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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
See you at the cashier’s window!
How to Bet on Horses
Read our Race Betting Guide to get insight on all of the types of wagering options in horse racing. Dig deeper below to get tips on the most popular exotic wagers with winning strategies provided by expert Kenneth Strong.
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