"Show me the man who can class horses correctly and I will show you the man who can win all the money he wants, and he only needs a dollar to start"

Pittsburgh Phil


Time has shown it to be one of the greatest truths ever uttered about horse racing.  Class, that intangible thing that defies definition, controls almost positively the running of thoroughbreds..!  Class enables one horse to beat another no matter what the physical odds imposed may be, what the conditions or what the distance.  You may say it is that which enables a pit bull terrier to whip a big dog of another breed.  Hard to define, but everybody sees it, when it's there.


Whatever is Asked

The ability to defeat rival competitors under any circumstances, to overcome setback or disadvantage; poor start, pace duel, wide trip, shuffled, bumped, forced to steady, a wall of horses, whatever; any horse that holds a meaningful Class advantage - true Thoroughbred Class, will do whatever is asked.

The Elements of Class

While every thoroughbred horse race presents a unique set of challenges to the entries, the winning horse will combine the three elements of class more effectively than its competitors; demonstrating the required mix of speed, determination and stamina to "outclass" the field and prevail on this day.

We approach the difficult task of discerning Thoroughbred Class by understanding first, that it's the most important Primary Handicapping Factor, since by nature true Class will possess inherent talent to overcome Speed or Pace advantage, a troubled trip, or whatever.

Secondly, that a thoroughbred's "True Class Today" (the mix of speed, determination and stamina the horse will demonstrate today) will be a combined function of its Breeding, Speed, ability to sustain a Pace and Current Form; as influenced by the Secondary and Unknown Handicapping Factors.



Thoroughbred Class in Action:


The Ancestral Lineage of a Thoroughbred

Thoroughbred Lineage

Thoroughbred race horses inherit mental and physical characteristics from their Sire (father of a race horse) and Dam (mother), each passing on to their offspring the genetic code provenant from the two ancestral lines.

Therefore in the breeding is where the destiny of a race horse is written, the impact of lineage upon both ability and Class is ever present; the pedigree will define whether a race horse ends up in the claiming ranks or moves up through the conditions and makes it to stakes level competition.

When examining pedigree for the purpose of handicapping a thoroughbred horse race (as opposed to breeding purposes), it's important to appreciate the impact breeding will have in various types of races, over different surfaces, at varying distances.

The genetic factor will be more influential in certain races and less so in others but may be decisive in turf races, maiden special weight, Grade 1 and Grade 2 races; also in races restricted to statebreds, races with two year olds and where certain horses are trying a new surface or stretching out in distance for the first time.



The Attribute of Speed in a Thoroughbred

Thoroughbred Speed

Speed is one of the three elements of Class and that makes the two inseparable.  Speed can be a decisive factor in dirt sprints and uncontested Speed can be a decisive factor at any distance over any surface.  Mind you, Speed is one component of Class, the other two being stamina and will.

After all, they're thoroughbreds so we know they can run fast, but for how long?  Handicappers want to know which horses can run fast (speed) while demonstrating an ability to sustain the pace required to subdue the competition (stamina).

Moreover the best horses, those able to effectively calibrate the three elements of Class will be the exemplars with the ability to run fast (speed), sustain the pace (stamina), and respond when challenged by another competitor of equal ability, by exhibiting the required degree of perseverance in the stretch and the stronger will to prevail (determination).

To make things more interesting, since Pace is nothing more than sustained speed, Speed shares an interdependency with Pace as well.

Thus in order to effectively evaluate the Speed factor in a thoroughbred horse race, the distinction must be made between Early Speed as measured to the first call, and adjusted final time for the distance as measured by the speed figure; while remaining cognizant of the influence Early Speed exerts over the final time.

In further analysis, since Early Speed is measured at the first call which occurs at two furlongs in sprints, and since pretty much any thoroughbred horse can go all out for such short distance; then what's important is not how fast a horse can run to the first call but rather, is the horse likely to secure a lead by the first call?

Since this has more to do with running style than actual Speed, a vast array of new questions arise carrying the handicapper straight into analysis of the Pace factor - hence the interdependency.



The Pace Factor in a Horse Race

Pace Analysis
"Pace Makes the Race"
Howard "Doc" Sartin
Pace can be a decisive factor anytime a contender controls at least two segments of a race.  Further, Early Speed as measured to the first call is not the same as Early Pace which is measured at the second call; in sprints, the former occurs at two furlongs and the later occurs at four furlongs.  They are two segments of a race, the first fraction and the second fraction; with the third segment being, the final fraction.

Pace study will also shed light on how interaction among front runners competing for the early lead is likely to affect the shape and outcome of the race, enabling handicappers to safely eliminate horses that do not meet the early pace requirements of a race, as well as, those that will not be in position to finish well based on running style.

Early Pace is best evaluated through the prism of the quality of the overall effort, in terms of finish position, margin of victory or defeat, lengths gained or lost in the stretch, and final time for the distance as adjusted by track variant (the speed figure).

Therefore, what's important is not how fast a horse can run to the second call but rather, handicappers want to know its comfort zone; how fast a horse can run to the second call, while turning in a winning effort.

Since more often than not, the faster a horse runs during the early stages of a race (the more energy expended); and the slower it will be running in the late stages (lacking energy for the stretch run); thus when challenged by another contender, a horse that is forced to run outside of its comfort zone during the early stages, will likely be fading in the stretch.



The Racing Condition and Current Form of a Thoroughbred


"Horses are the same as human beings where condition is the test of superiority.  Winners repeat frequently while the defeated are apt to be defeated almost continuously.  Condition has more to do with a horse winning or losing a race than the weight it carries.  A horse in poor condition cannot beat one of his own class.  A high class horse could not win a race with a feather on his back if he is not in condition.  It is as well to play horses that are in winning form.  A horse in winning condition generally repeats or runs into the money.  Different tracks cause decided changes in form frequently.  Study horses' whims and fancies for certain tracks and you will see a good lay; but a high class horse will do his best on any track."

Pittsburgh Phil

Winning Form

No matter any existing advantage whether Class or otherwise, a horse which is not in top Current Form today, will be vulnerable of losing to another horse; if the other horse will be running at peak form.

Here we point to one of the greatest "Class" horses ever, and possibly the greatest we will ever see in our lifetimes, Zenyatta, the queen; who did everything EVER asked of her with a dance and a smile - true Thoroughbred Class.

There is no possible way Blame could have beaten Zenyatta, unless as was the case, he had been pointing towards the race, was cranked to the utmost, perfectly timed to reach the peak of his form cycle in that Breeder's Cup race.

However, aside from the fact that Blame benefitted from having the best rider in the universe Garret Gomez aboard, who pulled all the right strings at all the right moments, emerging in the right place at the right time to put away the Baffert entry coming home in hand; it was a brilliant ride, with Blame basically holding on for dear life those final 50 yds.

Moreover, if you watch the QUEEN at the start, we know she often started at the rear of the pack, but usually not that far back; and it seemed like she may have been a step off on this day as noticed by Trevor's keen eye.

It is therefore imperative for handicappers to be informed regarding the Current Form of each horse in a race.  What is the trainer's intent? Has the horse been pointed to this race? Is this race a tune up?  The best horse does not always win every race, in fact, it will not win if not sound, unfit, out of form or if it is simply not the trainer's intention to win today.

The algorithm which calculates Current Form is based upon our own proprietary method, which has not ever been published anywhere.  Among other things, this algorithm looks at a horse's workout tab and finish position in its last five races.

Moreover, the algorithm has been programmed to assign greater value to a good workout which occured since last race, as opposed to earlier on the tab; and, assigns greater value to a horse that was in the lead or within striking position at the stretch call in its last race, with extra credit if the horse won the race or managed to close ground on the leader.


Thoroughbred Form in Action:

As BLAME enters the race in razor sharp form, barely holds on to beat the classier ZENYATTA, the great queen.


The Anatomy of a Thoroughbred Horse Race

Level of Competition

Since every competent handicapping process must begin here, it will be imperative for horse players to be able differentiate among the various types of races, racing levels, conditions and restrictions; as well as the complexities involved with why a horse has been entered in a specific race.

The handicapper's task is precisely to determine how the Primary, Secondary and Unknown Handicapping Factors will inter-relate under the varying conditions of each race on the card; which will either be a Maiden Claiming, Maiden Special Weight, Claiming, Optional Claiming, Starter, Allowance, Stakes or Graded Stakes race.

Moreover, within the above mentioned race-type classifications, there will be specific conditions for each race; sex, age, surface, distance and impost (weight to be carried by each entry), and in certain races there will be further eligibility conditions as set forth by the racing secretary (e.g. n1x, n2x, n3x, n1y, n1$, etc.).

In addition to establishing the racing conditions for every race, the racing secretary may impose restrictions in certain races based upon sex, age, lifetime wins, or some other criteria deemed relevant to racetrack operations (e.g. fillies, 2 year olds, 3 year old fillies, fillies and mares 4 years old and up, N2L - non winners of two lifetime races, etc.).



Thoroughbred Horse Racing Over the Main Track and Sod

Racing Surface

From a handicapping standpoint, there is a fundamental difference between dirt and turf races.  Whereas over dirt, speed as an individual element of Class will often be decisive; winners of turf races will require more stamina and determination during the final fraction in order to prevail, thus as a handicapping factor, turf and dirt races must be approached with different methods.

Often, a quick scan of a horse's racing record can reveal its preferred racing surface.  From time to time, when horses are trying a new surface for the first time or just switching surfaces, then other factors can be informative.

In such cases, handicappers may find a horse's breeding to be of some importance.  For the most part, if the sire of a race horse was an accomplished turf runner; then it too, may have a propensity to win on turf.

Lastly, turf tends to be a kinder surface to the race horses, runners don't get so much dirt kicked in their face; and as opposed to the main track, the inner rail is frequently adjusted in order to preserve the racetrack surface.



The Distance Factor in a Thoroughbred Horse Race

Racing Distance

Distance is extremely important in thoroughbred racing, certain distances can favor the conformation, temperament and running style of a race horse.  Therefore, there will be an exact distance or distances (win range) at which the great majority of thoroughbred horses will be capable of winning.

Knowledge of this fact will be important when evaluating the Pace of a race, the Current Form of its entries, and certain trainer moves; thus successful handicappers will pay meticulous attention to identifying a horse's win range and distance preferences.

Additionally, by understanding that the win range of most horses will be limited, horse players can avoid backing horses entered at unsuitable distances.  The racing record of a horse can often help to identify its preferred racing distance(s).

For any horse which has won a race or finished within 1-2 lengths of the winner at today's distance, the racing company, strength of the performance and recency of the effort can be good indicators of suitability to the distance.

In the absence of hard racing data, such as whenever sprinters are stretching out in distance or when routers are cutting back; a study of the Pace, Current Form, and of the distance preferences of its sire can shed light on a runner's potential to win at a given distance.



Thoroughbred Horse Racing and the Weight to be Carried


According to logic, the weight to be carried by an entry should have a demonstrative effect upon the outcome of a race.  In fact, the old Jockey Club method of weights and scales, is still used by racetrack handicappers pretty much everywhere, to assign varied weights to the entries in a race; in order to equalize chances of winning and thus level the field of competition.

That said, in practical handicapping terms regarding impost, since the racetrack handicapper has already done the work; other than in two specific cases, it will mostly be inconsequential.

However, handicappers should raise an eye brow any time a horse receives an allowance of 7 to 10 lbs, as usually associated with an apprentice rider; and also whenever european horses racing in their first American race are getting in light at 126.



Human Interaction with Thoroughbred Race Horses

Racing Connections

Racing connections are those people that own and work with a thoroughbred race horse; the owner(s), trainer, rider(s) and stable employees.  In terms of handicapping a horse race, the trainer and jockey will be most significant, but it's important to understand the numerous complexities arising from this human interaction with a race horse.

The trainer of a thoroughbred race horse will be an elemental component to its future development and running ability.  The trainer will observe the race horse entrusted to be under his care, provide an optimum diet; and develop an exercise routine with immediate and long term racing objectives in mind.

The job of the trainer is to prepare a race horse for competition and then to enter the horse in a race at a certain distance, within a certain class level; where it can win or be competitive.

Therefore since trainers usually have full control over which race a horse is entered in, they will often maneuver a horse up or down in Class for strategic reasons, in search of a group it can beat.

Sometimes the racing secretary does an awesome job in sending a group of equally matched competitors to the post.  In such races, riders will often "use up" their mounts jockeying for position; and in such races, time and time again, a clever rider will make all the difference in the world.

Mind you, no trainer or jockey can win, a horse will win the horse race; and any horse that is not sound or outclassed will not win today.

That said, there are certain clues to lookout for which can be indicators of a live horse ready to win.  The positive jockey switch, to a leading rider, especially when combined with a jump or drop in Class.  The leading rider whom all of a sudden shows up on a mount for an obscure barn.  The leading rider who has his choice of mounts in a race, especially when getting off a horse which he rode to victory in its last race, in favor of another.



An Important Measure of Performance

Thoroughbred Earnings

From a handicapping standpoint, earnings are an important measure which can be used to gauge performance at a specific distance, over a given surface or under various conditions of thoroughbred racing.

Since they can be indicative of the type of racing company against which a horse has been winning, earnings are often associated with Class.  However earnings are not Class or even an element of Class, they are a byproduct of it; and as such, can provide a window to view Thoroughbred Class.

Moreover, in certain races, patterns among lifetime and recent earnings can be indicative of a horse on the improve or declining; thus shedding light upon the question of Current Form.



The Effects of Weather on a Thoroughbred Horse Race

Environmental Conditions

At any thoroughbred racetrack in America, on both the main track and turf course; the condition of the surface will have a decisive impact upon the outcome of the race.  The most significant environmental factor will be the weather, specifically, the amount of recent rainfall.

On a yielding turf course, Speed will have virtually no chance of winning.  If the turf course is too wet, a race will typically be moved off turf; and many of the horses will scratch.  Therefore on racing days with bad weather, be sure to verify the race is still on turf.

When the dirt gets wet it gets sloppy and horses which are not in the lead get a constant flow of mud to the face. When handicapping a dirt race over an off track, examine how horses performed under different track conditions to see if they have demonstrated weakness or advantage; it may also be helpful, to consider the sire's performances, weaknesses and advantages over off tracks.



Thoroughbred Racing Statistics

Analysis and Quantification

As noted above, we view the Secondary Handicapping Factors as those which are beyond the horse's control.

In other words in our view, any existing factor with the potential to impact the outcome of a race, if it can be quantified, and, if it is outside the horse's realm of control; then we classify that factor as a Secondary Handicapping Factor.

Moreover, there can be any number of secondary factors to rate from race to race, which must be quantified and accounted for; this is accomplished largely through applied statistical analysis techniques involving mathematical ratios.




The Handicapper's View of the Race

Thoroughbred Horse Racing at Santa Anita Park

"There is no principal difference between natural perception and intellectual knowledge."

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

The attempt to quantify Unknown Handicapping Factors as Entelechy is a novel approach in thoroughbred horse race handicapping, arising from a clear understanding that due to the nature of the game; whenever thoroughbred horses are racing, there will be Unknown Factors at play.

Existing Reality

That which one perceives through one's five senses.  More specifically, relating to a horse race, from the handicapper's perception of existing reality; in the terms of all that is perceivable from interpretation of the past performances of a race horse, for the purpose of quantifying its probability of winning in the future.

The handicapper's view of a race, after the handicapping process has been completed, upon which an opinion shall develop as to which horse is the most probable winner in the field - Existing Reality.

In other words, when handicappers evaluate past performance data, they form a view of the race and how each horse is likely to perform.  Since the handicapper's view is formed by that which she or he is capable of perceiving during the handicapping process, itself largely influenced by the visible information contained in the past performances; it's in these specific terms we refer to Existing Reality.

At this crucial juncture, whence handicapping has ceased yet as opinion develops, prior to the point when the handicapper turns horse player; it can be useful to consider the force of Entelechy.  Simply stated, there will be additional factors at play, which although not visible on the surface of past performance data, may nevertheless prove to exert substantial effect upon the outcome of a race; and should therefore be part of a handicapper's view of Existing Reality.

Entelechy is the force that transforms Existing Reality into Potential Existence.  A natural life force, present in continuum throughout the lifetime of every living organism in the universe.  From the cellular level, where science has proven that living cells will actually move towards other beneficial cells and move away from toxic cells, to more complex life forms, plants, trees, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects, animals - to include thoroughbred race horses and humans; we are all here to seek our Potential Existence, and in fact, whether consciously or not are actively engaged in doing so, during every moment of every day, for as long as we remain living.

By natural process, all living things seek to fulfill their optimum Potential Existence.  Entelechy is the force that morphs a seed into a sproutling, into a plant, into a tree; and the same force that should a plant have the misfortune of growing in a shady place, will cause it to grow branches extending outward in search of life giving sunlight, that it may fulfill its Potential Existence of becoming a tree no matter what.

Entelechy causes the birds to fly south for the winter and the whales to migrate oceans, it's the reason why humans learned to manipulate fire; and the same reason why you will never see a horse walk over and stick its hoof into an open flame.  It would not be an optimal Potential Existence, therefore a horse will not naturally seek to place its hoof into a fire.

The force which makes a purebred American Pit Bull Terrier invincible by a dog of any other breed, game to fight if necessary to death when faced by an equally game opponent of the same breed, make no mistake; is the same force that makes a thoroughbred race horse run faster than all the others.

For in those brief moments of their respective lives, when the pit bull is fighting against an equally game opponent, and when the thoroughbred runs head and head down the stretch competing for superiority against an equally matched adversary; it's the reason why they came to this earth and they are in the very act of fulfilling their Potential Existence.  Entelechia Prima.  We all seek Potential Existence.



The Potential Existence of a Thoroughbred Race Horse

Thoroughbred Horse Racing at the Great Race Place Santa Anita Park
Potential Existence

For this discussion the handicapper's view of a race horse shall be referred to as Existing Reality, and Potential Existence shall refer to the question of whether or not the horse will fulfill its potential of winning.

In specific handicapping terms, we attempt to measure Potential Existence as a degree of improvement or regression to be expected in the performance of a race horse, either above or below that which is reflected or visible in past performances.

Explained another way, every day handicappers consider and eliminate horses based on the visible information contained in past performance data; all too often they eliminate solid contenders at overlaid odds and the story repeats itself at thoroughbred racetracks throughout America.

Race horses with positive Potential Existence ratings might include second time starters, Maiden Special Weight dropping to Maiden Claiming, a bred for turf maiden touching the stuff for the first time, a three year old with an improving Beyer pattern, a four year old coming back from a layoff of one year or more, a sprinter stretching to a route with strong pace ratings, a horse that has won six out of six times down the hill at Santa Anita, a Grade 1 horse in peak form owning solid Beyers earned at the Grade 1 level; apparently, due to the many variations present in thoroughbred horse racing, depending upon the day, this list could be infinite.

Horses with negative Potential Existence ratings may include, a horse which obviously can't win at the level and needs a drop such as a $20,000 Maiden Claimer on its 11th attempt, a Maiden Special Weight horse with more than eight attempts or an N1X Allowance horse after six or seven tries; a race horse five years or older entered in a Claiming race while returning from a layoff of six months or longer, a Claiming horse entered at the $50,000 level or higher which has never won a race above the $32,000 dollar level, a horse at clear disadvantage in Speed or Pace, a race horse in declining form; again, the varied conditions of thoroughbred horse racing will make this exercise a never ending one.

Whether positive or negative entelechy is always present and circumstances will be the key.. The Maiden Special Weight horse dropping into a Maiden Claiming race after dueling for the lead, tiring in the stretch and finishing fourth up close - comment: "edged 3rd"; is much a different wagering proposition than a six year old allowance runner showing up in a claiming race off a 16-month layoff.



Entelechy and the Conditioner of a Thoroughbred Race Horse

Something's Different Today

Since the trainer of a thoroughbred race horse is an elemental component of its future development, the trainer's actions will be tied directly to the Potential Existence of a race horse by the law of cause and effect.

In the process of preparing a race horse for competition and placing it where it can win or be competitive, trainers will often maneuver horses for strategic reasons according to short and long term objectives; thus by observing closely the actions of a trainer, the astute handicapper can gain insight to a horse's Potential Existence today.

Look for signs, possible indicators of an elevated or diminished Potential Existence, examine carefully whenever something's different today.  A jump or drop in class, a surface switch, an increase or cut back in distance, an equipment or medication change, a significant weight allowance or any combination thereof.

A change in jockey, better yet, a change back to the last jockey who won on the horse; even better, a leading jockey gets off another horse to ride this one.  Better still, the leading jockey of the meet chooses to ride this horse in favor of some other horse which she or he rode to victory in its last race.

There may be early action on the tote board, the jockey might skip the post parade to warm up a horse before the race; depending upon circumstance, the possible signs will be as many as the vast array thoroughbred horse racing has to offer.



The Up and Coming Three Year Old Thoroughbred Race Horse

Thoroughbred Horse Racing at Santa Anita Park
Improving Three Year Olds

As concerning the Unknown Handicapping Factors which we call Entelechy, specifically, Existing Reality (that which is visible in the past performances), and Potential Existence (the proverbial horse "sittin' on a race" that may not be visible on the face of past performance data); thoroughbred races for three year olds, as well as three year olds and up, present numerous complexities.

These guys walk around all day just oozing Entelechy, with a Potential Existence that increases by virtue of waking up in the morning.

From the ages of two to four years old, a thoroughbred race horse will improve approximately 20-25 points on the Beyer speed scale; often demonstrating continuous improvement throughout its three year old season.

In fact, a healthy and sound three year old race horse, is in a period of rapid physical development, growing stronger and running faster every day; learning the game and gaining valuable experience with each race.  Consequently, when handicapping these races, it's important to consider the natural process of maturity taking its course.

During the first half of the year most three year old race horses will run slower than those ages four and up.

In Allowance races, horsemen will be experimenting, owners will be headstrong, as a result many will be ill placed; such that eventual claiming horses may find themselves facing allowance company.  Therefore, three year old race horses moving up from Claiming to Allowance class, would possess a diminished Potential Existence.

In Claiming races, other than the restricted N2L and N3L events, three year olds will be generally unreliable, claiming prices will be inflated, expectations should be low; the horses with higher Potential Existence will be dropping in after having demonstrated some level of ability at the allowance level.

Later in the year, the three year olds are able to compete against older horses more effectively, as the age disadvantage begins to evaporate.

In Allowance races, trainers will be out to win, the owners more realistic, as a result, horses will be better placed.  The talented, lightly raced horses will catch the eye, as they clear the conditions on their way to stakes level competition.

In Claiming races, barring the aforementioned presence of Allowance droppers, three year olds climbing in class within their own age group will possess the highest Entelechy; but they can be expected to disappoint in the 3 years old and up races, due to a diminished Potential Existence against the older hard knockers.

Also late in the year, three year old Claiming horses may compete in Allowance races and some do win; but their Potential Existence will be in the negative when the talented horses moving through the conditions are present.  The improving Allowance horses will win no matter if the Claiming horses own better speed figures.  Only when the race lacks genuine Allowance contenders, then, Claiming horses with recent wins at higher claiming class levels will own the highest Potential Existence.

Moreover in fall, Potential Existence goes through the roof for the up and coming three year olds which have cleared their basic conditions.  These horses can be considered legitimate stakes contenders when they fulfill the requirements in terms of Class, Speed, Pace and Current Form; of their rivals in stakes races for three years old and up.



A Thoroughbred Race Horse Ready to Fulfill its Potential Existence

Thoroughbred Horse Racing at Santa Anita Park
Lightly Raced Four Year Olds

Any discussion regarding the Unknown Handicapping Factors (Entelechy) and thoroughbred race horses which, for whatever reason may not have their full capability on display within the handicapper's view; must include the lightly raced four year old race horse.

A thoroughbred race horse will reach the peak of its physical development, somewhere around the age of four and a half years old.

When analyzing the past performances of a race horse, handicappers want to know how fast the horse has run, the class of horses it has defeated, the level of pace it can comfortably sustain; and which part of its form cycle the horse is in currently.

In more specific handicapping terms, when examining the past performances of a four year old running in a $32,000 Claimer, with 15 races under its belt; perhaps boasting recent wins at the $40,000 and $50,000 Claiming levels, while having posted a string of consecutive losses at the N1X Allowance level.  Chances are this horse has found its friends.

However, the situation changes when a four year old, having run just three races, shows up in an N1X Allowance race, after winning against straight Maidens on the third attempt last year.

In the case of such a horse, which continues to develop, having yet to express its Potential Existence; careful review of its past performances will merely reveal answers to the fundamental handicapping questions, in terms of its accomplishments as a three year old.

In other cases, observant handicappers will recognize patterns, often when these lightly raced horses achieve a lifetime best Beyer speed figure, they will run back to the figure in the next race; thus displaying the paired Beyer pattern in the past performances.  When this occurs it can be a signal that significant improvement may be forthcoming and Potential Existence for the next race would therefore improve accordingly.

Moreover, since the trainers of mature thoroughbred race horses frequently maneuver them up, down and around the class ladder; entering horses in races which they do not intend to try and win, or in which they cannot win.  Often will be the case, when the lightly raced four year old thoroughbred offers the attractive upside of a horse ready to fulfill its Potential Existence.



The Science of Patience

Thoroughbred Horse Racing at the Great Race Place
Recurring Angles

"La paciencia es una ciencia" (Patience is a science)

Inocente Montes de Oca

Indeed, a common virtue to all winning horse players is the ability to wait for the right opportunities to cash well paid wagers.  Trainers are no different, thoroughbred horse racing is a business in which horsemen are paid a percentage of the purse moneys which their horses earn; but many have been known to garner a healthy sum, cashing a winning wager on a fit, sharp race horse that was ready to win.

Since horses have different strengths and weaknesses, in order to achieve the ultimate goal, that is, to take down 60% of available purse monies; in training and racing thoroughbreds, conditioners employ varied methods and procedures.

Thus an authentic thoroughbred horse race handicapping angle will be closely tied to a trainers methods and more importantly timing.  At times, the past performances of a horse, leading up to a winning effort can reveal the handicapping angle; sometimes a trainer's procedure will be designed to increase the future odds of a fit and sharp race horse.

As referred to in the context of Entelechy (The Unknown Handicapping Factors), or in more specific handicapping terms, Potential Existence as a means of quantifying a thoroughbred horse race handicapping angle.

Whereupon evaluation of the Class, Breeding, Speed, Pace and Current Form of an entry in relation to the surface, distance, impost and level of competition (visible information in the past performances); the angle suggests a specific "unknown" advantage and is therefore quantified as a boost in Win Probability or True Class Today.

Therefore, since most legitimate handicapping angles will be based on knowledge of thoroughbred race horse training methods, as well as on a given conditioner's specific habbits, procedures and record of performance; at times they can be used effectively to reveal fit, sharp, well meant horses which may be displaying poor form or dull running lines in their recent past performances by design.

So engineered, not necessarily to decieve or defraud, but rather, as a matter of the natural unfolding course of the particular training and racing regimen; which the trainer is in the process of implementing, based upon the individual strengths, weaknesses and preferences of the specific race horse in question.

"There is enough natural inconsistency in horse racing without having it forced upon the public by unscrupulous men, yet there is not one-tenth of one per cent, as much crookedness on the turf as it is given credit for.  The less one thinks of crookedness and trickery in racing the more successful will be his handicapping.  Look for defect in your own calculating rather than cheating of others.  Learn to finance your money to advantage.  Know when to put a good bet down and when not to."

Pittsburgh Phil



True Class Today

Thoroughbred Horse Racing at Santa Anita Park

Algorithms assign numerical ratings for the Primary, Secondary and Unknown Handicapping Factors.  A raw probability rating, weighted for the specific race type and conditions, is then calculated from these data and adjusted for the racetrack takeout; thereby producing the contender's adjusted win probability rating and fair odds; since it was calculated in relation to the specific group of horses assembled for this race today, we call the rating "True Class Today".

We attempt to quantify Thoroughbred Class by evaluating each Primary Factor independently (rating), in relationship to all factors (weighting); insofar as they contribute to the horse's Class (estimating). The resulting numerical value attributed to each horse represents our best attempt to estimate its probability of winning, based upon Class, Breeding, Speed, ability to sustain a Pace and Current Form; as influenced by the Secondary and Unknown Handicapping Factors.

Akin to a major league baseball player's batting average, it represents the probability of winning this race today.  Thus, a horse with a "True Class Today" rating of 245 is estimated to have a 24.5% probability of winning today, its raw odds are 3:1 and its Fair Odds will be 4:1 or greater. CU@the$window!


The Realm of Gambling

Thoroughbred Horse Racing at The Great Race Place Santa Anita Park


A whole lot of people got to get up real early and do a whole lot of work so I could place that wager, it's about connecting to those winning energy currents that begin to peak early in the morning on race day and buzz all around us like a whirling dynamo by post time; and that's a dynamic process.

The Law of Large Numbers

Wagering on thoroughbred horse races is a thinking person's game, one in which the players who apply skill with discipline can expect to make a profit.  This is due to one of the principles of probability, referred to as the Law of Large Numbers; which provides that despite extended streaks one way or another, the frequency of events with the same likelihood of occurrence will even out over time, reverting to an expected value with enough trials or instances.

Think of a coin flip, with a 50% probability it could land heads and 50% probability it may be tails.  If one were to flip the coin eight times per day for a year, it's possible that heads might appear eight times in a row some day, in fact, heads might appear eight times in a row for eight days in a row; however, the Law of Large Numbers states that approaching (365 x 8 = 2,920) flips of the coin, the results will tend towards a point of equilibrium (1,460 heads and 1,460 tails).

The principle, exploited by casinos all over the world to generate billions of dollars per year, ensures that in the long run the house always wins; as it guarantees stable long-term results for the averages of random events.  For example, if a game of roulette pays at 35:1 odds, yet there are 37 possible events for players to wager upon; then the house owns an advantage of 2/37, which translates to around 5.40%.

Consequently, even if the casino loses money on a single spin of the wheel, its earnings will move towards a predictable percentage over time with every spin.  The parameters of the game will overcome any winning streak and at the end of the year, the casino can expect to earn no less than 5.40% of its roulette handle in profit.

Similarly, a horse player can employ the Law of Large Numbers to some advantage over time but in order to be successful, the player must be in possession of:

1) Reliable information as to the true win probability of each horse in every race;

2) An effective wagering plan designed to build a bankroll by placing strictly WIN bets;

3) A tangible advantage to capitalize on over the long term;

Then, simply play the legitimate win contender with the highest win probability in every race, bet to WIN, whenever said contender is offered on the tote board at overlaid odds, fair odds, or odds greater than the wager bifurcation point; in the alternative, whenever a contender's odds reach the bifurcation point, pass the race.

The Favorite-Longshot Bias

Betting odds provide biased estimates as to the probability of a horse winning.  In other words, every day at thoroughbred racetracks all over America, longshots are systematically overbet while favorites are consistently underbet.

Known as the favorite-longshot bias, studies have attributed this tendency to bet against the favorite, which is common among public bettors; to either risk lovers or those who are simply incorrectly informed as to the true win probability of a horse.

This well documented empirical fact represents an important deviation because it creates a margin of error between the true probability of a horse winning and the win probability estimated by crowd consensus as reflected by the odds on the tote board.  The consensus of the crowd is to some degree in error when it comes to win probability, and this creates an opportunity for a skilled player to capitalize on that mistake; with methodical play, rigorous discipline and a well thought out plan, utilizing the Law of Large Numbers to create wealth over time in the same manner as casinos.

Data Driven Decision Making

Probability theory is essential to activities involving quantitative analysis of data and complex systems given only partial knowledge of their state, such as in a horse race.

Subjective Probability

The win probability reflected by the odds on the tote board is of a subjective nature, which is to say, the collective decision making process involved in reaching the equilibrium point of public concensus is largeley heuristic (human).  Wherein a great majority of players may utilize some method of data analysis, yet the decision is largely based on a person's estimate or intuition; for instance, a belief that since the favorite has won in the last three races, a longshot must win this race (the gambler's fallacy).

Objective Probability

By contrast, objective probabilities are a more accurate way to determine the probability of a given outcome, the decision making process is based upon recorded observations or a history of collected data.  Accomplished by establishing some prior probability, which is then updated to a posterior probability in the light of new, relevant data; broadly speaking, an objective view that probability can be interpreted as an extension of logic.  An objective probability will examine past data and use mathematical equations involving the data to determine the likelihood of an event.

We refer to the method described herein for wagering on horse races as parimutuel investment for two reasons:

(1) The decision making process is non-hueristic, but rather, based upon an objective probability which is supported by the data.  An algorithmset determines the contender with the highest probability of winning together with its fair odds and wager bifurcation point.  The player either bets to WIN at odds which are greater than the bifurcation point, or else, passes any race in which the odds reach the bifurcation point; the human element is effectively replaced with a random (stochastic) process.

(2) A spin of the wheel is inconsequential.  Allowing the data to decide provides many advantages but most importantly, it removes the speculation, thus carrying the player out of the gambling realm; into a paradigm where objective probability tends toward an expected value or point of equilibrium.  The player is no longer concerned about the outcome of any single race, methodically playing the most probable winner in every race; to attain an expected rate of return, as the probabilities converge to their expected value over time. 


Dynamic Contender Valuation

Thoroughbred Racing at Santa Anita Park

Three minutes to post and you're about to make a play on a legitimate win contender offering 9:2 (nine-to-two) odds, with a quick glance at the board from the betting line, you notice the public has taken interest in your horse; bettors have driven the price all the way down to 3:1 (three-to-one) at the last tick, you step out of the line wondering what to do.  At odds of 9:2 (nine-to-two), $20 to WIN would've paid $110 but at 3:1 (three-to-one) odds, the payout will be $80; a 27% reduction, is the play still worth the risk of a wager?

The Racetrack Takeout

To understand the true value of a wager, horse players must consider that it's possible to win every wager and still end up losing money.  In fact, the data reveals that if a player wagered on the favorite to WIN every race for a year; the player will cash approximately 33% of all wagers and end up with a net loss.  The reason for this is known as the takeout.

Specifically, the funds which the racetrack "takes out" of the betting pools in order to fund the expenses of putting on the races, such as purse moneys, racetrack and facilities maintenance, human resources and the like; although the rate varies among racetracks, usually somewhere around 15% on a basic WIN bet, to as much as 25% for some of the exotic plays.  In this discussion which is primarily for the benefit of new horse racing fans, we refer to the takeout rate for WIN bets.

At Santa Anita Park the takeout rate on a WIN bet is 15.45%, thus the horse player who sets aside $100 to wager and walks into Santa Anita, will be starting the day with a grand total of $84.55, already down 15% by virtue of just walking in the door; and it's the same at every thoroughbred racetrack in the world.

Consider again the hypothetical, a 27% reduction in payout is actually compounded by the fact that if your horse wins, that $20 wager will be paid as if it were a $17 wager; this knowledge underscores the need to obtain value for every dollar wagered but how much value?  Supposing the odds come down to 5:2 (five-to-two) or 2:1 (two-to-one), the expected payout for the same $20 wager falls from $110, to $80, to $70, to $60; What would be a fair amount to accept?  What would be the rock bottom?  Where does the player draw the line?

Fair Odds

The short answer is simple.  Any time a horse player places a wager while accepting less than fair odds in lieu of full dollar-for-dollar value, the player is at disadvantage and will lose money in the long run due to the racetrack takeout.  Fair odds are equal to the raw odds as calculated from a horse's probability of winning, then adjusted by increasing those odds to account for the racetrack takeout. Horse players must receive no less than fair odds on every wager in order to profit at the races over the long term.

Wager Bifurcation Point

The long answer is more complicated.  Since probability tends toward an expected value over time, a single race will be inconsequential when viewed within the context of a block of 1,800 races.  To explain further, a proprietary formula considers the strength of any advantage in WIN probability, to run a series of calculations through multiple itterations; thus building a model that reveals the mathematical point at which probability will no longer be able to reach its expected value within the next 1,800 races.  The wager bifurcation point is the point when the horse player must part company with the play because it will no longer be a profitable wager over the long term.



Totalizator Board

Thoroughbred Racing at the Great Race Place
THE QUESTION: To Bet or Not to Bet

The tote board is a random self organizing system that comes alive as it channels the crowd's energy, armed with knowledge of the Fair Odds (after the racetrack takeout) for each horse in the race; horses offering overlaid odds are readily identified.

Playing overlays is the name of the game and it's a dynamic process, the tote board is alive right up until the start of the race and even while the race is running as the on-line wagers are closed, accounted for and aggregated to the pool.  Thus in order to be as certain as possible about the price of an overlay on the tote board, horse players should place wagers as late as possible, one or two minutes prior to post time.

Due to the late action on the tote board, at times an overlay will be borderline and may not end up as an overlay.  If there's any chance the odds will come down to the point where your WIN ticket will not be a play on overlay, it is best to either abandon the play in favor of another "possible overlay" or pass.

Also keep in mind that a favorite can go beyond the wager bifurccation point in the same way.  Likewise, if there is a chance that a play might go beyond the bifurcation point after you purchase the ticket, then it's better to pass the race; one should not force it and hope for the best, there are too many races.  Strike rate, strike rate, strike rate, when in doubt pass the race; keeping a higher strike rate will maximize long term profit.

New fans, just remember the overlay selection process, always play the overlaid WIN contender with the highest TRUECLASS-TODAY rating; because that will be the one with the highest probability of winning.



Playing Overlays

Step 1:

Horse players tap a button and HANDYTAPP instantly displays the legitimate contenders in any horse race, together with their estimated win probability, fair odds (after the racetrack takeout) and wager bifurcation point.

Step 2:

HANDYTAPP sorts the contenders by Trueclass-Today (Win Probability) and provides a class-par requirement for the race, any horse with a Trueclass-Today rating which is equal to or greater than the class-par; has a right to WIN the race and should thus be viewed as a legitimate WIN contender.

Step 3:

HANDYTAPP draws upon a proprietary hierarchical base of empirical data consisting of more than 70,000 races, dating as far back as the year 2004; to run a series of database queries which produce one of three possible recommendations for the race:


Bet the TOP HORSE to WIN.  Odds must remain greater than the wager bifurcation point at all times.  OR ELSE PASS THE RACE!


TOP HORSE will be vulnerable.  Bet the legitimate WIN contender, with the highest Trueclass-Today (Win Probability) rating; which is being offered on the tote board, at FAIR ODDS or greater.  IF NONE PASS THE RACE!






Step 4:

Quite simply, when the recommendation is "STRONG"...  Handytapp provides the wager bifurcation point, which represents the point when the horse player must part company with the wager; because it will no longer be a profitable wager over the long term.

For example, if HANDYTAPP displays a contender's fair odds as 2:1 (two-to-1) with a wager bifurcation point of 6:5 (six-to-five), then at 7:5 (seven-to-five) it's a play; but as soon as the horse hits 6:5 (six-to-five) on the tote board, the race becomes a PASS.

Though the horse may well go on to win the race at 4:5 (four-to-five) odds, once any contender's odds go beyond the bifurcation point; it is no longer mathematically worth the risk of a wager.

The reason why the race becomes a PASS, a database query over thousands of races has determined that due to the specific race type, conditions and restrictions, the historical performance of the algorithmset and an existing numerical advantage which is very strong; the contender should be classified as STRONG.

As a safeguard for new fans, HANDYTAPP will not automatically recommend to bet against a "STRONG" contender.  However, advanced players can examine the legitimate contenders and identify the play(s) offering the most value in every race.

A word about PASSING races.  Just as no horse player can beat the track takeout by betting only on favorites, no horse player can bet on every race and expect to turn a profit.  HORSE PLAYERS ARE GAMBLERS.  Remember that In general, only 5% of gamblers are capable of winning consistently over the long term.  Thus only you the player, can guarantee profit.

One of the keys is to PASS the races that do not offer sufficient wagering value, as well as, any races where you find yourself throwing darts at a board; in order to maintain a higher strike rate (percentage of wagers you actually cash).  The other key will be rigorous, disciplined, money management, with strictly budgeted WIN bets; designed to build a bank roll, before even thinking about an Exacta, Pick Three or any exotic wagers.

HANDYTAPP will produce a minimum of three (minimum not average - often 4 or more) winners per day on any race card, at any racetrack; this is scientific and well documented.  Moreover, three winners will be a good day, for any horse player who can maintain a 50% strike rate by wagering on no more than three losers in the same day.  Therefore, horse players who wish to go home with extra money in their pocket, will usually PASS at least two races on an eight race card.

A STRONG recommendation is by no means a guarantee, keep in mind that no horse is guaranteed to even show today; so don't go jumping puddles.  Besides, if you want to go around jumping puddles, then you don't need this data.  Handytapp is about using science for the art and beauty of cashing win mutuels on a daily basis and the exhilaration of quietly bringing your $32.00 horse home with a WIN ticket in your shirt pocket.

Step 5:

By contrast when the recommendation is: OVERLAY... Users can readily identify exactly which of the legitimate WIN contenders, are being offered at greater than fair odds on the tote board and of those; the one with the highest TRUECLASS-TODAY (Win Probability) rating will be the play, BET-to-WIN.

Playing overlays is the name of the game and it's a dynamic process, the tote board is alive right up until the start of the race and even while the race is running as the on-line wagers are closed, accounted for and aggregated to the pool.  Thus in order to be as certain as possible about the price of an overlay on the tote board, horse players should place wagers as late as possible, one or two minutes prior to post time.

Due to the late action on the tote board, at times an overlay will be borderline and may not end up as an overlay; in such case, it is best to either abandon the play in favor of another "possible overlay" or pass.  For example, say at five minutes to post, there is a horse with fair odds of 3:1 (three-to-one), offering 6:1 (six-to-one) on the board; it looks like a good overlay, then at three minutes to post the odds come down to 9:2 (nine-to-two), and at two minutes to post down to 7:2 (seven-to-two).  Chances are the horse will show up at 3:1 (three-to-one) or even 5:2 (five-to-two) as the race is running and your WIN ticket will not be a play on overlay after all.

Also keep in mind that due to late action on the tote board, a horse can go beyond the wager bifurcation point in the same way.  If there is a chance that a play might go beyond the bifurcation point after you purchase the ticket, then it's better to pass the race; one should not force it and hope for the best, there are too many races.  Strike rate, strike rate, strike rate, when in doubt pass the race; keeping a good strike rate is crucial for long term profit.

A BET OVERLAY recommendation is exactly that, play an overlay; there's an art to it and it has to do with the way in which the tote board channels the crowd's energy.

New fans, just remember the overlay selection process, always play the overlay with the highest TRUECLASS-TODAY rating; because that will be the one with the highest probability of winning.

HANDYTAPP provides six different factors which more advanced players can utilize, depending upon the level of horse racing knowledge and expertise; to safely eliminate overlaid contenders under the various conditions of racing.  CLASS, FORM, PACE, SPEED, LINEAGE, ENTELECHY (potential).

For example, in a race with multiple overlays, advanced handicappers can always safely eliminate any horse with a negative entelechy (potential), the horse with the lowest speed figure, the horse with the lowest pace rating, the horse with the lowest form; and on turf only, the horse with the lowest lineage.

There will be some overlap but this process will usually produce at least two safe eliminations and a good starting point for advanced handicappers to then, go back and apply their racing knowledge to the task of comparing the remaining contenders in search of some advantage.

In a dirt sprint, the play may be the pace presser with a clever rider in a race full of heat; on the other hand, a turf route might call for a play on the horse with the highest lineage rating because it happens to own the strongest late kick too.  It's all about the player's knowledge, experience and ability.

In other words, HANDYTAPP is the new fan's friend, with procedures designed to help maintain a higher strike rate by passing on unfavorable races, while placing wagers with optimum value in order to beat the racetrack takeout and remain profitable on a daily basis.

And... HANDYTAPP is the advanced player's dream, with unique features such as entelechy and the wager bifurcation point just a fingertap away. 

Handicapping Methodologies

Individual algorithms classify and rate entries based on DRF CLASSIC past performance data, performing calculations in strict adherence to the following methodologies for each handicapping factor:

CLASS: (The old jockey club method of weights and scales)

SPEED: (Beyer)

PACE: (Sartin)

FORM: (Proprietary)

LINEAGE: (Proprietary)


UNKNOWN FACTORS: (Proprietary)

TRUECLASS-TODAY: (Proprietary)

A raw probability rating, weighted for the specific race type and conditions, is calculated from these data and adjusted for the racetrack takeout, producing the contender's adjusted win probability rating and fair odds.  Since it was calculated in relation to the specific group of horses assembled for this race today, we call the rating TrueClass-Today.

Akin to a major league baseball player's batting average, it represents the probability of winning this race today.  Thus, a horse with a "True Class Today" rating of 245 is estimated to have a 24.5% probability of winning today, its raw odds are 3:1 and Fair Odds should be set at 4:1.