Is Your Opinion Valuable?

Is Your Opinion Valuable?

How valuable are our opinions in horse racing?

That is – what level of profits are shown from a long series of betting decisions – and when the ‘opinion’ light bulb goes on – is it as bright as it should be?

If a player isn’t netting much in the way of profit – the key problem could just be that his judgment of the value of his “picks” is too high – he thinks them more capable of winning (and more importantly of making profits) than they truly are.  When this is the case, opinions become less valuable than they should be.

Most folks (in almost all aspects of their lives) award an inflated worth to their own opinions. It’s only natural – our own opinions are the only ones we have!

But in horse racing, we really need to be sharper as to the relative value of the horses on whom we’ve drawn those opinions.

A dictionary I have gives the definition of “value” as:  “an amount, esp a material or monetary one, considered to be a fair exchange in return for a thing; assigned valuation – reasonable or equivalent return; satisfaction: value for money.”

The word comes from the old French verb ‘valoir’ – “to be worth” . . . and in horse racing we use it in just that way – to assess or estimate the worth of a horse – as regards its betting merits to us in this race today.


“Value” – it’s a huge topic in handicapping and betting the nags, and it’s been hashed and re-hashed by nearly everyone – and, of course, each has their own take on the subject. How do you assess a horse’s relative value, and then how do you wager in regards that assessment?

Creating your own betting line is the commonly accepted way.  How to do that varies, and I’ll give you another ‘opinion’ on that here in what follows . . .

First – let me state again that I don’t think a player can make long-term profits betting on low priced horses. Some others do – and will argue that a 6-5 horse can offer value, and a wager on it can be justified. For me – in the win pool – I just don’t go there.

A player might say, “You can make money on low paying favorites – you only need to pick your spots.”

I have to respectfully disagree – even if you were good enough to “pick your spots” very consistently over the years, racing luck will still have her say, and grind you down towards break-even (at best!).

So – my bias is that you should set a minimum acceptable odds level at which you can say to yourself – “Yes, this could offer me enough value to warrant a wager.”

But again – how do you establish the value of the horses in today’s race – how do you make a betting line?

Most advocates of a personal value-line will say that you need to go through the various handicapping factors – assigning a plus or minus – then re-defining that opinion into a hard odds number.  Then after you have done that for all the horses you consider as legitimate contenders, you re-adjust, and massage the numbers into a line that approximates 100% – inclusive of the entire field by also assigning some small portion of the odds even to the horses you believe have little to no chance in the race.

As subscribers to the HRG Index know, and as a few of my recent blog posts have hinted – I prefer a different (easier) way. 

After breaking the races down into smaller groupings (by surface, distance, track), I look at the ranges of winners for each of my ranked choices.  That is . . .

I find out at what odds have my winners come for my first choice, second choice, third choice, (and fourth and fifth choice in case the contention goes that deep in any particular race.)

Those winners are then compared to the total number of starters at that same odds that fell into those ranks, and profitability (or lack of same) is established – by rank and odds parameters. 

So then I know – for example – that in Gulfstream sprints I shouldn’t accept anything less than 6/1 on my first three ranks, while in Gp turf routes, I can accept anything at 5/2 or higher for my top two ranks and 7/2 or higher on my third rank – etc. etc. These odds become my “fair-odds” betting line.  And then – rather than looking for “overlays” to my odds line (the ‘standard’ approach) – I look to wager the highest ROI rank that has met my minimum fair-odds parameters – which, I think, is a ‘truer’ gauge of value.

Some might be of the opinion that “but every race is different and has its own unique set of variables.” 

And yes – I agree with that, but I’ve noted that over the years of  issuing the HRG Index – while making my opinions for tens of thousands of races a matter of public record – that these groupings I’m referring to (these acceptable odds parameters by rank) remain surprisingly consistent.

Granted – a large data base of your own wagers is needed, but for me it gives a “reality snapshot” – and why buck reality? As well, I don’t need to go through the time consuming process of making a betting line for each race.  Again – that work has been done by the actual results of my own historical handicapping.

This approach tempers one’s “opinion” (which can often be a fantasy based on short-term memory, and unfounded bias) – by the colder reality of actual results.

For certain situations – the Ky Derby – the Breeders Cup – races where a large enough data base (for myself) hasn’t been built, then going to the trouble of making the odds line is necessary in order to establish the “value” of the odds presented on your choices at bet time.



As always – comments are welcomed       – Gary



  1. Raymond Strommen

    Thanks for the free BC methodology. Was interesting to me since I have been using my L&B-Speed 2013 hybrid; I have been using the first and second calls to qualify contenders and then of course the odds, my min is 3-1, though prefer 5-1. At 3-1 the pick has to be prime. Caught big bird in the BC net at Tampa 2/28 last race $51.40, a number 3 pick, first pick 0.9, 2nd 1.9 and winner 2.5(#8) so within the 2 pt parameter. race 3 #4 2nd pick $13.20, race7 #3 $20.40 also a third pick. Been doing well in the year of the horse; using my L&B-Speed 2013, When Pigs Fly and long green for turf, my ROI to date is 32%! I feel this roi will be going up by incorporating Bal Chatri.
    Again, thanks for sharing these great methodologies; wish I had em decades ago.

    • Ray – Thanks for the reports – and re your thanks for sharing the blog post materials . . . you are very welcomed. – Gary

  2. Michael Primak


    As always, thank you for the free methods and info.
    I have just one question, regarding the worksheet exercise in DA-key1 method:
    Race #17 – The highest average rating is Horse 1a by a whisker; the 2nd highest is Horse 6. Yes, you list Horse 4 as the correct answer. Am I doing something wrong here? I answered all the other questions correctly… 🙂
    Thank you in advance for setting me straight and look forward to using the two methods.

    • Michael – That one was in error (those do happen – to me anyway), but it was then listed as a loss anyway in the tally (likely was another win!). – Gary

  3. Great article….just when I thought I contemplated every angle…..excellent post as always.

  4. Thanks…Gary

    Thought provoking article! I enjoyed it very much

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