Exclusive book extract

Prentice Mannetter is a well known US handicapping expert. His book The Golden Path To Profits (extracts of which are published here in PPM) has been a best-seller for a long time for Dave Powers' RPM Information Systems.

You only get from horse racing what you're willing to give to horse-racing, and what you believe you will get out of it.

There's a quote from a book that I've modified to use in my daily life: "You only get out of life what you're willing to risk giving." You have to give of yourself to receive in return.

There are four steps that will help lay the foundation of your success. Two of them are as follows:

The first step in becoming successful is to ask yourself why you go to the races. Most people don't do this and therefore waste a lot of time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

Are you there to make money or just to have a good time? The answer to this question will determine your level of success and your approach. If you're there for the entertainment, you'll want to play a good number of races but if you're there to make money, you'll have to pick your spots and be patient.

Your goals and approach as a recreational player will be different than the goals and time commitment of a  professional.

The next step is to research methods of handicapping to find one that suits your personality and your betting needs. Do you like numbers? If so, concentrate on speed and pace handicapping.

If you like people and animals, you can, for example, concentrate on trainer specialities, and jockey-trainer combinations with a particular horse. Find a method that is in tune with your interests and abilities. If you don't like or understand numbers, your chances of succeeding with them will be small.

You also have to determine how much time you can spend on handicapping races. If you're using speed ratings or stats on trainer specialities, do you have the time to create them, or will you buy them from someone else?

If you do it yourself, you have control over the numbers and truly understand how they were made and the nuances behind them, which can give you an edge.

Once you have chosen your approach, do an extensive study of the past performances to see where and when your method works. This will help shorten your learning curve greatly. It will also dispel some of the old,  commonly-held myths about handicapping which may be costing you money.

The best rule anybody can learn about betting is to do nothing unless there is something to do. That is: Don't bet unless you have an edge. In other words, only bet when you have an edge.

Repeating that last sentence is not a mistake. It's like the three rules of opening a business. Location, location, location!

It's the simplest concept but one that people continue to ignore. You must have a strong edge and value in your bets.

Set goals. How will you define when you're successful? A recreational bettor's goals should be different from a professional bettor's. It may be as simple as trying to win enough to pay for a couple of beers and enjoying oneself. A professional may have a goal of playing three or four races a day, winning 25 per cent of playable races (60 per cent by betting two horses per race) and a return on investment of 20 per cent.

Define your goals and plan a way of attaining them. Fifty per cent winners and 100 per cent return on investment, betting five races a day, is unrealistic. Start with small, attainable goals. As you achieve each one, set the next goal.

The emotional toll of betting can be substantial. On any given day you can lose a significant amount of money. Many people haven't developed the psychological makeup to weather these occurrences. If you personalise those losing moments, you won't be able to make intelligent betting decisions.

Instead of concentrating on the short term, always keep your focus on long-term results, past and present.


When you're betting, concentrate on your total risk for each race. What percentage of bankroll are you risking? Will your bet, as a percentage of bankroll, have a big enough return to substantiate the bet itself?

A common mistake is to think of trainers and jockeys as adversaries. They don't care if you win or lose a bet on them. They're out to make a living and collect purse money ... they're, not your enemy.

Jockeys put their lives on the line every day. Do you? The horse doesn't care if you bet on it, either. All it wants to do is either run around the track or win the race and get back to the stable for some good grub and a rub down.

Whenever you say "I wish" or "I hope" after placing a bet, you're engaging in destructive behaviour. It takes you away from coming to a logical conclusion and puts the emphasis on gambling luck. While luck can certainly affect you in the short term, it won't change your long-term results.

Be patient enough to wait for clearly defined betting opportunities. The less money you have, the more patient you should be.

When something is obvious to everyone else, don't bet. The value is gone. Stay as emotionally detached as  possible from the inherent value of your money. Instead of looking at the dollar amount, look at your bankroll as a way of keeping score.

If you lose all your points, you can't play any more. This will allow you to make better decisions.

If you turn "cold" after a nice hot streak, take a break. Let your mind rest and come back fresh.

Whenever you're starting a new selection or betting method, start by betting in small amounts. When you're first learning something new you'll make a lot of mistakes and poor decisions; you don't want to risk a lot of your capital during this period.

Make as many mistakes as possible in this initial process. Write them all down along with your monetary losses . . . and learn from them. "Ibis is the time to be at your worst, when you're betting $2 or $10.

You don't want to make mistakes or repeat them when you are betting $200 or more on a race.

And remember: the most profitable bets are inherently the hardest, psychologically, to make.

By Prentice Mannetter