Thoroughbred handicappers have this undying fascination with being right, with picking “the winner,” even if it means losing money by the buckets full. Most bettors cannot help themselves, and the reality is if you try to pick the winner in every race and back that pick with a wager, you will go home a loser more often than not.
Back in the days when I actually visited racetracks to make my wagers, the most common question heard was: “Who do you like?” I am sure the same question was asked hundreds of times yesterday at Del Mar, but a far better question for them to ask would be, “Which horse(s) should I bet?” To quote a Las Vegas professional, “Picking winners doesn’t mean anything.”
Assuming your goal is to make money from your wagering, betting on the horse you think has the best chance of winning a race will most likely not get the job done. Bettors as a whole picked the winner 36.7% of the time in 2010. Not many individual handicappers can beat that percentage playing every race. However, betting favorites with average odds of 6/5 is not going to help you maintain a positive balance in your spreadsheet. You must find horses with a legitimate chance of crossing the finish line first with odds undervalued by the general public.
I know much of the time I repeat my utter disdain for betting favorites, but hopefully some of you are reading these posts and re-thinking your position when it comes to picking winners because making money at this game requires odds that are in your favor, and wagering on the most likely winner without regard to whether you are getting a fair price will result in your losing money over any extended period of time. The biggest advantage you can have is playing against people who do not have a clue that price makes all the difference.