By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
My father was a mathematician. A structural steel engineer by trade, his passion was horseracing. He came up with countless formulas for handicapping, many of which he took to his grave. The most important ones he wrote down or passed on verbally. One of my favorites is 2(W+P+S) =/> # of Starts, just because it looks so cool. It was really his formula to qualify a horse on consistency in his systematic handicapping process – Two times the wins plus the places plus the shows must be equal to or greater than the number of starts.
“Jack” was big on class. To him it was important in life as well as in handicapping. He treated everyone as if they were important to him. He had theories and rules for almost every situation.
“You have to be a good guest,” he would say. “If you go to a dinner party and you are not too keen on the menu, eat it anyway. Never insult your hostess by saying you don’t like lima beans.”
And he hated lima beans.
“If you can’t afford to tip the girl at the counter, you shouldn’t buy the Coke,” he told my brothers and I on one visit to the track.
It was a rule I don’t think any of us ever broke.
When it came to class in Thoroughbreds, Jack followed the money. The earnings box in the past performances was his source of information. Through the years, he developed the idea that total earnings wasn’t relevant, it was the average earnings per race that made the most sense.
Earnings/Starts =/> .14
(Earnings divided by the number of starts must be equal to or greater than 14 percent.)
When Jack was alive, the usual purse earnings for third place was 15%. It is now 12%, so in my own handicapping, I have made the minimum qualification 10%.
I am always on the lookout for ways to view races that don’t involve speed figures. They say opinions are like assholes and the same can be said of speed figures – because everybody has them.
When the public is gravitating to the same horses with gaudy speed figures it is impossible to find value when handicapping with them. Without value in wagering, the horseplayer is doomed to losing.
With his mathematical mind, Jack would do the class calculations in head – nerds like to show their skills too. But a dime store calculator or even a smart phone can supply us mere mortals with a whole card of class ratings in 10 minutes or so, once you get the hang of it.
It’s a good way to warm up to your past performances and sharpen your mind for the task at hand. It will make you look at some horses more seriously than you would if you started with those bolded speed numbers like everybody else does. It’s amazing how many times a horse who has made a lot of money is overlooked in the wagering these days.
Class has been a vital handicapping factor for centuries and nobody knew that better than
the late Kentucky Colonel, Phil T. Chinn, who bred four Kentucky Derby starters. The Colonel was fond of saying, “I keep my horses in the worst company I can find and I keep myself in the best company I can find.”
I wonder if he knew Jack?
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