout the year, it can be a challenge for new players to find a way to navigate through the endless amount of choices. And unless your full-time job is reading and analyzing racing programs or the Daily Racing Form, choices have to be made as to the tracks and type of races to play in order to maximize your time spent handicapping and your chances for success.

Many new players are drawn to the game through a “home track” where they spend most of their time handicapping and playing races.Focusing on a limited or small number of tracks is an excellent way to learn about the trainers, jockeys and owners on a particular circuit, as well as the idiosyncrasies of a particular track surface.

As we play more and more races, patterns develop with respect to our understanding of a particular track or type of race. Much of this knowledge can be used to understand other tracks and races around the country.


The understanding of our handicapping strengths and weaknesses comes through time and experience and – in my opinion – periodic review of our wagering results. New players have little in the way of a meaningful record to review as just a few months of plays probably won’t reveal any significant patterns. However, as players continue to build up a history of their handicapping, patterns and trends begin to come into focus.

I started playing the horses primarily at my home track of Emerald Downs here in Seattle, Wash. with most of my non-Emerald betting concentrated on the Triple Crown, Breeders’ Cup and major stakes races.

Slowly but surely, I began to branch out my play to other tracks around the country, all while periodically reviewing my wagering results. As my handicapping learning curve began to stabilize, I began to notice the strengths and weaknesses in my game. Whether it was a particular kind of race (turf routes: good. Turf sprints run on anything but the Santa Anita downhill course: bad, bad, bad) or a specific track, it was easier to decide which races to play when I was aware of my successes and failures.

The great part of starting out in this game is that there are endless possibilities, endless tracks, and endless conditions to focus on. With the aid of technology, we have the ability to bet on races every day of the week in practically every corner of the country. While the choices may seem overwhelming for new players, periodic review of the success and failures of your handicapping will provide the clues to the races and tracks the best fit your wagering style.

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