You'll never win if you're afraid to lose.

So often, the runner-up in a golf or tennis championship will admit that he played NOT TO LOSE. That's a lot different from playing to win.

It's important not to play wildly, but to play under control. However, if you play under too much control, you'll never make the big scores that can mean the difference between a winning and a losing season.

When you have a chance to make a real score, you've got to pull the trigger.

Some players want everything to be perfect. The horse has to have the best speed ratings, a pace advantage, the best trainer, a top jockey. Unfortunately, these horses are generally 4/5 and provide you no edge because everybody else can see exactly what you see.

You're going to have to take a shot with horses that have flaws.

Maybe they threw in a lousy last race, and there's always the chance that that race is a sign that the horse is going downhill and will throw in an even worse race today.

Maybe the trainer is using a jockey he rarely uses, and you'll have to guess if that means anything. Maybe the horse looks as if he might get caught in a speed duel, but he's a 7/1 chance.

Other players have no problems playing longshots, but they bet them in such a way as to minimise their profits when they do happen to be right.

They like a 9/1 shot, but they're afraid of some horses, so they bet the 9/1 shot up and back it in the exacta with four other horses, and then maybe bet the 9/1 shot to place as well.

And when it turns out they ARE right about such a horse, they never make the money they should. They cost themselves a chance at a serious score because they're afraid of losing. And losing is exactly what they'll be doing, anyway.

Some players come to the track with short money and can't afford to lose four bets in a row. If this is you, what are you doing at the track? The place requires money, because you never know if your next horse will win or maybe your next 15 will lose.

And what happens if your next 15 DO lose? Are you going to be afraid to bet that 16th horse? Or are you going to settle for a 6/4 shot to place just to cash something!

You can't worry about losing a bet, or many bets. You have to keep plugging away, and not change your game, if it's a winning one. If it's a losing game, of course, you will need to improve your handicapping and betting.

Fear is a difficult thing to overcome. "In the presence of fear you can feel nothing, but in the absence of fear you can feel everything" covers it well.

You need to be able to feel everything at the track; what's happening on the tote board, whether a bias is developing, how each horse looks in the warm-ups, and much more, and if you're consumed with the fear of losing, your mind will not be clear enough to concentrate on the tasks at hand.

If your only concern is getting the money, what happens if a day, or a week, or a month goes by and you don't get it? Will your fear of losses cripple your handicapping?

Some days you're going to lose. So be it. But if you start worrying about your daily wins and losses, you have a problem.

And it's not just short money that causes fear of losing. Sometimes it's a social problem. We're at the track with friends, and sometimes it seems everyone is winning but us.

The day drags on, and we see an 8/1 shot that has some decent chance. But, heck, he'll probably lose, and we're tired of losing, and that 2/1 shot has better ratings, anyway. So we bet the 2/1 shot and now, when the 8/1 chance wins, we feel even worse.

Betting the horses for serious money is stressful and requires the utmost concentration. Each bet is a separate event.

Whether you're having a good day, or a bad one, shouldn't enter into your handicapping consideration.

Barry Meadow is one of America's most popular and respected racing handicappers. His 20-page monthly newsletter, devoted to all angles on handicapping, is available from his website, along with Barry's string of best-selling books on racing and casino gambling. His website can be found at:

By Barry Meadows