By Rich Nilsen.
(Reprinted with permission from our friends at A Game of Skill)
Experienced handicappers know that the fine art of handicapping is not a science. It is more than a numbers game because humans and animals are involved. Horses are flesh and blood. They feel good on some days, not so good on others. Jockeys and trainers are humans and they make a variety of wise decisions and equally poor mistakes.
However, all too often, we fall into the trap of looking for the “magical” number or method to produce winners. There is no such thing. Playing the horse with the fastest speed figure last race will not work. Playing a certain post position will not work. Wagering on your favorite jockey will not work.
What works is having a proper procedure for handicapping the races. What I present here is a suggested five-point checklist.
One of the most underrated, yet one of the most relevant factors with horses is the distance of the race. Just like Olympic runners, horses have their own preferred distances. One of the biggest traps that handicappers fall into involves subtle differences in distance, e.g. 5 1/2 furlongs versus 6 furlongs.
Theses “small” changes in distance can be extremely important. The Kentucky Derby (G1) highlights this fact
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