It is very likely that more than 95% of all
horse handicappers do not make a betting line for themselves. It
is, then, a topic worthy of much study . . .
"crowd" doesnít use or know we definitely need to know and
Many of the best horse handicapping writers have discussed, in depth, the
making of a personal betting line - most notably; the late Dick Mitchell, Mark
Cramer, and Barry Meadow. It can be an
invaluable piece to the final handicapping puzzle - the piece that can lead
to real and steady rewards (profits) for your horse handicapping.
What is a betting line, and how does it relate to the
trackís morning line?
The race trackís Morning Line is one personís
(an employee of the track) opinion of - not how the
horses will run, nor their relative abilities to win the race - rather,
it is how that handicapper believes the crowd will bet the race. He then puts up numbers that he hopes will encourage "more" betting.
even a little time in racing, it becomes obvious how regularly this
person is completely wrong - often to an extent that defies belief! Iíve
seen 12-1 morning line horses go off at 8-5, and Iíve seen 9-5 ml horses go
off at 10 and 12-1!?
What gives? Couple of things going on here;
sometimes this person is simply not that good at what they do, also - the necessity of coming
up with this line for every race 48 hours in advance is extremely tough
to do. And again - the fact often forgotten by handicappers - the
morning line is
a prediction of how the race will be bet - not how the horses will run.
Example: A Bob Baffert three year old last out 50k Maiden Claimer
graduate at a mile and a sixteenth ( yes, even Baffert has a few maiden
claimers) is entered today - 130 days later - at 6f for an 80k claiming
tag. Letís also say that the horse won that maiden claimer with a good
Beyer number and a DRF speed rating of 92 - and also that a top jock is up
today. I can guarantee you that the Morning Line maker will anticipate
the money coming in on this horse and almost certainly make him the Morning
Now, this horse might be thrown up at a 9-5 price.
The problem is (and what any good horse handicapper will know) - heís likely in against a group of hard-knocking, bread-winning, confirmed sprinters
whose competitive spirit has been proved in many a battle against others of
their kind. There might be two or three of these who regularly run 44 and
change half miles (Ca. tracks) en route to 92 and better speed ratings.
Anyway - I hope you get the point - one or two of them might go off at 3, 6
even 10-1. The M.L. is skewed from reality to begin with, yet it will
act as a false "pied piper" to the crowd who will load up on the "name"
horse while more or less ignoring the others who should be much more highly
regarded in the betting.
Those handicappers who have considered these factors
pre-race, and whose horse handicapping is advanced enough that they have also crafted a decent betting line, wonít be swayed
or lured by the "action" on the potentially false favorite.
Their lines will lead them to value betting - and - regardless of the outcome
of this particular race - profits over the long run.
"Value Betting" - itís a common phrase in modern
racing - but what does it really mean?
Most so-called "value players" will call any horse that goes
off a couple of odds ticks over their betting line number an overlay.
Technically it is overlaid to their line - but is it really a value bet?
Letís say your handicapping and created betting line makes a horse 7-5 to win and it goes off at 8-5.
Thatís two ticks over the betting line - 7-5 / 3-2 / 8-5 - but should it be
bet? I donít think so - not to win anyway (maybe in a trifecta, or a
Minimum acceptable odds and/or "odds groupings" should
established that will then keep the astute handicapper off of the low priced overlays . . .
If a good handicapper keeps very accurate long term records - he will almost
surely find that, as a group - and over the long term - these low priced horses
offer very little hope for profits. Sure, a player may smoke
out some legitimate powerhouse favorites that should have no problem
dominating - but he wonít likely get 8-5 on those kind anyway, and
though probably winning a lot of bets on this type - he will yet lose money over time.
Making A Betting Line - how to do it:
At its most basic, making a betting line is simply assigning an
"opinion" to each horse in the field - as to it's chances of winning
The betting line
'purists' carry this much further, and get very precise in the giving or
taking away of a percentage point here or there. But - when a handicapper
assigns a certain horse 10-1 odds and another 11-1 odds - that is less than a
1% difference! My hat is off to any horse handicapping whiz that can divine that
kind of super-refined difference in the probable likelihood of two horses
winning a race!
Then, those same handicappers will demand, say, "two odds higher" in order
for a horse to be considered an overlay. Yes, but - if they
make a horse 5-2 to win the race and demand 7-2 to be considered as an overlay
- that is approximately a 6% difference in percentage (of money bet into the
pool). But if they use
the same rule on a 6-1 horse and demand 8-1 before betting - that is only a 3%
As with many aspects of race handicapping and betting, the
tree is often lost because of the forest! In most cases it is because
there is a forest
of information, and never-ending handicappomg and betting factors that
can make it all (seem) unnecessarily complicated.
But there is a different way of
handicapping and making a betting line - a
faster way - a way that handicaps the handicapper as well as the horses.
Making a decent betting line in the "normal" way is time
intensive. A lot of time can be spent (wasted) even after the initial
line has been made - just trying to shape it into a true 100% line - adjusting
and readjusting some horses up or down to finally get near the 100% final line
(or 115-120% to adjust for track take).
This can be over-kill.
There is an easier way that will attain
equivalent, or even superior results. For the serious horse handicapping
expert who keeps
good records, it doesnít take long to accumulate statistics for say - 500-1000 races. If you have that kind of data, an "averaged
line" can be made.
What is an "averaged" betting line?
Find out: How often has your top ranked horse won over say
races (the more races in your data base - the more accurate a reflection of
reality it will be - and the better your line), and at what odds.
Then find what its ROI was at each odds - or odds
You will likely find that horses under a certain odds level
are not profitable over the long run. You need to know where the
break-even odds level is: Say that over your 500 race history all 3-2 and 8-5
shots were a break-even situation - and that odds under that were a losing
situation. Now you know that youíll need at least 9-5 on anything
before it could be considered for a bet (Iím not talking value yet - just
whether or not the horse should be considered for a bet at all or not).
If you find that profit starts to show at say 5-2, then that becomes the
minimum acceptable odds for win betting your top choice - even if you think heís
got a 40% chance (3-2) to pull it off - you should hold out for 5-2 as minimum
This odds level - whatever you discover that it
is from your own horse handicapping and betting records - becomes the "automatic
You carry the research on through for each
odds break; 3-1, 7-2, 4-1, 9-2, 5-1 etc. until it shows a definite tail off
Letís say that at 12-1 it shows a 13% profit
over the data - than at 13-1 it drops to 3% and at 14-1 its at a negative
2%. You have now found your high cut-off at 12-1 (or 13-1 if you want
to accept 3%)
Youíve just handicapped yourself - and turned
that into an "automatic" betting line.
You should then
always bet your top ranked horse at any odds from 5-2 to 12-1. No need
to make a line for every race!
Do the same research for your 2nd ranked contenders and 3rd ranked - up
to 5th ranked - for all races in your personal store of betting record
data. If you are a good, and consistent horse handicapper, you will find
that the odds groupings for each rank move up the scale. That is,
for your second ranked horses it may come out that the lowest odds that showed
profit was 4-1, but then they showed profit at up to a bit higher levels than
your top choice - maybe 15-1.
each handicapper will have his own unique
parameters. If you bet only within those parameters, you will automatically be
betting for "value."
No matter how you see a particular race - the odds you see
flashing on the tote - or the subtle and relative distinctions
between each runner - if you only bet the odds groupings youíve established
as profitable for you personally - then youíre betting for value.
This can be refined even further to include race types: Maiden,
Maiden Claimers, Stakes - etc. Also, the number in the field should be
taken into account, the odds groupings will be different for 12 horse fields
than for 6 horse fields!
I think handicappers who use all those complex manipulations and betting
line subtleties are missing the point.
The real truth of racing is that as soon as you think youíve got
things figured out in a particular horse race - the racing gods will slap you
in the face - time after time.
On the other hand, if you bring what I call "Factor X" into
play - that is, finding out and handicapping your own long term odds profit
parameters - then you become a real value
You will be one of the rare few
horse handicapping pros who has a unique,
and completely personalized approach to making consistent profits handicapping
and betting the races.