How to Handicap

Sharp Azteca #6, ridden by Edgar J. Zayas, leads the field into the turn for home to win the Pat Day Mile the on May 7, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Daniel Owen/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)

Sharp Azteca #6, ridden by Edgar J. Zayas, leads the field into the turn for home to win the Pat Day Mile the on May 7, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Daniel Owen/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)

Now that we’ve discussed the types of wagers, let’s discuss the various methods of choosing a horse or a number of horses to wager on, or “play”. The method of choosing horses to play is called “handicapping.” There is no right or wrong way to play horses since no two players handicap the same way. Here are factors to consider when picking your horse(s) for a race:

Form

Form incorporates subjective and objective observations to determine how a horse is expected to perform. Much of this information will be available in the program but some of it is involves looking at the horse in person. Does the horse have the same jockey he did in his previous race? Is he wearing the same equipment? Are the recent Beyer numbers increasing or decreasing?  Does the horse appear to be in good weight with a glossy hair coat? Is he interested in his surroundings, or does he appear dull? Is he ‘dancing on his toes,’ or relaxed?

Percentages

On the program, you will find the percentage of wins to the right of both the jockey and trainer name for the current racing meet for each horse in a particular race. It is important to look at both percentages individually and also as a whole. A trainer and/or jockey with a higher win percentage over others should be looked at closely since the horse is expected to perform well.

Class and Weight

On the program, you will see which class a race is to be run at and the amount of weight each individual horse will be carrying (for information about class, please click HERE). Is the horse moving up or down in class? How well did he perform in the class of his previous races? How much weight is the horse carrying? Is it more or less than his rivals in this race or in his previous races? Note that fillies and mares (females) carry less weight than colts, stallions, and geldings (males), usually by about two to four pounds.

Surfaces

Races in the United States are run on dirt, grass, or synthetic tracks and most horses have a preferred surface, or a surface they tend to perform well on. Note that weather can have a large influence on an individual horse. Many horses do not like running on wet or heavy surfaces while others relish being splashed or running on softer footing.

There are many different types of synthetic surfaces, and they all play differently from each other. Most horses that run on grass are expected to do well on a synthetic surface. More information about each surface can be found HERE.

Distance

Distance is the length of the individual race on the card. First, look at a distance increase or decrease. Perhaps it has remained the same from the horse’s previous race. A quick look at the past performance of the horse can indicate how well a horse is expected to perform. Did he fade in his last start, or did he finish the race strong?

Consistency

Look for consistency throughout the horse’s past performances. Has the equipment remained the same? Were there similar distances and surfaces? Did the horse have the same trainer, owner, and jockey? If the horse has remained consistent, a similar performance can be expected.