By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
My father was an excellent handicapper. Jack was the “King of Two-Dollar Bettors,” yet he spent most of his off hours developing formulas that he applied to his selection methods.
His money management boiled down to: $2 x the number of races attended = bankroll. If he passed a race, he would buy a beer. (For most of his life you could still buy a beer at the track for two bucks.) This was called, “a beer race.” He almost never ate at the races, but once in a blue moon, he would buy a hot dog.
He had formulas for classifying horses claiming races, allowance races and stakes races, formulas rating recent form and formulas for consistency. Surprisingly, Jack never really embraced the speed figure thing, although late in his life he did incorporate Beyers into his process.
Before speed figures, consistency was a time-honored handicapping factor. Robert Saunders Dowst, one of America’s greatest handicappers, wrote about it constantly, sold many books on the subject and made a considerable amount of money as an author and at the windows.
In today’s speed figure culture, consistency has gone the way of the Golden Toad.
Consistency still has value in handicapping however and in some circumstances it is vitally important.
Our game is based on winning. Most people don’t remember who won last year’s Kentucky Derby, nonetheless the second-place finisher. “Winning is contagious,” it is often said. Losing is contagious too.
In my own handicapping, I eliminate horses who haven’t won in their last 10 starts. Something is amiss with them. Either they are constantly overmatched, entered at the wrong distance or surface or they just can’t run. If they beat me, I lose, but that doesn’t happen enough to worry about it.
We were sitting in my box at Santa Anita one day when Jack told me that he had determined that a horse should have a win, a place and a show every seven starts to pay their way. Later on, when conditioned claiming races came into vogue, I incorporated some of that info in my approach.
In races for non-winners of two races lifetime, I eliminate all the horses with 14 starts or more. In races for non-winners of three races lifetime, I eliminate all the horses with 21 starts or more.
These horses hardly ever win. Lots of times they’ll be favored because they have finished in the money in their latest two or three starts but they are horrible bets. They will get beat by more lightly raced types, who may even have inferior speed figures, but haven’t proven themselves bums.
By the way, Nehro finished second in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.
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