Harness Handicapping Strictly Statistical

Profile Picture: Eb Netr

Eb Netr

August 28th, 2013

Let me preface this by saying that I DO use stats when I handicap harness races. Knowing that a trainer has a 22% win average and another trainer has a 7% win average isn't something you can just ignore when you're trying to figure out which horse has the best chance of winning a race. However, if the 7% trainer has 65% for being in the money, the smart handicapper won't leave his horse out of the exotics either.

One of the problems with statistics though is that they're based on history. They tell you how a trainer, driver or horse did in the past, not how they'll do in the future or - more importantly - how they'll do in the race you're handicapping. Stats assume that this race is part of a big picture, not a separate contest that will be decided on its own merits.

Every race is a completely different setup from past and future races. Even if the same horses run it in the same post positions, with the same drivers, it won't be completely the same. Perhaps a horses will take a misstep or one will get out a whisker faster than it did before. A driver might lose his whip or his reins or a horse might break stride. Stats don't take these things into consideration.

"Return on investment" or ROI is the same thing. I look at the ROI for different angles when I handicap. If a trainer has a positive one for something, such as first race off the claim or 2 year olds or whatever, it means he or she is good at that particular angle. It doesn't mean it's a sure thing or that - every time they run a claimer or a 2 year old - that it's going to win or hit the board.

The thing that you have to remember with ROI is that it's based on playing that angle EVERY TIME. So, if a trainer has a positive ROI for 2 year olds and you miss one bet on a 2 year old, and it comes in at 10-1, you could miss the only profit that trainer made on 2 year olds. This is more important if a trainer's ROI is based mostly on longshots, of course.

I know a handicapper who only bets angles with positive ROI's. He isn't doing too well, even though you would think that doing that is almost a surefire way to make money. The reason it isn't is because there's no way you can cover all the bets on any particular angle, unless you have very deep pockets. My friend hasn't. So he only plays the positive ROI angles when he notices them on the program.

If you think about it, it's the negative ROI angles that are more likely to pay off, if you play them at the right time. A lot of people get programs or tip sheets that tell them which angles result in a positive ROI for a trainer. Or they can look it up on Trackmaster's Stats page. They see that Ron Burke has a positive ROI for something and play it.

They'd probably be better off playing Ron Burke when he runs a good horse with an angle that he doesn't have a positive ROI on. Just because he doesn't show a profit on that angle, doesn't mean that it doesn't come in for him now and then.

If there's a good horse with a good trainer and driver, even if there's an angle there that doesn't give the trainer a positive ROI, play it. Don't worry about how it does, statistically. Go with what the horse's record tells you it will do this time, in this race. After all, it's horses that win races, not the stats.