My dictionary gives the definition of “dichotomy” as: “division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups.” 

In handicapping and betting the horse races, there is an ‘elephant-in-the-room’ dichotomy, yet – it is one that most ‘handicappers’ refuse to even consider . . .


First off – some preliminary palaver – then I’ll give you my take on it all.

True handicappers love handicapping. It’s an intellectual challenge that satisfies an urge to solve puzzles, and to use ones mental facilities to thereby gain an advantage over others who are playing the same game.

But “love is blind” as they say.   And – even a blindfolded player of ‘pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey’ hits the mark on occasion.

Those new to the game are often overwhelmed by the amount of information that can (some might say “must”) be considered when handicapping a race or series of races. As one advances in the game, even more factors and variables are discovered.

Is it then, our astuteness – our smarts and savvy that gains us the success we are after? Is it a “just world” – one that is fair and will justly reward those who put out the extra effort? Do the sharpest handicappers make the most consistent profits?

Or . . .

Is this whole game an exercise in the proverbial “Random Walk?” 

Does each new race bring with it a state of “memorylessness” – creating a chain of races (i.e. one’s entire history of handicapped and wagered races) where – as Russian mathematician Andrey Markhov said – history plays no part in the next race wager.

That is – that neither the history of the horses involved, nor the history of your own handicapping , nor any of the statistics and data you have gathered and analyzed – has a positive effect in being able to determine the outcome of the current race you are considering.

Well . . .

For me – as with all things in life – the “middle-road” holds the answer. I don’t wholly commit to either of the theories above.

Good handicapping, no matter how astute – won’t assure success (yet success is there to be had).

Pure Random Walk can’t be true – otherwise cycles wouldn’t exist (yet there they are- ready to be exploited).


What is the “kicker” in this game we play, the key piece to the puzzle?

What will allow us to to strike a balance between a random-walking / pin-stabbing philosophy that might use a kind of stochastic approach, versus an over-confident / factor- analysis based approach using an all-inclusive computer program that spits out some sort of power ranking?

I know many of you will have already guessed what I’m going to suggest (I’ve been beating the same drum here for many years) 

. . . An odds-based approach.


Over-simplified and in a nutshell (but it can be a golden nutshell for some of you):

  • Use morning line odds to get the field down to 5 (one of the low 5 morning line horses wins 87-88% of all races)
  • Use your handicapping process to get that group down to 3 or 4
  • Use odds only to make your final betting decision

For me, that would most often be either: bet the high two odds of the final contenders (between 5-2 and 28-1) / or pass the race (because the low two odds of those contenders are very low and look overwhelmingly strong).

As a sort of “moral to the story” – I would suggest: don’t fall into either of the mutually exclusive groups – don’t buy into the apparent dichotomy of racing – just amble on over to the middle of the road and make some money.

Comments are welcomed









  1. The longer I play……the more I lean toward SIMPLICITY, and consistency. Add to that a clear wagering method ( like P3 )
    and I find things keep getting better Gary! 🙂

    All a person has to add is a clear mind, patience, and discipline. Can’t buy those. Do some record keeping and
    regular review……and you can win….ie, PROFIT.

    Thanks Gary for more thought provoking content.

    • Joe – Appreciate the response – as always. You’ve got your race-betting priorities well ordered. Continued good fortune to you. – Gary

  2. Mel Steele

    I too have a theary.
    I wait until abaout two minutes to post and then eliminate any horse that is odds on or below.
    I bet the one who is 2nd favorite as long as it is 2/1 or better..
    Every once in a wjile I get an email from a handicapper named
    Liam Durbin. He gives a program for free just to entice business I guess. This past Saturday he gave Fairgrounds with all his comments.
    He hit TWO out of TEN and I hit FIVE out of TEN. Lucky I guess!!

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