5 Bad Habits That Make Horse Handicappers Lose Money

By in Horse Racing on
6 Minute Read

Millions of gamblers bet on horse races every year, but only a small percentage of these handicappers are able to make money. Learning how to handicap horse races well enough to turn a long-term profit might be the most challenging thing to do in the gambling world.

If you want to have any chance of being a winning horse gambler, you can’t afford to develop any bad habits. Here’s a list of five terrible habits that horse racing handicappers have that make them lose money. If you have one or more of these bad habits, you need to eliminate them as soon as possible.

1 – Making Betting Decisions Based on Anything But Handicapping

You’re going to notice a theme as you go through this article about good and bad habits as they relate to horse race gambling. The theme is that almost everything is important. The only question is the degree of importance.

Everything starts with using handicapping when you pick the horses to place wagers on. Handicapping is using information that you have or can access in order to evaluate horses to predict the outcome of future races.

This sounds a little bit complicated, and the truth is that it’s not simple. But it’s the only way you have any realistic chance of winning when you gamble on horse racing. Any other way of picking horses is going to lose.

This means that if you pick your horses based on the colors they wear or if they’re in the position of your favorite number or how recently they took a crap, you’re going to lose. You might get lucky a few times, but when you do things like this, you’re just picking horses at random.

When you pick horses at random, you lock in a loss because of the edge the track has in the betting pool. Betting pools have a built-in edge for the track of 15% or higher, which means that overall horse racing gamblers are losing 15% or more on every race.

This is why it’s so difficult to make money betting on horses. The edge is so high that only the best gamblers make money, and they all use handicapping to do it. This means that if you want to be a winning horse race gambler, you must learn how to use handicapping to find the best value before you place a wager.

2 – Focusing Only on Speed

I want to make sure that you don’t get the wrong idea. Speed is the most important statistic when you’re handicapping horse races. The horse with the fastest time in a race is the horse that wins. But speed isn’t the only thing you should focus on when handicapping horse races.

A horse might run fastest on dry turf, but a different horse might run faster when rain has made the track softer. Different horses run differently from different starting gate assignments. Some horses start slow and come on fast at the end. And if they get stuck in a pack, they might not be able to get out.

Other horses start fast and slow as the race nears the finish line. Are these horses going to have enough energy left to outlast a late charging horse? You also need to be careful when horses are running a different length than they did in their previous or most recent races.

Horse race handicapping requires the evaluation of as many relevant facts as you can find. Everything is important. And if you want to win, you have to evaluate speed and a wide range of other information. This information includes the weather, length of track, track surface, jockey, trainer, bloodlines, and length of time between starts, post position, and speed to certain points on the track in previous races.

Focusing on speed alone might get you close to break even, but the odds are that you’re still going to show a small overall loss. When you add the other things to your handicapping, you give yourself a realistic chance to win.

3 – Ignoring the Jockey

Evaluating jockeys is challenging because most tracks have multiple jockeys that are good. You can put any number of decent jockeys on a dominant horse and they’re likely to win. Even a jockey ranking toward the bottom has a chance to win on a truly dominant horse.

But where jockeys play an important role is when a great jockey is able to get a little extra from a good but not great horse. This is where you can make money as a handicapper.

You can also avoid losing money when you can identify a weaker jockey who can’t get anything extra from a decent or average horse.

Jockey evaluation is a tough thing to do, but you need to try to learn how to do it well. Any small edge you can find is going to help you improve your chances of placing a winning bet.

When you evaluate jockeys, you need to consider their career stats. But their recent statistics are more important. How are they fairing over the last month or the last year? Are they improving or regressing?

You can’t afford to ignore jockeys when you handicap horse races, but it’s still not easy to use this information to help you win.

4 – Ignoring Trainer Statistics and History

Horse racing fans see the finished product when they watch a race. What they don’t see is all of the training the horse has been through and the track record of horses in the bloodline. I’m going to cover a little more about bloodlines in the next section, but for now, I’m going to talk about trainers.

You need to learn about the trainers at the track where you make your horse racing wagers. Some trainers are better than others, but they’re somewhat like jockeys.

The best trainers can’t make a bad horse win, and a new or weaker trainer can take a dominant horse and the horse is still going to win.

So, why is it important to know more about trainers?

The top trainers in the industry are in a position where they don’t have to train a horse. This means they can concentrate on finding the horses with the best chance to win and pass on others horses.

On the other hand, a new trainer, or a trainer without a great track record might have to take on any horse they can find. You aren’t going to base all of your handicapping on the trainer, but you can’t afford to ignore the trainers when you’re handicapping horse races either.

5 – Ignoring Bloodline or Using Bloodline Too Much

The bloodline of a horse is a list of the parents, grandparents, etc. Some horses have famous horses in their bloodline, and others don’t have anything exciting in their bloodline.

Does a strong bloodline guarantee a winning horse? Does the lack of a strong bloodline mean a horse can’t be a winning horse? The answer to both of these questions is no. But you still need to look at the bloodlines of the horses you’re handicapping. But you can’t put too much weight on it either.

I understand that this is a little confusing. So, I’m going to share a little bit about how I use bloodlines when I’m handicapping horse races. I handicap everything else before I consider the bloodlines. If two or more horses are close, I might use the bloodlines to make a small adjustment. But I never use them to make a big adjustment.

The truth is that about the only time I consider bloodlines is when I consider betting on maiden races. Maiden races are tough though, so often, I simply don’t place wagers on these races.

I’ve also seen horses that have true championship bloodlines that couldn’t win a race. And I’ve seen horses with no decent bloodline become great race horses. You need to look at the bloodlines, but you can’t afford to count on them too much.


Betting on the horse with your favorite color or just guessing on a winner isn’t going to help you be a winning horse racing gambler. If you’re using any method other than handicapping techniques to pick your horses, you should stop placing bets and go buy a lottery ticket.

Speed is an important quality of horse race handicapping, but it’s not the only factor to consider. Along with other things, you also have to handicap jockeys and trainers. And be careful about how much weight you assign to bloodlines. Too much weight and too little weight are both costly.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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