Probability handicapping is simply developing a handicapping insight into the actual probability of a horse winning a race . Race 8 Friday Night at Canterbury.
I often get questions about probability handicapping, and after sharing my view of the Friday night Canterbury card in advance, a couple more came in so I’ll try to explain probability handicapping with an example.
Probability handicapping is simply developing a handicapping insight into the actual probability of a horse winning a race (you can also calculate place, show and exotic probabilities) and then determining what those probabilities dictate as your predicted odds. Then if the final odds at post time exceed your predicted odds by some margin, an overlay exists which may dictate a bet. Probability handicapping of course assumes you have good general handicapping abilities.
To offer an example, I will use race 8 Friday evening at Canterbury. In my overview post and blog, I indicated that it was the best handicapping race of the evening because it was the only race with a full field of 12 horses, all of which had full past performances to evaluate.
My handicapping methods involve many factors which I turn into numerical relationships. Jocks, trainers, their tendencies, layoffs, works, speed, relative class performance, trend, pedigree, race pace, track bias and post position all matter. These elements are also interrelated so for example, race pace might be favorable for a closer who is in a sprint with a bunch of speed balls at some race tracks but the Canterbury early speed bias mitigates the favorable closer effect there.
The chart which comes straight off my spreadsheet, indicates my handicapping view. I adjust for today’s post position, and then illustrate my predicted probability of winning. Those probabilities result in predicted odds (probability of losing divided by the probability of winning). The last 2 columns are simply filled in and illustrate the actual final betting odds and where those horses finished in the race.
Horse number 10, Mr. Shorty was predicted to be my even money favorite at 1 to 1. When I looked back at my handicapping analysis I found I minimized the importance of his recent runs on the turf, finding his dirt performances to be far more effective. This was consistent I found with his pedigree (Bloodstock Research Data) which indicated him to be more effective on the dirt than the turf.
With all of this said, my bet was obvious with Mr. Shorty being a 260% overlay. (Final odds 3.60 to 1 versus my view that he should be 1 to 1). The 2 and the 12 horse were the only other near bets in the race for me and useful in exotics in my view. Mr. Shorty won by two lengths over the 12, paying $9.20 for the win.
Anyway, I hope this sheds a little light on what probability handicapping is all about and answers some basic questions. By establishing some discipline, and only playing overlays with some margin for error, you watch many races without betting however; many times you will find combination exotics that yield substantial overlay returns. For example, the combination of the 10 horse at 3.60 to 1 and the 12 horse at 8.20 to 1 yielded a 32 to 1 payoff for the exacta in this race.
Dave Astar is a race horse owner, stallion owner, breeder, 40 year business executive, and 50 year handicapper.