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Betting Horses For Profit

Using Trainer Patterns, Jockey-Trainer Combos, Win Percentages and Mental Discipline to Gain an Edge on the Horseracing Crowd
by Kenneth Strong

Betting horses is obviously a lot more enjoyable if you are winning - which really isn't that difficult if you remember two things. One, you're playing against fellow bettors, not the House, and two, racing percentages don't lie.

Because you are playing against fellow bettors, any self discipline you can muster up will give you an immediate edge on the crowd. Using that edge along with percentages that are really not difficult to understand, will give you an edge on 90 percent of the bettors you meet at the racetrack.

Losing a couple of close photo finishes in a row can wreak havoc on the average bettor's mind, scrambling their brains and sending them off on long shot hunting tangents that result in even bigger losing streaks, crazy low percentage multiple-box bets and bridge-jumping plunges that result in more money for you if  you can keep your cool. It might be boring but it works.

The techniques described below assume you have absolutely no handicapping skills at all. If you're an average handicapper who knows the difference between a playable and an unplayable race (too many unknown factors); you should be able to benefit even further from these simple strategies.

First let's look at some North American horse racing percentages you can take to the bank. These percentages can vary slightly for short time periods, but year-in and year-out they remain constant.

Public betting favorites win approximately 33 percent of all races and finish second 53 percent of the time. Second choices win approximately 21 percent of all races and finish second 42 percent of the time. So the top two choices win 54 percent of the races and finish second 74 percent of the time. You might even want to consider the fact that third choices win approximately 14 percent of all races run over the course of a year.

Additional percentage facts to consider are that public favorites in 6-horse fields win approximately 40 percent of the time at an average win price of just over even money, while public favorites in 12-horse fields win approximately 27 percent of their races at an average win price of almost 2-1. Basically, public favorites in larger fields win a lower percentage of the time but pay better.

The key to winning with the above percentages is being able to determine which of the top three choices actually has a real chance to win and which the public is making a mistake on. Again, assuming you have no handicapping skills, but have the ability to understand the basics of the Daily Racing Form, you can use a few additional percentages to slant the odds in your favor.

The best percentages available in the Daily Racing Form are the jockey and trainer statistics, trainer pattern statistics and jockey-trainer combo statistics. Jockey statistics and win percentages for the current race meeting and for the current year are found beside the jockey's name, which appears on the left side of the Past Performances on top of the racing lines. Trainer statistics and win percentages for the current meeting and current year appear beside the trainer's name, which appear at the center-top of the Past Performances on top of the racing lines.

Jockeys who win at a clip of less than 10 percent are poor investments. Those that win at a clip of 10-15 percent are a little better. Jockeys who win at a clip of 15-20 percent are worth a second look, but jockeys who win at a clip of 20 percent or better can be like money in the bank in the right situation. Jockeys who win a high percentage of the races they ride in not only have their choice of the best mounts, they also generally have skill sets that are much better than their fellow riders.

The difference between a 12 percent jockey and a 24 percent jockey are not always easy to see for the average punter, but the percentages don't lie. A 12 percent jockey usually receives less talented mounts, but there is more to it than that. Occasionally these low percentage jockeys will get the best mounts, but they almost always find a way to screw things up. They get into trouble, they can't stop a horse from lugging in, they get left in the gate, too many little things to mention suffice it to say they have less talent and make too many mistakes on a regular basis to make them worthwhile investments over the course of the year. Can they win? Sure, but not often enough to make them part of a profitable strategy.

You'll often find that the top percentage jockeys are on at least one of the top three public choices in a race and sometimes on all three. While a top percentage jockey often has a chance to win regardless of the odds, the horses you want to watch for them on are those among the top three public choices. You can then look at the trainer percentages and the jockey-trainer combo percentages to see if these numbers improve the odds even further in your favor.

If you see a 24 percent jockey riding one of the top three choices for a 15 percent trainer the horse probably has a decent chance, but what you're really looking for is one of these top jockeys on a horse trained by someone with a 20 percent clip or better. These trainers win at a 20 percent clip for numerous reasons brains, talent, the ability to attract the best jockeys, medication and numerous other factors but they win consistently more races then their competition.

Partnered with a top jockey and a top-three betting choice, high percentage trainers can win at an even better rate. In contrast, a horse trained by a trainer with a 4 percent win clip would have to be considered a poor betting proposition no matter who the jockey is or what the odds are.

The next statistic to look at is the jockey-trainer combo percentage. Found in the Past Performances on the bottom right under the racing lines, this statistic tells you how many times over the course of the year and at the current meeting, that this jockey and trainer have hooked up, and what their win percentage is when working together.

The top trainer-jockey combos have excellent percentages and almost always indicate the trainer is trying their best to win. If the jockey-trainer combo win percentage is good, the third element of the percentage puzzle is complete.

The final statistics you want to look at are the basic trainer patterns found on the lower left bottom of the Past Performances underneath the racing lines. These trainer patterns are based on the horse's current situation in this race and show percentages such as dirt to turf switches, 61-90 days off a layoff, route to sprint, etc. While only basic (you can buy much more detailed trainer pattern statistics), they still provide valuable insights into a trainer's strengths and weaknesses, and a high percentage trainer pattern again increases the odds of winning in your favor.

So find the top three public choices on the tote board (preferably the top two) then look at the percentages. If the percentages are good all around, bet the horse to win and place. Bet twice as much to place as to win, just in case a long shot happens to beat the percentages and win which will usually result in a good enough place pay off to make you a profit.

If the percentages aren't solid all around, don't bet this is where the discipline to wait comes into play. Everyone wants action at the racetrack, and it can be difficult to resist a 5/2 horse with a great form and a top trainer ridden by an 18 percent jockey. But you have to wait for the perfect opportunity if you want to win long term.

If you happen to be a competent handicapper who can determine a playable race from an unplayable race (too many unknowns), and who can use class, speed, suitability to distance and surface, current form and other handicapping factors, to better identify false favorites and overlaid contenders, you can increase your profits substantially using percentages.

In summary, there are two things you absolutely must do if you want to make a profit betting horses apply the proven percentages and have the discipline to wait for the right horse in the right race.

See you at the cashier's window!

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