This is the final part of US expert Joe Takach’s series on the upside and downside of betting. You can read more of Joe’s ideas at the or websites. We start this final part with the answer to Question 22 posed in the first article in our April issue.

(22) DOWNSIDE: Many handicappers gravitate to last race beaten favourites using the rationale of “there must have been a reason they made him the favourite”. First off, a beaten favourite might have been a false favourite. Secondly, yesterday was yesterday and today’s race has nothing to do with the race where he was a beaten favourite no matter what the reason.

And finally, since so many handicappers see the fact that he was a beaten favourite last out, his odds will most likely be pushed much lower than what they should actually be.

Unless your horse has a past successful history of falling apart when he sees the starting gate and still winning, you had better cancel your wager.

Being calm, cool and collected through the paddock saddling, walking ring, post parade and during nine of the 10 minutes of the pre-race warm-up and then suddenly getting “hot or washy” when nearing the starting gate with a minute to go, is a big time no-no!

The runner is giving a very clear negative signal about this upcoming race.

At best, he’s apprehensive and wasting a ton of energy when unexpectedly getting hot with a minute to loading. At worst, he doesn’t want to run at all.

A caveat is in order. Exhibiting very light kidney sweat with a minute to post is not getting “hot or washy”. Hot or washy is getting wet all over to include neck lather and more often than not, dripping kidney sweat. Some horses get a whisper of kidney sweat when approaching the gate. This is quite normal and actually a good sign. The runner in question is most likely on his toes, can’t wait to be loaded, and win or lose, will most likely explode from the gate to get an excellent early running position.

(24) UPSIDE: Unless you’re a relative newcomer to the best but toughest game on this planet, sticking to your guns is positively all “upside risk”. Assuming that you are a journeyman handicapper with tenure to prove it, you surely know that allowing a morning linemaker or any public selector to influence any of your betting decisions guarantees a sea of red ink at year’s end.

If you are guilty of this when gambling and consider yourself a good handicapper, what you are “silently saying” is that a linemaker or public selector knows more than you do! If you don’t have your own strong opinion in any race that you intend betting regardless of odds, you shouldn’t get involved in the race...period!

(25) DOWNSIDE: If you didn’t answer this one as “downside risk”, call me tonight – I have a mile of beachfront property in Malibu I can let you have for 10 bucks an acre.

Regardless of methodology, good handicapping requires you to be well-rested and alert, positively unhurried and, finally, in a comfortable environment that is free of unwanted noise and distractions. Handicappers taking shortcuts are losers – period!

(26) UPSIDE: Keeping running profiles for both surfaces of any track that you play isn’t an option, it is a necessity.
You have to know what running style is more favourable than another at specific distances when travelling over either surface. Every distance on either surface plays a bit differently. The time and effort you spend setting up and maintaining your running profiles are nothing but “upside” risk!

(27) UPSIDE: I don’t know a single professional who makes his living at the track by betting the slowest horse. There are exceptions to every rule in horseracing with the sole immutable law of “speed unchallenged wins 100 per cent of the time” being the lone “untouchable”.

At times, but very infrequently, a slower horse wins a race due to any number of reasons or combinations of excuses that range from bad racing luck encountered by faster animals, to outside post positions on the turf with the rails out 10m, to quicker animals that are out of shape and not ready to run their best. If in doubt, simply pass the race!

I’m not sure who once said that your first impression is usually the most correct, but that sage “had it right”! I see nothing wrong with rechecking your work – once! I do it all the time no matter how big my wager. But if you have to go over it a 3rd or 4th time, you simply ain’t as sure about this upcoming wager as you might think you are.

(29) DOWNSIDE: About 1/3 of a horse’s red blood cells lie dormant in his spleen. It takes about 800m of light cantering for his spleen to release those red blood cells. Once released into the circulatory system, they add to the existing red blood cells already at work carrying essential oxygen to wherever it is needed for optimum output in the upcoming race.

This is the exact reason why I’ve been harping for 40 years to all that will listen that the pre-race warm-up is simply one of the two most important parts of the “physicality” side of the betting equation. The other physicality part is his overall paddock appearance and deport­ment. When both physicality factors are acceptable and he has the best “backpaper” in his field, there simply isn’t a better bet in the game!

(30) UPSIDE: One of the best bets in our game, if not “the” best, is finding a race where you can isolate the “lone speed” in the past performances regardless of class level. If the isolated “lone speed” further passes muster in both the paddock and pre-race warm-up and is running over a speed-conducive surface, he’ll control the pace from gate to wire. The race is literally over about three jumps out of the gate.

As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, “speed unchallenged wins” is the only immutable law in all of horse racing. And “unchallenged speed” wins over any surface and at any distance.
When winning sprinters are two-turning for the very first time and have valid distance pedigrees, they are nearly impossible to catch, especially when their respective field contains all routers.

(31) UPSIDE: If you answered this question incorrectly, you haven’t been paying attention. Anytime that you can add another “viable dimension” to your personal methodology without altering it a single iota or compromising it, you have to improve your game. The operative words above are “viable dimension”. Anybody can add a half-assed angle to their game such as “taking a double drop in class, sheds 2kg or more, comes back in 14 days or less with two workouts and gets a positive jockey change”.

But anytime that you can add a really positive non-compromising dimension to your personal methodology that costs you nothing and is timeless in its validity, you’d have to be comatose not to.

(32) UPSIDE: The reason he was stiffed at 8-5 was most likely because the odds were too low. What’s more, only those who closely watched the race and clearly saw the “non-ride” or outright “stiff” would know that the horse was not allowed to run freely or was perhaps kept so wide that his ground loss assured defeat.

If the horse came from a known betting stable, today’s generous overlay of 8-1 from a morning line of 5-2 reflects the lack of confidence of the betting public and not necessarily the betting barn. Should this 8-1 shot look solid in the paddock and in the pre-race warm-up, you might soon be cashing a very healthy $18.00 mutuel!

(33) UPSIDE: Nuance handicapping is nothing more than recognising subtle signs emanating from a specific horse’s connections. These “connections” include the trainer, owner, groom, jockey and jockey agent. If you study these five groups of people long enough, you’ll begin to notice certain things that they do and do not do when winning or losing.

While nuance handicapping is most easily and most effectively accomplished on track, even the TV shows offer many chances to view various nuances that can translate into winning wagers or saved bad bets.

You can easily raise your win percentage by up to 5 percentage points by merely paying attention to exactly what the connections are doing in the paddock. In other words, if your current win percentage is 28 per cent, merely master the finer points of “Nuance Handicapping” and you can raise your win percentage to 33 per cent.

Sound impossible? It isn’t, but it encompasses more work on your part as does any other facet of our great game. If you make your own speed and pace figures, that’s work! If you take trip notes, that’s work. If you are a pedigree enthusiast, that’s work! If you incorporate nuances into your game, that too is work!

(34) UPSIDE: One of the very first things to remember, as does every professional handicapper, is that you are going to have many more losing days than winning ones! Handicapping tenure tells us that “days from hell” do occur through no fault of our own. Some days we can’t pick our nose, let alone a winning horse.

But like professional handi­cappers, seasoned weekend warriors accept the fact that some days they just ain’t in their ”zone” regardless of how much time they put into a specific card or a specific race. And when they are out of their ”zone”, they know that they couldn’t cash a ticket betting a “walkover”!

Winning or losing on any given afternoon should have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on your play the following day. So if you got crucified yesterday through no fault of your own, forget it, change nothing, and continue your normal play the very next time that you wager.

(35) UPSIDE: As if you didn’t have enough work to do every day, here’s some more. But before you complain, understand that your time invested couldn’t possibly be spent any better. Why is that you ask?

Because if you keep exacting records of each and every one of your wagers, personal strengths and weaknesses will manifest themselves in no time flat! You’ll quickly see if you are better on the dirt or over the turf, as well as in sprints or in routes. And even within the sprint and route categories, perhaps 1400m and 1600m events are your forte.

The whole point of this essential daily assignment is to allow you to maximise profit, minimising loss.
Walk up to any handicapper and ask them which type of race and over which surface do they cash the most tickets. If they’re like 98 per cent of all handicappers, a puzzled look will quickly overrun their face. If they offer an answer at all, it will come very slowly and sound something like this: “Well, let’s see. I love 1200m sprints and play more of those than any other race, so I guess I’d have to say 1200m sprints”.

And when you get a stammering answer similar to that, rest assured that the questioned party hasn’t a remote clue of his best distance or surface.

(36) UPSIDE: If you are correct in your prejudicial evaluation of a specific jockey, trainer or combination of both, it will save you innumerable ”bad bets”. And as I’ve stated countless times in the past, “saving a bad bet” is the same as cashing on an even money winner.

Suppose a specific horse looks like the “lock of the century” in today’s 8th race, but the horse is to be piloted by a 5 per cent jockey and is going off at 3-1! Do you really think that you are smart enough to pick the one winning horse out of any series of this very marginal jockey’s 20 mounts?

If you said yes to that question, then you are either the greatest handicapper that ever walked the face of this earth or your ego knows no bounds! When it comes to betting hard cash, listen very carefully to your prejudices and follow them. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that you’ll be much better off in the long run and much more financially and mentally solvent.

(37) UPSIDE: To me personally, this is a “no-brainer” if there ever was one. Better races nearly always contain better horses. Better runners are far more consistent than their cheaper counterparts. More consistent horses win more consistently.

Most often, those cheapest races are nothing but guessing games! I don’t know about you, but whenever I “guess”, I usually guess wrong. And should you belong to that same group of bad guessers, simply stop wagering in races where you don’t have a strong opinion that warrants a strong bet. Guessing is for fools...period!

(38) DOWNSIDE: This question is closely akin to the one above. I know of no professional player who makes the bulk of his booty by playing the bottom rung races. While they will occasionally go “slumming” and lightly dabble in these usually unplayable affairs, they know that the odds are stacked against them to a much greater degree when playing a mindless low-class race.

(39) There are actually two correct answers to this last question and read below to see into which category you fall.

DOWNSIDE: If you failed to learn one thing from this test, it was all downside risk on your part. Furthermore, I’d like to know where I can attend your school of “UPSIDE vs. DOWNSIDE RISK”, as you have to be “light years” ahead of me. When it comes to new racing knowledge, I’m like a Nebraskan corn field – I’m all ears!

If you have successfully incorporated as little as one new idea into your overall methodology, your time was well spent.

Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By Joe Takach