By Horse Player NOW’s Joe Kristufek
It’s amazing how many casual horseplayers rely on the opinion of others. Some of them don’t understand the handicapping process. Others don’t want to be bothered with the work that goes into piecing together the puzzle, or they simply trust other people’s picks more than they trust their own.
There is one common denominator among all horseplayers – they like the action.
So exactly whose picks are they using?
Some tear out the racing page of the local newspaper. Others use the Daily Racing Form, a tip sheet and/or the on-track television analyst as a guide. Some go as far as to download and pay for picks.
Night School, the racing industry's national online fan education program, takes a closer look at public handicappers TONIGHT in a lesson titled "Other People's Picks." The 90-minute, interactive program gets under way at 8:30 p.m. ET and features Churchill Downs' paddock handicapper Jill Byrne. The session will be co-hosted by Horse Player NOW's Jeremy Plonk and Caton Bredar—both with a long history of public handicapping assignments over the past two decades.
Set a reminder and join FREE horse racing Night School fan education here.
"Other People's Picks" will be the 37th of 40 Night School sessions during the 2012 season, which runs through mid-November. The lesson plan includes topical videos, downloadable study materials and the chance for fans to interact with the experts during the live Q&A chat.
The panelists will discuss such matters as when to listen to public handicappers, what to listen for, how to apply the information and what behind-the-scenes obstacles public handicappers face in making selections in advance. In addition to the panelist discussion, Plonk, Bredar and I will mull over “Other People’s Picks” in a topical video shot Haskell weekend at Monmouth Park.
So if using OPPs, how do you know who to trust?
Most importantly, make sure that the author actually follows the circuit closely. Some of the people who offer “pay per view” selections are handicapping six tracks a day. How much work do they actually put in handicapping the races, and when do they have time to watch them?
Some pay sites use computers to generate their tip sheets. I have seen some programs that pump out live horses, but computers don’t have eyes. They’re not capable of dissecting replays, or seeing how a horse looks on the track – two of the most critical factors in any true horseplayer’s final evaluation.
Being a public handicapper can be a thankless job. Due to print or upload schedules, your file is usually due in short order, in my case, it’s the night before, but others must submit their selections even sooner. In addition, lots can happen on race day that could alter how a handicapper visualizes an event unfolding.
As the handicapper and racing writer for the Daily Herald in Chicago and the Horse Player NOW BUZZ, I can tell you that I watch every race every day and take my job seriously.
My goal has always been to give the reader food for thought. Personally I would rather pick a 17-1 on top that finished third than the $5.00 winner that could have been had just by looking at the probable favorites listing in the program. By doing so, perhaps I gave the reader a horse to toss into a Trifecta that they wouldn’t have otherwise used.
Following a day at the races, do you tally up how many winners you had, or count how much money you have in your pocket?
There are better ways to evaluate a public handicapper’s performance than simply how many winners they pick on top. Here are some guidelines.
- WPS ROI (Win, Place and Show Return on Investment)
- TP3 % (Top pick in the top three percentage)
- WT3 % (Winners in the top three percentage)
To properly evaluate the skill set of a public handicapper, base their “return on investment” (ROI) on $6 ($2 across the board), not on $2 (to win). The WPS ROI will give you a better idea of how often they select “live” horses on top.
For example, if the public handicapper’s top choice finishes second and pays $8.00 to place and $4.80 to show, their $2 win ROI would be $0.00, but their $6 WPS ROI would be a healthy $12.80. That’s a $6.80 profit on a $2 across the board wager, not to mention the potential of having that horse in a healthy gimmick.
That ties right into TP3 %. You’d obviously like to see a handicapper’s top pick somewhere in the Trifecta as often as possible.
That being said, you also want a handicapper who picks the winner amongst his/her top three selections on a regular basis. If they have a horse picked third that wins and pays $17, there is a better chance that you used that horse in the gimmicks or a multiple race wager than if they had the horse buried. The WT3 % is a good measure of a handicapper’s reliability.
Whether they’re your own or somebody else’s, playing the races is all about having an opinion. If you trust someone else to do your handicapping for you, make sure they’re productive. Not over a day, week, or even a month, but an entire meet.
Are you down with OPP?
Yeah you know me!
Presenting title sponsors for Night School are the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, American Quarter Horse Association, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Inc. and Daily Racing Form.
This week's Night School will be followed by another "After Night School Special," featuring live racing from Mountaineer Park, beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET. The segment will cover the evening's final race in real time with free, live-streaming video and complimentary Daily Racing Form past performances.
This week's study materials, courtesy of Horse Player NOW.
This week's Night School preview video with Joe Kristufek