“Chalk Talk”

“Chalk Talk”

(Be sure and see Breeders Cup Report offer at bottom of post)

As we have said repeatedly over the years: Handicapping and betting the races can be one of the most complex and difficult endeavors one could imagine – or it can be fairly simple, and not all that difficult.

This is not to try and insinuate that it is an easy way to make a lot of money – it isn’t . . . but – there are only a select few things you need to know, remember and apply in order to handicap and bet the thoroughbreds profitably.

In the following, I’ll discuss a wagering aspect which can be considered primary to  success in this game.

Several decades ago, Doc Sartin impressed upon me something that has stuck with me and served me well over the years:  If you are playing a couple of tracks in a day – almost invariably there will be one or more win payoffs in the $20 to $40 range

Now of course there are those days at certain tracks (mainly the ones that offer up small fields race after race) where the low odds horses march in like clockwork and chalk reigns supreme.  But check the recent payoffs at the tracks you play and verify for yourself that this is still a fact of racing.

As example – the current tracks we issue in the HRG Index are Belmont, Keeneland, sometimes Gulfstream (I’m not keen on the Gulfstream “West” venue) and sometimes Laurel (one of those race-after-race small field tracks). A quick check on those tracks last week – including all races for the 5 days Wednesday through Sunday :

Belmont: Ran on 4 of those days and offered 37 races
Keeneland: Ran all 5 of those days and offered 47 races
Gulfstream: Ran all 5 of those days and offered 45 races
Laurel: ran on 3 of those days and offered 28 races

So there were 157 races in total.

Of those 157 races, favorites and/or horses at odds less than 2/1 won 57 races for a low-payer hit rate of 36.6% – which is right at the national average in recent years

To help illustrate the premise of this post, below are all the win prices in the double digits for each day and track (with the $20+ payers highlighted):

Wed. 10/11 –
Kee: 8 races total . . . $11.20, $23.80, $26.60, $28.80
Gp: 8 races total . . . $16.20, $24.20

Thur. 10/12 –

Kee: 10 races total . . . $12.40, $17.40, $19.60, $66.60
Gp: 8 races total . . . $11.00, $15.20, $16.20, $28.60
Bel: 9 races total . . . $10.20, $25.40, $152

Fri. 10/13 –

Kee: 10 races total . . . $15.80, $18.80, $21.4, $29.00, $34.80
Gp: 8 races total . . . $10.00, $12.00
Bel: 9 races total . . . $10.60, $14.40
Lrl: 8 races total . . . $29.20

Sat 10/14 –

Kee: 10 races total . . . $10.40, $10.60, $11.00, $12.20, $14.00, $15.60, $18.80, $27.00
Gp: 10 races total . . . $19.80, $20.20
Bel: 10 races total . . . $14.60, $15.40, $16.40
Lrl: 10 races total . . . $10.20, $70.80

Sun 10/15 –

Kee: 9 races total . . . $10.00, $12.40, $24.80, $25.80, $29.20
Gp: 10 races total . . . $10.60, $17.00, $36.20, $83.40
Bel: 9 races total . . . $10.20, $13.20, $13.20, $14.40, $21.40
Lrl: 9 races total . . . $17.60, $35.40


That’s 58 races where the win pay was $10 or higher – for a 36.9% hit rate, so the double digit payers hit at almost the exact same % as the low odds horses.

Let’s toss out the 3 highest payers of $152, $83.40, and $70.80 as ‘ungettable’ – that makes the average payoff on the other 55 at $19.00 (8/1).

Certainly there are many more horses going off at between 4/1 and say 33/1 than there are horses going off at less than 4/1, but the average pay for the low paying winners in all those races was only around $5.00 (3/2). 

Another note that may guide you – short fields are candidates to be passed entirely. Below are those figures from the same race dates –

There were 44 races with 6 or fewer starters (14 at Laurel, 20 at Gulfstream, 7 at Belmont, and 3 at Keenland). In those races, the low odds horses (less than 2/1) won 26 times for an absurdly high hit rate of 59%  In another 11 races horses between 2/1 and 7/2 won.  In only 7 races did horses at 4/1 or higher win (16%).


In my humble (but endurance-tested) opinion, players need to figure out a handicapping and betting approach that includes higher paying contenders . . . you need to put yourself in front of the potential that is the reality of the figures presented above.

In its most basic form:  You need to stop betting horses at less than 7/2 . . . no matter how good they look on paper!

We are talking win betting here – when playing multi-horse exotics, the low odds horses may need to be included on the back end, or as a single here and there in multi-race wagers.  And – it isn’t a “written in stone” sort of thing, but at very least you should pretty much stop playing the two lowest odds horses in the win spot.


Breeders Cup is right around the corner!

We will again be offering our yearly Breeders Cup Report. It provides information that you need to make the betting decisions that will allow you to grab some of those high-paying winners we have been discussing . . . and on BC days, those big payers are inevitable.

We’ll send out another notice as the big days get nearer.  If you want to order now (holding our price at the same $25 as in previous years):

Order Here

Best of fortune to you and as always – comments are welcomed.


  1. Daniel Downs

    Thanks for tips. Do you convert drf pps to excel? Do you know the password. Havnt been able to get drf to respond. Thanks

    • Daniel – I use software to automate my action. Not sure what password you are referring to? – Gary

  2. Hi Gary! Impressive info here.

    Quick question: What data is necessary to use your P-3+ and/or Projections Rhythms? BRISnet data?

    • Stephen – Data is hand-entered from either information freely available online and/or you own handicapping and betting history. – Gary

  3. I too cut my teeth with Howard Sartin, but was never able to get into the black. Since using P3 and “Show Me the Money” along with some of Gary’s other work that is no longer true. Guess that leaves me working on the short prices. Not getting rich but am in the black!!!!

    • Bob – Being “in the black” puts you in the top 7-8% of ALL race players – good work my friend! – Gary

  4. I’ve always said…..buying a “system” is really purchasing someone’s research. Gary has some of the BEST research in the industry……that’s why his stuff actually works!! This is good information Gary, thanks……but there’s always another way of looking at things. Of course we are all (usually) trying to get the best “price”……value. But another way of looking at your research here…….can you say Parlay? 🙂 🙂 Thanks again Gary. ( note….. pulled out your old chestnut….DA Key last week…..just for a change….played a “modified” version ( I always “personalize” anything I buy ) still churning out great results! )

    • Joe – Always good to hear from you – thanks for the kind words. Good on ya for tweaking and personalizing the ‘research’ – Gary

  5. Hi Gary,

    Hope you’re doing well. I’m still grinding away, and always look forward to your information on Big Days of racing.

    My handicapping starts with a simple rule. Pass every race with 7 or less starters. Then if the chalk is my top horse (or even 2nd ranked), that’s just about always a pass. Some days I end up with one to three races, and some days (mostly on Saturday’s) I have well over 10 qualifying races. Keeping a spreadsheet updated and honest has been a huge lift to my game. It’s been a great run over the years.

    I’ll be signing up for the BC information as usual to add to my arsenal.

    Take Care!


    • Swanson – As always, your game obviously remains tight and right on. Races with 7 can be borderline for me – according to the odds offered on the horses I am preferring – I’ll generally skip the exactas in those races. I may occasionally wager into a 6-horse field as long as the favorite appears weak, is overbet, and is ranked lower than my top two. Best of fortune on BC days! Gary

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