As many of my followers know (and by “followers” I mean those that regularly read my columnsand/or listen to my podcast— don’t want folks to think I’m building a compound), I have been on a quest to prove that one can make decent money at the racetrack ($20K or more) on a small stake ($500 or less) — without relying on rebates — for some time now.
Recently, after a period of reasonable success but infuriating losing streaks, I decided to shelve my more speculative and less consistent angles/methods in favor of higher-percentage techniques. I wrote about this approach in “Thinking Small.”

After the Breeders’ Cup, I began concentrating on two things:

1) Win bets on overlays (horses with Win Factor Report fair odds less than their actual odds).

2) Exacta bets keying my top Win Factor contender with the next three Report contenders (in specific races at specific prices).

So far, this has worked like a charm. I’ve been more consistent for a longer period of time than at any point in my handicapping life, save when I used to spend hours analyzing races manually (prior to the advent of simulcast wagering and the development of my computerized programs).

Since Nov. 7, when I this experiment began, until yesterday (Nov. 28), I have accumulated a 26 percent overall ROI, with a 30 percent ROI on win bets and a five percent ROI on exacta bets. During this time, my bankroll has nearly doubled and I have even played a smattering of standardbred events with equal success.

(Click on image to enlarge)
(Click on image to enlarge)
(Click on image to enlarge) 

Of course, while I’m encouraged by the early returns, there’s still a lot of time and challenges ahead of me. However, if — excuse me, when — I succeed, I want to write about the experience (I’m documenting everything I do) to help other players, because I think the psychology behind successful investing/gambling is nearly as important as one’s handicapping acumen.

It will probably come as no great shock to anyone that I have made far fewer bad bets or silly mistakes this time ‘round (in the past, I’ve shown a talent for betting the wrong numbers or getting shut out). Keeping my bets simple is clearly part of the reason for this — and it is why I believe that players need to understand their own psyches to succeed as gamblers.
In many ways, I’m a stereotype of my German ancestry when it comes to wagering — I need structure, consistency and discipline to succeed. When any of those three elements is missing, I struggle and can, seemingly without effort (another talent), turn a good handicapping effort into a financial disaster.

So, before you attack the windows today (preferably, not literally), ask yourself: What is it that I’m good at? What is it that I’m poor at? And, most importantly, what is/are the trigger(s) that lead to poor money management when I’m betting on the races?

Answer those questions and you might just make some money — or at least not lose as much.

The Perfect Negative Show Pool Bet

I’ve often opined that the best bet in racing is a show bet on a horse other than the favorite in races featuring a negative show pool — particularly at tracks that use net pool pricing.
Now, I like these bets in almost all instances; however, the very best betting situations occur when the race favorite is weak or vulnerable. And, generally speaking, the most vulnerable favorites are confirmed frontrunners… like the one that I spotted on Nov. 26:

(Click on image to enlarge)
(Click on image to enlarge)
That day, in the fifth race at Parx Racing, D’Tiger controlled $22,543 of the $26,523 (85 percent) bet to show. Yet the New York import had a fatal weakness: not only had he not won from off the pace, but he had also been recording some pretty mediocre early speed rations (my own measurement of early energy disbursement).

Given the presence of Notre Grande in the field, I thought there was a pretty good chance that D’Tiger would have to rally from off the pace or, at the very least, go a lot faster early — and I sure as heck didn’t think he was 2/5 (his post-time odds) to do that successfully.
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Moreover, I felt that if Norte Grande produced an ESR of 10 or less (“brisk” to “demanding” on my scale) — something he had done in three of his eight prior races — D’Tiger might lose heart altogether and finish out of the money.

As  it turned out, I was right and lucky. Norte Grande did, in fact, post a sub-minus10 ESR and D’Tiger made his plight worse by stumbling at the start.
(Click on image to enlarge)

I collected $20.20 to show on Norte Grande and another $9.20 to show on Grande Prelude, who I thought was a safe show bet whether D’Tiger ran his race or not.

These situations occur a lot more often than one might think, so it pays to keep one’s eyes peeled. Again, I think it is the best bet in racing. One can still cash in instances where the big favorite finishes in the money, and when the big favorite runs up the track… well, you get show payoffs like the ones above.