John Turnbull, in 1805, wrote, “Things are known only by comparison. New comparisons, things brought together under new relations, afford new or additional knowledge.” I do not think he had horse racing in mind when he wrote those words as he was referring to newly discovered lands after spending many months at sea, but his words, nonetheless, express the principle behind finding profitable wagers when betting on horse races. More than segregating the inherent abilities or degrees of achievement among horses in a race, it is the comparing of value and odds that truly contributes to successful handicapping endeavors.
Typically, the betting public as a whole is quite skillful when it comes to establishing odds that correctly demonstrate the interconnection that exists among horses in a race. It is essential, however, to acknowledge that certain handicapping situations do not receive appropriate assessments by the public, resulting from confusion and/or laziness.
The public is often confused by form factors that appear similar to one another and, as a result, they downplay meaningful form differences while at the same time accepting readily, and therefore overvalued, prevailing and easily determined facts. This herd mentality results in some horses being overbet because their ostensible form factors are readily observed and appear, on the surface, to overshadow the less prominent or more prosaic form of the competition while discrediting ambiguous handicapping factors that may be rather indiscernible.
Such situations, if uncovered by an astute observer, offer the best hope one has of winning enough money over a period of time to show a profit and thus avoid pouring money down a rabbit hole as is the case with individuals who cannot see beyond the obvious. Being right 36.7% of the time and losing $1.60 per wager does not seem to me a logical way to play the races. Being correct 15% of the time and winning a minimum of forty cents per wager does.