Modern day handicappers have replaced traditional handicapping methods with complex mathematical formulas that assign a speed figure to a horse, a pace figure to a race, track bias numbers to racetracks, etc. Computer programs are capable of making these calculations within seconds. However I have seen two things occur since such programs entered the realm of handicapping.
The general public has become better at picking winners of races. There was a time when favorites won roughly 31% of the time. In 2002, favorites won 34.8% of all races and eight years later, in 2010, favorites won an incredible 36.7% of the time. Unfortunately, this increase in proficiency has a negative side attached to it. The average payout for winning favorites was $4.40 in 2010, a decidedly losing proposition.
Clearly, based on the number of times favorites win, the favorite must be considered in every race, however, not as a potential bet, but as an indication of whether one should bet the race or pass the event. For instance, when you find a race in which the two horses with the lowest odds are both going to post at less that 2/1, rather than attempt to ferret out which of the two to wager on, I suggest you pass the race instead.
The key to profits from wagering on horse races comes from betting on horses with higher odds; hence a discerning bettor is not looking for the best horse in the race, but instead is looking for the best wagering opportunity, and they are quite often not the same entity. It took me many years of following the ponies before I learned that lesson. Today, I will seldom wager on a horse at odds of less than 8/1 as the horses enter the starting gate. To accept less is typically a waste of my time and money.