One of the hardest things to master in our game is the “art” of keeping one’s balance at the racetrack whether ahead or behind.

Granted, we most often lose this precious balance when behind for the day, but it also occurs when we are ahead.

It’s probably a good idea to define exactly what I mean by “keeping one’s balance” when at your favourite racing emporium. 

On the downside when behind for the day, “losing your balance” takes only two forms. You either begin wagering on races that you had absolutely no intention of playing before you walked into the track, or you increase the amount of your normal wager in hopes of quickly erasing any of the day’s earlier deficits.

On the upside when ahead for the day, “losing your balance” comes about when you get sloppy with your wagering, thinking that Lady Luck has become your new best friend, or you decide to take unwarranted chances with your new found “free” money because you’re ahead. We’re all guilty of this, including yours truly.

Okay, so what is our common problem? Why can’t we win or lose “by the book” and in a businesslike manor? The trouble comes from the fact that society has conditioned us to live in “day tight compartments”. We’ve been trained to believe that if we do the “right” thing every single day, the bigger picture will automatically take care of itself and all will be “hunky-dory” as we travel down our yellow brick road.  Therefore, it follows that if we don’t do everything very correctly every single day, our future is nothing more than a huge question mark.

That simply doesn’t work if you are a horseplayer. Horseplayers have more losing days than winning ones and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying – period!  Keep in mind that even those players picking a phenomenal 40 per cent winners have more losing days than winning ones. 

A losing day should never be seen as ultimate defeat or something that has to be erased before we get home, but rather as a chance to learn what we did wrong (if anything) so as not to repeat the mistake in the future and insure more future winning days instead of losing ones.

There are plenty of winning horseplayers, but the gauge for labeling anyone as a “winner” is not how they do on any given day, but rather how they do for an entire meet or for an entire year. So when put in this larger and longer context, it’s easy to see that having a bad day is actually the “norm” and to be fully expected. There is no need to “get it all back today” if behind after eight or nine races.  Yet like salmon swimming upstream to eventually die, we too often press on losing days and only end up compounding the day’s earlier felony!

Perhaps another reason we over-attempt to recoup before exiting the track on a losing day is that all horseplayers know how excruciatingly long the drive home can be when experiencing a losing day – even if you live only a mile or two from the track! Nobody likes mumbling “I shoulda” 11,236 times before pulling into their driveway.

So in order to avoid this numbing and sometimes painful experience, simply change your thinking!  Accept the fact that you are going to have more losing days than winning ones and put all losing days into their proper context – they are just part of the entire picture.

On the other side of the coin, keeping your balance on the upside or on winning afternoons is sometimes just as difficult as remaining on the tightrope on losing days. There’s no better feeling on earth than exiting the track after having a “big day”. But keep in mind that your “big day” most often came about because you were doing everything right and catching all the “breaks”. Recklessly “pressing” when ahead is the surest way to turn a winning day into a losing one.

I’ll be the “poster child” and tell you what I’m sometimes guilty of and guilty of to this very day. Let’s say I have three bets for the day. I hit my first bet and he pays $6.80. Nothing earth-shattering, but I’m ahead $4.80 and if I keep my size of wager exactly the same for my final two possible wagers, I have to walk out of the track ahead!

No Rockey Scientry here. A winning day is guaranteed at this point and all I have to do is to keep the size of my last two wagers the same as my winning one. Easier said than done for some, to include me. I don’t know about you, but I have a completely different feeling on days when I hit my opening wager vs when I lose my first bet.

When cashing my opener it’s something like “Ahhhhh – I’m going to have a great day”, instead of explaining away an opening losing wager as “No big deal, the day is young”!

That’s my first mistake – even after winning!  I fall back into that establishment trap of “day tight compartments” and having a “great day”, instead of seeing the win as nothing more than another positive outcome that contributes to my overall bottom line.

The day grinds on. My second potential bet proves to “pass muster” in the paddock and pre-race warm-up and it is a “go” at the mutual windows. But instead of betting what I did in the first race, I take my entire winnings and “plunge” with the foolish rationalisation that even if I lose I’m back to even, as I’m only betting the winnings of $4.80 and not the entire return of $6.80 and risking a totally losing situation.

My second wager of the day loses because he’s bumped and shut off at the break. I’m back to “even” for the day with one remaining wager and I’m mad at myself for getting greedy and forgetting one of the very few “immutable laws” of horseracing: “There are a thousand ways to lose a race”! Had I merely bet $2, I’d still be ahead $2.80 with a $2.00 bullet lodged in my gun should I decide to pull the trigger on my 3rd bet for the day. And even if I pull the trigger and lose my 3rd wager of the day, I still walk out a winner!

But no, I had to be a “pig” after winning my first bet thinking Lady Luck would be with me for the entire day!

So here I am going into my 3rd betting possibility of the day dead even and under no real pressure to pull the trigger. I closely scrutinise my selection as I would ahead or behind. I can’t legitimately find a reason not to bet him, as he looks good in the paddock and gets a very solid pre-race warm-up. I bet him! Almost as scripted before the bell, he too loses by a nose after getting steadied and pushed wide to the eight path turning for home.  I think that it’s called “racing luck”.

My potentially winning day has turned into a losing one, and it matters not that negative racing luck was the culprit.

Just like the racing maxim that a “win is a win”, a “loss is a loss” and racing luck is often a deciding factor. Balance! In the game of winning, “balance” (whether ahead or behind) is just as important as speed, pace, trip, trainer/jockey stats, post position, workout patterns, physicality, breeding, trouble notes etc.

You simply can’t win without it!

** Joe Takach’s website is at

By Joe Takach