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Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Handicapper's Bill of Rights

Schoolhouse Rock Bill
We the horse players of the United States, in accordance with established gaming laws and the absurd tax penalties imposed upon us by the federal government, do solemnly vow to uphold the integrity of our sport by dropping oodles of cash into betting pools everywhere.

Freedom to segregate based on class
There is much to be learned about people by the company that they keep. The same can be said for horses. Handicappers must be perpetually on the prowl for the four-legged friends making a quick jump up the class ladder. This is often indicative of a trainer’s confidence in their horse’s ability. Horses dropping into lower levels should also be quickly identified. Class drops are granted for a variety of reasons, yet the most effective drop is the one intended to boost a horse’s confidence. Segregating based on class requires precision with your marksman-like eye. Do not let an unassuming prince among paupers sneak past you!

Right to practice recency
What have you done for me lately? No, Janet Jackson, this is not the racing community paying homage to your outdated tune from the Reagan Administration. Horse players must look for positive trends in recent performances. It is all fine and dandy that Ladybird Thief ran second in the Worthless Miracle Stakes back in 2008, but she is eleven years old now and has not finished in the money for over two years. Being able to spot the progression that can lead a horse back into the winner’s circle is essential for any good handicapper.

Right to lawfully indulge in speed
Pundits may allege that the fastest horse doesn’t always win the race, and there may be some truth to this, but rest assured, the slowest horse isn’t getting their photo snapped all too frequently, either. Make no mistake about it, whether your selection runs on the front end or is a dead closer, they will be a force to be reckoned with if they are the fastest animal in the contest.

Right to pace oneself
Aesop’s age-old tale of The Tortoise and the Hare is worth remembering each and every time a handicapper envisions the particular pace scenario in a race. Pace handicapping requires the horse player to look at their selection’s tendencies versus those of their foes. Pinpointing the outsider, such as a front-running horse among closers, or an off the pace type versus substantial front end speed is critical. Get caught napping when it comes to pace and you may wind up as desperately short as the old hare once did.

Freedom to exercise basic instinct

Sorry gentlemen, but Sharon Stone has nothing to do with this “basic instinct.” We have all said it and kicked ourselves in the rear end afterwards. “Something was telling me to use that horse and I still chose not to.” Ignoring a feeling or a hunch can be a costly mistake when a specific horse catches your eye for some unexplainable reason. Exercise the right to be guided by your instinct and the results might be more than just a pleasant surprise. 

A special thank you to Claudia Ruiz, editor at Thoroughbred Today, for providing the forum where this piece had first appeared.

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The author is a horse racing enthusiast determined to offer a unique vision of the sport's most paramount stories.