My father placed my first bet on a horse race for me when I was thirteen or fourteen years old. We were at the old Agua Caliente racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico. This was back before the track burned to the ground; before online betting became the norm. We would make the ninety mile journey from our home in Anaheim because my father liked to wager on the major races presented throughout the country and Caliente offered such wagering. I lost that first bet, but I cashed (well, my mother cashed) my winning ticket on the fifth race, and, even though I lost a couple of dollars that day, I was hooked for life.
I quickly became what I now call a traditional handicapper. I would peruse the Racing Form looking for THE winner, and while my methods for finding that winner changed somewhat over the years, it was still THE winner I was looking for. I would play the occasional Daily Double, maybe a Pick 3 now and then, but multiple-horse exotic bets on one race never satisfied my mental needs. Decades had passed before I found another way to tackle the complexities of horse race wagering.
After mastering my methods, I published the first edition of my book, “The Logical Choice: Tote Board Handicapping Made Easy.” I published the second, improved edition earlier this year. Despite its title, handicapping the tote board is not easy, and not for the average race goer. Not by a long shot (to coin a phrase). To be successful at it, you must not let the stress inherent with long losing streaks take their toll on you. For most, that is not an easy task, and because they are stressed, they often fail to note subtle changes in odds, having zeroed-in on two horses early on which by post time were no longer Value Plays.
When I first started watching the tote board, I was still handicapping races in a traditional fashion. I would then watch the odds on my top three or four picks, and pounce when one of them became a substantial overlay. Years later, I realized that the track odds maker was doing many hours of work for me; that trusting his judgment regarding which horses to watch was equally rewarding.
After all, the track odds maker is a professional at what he does. His goal is to publish an odds line he thinks will mimic what the public bettors will eventually create with their wagering. Hence, the horses with the lowest morning line odds are the horses he thinks will be bet the heaviest by the public. These are the horses I watch while deciding whether or not to make a wager.