In a recent issue of PPM I wrote of the trap of becoming over-confident in your greyhound handicapping skills.

Feeling too firmly that your race alignment can be expected to routinely predict the race outcome is a very costly mistake.

As I mentioned in the previous article, TEN “expert” handicappers could be asked to analyse a given race. (It’s been done!) Chances are, they would pretty much agree on the logical order of probability of finish. Presuming then, that much more brain power has been applied than one person could bring to bear, it would seem that we should be able to structure a fairly “narrow” wager on their prediction with a good chance of cashing that ticket.

However, it is a fact of life that there would be the probability that these “experts” would only have picked the winner in about three out of 10 such races. (Slightly more in certain grades, perhaps, but even less in other grades and courses.)

Furthermore, the sixth, seventh or even eighth choice of these experienced handicappers would be in the TRIFECTA an embarrassing percentage of the time – sometimes even WINNING!

That’s the nature of dog handicapping! It is even less predictable than speculating on the stock market! After 29 years of study one would think that I could be expected to have the process fairly well perfected. Perhaps I have, if a 33 per cent rate of winner selection could be said to be “perfect”! In other words, if we are to generate any profit at all, we have to be content with the achievable “reliability factor” of handicapping, and learn how to manage with that. That much I have learned.

The “trick” clearly is this: Spend a reasonable amount of time in handicapping a race. Continue to keep your handicapping system fresh, but recognise that you are NOT going to get it perfect. That’s the nature of dog racing! THEN, measure where your handicapping works the best, and the worst, and see if a profitable structure of wagering can be developed in some of the instances.

There are three good reasons for learning how to measure your handicapping skills. These are:

  1. To learn if your skills work better or worse in some grades, on some courses, at some tracks.
  2. To track your handicapping, to see if it is improving or deteriorating.
  3. To better learn how to structure your wagers (and to be able to “know when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em!”).

And, if you wish to compare your handicapping skills with someone else, you need a method of measurement.

There are basically three methods of “measuring” handicapping skills:

  1. The number or percentage of winners selected.
  2. The profit, or R.O.I. produced.
  3. The use of a mathematical approach.

Here, I intend to propose that method #3 is far and away the best. Should we rely instead on #1, the number of winners produced, we will miss the importance of how well we do on selecting the 2nd, 3rd and 4th positions, as is so critical in the structuring of profitable TRIFECTA and/or SUPERFECTA wagers.

The measuring of success in terms of profit produced would seem to be a quite pertinent method, but this is too reliant on pool sizes, the wagering habits of your fellow fans, and the “take out” of the various tracks and books. Often, when a “Handicapping Contest” is announced, it is based on starting with a given number of dollars and determining which contestant can turn that amount into the largest amount of money. While this may seem to be the best possible measure of “success”, the period of time of the contest is usually too short to measure true skill, and most often develops into “Who is the luckiest?”

This brings us, then, to the mathematical approach, which, in my opinion, is the best and most useful long-term measurement. Here, we devise a table which awards “points” to good handicapping achievement, and deducts points when our handicapping fails. Thusly, we can award a total number of points to any given race, regardless if a win or loss was produced, without being oriented to only winners.

Following is a typical  table used in the USA where nearly all races consist of eight contestants. (This is based on a program primarily of TRIFECTA wagering.):

To benefit from this approach, (and to stand a real chance of coming out ahead at the track), one must line up all eight of the contestants in the order of “best” to “worst”.

Thus, the handicapper’s results of any race can be stated in terms of how his or her selections fared. For example, if one’s third pick WON, the top pick PLACED, and the sixth pick SHOWED, the results would be recorded as 3-1-6.

Using the chart above, this would produce a total of 10 “points”. (5 points for the third pick winning; 10 points for the top pick placing, for a total of 15, and MINUS 5 points for the sixth pick showing.)

Should one select the first, second, and third place finishers in order, the total would be a perfect +45 points. Should one’s last pick win, the seventh pick place, and the sixth pick show, the result would be a total of -35 points. (“Could never happen!”, you say? Then you don’t know dog racing!)

Using this method, we have a firm lock on just how well we did, or someone else did, or how we are doing in one grade compared to another. For example, over a span of, say, a few dozen of the same type of races, or the same mix of races, I score an average of 16 points, and my buddy scores an average of only 12, we know who is the better handicapper – no argument!

Better yet, if I learn that I score an average of 20 points on one type of race, at a given track, but only an average of 10 points on
another type of race I very clearly begin to see where my best profit opportunity exists!

And, of course, on any given type of race my scores give me a most valuable edge on how best to structure my wagers. Should I be so humbled as to have to document that my fifth and sixth selections are finishing “in the money” more than my first and second I can see that I face a pretty tough challenge indeed!

The ball is in your park. Try this approach! It may well prove to be the most fruitful time you will have spent. Take a guess, first, as to how well you will do. Over a mixture of race types, using this chart, do you think your skills would produce an average of, say, 30 points? (An average of about 25 points might be said to be in about the “middle” of the scale.)

I am sorry to have to tell you that an average score of 18-20 would be wildly successful! On the other hand, you should be able to structure a working wagering approach, considering TRIFECTAS, on an average score of, perhaps, as low as 14-15, believe it or not.

Chances are, for one thing, that you will see quite vividly that one usually needs to reach down “deeper” for TRIFECTA show selections. I’ve often been quoted as having made the statement that “even a three-legged dog can SHOW some of the time”, and that’s not far from the truth!

Back to those 10 “experts”. How well do you think they would average, over a span of several dozen mixed types of races? Would you believe an average of 16? Humbling, Eh?

Of course, you can modify this chart to fit your own scenario. I propose that it can be equally useful for horseracing, as well, though it would need to be modified to consider the changing number of contestants in each race.

2nd3rd4th 5th 6th7th8th
WIN+ 20+ 10+ 5  - 5 -15 - 20
PLACE + 10 + 15 + 5   - 5- 10 -15
SHOW + 5 + 5 + 10  + 5 - 5 - 5 - 10

By William ‘Bad Bill’ McBride